Chapter One – New Moon on Monday
Duran Duran’s New Moon on Monday played from the black boom box creekside. The beat echoed around the short banks of the large swimming hole. Heads back, fingers skipped over the water like gulls’ feet. The six teens floated on tubes in silence listening to the tunes. The brief occasional exchanges between them went silent when the surroundings began to alter.
Isolated above them, the sun disappeared into an ashen ink blot in the sky. Like a volcanic mud pool, the clouds boiled gray. Thunder rumbled. The wind brewed. Ripples in the current rocked their tubes. Jay watched over her shoulder as an opening emerged in the center of the water like a mouth. She ditched her tube and swam as hard she could, struggling against the tow, laboring to break away, crawling towards shore, unmoving, moored to the mouth as it inhaled each one of her three cousins and two friends.
Their yells gurgled then faded.
The vortex widened. She took a deep breath, curling into a ball, and entered with her eyes wide open. She didn’t resist and allowed it to take her, conserving energy for whatever was ahead. The water spiraled, rolling her around like drying laundry. As the whirlpool wrenched her to and fro, she felt her body transform: fragmented—piercing, tingly, strange and slow, like she was neither here nor there but everywhere. Water rushed through every atom of her body like blisters of air exploding and imploding. She became mindful of an awareness…and memories—so many memories.
She panicked and flailed. Her limbs moved slower as the water curdled into a gangrene-like soup. Opening her mouth, she inhaled swallowing a mouthful of dirty creek. She gagged as the concoction—syrupy and putrid, like dirty spit—choked her.
On the verge of unconsciousness, whatever it was finally spat her out into blackness like a burp and a plop. She surfaced choking, hacking water from her lungs. Taking deep breaths, feet kicking to stay afloat, she listened for the others.
Her eyes adjusted quickly to the change. Visible behind choking smog, the stars barely flared. The moon—full and high and slight behind her like a tired bloodshot eye—peeked in and out from its lazy lid. She spotted the dark shadowy outlines of her cousins and friends and heard their coughs and splashes drop dull off the banks of the muddy shore.
Smoke camouflaged the world around her while snaps of fire and the aftermath of destruction staggered dancing towards the black. A breach in the chaos, she glimpsed swaths of trees and woods razed around them shifting and settling from the violence that flattened them. Behind and above her, the trestle—split in two—sat obviated beneath the full moon, like an open vice. Pieces of debris dropped to the water below while white smoke twirled into the black smog above.
The entire scene surreal, like a monochromatic etching—a comic book fashioned for an unreal world; a chimera of what once was and no longer.
The night stalled and went deathly silent in her confusion.
Taking a deep breath, Jay shook off the disorientation and swam towards shore. Along the way, she bumped into things that made her stop and stare into the macabre stage alert and tense. Tingles of caution snaked into her limbs. Awareness tickled her adrenaline. The water churned and reeked as she waited for whatever it was to emerge. The hot sharp scent of decay hovered thick in the air; not the same earthy nature of timber and soil and fresh spring water like before; rot and wet trash, charred earth and bark—and death; death floated by her; its languid fingers, like crusty branches, scraped across her pebbled flesh. Fixated, she watched as lifeless eyes with blown limbs and mangled bodies bobbed in the water like empty soda bottles.
She continued towards shore.
Tasting the metallic scent of blood, holding back gags, she crawled out of the water on all fours. Dragging herself out of the muck onto more muck, the bank—slime and weeds and more wet trash: plastic bags and plastic wraps and plastic containers and all things plastic—slithered beneath her hands like slippery eels. Blood and gore and trash, wrought from the chaos around, lapped at the shore. Her stomach convulsed and she vomited what water she swallowed. Her bile mixed with dirty creek water. The smell festered like an infection. The water around them, oozed from the large earthly wound, like pus.
The nausea subsided. Jay looked up and around. Broken moonbeams bounced off wet naked muddy bodies—older bodies. Her cousins and friends…were older—middle-aged older. They stared at each other: deep lines, fuller faces, pasty white rolls, the tired hunch of age and tension, and fresh scars—bodies worn; facial expressions and eyes, however, indicated something different—something innocent and panicky mirrored from those kids long ago. Wide-eyed with shock, they sat on the ground silent and dazed.
Natalie rose first while attempting to cover herself. She started to speak then grabbed her head and fell to her knees. Cody, Ben, Trevor, and Reese fell next. Their mouths opened, stretched in a yawning mute wail, like that Munch painting. The lull erupted as whimpers turn to whines, like the low guttural cries of a cat or dog. The sound eerie against dead air.
Jay watched wide-eyed with fascination. She searched and found their pain in the haze of merge. A flood so intense flashed like searchlights through each and every synapse as thirty-some years of memories breached minds—not just memories, but emotions. Knee-jerk responses swallowed her ability to speak or even scream as the pricks of pain and pleasure became spears of agony and a frenzy of euphoria. She gripped the bloody slime beneath her hands as it oozed between her fingers. Consciousness slipped in and out as both memories and emotions doubled her. Her mouth opened wide; nothing escaped but a struggle to remain silent in the pull. The gluttony of emotions, an amalgamation of orgasmic satisfaction and sweet, sweet misery.
And the best fucking buzz ever.
© 2020 Pamela Gay Mullins