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I could only shudder as I watched “her” lift my car above “her” head.
Wait, no. That’s not a good spot to start. That’s just awkward. Let’s rewind. Let’s figure out how we got here, because to be completely honest I’m not so sure myself. It’s been a long night. Okay, deep breath. Three… two… one.
I think it started with the pizzas. Yes, it was definitely the pizza. In reality, I can’t blame him, but it’s not something I’m particularly thrilled about. This was the third time this month that I had delivered a pizza late. It’s a guarantee. Fast Eddie’s Pizza Express will have your pizza at your doorstep in no more than twenty minutes, or else it’s free. Me? Look, I pay my taxes. I follow the speed limit. I can respect rules, but as far as I’m concerned? Eddie’s promise on some greasy junk in a box isn’t anything sacred. I take my time, and I do my job. So what if I show up five – ten minutes at the most – late? Is it really going to kill you if you can’t stuff your face with some “Eddie bread” at eight o’clock on the dot? So, for the third time in a month I don’t bring back a single dime. Not only is the rent going to be late this month, but Tim (his name isn’t even Eddie) fires me the second I set foot in his prestigious eatery. Unemployment. Great. It isn’t like I was exactly in love with being a pizza delivery guy. It’s not as if I were chasing my childhood dream or anything. It was a job though, and you could certainly do worse. At least I’ll get to take that stupid little decal off the hood. That always got me far with the ladies.
So now I’m on my way home. It’s taking every ounce of self-control in my body to not head straight to the bar. For one, the juice never solves a problem. If anything, it just gives me a worse headache in the morning than the one I’m going to have anyway. It isn’t like I can afford it now. I’m broke. I don’t have a job anymore. I have less than half a tank of gas. There are a million different things more worthy of my money than alcohol. Despite this, I can’t help but notice which direction I’m driving in. I’m so weak; I’m absolutely ashamed of myself. Just as the Thirsty Tavern sign reveals itself, my phone goes off. It must be my boss. Yes, he just had a near-death experience and realized he can’t just walk all over every pizza delivery guy’s dreams that he comes across. He wants me to come back. He begs me to come back. I would be doing him the favor by coming back. Not only can you have your job back, you can have a raise. No, forget the raise. You can have my job. I quit. You can be the manager now. I insist, you’ve earned it.
This is the fantasy running through my head until I finally get the phone out of my pocket. It’s not my boss. It’s Jason, my closest friend since high school. Jason is like the twin brother I’ve never had. We share everything in common, except that Jason is at least three hundred times more successful than I am. Jason’s GPA never dared to go below a 4.0. Me? I was lucky to secure a C+, and that was if I were aiming high. Jason averaged six girlfriends a year. I managed to find one in my junior year. Sort-of. We were more than friends, anyway. Jason was the football star. Jason knows how to play guitar. I can’t swim, and once picked up a kazoo. Jason is the golden boy, the poster-child for sons all across America. That being said, he isn’t the jerk that statistics say he should be. Jason is a solid dude. He’s always stuck by my side. Whenever I was in trouble, Jason was the guy I would run to and things would be okay in the end. This is because Jason does not fail. My one triumph over him is that I managed to get my own place. Jason still lives with his parents, but this is because he’s going to some fancy-schmancy private school that doesn’t offer room and boarding. Full scholarship, by the way. They’re paying more for Jason to go to school than “Fast Eddie” can even count. I open the phone and hold it to my ear.
“Dude. What are you doing right now?”
Jason was always up to something. He didn’t leave home without something up his sleeve. I had two options. One, I could put on my right turn signal. I could pull into Thirsty Tavern’s parking lot and await the sad, lonely evening ahead of me. Two, I could accept the invitation Jason was about to send me and partake in something ridiculous. “I just got off work, why? What’s up?” I wasn’t one to look for sympathy, and telling Mr. Perfect that I was now unemployed just didn’t sound very fun. “My parents are out of town, spur of the moment thing. Something about a mid-life crisis. Look, I’m throwing a party tonight. Everyone’s going to be there. Come have fun, we haven’t kicked it in awhile.” You’re probably rolling your eyes right about now, and I wouldn’t blame you. You’ve heard this story far too many times. It’s nothing but cliché. The parents go out of town, kid throws party, they come back early or the cops are called and everyone gets busted. However, we’re talking about Jason and Jason does not fail.
“Jason, you know I’m not the party type. I never have been.” I claim, but we both know I’m going to end up there anyhow. “C’mon! I know you like to drink, and there’s going to be girls. More than you could ever ask for, and that’s saying something considering your track record. You don’t have anything better to do.” I can’t really argue with him. Considering he just prevented me from spending my night face-down in a bowl of stale peanuts, his first point is completely accurate. As for the girls, well, ‘nuff said. So I bite. “Now? You want me to come over right now?” Somehow, I feel like I’m going to regret this. “Shower first. You smell like anchovies and peppers.” I question how he can deduce this through the phone. “Trust me, I just know.”
Little did I know, this would be the night that Jason led me astray.
Fast forward a few hours. I’m showered, and wearing the only shirt I own without a stain and/or hole in it. I’m in total party animal mode. Yeah, right. By the look of things, Jason got the party started without me. I pull open his front door, and enter a scene from every teenager movie made in the last fifteen years. The music, the drinks, the idiots. It’s all here. My immediate reaction is to find Jason. I’m not very sociable, I never have been. I’m out of my elements to say the least, and need to find the one friend I have in this mess. I’m not sure why, but I try to remain as polite as possible in this situation. Excuse me, pardon me, coming through. Obviously I have every right to just barge my way through this already plastered crowd, but I don’t. I just don’t have that in me. As I squeeze through what can only be described as an orgy of dance, I smell it for the first time that night.
Copper. Like pennies.
I didn’t think anything of it at the time, and why should I? I make my way to the backyard, where guests are making good use of Jason’s in-ground pool. That’s where I find him, entertaining three people I’ve never seen before. They’re laughing hysterically. Jason always did have the best jokes. Jason always had the best everything. He hasn’t seen me yet, I could turn around and walk right back to my car. I could say I had a long day at work, fell asleep in the shower. He would never know. Yes, I think I’ll do just that.
“Dude! You made it!”
He breaks through the three guests, and sprints in my direction, just barely avoiding a kid who’s decided that Jason’s backyard looks like a nice place to spill his guts. “Dude, I thought you were gonna bail on me for a second there. You had me worried!” I muster up the worst fake smile I can as he pats me on the back. “I’m glad that you’re here though, this is about to be the best night of your life. Look at all of this! This is everything you could ever ask for. Let’s get you a drink and let’s get you a dance.” He grins. “Yeah, uh, let’s do that. I guess.”
I’m following him back into the house, scanning it for the easiest possible exit. I can hardly hear myself think through the music that’s playing. What do they call this stuff? Electrostomp? Glittergrind? I don’t know, it’s another fancy name for techno. It’s what’s “in”, it’s what’s trendy. The 70’s had disco, the 90’s had grunge and boy bands. We have what sounds like Optimus Prime relieving himself. I’m not even sure how you dance to this, but the girl wearing nothing but a top hat is certainly figuring it out. We finally work our way through the crowd to his kitchen. It’s no wonder I was never a part of this “scene” in high school. It just doesn’t suit me. All of the people here sicken me, stumbling around. The guys in their bedazzled t-shirts, the girls in nothing at all. They’re taking pride in the fact that they look like idiots. I know Jason means well as he digs through the refrigerator for a drink. I know that he thinks this is what I want, but in reality I just want to go home and cry myself to—
That’s when I see her.
To my amazement, she sees me too.
While lost in my depressing little thoughts, I was oblivious to the fact that I was staring blankly into the army of degenerates marching through Jason’s living room. I try to avert my eyes, but it’s too late. One of them caught me, and at the time I was happy that she did. I had never seen anyone quite like her before. I was never one for the whole “love at first sight” deal, and I’m not going to say that’s what happened. This was something at first sight though, and I couldn’t bring myself to look away from the beautiful woman before me. She stood out against the dull and idiotic crowd. She was bold and vibrant, and not on the verge of vomiting. I was in a trance, until Jason finally found his way back to my side. “Might have to make another beer run, these animals nearly have me cleaned out.” I don’t acknowledge him though. I just continue to stare. He follows my eyes, and figures out what’s going on. “Friend of yours?” he asks. I shake my head. “Hm. I don’t recognize her, someone must have brought her here. Go introduce yourself.” I shake my head again. Me? A loser like me, talk to her? The idea was a complete insult to the forces of nature and concept of reality. That would be impossible. You couldn’t pay me to approach this girl. No, never. Not in a million yea—wait. I’m moving. Why am I…? I realize that Jason has me by the back of my shirt, and is pulling me towards her. She isn’t moving, she’s waiting. She’s waiting for me. Oh no, oh god get me out of here. Too late. “Hi! My friend here couldn’t help but notice you were dancing alone. What’s your name?” he asks. He’s doing the talking for me. As if I didn’t look pathetic enough on my own. “Laura.” She smiles, and extends her hand. He shakes it. “Would you mind if he kept you company?” Jason asks, thrusting a thumb in my direction. Her smile gets even bigger. “Of course not! C’mon!” She grabs my hand and pulls me into the crowd. I look back over my shoulder at Jason, who just grins and winks.
As much as I want to find an excuse to get away, I cannot think of one. Every time my eyes land on her my mind goes blank. It’s as if there’s nothing in there. I feel hypnotized. All I can do is admire her, and take a second to notice the thick aroma of rust creeping through the air. It reminds me of that nail I stepped on when I was eleven. Wait, rust? While it would make sense that these people don’t smell like sunshine and daffodils, I can’t find an explanation for rust. Better yet, why am I concerning myself with someone’s mysterious body odor when I’m dancing with a woman light years out of my league? I tell myself to focus. I tell her my name. I ask her where she’s from. “Oh, far away. Very far away. A friend of mine brought me here, things have been pretty boring lately and I needed to find some excitement for once.” “How’s that going?” I ask. She smiles. “Pretty good, I think I found exactly what I’m looking for.” She winks. There’s no way this is going so well. How could she be into me? I don’t bring anything to the table in terms of appearance, and my personality isn’t a shining jewel either. To my amazement, things continue to go this way. About an hour later, she says the last thing I would ever expect to hear.
“Do you wanna get out of here?”
Now, a few hours ago I wanted nothing more than to get out of here. However, in adult land, when you’re at a party and a girl asks if you want to “get out of here”? It means something completely different than leaving. It means finding someplace a little more… private. I do my best to not stutter and answer. “Absolutely! My place is uh, not far. Fifteen minutes away. We can hang out there if you want.” She immediately shakes her head. She already has a gameplan, or maybe she just doesn’t quite trust me yet. I could be an axe murderer.
I wish I had been that cautious.
She tells me that she knows a great little spot, and that it’s beautiful. She insists that we head there. Well, I’m in no position to really argue. “Sure, why not? Let me go tell Jason that we’re—“ “No!” she interrupts. “I mean, uh I think I saw him go upstairs with someone. He probably doesn’t want us to drop in on him, if you know what I mean.” She laughs. “Okay, alright! I’ll drive.” I offer. So I finally make my way out of the kingdom of sweat and suspicious substances. We walk down the street and finally approach my car. A 2002 Honda Civic. It isn’t the best car in the world, but by no means the worst. It certainly gets the job done when you need to deliver pizzas almost on time. As we climb in, I realize the gentlemen-ly thing to do is to open her door for her. Too late. I’m not used to being a gentleman though. I’ve only had that sort-of girlfriend in eleventh grade. I still have a lot of learning to do. “Hm, what’s that smell?” she asks. I tell her this whole part of town smells like that, despite both of us knowing that this side of town does not in fact smell like a sausage and pepperoni with extra cheese. I make a note here: if you plan on taking out girls, buy an air freshener.
Not that that’s going to make much of a difference anymore.
As I’m following her directions, I face this internal struggle to keep my eyes on the road. There really is something different about her. That dark, black hair… the twinkle in those brown eyes, her tan skin… I can’t put my finger on it. There’s something special about her and it puts me in a near dream state. Now that I think about it, it’s a miracle we didn’t find ourselves in a ditch. We’re creeping farther away from the city. Things begin to get darker. The sounds of nightlife disappear, and we’re navigating back-road after back-road. Twenty minutes pass, and we finally reach it: a ledge overlooking the entire city. I didn’t know places like this actually existed. This is out of every teen movie from the 80’s ever; this is some straight John Hughes type of stuff. “Isn’t it incredible?” she asks. I can’t deny the beautiful view, and if I were with anyone else I would probably have found some time to admire it. I’m not with just anyone else though, I’m with Laura. When I’m with Laura, nothing else crosses my mind. Nothing else matters. There isn’t anything else worth looking at in the entire universe. Laura. Laura. Laura.
Not much else is said between the two of us at this point. Things… happen, the types of things that happen when two adults of opposite genders find themselves together in a secluded area. I could take the time to describe these things to you in specific detail, but I imagine that most can fill in the blanks here themselves. My mind is racing at a million thoughts per second. I can’t find the time or desire to listen to a single one of them. All I can hear is the name “Laura”, repeating itself like a broken record over and over in my head. It doesn’t matter though; I let the record skip and repeat itself because at that moment in time not a single word could sound any sweeter. It’s just as things start to get really good that the needle breaks free. It begins to spin correctly this time, and one of those million little thoughts manages to finally catch my attention.
Open your eyes.
I’m not sure what exactly made me do it. They say the mind is an incredible and mysterious thing. My mind must have just known that something was wrong, and for whatever reason my body refused to listen to it. I couldn’t ignore it though. I had to do it. I had to open my eyes. So I do, and I see them.
No, you read that correctly. There’s no need to rub your eyes. Keep your glasses on the side-table. Three hours ago, Laura had fingers. In their place, were now tentacles. Long, slimy, and purple. They say that all animals have this primal instinct: the “fight or flight” mechanism. If an animal finds itself in some sort of danger or confusion, there always two options. They can either stand their ground and fight off the threat, or run for their lives. If you think you would pick the former, than kudos to you. You are the kind of man they make action movies about. Me? I am no action hero. I have never faced the wrath of a tentacle woman, nor do I wish to. So I shove Laura off of me, I open the door and I tumble out of the car. The ground is soft and muddy. There goes my last clean shirt. I hardly have time to scramble to my feet before I hear the most blood-curdling, spine-tingling scream imaginable. I’m not sure if all animals have a “relieve your bowels while still wearing your pants” mechanism, but at this moment in time I find that I do. “L-L-Laur… a?” I can hardly manage to spit out.
I could only shudder as I watched “her” lift my car above “her” head.
At this point, “she” does not only have tentacle fingers, but has sprouted full-blown tentacle arms. They glisten in the moon light, somehow finding the strength to lift my unsuspecting Civic seven feet off of the ground. Y’know, I did like that car. It truly was good for delivering pizzas nearly on time. Laura would also reveal to me that it was a good projectile. As I watched it soar through the night-sky, my “flight” instinct manages to kick in again night, and hardly in time. I dive out of the way, watching it roll several times into a patch of trees. There goes my ride home. I look back at Laura. “Her” eyes have become a numb, milky white. “Her” jaws stretch into a horrific display, revealing rows of sharp teeth. Have you ever seen shark week on the Discovery channel? If so, then you have a somewhat accurate idea of Laura. “She” lets loose another monstrous shriek, clearly upset that I’m no longer into “her”. The wind carries her breath. I smell rust. I then realize that I haven’t been smelling pennies and nails this entire time. I’ve been smelling blood. I’ve been smelling blood on Laura’s breath. Did she plan to eat me?
If Jason were here, he’d say something like “in more ways than one” and we’d have a good laugh about it. He isn’t though, and I’m alone. I’m alone, and Laura has turned into a tentacle monster.
I turn and run.
I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t even know where I am. Laura has led me into the middle of the woods. I cover my face as branches attempt to make a swipe at it. I think this is the part where a caped crusader comes to my rescue. Spider-Man. Batman. Hell, I’d even take Aqua-Man at this point. No one volunteers though. I’m alone, and while I’m not even sure that Laura is following me, I absolutely refuse to turn around and find out.
How does that phrase go? Men are from Mars, and women are from the darkest depths of purgatory?
I run for what seems like hours. The hours turn into days. The days turn into months and those turn into years. I plan on running for eternity. There’s no time to stop, and certainly none to hide. I’ll run for the rest of my life, anything to ensure that “she” does not catch up to me. No matter how many blisters await me, anything to prevent Laura from catching up. I wonder how fast tentacle monsters can run? Luckily, for me, it seems not too fast. I see light. I see signs of civilization. The forest floor turns into concrete. I hit the pavement, slip, and fall. I bust my chin on the pavement and see stars. I taste blood. I have the strongest urge to show the street what my guts look like, but I remember there’s someone not too far behind with a much larger desire to see them. As I scramble to my feet, I finally get the idea to call for help. There’s no use in yelling, it’s 2:30 in the morning and there are no other signs of life. The police. I can call the police.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
“I’m being chased by a shape shifting octopus woman, help!”
What am I supposed to tell them? I’m being pursued by Squidward from Hell? It doesn’t matter, as I turn the corner I remember that my phone was in the car, and my car’s strewn up somewhere in a tree. I start to lose hope. Reality comes crashing back down (reality flew right out of the window when that beautiful “woman” sprouted tentacles) and I know that I’m going to have to stop eventually. I begin to slow down. My hands begin to shake. I can hear something behind me, slithering across the cement. That’s when it hits me. I’ve been here before. The tire swing, the endless row of cottonwood trees, that “hilarious” Bugs Bunny mailbox. This isn’t just any random neighborhood. I grew up here. My parents live here. I have to keep running, safety is near. I spot my driveway, and make one last desperate dash. I can feels something breathing down my neck. I feel chills run down my spine, every hair on my body stands up straight. It’s hungry, and it’s excited. It’s about to get what it wanted. I know that I’ve lost but I don’t slow down. My feet hit the wet grass, I’m literally feet away from home. When “she” catches me, will Laura eat only me? Or will “she” find “her” way into my home, and devour my parents as well? I step onto the patio, praying with every fiber in my body that the doors unlocked. Of course it isn’t, they’re asleep. It’s locked. It has to be. You’ve lost, it’s all over.
I hit the door shoulder first, and to both my surprise and relief, it swings open.
I immediately slam it behind me and lock it. I don’t know why I think I’ll be safe here. Laura was capable of lifting a Honda Civic above “her” head, surely “she” can rip a door off of its hinges. This is my home though, and if I’m not safe here then I’m not safe anywhere. I hear something growl from outside, and then… nothing. Is “she” gone? I wipe the sweat from my forehead, I take a deep breath. “She” is gone.
I scream without even thinking. I’m not sure how I’m going to explain why I’m here. They’ll probably throw me in the loony bin or hire a therapist. I don’t care, the fact is that Laura is gone and I need someone to comfort me. I hear the light switch on upstairs, and someone making their way down the stairs. Sure enough, it’s my mommy. “Wh-what are you doing here! It’s 3 in the morning!” she says, but immediately notices that I’m not in the best state of mind. She runs to me, and embraces me in the best hug I think I’ve ever had. “Oh honey, what’s the matter?” she says.
I smell copper on her breath.