Flash Fiction Friday: “Mar”
an excerpt from Chick Bassist, a novel by Ross E. Lockhart
Track 04: Mar
All you ever wanted was to leave a mark on the world when you died. Now you’re what’s marked. Damaged goods. Two weeks of restless nights spent squaring off against your fractured reflection, fingering your upper jaw, digits chasing your bloated tongue away from that gaping two-tooth hole. Manipulating your swollen crusted lip out of the way to reveal empty tissue balancing somewhere between mend and septic failure. Two weeks. Marked. Two weeks of constant pain, of stolen pills, drugstore whiskey, and self-loathing. Two weeks of spiders building webs against the framework of your drums. You can’t even talk right. Everything comes out slurred. Must have bit down hard as his fists pummeled your face, must have shattered everything.
Two teeth, one canine and—shit—what was the other… feline? The pills make it hard to remember. Two teeth. Two weeks. Lost. Damaged. Fucking Robbie Snow. It was supposed to be easy. Too easy. You’d tell Robbie to go and he’d be out, he’d back down, then you and Erin would find a new bass player. A reliable one, not a fuckup like Robbie. Maybe Erin’d even let you call in Tish, let her try out. She played bass, once. But now, two weeks of nothing. No contact. No communication. Erin’s gone, split town. Fucking Robbie’s fault. Fucking spoiler, fucking violent fuckup Robbie Snow.
Robbie always was an asshole. Smirking, dishonest junkie fuckup. Easy to hate, the things he said, did. Like first time he met Tish. Your Tish, your precious Tish. “No tits,” he sneered. “What do you do with her when you get bored, Christian? Flip her over and pretend she’s a boy?”
Tish. Tish. Perfection in a single syllable. Her compact body, her mile-deep eyes. Her sharp inhale as you’d press your face into the warm lotus of her sex. The sweet scent of her sweat against your skin. You’d watch her sleep, television turned to a dead channel, watching snow flicker animate the ice blue highways bustling beneath the pale translucence of her skin. A day won’t pass when you don’t pronounce her name, wishing, regretting. Tish.
Tish, whose favorite band in high school was Guns N’ Roses. Tish, who always looked so pure in bonglight. Those first few months when all you did was get high and fuck. Tish, your Tish. Gone. A year and it still aches. Could she love you even now, marked, disfigured? Could she touch your wounded face, reassure, comfort you? Or would she simply gag, disgusted by your altered face? Would she chastise you for not trusting in her god? “You’re such a fucking irony, Christian,” she said, last time you saw her. “Name like yours, you should, but you don’t believe in anything.”
But you do believe in something, at least you did. A belief that you would make your mark upon the world. A mark, your mark, like the marks on Tish’s body. The black birthday star you gave her, inked into the back of her neck. You’d trace it with an index finger, kiss its raised surface. The welts your nails drew upon her back. The thumbprint bruises you’d leave on her arms after a night of rough animal coupling. That night she took a blade and scratched letters into the skin across her meager belly, “It’s your name, Christian, see, I’ve carved your name.” Tish, you say, I’m sorry, Tish. But you’re the one who’s marked.
Tish, her name a cymbal crash. You close your eyes, you can still taste her probing tongue in your mouth. Stay away from the missing teeth. You can still smell the pungent scent of her sex on your fingertips. A fistful of pills washed down in a swig of whiskey makes it easier to imagine. You lie on the floor, envisioning her cool blue ghost mounting you, touching you, stroking your face with long black tendrils of hair. Her legs entwine with yours, blurring the line where your body stops and hers begins. You roll your hips beneath her weightless shade, then, embarrassed by the shameless pantomime, curl into a fetal position, jaw throbbing, sobbing. Tish, you cry, I’m sorry, Tish.
Eons, days, or moments pass. It doesn’t matter which. The dirty tile floor chills your bare skin, peppering you with puckered goosebumps. You pull your knees against your chest, holding tight as geologic periods pass, as suns wink out, as Earth cools to a cinder. Dying creation spins, a bathtub drained. Your stomach tightens, rumbles, evacuates. You heave. Your wounded maw gives birth to a constellation of whiskey and bile, half-dissolved morphine stars and bloodred flecks within. Primordial conception bubbles. Idiot ancestors, blind gods, and superstitious zygotes flail, clash, and crumble. You lie on the floor, embodying the forgotten drifting deity who, drunk on power and new wine, vomited forth the universe.
Eventually the rosy-fingered sun returns, streaming in through the bathroom window, chasing dreams away into dark corners, banishing ghosts. The twin pains, your empty soul, your face, fade to background static. You say her name once more, pronouncing it, a ward against the darkness. You struggle to your feet, unsteady, but resolved. An insect voice murmurs deep within your head: You may be marked, but you will make your mark. You grimace at your reflection in the broken mirror, the empty black hole in your face threatening to crush the world in its enormous gravity. You will make your mark, you promise. On Tish, on Robbie Snow, on the entire world.
Ross E. Lockhart is the managing editor of Night Shade Books. A lifelong fan of supernatural, fantastic, speculative, and weird fiction, he holds degrees in English from Sonoma State University (BA) and San Francisco State University (MA). He lives in an old church in Petaluma, CA, with his wife Jennifer, hundreds of books, and a small, ravenous dog that he believes may be one of the Elder Gods.