Authors: Jack Worr
The streets were empty at this time of night.
Two AM, and I’m feeling lonely.
“Why didn’t you drive?” Mason asked after he could allow his fuzzy attention to be split between conversation and the two AM streets.
“Your radio sucks.” She was messing with the radio again, her previously chosen station having gone to a commercial.
“Ooh,” she said, stopping on a song he had heard before. Or maybe it was a new song, sampling the old one: something about it seemed off.
Emily turned it up. “I love this!”
I had a dream
You held my hand
At Stensue avenue
We crossed the moat
Wished we’d wrote
To each other as we grew
We left for Yon
We left our bags
“I’ve heard this before.”
“Well aren’t you special.” She rolled down her window, turned the music up, and leaned her head so the wind blew her hair wildly.
Mason glanced at her and got an image of himself when he was sixteen, when his hair was long, and he used to ride home from high school in Ryan’s convertible. He realized he could now afford a convertible if he wanted one.
He could afford the monthly payments, anyway.
“No, I meant…” But Mason wasn’t sure what he meant. They drove on in the silence allowed by loud music and the late hour.
Minutes later Mason pulled into Emily’s driveway. He leaned down in his seat so he could look at the house through the windshield. “Parents home?”
She smiled at him. “Why?” she asked mockingly. “Want to come in?”
She punched him. “Seriously though, do you? We can watch movies or something. I’m wired.”
He pointed to the empty coffee cup in her right hand, the sugar and caffeine spilled not into his car’s interior, but past her lips. “Weird, I don’t know why.”
“What? It’s just one.”
Mason shook his head. “I’m tired.”
“You’re lazy! You slept all day. I saw!” She put her head on his shoulder. “Come on.”
He twisted his head to look at her. “Are you scared or something?” he asked with a chuckle. But then he saw that she was. “You are. What’s wrong?”
“Big, dark, scary house at the end of an abandoned road? Me all alone?” She gestured around at the darkness, as if this proved everything.
“Hardly abandoned.” He frowned at her. “Is Dalton bothering you again?”
“No!” she said too quickly.
Mason sighed and turned off the car.
“Yay!” Emily clapped, then gathered her things.
It was only as he pulled the key from the ignition that he realized the same song was on the radio again.
You left for Yon
You left me there
Laughing at the lust
A bitter lust
The blunder turned
A bitter lust—
The blunder turned—
Emily opened her door and the radio died, taking the song with it.
“They play that a lot.”
But the door shut on his words, and Emily was already out and walking to the front entrance. She stopped and turned, waved at him to come in.
He sighed again and got out. He didn’t know what he’d do if Dalton came by.
Inside, he immediately fell onto the couch in front of the Doyle’s huge projection TV. The couch… was very comfortable.
Emily crouched and began untying his shoes.
“Hey.” He kicked. It was ineffectual. “I’m not staying the night.”
His shoes were placed by the door, a pillow on his shoulder, and soon Emily was leaning against him as they watched a movie.
But Mason really was tired, and his eyes began to close for longer and longer of periods of time, until they closed finally, and he fell into sleep. The image on the screen this event coincided with was one of a great airship flying over a town powered by steam, and the gunshot that accompanied this vision, Mason knew, was from a blunderbuss.
After their day at the beach, they spend their night stopping at several college parties and getting as much free alcohol as they can handle—which turns out to be not very much.
Now, they’ll vomit if they see another person doing a keg stand, and so Mason and his friends walk to a Mexican restaurant they heard of, that is only a few blocks from here.
The place is open twenty-four hours, which is good, given the current late hour. They are supposed to be checking out the college, and already be back with their chaperone by now. Luckily for them, their chaperone is Ryan’s older brother, and Ryan’s older brother is no chaperone.
The restaurant is lit brightly, and Mason squints his drunk eyes. Then he smells the food, and he forgets all about the light.
He and his friends have a brief moment of confusion at the almost invisible cable that forms the line. But they soon figure this out, and line up at the Panda Express-style bar to order and watch their late dinners get constructed.
He orders something called a Quesarrito. He isn’t entirely sure what it is, but he watched the person before him order it, and liked how much cheese they were putting on it.
He fumbles his money at the counter, bends to pick it up. The bell of the door opening jingles behind him.
He stands and reflexively glances that way.
The first thing he sees are the shoes.
It’s her. The girl in the boots.
“Hi.” Mason only realizes he’s spoken after she stops and looks at him.
Which she does oddly. “Hi.” Then she and her friends continue around the line, winding so they are at the beginning of the bar, farthest away from Mason, standing at the cash register.
“Nine ninety five!” the woman shouts in English that may as well be Spanish for all Mason has been able to understand of it.
He looks at her. “Sorry.” He hands her the money, now crumpled.
But before she can take it, she shouts again, and Mason is rocked by what feels like an earthquake with an epicenter at his shoulder. “No! Get out! Dalton—”
“Who is Blunderbuss? Who is Blunderbuss?”
The girl shakes her head, the girl, who is Mason, and who is Isla. Except, now it is Eila, and somehow, this sounds different to him, even though he knows it isn’t. It is still Isla, no matter the construct.
The table is slapped, though there is no table.
This is just my explanation for events I don’t understand
, Mason—the girl—thinks.
Why? Tell me!
someone shouts in his head. He—she—is crying, and with this there is a splitting, a rending, as if caused by the violence of the imposition and he floats in one corner.
Then he is wrenched, violently through the roof of the restaurant and into the sky where he looks over a land surrounded by great mountains of water that are far too high, that should spill over into the city, that should raze the city and drown its inhabitants, but that do not. Fire spills from this vantage, a piercing screech, and great wings flap in—
Mason opened his eyes. He was on the couch, it was bright, and the light blinded him. He turned his head left, away from the shouting people, squinted past the reflection in the window, but couldn’t see anything other than the interior’s bright lights reflected back at him.
Still night, some part of his mind told him.
Then he was awake enough to realize what was going on.
“Don’t touch me!” Eye makeup smeared Emily’s face.
Was it from sleep?
Her shirt was torn.
Had it been already?
“Hey,” Mason said weakly. He stood, fell. Stood again.
Dalton looked at him, as if he hadn’t seen him there. “Where’d you come from?” His mouth was open. Then he looked at Emily. “Oh, I get it. So you’re screwing him, huh? What, you think I wouldn’t find out?”
“Dalton! Stop it.” There was a silence. “It’s none of your business, but no, I’m not
my brother.” She said this violently, a physical blow.
Dalton looked at Mason, anger turned to confusion. “Your brother? Your brother’s eight.” His voice was higher, questioning.
She sighed. “First, he’s thirteen. And obviously, that’s not Nick.” She pushed him in the direction of the door. His body moved limply, but his feet stayed planted. “Now go. We broke up, remember?”
“What?” Dalton’s mouth hung open even farther. “Oh. No.” He looked between Mason and Emily. “I have amnesia.”
Emily laughed and pushed Dalton again. “That’s not funny, now get out.”
Dalton looked at Mason.
Mason was still standing there, by the couch, and was glad he was older and taller than Dalton. “You should go,” he said.
But Dalton had already been backing away. “Is he okay?”
Emily glanced at Mason. She turned back to Dalton. “No, he’s not. He’s angry with you for upsetting his little sister. Now leave before he beats the crap out of you.”
Dalton made to say something, looked at Mason again, stopped, said, “Yeah, okay.”
Mason stood there, unsteadily, watching Emily follow behind Dalton to the door.
Dalton turned when they reached it, said something Mason couldn’t hear.
“No! And if I ever was going to I’m not when you keep bugging me.”
Dalton made to do something, what Mason thought looked like a hug, but the attempt was aborted and then Dalton was gone and the door was shut and locked behind him.
Emily fell onto the couch.
Mason looked down at her. “Why’d you let him in?”
“Me? I didn’t you shitface. I think he has a key,” she muttered.
“Calm down fucktard.” Mason sat down next to her.
“I used to really like him.”
“Not no mo’?”
She punched him.
“Why’d you say I was your brother?”
She leaned her head against him, arms around his waist. “Because you’re everything a brother should be.”
He could smell her hair. It smelled like coffee. It smelled like Isla. “What time is it?”
“Early,” she said into his shoulder.
He relaxed back into the couch. The weight of her anchored him, and he was asleep before he could even have the thought that he wouldn’t be able to.
Mason waits outside for Ryan. Ryan said this would work, he’s done it before. Mason isn’t getting his hopes up.
Someone taps him.
“Hi,” a kid says. She’s maybe eleven.
She gestures toward the store. “Waiting for someone?”
Mason nods. “Yep.”
She nods too. “That’s what I thought.” She looks at the storefront. “Hey,” she exclaims, as though getting an idea, “would you do me a favor?”
“If I give you money, can you get something for me?”
“Why don’t you buy it?”
Mason feels his stomach drop. She is going to ask him to buy her condoms. This is not cool. Kids today, he thinks, way too forward. He blames the internet.
And what if he doesn’t buy them for her? If he says no, will she not have sex altogether, lacking the proper protection, or just have unprotected sex? “Uhh, maybe you should talk to your mom about that. Have her buy them.”
“She doesn’t smoke. Otherwise I’d just steal hers.”
“What?” Mason’s thoughts of uncomfortable exchanges evaporate as he looks at the girl again.
She holds out several bills. “Here.” She shrugs. “Any kind will do.”
He looks at the money. “Are you a cop?”
“Are you a retard?”
“I think you have to tell me if you are.”
“You are,” she says, letting the hand with the money fall to her side.
“I’m not a kid. Would a kid call you a shit-stained cocksucker?”
Mason frowns, deliberately with only one eyebrow. “Yes, I believe they would.”
“You have a career in comedy.”
“You have one in being too old for your age.”
“How old are
“Just turned seventeen. What are you, twelve?”
She nods. “Almost thirteen. At least I look my age. Are you really only seventeen?”
He shrugs. “Sorry kid. Smoking’s bad anyway. You shouldn’t do it.”
She makes a noncommittal gesture. “It’s what they do during lunch.”
“You can smoke at school?”
“No, dummy. They skip.”
Mason frowns. He starts to feel too old. “You shouldn’t do that either.”
“Thanks for the tip Mom.”
“I’m not old enough to be your mom.”
“Hey!” a woman calls, walking out of the store across the street.
The girl turns to look. “That was fast. Must be no Victor today.” She looks at him again. “I gotta go. Thanks for all the help old man.”
“No problem, Creepy.”
She stops, faces him. “Creepy?”
“You’re a little creepy, so I call you Creepy.”
“And if I was little hot would you call me Hottie?”
Mason tries to reply, but nothing comes before the woman calls again.
“Penny!” she shouts.
He looks at the woman, but he’s not wearing his contacts. He hopes it’s not her mother. “Is that your mom?”
She crinkles her nose, then laughs. “I’m going to tell her you thought that.” She shakes her head. “It’s my sister. She’s a slut.”
Mason laughs. He didn’t mean to. He doesn’t want to. But some things just can’t be helped.
The girl tilts her head. “That’s mean, I shouldn’t say that. It’s not like she sleeps around, she just always talks about boys. I better go before she starts talking about you.”
She rolls her eyes. “I hate that name. What am I, change?”
Mason thinks about that while he stares after her as she runs off.
Someone taps him again, this time on his shoulder instead of his arm. “Am I interrupting?” Ryan’s voice asks.
Mason turns, shakes his head. “Naw.”
“Who was that?”
Mason sees Ryan holds a paper bag conforming to the distinct shape of the object inside.
Before he can reply, Ryan elbows him. “Starting young? There’s a saying about baseball.”