“Not now, dude. Not now.”
“You can't avoid me, man. You gotta let me in on this. I brought my camera, we'll put this up on the internet and we'll make millions. It'll be like Jackass meets X-files.”
“Starring you as the jackass, I assume.”
“Harsh, dude. Harsh.”
“Seriously, man. I'm not in the mood for this right now. I just met up with Rita, and...”
“Yeah. Exactly. So if we could just...”
“Tell me you're not going to go back out with her again, tell me you're not that stupid.”
“I am, decidedly, not that stupid.”
Steve leveled a not-unfriendly glare at him.
“Ok,” Jake admitted, “I'm not that stupid anymore.”
“Good. Now, about this thing...”
“No. No. She's...”
“She!? She's not coming over here, is she? She's not clawing her way back into your life, I won't fucking stand for that shit.”
“No, no. She's still standing outside the Redeye for all I know.”
“Oh, man... that bitch. She had you meet at Redeye? It was her idea, wasn't it.”
“I'm not gonna get rid of you, am I?”
“Not unless you've got a girl in your apartment right now, you're not.”
“Funny you should mention that.”
“No way! That's why you weren't answering your phone? Where did you meet her? What's she look like?”
“Am I gonna meet her, or is she just a moped?”
“A what now?”
“You know, a moped. Something fun to ride, but you don't want your friends to see you on it.”
“You're a douchebag, Steve.”
“Yeah, but I'm your douchebag, Lasko.”
“That you are.”
“Wait... that girl's up there right now? That means...”
“She saw the stone cojone! Dude, that's our secret! You can't just let anybody in on that shit.”
“Steve, you want to put it on the internet.”
“Yeah, but I want to put it on the internet, not some random bar floozy.”
“You've been using one of those word-a-day calenders, haven't you?”
“We gotta get up there before she does something!”
“I don't think she can get out...”
“Out? You dirty boy. Did you tie her up? Little silk scarf action? Or are you a handcuff guy?”
“Steve, you're twelve years old.”
“Ew. No. I'm just not a prude, like you. Sex is a natural thing, the most natural thing in the world. Where do you think babies come from?”
“My mom always told me they come from Jersey.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Steve, steve, steve! I can't let you in.”
“I can't, exactly... She's...”
“Pff. Whatever. Fine, I'm gone,” Steve started walking away, but as he was crossing the street, he stared back at Jake over his shoulder, “You can't cut me out of this man! This is ours. Mine and yours.”
Jake unlocked his front door, steeled himself, and went inside.
The light in his hall was flickering out. Opening his door, Jake flipped the lightswitch. Nothing happened. His apartment was dark. But as his eyes adjusted he could see it was actually filled with a bluish-white glow, the nexus of which sat immovable in his living room.
In the dazzling, surreal lantern was the girl. Jake approached her, not afraid but filled with the strange, giddy helium of childlike wonder.
The girl opened her huge eyes, and Jake could see her ears were twitching slightly. Her head was now surrounded by a thick mane of blue hair, streaked with silver. Her body, at first waifish and thin, had filled out with sensuous curves. Her breasts, no longer obscured by grey smoke, were full and luscious. Jake followed the line of her strong shoulders, down the curve of her spine down to her ample, round bottom. Kicking her long legs out, she kicked the inside of the globe. As she was getting bigger, it was getting smaller.
She swam, as best she could now, down towards the carpet, pointing at the few bits of shell that were left, and then at her mouth.
Jake took off his coat, knelt on the floor, and fed her again. Instead of nibbling, this time she devoured each piece in seconds, already pointing for more. Jake did the math in his head, and figured there would only be enough left for another day at the most. There were still a few big pieces stuck to the bottom of the globe, but he wasn't able to pry all of them loose of the floor. He gathered up what was left and made a small pile on the carpet. Looking at it all there, and the way she was now eating, another day seemed optimistic.
She still eyed the remainder of the crust, but was no longer accepting what he gave her. Her face told him she shared his worry.
“Who... what are you?”
She opened and closed her mouth, parroting his gesture back at him. When she opened her mouth, he could see that while her lips were red, her tounge and throat receded into deep, bruised purple. She furrowed her narrow, almost birdlike brow as she opened and closed her mouth, trying to understand. Suddenly, she stopped, placing her hand against the glass between them. Jake placed his hand against the glass over hers. She closed her eyes.
Jake's mind erupted, as if suddenly every one of his neigbors had turned on their televisions and raised the volume to compete with a landing jet. His mind was filled with an exposion of colors and shapes, felt movements and deep, complexly nuanced emotions. He tried to pull his hand away, but he found it was stuck to the glass like exposed skin to a winter railing.
Once the cacophony subsided, Jake became aware of a thread running through the center of the chaos. It was wildly gold and pulsating closely, but not exactly, with his heartbeat. He tried to focus on it, grasping numbly with the digits of his mind, until he felt it pass into his and all other sound was lost. At last, his hand came free.
Jake rubbed at the tortured skin and found it, to his surprise, unmarred. He looked at her again. The light that once was dim and timidly filling his apartment was now shining brightly and beginning to hurt his eyes.
Just then, he heard a rustling outside his window. Jake got up and went to investigate. Hanging from his window ledge was Steve.
“Dude, help!” Jake slid open the window and reached out for him.
“What the fuck are you doing here, man. I'm on the fourth floor!” Jake gripped Steve's wrists and hauled him up. Steve stood up, brushed off his knees, and stared at the radiant, life-size snow globe in Jake's apartment, complete with mermaid.
“Whoa.” Steve stood, slackjawed.
“What the hell were you doing hanging from my window?”
“Yeah. Well I climbed up your fire escape, not easy by the way, let me tell you... But I couldn't see anything, so I climbed over to where I could. And then I fell.”
“Dude, you almost killed yourself over this.”
“And it was totally worth it.” Steve's grin dripped past lecherous and verged on the felonious. Jake elbowed him.
“Stop it. Stop staring at her like that.”
“What, dude... she's naked. And hot.”
Jealously flared in the marrow of Jake's bones. Rushing over to the bedroom he grabbed a blanket and threw it over her, bathing them in darkness.
“What are you doing?”
“I'm protecting her.”
“What do you think?”
“Dude, we used a hammer and a blowtorch on that thing, I think she's fine.”
The corners of the blanket started to lift of their own volition as light crept out the bottom.
“What the fuck!”
“It happens, you get used to it after a while. I'm still looking for my lamp.”
“Wait... what happens?”
“Look around, you didn't wonder why my furniture was nailed to the floor?”
“I didn't notice you had a floor, man. But now that you mention it, that is pretty weird.”
“You wanna know what's weird. It happened at the coffee shop too.”
“Wait, the Redeye? How the fuck did it go all the way over there. Shouldn't there have been cars drifting over the highway like balloons if that were happening?”
“I have know fucking idea. I don't know how this works.”
“Dude, we're gonna be famous.”
“That's what you're thinking with this, that's what's filling that little head of yours. We're gonna be famous?”
“Sorry I'm not contemplating the metaphysical significances of this enough for you. I'm a guy. When I look at her I don't wonder if god loves me, I know it.” Steve shot Jake a shit-eating grin.
The blanket took flight off the top of the sphere and hung liquidly in the air above it. As the corner nearest them lifted, Jake saw that the girl had seen Steve.
“Sweet,” he said.
She looked at Steve, her wide, naïve eyes exporing him. Jake watched the two of them regard each other. She swam up to the two of them, pressing her face against the glass. Steve took no care to hide his desire from her. Jake watched her face darken. Her eyes, once bright and lively, took on an ashen hue. The blanket shot from it space over the top of the sphere and encased Steve in its choking embrace, throwing him heavily against the wall.
Jake struggled to get his fingers under the edge of the blanket covering Steve's face, their eyes wide with fear. The blanket would not budge. It was as if it had been dipped in resin. Steve's face turned beet red.
Jake spun around, pressing his hands to the glass.
“Please, you have to stop. Put him down. PUT HIM DOWN!”
Her eyes darkened as he watched, the blackness of her irises bloomed and swallowed the rest of her eyes whole. The entire time, she did not break her gaze. Jake pounded on the glass, trying to divert her attention, even if it was only to divert her rage onto him, but nothing worked. Finally, he closed his eyes and pressed his entire body to the orb.
He didn't know what he was doing. He didn't know how this worked or if he would just wake up and Steve would be dead, but he searched his mind for that golden thread again. His mind, stupid and sluggish, could not find it. Hope was the thread he could not find.
Jake was about to abandon this whole stupid enterprise, when he had a brainstorm. He took off his shirt and pressed his entire body agasnst the glass. Closing his eyes, Jake summoned up every good memory that he had had with Steve; everything that made him happy, every time Steve had picked Jake up from the gutters of life, balled them all up in a single lump of emotional putty and shot it into the globe.
Behind him, Steve collapsed to the floor, breathless. The deathgrip of the blanket released, Steve flung his arms at it and kicked it away. He lay, gasping on the carpet like a beached fish. Jake stood up and got him a glass of water.
Drunkenly, Steve pushed himself up against the wall. He took the glass from Jake's hand, although Jake had to help him because his hands were shaking so bad. Steve's eyes were still wide with fear.
“I”m gonna call you a cab.”
Steve nodded, clutching the glass bonelessly to his chest. After pouring Steve into the cab, Jake went back up to his apartment to deal with the girl.
Jake tried the door, but the handle would not budge. He put his shoulder into it, but the door remained stuck shut. Fumbling with the keychain in his pocket, he pulled out the apartment key and tried the lock. Nothing. The handle was growing warm.
“Fuck this. I'm done with this shit. OPEN UP the GODDAMN DOOR!” He pounded on the door, screaming.
“You almost killed my friend! Now, open up the door.”
People had started to come out of their apartments. They were gathering in the hallway, and even coming down the stairs to see the commotion. Mrs. Morris, his next door neighbor, went back inside to call the police.
“OPEN UP!!” Jake pounded again, beating his fists agasint the door, drunk on all the dumb, pointess rage of his little, useless life. He beat his fists bloody against the stury oak of the door, and he was beginning to cry.
“Let me in.” He leaned against the door to his apartment and pressed his face to the warm, musky wood. Hot tears ran down his cheeks. And then, with no warning or cause, it opened.
Jake tripped over the mat and fell onto the floor of his entryway. As his face hit the floor it was bathed in a bitter, oily fluid which tasted of the sea. It soaked up into his clothes and filled his nostrils with its aqueous musk. He pushed himself up off the floor and discovered that the globe had been shattered.
Great chunks of it lay overturned on the floor, like the shell of a giant egg. Bits rocked gently back and forth, having not yet exhausted their inertia. Out of the center of the destroyed globe poured more of the sea-tinged liquid that covered his apartment. Bubling somewhat obscenely out of the viscous surface was purple smoke. The girl was nowhere to be seen.
Jake tiptoed over to the roiling basin that was the bottom half of the egg. He peered down at the surface of the water, and in it he saw himself. He saw depths beyond depths. He knew, in the marrow of his bones, that this was it. The heaviest moment. The perfect moment. The last lonely moment.
No one ever saw or heard from Jake Lasko again.