In December 2008, I self published my first piece of fiction. Since then, I have published several other works including a collection of my cartoons. You can find these for purchase or to read selections from each at lulu.com and the Amazon marketplace.
It Takes Two
A friend of mine who I went to college with recently started up a little game. A group of writer types get together and write down random items and lines of dialogue on slips of paper. We drop the items into a hat, mix it up, and draw five. We then have two hours to write a story using the five items.
It's a very good time if you're into that sort of thing, which I am.
Here is my first story. It is titled "It Takes Two". I am presenting it unedited to preserve the two-hour product, so if you see errors, yeah, I know. Sheesh!
You can view the other stories HERE on Fionn Murphy's page. And when we've done this enough times, we'll have a collection available through Lulu.
"Have you seen my other shoe?"
An authority figure has turned sinister.
Something is wrong with the air.
A marble statue.
“It Takes Two”
There was a sadness about her. Charlie could see that now. Maybe before he never noticed because he was blinded by the glamour of her. She was so special in his eyes – in everyone’s eyes. She was the queen of the senior class and really the whole school. She walked around in her heels that were just a half-inch taller than they were allowed to be according to the Academy’s regulations and her patterned skirts that were a full inch shorter than they were allowed to be, but no one said anything, because she was Abigail. She was beautiful and not in a Hollywood or magazine air-brushed cover sort of way. She was naturally pretty. And she was smart. It would be so obvious that someone with such looks would never have developed an intelligence, but not Abby. She was in all honors courses, and she was a sure bet to make it into any university she wanted after all this was over. Yale probably. Her whole family had gone there. She strutted around with an air of superiority. She dripped with confidence, and no one dared doubt that she would be a growing force as she went out into the world, and yet he could see now she was sad despite it all.
“Have you seen my other shoe?” Abby said and pushed aside his pile of clothes. “The left one’s right here, but where the hell is my other one?”
She didn’t date. Everyone just assumed she wasn’t interested. Some of the other senior girls – the ones that truly were spoiled rich bitches spread rumors that she was a lesbian. Some of the more popular guys had tried and failed. Maybe she only dated older guys – college guys.
“Yours are both right here,” she pointed at his worn out Nikes and continued to look around.
No one had just treated her like she was normal. And he never would have even tried had it not been their random assignment to one another in home economics. But there they were, spending every Tuesday and Thursday together all semester, and then he asked if she wanted to attempt the dessert midterm, and then she was in his common room while everyone else was out partying on a Thursday night, and then they were kissing.
“What the hell?” she said.
“There it is,” Charlie said.
Abby turned and looked to where he was pointing. Under the shelf that was loaded with urinal cake boxes and toilet bowl cleaner her black heel poked out. “How the hell did it get here?” She bent down and scooped it up. “Why didn’t you say something sooner? We’re late, you know.”
It had been almost two months now, and she still talked to him like that – like he was nothing, but he knew, like he could see her sadness, he knew she thought of him as something more.
“You’re an idiot.” She pushed her heel into her shoe and began pulling her hair back and into a band.
“Hurry up. The assembly started ten minutes ago. Get your shit on.” She threw his bundle of clothes at him and stepped to the door. “Come on, Charlie.”
She dashed out the door without another word, but he could see her take the smallest of seconds to glance back at him tenderly.
Sitting against the wall of the janitor’s closet, his legs a little numb from the cold of the tile underneath him, and his clothes dangling from his head and shoulders, Charlie smiled and took a long claming breath. His face fell. His boxers were in his face, and he hadn’t done laundry in a couple weeks.
He sighed and finally stood to get dressed.
* * *
The John Paul II Academy was one of those old New England repertory schools that looked slightly out of place in America. It was like some ancient castle of European architecture. Not something one usually expects to see this side of the Atlantic, yet here it was and had been for a very long time.
Charlie looped his tie closed and placed his collar over it and began walking the corridor to the assembly hall. The building had been recently remodeled and re-dubbed after the late Pope, but it still smelled of damp stone and dust. There were still plenty of reminders of the history of the place despite its fresh coat of paint and wax. As he crossed out into the main courtyard, he passed the stone statues of every headmaster the Academy had ever had, tall distinguished men with long beards and shin length robes. They stared down on at him with hallow judging eyes. He swallowed nervously and moved along as a gust of March wind blew through the quad.
“That’s far enough, Mister Tegan,” a cold sharp voice bit at him and he froze mid-step. He knew the voice, and he knew also that he was not going to get any further.
“Turn around,” the man said.
Charlie lowered his head like a dog putting its tail between his legs and turned as commanded.
“Eyes up, Mister Tegan. Do not disrespect me with your ill-manners.”
Charlie looked up and was looking into the face of what would one day be a statue in this very courtyard, the current headmaster of the Academy, Archibald Janis. His long pointed nose aimed at him like some arrow as the black eyes of the man stared unblinking. His hair was black and thick and his skin was oddly unblemished despite being a man of obvious age.
His gaze was so piercing that Charlie did not even see that Abby was just behind the headmaster. Charlie looked at her and she shook her head sadly.
“I was very shocked to find Miss Price rushing through the yard and not attending the mandatory assembly, but to find you as well,” he clicked his tongue three times, “We have a situation that is quite displeasing.”
“I was-” Charlie attempted.
“Do not interrupt me, young man,” Mister Janis’ words thundered off the stone walls and echoed momentarily. “The two of you will be spending your weekend explaining to me in detail just what exactly you consider to be prudent punctuality.”
“But this weekend is the formal,” Abby was able to protest.
Janis turned on her and his black eyes were all she needed to stop. He held his stare for an uncomfortable time and then looked at Charlie once more. “You will remain on campus this weekend. Both of you. I and will have a report on the importance of timeliness and its effects on character on my desk before the dinner call on Sunday evening. Am I understood?”
“Yes,” Charlie lowered his eyes not wanting to look at the man any longer than necessary.
“Yes… what?” Janis growled.
Janis turned sharply and stared once more at Abby. He sniffed and seemed to squint slightly as he looked her up and down. “I expected more from you, Miss Price.”
She almost spoke, but held her tongue. She lowered her head as well.
With a whip of his long coat, he marched away, his hard heels clicking on the cement path. “To the assembly, children.”
* * *
“This is insane,” Charlie whispered.
“Don’t be such a pussy. He’s had this coming for a long time. The entire school is gonna thank us for this.” Abby looked back and forth across the steps and then hustled up them. “Come on!”
Charlie was never surprised by what he learned about Abigail. Just when he thought he had her figured out, she would pull back another curtain. She had let him in and shown him a person that was hidden by the façade she lived with every day. Abby watched Buffy. She knew who Billy Batson was. She drank apple juice and virgin daiquiris at parties. And she was holding a bag of five-dozen eggs about to enter the office building.
“Abby, what if he’s in there?”
“Every light in this place is off. He’s probably out just like everyone else. We’re the only ones on campus, remember? We’ll have all night to destroy his place.”
Charlie bit the inside of his cheek. “Can’t we just go back to my dorm? I made pasta and cheesy garlic bread.”
“Be adventurous,” she said.
“Dammit,” he muttered. “I should’ve done more stupid shit growing up.”
Abby smiled at him. “Then you’d be like every other guy, and not my sweet little nerd.” She stepped down a stair stood before him.
She was so pretty. “But maybe if I was a little more like every other guy in this school, you’d let me tell – tell anyone that you and me are… you know. But instead I can’t, and I’m beginning to think that maybe I’m not good enough--”
She kissed him suddenly shutting him up. “I like my princess alter-ego. It makes things easier. And you’re too good. I don’t want anyone tainting that about you because of who I am.”
He sighed reluctantly. “I guess that makes sense.
* * *
The hall was quiet as they approached the Headmaster’s door. He tried to walk softly in his Nikes but each stepped seemed to boom against the hard floor.
“Ready?” Abby smiled devilishly and winked at him.
“In and out,” Charlie whispered back. His hand went slowly up, and he tried not to let it shake. His fingers bent down to clasp the metal.
The noise was hardly anything, but it was enough. There was someone in the coming down the hall.
The two of them froze.
Steps could be heard, and they were coming this way.
“Shit!” Charlie hissed and grabbed Abby’s hand and yanked her hard away from the noise.
“Heh!” came a sudden huff of a voice, this time from the other direction.
They scuffled to a halt and began moving back toward the Headmaster’s door.
“Which way is it coming from!” Abby hissed, her face colorless.
“I don’t know!” Charlie replied. He swallowed and looked at the door with Janis printed across it. “Shit,” he said and pushed it open. He pulled Abby in after him and closed it as quickly and as quietly as he could.
The office was pitch dark. Abby shuffled next to him. She made a squeak as she ran into something. Somehow, Charlie navigated to the wall and felt another doorknob. He yanked it open and once more pulled Abby. Just as the door closed, the main door opened and a light was thrown on. Charlie could see now from the tiny line of light coming from under the door that they were in a closet. He could see Abby’s frightened face too. She had her hand over her mouth attempting to stop her gasps from being heard.
From the other side of the door, there was a grunt. Charlie bent and pressed his face against the wood and peered into the room.
“Sit there,” Janis said. His voice was icy.
A figure slumped in the chair with its back facing the closet.
“Look upon me,” Janis commanded, and the figure’s head tilted. Charlie could not see who it was, but he hardly tried to look. He was staring out at Janis and his mouth went dry.
The Headmaster had blood drizzling down his chin, crimson and fresh blood dripping freely onto his black cloak. Janis raised his hands and his long fingers were claws, which he flexed and seemed to scratch at the air. A deep feral growl emerged from his throat.
From the chair, his victim whimpered.
“Silence,” Janis said, and the whimper ceased. “Give me your hand.”
The figure raised its right arm, and Charlie saw where the blood had come from. There was a massive gash in the wrist. Charlie’s hand clasped tightly around his mouth and he jerked away just as Janis lunged upon his victim’s arm. There was a spurt and a splash of wet.
Abby’s face was before Charlie and he looked into her eyes. She studied him, wondering – not knowing. What, she mouthed. But his hand snapped up to silence her. He shook his head violently, desperate for her to remain still. She began to shake, her fear growing from Charlie’s state.
The door muted the lapping and crunching, but they could hear it still. Charlie hugged Abby close, and they waited. They waited for the… meal to end.
* * *
The light went off, and they were plunged once more into totally darkness. The door was shut, and the steps of the Headmaster grew more and more distant until he was long gone. But still, they did not move.
It could have been an hour, maybe more, but finally, the closet opened, and Charlie and Abby exited into the office.
He stood before her protectively, his hand at his side and he surveyed the dark office not wanting to see what he knew was there.
“Cut it out, hero,” Abby snapped and shoved him aside.
“Wait!” Charlie said, but she threw the switch and the lights popped on.
There was nothing there.
Charlie looked down at the chair he had witnessed a person be murdered in, and it was clean – bloodless. The whole of the office was pristinely maintained. There was no evidence of any sort that the brutal slaying that had just occurred had ever happened.
“What the fu-” He began, but Abby cut him short.
“What the fuck was that!” Did you see that? Did you fucking see that!”
Charlie could not stop looking around for anything, anything at all. A drop of blood, a hair, something that could prove that everything he had just seen had happened.
“We need to get the hell out of here,” Abby said and moved to the door.
“How?” Charlie was baffled.
“Charlie, we need to go,” Abby grabbed him and she pulled him to the door.
He did not move. “I know I saw what I saw. I know it,” he muttered and turned to the closet.
He walked over to it and opened the door. He could now see where they had been. The small space was crammed with items dusty and untouched, save for the handprints the two of them had left behind on the items they had been near. There were several small bronze busts. He touched one of the heads and looking at it, he recognized the same piercing eyes of Janis. His hand recoiled. He looked at the shelf to his left. There were small photos framed side-by-side and cluttering the space, but it was unmistakable: Janis was in each photo. He was in a military uniform holding a rifle with a bayonete, he was standing before an incomplete Statue of Liberty, he was in all of them in different eras.
“Charlie!” Abby shouted now.
He looked at the far wall. Propped there were canvases – paintings of Archibald Janis. He stepped back and away. What was he looking upon? These artifacts – these pieces of history all of one man. He gaped, “What is this?”
Abby was behind him and she touched his shoulder to turn him about. “We have to go. We have to tell someone. We just have to get out of here.”
“What is this, Abby? What is this?”
“Come on!” She yanked him hard and they flew out of the door. As she practically dragged him with her, Charlie babbled in shock.
“All those pictures. He’s – he’s in all of them. It’s him. It’s Janis.”
Abby had tears in her eyes, but she kept them moving. They rounded the corner and the exit was just ahead.
“How? He must be – must be hundreds of years old. It’s not possible. All those things – those artifacts – they’re ancient.”
She slammed her arm against the door and they were now outside. A snap of cold night air hit him, but he was sweating still. He was hot and did not feel the cold.
“Is he some sort of immortal? Some sort of vampire?” The sky was a tender blue. Daylight was approaching.
“Vampire?” there was a deep and demon like snort of laughter. “What a simple term for what I truly am.”
They whirled about, and there he was, Janis, clean in his black coat, his hair pulled tightly back. His eyes were upon them, and they were unwavering – the eyes of a predator.
Abby screamed and still holding Charlie’s hand, began to run.
There was an instant where Charlie did not know he was running, and then he stumbled.
“Don’t fall!” Abby screeched. “Run! Run!”
Run, he told himself. Come on, Charlie. Run.
His senses returned and he felt a surge of life. He had to run. He had to do something. He had to save them.
There was a laugh from behind. It was playful. “Yes. Give me a chase, my children. I revel in the rush of it.”
Ahead of them was the dormitory. Charlie was now leading Abby. They dashed up the steps. He kicked the door open before them and they sprinted into the hall. There was no crash behind them. He was not following. They had a chance.
“Come on!” Charlie guided them past the closed doors – the doors of the student who were not there. They were alone. They had no one to call for help. “Come on!” he repeated.
“Here!” He plowed into his own door and they fell into his room. Abby lay atop him as they both gasped desperately for air. It still smelled of the dinner he had made for them. The blinds were drawn shut. The candles he had placed for them remained unlit. He so wished that that was what their night had been. He so wished that it had been the date he had wanted for so long.
But here they were.
We will have that date, he told himself.
“What – what are we doing? Why did you bring us here?” Abby demanded.
“Because this is where I live! This is my home!” Charlie bolted to his feet and faced the door.
Standing there was Janis. His eyes were narrow – un-amused.
“He can’t come in unless I invite him,” Charlie grinned in heroic confidence.
Janis said nothing for a moment. He looked at the boy and then spoke, “Not all myths are based on facts, my stupid boy.” And he stepped into the room.
Charlie’s heart stopped.
“Let’s be quick about this,” Janis lifted his chin and displayed his teeth. They were not fangs, but there was an animalistic nature to them.
“Not all myths,” Abby shouted, “but how about some?”
Janis turned to the girl as she launched a cooking tray at him. The bread Charlie had baked for their romantic meal pelted the Headmaster in the face. He screeched like a demon and recoiled. He fell backwards into the wall wiping his skin with one hand and grabbing the doorframe with his other.
Abby launched herself forward and kicked the door. It slammed shut upon the man’s fingers.
Garlic, Charlie gasped. He spun about and dove for the blinds.
The morning sun shot into the room with blazing warmth, and Janis instantly shrieked in horror.
Charlie rolled to Abby and the two of them knelt holding one another.
The scream was deafening. It went on without ceasing and just as abruptly as the sun had come. It ended.
The two held one another with their faces buried in the other’s neck.
“Abby,” Charlie said. “Abby, it’s over.”
She slowly lifted her head and looked into his eyes. They looked to where the Headmaster had been, and she gasped in momentary fright.
Archibald Janis was still there, but he was a lifeless marble statue now. He was clean and even standing with a defiant pose as though sculpted that way.
Abby looked away and once more at Charlie. She kissed him on the lips and said quietly, “Thank you for making dinner.”
The sun beamed into the room. The sky was clear and it was going to be a beautiful day.
Posted by T.C.