We walk and we talk on the path growing slim through the trees through the trees with the sky going dim as the gold-gleaming sun gilds the limbs and the leaves and the reeds and the weeds on these mystical eves when the feathering heathering blossoms rush past and the thickets grow thicker to greet us at last and the shadows are rich in this mythical wood where nothing behaves like we’ve learned that it should as we wander and wonder how far we can pass through these snickers and flickers these shimmers like glass of the fairy lights gleaming or maybe they’re eyes and the penny-flutes whistle their beckoning cries through a swirling and curling mysterious mist that spreads an allure too alive to resist or maybe it’s breath from a menacing lung churning bittersweet smoke where the mosses are hung and maybe the scritching scritch-scratching we hear isn’t rabbits a-scamper or sheltering deer or fairies or pixies but something more queer something threatening beckoning lumbering near and our laughter goes silent our mirth chills to fear and it seems now this trek was a horrid idea ill-advised into such ever-darkening parts and the shadows swing low on our questioning hearts and the chittering-chaw of hoof and claw goes skittering-scattering our nerves chafed and raw and the leather of wings that clatter and flap and circle above as we enter the trap of the jaws and the maws that chatter and clack but the road’s disappeared and there’s no turning back so we walk but we walk ever-slower we go while our hearts cry out run! and our feet tell us no! and we try not to cry in our shivering skins with our quivering hands and the madness that spins in our heads in our souls in this spiraling gyre of terrors unseen that collude and conspire and lick at their lips and lash with their tongues and gnash all their teeth and heave with their lungs and they screech and they squeal and they squawk as they stalk pulses shudder and hammer we stumble and clamber as we walk and we walk and we
It was three years ago this month—September 2011— that I began hearing a sharp-tongued office dude who’d recently been turned undead. I’d switched from writing to art the year prior to give myself a break after pounding the pavement for a solid six years prior. But I started thinking it would be fun to give storytelling in written form another try. No real eye on publishing or anything…just an attempt at telling the tale. Everything up to that point had been written for young readers. Then Joe Vampire pushed his way into my psyche, and everything went to the afterlife in a handcart, as they say. Then he became a blog, and then a book, and then a Booktrope book, and then a series…
That crazy vampire.
But there was someone else telling me stories between those two…someone who marked the beginnings of my writing for a grown-up audience. It was Joe-ish, but not Joe. And it wasn’t about vampires, but a guy who fell out of a window and ended up in the middle of a cosmic battle between good and evil, with an angel stuck to his side. The story was to be called either Unnecessary Angels or The Hello Kitty Keychain of Ultimate Doom. I hadn’t decided. The guy’s name was Chad, and the angel was Owen, I think. He’d never eaten Oreos before. In fact, he’d never been to Earth before he was needed. You see, Chad had broken up with his girlfriend, who’d been cheating on him with several other people in the office where they worked together, and found himself in an unexpected supernatural circumstance…
This has a lot of Joe elements in it, doesn’t it?
You bet your ass it does.
I thought it might be fun to mark the three-year Joe Vampireversary by having all the Kindle and Nook novels dropped to .99. That way, if anyone out there wants to follow his adventures, it won’t take too much of the pig’s belly to make it happen. Just click here to be zoomed to the storefront, and tell your friends now’s the time to catch up with all three stories – Joe Vampire, The Afterlife and The New Paranormal – for under three bucks for the set. I also thought it might be fun to show you a piece of the Other Story…the one that turned into Joe Vampire and showed me that writing for big people is just as awesome as writing for little ones. So here it is. A taste of the Story that Wasn’t Joe Vampire. Someday, maybe he’ll grow up to be his own thing anyway.
Unnecessary Angels (or, The Hello Kitty Keychain of Ultimate Doom)
So one time I fell out of a building. From pretty high up, too – like seventeen stories or something. If anyone reading this lives on a high floor in a tall building, be warned: window screens that keep bugs out don’t do a lot to keep people in. So don’t lean on them. It’s probably pretty obvious, but if it saves even one life, then it bears repeating. They can’t support a whole lot of weight, and if you push on them even a little bit, they’re either going to tear or fall out of the window frame. Physics just doesn’t give a shit about you at that point. And then where will you be? Falling head first out of a window, that’s where.
Just like me.
Only you might not hit a decorative awning on the fifth floor, bounce out of the canvas cartwheeling like a drunken, one-legged circus clown on a trampoline and rack your nards against a flagpole on the third floor before gently drifting like pillow feathers onto the sidewalk. Nope. You might just fall straight down, skipping all the exhilarating pinball antics and hit the sidewalk full-force. Your head would do a gruesome splat and scatter your brains all over the place. It’s happened before, and there’s not much of a chance that you’d survive something like that any better than anyone else. Not like I did. Some people might call what I have “good luck,” but that’s a marginal term (you can tell by my judicious use of quotation marks…I labored over them for a while, so thanks for noticing, if you did). I walked away without a scratch, after all.
What I did have when I walked away with was an angel that I couldn’t get rid of.
Up to that point, I was largely bible-illiterate and only knew as much about angels as Hollywood told me: they either show up at Christmas to keep you from killing yourself, or they wear diapers and shoot you in the ass with arrows to make you fall in love.
No, wait – that’s cupid. I don’t think he’s an angel, is he? Probably not.
The angel in my story sort of appeared to me mid-fall. He was the one who gave me the push toward the awning. He didn’t have much in the way of geometric skill, though, so he couldn’t predict that I would meet the flag pole with my babymakers. Honestly, I couldn’t have done the math on that one, either, so I bear no grudge – about that part, anyway. When he realized his push hadn’t really done much besides ruin my chances at reproducing, he put his shoulders beneath my feet and slowed my fall until I was safe and sound and sore in the crotch on the sidewalk. Sounds hallucinatory, but yep – an angel did all that.
Of course, I really didn’t believe he was an angel when it all happened. I just thought there was some guy standing next to me. It was a little troubling, having just survived a fall like that. To shove the appearance of divine intervention into my head was asking too much. So I just put it aside and glossed over that part for the moment. You can imagine how disorienting it would be to plummet seventeen stories and walk away clean – and not just because of the tumbling or the bouncing or the six pack you’d polished off just before the fall. The first seven stories were sort of a rush. That part did wonders to sober me up in a jiffy. But after the awning part, I sort of flipped heels-over-head, and then the huge crushing pain in my groin came from nowhere. So I pictured myself with my eyes spread wide open, both hands clutching my jewels, and some crazy dude pushing up on the soles of my shoes and setting me gently on the curb.
“Shit. Sorry about the flagpole.” Those were his first words to me. After I had just fallen out of a building. It made very little sense at the time.
“What…just…happened?” I asked him.
“You were falling, and you needed help.” I knew I wasn’t drunk anymore, by the ultra-realistic clarity everything seemed to have. But that didn’t stop the contents of my belly from spraying full-bore against the angel’s legs as I hunched over and let it go.
I still had no idea who he was or what he claimed to be, but I knew it wasn’t polite to yak on strangers. “Sorry about your pants.”
“No problem. They shake clean.” He held up one leg at a time, and gave each a wild swing. The puke just evaporated. “See? All better.” I glossed over that too. “Are you hurt? Besides your balls, I mean.”
I took a quick inventory. Everything seemed to be in place. “No…I think I’m good.” And suddenly, there was nothing else to say.
I started walking toward the entrance of my building, glancing around to see if anyone else had seen what happened. If they did, they certainly didn’t appear concerned. Only the angel stuck around, chattering away about the whole thing. “I really thought the bounce would have slowed you down more. I guess not, huh? Pushing up under your feet was just an improv, but I think it did the trick, don’t you? I mean, you’re all in one piece. And anyone would vomit after something like that.” That was a fair assessment. “Not bad for my first assignment.”
He sounded very satisfied, and I had no idea what he was talking about. “Uh…okay.”
He walked as I did, inches from my heels and craning his neck to see just how high the seventeenth story was. “Holy wow,” he cried out. “That is so fucking high!” You’re really lucky I came along. If I hadn’t slowed you down you would’ve broken…everything.”
He was starting to freak me out even more than I already was. “What does that mean – slowed me down? Are you stoned?”
His eyes widened. “I don’t think so. What’s ‘stoned’?”
That was enough of an answer. “Look, thanks for helping me up, but I really need to get back up to my apartment.”
“Do you have anything to eat in your apartment? I’m so hungry. I had no idea what that felt like until now, but it’s not the best feeling, is it? You probably know all about it, though.” As I pushed through the door of the lobby, he stepped inside before me. “Thanks!” he chimed.
“What the hell?” I pushed him back out. “Do you live here?”
“Then you can’t come in.”
He looked puzzled. I didn’t think I had been unclear. “Is that some sort of rule?”
“You mean that you can’t go into apartments that you don’t live in? Yeah – it’s a rule. It’s a law, actually.” I began to think maybe he’d slipped out of a mental ward during garden time. That made me speak a little nicer. “So, really, thank you for helping me up. I think I can take it from here.”
“You should probably tell Kristen what happened.”
“I’ll do that thaaaaa…” How did he know who Kristen was?
The nice went away.
I pushed my forearm under his chin and shoved him against the wall. With my lack of muscle tone, there was no way it struck any sort of fear into him. “How do you know Kristen?”
“Yer herting me threwt.” He didn’t struggle or resist. He just stood there while I lightly cut off about twelve percent of his air supply.
“How do you know her? Are you following her? Are you following me?”
Apparently my bulkless bulk exerted more pressure than I thought it would and made his eyes roll in his head. I let him go before he passed out. “Thank you,” he said. “I’m not used to being strangled.”
“Just tell me how you know Kristen.”
“She needs protecting, is how.” He didn’t look crazed or dangerous. He almost seemed like a kid. A six-foot three-inch-tall fifty-year-old kid from the late-seventies. Who said he was an angel.
Just what I didn’t need at that time in my life.
Or maybe, just what I did.