Nobody Tell Sandy She’s Dead

Josh invited me to the party, and I was grateful. It was summer and the house looked out onto the Puget Sound. The water could have been black ice, but it wasn’t, so I assumed we’d have a nice night and nothing terrible or otherworldly would happen to us.

I didn’t know anybody in this city. Josh showed me around the office on the first day of my new job, and we kissed in the alley behind the building. I don’t know why that happened. It was like a movie, where one minute you’re talking to someone next to a parked car, and the next they’ve leaned forward and you feel their hand under your shirt, touching the skin over your ribs. “This is weird,” he whispered hotly in my ear. “Blake from programming is having a party tonight, do you want to go?”

At the party, there were people with cups standing out on the wet grass leading out to the lake. It had rained earlier, and a garland of colored lights hung from the trees. Josh and I arrived well after 10, so people were just starting to get drunk. A tall man came out of the crowd and shook my hand. “Hi, I’m Blake. It’s Terese, right?”

I said it was.

“It’s really great to meet you. I’m so glad you could come. Josh, thanks for bringing her.”

Some people are naturally gifted at being nice to strangers at parties and this Blake person appeared to have the touch.

“Where is the hooch?” Josh said.

“Just through there, in the screened porch area. You can go into the house to use the bathroom, but otherwise—my Ma is kind of a cunt about it. White carpet, you know.” Blake lowered his voice. “Plus, fucking Sandy’s here.”

“Shit,” Josh said. “Still?”

“Still.”

I came to Seattle for this job at the bookseller’s outlet. I knew which editions were worth money and I wrote blurbs about the books on the website. It was a hip new project for the new economy. It wasn’t the sort of job you move to another state for, but I had nothing else going on, so why not. I like change and meeting new people. When the opportunity came, I took it, and already a man in button-down plaid and black glasses had kissed me in the parking lot.

The people standing around at the party had nice hair and languid limbs. The girls looked like coat hangers, the way their summer clothes draped elegantly off their shoulders; I wanted to be like them.

On the way into the screened porch area, we walked by an argument between two men with matching beards: which was heavier: the lightest stone or the heaviest wood. Sub question! Global warming is real, sure, but is it man made or a naturally occurring cycle?

That’s when I saw her across the room, standing next to a table with half-hearted food spread out on it, and then the smell of her hit me afterward, the smell of churned stomach acid and stale vomit. The girl wore a navy wrap dress; it was sopping wet and elegant. The water dripped off of her in clumps. Maybe it wasn’t just water. Her skin was green and sallow. I watched her scratch at her elbow and look around the room with meek, yellow eyes. Her hair was stringy and matted to her face. It wasn’t just the dress; the girl had been pretty once. I couldn’t understand what I was looking at.

“Josh?”

I turned and he wasn’t there. A large girl with dark hair and creamy skin was standing next to me. “It’s fucked up, right?”

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“Somebody should tell her. It’s been over a week.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Oh, you’re new, right? You work for the booksellers. I’m Karen.”

She put her hand out. I shook it and struggled to remember my name.

“You’re Terese,” She said. “So, Sandy used to date Blake. She had the wrong idea about that situation, one thing led to another, she drowned herself off the pier behind his house.” Karen gestured to the water. “But, I don’t know. The death, it didn’t quite take. Sandy is so weird. Really, it’s just like her. Poor dolt can’t even do suicide right. She emerged from the water, and that’s it, she’s been milling about ever since.”

Josh came back with a couple of drinks and I stared across the porch at this impossible girl. People came by to talk to her and then quickly walked away. She smiled shyly at everyone, hugged her wet arms into her chest and shivered. Was it a costume? Her skin seemed to bubble off of her and drop off like a volcano. The flesh singed when it hit the ground. If this were Hollywood, maybe, but these were booksellers in Washington. Special effects? A lighting system? I searched around the room at everyone’s faces for clues and none of it added up to anything. I felt a dread, starting at the top of my head and then pooling down my body into a rock in my stomach. Josh handed me a red cup with fizzy liquid inside. I went to talk and only puffs of air escaped.

“Did you tell her about Sandy?” Josh said.

“I started to,” Karen said. She put on a mocking voice. “Nobody tell Sandy she’s dead.

“Well, what do you think we should do?” Josh said. “This is Blake’s deal. He’ll deal with it.”

“He better,” Karen said. “This is seriously messed up. If I were dead, I sure as fuck would want somebody to tell me about it. I told Blake, if he doesn’t tell her tonight, I’m going to.”  Somebody from outside called to Karen and she clanked the screen door shut behind her.

“Karen’s a cow,” Josh turned to me and explained. “Do you want to go outside? The smell is getting to me.”

He led me through the screen door, away from the dead girl. Someone had turned on Radiohead’s Kid A. They skipped the first track and it went straight to a crooning voice, repeating, “I’m a reasonable man, get off my case.” It reminded me of when I was young but I couldn’t put my finger on where I was when I first heard it or what any of it meant.

“What’s going on?” I said to Josh. “Why are you doing this to me?”

“Terese, what’s the matter?” He looked at me with burning brown eyes through his black, designer- framed glasses, a look of concern torn out of a glossy magazine.

I watched Sandy move away from the food table and try to open the door into the house. Blake ran up and got between her. He had a big voice. I heard him say, “No. Don’t go inside, okay? Just don’t.”

Sandy looked upset. She looked like a body who’d been dead for a week but was walking around like a normal person, and I couldn’t understand how that could possibly be, and why the people at the party weren’t more astounded by it. It had to be an elaborate trick for my benefit, but I didn’t get how they’d made her look so real—and the smell. How and why would booksellers harness the bowels of hell and let it loose on an otherwise beautiful evening?

Above us, the stars were out in staggering numbers. The moon was half full. I looked around and noticed a few good-looking partygoers gazing up in a moment of shared romance.

It seemed as though the number of guests had doubled, fifty people or more, all of them well dressed and beautiful. The whole thing looked fake and I started to feel my body tremble. “I need to get out of here.”

“Let’s go down to the dock and chill out for a second,” Josh said.

He grabbed my elbow again and started walking me down the wet grass. It touched my bare toes around my sandals, and I thought, this is a dream, this is a dream, this is a dream, except the wet grass told me even louder that it wasn’t. Dreams are muted; they don’t jump out at you that way. I tasted the beer in my cup and it couldn’t have been more real. It was Blue Moon. I knew by the way it foamed up inside my mouth. You can’t dream a taste like that.

I heard people murmuring about the girl around us. “No, we’re just not going to tell her,” A girl said. “Nobody tell Sandy she’s dead,” said another one.

“God, look at the sound,” Josh said. He stared out at it from the water’s edge. “It’s beautiful.” Up close you could see the ripples and the way the stars reflected off the surface. I wanted to jump in and swim across to the other side to get away from everyone. My heart was beating fast in a panic with no name or peg to hang it on.

“Who are you?” I said to Josh. I started breathing heavy. I was crying, maybe, I don’t know. “Why are you doing this to me?” I tried to remember how I’d gotten there in the first place. I’d taken a plane, but from where?

The music sounded farther away but I knew the album by heart. “I’m not here,” it said. “This isn’t happening,” it said.

I knew that I had one, but I couldn’t remember my mother’s face. She had red hair, I thought.

“I need to get out of here,” I said. “I need to go home.” I went to run away but I didn’t know which direction to go. I messed up and took a step toward the water. Josh grabbed me by the elbow again, hard enough to leave a mark.

“You need to chill out,” he said.

The smell of the dead girl was all of a sudden on top of us, and Josh turned around. “Hey Sandy.”

“Josh,” Sandy said. “Is something wrong?”

Up close, Sandy had only half a nose. The sight of her blue lips cut with red was lit up by the reflection of the colored lights. It really was stunning, if you didn’t stop to think about what it all amounted to.

“Everything’s fine,” Josh said.

Sandy turned to me. “Hi,” she said. “I’m Sandy.”

She touched my hand and I screamed. “Get away from me. Don’t touch me!”

Sandy’s jaw trembled and she pulled back slowly. That feeling the dead girl couldn’t quite put her finger on crawled around from behind and tapped her on the shoulder. The feeling grabbed her and started shaking. I stood there watching all of this happen.

“You’re dead!” I screamed. “Oh my God, can’t you see that? Look at you!”

Sandy looked down at her paper skin, then out over the sound with yellow, comprehending eyes. She put her hands up to her head and pulled at a chunk of wet, stringy hair. “No,” she whispered.

Josh made his way up the wet grass toward the house, yelling, “Blake. You better get down here. The bitches are running wild.”

“No!” Sandy screamed again. Her voice came out shrill and strangled. Salt water poured out of her lungs and her water logged tongue caught on the roof of her mouth. She grabbed my arm and squeezed it, shaking me and screaming. “Who are you?” She screamed. “What’s happening to me?”

I screamed back, “What’s wrong with you? Let go of me!”

And we just stood at the edge of the lake with the whole party staring, the CD skipping, shaking and screaming at each other: “Who are you? What’s happening? Where Am I? Why are they doing this to us?”

* * * * *

Molly Laich is a Michigander/Montanan who lives in Seattle. She writes film reviews, makes up stories and helps to edit Unstuck Magazine. Read about her secret life at http://www.mollylaich.com. Her other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

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Sitting Shiva in a Hotel Lobby

For a year this image has haunted me.
Over and over I hear on the gramophone
Cohen put in my ear
“Feature this:
On a crowded elevator
a strange woman in a baseball cap
unbuttons your fly.”
That image is on the ceiling every night
as I sit shiva in the lobby
of this small hotel,
a hookah, like a tired cobra,
coiled at my feet,
a shamrock in my buttonhole
dead from the last parade.
Night after night,
I think about this strange woman
as each hour I watch
the doors of the elevator
part and give birth.
I observe each new guest carefully,
hoping the woman in the baseball cap
will tire of the rain and ride up
in the elevator and register.
I want her to sit in the lobby
and talk with us.
We who are guests here forever
have eons to hear
what she has to say.
We have paid our rent in advance.
We can afford to sit here and see.

* * * * *

Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, Donal Mahoney has had work published in a variety of print and electronic publications in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html His submissions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Dr. Hurley’s Digest, Vol. II, Issue 49

We featured some good old Snake-Oilers, and some new ones this week. Check out what you missed!

 

Monday – Fiction

Wednesday – Poetry

Friday – Photography

Friday – Poetry

 

More to come this week!

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (№ 3 in the Atari 2600 Poems Series)

I gave you a quarter
You should have called someone who cared
Instead, you just wandered
As though you were drunk
Falling down into black hole
After black hole
After black hole
One depression after another
You couldn’t get out of

And to think it only took
Five weeks
To make you this way

It’s official:
You are simply a catastrophic failure
Unwilling to be controlled
Unwilling to be counted upon
Unwilling to be a contributing factor
Toward easing the burden rate

There are garbage dumps out in New Mexico
We will bury you in

And encase you in cement

You had the quarter

Don’t you wish you had just phoned home?

 

* * * * *

Zachary Houle lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, where he works for the federal government as an Information Officer and is also an Associate Music Reviews editor for PopMatters.com, a pop culture webzine that reaches 1.2 million unique visitors a month. He also contributes regular book and music reviews to PopMatters. Houle has been awarded a $4,000 emerging artist grant from the City of Ottawa to write fiction, and was a Pushcart Prize nominee for a novella that appeared in Midnight Mind. His fiction or poetry has also appeared in places such as Broken Pencil, Word Riot, Pindeldyboz, Kiss Machine, The Danforth Review, Girls with Insurance, Thieves Jargon, Friction magazine, Megaera, and many others. His poem “Ode to the Long Lost Mini-Pops Album” was published in the book anthology In Our Own Words, Vol. 7 (MW Enterprises, 2007).

His contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Exposure № 112: Night Works

A long wait

Closed (from a long time)

Only diesel

Photographer Davide’s first project, “Night Works”, brings him to places from his daily life, revisiting them at night, when “the absence of people and the inactivity of the structures let the imagination go away or even stay, transforming what seems familiar and obvious.”

* * * * *

Davide, aka Thinredline, is 43 years old and lives in Mantua, Italy. He is not a professional photographer. His submissions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Shopping List

Toothpaste ✓
Bread ✓
Marge ✓
Some flour ✓
Someone to love me…
Milk 
Biscuits 
Friends
That girl on the train
A dozen eggs ✓
Cheese ✓
Sex
Washing powder ✓
Cornflakes ✓
You

* * * * *

David Mellor was born in Liverpool in 1964.He Left school with nothing, rummaging around various dead end jobs, he then went to college and university. In his 20s he first discovered poetry, and started writing and performing and has done so ever since. He has Lived on the Wirral for the past 8 years. His submissions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

First Reports on Tardive Dyskinesia Patients in Time Displacement Experiments

The first reported case of time displacement (popularly and somewhat inaccurately known as time travel) happened in the interior of a particle accelerator in São Paulo in 2112.

It happened entirely by chance.

As is the case with many scientific discoveries, sometimes you are looking for one thing, then another gets in the way, and with results you are most definitely not expecting. Viagra, for instance.

The time travel process (or, at least, its rudiments) was discovered by a researcher during the calibration of equipment between experiments.

 *

Humankind had discovered the cure for many ailments and severe illnesses by the early twenty-second century. Most kinds of cancer, for instance, had been completely eradicated. But the common cold had not.

Neither had tardive dyskinesia.

Tardive dyskinesia was first diagnosed in the second half of the twentieth century. The development of this iatrogenic disorder, in medical jargon, is usually linked to the use of antipsychotic medications.

The word dyskinesia is Greek for erratic movement: people afflicted by that condition will suffer from involuntary movement of the mouth, tongue, and cheeks, resembling chewing motions with intermittent darting movements of the tongue; there may also be difficulty in performing voluntary muscular movement. Tardive dyskinesia is more common in women than in men and in the elderly than in the young. Symptoms of tardive dyskinesia can develop and persist long after use of the medication causing the disorder has been discontinued.

Dr. Mariana Lima was 55 and had been on antipsychotic drugs for eleven years. Even though metoclopramide hadn’t been commonly used for almost fifty years now, not every patient responded well to the current treatment, which combined transcranial magnetic stimulation and painkillers. It should be noted that Dr. Lima (from here on referred as Subject Zero) had never had a tardive dyskinesia episode before the afternoon of January 25th, 2112.

So, when Subject Zero started to tread on the catwalk crossing the accelerator and stopped to do the first calibration, she already noticed something was wrong but didn’t gave it much attention. “It was just a tic, nothing more,” she told the debriefing team later. “My left eye started to blink uncontrollably while I was walking, but when I stopped in front of the machine, bam!, it stopped. So I figured I must be nervous, you know, the thrill of the experiment…”

Right after Subject Zero started the calibration process, her right hand started jerking around between the motherboards. She cut herself. She cursed.

The two researchers who were supervising the process from the control room asked Subject Zero what happened, and asked her to return and let someone else do the calibration. Subject Zero agreed.

Then, when she turned to go back the way she came, the Subject Zero experienced the time displacement.

It was an unknown, impossible to control, and therefore terrifying experience to Subject Zero. Her body started to jerk and twist, to jump and swagger as if with a mind of its own.

Subject Zero went down the catwalk, sliding, sauntering, cakewalking, moonwalking. One step forward, two steps back. Baby steps. Turtle steps. Snail steps.

Then things started to change.

It was noticed that, upon walking along the particle accelerator in a state of tardive dyskinesia, Subject Zero started to experience slight changes in her surroundings, although no changes in herself. The two researchers that supervised the calibration, however, have stated that they noticed slight changes in her, such as: hair length and color, height, color and shape of shoes (most of her clothes were covered all the time by a lab coat).

(Which brought later to the minds of many the question: were they watching the same Subject Zero, or some alternate version/versions of her? This remains to be studied further.)

Upon walking ever forward on the catwalk, Subject Zero didn’t leave the surroundings of the particle accelerator, but, as she later told the retrieval information team in the debriefing, “It was as if lots of windows started to open at each side of the catwalk, as if I was walking on a train and could watch the landscape sweeping away by me, but different at every window…” She couldn’t be more specific.

The test didn’t take more than seventeen minutes in objective time, as seen from the point of view of outside observers.

The location of Subject Zero is unknown. There is currently a Subject Sixteen working in the premises. All reports relating the time displacement experiments with a possible rescue to the US Mars Mission are untrue.

* * * * *

Fabio Fernandes is a writer based in São Paulo, Brazil. Also a journalist and translator, he is responsible for the Brazilian translations of several prominent SF novels including Neuromancer, Snow Crash, and A Clockwork Orange. His short stories have been published in Brazil, Portugal, Romania, England, and the USA, and in Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, The Apex Book of World SF, Vol. II and Outlaw Bodies. He is currently finishing the co-editing process (with Djibril al-Ayad) of We See a Different Frontier, an SF postcolonialism anthology. Fabio tweets at https://twitter.com/fabiofernandes.

His other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Dr. Hurley’s Digest, Vol. II, Issue 48

 Though tomorrow is a holiday for Dr. H’s American readers, we’re still going to be bringing you goodies from Snake-Oilers old and new. Check out what you missed this week below.

 

Wednesday – Photography/Poetry

Friday – Poetry

 

If you’re sitting in the snow like we are, take this opportunity to catch up on your reading!

Blowing In the Wind III

This is a different day, not so easy as before
wind up high
dreams wafting about;

someone measures a tree’s girth
or watches a bird always at home
in its travels
wild, untouched;

people are strolling around the world
nearly spring;
in Iraq at a bistro
he says I don’t mind the bombs-
Iraq is so beautiful and things will get better;
it’s too late for any more positives
on this over-extended Earth-
in a science fiction anesthesia.

East Germany before that war…
what was the gist of it…no protests permitted?
Clouds roll over properties for sale.

Just back from China
our tired neighbor says “this is my home… sometimes”
(when the corporation decides..

There are no birds on the sprayed lawns
and people are homeless from Climate Change storms…
too late to turn back.

From the back porch steps
he notes “the crocuses are in bloom
and that’s a good thing.”

* * * * *

Joan Payne Kincaid has published a collection of work entitled Greatest Hits with Pudding House Publications. She has also published a book with Wayne Hogan entitled The Umbrella Poems in which we both contributed drawings of some of our poems.  She has also published a collection of haiku entitled Snapshoots on the web at <TMPoetry.com>. Her work has been published in Gargoyle,Hawaii Review, Limestone Poetry Review, Licking River Review, Iodine, Hampden,Sydney Poetry Review, Main Street Rag, Santa Clara Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, South Central Review, The South Carolina Review,  Cross Currents, Georgetown Review, Edgz, 88,  Oyez, Modern Haiku, Iconoclast, Lynx Eye, Yalobusha Review, Mother Earth Journal, Tule Review, The Quarterly, Cairn, among others.

Her other submissions can be seen here.

Exposure № 111: Blackest Crow

Anslow Blackest Crow

Photographer Dylan Anslow shares this self portrait with a crow, her father’s totem. This image was inspired by the Civil War-era song “As Time Draws Near.”

As time draws near, my dearest dear,
When you and I must part,
How little you know of the grief and woe,
And my poor aching heart.

It’s better I leave, for your sake,
Believe me, dear, it’s true,
I wish that you were staying here,
Or I was going with you.

I wish my breast were made of glass,
Wherein you might behold,
Upon my heart your name lies wrote,
In letters made of bone.

In letters made of bone, my dear,
Believe me when I say,
You are the one I’ll always love,
U
ntil my dying day.

The blackest crow that ever flew,
Would surely turn to white,
If ever I prove false to you,
Bright day will turn to night,

Bright day will turn to night, my love,
The elements will burn,
If ever I prove false to you,
The seas will rage and burn.

* * * * *

Dylan Anslow is a 19 year old aspiring ocean/earth scientist from Oregon, about to start school at Stanford. She hopes to convey her love and fascination with the earth, the ocean and their inhabitants, contagiously, through pictures and drawings (and maybe some day scientific research?). She likes taking pictures with just enough narrative to invite your mind to wander around them and think about the subjects and what they were thinking or dreaming of. Her submissions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.