There was no reason as to why it occurred. When I shimmied through the door, catching up on the shag carpet, I saw her. With bangs bunched, yet sparsely divided across her forehead, she smiled wide. I knew she wasn’t supposed to be here. The couch was pitted where she lay. I was expecting way worse.
“Hey there. Took you long enough.”
My brow arched. “You don’t live here.”
She excavated a spot with her feet. “Please, sit.”
“I’m quite busy.”
My hands were grasping many grocery bags; they screeched from the plastic compresses. I made it to the kitchen, nearly dropping the bags onto the torn linoleum. The pins and needles dissipated. She did not follow me.
“When you’re done, come here and sit with me,” her voice beckoned from around the corner.
“No, I have an event later. You should probably get going.”
“You left your door unlocked. Not a smart idea in a place like this.”
I remained silent. Now was not the time for a lecture, especially not from her. Why her? I was expecting a solemn home, maybe a greeting from the desk chair—the leather is torn into a smile. I don’t appreciate uninvited guests, plus, she was giving me anxiety. I felt a bead of sweat plummet down my back.
I was putting away the eggs and hummus when she approached me from behind, touching my hips daintily. I nearly bumped my head within.
“Don’t you have somewhere to be? I heard you have a book release coming soon.” I said. My annoyance grew tonally, and she backed off.
“Yes, thanks for remembering.”
“You can’t be here much longer.”
“You worry too much about me, you know?” She said. The presence of her body dissipated. I wondered if she was stalking me like injured prey.
“Correct, I do worry. When you’re miles away, when you’re in the same building as me,” I sighed; my breath turning into ice. “And even in the same room.”
“Hush now, you’re making me blush,” she lied. “Can I help you unpack?”
“I’ve just finished actually,” I said, pensive.
Turning around, our bodies bumped; she moved onto me that fast. She moaned.
“You’re gross,” I said.
She caressed my upper arms. “You’ve been working out.”
I did my best to ignore her, pacing mindlessly around the kitchen with fleeting intents. I opened drawers and shut them, thumbed the knife board, clicked the range hood light on and off, yet she still clung to me like a leech. I finally found a notebook and pencil and drafted my anxiety into the paper; it groaned with every vicious pencil slash. I imagined briefly how many pounds of thrust was needed to penetrate flesh. I took a seat and her hands were on me. It was feeding time.
“When are you going to leave?” I said. She massaged me so much I felt obligated to produce my wallet.
“Whenever. I’m in no rush.”
“I’m going away for a few days after the event. You cannot stay here.”
“Why’s that? You don’t have anything living around here to take care of.”
“Don’t give me that shit.”
“Oh,” she murmured, drawing her face close to my ear. I felt a pinprick of a kiss against my earlobe and then the tingling of her tongue. “I would make myself quite at home.”
I felt an aura of darkness encircle me. It was a strange phenomenon, feeling your eyes dim despite the natural lights protruding through the sheer curtain. Passing clouds? Goosebumps formed, and so did the guilt. This never happens. She didn’t know how I felt about anything. It was an unwelcomed probe into the microcosm I called my life. But, at that moment, I swore to deflect her barrage with my plans. A mental checklist was reviewed as her tongue traversed into my brain. Hotel: check. Flight: c’mon remember the time, yes, at 9, check. Rental car: check. Books: check, in my duffel bag, plus laptop. Wait, charger? Yes, charger, check. I wish she’d stay the fuck out of—
“All done?” she whispered, now seated on an adjacent chair. There was a book of matches she picked up and stroke one ablaze. She held it out as far as her arm could extend; it was a comical ruse if I was up for it. It kept burning, the flame kept rising. The blackened portion encroached her fingertips. In my mind, I was yelling at her to just drop it. Burn it all. She held it way longer than I would dare. She blew a puff of air.
“You’re so bad, you know that?” she said. It was unexpected.
“Unexpected, like yourself.”
I checked my watch and 4 o’ clock was drawing near. My, the time flew by.
“Look, Pamela, I need to leave. I’m locking up, too. So, bye-bye.”
“You can’t talk to me like a child.” She rose, startled. “Yesterday, I was Rachel.”
“That doesn’t make sense. I haven’t seen you for at least two months.”
I wanted to kick myself for driveling this long. My temples throbbed, and a migraine was at the onset.
“I’ll make your bed, polish your shoes. Call me Cinderella.”
I sighed. “You’re not my errand girl. More like a mortal enemy.”
She smirked. “You’re cute when you talk like that.”
I arose and paced around the apartment looking for all my things. She followed me, occasionally leaping in front of me, giggling. Her bangs were glued to her forehead giving the impression of Roman numerals.
“Roar, I’m the bear you cannot defeat or escape!” she shouted while standing in front of the hallway to my bedroom.
“Well, obviously, I don’t have a shotgun. C’mon, would you please move?”
My legs shook; she was sapping all my energy. My phone alarm sprung to life in my pocket. It rang, and rang, and rang. Pamela reached for it like a striking cobra, but I shimmied my hips. She chuckled at my ludicrous act. She missed once and ended up grabbing my crotch and remaining there. Her hair sprung upward, like a breeze hitting us from below, and her chestnut eyes alighted. It was frightening. She looked like a superhero or a malicious villain.
“There it is, that pesky alarm.”
I swiveled towards the door. I was beyond late. My eye was twitching. My mental list short-circuited. My itinerary was completely ruined because of her. I felt my ears redden.
“You, get out, please!” I yelled.
My foot was nearly over the threshold when she bumped into my backside. Pamela didn’t respond. She power-walked by me, with her head down, and in seconds, spun her car tires into the distance. Small blotches lined the concrete walk. They were blackened muddled things.
“Well, way to be dramatic,” I said. My phone began to ring; it was Shawn.
“Dude, I’ve been texting you for the past ten minutes. You got to get the pizza!”
I scoffed. “Pizza? Shit, you’re right. Sorry. Pamela was at my place.”
“Who? Are you feeling ok?”
“Yes, well, now I am. Ok, what’s the order under?”
“It\’s number 354. Don’t forget forks and make sure you have an extra marinara pack.”
“I’ll be at your place ASAP, along with the other readers,” Shawn said before hanging up.
The sun was setting now, and an insatiable hunger grew. I drove off calm and composed for once. The pizza shop wasn’t far, but it cleared my head.
I ended up getting to the pizza shop too early. Shawn’s massive order of two large pies, forty wings, three orders of fries, and four 2-liter sodas was quite an evolution from ‘the pizza’. At least he was paying for it—quite a charitable deed from a featured poet. I carried the bagged goods to my apartment first. I jostled for my keys, my free hand haphazardly on the doorknob when it turned and opened. I nearly fell into the door jamb. How the hell was it unlocked? The thought of it perturbed me, being in the neighborhood I dwelled in. I set the bag on the coffee table and returned with the pizzas. I checked that the mic was still in place; I neglected it during the entire time Pamela was here. I performed a brief mic check once the amplifier was on. One…check two…check three! All was well for once. I had about 15 minutes before Shawn and a few others were to arrive, so I flung my shoes off and went to my bedroom to sprawl out. Before I even touched the knob, a pungent stench stopped me dead. A moss-green vapor seeped from underneath. The door was locked.
“Who the fuck is in there? Open my damn door!”
No answer, aside from a slurp. Goosebumps formed on my arms. I was going to have to break it down, there was no other choice. I backed up and jettisoned the door. Thump! It budged. I tried again. Crack! The jamb was fracturing. My shoulder panged in agony, but I had one last charge in me. I sent it off its hinges. It was at that moment I heard the cooing of a baby. Upon my bed—once I collected myself, but only for a moment of reprieve—was Pamela in postnatal exhaustion. She was unconscious, with drool seeping from the corner of her mouth, her eyes rolled back, and with a plunged needled in her vein. My comforter, which was used for the birthing, was saturated with plasma and vernix. She was nude from the waist down, and with the umbilical cord still attached, lay a baby girl, roughly two feet long in length. Her skin was pink and raw. Her eyes were open, revealing unsettling charcoal irises. It gleamed at me and smiled. But then, something unnaturally absurd occurred. As the baby smiled, it too, gave birth, quickly and with no time at all wasted in labor. It remained still as a tiny baby boy slid out from her—proportionally smaller than his mother—and was the same color as the mist. It screamed like a banshee; an unfathomably disturbing screech that tremored the room. I held my hand to my mouth as I witnessed The Trio. Grotesque in appearance, they were combined and feeding into each other. The cords throbbed as the energies pulsated from Pamela to the male fetus. Suddenly, I heard the faintest of moans from Pamela as she came to.
“You disturbed my babies, you lout.”
“I am sorry, but this…this is completely unexpected.”
“For you, maybe. But for me, these were expected, planned.”
My ears popped, and I collapsed, puking onto the floor.
When I awoke, The Trio were gone, but the evidence was still there. I gathered the bedsheets and threw them into the tub with freezing water. I checked my watch and the guests were to arrive in a matter of minutes. I did my best to reattach the door and changed my shirt. The smell of formaldehyde was replaced with buffalo wings and pepperoni pizza, thankfully. I heard a knock at the door and I let Shawn in. He was trailed by two people I’ve never seen before.
“Bloody hell, Derek,” he said, despairingly. “What is going up the street? Cops, ambulance—”
“Not a clue,” I said. My eyes averted to his white Nike’s. “I got your order, plus a handful of forks and three extra marinara packets.”
“Word. Thanks for being a trooper.”
I said nothing, remaining at the threshold as Shawn raided the bags. The house in question was flooded with navy blue officers with letters that gleamed in the sunset. As a gurney with an unidentifiable body was wheeled from the front door, a delivery truck rolled to a stop. The driver wielded a box, but since he was unable to enter the house, contacted me, brandishing a PDA.
“Hi there. Can you…can you take this package? Hold it for them? Just sign on the line here.”
I complied, and he was off, saying thanks, trooper to me. I slammed the door. The trio was munching on the food in the kitchen and they didn’t see a thing. I took the box and put it in the center of the living room. I used my crusty nails to pry it open. It was a box of books, Pamela’s books. Pushing them to the wall with my foot, I did another mic check and recited the first poem: “Not my Expectation”. By the time I was finished, I heard the car doors slam outside and I wasn’t sure if it was our guests arriving or the police leaving.
Josh Dale is a freelance editor, Siamese cat dad, bicyclist, and an MA candidate at Saint Joseph’s University. He’s the founder and editor-in-chief of Thirty West Publishing House where he folds pages and pokes fingers with every book. He’s published two chapbooks, a poetry collection, Duality Lies Beneath (Thirty West, 2016), and select works can be found at his site, www.joshdale.co. (sorry, the .com was taken; not a scam.)