February 9th, 2017: Freedom [fiction]

Jess drops her hat over the side of the boat, followed by her shoes and wedding ring. It’s been an hour from land and already two of us are laughing drunkly about different secrets. David struggles to keep smoking while his shirt comes off. He tears the last two buttons and throws it over. A tattooed ribbon of hearts connects his shoulder to hip diagonally.

Beverly dangles her bare feet over the side, pants rolled up and bunched. She puts bullets into her brother’s revolver and counts as each goes in, but somewhere has already lost the progression and mumbles to the end. She laughs then snaps it shut, leans her forehead against the gleaming chrome rail.

“What the hell are you doing over there?”
“Eating. I’m hungry. Is there something wrong with that?”
“But tell me why you’re doing that. It’s stupid.”

“I haven’t eaten since yesterday. That’s what he said, not to eat the day before.”

Austin is crying and laughing to himself alone, but won’t say a word to the others. Jess keeps on at me, eyes shallow and a mean-lipped words forced ahead. She starts to take her shirt off and mumbles while exposing a ragged orange bra.

“It won’t work in your stomach if you eat.”

“I already took it all though. And I’m starting to feel it too.”

“You won’t die if it’s sitting on food.”

“She’s right asshole. You’ll end up between.”

“Jesus Christ, this too! I expect this when you’re drunk, but anything?”
Beverly lifts herself to stand and moves very slowly in our direction, gun swinging by her hip like a party favor.

“I’ve suspected it was psychological for a while now.”

I shake my head and take a step back from Jess. Her breasts are out now and she seems ready to attack. David has stayed by the rail, arms crossed beneath him and staring down at the water.

“It’s too much. He didn’t say it would be like this.”

“You just need to calm down and let it have you.”

“I don’t think I want it anymore.”

Austin is shaking his head and choking. He leans back halfway as if to pass out, then recoils forward onto his knees. He gags more and vomits out tinted blue bile then wipes his fingers through the puddle.

“Erin, I- Is it gone? I don’t see it.”

David turns around and burps. His eyes are red but he is smiling.

“It’s probably too late. Your body soaked it up by now. You’re with us.”

He laughs, and then Jess is laughing too like a pair of devils. Austin coughs and slides his hands around the vomit some more. He starts crying. Beverly clicks the revolver back and shoots Austin in the shoulder. He falls over onto his back, starts gasping and gagging like a panic attack while mixing blood with bile on his chest.

“I’ve always wanted to do that.”

“Why him?”

“No, I’ve never shot a gun before. That’s why I took it.”

“What about your brother? Trevor?”

“Yeah, that’s him. Fuck him. Who cares.”

“Okay.”

Jess looks away past David, her skin has become transparent and papery in the last few minutes. I don’t know what I look like now.

“It doesn’t really count if you’re not shooting something alive. That’s what he says. Won’t ever go to the range.”

Beverly laughs again and turns around from us, leans her head back to see the sky. Austin slips in blood like an earthworm on pavement, up and down a few times then bolts across toward her.

“Bitch!”

She doesn’t have a chance to move before Austin knocks into her from behind and they both tumble over the side. A smeary blood trail marks that second and they are gone. Jess walks over to where they fell and casts a languid glance at the water.

“I’d have done it. She always was such a bitch.”

David laughs but I don’t know if this has anything to do with that. I go to stand beside him and look at the water. Our reflections shiver in the wind below. We look bad at this distance. His head nods forward then jerks to another second alert. He laughs but none of that is on his face.

“I never went back and tried that breakfast. Do you remember when we were in Arizona? I was so fucking sick then and said… but I didn’t.”

A shiny blade pushes through my neck from behind and it is difficult to stand while blood spurts out with the beat of my heart. It looks like a jet of red semen cast into the ocean rhythmically and sprayed over David’s impassive face. I don’t know where she got the knife, but Jess catches me for a moment then pushes my floppy sockdoll body over into the ocean.

“That was gross. I didn’t think it would be so gross.”

David doesn’t say anything at first, then smiles with teeth.

“It’s all over you and getting in your mouth.”

“Yum.”

“Motherfucker.”

She walks away and starts to push blood off her stomach and chest, then wrings it out of her hair. Jess sits down where Austin had been and starts crying. A seagull lands at the top of the boat and then flies away a few minutes later. The sky covers over and soon it is raining.

David leaves her there and heads below. He looks around with rising desperation for something to eat. He lays down on the floor and tries to sleep into the end. Jess finds Beverly’s gun abandoned on the deck and fires the remaining bullets at seagulls in the air. When she heads down to find David he is dead with swollen tongue stuck out. She sighs and leaves the gun there with him before heading back up.

Alone, she takes off her pants and underwear and drops them over into the water. The cold and salty air feels good for a couple minutes, then it is painfully too cold. After that she smears around the crackling blood on her skin and doesn’t feel like anything. She finds the wheel and steers the boat around a little bit, but just feels an upset stomach.

After another ten minutes of waiting around, Jess coughs hard and there is blood in her palm.

“Good for me…”

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