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From Inside the Flap
Life sucks. A lot.
He sucks on the plants and he sucks on the rocks and he sucks on the walls, so you can see his squishy little mouth from the outside of the tank. Catfish have the weirdest mouths.
I wonder what it would be like to have one suck on your skin. I suspect it'd be like a tiny, living vacuum cleaner.
Though they'd die if they did. Suck on your skin, I mean. I don't think catfish are meant to suck on human flesh.
Just saying, though, if they did - and if they were bigger, and maybe had teeth - then I would totally set one on Alana Franklin. I mean I don't hate her or anything. Don't get me wrong. But, yeah, I would totally set a flesh-sucking catfish on her.
Times like these make me glad that no one can mind read.
I drop an algae pellet into Life's tank and think about Death. He died this morning and I had to bury him outside. I wonder if Life misses him. I almost wish Life had died and Death had lived. The irony in that would have been hilarious. It could have been that funny story that I tell at parties, when there's an awkward silence. Which there always is, around me. Not that I go to many parties, anyway.
I realise I'm being insensitive to the fish so I mouth 'I'm sorry' through the window at the rose bushes, where Death is buried. The forecast said it would rain later. Everything is dark and grey, and it makes me want to go to bed even though it's only four o' clock.
Instead I change clothes and go for a jog.
Alana and her damn friends have got me more riled up than usual. I know I shouldn't let them get to me, but sometimes I can't help it. There are only so many snarls and whispers that a person can take.
Maybe I'm being overly-sensitive, but I could have sworn they were whispering more than usual today.
So I push myself, harder, longer - force myself to go six miles instead of my usual five. Feel the burn in my legs and use it as a distraction. Don't think. Just go. Breathe.
I stop by the park for a drink; and feel the first splatter of rain. Great. I didn't bring a rain jacket.
My jog turns into a run as the rain turns from mild droplets to a full-blown storm. I blink fast, trying to keep my vision clear, and am glad that my shoes have extra grip on their soles. The pavements are already drenched. Several times I have to leap over a fresh puddle.
Mom's home from work by the time I get back. I find her in the study, babbling away in Kurdish to someone on the phone. I figure it must be a relative - they're the only people she still talks to in Kurdish. My own is too little to make out anything she's saying, so I mouth 'Something up?' from the doorframe. She shakes her head at me. On the computer screen is a video on pause; some news story.
I scan mom's face. She doesn't seem upset. No bad news, then.
I leave her to talk and take a quick shower - cold. I read somewhere that cold showers are supposed to be good for you. I'm still testing it out.
When I'm out I try and get some of my homework done, but my mind is in the wrong place. I can't concentrate - it's like there's something in the air. I'm tense, and restless. I can't put my finger on it.
I switch to watching TV shows on my computer instead, telling myself that I'll finish the homework when this episode is over.
I'm nearly three episodes down when mom appears in the doorway. She jingles her bangles to get my attention.
"What do you think?"
She's wearing my least favourite kaftan, but I don't mention that.
"Yeah. Looks good."
"Are you sure? It's not too bright?"
"Mom, it's the theatre. No one will care."
"That doesn't answer my question."
I smile. "No, it's not too bright."
"Liar." She walks over, grasps my head in her warm hands, and gives me a smacking kiss on the forehead.
"We'll see you later. Don't forget to make dinner!"
Dad appears in the doorway behind her, a rain coat slung over his arm. I don't remember hearing him come home. I must have been too absorbed in the show.
"Make sure your lovers are gone before we get home!" he says.
Of course. It's lovers, now, apparently - plural. I start to think the joke's growing stale. We all know the chance of me having even a single lover is in the negative.
"Sure thing," I quip back. "You want 'em out via the trellis this time?"
"As long as they don't land in my roses!"
"You and your roses," she says, swatting dad on the arm. She blows me another kiss, and then they're off, dad slamming the car door way harder than he needs to, as usual. Off to some musical theatre show they got free tickets to via dad's work. I can't remember which one. One of dad's favourites. Mum just goes along to keep him happy.
I roll my chair around and I'm alone with Life again. I watch him un-suck himself from one wall and then swim straight across to suck on the opposite wall. Although he doesn't really swim. He wiggles along and I find it far more amusing than I probably should.
When everything's quiet again I glance back at the textbooks lurking on my desk.
Yeah, that's not going to happen. One more episode.
Half way through, I pause and head downstairs, my rumbling stomach getting the better of my focus. I could make myself a toasted sandwich, but I'm too lazy. So instead I pour myself a dry bowl of cereal - the nutritional choice, of course. Mom wouldn't approve. But she's not here.
Traipsing back up the stairs with my mouth already full, I think I hear a noise, but I can't tell behind the crunch of my own chewing. Plus, this house is so old that I've gotten used to strange noises. It's kind of par for the course.
It's not until I reach the landing, and find all the upstairs lights switched off, that I realise something's up.
"Weird," I mutter aloud. I can just make out the usual glow in my room, from the light on my fish tank. So at least Life hasn't been plunged into darkness.
Walking over to my doorway, I fumble for the light switch, flick it on, and freeze.
There, on my bed, sitting as calmly as if it's always been there, is this thing, this creature.
"hOLY MOTHer of Uranus," I cry, because apparently I don't possess the ability to scream.
Blood Moon Publishing is an imprint of Double Dragon Publishing