Storage Space didn’t even care when it felt slithers again. If, and only if, it had cared enough to feel
anything, it would have welcomed those slithers.
it was an altogether more elegant ghost, that Shakespearean actor Edward, that
was, at present, hogging center stage.
Not that elegance was…now…any less tiresome than slithers. The Storage Space would have yawned over the excruciating
tedium of it all if only a building could yawn.
Better yet, it would have ended the excruciating tedium of it all…without
any absurd theatrics such as pistols held to the forehead it didn’t have, a
simple wrecking ball would do…if only a building could commit suicide. Or commit, or do, anything. Anything at all.
Edward the Ghost. Was that the best Shakespearean descriptive he could muster when reliving, yet again, his rival for her affections shoving Edward off a catwalk to his death? No longer even caring enough to exert any effort to ignore him, the Storage Space was surprised to learn that Edward not only blamed his rival for his own death but also blamed him for hers..for which, in fact, Edward himself was responsible.
Her… What was her full name? Playbills pirouetted through the Storage Space’s memory: Charlotte Amelia Booth.
Slither. Who cares?
Indeed, agreed the Storage Space though, of course, the ghost of Le
Grand Rat didn’t hear it.
What was Irwin up to? the Storage Space wondered idly.
Then, against its will, it found itself concentrating on the most detestable creature of all, Karen.
Champ looked up from pouring through the contents of the remaining data sticks
when he heard a woman in reception scream, “Fuck you!” The Champ frowned, knowing he’d heard that
voice before but not immediately remembering where/when. But then he shrugged. Whoever she was, he could handle it. He could always handle it, whatever it was,
and he always, always came out on top.
getting his wife convicted for his beating their pregnant daughter right here
in this motherfuckin’ storage-space building.
And, speaking of mother fucking, he’d had so much fun getting Imogene
pregnant. He wondered how soon he could
have fun with his grandchild…
about that got The Champ in the mood and he went back to the data stick he’d
been checking through, glad that…in addition to all that election-tampering
shit…he’d backed-up at least some of his extensive collection of kiddie porn.
The Champ, the hand he’d been using elsewhere jerking toward the Beretta 3032
Tomcat he always, always kept in his pocket.
Palm-sized but lethal, and he knew how to use it and had done so many,
many times…like that little kid he’d found all alone in a park who hadn’t
wanted him to have fun. Cops never even
got close to figuring that one out.
then he saw it was only that old bitch, Amelia.
“Didn’t mean to disturb you but did want to congratulate you on getting your wife convicted and sent off to prison for life. Must have been hard for you, but I for one am so happy to know she’ll no longer be a threat to either Imogene or her baby. But you should now get your daughter out of that hospital…right away. I’ve always heard it was the very worst-imaginable hospital but seeing what it must have done to poor Karen’s mind is the ultimate proof.”
The Champ rubbed his chin in thought. Kiddie porn could only take him so far. Imogene home? His grandchild on the way? That would really, really be fun.
heard a hysterical mother behind her, repeatedly screaming “Suzy Q”
just as a little girl brushed past her and ran into the street. A car screeched and swerved all over the
place in its attempts to avoid what would most probably be a fatality.
didn’t bother to watch the outcome. She
was busy on her phone, as boldly as possible offering sex to her old boss if
he’d take her back after her very-long unscheduled absence…while dragging her
suitcase back to her fuckin’ storage unit so she could pick up the rest of her
heard a thud, suggesting impact.
you, sir! So sorry!” Karen tried to think of a lie to cover her
outburst, which had been directed toward a jealous ghost of Frank that she’d
imagined was protesting her offering her old boss sex. Just then the hysterical mother, now sobbing,
pushed past her. “Some fuckin’
asshole on the sidewalk just about knocked me over.”
your language, Karen! I don’t ever recall
your using such language! Or being so…er…forward.”
Karen’s lost and gone forever, sir! And
I think you’ll find this one is a whole hell of a lot more fun.”
you know ours is an ultra-conservative investment banking firm. ‘Old sport’ and all that. Honestly, my dear, you never before showed the
slightest interest in the business itself, let alone any of the ‘stuffy’ people
involved…like me…or the clients. Which
is why I had you doing due-diligence number crunching in a back office.”
you know how demure and discreet I can be. Doesn’t mean you, and maybe some of our very
best clients, wouldn’t like to…er…enjoy themselves a bit from time to
on! What’s a little unscheduled time
off? I remember how you used to look at
me. And I’ve changed. I can still crunch numbers for you, but
you’ll also see I’ve learned a whole hell of a lot about things that have
nothing to do with crunching numbers.
Think about it. I’ll call back
Fuck you! But this time she only thought it silently at
the now-apparently-apoplectic ghost of Frank as she got off the phone with her
old boss. Then she pushed her way
through the door to the storage space building, ignoring the siren she heard
behind her…probably an ambulance…possibly more accurately referred to as a meat
wagon in this case…and totally ignoring the stupid exposed wood carvings around
it that she vaguely remembered liking at one point.
was immediately assaulted by alien thoughts, not her own: Enter Center Stage: The Consummate Appalling Creature. Whilst I now concur completely about all that
appalling old-theatre rubbish, there is one thing in this miserable world that
is even more “stupid,” and that is you!
Fugettaboudit! Karen had had enough with her imagined Frank
ghost without still imagining she could hear the thoughts of a building. Next she’d be communing with that Irwin she’d
“Fuck you!” Karen had screamed it aloud this time. To a fuckin’ building! The smile that had greeted her from that homeless bitch Amelia now wavered.
just barely got the hack right in time to resume masquerading as her Snapchat
buddy from his phone.
^URSunPC&proud: so u think he’s cutee
More? Tommy had to fight to
keep his face like neutral and all. Just
in case she looked up. Meanwhile all he
could think about was what those big breasts would look like all uncovered and
WTFwasImogeneCoca: Effin cray cray.
Cray cray? Fucking cray cray could
be so hot. Tommy’s pants were getting
^URSunPC&proud: cray crayy
WTFwasImogeneCoca: Been so long.
Been so long? Since she got some? Couldn’t get any in the hospital? All pregs and shit? He’d fix that!
^URSunPC&proud: been so longg
WTFwasImogeneCoca: U know I never like did it & I never like
cudn’t remember cuz drunk or some effin thing except 1 nite & that was w/my
dad so I cudn’t be pregnant. Been so
long since my dad beat me. No
bruises. No loose teeth. No blood from that effin knife. U know I hate when boys touch me but been so
long since my dad beat me that that Tommy touched me & this effin cray cray
but it felt good.
Tommy looked up at her. Trying very hard not to cry, she looked like a puppy again. When she choked on a sob, her hospital gown fell down, exposing one breast. He was on her in a minute.
He gently pulled the gown up over her breast, wrapped his arms around her, and kissed her on the top of her head, breathing in the sweet perfume of her. Still, he wasn’t like all gentle and tame. He was fucking furious. But not at her .
like couldn’t wait for that Blond Monster Tommy to return so she could Snapchat
^URS again. Except she was like so
effin’ grateful to him for lending her that tablet that she really shouldn’t
call him a monster anymore. Especially
since she’d meant what she’d told ^URS about him. She’d had to look at him a bit to like see
him in a different light and figure it out, but it was bible. Tommy was cute.
after seeing him leave with that nurse, looking all scared and shy and not even
able to look down at the Minecraft on his phone, Imogene wasn’t ready for the
next time she saw him. It like started
before she even saw him: She was looking
down at his timed-out tablet that she still had, trying to figure out what
other than “Minecraft” or “minecraft” his password could
felt his eyes on her.
up, she saw him coming at her with a big grin and sparkling eyes. “Type in ‘thisisnotapuppylove,’ all one
This is not a puppy love?But Imogene was so mesmerized
by how like intense his look was that her fingers froze.
an even bigger grin, Tommy was behind her in a heartbeat. He wrapped both arms around her, so he could
type it in.
could feel the muscles in his arms and chest dancing as he typed, along with
the warmth of his breath on the back of her neck. No one, except the medical peeps, had touched
her in a very long time. Caught by
surprise, she was startled to discover that it felt good.
Then he jerked himself away and fumbled for his phone.
Imogene like actually felt like slighted or some effin’ stupid thing…but then she remembered she was in now and signed into Snapchat.
The Storage Space didn’t even care when the ghost of that so-long-dead Shakespearean actor returned. Didn’t even care enough to ignore it and avoid it as it had done for so many tired years. Therefore, for the first time, it heard Edward’s thoughts. He was pining for her, the one both of them grieved, the greatest actress of them all who had fallen to her death so many years ago.
“And just why did she fall to her death?” the Storage Space queried harshly.
But in all those long years
only Karen, the one the Storage Space would still bestir itself to ignore, had
heard anything it had to say. The ghost
of Edward did not. Instead he kept
thinking of some letter that was written in Switzerland in 1898. And he directed his yearnings toward the
pregnant teenager that was now gone.
Because he knew.
the Storage Space watched the pregnant teenager’s father, still in Unit 38
sorting through those “data sticks.”
Frantic, he kept sticking one after another into a “laptop,” obviously
looking for something he wasn’t finding.
Each failure resulted in his punching a metal wall.
But the Storage Space didn’t care. It didn’t even care about the one both it and Edward had grieved all these long years. Even when it knew she had been reincarnated into the baby the pregnant teenager now carried.
No. At long last the Storage Space could only care about one thing: regret that it, along with its once-beloved tea room now gone, hadn’t been torn down long ago.
couldn’t fuckin’ fathom how he could be dead and still feel so much pain. Karen…
Elegant, fine, pure… Like his
grandma’s china he’d loved as a kid…but broken.
now he’d broken Karen too.
Fugettaboudit! He’d fuckin’ offed
not her body but…far worse!…her soul. He, Frank, a fuckin’ green mist of a ghost
whose body had been chainsawed into pieces and put out with the trash, was more
alive than this… This soulless
fresh-and-blood… This empty Karen still
breathing in the apartment of that silly Brit who’d actually managed to off
Frank when Frank, in a jealous rage, was trying to off him.
Marie. Karen’s best friend who’d started it all by
seducing him. But he now knew, as a
ghost who could go fuckin’ anywhere, that Marie had first given up her face and
identity, and then her life, to take care of Karen. Frank had tried to reach Karen’s soul,
softening her by telling her why Marie had seduced him as she retrieved
Martin’s key from under that rock, but she hadn’t heard anything except the
even when she did hear him clearly, all she had to say was, “Fuck
could he reach her? How could he bring
her back? Could he
bring her back?
his ghost’s 360-degree vision, he saw a grandmotherly ghost behind him shake
her green finger at him as she passed through Martin’s apartment on her way to
who-knows-where. Frank had never seen
her before, but he figured he knew why she’d shaken that finger at him.
what his grandma with the exquisite china would have done.
only known such language to begin with because her daughter, Frank’s mother,
had married “so far beneath her.”
Frank’s father was…fugettaboudit…a thug.
Frank had grown up caught between his mother’s elegance and his father’s
brutality. He’d thought his father’s
brutality had won…until he met Karen.
beheld her with his not only 360-degree but, at times, ubiquitous vision. She’d dozed off in Martin’s chair, still a
little weak despite her newly regained health.
Frank caressed her with his gaze, from every possible direction, then he
slipped gently into her dreams…
Dead. She no longer cared about
anything. She wasn’t even dreaming. He had to find something still living inside
her. Desperately, he tried to remember…
Her grandparents. What had
she always talked about? What had she
grandfather’s delight in the intricacies of the mechanical toys that had been
passed down to him from his own grandfather.
Karen showing him a small metal horse on wheels with almost all its
paint chipped off, gently turning in over and over in her hands, her face all
but exploding with her own delight.
searched her mind for that memory, but her mind was such a barren wasteland now
that it was as if all her memories had blown away like dust in a desert. He was consumed with despair. Karen.
How the fuck was he supposed to live without Karen? He wasn’t even alive anymore and he couldn’t
stand to be without the Karen that once was, but was no more.
gave up when slipping back out of her sleeping mind he stumbled haphazardly
upon the metal horse. It hadn’t been
there before. Like a lightbulb about to
go out forever, her memory of it flickered on and off.
focused all his attention on the horse, Karen’s grandfather, and all the
wonderful things she’d told him about him.
tried again. And again.
The words cut through Frank’s soul.
Karen said, aloud though talking in her sleep, “Fuck you!”
climbed over a fence to get to Martin’s back yard.
Fuck you! was Karen’s answer to the ghost of Frank she assumed she was
only imagining. She guessed she was
supposed to remember when she couldn’t even crawl out of her storage unit and
feel grateful for the miracles wrought by modern medicine.
looked around. The light was soft on a
garden that, though now grievously overgrown, was still sweet. She made out primroses; she’d loved Martin’s
primroses. He’d told her they were as
prim and proper as those in his mum’s garden in Kent. She guessed she should feel something. A twinge for the long-lost innocence and
simplicity of her life? Or even fury at
Martin for killing Frank who was, after all, the love of her life?
didn’t feel a thing.
funny rock. Still there. She lifted it just enough to retrieve the key
to Martin’s back door underneath.
Suddenly, for no apparent reason, a name resonated through her head:
more. Just the name.
had that cop who told Karen she was going to get out of the hospital…and that
that emergency worker was going to drop the charges for some mysterious reason…asked
her so much about Marie, even for her address?
shrugged it aside and tried the key in Martin’s back door. At first it didn’t work, but wiping off more
dirt did the trick. At last she was in,
scurrying around till she found that Martin had stashed her suitcase, her
purse, and most of the clothing she’d had no time to put back on when she
rushed out the back door, in a closet.
She dragged it all out, into the middle of the living room floor where
she’d left it when she fled to escape Frank, and collapsed into the
mustard-colored cushions of one of Martin’s vintage Danish Modern armchairs. It had been so very long ago:
Frank cheating on her with her best, friends-forever friend Marie.
the apartment she’d shared with Frank with only what she could get to that
accursed storage unit she’d signed up for with Irwin and this suitcase she’d
brought to temporarily move in with her friends-with-benefits Martin.
kicking the door in while she and Martin were exploring their
fleeing half naked out the back door and running to her storage unit.
Martin and Frank following…
But none of it mattered now. She rifled through her purse…plenty of money…then grabbed her phone for the first time in forever. The battery, of course, was dead. Charger in her suitcase, but what was this: another phone in her suitcase, not hers? She turned it over in her hand. The case said “Jennifer.” Then she noted a whole bunch of boxes in the room that hadn’t been there before, marked “stuff.”
like stared at his phone, waiting with baited breath for her response. After all, he thought she was
cute, especially when she looked like his dead puppy…
of Snapchatting back to ^URSunPC&proud…the fucking stupidest
name anyone had ever used to Snapchat…Imogene looked up at
him and stared. Probably hadn’t factored
in peripheral vision and figured he was too busy on his phone to notice. Fuck! She
was researching whether or not he was cute before answering the question! Tommy tried to look busy on his phone, using
the lull in their conversation to tweak the hack he’d gotten from his new
storage unit that allowed him to masquerade as her Snapchat buddy. But he almost blew it and fucking snapped the
connection because what he was really concentrating on was looking cute.
shifted his weight, nonchalantly showing off the tight jeans he thought were
important, but…if his peripheral vision was accurate…she was looking at his
face. What the fuck could he do about
that? He stiffened his jaw. No…wanted to look tough but not
belligerent. He licked his lips. Fuck no!
Too obvious! He gave the phone he
was still staring at what he thought was a soulful look…but maybe it just
looked ridiculous, looking at a fucking phone like that. He remembered an old movie, James Dean, and
ran his fingers through his hair, real slow.
Squared his shoulders. Flexed a
few muscles here and there. Finally he
pulled out all the stops and looked up from his phone, trying to rivet her with
finally looked down.
what he saw on his phone in his peripheral vision was that she had, at fucking
last, answered the question.
But just then, before he could even dart a look at the answer, someone else locked eyes with him.
It was the nurse, standing at the door, who’d almost fired him.
like couldn’t believe it. That Blond
Monster Tommy had had to leave and do his work after she’d like lied to keep
him out of trouble with that def-not-woke nurse, but…zayum…it was effin’ days
later but he’d like walked right into her room and handed her his tablet! She looked up at him with effin’ tears of
gratitude, but he was busy on his phone.
still playing Minecraft.
Imogene clutched the tablet, like sweating all over it as she logged onto Snapchat with shaking hands. There was something funny about the log-in, but she figured it had been so effin’ long she’d just forgotten. Anyway it didn’t matter: she was in!
WTFwasImogeneCoca: U there?
^URSunPC&proud: wheree the fuck else wud i b
WTFwasImogeneCoca: Where u been?
So much 2 tell u!
^URSunPC&proud: tell awayy
like kept having to blink back effin’ tears so she could see the screen. Her fingers like flew as she told ^URS about
everyone…even the effin’ med peeps…thinking she was pregnant, which was sooooo
def-not-woke, since she’d just had the def worst period ever. Vaguely it occurred to her that she hadn’t
trusted ^URS at times, like how ^URS knew so much about Imogene without ever
having met in RL, but she ignored that now, bursting to type faster so she
could tell ^URS absolutely everything, including stuff she like hadn’t even
told herself yet, like that her belly was getting big and that there was
something that moved inside her…and she was afraid she had cancer.
for one hot night that for some funny reason she couldn’t remember…all about
like all the pain, and all the loose teeth, and every time her father ever beat
Tommy stiffened at that one, but it was probably something that had happened on
Minecraft on that phone he was still bent over.
She told ^URS about Tommy…finally…after so effin’ long without any device…lending her his tablet.