Failing Upward Ch. 10

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Alina Lopez

Trapped in the closet. Eye sockets puckered and seeping, he saw me. In the dark, he saw me. Blind and all seeing like one of the Graeae, who passed an eye between them, he saw and devoured me. Scalpel in his hand, he cast me into the musty sheets. I had no trick like Perseus to escape, no room to move. His clammy hands all over me, his evil countenance oozed into me like his empty orbs. Face sliding off like melting wax, he decomposed, and I turned my head.

Shackleton’s putrid mouth grazed my ear, he kissed it, whispering, “I love you Wesley” as the scalpel pierced the nervous pulse point on my neck. The rotting flesh on his fingers left a trail as they slithered down my chest. He hissed my name again as he drove his decaying body into mine.

I screamed.

“Hey, wake up.”

Clamping his hand over my mouth, I jumped. Peter jostled my shoulders, his face square in mine.

“We’ll be lucky if no one heard you,” he rasped. He switched on the light. My eyes darted around trying to find Shackleton hidden in the closet somewhere– behind the towels, underneath the blankets. Fuck, it was so real.

“You have to put these clothes on fast. We don’t have much time.” Then he frowned, grasping my elbow. “Come on, get up.”

I fell back as I tried to stand. “Are you ok?” he asked.

“Of course I’m not ok. Fuck.” I grabbed the clothes he’d thrown at me and began struggling to shove my legs into the stinky janitor coveralls. “Yuck. You could have at least found something clean… like what you’ve got on.”

“They’d notice you then. No one will look at a janitor twice.”

Stiff from unknown filth, I pulled the coveralls over my hips.

“Is this some new shade of green?” I asked. Covered in some kind of slop– ew-w-w, highly gross-s-s. I finished buttoning the front as he handed me an equally grimy hat. I think it once matched the overalls, now it was brown and kaki camouflage. I guess after all I’d been through I shouldn’t be too concerned about head lice but…

“I turned the video off in both the lobby and stairwells,” he said. “We need to get going. I’ll ride down in the elevator with you. I must get off at the lobby. You go to the basement and out the service entrance. As you get off the elevator walk straight down the hall. Turn to the first hall way on the left. You’ll see the doors to the service entrance– they’re clearly marked. An old blue beat up Ford truck is out there near the ramp. Get in that. I’m going through the lobby– I have to check out of the building. Wait in the truck for me. I’ll meet you out there.”

He reached in his pocket.

“Here, put these on,” he said, handing me a pair of black horn-rimmed glasses with the right ear piece duck-taped.

“Do I look like Buddy Holly?” I whispered.

“Maybe if he was a custodian who never bathed.”

“I can’t help it– you gave me these righteous threads, and hey, I’ve been in a bed for weeks with only sponge baths.”

Peter grabbed the knob.

“Hmm, sponge baths with Angela. That’s not a hardship.”

“Well, she’s not my type,” I said, smelling my armpit. “Why’d you turn off the cameras to the stairwell if we’re going out the elevators?” I asked.

“A decoy. They’ll think you’re going that way.”

“Seems like they’d suspect you.”

“Believe me, they won’t. Long story, I’ll tell you after we’re out of here.” He opened the door. I followed him out, both of us casually walking down the hall. Deal took a parting glance behind him. “How’d you get in that closet anyway? I never unlocked it.”

“Someone must have.” We turned left down the hallway. No one in sight.

I didn’t think I unlocked the door. But now I wondered. This telekinetic power kind of freaked me. Or was it telekinesis? I thought back to what Deal said about this having to do with me not actually moving the object but altering time– I wondered how that worked. It didn’t seem logical.

Peter stopped in front of the elevator.

Going down.

The bell rang, and the door opened. We had company.

The guy didn’t look familiar. Dressed in street clothes, I decided he was probably no one important. Deal stepped in before me. He nodded at Peter. Deal leaned in to push the elevator button, he hesitated; our visitor was going his way– the lobby button was already on. Peter stepped to the back of the elevator next to him. I punched the basement button and stepped in the corner on the other side of the elevator.

The fellow standing next to Peter wrinkled his nose at me. These clothes sure did stink. I was kinda glad I didn’t know what from…

“Caught him yet?” The man asked Peter.

I guessed by ‘him’ he meant me. I looked at him from beneath my hat brim. The guy was balding and about my height. He scratched the shiny spot on the back of his head.

“Not that I’ve heard. Just came from Grant’s room,” Peter said, ignoring me; I was a janitor after all, a non-person.

“We told them we’d have trouble if we brought him here. No one ever listens to psychiatrists. I heard he got free from the restraints with his mind. He blinded Aksaray Escort Shackleton.”

Ahh, so this was a peer of Deal’s, a fellow psychologist. And judging from the way he was shifting his weight around, he was worried about me being on the loose.

“You hear all sorts of crazy rumors,” Peter answered.

“So, you don’t believe Grant’s got powers?”

From the corner of my eye, I saw Peter smile.

“I didn’t say that,” he stepped ahead to the center of the elevator, then glanced at me. “Our floor.”

My stomach lurched as the elevator stopped, and they both got out. I kept my head down as the doors closed.

Soon I’d be free.

I looked up. Very unsettling hearing people talk about me and my powers. Next stop basement. As the doors opened, I looked out cautiously. Dark with the haze of florescent lights. Dank basement smell. No movement. All clear. Then I stepped into the corridor, acting like I belonged. A house-keeping cart with a mop and wash bucket blocked the isle, and as I elbowed around it, a man yelled: “Get in here and clean this up!”

I ignored him and started to walk away. A man stuck his head out of the door in front of me, shaking his Ice Mountain water bottle at me like some teacher pointing a piece of chalk at student for writing on a desk.

“Hey you lazy fuck, get in here with that bucket. We’ve been paging hazardous wastes forever.”

Fuck, what was I supposed to do now? I rolled the cart ahead of me through the door, trying to look as if I knew what I was doing. I heard the security lock buzz as the door shut behind me.

I looked at the floor. Just a couple of test tubes. Not like I hadn’t mopped before, but hazardous waste? I’d better clean it up fast and get out of here.

The Ice Mountain man had issues. Besides needing to visit a dentist, he had an anger management problem. His face was red, and he was chewing the inside of his mouth.

“Dumb fucking janitors. Lazy as hell. Look at that trash over there–” He trust the water bottle by my face, just missing my nose. The trash can was pretty full. He uncapped the bottle and gulped down the rest of the water. He took it from his lips and grimaced. “What the fuck you lookin’ at?” I jumped back as he kicked at me, just missing my shin.

“Stupid retard. Over here,” and he swung his shoe toward the mess on the floor. “Clean it up. Christ, you’d think we were asking you to perform brain surgery!” He slammed the empty water bottle down on the shelf next to him. The shelf rattled. If he didn’t stop, I’d have more to clean up.

The asshole eyed me with contempt for a few more seconds then turned and stomped off. I could walk away, but I he’d hear me go out the door–probably swagger after me if I didn’t clean this up– maybe kick at me again. Didn’t need to call anymore attention to myself. Someone might recognize me.

Just my luck.

I snapped on some rubber gloves from the cart and carefully picked up the broken glass. Fuck, at this rate Peter’d beat me to the truck. If I didn’t show soon, he’d risk coming to find me. All I needed was to be responsible for another person getting hurt. I hurried. I was dropping the bits of glass in the cart’s waste receptacle when I noticed the label. Neatly written on one shard of test tube was the name Grant.

Shit, it was the serum! My serum, made out of my blood. Now, that was the hazardous waste.

Then I scrutinized my surroundings. A storage area, and there on the shelf in front me was the serum– made from my own blood. Shit, I couldn’t believe I almost missed it.

I mopped up the rest, then looked around to see if the ass hole was near by. Nope.

I’d never stolen anything in my life–not even candy from of store as a kid. So I wasn’t what you call experienced at thievery. But this looked pretty easy– and even though I reasoned this wasn’t stealing since they made it from me, I still had a pang of guilt. Still–

It was for a good cause.

And it was mine.

I decided to steal it.

I took the empty Ice Mountain bottle off the shelf and unscrewed the top. Then I emptied five of the vials into the water bottle and screwed the cap back on. I hastily shoved it in my side pocket.

I started to put the empty vials back, but then I had a thought. Maybe if I dunked the test tubes in the mop water…

Who would get this serum? Shackleton. I admit I felt a sort of sick satisfaction as I dipped each test tube in the cloudy water and snapped the stops back on. Yeah, this wouldn’t make up for what he did to me and Sid, but it would come close. As I put them back shelf, it was pretty apparent they weren’t the same. The serum was clear, and the water was cloudy. Why not try some telekinesis? I ran my right hand across the vials.


I pushed the mop ahead of me, and opened the door. I looked back to see if the ass hole noticed me leaving. No where in sight.

But on the shelves the vials I’d filled looked clear.

It worked. Fucking amazing. Next I should try water into wine.

I was Aksaray Escort Bayan thirsty…

The heard the door’s mechanical click behind me, and it was done. I began to get doubts about what I did. After all, who knows what was in that mop bucket? Injected into Shackleton, I didn’t care. But what if it wasn’t. Maybe I assumed too much.

I pushed the cart down the hall, then abandoned it around the corner. I rushed down the corridor searching for the service entrance sign. I found the door. There it was in big red letters. I hoped no alarms sounded when I opened it. I held my breath and pushed.

No sound.

I was never so happy to see sunlight in my life. I jogged across the dock and down the ramp like a colt after a Spring rain. I spotted the blue Ford as I reached the end of the ramp. Peter sat inside.

I skipped to a halt along the passenger side and hopped in.

“What happened? What took you so long?” he asked, as he turned over the ignition and slipped the truck into reverse.

I buckled the seat belt.

“I was detained,” I said, pulling the water bottle out of my pocket and setting it between my legs.

“What? You were thirsty?” He stepped on the clutch and put it in drive.

“Not exactly,” I said, clutching the bottle. “This is the serum.”

He stepped on the gas.

“It’s what? How the Hell did you get that?” The truck lurched into second gear.

“I walked into the lab and took it.”

We pulled up to the guard-station, slowed and were waved through.

“You just took it?”

“You could say it fell into my possession.”

He cracked a big grin.

“Boy, you’ve got some balls.” He looked at me with an bit more admiration then I knew I deserved, but I didn’t tell him any different. I decided to let him think that retrieving the serum was a Herculean effort.

“Ok, so tell me why you did it. Why’d you risk it?”

I squinted my eyes; no excuse, we were driving away from the sun. I swallowed. I was certain he knew the answer already.

“For Sid.”

“I fucking thought so. You’re making a mistake.”

Now, he was voicing my own misgivings. Leave it to a psychiatrist–

“I’ll let him decide. It’s not like I’m making up his mind for him.” Which was completely true. Since I was tricked into this whole mess, no way was I going to do it to Sid.

“Christ, think about it. You know what his answer will be. He can’t say no. He’s bound to you. And even if he wasn’t, I think he’d still do it to be with you. It’s a mistake. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t.”

For a psychiatrist, he sure was projecting his own feelings on to me. I rested my head back in the seat. Might as well know where he was coming from. After all, I did want what was best for Sid.

“Why not?” I asked.

“You wouldn’t understand.”

Now that wasn’t an answer I expected. I sat mute for a few minutes as Peter merged on to the interstate. We were heading east on I-94 away from Chicago. I must have been near Chicago somewhere.

“I wouldn’t understand how torn it makes you feel, is that it?” I asked finally. I stared at him waiting for a response. His eyes narrowed. I continued, “How do you think I feel? All I know is if I don’t get Sid to become like you, next time Shackleton’s tries to kill him, I might not be there to save him.”

“I understand,” he said, nodding to a woman an SUV he was passing. Three kids were buckled in the back seat. “But I think you’re wrong.”

“Wrong? About what? Being able to stop him or about changing him into one of us?”

He sighed and scratched his ear. “Both.”

“Since when are you Mr. Cryptic? Maybe it’s because you still love him and want him yourself.”

Shit, I didn’t really believe that, but I needed to put him off center. I did know he still cared for Sid. Maybe pointing a finger at him will get him to tell me the truth.

He was quiet.

“Yeah, I still love him, but that’s not it.” He glanced over at me for an instant, eyes burning into me.

I guessed I came closer to the truth than I intended.

“He won’t be able to feel pain ever again. You don’t know what that’s like. It can drive a person crazy. At first, you love the feeling, the euphoria. But years go by and the highs leave. With no pain, you have nothing to gauge pleasure with– life becomes stale. Dry. Flat. You look for what’s new. You want to feel something, anything. There’s a part of me that understands Shackleton. I hate that part of me. After a time, there’s little you see which is bright and shining. The world becomes dark. Sometimes you’ll see a little light.”

“Like with Sid?”

He nodded. Shit.

“A time will come when Sid will feel the same way. He will know you are the reason for this feeling. Blame is not always something you can reason away. He knows it was his choice, but he will always know you are the reason. Understand? He will hate you for offering it to him.”

Maybe I didn’t want to hear this.

“Like you hate Glenda?”

“Yes, like I hate Glenda. The agony is, Escort Aksaray I love her too.”

“She says you betrayed her, not the other way around. She said you tricked her into making you immortal.”

“Yes, it’s true. But I held it against her since she had it to give. That’s part of the long story I was going to tell you later.”

“Why not now? We’ve got a long ride ahead.”

“You need some sleep. I have a feeling you need to talk about more than this, like what happened with Shackleton. But not now. Besides,” he said, watching me slump into the seat, “it’s stifling in here. You look like shit and smell worse. I’m going to find some out of the way Motel and get a room. Take a nap until we get there.”

No need to argue. I closed my eyes, and I was out.


I smelled coffee.

I rolled over. The mattress sunk down in the middle; the pillow smelled like cigarettes. Must be Peter found that roadside motel. I vaguely remember taking a shower and getting into bed. Not much else.

The sun was filtering through the ugly olive curtains, and I felt a hand brush my cheek. I sat up, smacking my forehead hard into Peter’s nose.

“Shit, I’m sorry,” I said. “Is it bleeding?”

“No. You forget– it doesn’t hurt.”

I tried to recall the feeling I got from him as he was touching my cheek. I didn’t understand why he was so close. He handed me a cup of coffee. I sipped it. Hot. Very hot. Burned my mouth. He gulped it down like it was iced tea.

“What was that a minute ago?” I asked. I brushed my cheek where he’d touched it. It was wet.

“You were having a bad dream. Remember?”

“No.” Probably better I didn’t recall.

“You were talking in your sleep too.”

I took a tentative sip of the coffee. Better.

“What did I say?”

“Not so much what you were saying– you were crying. You were asking Sid to forgive you–“

Now he was going to psychoanalyze me.


“I see now why Sid loves you.”

He was always doing that– blurting out things I didn’t expect. Where the Hell that came from, I didn’t know. He sees why Sid loves me? Like I’m so fucking unlovable. I sure as Hell didn’t know how to respond to it. Sometimes the best thing to do is to not say anything at all– put the metaphorical ball in his court. Instead of uttering a word, I took another sip of coffee and watched his face over my Styrofoam cup.


Then he cleared his throat.

“I knew he wanted you even then. But he didn’t think he could have you. I wanted him. I still do. Being older, doesn’t necessarily make you wiser. I’m still attracted to beauty. That was part of why I wanted Sid. He’s honest, sincere. He’s handsome, good. But he wanted you. I thought for a while he was infatuated with you; you’re beautiful. You’ve heard it before from your fans and groupies. You have an aura. When Sid would talk about you, I thought it was just wanting what he couldn’t have.”

“You don’t need to explain this to me.”

“No, I need to. I didn’t want to hurt him. That’s why I let him go. That and he really wanted someone else and so did I. What I did years ago to your aunt changed me. I was torn between pleasing my father, and what was right. I chose my father. I lost myself in that decision. If I would have chosen Glenda, life for me might have been different. Would she have asked me to become immortal on her own? I don’t know. But she wouldn’t hate me.”

“I don’t understand what this all has to do with me. I’m not deceiving Sid to get what I want. I wouldn’t do that.”

“Maybe you’re deceiving yourself.” He sat down on the bed next to me, resting his coffee on his knee.

“Riddles. More riddles. What? Do you think I really don’t love him?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Fuck, you sound just like Sid. Hey, I know I’ve had a hard time admitting what I am. I’m gay. That was hard to admit, but I did it. Then Bang! Hey, I’m a supernatural freak show! I can live with that. I opened up my arms and fucking embraced it. I hated it at first. But now, I know it’s what I am. Just when I get comfortable with that, I get taken like some experimental lab rat to hideaway where I learn people think I’m some kind of weapon. They think I can alter time and space. If you mean that I’m not comfortable with myself as some kind of space alien, time-altering, side-show– ok, I don’t embrace that. And,” I took a deep breath, “if you think I don’t really love Sid– and I mean really love Sid– you’re wrong.”

We both stared at each other– each daring the other to speak. Then he leaned into me.

His mouth met mine, opening. I found myself returning his kiss. Pressing my mouth into his, tongue moving against mine. Then I bolted back, chest heaving.

“You’re wrong,” I said.


Less Than Zero

I guess getting injected with serum twice in one day fucked with my libido. That was the excuse I was going with anyway. That and curiosity. When Peter started kissing me, I became like Alice in Wonderland, curiouser and curiouser. I’d never seen into anyone else with that depth ever with the exception of Sid.

Then when I pulled away from Deal, I was surprised. Not just from the kiss but from what I saw inside him. By now nothing he did, said or thought should be unexpected to me– but this was.

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