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15. a dog in a grave

A picture of Emmett in the water, looking upward. Emmett seems to be half-human and half-raccoon. His body is furry. His fingers are long and have claws. A raccoon's ear pokes out from the left side of his head. His human face is marked with the color-patterns of a raccoon. His right hand is lifted, and he is writing letters in the water: P, L and Z -- and below that, S and E.
They were letters — drawn with blood. Words. The raccoon-kid was writing in the jelly with his fingers, and the blood stayed behind.

JAY REDWING

“Who’s this faggot?” Jay asked, aloud, turning toward CJ.  He wanted to spit on the ground in disgust, but he knew he couldn’t.  This was Risky’s gravesite, and he wasn’t about to mess it up or anything like that.  Especially not for some queer dressed up like a fucking raccoon.  Jay’s whole body tightened, and his brain was going in all kinds of directions.  Weird thoughts kept showing up in his head and moving around.  He suddenly had this weird urge.  He wanted to jump into the water.  He even saw himself jumping into the water.  He thought of himself drowning.  He imagined leeches sticking to him and taking his blood.  But it didn’t matter.  He still wanted to get into the water where Risky had died.  He wanted to dive in and swim down to the bottom.  He felt a surge of adrenaline at the thought of taking such a dive.  He wondered how it would feel to touch the bottom of the pond, and if any of the water he’d touch had once touched Risky.  He felt sick at that last thought just as suddenly as he’d felt excited a moment before.  He shook his shoulders and arms as a chill went through him.  His head was really starting to hurt, too.  It was really, majorly starting to seriously piss him off.  A lot.

“Do you know him?” CJ asked.

Jay squinted, trying to get a better look at the face behind the mask.  The pond was pretty wide — but Jay was never any good with measuring stuff.  You could swim across it and it would really take a long time, like maybe ten minutes or something, if you were badass at swimming — or maybe less, or more.  But, it was still far enough away that he couldn’t make out enough details of the kid in the raccoon mask to identify him.  He looked back over toward CJ.  “Why the fuck would I know him?”

The kid on the other side of the pond kept on running around, walking over branches, grabbing onto the trunks of the willow trees and looking all around.  Jay couldn’t really make out the kid’s face, but the kid’s body-language really did make Jay think of the raccoons he hunted, and how they’d act when he’d miss them with the first shot.  They’d run around all crazy like that, trying to get someplace familiar to figure out what was going on.  That was usually when Jay would hit them with the second shot.  There was something else that Jay noticed about the kid, too.   It was really strange to Jay how the sound was getting to him from across the water.  It was like the kid would walk across some branches and it’d seem like there’d be no sound at all, and then other times Jay would hear the crack of broken branches when the kid was just standing there looking around.  It was like the sound was going funny, arriving late or early or something like that.  Jay thought it was maybe some kind of echo on the water or something.  Did water do things to sounds?  He figured CJ would know, but he didn’t want to ask.  A whole lot of things he didn’t mind admitting to CJ that he didn’t know, but he wasn’t going to ask his best friend to explain sounds to him.

“Don’t know,” CJ said with a shrug.  “I thought, maybe.”

“Nah.”  Jay watched, the kid in the raccoon mask moved over toward the edge of the pond and stopped there.  Jay was gratified.  At least the kid wasn’t running around acting like a fairy.  That had to count for something.  But then the kid looked across the pond at Jay.  Just looked at him.  And Jay found that he was stopping.  Like, stopping everything.  And the two of them were just looking at each other.  And there was a funny echoing sound.

“Jay?” asked CJ.

“I don’t- … I need to – “ Jay suddenly really wanted to jump into the water.  He took a step forward, and then another, breathing really hard for no reason he could understand.  “I don’t know.”  He was shaking all over, and sweat was beading down his forehead.  He licked his lips, and took a step back to push off from the shore with a jump.

CJ looked over at him, and then frowned sharply. She reached out to grab a hold of his arm.  “What the fuck?”  CJ scolded, voice high-pitched, pulling on Jay’s arms, pulling him back.  “Jay?  Jay!  JAY!  What are you doing?”

Jay struggled, trying to push CJ away.  He knew it was no good the moment the struggle started.  On most any other day, Jay would’ve been able to get out of her grasp easy.  But right now, Jay felt really weak all through his muscles, like there was a delay — between what he told them to do, and the moment they’d actually do it.  And sometimes, they weren’t listening at all.  Like when you’re walking on a hot day and the road is doing that sizzle thing with the air and everything feels thick and you feel like you’re swimming even though you’re walking.  “What?  What?”  Jay didn’t know why he was saying that, but he was.  His voice sounded far away from him.  “I feel –” Jay started, and then dropped to his knees at the edge of the water.  “There’s only — …” Then, he leaned forward and vomited powerfully into the pond.  Chunks of breakfast chili and Cowboy Cakes poured out into the water, a yellowish foamy mass floating there in front of him.

Fuck!” CJ shouted, kneeling next to him to hold him this time more tenderly than she had when they’d been fighting a moment ago.

“What?  I have a name.  Call me my name.”  Jay murmured.  He felt like these last few things he was saying didn’t belong to him, like they were used-up words from someone else — like they were hitting his ears with someone else’s voice.  He was more and more disoriented by it.  And with disorientation came dizziness, worse and worse as the seconds went by.  He was aware of his eyes rolling back and then he felt his head loll.  He wanted to reach out toward the water.  It was like he could see himself doing it; he could see his stupid fucking gross ugly face.  His eyelids fluttered.  And then he fell forward, face-first and mid-blink into the pond, twitching and thrashing like he’d been zapped by a Taser like that bad guy in that one movie.  But he felt like he was still awake.  There were more pictures, then, and he lost track of the edge of the water.  He lost track of precisely where CJ was.  Where he was.  He lost track of the pond and the railroad spike and that tree Risky peed on, and his puke.  It was like he was seeing those things being held up in front of him, one at a time, and then they’d disappear until all he could see was the wavy darkness, like when you’re looking at things underwater.  Which made sense to Jay, since the last thing he was aware of before that was falling into water.  But it was different.  It was like he didn’t have to breathe — only not quite that.  Like he was in a moment that came in-between his breaths and nothing was moving.  Like the water was solid jelly.  Like his lungs weren’t moving; they weren’t taking in water, but they weren’t pulling in air, either.  Like they weren’t moving.  Like he wasn’t moving.  Like nothing was moving at all except vague shapes of light passing through the dark like pale fish.  And he was so far down in that dark jelly, where if it had been water the fish would be kind of scary and have lights in their heads like you sometimes see on TV.  He wondered how he’d gotten so far down if he wasn’t moving to get there, and he wondered for a second or two if he was dying.  But he didn’t feel like he was dying; he didn’t even really feel like he was underwater.  His legs felt like they were still on solid ground.  His face and hair felt wet.  He could feel CJ’s hands on his back and shoulder, but she was also somehow really far away from him.  He could feel every inch of his skin, but it felt like he was floating in it   His vision was limited; it was just the sight of the water-jelly wavering all around him, moving back and forth before his open eyes; blackness and light, like a hole in the ground all filled up with a hazy yellow glow — or maybe a green glow.  Or, wait, no – both: green on the left of him, yellow on the right.  Left and right still meant something, somehow.  His head buzzed fiercely, and burned and hurt — lancing pain behind his unblinking eyes, and he couldn’t even reach up to rub them; his arms wouldn’t work.  There was a rushing noise like his ears were filling up with water and the green and yellow surrounded him.  He felt like the space behind his eyes were being unplugged and then plugged back in, but with way too many plugs, like in an old movie where the plugs are all jammed together and they make a loud popping sound and there’s fire and smoke and sparks.  His whole brain felt like that.  He felt like his head was going to pop and his eyes would burst and smoke would come out, like the green and yellow clouds in the darkness in front of him, below him, coming to him.  Coming from the shadows in the water that he knew were the other side of the pond.  He felt like he could see so far, into those yellow and green shadows.  Except sometimes the green one looked yellow, and sometimes the yellow one looked green. It was like both of them changed into the other, and back and forth. It made him feel mixed-up. It was like someone was switching things on and off inside the back of his head, telling him what and how to see.  And the more it happened, the farther he could see into the green and yellow.  It was like waves of color, coming off the other side of the pond, stretching through the water, coming to him, here and there like when it’s hot on the highway.  It was cold, but things looked hazy — like when there’s heat.  And then the colors got bolder and clearer, like bands coming down into the water from the other side of the pond – or like a lasso. It looked like a lasso wrapping around the whole other side of the pond and pulling it toward the water. And the thicker the bands got, the more the jelly faded.  And Jay saw other things in the two clouds of color.  He saw eyes; they were looking at him.  It wasn’t CJ.  It wasn’t anyone he recognized.  Except for … after a moment, he suddenly did.  He knew he was looking into the eyes of that kid who’d been on the other side of the pond; the one wearing the raccoon mask.  The mask was there, and then it wasn’t.  It kept appearing and disappearing. And, the eyes of the mask were glowing.  The left eye was green and the right eye was yellow.  Or was it the other way around? It looked like it changed, the way the shadows had earlier. And then he could make out a face, in the moments when the mask wasn’t there, and then suddenly even when it was. It was like the kid’s face was showing through the mask — like the mask had become transparent to Jay.  And behind the mask was a young face, younger than Jay by a few years – like a kid who was maybe six or seven or something.  Jay could never tell how old little kids were. There were babies, and then there were kids who were the same age as Jay, and with the people in-between … he was usually pretty much clueless how old they were. The face was looking up from beneath him in the water, looking down from above him, looking most of all sideways at him, coming from the right and the left, from everywhere he wasn’t looking, even though he felt like he was looking everywhere all at once.  Like when you catch someone just leaving a room and you don’t know how much of them you saw, and how much you didn’t see.  And the kid’s face looked sad and scared and worried.  Looked like something was urgent.  Looked like something was wrong.  Jay thought the kid might be eight or nine.  The kid was covered with blood, too.  Blood was congealed all over the kid’s skin like teardrops of grape jelly dribbling down from both eyes, sticking to his messy blond hair.  The kid’s mouth was open just a little, and there was blood floating out of it.  But there were no words.   Nothing was audible to Jay, other than that constant rushing sound.  But Jay noticed that the pain had stopped, had became a tingle that then became a warmth all over Jay’s body, taking away the feelings of CJ’s hands and the ground and the pond and almost everything else, until it was just Jay and the kid floating in dark nothingness looking at each other.  It felt good.  It felt right.  It felt familiar, like he’d been in that place before then, somehow, a long time ago.  Something told him that.  But it didn’t make sense.  It was that kind of nagging memory, one Jay couldn’t quite connect to anything in his past.  He tried to focus, to concentrate again, and the calm surrounding Jay was abruptly broken; the kid began to move, his bloody hands painting pictures in the jelly, or … not pictures, no.  They were letters — drawn with blood.  Words.  The kid was writing in the jelly with his fingers, and the blood stayed behind.  Like finger-painting — bloody letters spreading out over the jelly and just hovering there.  Each word would last for a few moments before disappearing; that’s how Jay could tell when one word ended and another began.  The letters would remain until the word was done and then the last word would start to disappear as a new word could start.  Jay wasn’t really good at reading, but the words were simple enough even for him:

P L Z
S E

Jay was puzzled at first; then, it hit him: he guessed that the letters were maybe supposed to say “please see.”  The raccoon-kid obviously couldn’t spell for shit — like Jay could talk.  Still, Jay focused as hard as he could, like he knew he’d have to try to remember these things later.  His memories of the last few moments were wobbly already.  He had to keep reminding himself what he was doing, maintain the focus.  It was an effort.   He wasn’t usually really all that good at remembering things.  And, right now, it felt kind of like he was dreaming, and he didn’t want to forget the way he usually forgot most of his dreams.  Dreams often confused him, when they weren’t simply piled-on clouds of nothing-shit. It was easier to just not bother remembering them. But here — in the blackness of the jelly-water — all of this felt way too real to be just a dream, even though there were parts of his brain that were screaming at him to wake up. But it was also quiet under the water; there was less noise that bugged him so much.  There was less to distract him.  Down in the dark jelly, the world felt calmer. Jay felt calmer, too, because of all that – no matter how fucking weird this all was. That, in and of itself, was weird, too.

Letters of blood floated in front of Jay, words appearing far more quickly than the boy seemed to be drawing them —

I M E M M E T T
H E L P D A N G E R
T E L P E N N Y
R U N

Jay realized ‘I M E M M E T T’ must be ‘I’m Emmett.’  That meant that Emmett must be the kid himself. Jay was also certain that ‘Peny’ had to be a name, too. He wasn’t sure how he made that leap — he just did. But, that leap didn’t really help Jay understand all that much.  He didn’t know anybody named Penny.  Jay felt an overwhelming urge to reassure Emmett that there was no danger. Emmett was clearly just a little kid, and little kids got scared of stuff. Jay felt like he ought to have been scared of what was happening, but he couldn’t make himself feel that way. Instead, he felt protective of the kid. Jay Redwing knew how to take care of himself, and to take care of CJ. That’s what he fucking did. But the kid’s face – when it was a person’s face – was so scared. Jay couldn’t make himself move any faster than he was, though. He was moving so slowly. Jay felt like there was something he was supposed to do. He was sure of it, just like he was also sure he was totally fucking this up.  Jay wanted to tell Emmett that he could see him.  He wanted to tell Emmett how he’d try to help.  A small part of Jay wondered why he wanted to help Emmett, when he didn’t know him; Jay really didn’t understand why he felt that way, but something inside of him told him that helping Emmett was the right thing to do, a good thing to do.  But Emmett had been acting so fucking queer earlier, running around between the trees like that.  It’d been totally gross, and back up above the jelly, Jay had just kind of wanted to hit him or something – like, break something over the kid’s faggot head.  But now, Jay wanted to pay attention and try to help him.  He wondered where he’d gotten such an idea; helping people was only OK if they deserved it, and all this kid had done was act like a big queer.  Jay felt like the ideas weren’t coming from him.  Like someone was making these … suggestions … in his ears – except, no, they were in his head.  And they weren’t suggestions; they were like hints that he couldn’t hear. That’s how it seemed to him, anyway. And, weirder still — it felt like there was another silent voice.  Like it wasn’t Emmett.  Like there was a third person, watching Jay and Emmett ‘talk.’  Like, someone was somehow watching them — and it felt like they were just over his shoulder.  Jay could tell, even though he couldn’t move to check behind him.  But it wasn’t a scary feeling, even though the situation itself was scary.  If Jay focused enough, he could even sort of see — waves — coming at him like they were made of cartoon electricity, in different colors, from different places.  The waves of green and yellow that were going into his brain — those were Emmett’s.  They were coming out of Emmett.  But there were other waves, too – purple ones, coming from that other person, whoever it was.  The waves of purple were hitting him from behind, arcing past his ears, around the edges of his vision.   And both sets of waves worked differently, it seemed, when he really paid attention to them.  The green and yellow ones made Jay feel like he could feel what Emmett was feeling — even if Jay didn’t understand the feelings.  But the purple ones made Jay feel more like he was being pushed.  Like an urgent voice telling him, except no, more like begging Jay to just help out Emmett.  But fuck that.  It wasn’t the purple waves that were making Jay want to help.  It was the green-and-yellow ones.  Jay may not have been able to understand what was going on, but he could understand the feelings Emmett was telling him about, even though nothing was being said out-loud: feeling small – scared — worried.  Those feelings made sense to Jay.  He could relate to them. And he felt like he could just tell that Emmett was actually a good kid. It was like … somebody who felt like that all the time had to be good; assholes didn’t open up about feeling like that, even though a lot of them were secretly pussies.  It all made sense somehow, when Jay felt those feelings.  He knew that helping Emmett was somehow good and right.  He didn’t have to be told.  Thoughts of helping Emmett brought other thoughts forward in Jay’s mind; they were comfortable and pleasing thoughts.  He saw pictures in his head — sort of mixed in with what his eye was seeing:  Risky licking his hand, the day his parents got a DVD player, hanging out with CJ doing nothing in the hot sun, and things like that.  Warm things.  Things he didn’t usually like to let himself think about because they hurt, even though they were good.  Like helping Emmett might hurt, too.  But — hurt or not — these were all good thoughts, including helping Emmett.  He knew right then and there that he’d do what Emmett was asking him to do.  He didn’t know how.  He’d do it, though — he’d find and tell Penny — … whatever he was supposed to tell her.  But he needed to know more.  He needed to know exactly what to tell her.  And there was also another new awareness coming over Jay; the awareness that the rushing sound was getting louder and louder.

More letters appeared —
I N E D
I T R Y
T O
R E E C H
P E N Y
M E S
I T
U P
R I T
N E W
F O R
M E

Jay felt like cutting himself — But not to hurt himself.  He wanted to be able to cut a knife across his fingertips and write with his own blood, like Emmett was doing.  He wanted to ask the kid what help he needed, who Peny was.  He didn’t even know that, much less where she might be or how to find her to tell her anything.  The rushing sound was turning into a cascade of crashing noise that hurt Jay’s ears.

More letters appeared —
I N E D
T O M O V
B A D D A N G E R
H E L P M E
P L Z

“To move?” he tried to say, guessing as best he could about what the letters meant.  But he’d forgotten that he couldn’t even move his lips. He wanted to ask why the kid needed to move, and from where, and what the danger was.

Another set of blood-letters started to form —
D A N G E R H I

There was more, but Emmett hadn’t been able make out anything beyond those letters; because, at that exact moment, as he got to the ‘I’ — Jay’s own eyes finished that single blink — and the world was suddenly all bright lights and noise – all that awful noise of everything happening all at once, and then Jay was sputtering and coughing, and CJ was yelling, loud, right in his ear.  “Cough!” she was shouting.  “Keep coughing!”

Jay gasped, chest wracked with the kinds of coughs that make you seize up before you expel them, the kind that make your arms and legs twitch.  He felt a weird sensation of pins and needles all over his face, like little bugs were prickling across his skin.  He felt himself starting to shiver.

CJ hugged him tight.  “It’s okay,” she said, much more quietly in his ear.  “It’s okay.  Cough up the water.  Your body’s going to fix itself.  Just cough it up.”

Jay coughed up a lot more water.  It tasted seriously gross, and he suddenly remembered the sight of Risky’s head dipped into the pond.  Jay retched, vomiting over CJ’s shoulder and down her back.

CJ kept a firm hold on Jay.  “Just keep coughing.”  But, even as she was saying this, she was looking out across the pond. Jay could tell that she was looking for the kid in the raccoon mask.  But he had disappeared.

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Published inpart 1

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