Tuesday, September 15, 2009


So I'm posting every week instead of every other week. And I'm even posting this a day early.

This is Halfway, a short story I wrote at either the tail end of 2008 or the beginning of 2009... I don't remember exactly. Enjoy!


A.F. Grappin

"Thomas, do you take Rebecca, to have and to hold..."

Douglas slouched in the pew.

"...for richer or poorer..."

His arm twitched. He could feel his heart pounding.

"...in sickness and in health..."

The fingers on his right hand tingled. They were restless. His hand dove into his pocket, searching for his pills. he knew they weren't there; Becky had made him leave them back at the apartment. She said all she wanted from him as a wedding present was for him "not to be popping pills the whole time."

"... as long as you both shall live?"

The ceremony dragged on. It was a struggle to hear the preacher over the other voices in the church. The other people-- his parents, his sister Margaret, and Tommy's family and friends-- were silent. He knew his and Becky's mom was being all teary-eyed; her youngest daughter was getting married! In the silence, Douglas could hear a dozen or more other voices. At least he couldn't see them yet; he'd taken enough of his meds that morning that it made him blind to the faces. It would only last so long, though. Sooner or later, the overdose he'd taken would wear off, and he'd see them all. It would be sooner rather than later. It made him sick to his stomach.

"Rebecca, do you take Thomas..."

The edges of his vision started to blur. No, no not yet. It hasn't even been two hours! He clamped his eyes shut and tried to drown out the voices.

Her dress is beautiful... I miss my mom... God, I wish I could go home... Kill them all!

His eyes shot open. He could feel the sweat pouring down his neck, soaking his collar. Up front, Tommy and Becky were about to kiss. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, hoping that when he looked again, all he would see would be his sister, his new brother-in-law, and the preacher. He put on his glasses and looked.

They weren't alone. Ten other people, their images still a bit fuzzy and indistinct, were gathered around the bride and groom. They were just watching. Thank God they were just watching. They weren't the ones talking. There were more around. He let himself look. There were people scattered throughout the church. By one of the stained glass windows, an elderly woman stood with her hands clasped in front of her. Her contentedsmile showed plainly that she was reminiscing. A small boy sat at the end of one of the pews in front of him, hugging himself. He was the one crying over his mother.

"...present to you Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Clay Wilmington!"

The applause mercifully drowned out the voices for now. The bridesmaids and groomsmen started their procession down the aisle. Then Douglas saw him: a man, dressed in a red button-up shirt and a black vest and pants. His hair was black and hung down in his face in wild, wet tangles. His eyes had a cold, angry look to them. Douglas kept his eyes on the man. He was one of those who would try something. If he did, though, Douglas had no idea how to stop him.

In his peripheral vision, he saw that Becky and Tommy were starting down the aisle. They were just about to pass by him when the man made his move.

He looked straight at Douglas and smiled wickedly. With the fluid swiftness of... whatever he was... the man sped towards the unknowing Becky. His hands were opened in a clawlike fashion. His fingernails were long and black.

"You stay away from her!" He rushed at the man, his hands clenched into fists. He swung wildly, striking at his face, his arms. Someone screamed. He pinned the man down and beat him over and over.

"Douglas! What are you doing?!"

The man smirked at him. You can't touch me... And he was gone. Douglas looked up. Becky was standing with her hands on her hips, glaring at him. The others in the church looked on in confusion. His mother whimpered. He slowly got to his feet. His knuckles were bruised and one was busted and bleeding. He must have been striking the floor, not the man.

Becky scowled. "The only thing I asked was that you not bring those drugs to my wedding, and you couldn't even do that!"

He narrowed his eyes at her. "Becky, I don't have them! This is what happens when I'm off the pills!"

"You've ruined my wedding, Douglas!"

He kept his glare. "Well then, excuse me so I don't ruin your reception!" He brushed past her and out of the church.

Walking home was a pain. There were more voices and faces outside, people walking or trudging down the sidewalks with the-- he wasn't sure what to call them-- normal people. His hand dug into his pocket again, searching vainly for the pills that were sitting on the little table next to the door of his apartment.
He almost fell off the sidewalk when one of his feet stepped wrong. His whole body just was not responding right. A silver Lexus pulled up next to him. The tinted window rolled down, revealing a woman wearing mirrored sunglasses and a black tank top. Her dark brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail.

"Get in."

Uncertain but not really caring whether or not she was dangerous, he got into the car.

"I saw you leave the church. You need meds?"

"My pills are at my apartment. The Villa, corner of Sixteenth and Cherry Street." He closed his eyes and laid his head back on the sat.

"What do you take?"

He looked at her strangely. "That's a bit personal, don't you think?"

"Open the glove compartment. Take what you need."

He opened the latch and saw a veritable pharmacy. Among the bottles, he actually saw a little bottle of the hard-to-find pills he'd had to take since he was seventeen. He didn't count them out, just popped a palmful of the little red pills into his mouth. It would be a few minutes before they really kicked in, but he still breathed a sigh of relief, just knowing they were in his system. His arm stopped twitching.

A red fox dashed in front of the Lexus. "Watch it!" he yelled.

The woman didn't hit the brake. There was no thump, no squish as the car and the fox collided. They drove on. He closed his eyes again.

"You can't hurt them," she said. "Douglas, right?"

He could feel himself shaking. "Yeah..."

"I'm Anabelle. How long you been taking?"

"Ten years."

"Does it help?"

He opened his eyes and looked at her sideways. "If I take enough of it."

"You started on half a pill?"


"Doesn't get better, does it?"

He didn't dignify that with an answer.

The car came to a stop. He looked; this wasn't his apartment complex.

"This is my place," Anabele explained. "Come on up."

Once inside, he sank onto the couch. She looked at him incredulously. "Aren't you curious?"

"About what?"

"About what?! About me? Or them?"

"As long as I have my meds and I can't see or hear them, I don't care."

He could hear the disappointment thick in her voice. "What about me?"

"I appreciate the lift and the meds, and I'm not going to ask where you got all of those, but I really just want to go home and fall asleep for a few days."

"What if I told you you were being followed?"

He glared at her. "By who?"

She jerked her head towards the window. "A hawk. She followed us all the way from the church. And it's not me she's following."

"I don't care."

Anabelle let out a loud, exasperated sigh. "Come on; I'll take you home."

She dropped him off at the Villa and stayed parked until he was out of sight. She rolled down her window. "Come back with me. I want to talk to you." She drove off alone, not looking in her rear view; she knew the hawk was following.

* * *

The doorknob to Douglas's flat turned slowly and silently. Douglas was in too deep a sleep to notice. A woman clad in black stepped in softly, her feet covered not in shoes, but in several layers of sock so they made no sound on the cheap linoleum floor. She peered into the bedroom and saw him fast asleep. His mouth hung open, and he was snoring loudly. She padded in, lifted the bottom of the black wool cap that covered her face. She leaned down and kissed his forehead gently. "I’m sorry."
She took something and left the apartment.

* * *

Douglas didn't have the money to get another bottle of pills yet; payday wasn't until Thursday, and it was only Sunday. He spent the whole morning and much of the early afternoon tearing through his apartment looking for them, and he found nothing. He finally collapsed from sheer exhaustion. He was starting to see them and hear them now that he wasn't so focused on searching. There were a handful around him, standing over him, murmuring. He picked up snatches of their conversations, discussing a woman who had come into the apartment last night.

He got to his feet despite his protesting body. He was weak and dripping sweat. He felt frozen to the very core of him. He struggled into a sweater, ignoring the dry July heat. Where had Anabelle lived? What complex? He wasn't sure where. He thought about jacking one of the bikes on the rack outside, but he doubted he'd have the strength to ride-- walking was hard enough. His legs felt stiff.

Maybe she lived downtown. It was where the rich people lived, and she did drive a Lexus. He headed that way, forcing his legs to take one step after another. A man in a business suit carrying an attache case shoved past him. He fell to his knees and knew he couldn't force himself to get back up again.

He heard footsteps and managed to raise his head. There was the man in red and black he'd seen at his sister's wedding. His eyes watched him coldly from under that head of tangled, wet hair. He snickered. You'll be able to feel me now, he said in a voice like a rusty saw. He kicked Douglas in the side, sending him falling into the street.

Douglas landed on his back. His eyes were drawn to a nearby light post. Perched at the top was a blue-and-grey hawk, her head tilted slightly as she looked at him.

A loud semi's horn honked. The man in read grinned that horrible, twisted grin. "You'll be able to feel that, too." He realized he heard the man's voice with his ears, not in hid head.

The hawk cried at the same moment the semi crashed into him. Everything went white.

* * *

Becky was crying hysterically. Her husband of two days, Tommy, had his arms around her, but she was inconsolable. Her sister, Margaret, was nearby, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue.

Another woman walked in. Her dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She wore a dark suit with a knee-length skirt. A pair of black-rimmed glasses made her look like a CEO.

"Thanks for seeing us, Anabelle," said Margaret. "I figured you could explain it to Becky better than I could."

"Of course," she replied, sitting primly on the edge of a chair and removing her glasses. Her eyes were such a pale blue they were almost white. "Margaret told me that something traumatic happened to your brother ten years ago. A... motorcycle wreck?"

Becky nodded, tears streaming down her cheeks. "He... was on marijuana, I think... it head-on with a pickup... it was a miracle he survived."

"Not really." She held up a little bottle of red pills. "This drug was developed by doctors and biologists in Europe for the purpose of rehabilitating human vegetables. It's a stimulant-- I won't bother trying to pronounce the name-- that forces the brain and the whole nervous system to function. It's purpose was to bring those who had suffered brain damage back to a state of functioning so they could at least take care of themselves alone. The pills are expensive, but less costly than round-the-clock hospital care. This is what your brother was on."

"But... he didn't suffer brain damage in the accident. His head was about the only thing that was fine. He broke every other bone in his body, I think. They were sure if he did survive, he would be paralyzed from the neck down. He fractured his spine in half a dozen places," Becky said. Her tears were drying.

"Douglas was an experiment. He actually should have been paralyzed. The pills were what kept him going."

Becky looked mad. "What about the hallucinations?" Her tone was accusing. Tommy patted her shoulder.

Anabelle looked at her calmly. "Do you believe in ghosts?"

Becky scoffed. "Of course not. I'm an adult."

Anabelle gave her a severe look. "Then I won't bother explaining the 'hallucinations'. Suffice it to say that Douglas had no trace of his meds in his system when he died. It's probably why he couldn't get out of the way of the semi that hit him. His body wasn'tresponding.The pillswere nowhere in his apartment, and they weren't on his person. Police are saying they were probably stolen."

Becky went pale. "I... just wanted him to beat the addiction! I thought... they were..." She ran from the room. Tommy hurried after her.

Margaret looked at Anabelle. "I knew she wouldn't understand."

"About the ghosts?" Anabelle shrugged. "Douglas has been halfway dead for ten years, and I don't think he really realized what they were. I'm actually amazed he went on this long. Most subjects only go three years or so." She looked at the door where Becky had gone. "Neither he nor Becky put much stock in the supernatural, do they?"

Margaret smiled. "Why do you think I never told them about me?"

Anabelle only smiled back.

Margaret looked at her watch. "I have to go. I'm meeting my parents at the funeral home."

Anabelle watched as Margaret strode to the window. The woman faded away, and a blue-and-grey hawk flew off.


Once again, all comments are welcome!

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