by Thea Zimmer
Found! No getting here. Just here. So fuckin sudden. No feet, no mouth to scream. An ocean of freaks, “30,000,” did someone say? Each and every voice, singled out. Don’t let me scream. Just look at the sky. The colors swirling. Shiny dots. They float and flicker. Twinkle and pop. The twilight zone. “Hey Babe, hey chick….” So far away. So right up close. I can’t get out. The air underwater. Tough-guy voices, flirters, jokers. Heart pumping. I can’t breathe. “So fucked man.” “Move over man.” “Wanna see his bulge from up close.” “Get back, man.” “Is that the pigs?” “Hide it, you freak.” Everyone laughs. I’ll never belong. Can’t move. The air crushes. Purple haze? Jimi! Sister played it. I just wanna be a hippy freak. Help, I can’t breathe! No one cares. Maybe I’m God? That’s fuckin stupid. Maybe God’s trying to say something in my head. God’s a fuckin joker—that much I know. “I’m almost thirteen,” I say. Fucking stupid. I look for older sister. She’s lost in the waves.
Cute guy looks like Rod Stewart from sister’s album, like wearing his coolness a long time. Way older than high school, older than sister, class of ‘75, the stupid prom she skipped out on, got fucked up. The guy, he’s close. He rolls his eyes. I don’t belong. It must be me. I’m a loser-nobody in bellbottoms, a peace-symbol that mother bought. No body. Can’t laugh. Don’t have a mouth. “Look at her, she’s chewing the drink.” I can’t laugh. That’s why they stare. I’m not safe. “She wants to drink it all, man,” says Rod Stewart. They laugh. Something’s gross in my mouth. Going to puke. The reefers, they never stop. I toke, they laugh. I’ve been smoking since I was ten. I want to say.
They’re dancing, laughing. I’m a fatty with pimples, still a virgin. I’m no one. Not found by older sister, lost in the waves, pushed and pulled. They’re rocking-out. The stars exploding! In outer space. There’s flirting and giggling, a man’s snarly laughter. Cheering! Twangy-screeching. Colors bursting. Drums beating like a solo. English accents. They make hearts jump. “Hey, hey momma, gonna make you groove….”
“Momma, help,” I maybe say. Terror—I guess I know the word. Darkness coming. Something wants me gone. So mean. It’s empty. I can’t explain. It’s coming, the monster not there in the dark, over the shoulder. “Got the jitters?” The Rod-Stewart guy. I turn away, dry heaving, praying no one sees. I just wanna be cool. Can’t breathe. I could be dead. I think I’m dead. So fucking cold, I’m jerking. It’s summer? I’m gasping like a stupid fish. Going to puke. A fuckin baby. Hold it. Maybe I can.
The sky’s open. The steps, never-ending, they scrape my knees, take all my breath, moving up. Go on forever, guitars twanging, drums bursting. Screams like singing. In red, yellow, hot-pink. The vibes! Colors beat inside my head, the swirls and stars of light, freaks’ faces lit.
“I’m okay, yes,” I think I say, beamed down to my face in a dirty toilet, so fuckin gross. The stall-doors slam! Feet shuffling in boots and sandals, teeter-y heels. Pants down around ankles, feet hanging off streaky toilets. Big guy voices, dirty feet and shoes, they come and go. Chicks laugh. Guys dare the girls to be wild. Music all over us. “And she’s buy – – i- -ing a stair… air… way…” We’re in heaven? Knock-knock at the door! “Hey kid, you okay?” “Yeah, I saw her earlier.” “She’s been in there like the whole show.”
Freaks help me out. We laugh, wobble-walk to a van. “She passed out up there.” No problem. I’m okay. I know my address, I tell some guy. He winks at me. He starts the car. His teeth glint like super-duper man, toothpaste-smile, making the car go vroom-vroooom, making us speed, zooming out from under, the city lights whooshing, fingers trailing. “Relax kid,” the guy says, so I close my eyes to lightning bolts and crazy scrolls and evil faces starting up in the corners of dark. I open my eyes. I laugh and laugh. Their faces are old and cracked but the guy’s eyes are nice. The chicks give me water that tastes how boiled eggs smell, feels like slithering inside. They drop me off at my stupid home, where I find older sister sitting on mother’s lap at the dinner table, sister’s thumb in her mouth. Asking mommy to be mommy. Babbling funny things. “What’s wrong with your sister? Where in hell have you been?” Zeppelin—I don’t tell her. Sister babbles. I have to laugh. Mother needs to laugh. I don’t tell her the neon flowers still dance on the wall, pork-chops jump around on the plates, messages still write themselves in my skin. They leave for the hospital. I guess I’m okay. Not dead. Can’t wait to tell a friend.
Thea Zimmer’s short stories appear in such publications as Fringe(Emerson), Hobart, Filth Lit Mag, r.kv.r.y quarterly, Mannequin Haus, New Dead Families, Unlikely Stories of the Third Kind, Infinity’s Kitchen, Hackwriters, Dial Magazine(The New School), and others. She’s working on a short-story collection. She’s also the librettist for a dystopic multimedia opera and the scriptwriter for a virtual-reality experience promoting peaceful coexistence. https://theazimmer.wordpress.com.