This is not a story so much as it is a recollection.
It’s not a fictional tale imprinted by hand…which also begs the question as to how your eyes may or may not be poring over my most interesting tale. Maybe there are others like me, others with abilities beyond all human reasoning? Or…well, maybe I just wrote this down after all and forgot. These are the only explanation as to how you are privy to the tale of one Icthyus Bones. I recall all the events of these past few damn-weird months from the summit of a throne of crystallized blood. If that intrigues you….
Know first that yes, my name is really Icthyus Bones. Go blame my parents, God knows I do. I accept Theo as a compromise, at least to quell the taunts. I’ve heard all the jokes, the most common being “Theo Bones? Like hell he does!” or something to such idiotic effect. I’m happily married so such a taunt is, you know, inaccurate. We’ve been trying to start a family but it hasn’t worked out so far. At the very least though, I have a retort to the taunts, heh.
Maggie and I live(d) in a small little condo in a charming little U shaped complex. Ours is on the upper most left hand side of the cul-de-sac and we have a good rapport with our neighbors (not the least being dear Mrs. Reynolds the older widow next door, at the apex of the U). My day would often consist of myself poring over Craigslist and Indeed seeking employment (after a rather unceremonious and highly unjust exit from the pawn shop up the street) and generally puttering about the place. Not the most exciting life, but there you have it. Like a good faithful husband, I’d often wander outside at about 4:50 PM and await my beloved’s return. I liked to greet her as she pulled it, it did me good to see the smile on her lovely face.
See, in between her reception position at the local veterinary hospital and her twice-a-week classes, she was a studious and hard working woman. Maggie was but a semester or two away from transferring off to the University to continue her pursuit in marine biology, a questionable practice in a small landlocked, dusty desert town like ours. But hey, it gave us an excuse to road trip to Harper’s Lake about an hour north.
It was one particular evening in August, a night just like any other, when the rain began. Now, we don’t get much rain out here in Rockreach, usually averaging about 12 inches a damn year. So this… this was unusual. But nice. We love the rain when we can get it. The pitter patter of the downpour on our rooftop and gutter creates a nice, atmospheric romance and the mood is usually set. A good time to try again, romance breeds fertility and all that. I’m no prize pig true, some would say my eyes are a bit too large for my head. I’m prematurely balding, I’m a bit too tall and skinny. Even my nose is a bit hawkish. I’m not going to win the Sexiest Man Alive award anytime soon but she loves me for who I am. So, suffice to say, I was feeling pretty damn confident that night, standing under the porch eaves in that delightful summer rain.
Yet confidence is a fickle thing and it corroded like so much rusted metal. I often find myself wondering if I’m deserving of a girl like her and sometimes it’s nice to see her drive up and know it’s not all just some dream. But this night, she didn’t come home. On this summer night, like any others, my wife’s cute little blue Subaru never made that fateful turn into the cul-de-sac. I waited until about 6:30. No text, no call. Nothing. The streetlights had flickered on, illuminating the raindrops and the gnats that often wreaked havoc on the community’s annual summer cookout. How long do I wait until I call the cops? What’s the protocol for something like this? Had she finally looked at my face and my unemployment check and come to her senses? Again, confidence: fickle mistress. A bitch, really.
I walked out into the rain, never minding the downpour on my back or head. The streetlights were spaced evenly throughout the complex, four up one side, four down the next. One in the center, at the apex in front of Mrs. Reynolds’. This was the light upon which it rained blood.
At least, I think it was blood.
It was red. That’s usually a qualifier, right? It caught my eye as I wandered out into the street in a daze, disbelieving that she still hadn’t returned. I held out my hand, the rain pooled upon my outstretched palm. Perfectly ordinary rainwater, the kind that creates a sound that makes you just want to throw down a blanket and make love. Yet under that one light, that quietly humming beacon. It looked red. Trick of the light, of course. Refraction of lights and prisms and stuff that she would probably be able to discern but not poor old Theo. I don’t want to say that I wasn’t thinking of her but part of my mind swept her ever so slightly a step back as I reached out under the light.
The rain pooled up red. This was no trick or light anomaly. I let it continue to rise until it welled up over the palm of my hand. I expected it of course, to spill back onto the ground but this, this red rain, it clung to my hand. The red water stretched like sour taffy around the contour of my hands. Even as I shook it frantically, it clung tighter and refused to let go. I noticed tiny threads of blue spooling amongst the rapidly congealing substance and I cried out in alarm. Finally, one more shake and it poured out of my hand, the stuff’s consistency shifting rapidly from congealed goo back into a pure liquid. It struck the ground, illuminated warmly under the humming light. I crouched down, fascinated, disturbed, worried, enthralled and all the while, rain slicked. The carefully manicured lawn here began to bubble and froth. Red foam seeped (it reminded me of that damn toxic foam that I kept hearing about in the news) from the very ground and the Earth gave birth.
A tiny red bulb appeared, instantly and majestically from the ground. Delicate, dainty. The red continued to pour around me but none had that same effect that this pool from my hand seemed to have had. I touched it, against my better judgment. The tiny plant bulb jiggled softly under my touch. I held out my hand again and let the red pool up. Don’t ask me why I almost did what I did next. Maybe I was still in denial about her disappearance and I wanted to something unusual to occupy space in my mind. But I raised the pool of red up to my lips. But I didn’t drink it. I never had the opportunity.
“Theo, my boy!” came a cry from behind. So entranced was I that I never even noticed Mrs. Reynolds pull up and emerge from her car, frail arms laden with grocery bags. “What are you doing out here in the rain? You’ll catch a death!”
I blinked back into reality and let the red water pour from my hands. It poured like water should, dripping from my shaking hands. “Yeah, I know,” I answered. “I was out here looking for Maggie. You haven’t heard from her, have you Mrs. Reynolds?”
The older woman shook her head from beneath her yellow rain slicker. “Can’t say I have, boy. Maybe she’s out gallivanting with friends? I’d hope she would come home soon on a dreadful night like this.”
“Yeah, me too,” I murmured. “You’ll…let me know?”
“Of course, dear,” she replied. She struggled with the bags. Never one to ask for any favors, this tough old bird. But I’d like to consider myself a gentleman.
The red bulb was still there. I’d come back and check it out later. She didn’t seem to notice it or the red rain.
“Let me help you,” I offered. I stood up and grabbed a bag.
“Oh thank you,” she said. I followed her to her front door. “Can you believe this rain? It’s the worst kind. Hot rain! Who ever heard of such a thing?”
I came back later for the bulb. And by later, I mean practically instantly. Reynolds had offered me to stay for coffee and this new weird gluten free pastry she had picked up but I politely declined. I had more pressing matters to attend to. So here I was once more, crouched in my neighbor’s yard, perplexed by a rain which seemed to fall red in no other place but this one. I touched the bulb again and the damn thing opened right before me. It exploded in my face, this tiny and impossible thing.
Red dust (pollen?) burst forth in a tiny crimson cloud. I coughed and fell on my ass, right into a puddle. By this point I expected I was infected with some strange new disease. That and my ass was wet. I was pretty damn miserable. I elected to run back into our place and return with a trowel, an empty pot and a pair of gloves. The rain had yet to subside and I worked there in the midst of the summer storm. Fruits of my labor: one carefully transplanted, oddball red flower bulb just now seeming to germinate. Maybe I could take it to a hospital or a lab if anything seemed to happen to me. I rubbed my nose, expelling some of the latent pollen and took it inside. I didn’t bother to change or even take off my shoes, a fact I now notice as I glance around and am surrounded by water stains and stagnant, standing puddles. The carpet is drenched and heavy with crud and I am all alone. But at least I have my flower. I sat it on the coffee table and studied it, staring for a good ten minutes.
The tingling began very soon after. It started in my fingertips, still wet and shaking from the night’s events. I looked at them, slightly stained red. My fingers had begun to undulate, wave and shift before my eyes. A hallucination I thought, brought about by stress or whatever I had inhaled earlier. Then the pressure started. My God, this was the worst. My fingers began to feel like dead weights, pushed from inside by some unknown force. Something was squirming just below the surface of my skin. I took the only recourse I figured was logical at this time.
Five minutes later and following much pained screaming, I sat back there on our black leather couch before the red flower. My fingers were sliced open now, each of them. It was the only thing that made sense. My wife was gone and we were in the middle of a freak rainstorm. It had rained red and produced one single slower, one that I seemed destined to find. Cutting open my fingers to relieve the pressure was only the thing to do.
My blood was grateful. It spiraled out of my fresh, new incisions with all the elation and vigor of a djinn set free from a magic lamp. My own blood wrapped about my wounded fingers like an elastic cord, gentle pressure. Almost pleasant. I could hear the rain outside, on the gutter. A nice, gentle tinkling sound. The pressure felt good. The sounds were good.
This night was good.
I sat there, before the flower with my own blood curled around each finger, pulsating gently. Pleasant and patient.
I never did call the police.
It took a while but I got the hang of things. I discovered but my blood was capable of now. I could extend it, shake it around. Withdraw it and it always rebounded like elastic. I grew bold soon after. I took the knife I had used on my fingers and sliced off the cords of red. They fell from my hands and where they landed, they changed once more. Elastic consistency gave way to a harder edge. It spread about the carpet and my first thought is that if Maggie ever returned, she would be pissed at this mess. Then I would show her what I was now capable of and she’d be fascinated. Wouldn’t you?
The creeping red continued to spread, almost fungus like. Yet it continued to shift and within a moment, there were carpets of red, hard edged and translucent rock surrounding me. At the very least, it appeared rock-like. The light of the table lamp beside me caught the edges of the solidified blood and the resultant prisms were breath taking. All around me, red refracted light dancing off of every available surface. I laughed out loud, the first time in a while. I took off my soaking shoes and tentatively stepped on the carpet of red crystals. It didn’t hurt. The blood seeped around my feet, seemed to congeal and spread anywhere I stepped. It didn’t want me to get hurt, no. Not poor old Icthyus Bones.
I took off the rest of my clothes, save for my pants. That would have been weird, right? I lie down upon the crimson, crystal carpet and waved my hands about. Look ma, I can make angels in the blood! I never wanted to leave.
So I didn’t.
In fact, I would have stayed there in my new little red world. All would have been well. We had plenty of food stored up, plenty of stuff to drink. Why would I have to leave? I could just lie here amongst that which had sprung from my own body. Listen to the rain, feel the red coalesce around me. Watch the flower and see if it blooms…..and wait for her to come home and join me in our new home.
The rains eventually stopped. Rockreach had been beset upon by record rainfall and there was quite a bit to do to clean up the town. Good Mrs. Reynolds, she saw fit to volunteer to aid in the relief effort. She was such a kind soul. Pity what would eventually happen.
Months had gone by. It was approaching winter but the rains hadn’t returned. I discovered three new things. I could replenish the ropes of blood from my fingers. All I had to do was flex my fingers a bit and new, elastic tendrils would emerge. I could tie them in a knot, could tie it in a bow. My ears didn’t hang low, oh no. At least that’s one thing that poor old self confident Theo Bones has going for him….
I didn’t know if my supply of blood was infinite or if it simply consisted of what resided in my body. Was I slowly killing myself each time I extended more tendrils? I suppose I have to experiment. Experiment I did with finding #2. The flower had begun to produce seeds! It was a beautiful, vibrant red. Soft, silky petals in a five star shape. Extending from each petal, a tiny tendril not unlike my own (how cute), each heavy and drooping with a tiny blue pod. The flower seemed to offer them to be, so I wouldn’t want to be rude, right?
This was the only time I dared venture out of my lovely red cavern. I would run outside, collect more soft and rich soil from the yard. I cordoned off a plot in the living room as my new garden and there, I would supplant each tiny little pod. And wait for something beautiful to happen. I never had a green thumb…maybe I was the first red thumb? I knew the pods wouldn’t subsist on regular tap or filtered water. So it was a careful and delicate process in which I would snip open my finger tendrils and exude just a tiny bit of my own blood on to each pod. I couldn’t wait to see what would emerge and couldn’t wait to show Maggie! She was never one for flowers, but I know she would love the bouquet I was sure to produce.
Finding #3: Neighbors can be awfully nosy, even on the best of intentions. That is why, on a balmy evening in late November that dear Mrs Reynolds came to call. Autumn was at an end and the cold breath of Winter beckoned at my front door. That and the incessant rap-rap-rapping of a concerned old woman. She had come to check on me occasionally. I had assured her that Maggie had returned and was off visiting an Aunt (lest her continue to worry, summon the cops and have them stumble upon my little red cavern). I suppose eventually, she would have figured something was amiss. She obviously hadn’t seen Maggie’s car in some time and for all I know, had bore unfortunate witness to my little midnight mulch collecting jaunts.
No since in delaying the inevitable. I opened the door and I suppose she was shocked at my new beard and my long hair. I had corded it with strips of elastic blood, a creative endeavor but one that had drained me both literally and figuratively. In fact, now that I think about it, that was one of my worse days. I had been feeling very weak and light headed and a bit frustrated that the rest of the pods had yet to bloom. She was holding a yellow tupperware dish, the sweet old thing and I knew she intended to feed me. Good, I was rather hungry. My food supplies had run out a weak ago. I suppose I was even more gaunt than usual, a further contribution to my new unorthodox visage.
“Theo, my goodness…” she started.
I smirked. “Mrs. Reynolds, hello!” I absorbed the newest batch of tendrils back into my sliced fingers. No sense in frightening her.
She hesitated. Her nose wrinkled, undoubtedly I smelled but bless her always, she was too polite to mention. “I…brought over some of my gluten free bread pudding for you and the missus. I um… made a touch too much for the church bake sale. And…thought you would appreciate it.”
“Always!” I accepted it with a leering grin and genuine gratitude.
“Where is Maggie?” she asked. “I haven’t seen her in months. How was her visit back East?”
“Oh all’s well,” I said. “Her sister had a new baby so she’s reveling in the glow of becoming Auntie Margaret.”
“That’s so sweet,” Mrs. Reynolds grinned, still uneasy. She took a subtle peek past my shoulder. It did not go unnoticed.
I accepted the platter and decided that I must do what I felt had to be done. “Won’t you come in? We just got a new entertainment center and hi-def TV! Wait til you see what it can do!”
She came in, slightly reluctantly. I took the platter, set it on a counter nearby. She didn’t have long to observe my redecoration. She had but a few scant seconds to take in my patch of fertile yet annoyingly unresponsive garden. The bed of red crystals, the sweeping vines of congealed blood hanging from the ceiling like crepe paper. It was like I had decorated the place for a birthday and maybe I was… after all, I was a whole new person. And there on the coffee table, the piece de resistance. The BloodBulb, the beautiful flower that had begun this renaissance.
Reynolds squeaked out a gasp of surprise and I promptly engulfed her. She was so wonderful and kind, so sweet. I didn’t want to do this and especially didn’t want her to be afraid or in pain. But I knew now that my blood supply was quite finite indeed and I needed to refuel. I extended my tendrils and forced them into her shocked mouth. I flexed my fingers sharply, cutting the tendrils at the tip and let them flow into their new home. I stepped back as Mrs. Reynolds coughed and clutched her throat. Her body began to undulate almost immediately. To flow and shift and thrash about from the inside. I knew the blood was begging to be set free and I was just the man to do it.
But then: a fourth finding. I didn’t have to lift a single scarred finger. The blood set itself free. The old woman’s flesh began to harden. Her body became an absurd cubist painting, all hard angles and pointed edges. I had seen this before, I was standing in it. Yet she didn’t calcify or turn translucent. Rather, a fascinating occurrence: her body imploded on it itself and became… something new. Thick, spindly and piercing needles of blood erupted from the corpse and danced about, feeling the November air with new and refreshed vigor. Her head detached, freeing a fresh and lively arterial spray. I immediately kneeled and clutched at the spray greedily, downing the essence and resupplying my body. I knew now that the blood was alive and life was life in the most literal sense. Whatever had happened on that stormy summer night months ago had changed me. Not just as a man, but as an organism. I was one with something new (or perhaps old? Ancient?) and unseen, a symbiotic host to something glorious and arcane and oh so fantastic.
I felt a new man, my red dreads shook wildly as more and more fresh new blood coated my body and face. And behind, the severed head of my dear old neighbor, rolled itself away on insectoid legs of sinew and blood. It knew where it needed to go. Then I too knew why the pods had not yet flowered. They didn’t just need blood. They needed more than that. So much more. The red rolled over into the makeshift garden and lie there motionless. I knew, in time, decomposition would set in and finally I would have the fertilizer I needed.
In time as well, all things end. Except for me and the blood. We will not end. This body before me, it will one day vanish beneath a veil of rot and refuse. I thank my kind neighbor for her final sweet offering, that we might live and flourish. I can manipulate and conform my own body to however I want. And I want now, to rest.
And so, I use the blood to pile the red crystals together into a nice, comfy seat. And now I rest, watching the BloodBulb before me, the literal seeds to flourish and produce something nice and new and extravagant for poor old Icthyus Bones. I finally have the ability to produce new life, though this definitely isn’t what I had envisioned! I wonder if the blood would mind if I spread the word? When these new flowers bloom, I can sell them. This can be my new career, I can be the one that ushers in a new generation of man. A wonderful collusion between our minds and our very body. For ours is the kingdom and power and glory as I have heard Mrs. Reynolds quote before.
I wonder if Maggie will ever come back. If she does, I can’t wait. I have such sights to show her. So many things to introduce her to. My lovely wife, she was never much into bouquets. All I need is one little flower….and then she and I can be together in the blood and the thrall of something new and wonderful. It’s starting to rain again. It sounds so nice, so soothing.
For now, I need to rest….