~ a short story
The group circled a skull on the carpet, seated equidistant from one another with eyes closed and hearts uncentered.
Andy was humming something insufferable. Johnny played a banjo, badly.
Ro opened his eyes. He was seated in a “prayer circle” next to some old friends, and a few new ones. Twelve men in total sat inside of Mark’s house. Their din of poor conversation was giving him a headache. Bad paintings and unopened books adorned the dusty walls of the house that his parent’s bought him. Ro acted like he was meditating so no one talked to him.
“Y’all ready to imbibe this shroom juice?” Nate said, elated to be there. His laugh grated off the walls of the living room in uneven echoes.
“Kali-tiiiime,” Bobby screeched. He rubbed his hands together.
Zack leaned over on his cushion, nudged him too hard on the shoulder and whispered in Ro’s ear.
“You ready to get mind-fucked, mate?”
Ro kept his eyes closed, and rolled them.
“And we give our hearts to Kali,” Mark spoke in a heavily exaggerated baritone.
“We give our hearts to thee,” all the men in the circle repeated.
Ro said it but not with his chest. Skepticism was an understatement. He thought they were all batshit. Ro was here for the co-ed sorority events.
With that he began to think of Mary. Sweet Mary. Her smile. The curve of her chest.
Mark kept on with the chants. Candlelight shadows peeked through Ro’s half-closed lids. Centrally positioned, his red robes glowed in the circle where he held the skull aloft. The others sat with stupid smiles and blank stares.
“We give our hearts to…” Ro mumbled. His fantasies transformed and exploded. Mary was right there before him. Unshackled from the clouds that previously hid him from sight. She was seeing him now. And he was seeing her. She was naked. They were seeing each other. She was all over him. They were together.
More of Mark’s mutterings. Ro wasn’t listening. His voice cracked up as the others let loose another droning phrase.
“We drink to see …you,” Ro followed along, late.
He soon heard everyone moving. Ro opened his eyes and a dreadful melancholy fell over him as Mary fell away. The other eleven dudes were all drinking from their cups. It was time. On instinct, Ro followed along.
In mishappen clay mugs created by his younger sister, Mark had Tyler help him pour a crimson liquid. Their “annual Oktoberfest brew.” It smelled like batteries and tasted like them too. Ro coughed and he heard others doing the same. For a split second, Ro thought they might all tandem wretch together. The “shroom juice” tasted like shit. Ro downed it nevertheless.
The room became quiet. Each of the men understood that the journey had begun.
Ro tried to meditate but all he could think about was Mary. She was there in his mind again, in his pants.
After a few moments that felt like hours, he fell back on his cushion. He drifted away in a haze of swirling shapes and shimmering colors. He went unconscious smiling.
In his dreams, Mary loved him. Mary loved him so much that she was willing to die for him. Just as he was willing to die for her.
But for some reason, Ro did not think that was ever going to happen. They were going to live forever, happily ever after, together forever.
They danced toward one another through the stars. Time slowed to a halt as they approached. Distant planets doomsdayed to the sounds of their embracing. The void’s chilled, slow-burn violence did not fall upon their intertwining forms. Entropy did not have a note in their song.
Ro could not hear the screams around him in the room, for he was still being birthed.
When Ro awoke, the room was again silent. But the dudes, his “mates,” were gone. Or rather, they were not in one place anymore, not alive.
But he did not see that, not immediately. Instead what Ro saw was a seven-foot-tall nude woman with four tattooed arms flexing and covered in red. She was blue, cobalt, shining in a moonlight that she seemed to produce. Three eyes stared down at him laying on his cushion. A necklace of ancient bones wrapped around her neck and her hair writhed and flowed like eels.
The goddess was grinning as she held the skull from the carpet up to peer into its lifeless eyes.
She crushed it like a cracker. The bone crumbled to dust, trickled through her fingers.
She gripped a well-worn sickle in one hand and Mark’s head in another.
Blood dripped out his neck and onto the carpet and Kali began to dance.
“Congratulations, Pisces. Looks like this is your lucky millennia!” she sang in a language that Ro did not know.
He clutched his uneasy stomach. But Ro did not scream or wretch as he surveyed the carnage around him, limbs and pages thrown around and shredded with hurricane force.
No. Instead, Ro stood up, took her last remaining free arm under his, and began to gleefully dance alongside Mary. ~