Not all is what it seems when the world sleeps.
Far From Home
The world slept.
Restless and itching, a tremulous and terrible creature that clawed at Taylor. He shuffled along the empty alley, almost afraid that if he stepped too wide—too loudly—the world would wake and swallow him up, feet first.
Step on a crack, break yer mama’s back, he thought, and he scratched at the scabs that covered his arms. Cracks littered the concrete beneath him, spiderwebbing old and tired stories he’d prefer not to know, and prefer more not to be living.
Taylor wasn’t sure where he was going, where he could hide. They knew all the corners of this damned city, and he was so far from home. Snow melted and mixed into the slime of the garbage cans that lined the alley he’d stopped to rest, melding a special odor that he should be by now accustomed to.
Rotting human refuse. Taylor shuddered and closed his eyes. He took his small, timid steps to keep from waking the beast of the world up. His heart beat a quick and angry thud, something his body now craved, and the buildings curved around him and whispered things—horrid things, not-true things, and half-true things—told him in the end it would all not be all right.
“I know, I know, I know that,” he whispered to the buildings. He didn’t dare speak too loudly, didn’t dare wake the world up with his ravings. He hugged his body deeper into the threadbare denim coat he wore, wishing he would melt into the fabric.
“They’re gonna find me,” he said to the buildings, and they laughed in response. Taylor sat down, trying to dodge as many cracks in the pavement as he could. He wasn’t sure his mama was still alive or not, she was ill when he came to the city so long ago (what was it, two years, two months?), but she only had one back. How could he live with himself if he caused her to break it?
He leaned his back against an old crumbling brick building, shoved his hands into pockets full of napkins, spoons, lighters and needles.
Time gone and past, hell, he wasn’t sure for how long as he let the buildings whisper their ugly nothings to him. He repeated them back to himself in hushed whispers, to help solidify them in his mind. He was an insignificant thing, poor and nothing.
And they were coming.
They knew all the corners of this damned city, and he knew that. Taylor grimaced. A beating would not be enough to placate them, not this time. He owed too much.
“It was only a little,” he muttered. “I only took a little extra. I’m good for it, I swear!”
He pounded his fist against the ground, across the spider webs of cracks and filth in the pavement, and the buildings hushed their whispers.
His heart stuttered in its quick and sickened beat for a moment as the world stirred in its sleep. He could feel the beast waking, memories that better left in the hills of suns of better times.
“No. No…” he whispered. He buried his head in lap.
“Taylor Graham, you’re a piss poor sight.”
The voice was especially painful, especially harsh, because of its softness. He looked up, eyes already blurring with tears.
“Geri, dammit, I told you not to come ’round no more. You ain’t supposed to be here.”
The girl crossed her arms, frowned. Barefoot in the alleyway, her feet were dirty from the creek they’d just got done playing in. She was younger than he was, though they’d been born the same day.
“Come on home, Taylor. Mama needs to see you. She ain’t long for the world, but she’s hanging on in hopes that you come home one more time.”
He raised his arms, gestured to a body that once had more muscle and wore better clothes. “I’m not at my best at the moment, if you haven’t noticed.”
“Mama wouldn’t care if you came home legless and one armed.” She smiled that familiar old smile, quirked her eyebrow. Her eyes were his eyes, though so much brighter. “Keep this up and you just might.”
“I promised you. I promised you both that I was going to get a job.”
“For the love of God, what is this, the fifties? Dammit, Taylor, you shoulda come to college with me. That’s where you belonged, not in this God-awful city so far from home.”
Taylor looked away, half hoping that when he looked back, Geri would be gone. “This was here before I left.”
His twin sounded sad for the first time in a long time. “I know…well, ’least now I do. But, you never admitted it to yourself when you were at home, and you sure as hell never reached out to us. You just kept this a dirty secret, locked away in your little world to sleep until it woke as the beast that you’ve made me.”
The words were not things his Geri would have said, and the tone had been so much colder than before. He looked up. “What did you say?”
Geri didn’t look…right…something about her was sideways. She seemed older, slanted, broken. She looked at him through eyes that saw nothing, leaned closer to him. The buildings started whispering again.
“The bitch came looking for you,” she said. It was not his sister’s voice. It was something different. Someone familiar and terrifying, but all he could see was this horrible doppleganger of his sister. Somewhere, where the drugs had not touched his mind, he knew they had found him in his little hideaway alley. “That Geri you keep whining for.” She laughed, a deep male’s baritone. Others—the buildings?—joined him.
“Wha…” Taylor was having a hard time breathing. The world was leaning up to swallow him. His sister reached out a hand, punched him in the face. He was beyond feeling, and he watched the skin and the sky melt around her.
“What, did you really think I was going to let dumb fuck from Kentucky go to the police just to protect a druggie who don’t even pay me?” Something silver and black flashed in the world around him.
“I…wanna…” he coughed, blood or something wet strangling his words. Geri looked at him in pity, and for a moment she was his sister again before his heartbeat shook and quickened and hurt. I wanna go home.
The was a sharp noise in the silence of the world, where everything became calm.
Geri knelt beside him. “You ain’t gonna feel nothin’, TayTay,” she whispered. She stroked his hair. He looked at her, saw old worried lines.
“It’s really you, ain’t it?” With his words, the realization of what had happened to her hit, and he despaired as his heart finally stopped pushing bad drugs through his body.
She saw the sadness in his eyes, kissed his forehead. “All I ever wanted was to find you. They took us both far from home, it’s time we go on back?”
She stood, pulled him up and helped him limp out of the alleyway. He avoided the cracks in the sidewalks.
The world slept a quiet and calm dream.
Word Count: 1,202
Initially Submitted to: Journey Through Genres: Official WDC Contest (entered:4/25/17). Prompt:Create a Thriller/Suspense Short Story. Link to contest: http://www.writing.com/main/handler/first_in/1/item_id/1803133-Journey-Through-G...