Blue Men in Black Coats

by Andrew Walker

The shower in your new apartment has two knobs. Left: hot. Right: cold.

In your first few days here, you have developed the habit of turning the red and blue slits to the middle of their radius, producing a mild temperature—something you’re used to—softly fogging the mirrors.

As you shower, you can hear your new roommate move boxes through his door and into his room, dragging them across the floor and down the hall. You hear them tumble onto his floor, and you see him—in your mind, a silhouette against the tiled bathroom wall—holding his hands on his hips, marveling at the room around, as you had done just a few days prior.

You moved here to get some writing done, you thought. You had burned through your fuck-around years after college. To start the rest of my life, you told others, you needed to be a little more serious. Once you found a place, you found a roommate, and now, found yourself, half a joint in, showering in your new apartment.

—Here we go,

comes whispered, muffled through the static rain of the shower.

He’s talking to himself.

He had mentioned that in your Facebook conversations you had after finding each other on Craigslist.

Tilting your head back, the water dribbles over your face, through your hair. Normally, you hate the feeling of water on your face, opting to splash rather than submerge. When you were under, you never felt like you had enough air to breathe. But this shower was new, this place was new; you were new.

You hear him return from another trip to his car.

—Careful, oop, shit, that was close.

You imagine it’s his computer, he told you he liked to play video games.

—I might be a little loud.

he mentioned,

—I’m on a group chat with my team in the games, but you can tell me to shut up. I’ll listen.

—Oh, that won’t bother me,

you wrote back.

You turn both knobs all the way to the left, shutting the valves and turning the water off. After drying yourself, you open the door and begin walking to your room. Passing by his, you see boxes thrown around, clothes and other contents spilling out of the broken bottoms. He is hunched over, behind his desk, plugging cords into the wall.

—Almost there, just gotta… Oh fuck yeah, baby, there we go. Here we go.

The tower boots up and the Windows logo flashes on the screen. You enter your room to change into clothes and begin unpacking. You close your door and down the hallway, you hear him whispering to the monitor

—Herewegoherewehoherewego.

****

That night, his screaming keeps you up. Glancing at your clock, you notice that the time got closer and closer to the morning: 1:03, 2:32, 4:07.

—FUCKING HORSESHIT

he would scream.

—THIS IS FUCKING HORSESHIT I SWEAR TO FUCKING GOD THIS IS FUCKING HORSESHIT

Finally, you decide to pull yourself out of bed and knock on his door. A green light bleeds from the crack underneath; you assume it’s glowing from his monitor. After a minute of no answer and more screaming, you knock again.

—Hey man, could you keep it down? I have to be up in a couple hours.

And he is quiet and you feel good about yourself and, in the blackness of your apartment, you find your way back into your bed.

But when your head hits the pillow,

—HORSESHIT LITERAL FUCKING HORSESHIT

You jump, your pulse rising, pumping in your throat.

****

When the wreathing is nice, you ride your bike to the park. An escape, you call it. At first, to write. Then, to read. Now, just to sit and get some peace and quiet.

Today, your legs are sore from the pedaling. The half-filled bike tires give off a low whirrrr against the cement as you pump up and down along the bike lane. You are high.

The world is brighter when you’re baked. Vehicles move slower, as do you. The vibrant colors pop and the sounds are sweeter, easier on your ear. You feel more aware, more present.

The park is tinted beige through your sunglasses. Behind the pond, central to the park, you spot an unoccupied bench. Hopping off your bike, you walk over.

The bench has been warmed from the sun, the warmth transmits to you when you sit, bleeding into you like water up the xylem of a planet. You smile, relax and pull the book you’ve been reading from you backpack. The cover is worn, torn and ripped.

After three-quarters of a page—half a page after your mind wandered elsewhere; you’re never able to keep your attention on anything when you’re too high—you break gaze from the book and glance at the pond. Three children sit at the edge of it, feeding their sandwiches to the ducks when their mother isn’t looking. All are dipping their feet in the greenish murk.

They shouldn’t be putting their feet in that disgusting water

you think. The man-made body had, your presumed from it’s appearance, never been cleaned.

Just like his room.

Trash-room_4563 - Edited

Since moving in, not a single box has been moved, save the few that had been torn open, containing—what it looked like from your hallway vantage—essential clothing. You see a pile of garbage grow taller every day. Pizza boxes tower, on one side of the room, verging on collapse. You thought it would have started smelling by this point, a rotten something caught somewhere. A dying rat, maybe. But the woman from down the hallway— you met, flirted with, asked to coffee, asked to dinner invited over for a couple after-dinner glasses of wine or bottles of beer—confirms

—Your place smells like the candle you burn in the living room.

You are relieved when she tells you this. Both from the lack of smell and that she did not seem phased by the question. For so long, you feared asking her, believing the question was too personal, more than neighbors—friends? fuck-buddies?—should be.

You startle back to reality when you see, from across the pond, the children and their contracted foot diseases have wandered off, replaced by men in black coats, sitting at the edge of the pond as the kids were, their black shoes and socks dipped into the water.

They are blue, but not Blue Man Group-blue. Their skin is lighter; cornflower, the woman down the hall—an art major—might call it. But it does not shine, like paint and oil, but lays dull, matte. Tight ponytails of platinum blond spout from the backs of their heads, turning green at the root.

Their coats are what appear to be black leather, the depth darker than anything you have seen, sucking in the light around it. Harsh, sparkling zippers dangle from the breast, belly and pockets, glistening against their juxtaposition to the coat.

The rest of their attire, however, is pitch like their coats; even their hands are gloved. This makes you wonder whether or not their skin is only blue at the face. If it’s an odd costume of sorts, an attempt to scar or discomfort others. Or if they are blue all the way down, over every finger and under every nail. You wonder if it goes deeper, and if it does, are the muscles purple where the blood meets.

****

When you enter your hallway, the first door you pass is hers. You imagine that inside she is sitting on the couch, reading a book, one you loaned her, with an inscription from freshman year in the front about how it changed your life, saved your life. When you gave it to her, you told her it did.

She says that she has ideas for books sometimes, novels. She’ll write them on sticky notes at her desk during work, but by the end of the day, they’ve been crumpled and thrown out.

—What about you? Do you have any novel ideas?

—I just read, mostly.

You want to tell her that you’re a writer, and that you have ideas bubbling inside you that you believe would be great, that you think are real, but every time you put your pen to paper or finger to keyboard, nothing comes out. To avoid embarrassment, knowing you will never be as good as you want to be, you just say

—I have a few ideas, I guess.

During dinner—which you have started to have at her apartment—you both talk about books and authors and writing and painting and creating and desperately trying to get your shit published or in a gallery or just out in the public eye. And while you both talk about your dreams, you laugh and talk vaguely of the future, working your way around the idea that the other one would be there.

After dinner, you both smoke a bowl and watch a show on Netflix.

smoking bowl

—I don’t like movies,

you told her once. You enjoy that one 30-60 minute episode is so much less committal than a two-three hour film. Ultimately, you end up watching at least four or five episodes but you like having the chance to back out at any chance you get, to move onto the next thing.

After the fourth or fifth episode, you both decide to head to upstairs to her bedroom.

The sex is still exciting enough for the both of you to undress each other. It’s still rowdy and loud and heavy. You still use condoms. When you take it off, once both of you are finished—out of breath, laughing, smiling—you still shoot the tissue-wrapped condom ball and miss the trashcan just like the time before, which is still funny to the both of you.

Before, you would talk until she fell asleep. Then, groggy and weak in the knees, you would put your jeans and shirt on, wandering to the other side of the hall. You never put on your shoes.

Stopping before your door, you would wait a few seconds, reveling in the last few moments of near-silence. You would open the door and the silence would remain, hanging in the air for a few more glorious seconds.

Maybe he’s asleep. Maybe he’s not playing games right now

The closer you got to his room, the louder the fan would get, the brighter the green glow that oozed from his closed door became. The closer you got to his door, the more the silence died, replaced by the white noise from the fan inside his desktop. Until

—fuckfuckfuckfuckFuckFuckFUckFUckFUCkFUckFUCKFUCK

from behind his door, like an explosion contained.

Before, you didn’t mind much, still glowing, leaving light trails from her apartment to yours. You would brush your teeth and fall asleep on the top of the covers, still in your shirt and jeans, ignoring the screaming; too high, too happy to care.

Now, you have started falling asleep before she is finished talking to you, closing your eyes and giving off only a brief

—Mmhmm

before letting sleep envelop you. Some nights, you would try to fake it, keeping your eyes closed until she fell asleep, burrowing herself into you, until one night she asks

—Do you want to just stay here tonight? Since you already pretty much stay over anyway? You can use my shower in the morning.

And you smile, relieved you don’t have to lie or pretend, but hesitate.

—I’ll probably go back to my place for a shower. My stuff’s still all there and—

—Makes sense. Goodnight.

You realize in this moment, that this is nice, that you are happy, that you want to be with her— at least for a while.

—Goodnight, April.

And she kisses you and you wrap your arms around her body, nuzzling tight against her. She is warm.

****

The blue men are still at the park when you return. They are biking on the path that stretches all the way across the park, around the pond. Their appearance is almost unchanged: head-to-toe, they are still dressed in deep black, their faces still matte blue. Their hair is down today, blowing in the wind, slightly damp.

You watch them bike all the way around the pond. Some of the children at the park stare, mothers hold them back as they point and walk closer to the bikes. You hear drowned in the distance,

—Mommy, they’re blue!

And you relax, knowing you’re not crazy.

The blue men do not look at you. From the books you’ve read, the shows you used to watch, the notes scribbled down in the pocket notebook you don’t use enough, you figured they would be some sort of bizarre, alien force come to act as a metaphor, an image, a symbol. Something come alive from the stories you have yet to write.

But these blue men appear to only be existing as anyone else would: to enjoy their Saturday.

They stop biking at a bench a few yards in front of you. Lying their bikes on the ground, they sit, sharing a water bottle.

From beyond the blue men, you spot April, walking toward you. As she passes the blue men on the bench she gives a confused smirk, briefly glancing back. She comes to you, kissing you on the forehead.

You talk for a bit. It starts with the blue men, but leads to family talk. Friend talk. You talk about the books you’ve been reading and the journals you’re going to send your next story.

—If I ever finish it

is left out of your dialogue. She talks about work and her shortage of painting inspiration. Back to family talk. Back to friend talk. Money talk. Rent talk. Roommate talk.

—I think I hate him.

—Have you tried talking to him?

—He scares me.

But that isn’t true. You believe that maybe it’s to have something to hate. You think you stop yourself from banging on his wall, asking him to stop, to quiet down, telling him to shut the fuck up and let you sleep already, because you need a bad guy, an antagonist for your story.

—I… I need to talk to him again. But I think I’m going to move out.

—You know you always have a place to say.

And she smiles at you and you return a fast, quick small grin before breaking from her gaze you stare instead at the blue men who stand from their bench and pick up their bikes. They begin to pedal around the trail once more. They begin to speed up and their bright yellow hair rises, riding the current blowing around their blue heads. You sit for another hour, watching them and chatting with April until she leaves. You sit another few minutes, watching them go around and around and around on their bikes until it begins to get dark. The wind blows a chill through you. They all click their bike lights on; three flashing beacons, orbiting the pond.

You wonder, as you bike away, if they have anywhere to go. If they have an orange bed to sleep in, a red wife to climb in next to, a quiet green house to fall asleep in. You wonder if they sleep with their red wives before closing their eyes, pulling them closer. You wonder if the last thing they hear before they fall asleep is only the breathing of another brilliant being beside them.

****

When you arrive at the apartment building, you can hear him from down the hall, as if the wall has given up against the constant shouting. Upon opening your door, you’re greeted with

—ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME THIS TEAM IS FUCKING TERRIBLE ARE YOU GUYS HIGH FUCK THIS TEAM FUCK THIS TEAM FUCK THIS TEAM

and a glass exploding against a wall.

It’s not the glass breaking, or even the shatter, but the repetition of it that makes you want to scream

SHUT THE FUCK UP

But you don’t. And he doesn’t. And you stand there, fuming, building, boiling over, ready to shout, ready to scream, ready to rip his head off and smash his computer.

And then it quiets.

It’s dense, the silence. Tight and awkward, something that is not supposed to be there.

You marinate for 30 seconds until the click of the closing door behind you erupts and echoes.

In your room, after you’ve dressed down to only a beige towel, you pull the bong from your closet and load the bowl.

You’ve had a long day.

Even though you’re baked to shit and the water is running hot and loud, you can hear him start again through the wall, muffled

—Are you guys for fucking real? I swear to god this game is broken. Fucking broken.

When you are high, you stay in the shower for a minimum of 25 minutes longer than your sober-shower time. Depending on how high, it could be upward of an hour.

The longer you sit in there, the hotter the shower will get. At ten minutes or so you turn the heat up, keeping the cold knob at its halfway point. You turn it a hair every few minutes, feeling the water warm the skin a little more, sending goosebumps everywhere the water isn’t.

He is quieter, but still there, still present.

You close your eyes, turning the hot knob slightly higher. You hear a small, plastic snap, and the water runs cold.

shower knobs

****

—I broke my shower.

—Oh?

You tell April that it’s almost too cold to shower anymore.

—I have a shower here, you know.

You know. You tell her you’ll fix it, go to Home Depot, find the right replacement, change them out, enjoy your shower again. Tomorrow, you tell yourself, you need to get some writing done today.

Later that night, having not written a word nor bought a new shower knob, you are sitting on April’s couch. Her head in your lap. You rest one hand on her head. There’s something on TV, but you haven’t been paying attention.

In your head, you’ve been wondering how much it is to break the lease. To move out immediately and live with your parents again. You wouldn’t have to pay rent and they would keep you. For a month at least. Until you could find somewhere else.

Or you could ask—

But you brush the idea off and think if any other of your friends have friends who need a roommate. Maybe someone at work is looking to cut back on rent.

April mentioned—

Or you could just talk to your roommate and see if he would calm down. Maybe he would listen this time. Maybe he’s never considered that it could be detrimental to your living. Maybe he would be understanding.

Or you could fucking ask April.

—What are you thinking about?

—Where I’m going  to live.

She turns back to the TV, but you know what she’s thinking. She’s planted the seed and she’s waiting for it to grow. But you understand yourself as well. You understand that under pressure, you tend to self-destruct, to ask nothing of others, to let the world take its course, to let moss grow over you until you are nothing but a stone off the path.

—Hey, do you—

And she looks at you and you freeze, and say,

—Do you want to smoke more pot?

She grimaces.

—I’m okay. Aren’t you pretty stoned?

—Yeah, but I… I’m going to smoke more.

And you do. And you’re able to make it out of your own head. But when you sit back down, April does not lay her head in your lap. When the episode of whatever you are watching ends, she stands up and goes to her room with a small goodnight. When you go to her room, she is asleep.

You go back to your apartment tonight. On your way down the hall, shoes scuffing the carpet as you drag your feet, you set a reminder in your phone for tomorrow that says “Call Mom.”

***

The next day at the park, the blue men are not there.

Their absence shakes you. They were interesting at first, but the blue men had slowly wormed their way into your routine, cementing themselves into your habits; they were always in your background.

So instead of read, you sit on the bench and watch the park unfold itself into scenes, hoping the blue men will show up later. Maybe they are stuck in traffic, maybe one of their bike tires blew and they stopped to fix it,

Or maybe they won’t show up today.

But you sit there for a few hours, watching and waiting for the blue men. You watch the bench not far from you and the people that trade that space.

Two college student swap money for pills in an orange bottle.

A child playing something on a light pink tablet. When he (presumably) loses his game, he violently shakes his body from side to side, maintaining remarkable grip on the tablet.

A couple whisper-shouting at each other, avoiding eye contact with each other.

—Not here,

you think her lips read.

—It’s not that bad,

his say. Maybe.

The blue men never show, making this the first visit to the park in months blueless. So you pick up your bike and head back to your complex.

On the way back, you see, on the inside of an orange car, the backs of three platinum blond heads, speckles of blue around the ears, stopped at a stoplight. You begin to pedal faster, trying to catch the car before the light turns. But the light clicks red to green, and the car sputters and starts off. You pedal harder and harder, wanting to catch up, needing to see if it’s actually the blue men, wanting to see their faces up close, separated only by a window.

The car disappears on the other side of a hill. Standing now, pushing the bike from side to side, you pump each pedal as hard and fast as you can until

the chain snaps and you fall, hitting, in order: 1) your crotch on the seat, 2) your left foot on the asphalt, 3) your gut on the handlebars, 4) the entire left side of you body in the right lane of the road, and 5) your ear and cheek across the asphalt, the scar serving as a testament to the miracle that your mind was not splattering the street.

You pull your bike and yourself out of the road, allowing the cars stopped behind you to move forward, to get on with their day. Walking to the top of the hill, you see an orange car turn right and vanish behind buildings.

As you begin your long, aching walk home, you realize that April hadn’t stopped by the park either.

****

After a week at your parents’ house for Thanksgiving, in which you did not divulge any information about your life other than

—Things are going well

you return to your apartment building.

As you enter, April opens her door, looking down at her phone. Her purse swings as she slams the door behind her, looking up moments before bumping into you. She jumps back.

—Hey. Hi. Sorry.

You give her a smile, and want to say

—Hey, I know things have been weird lately, and I want to make them better, but I’m too afraid to talk to you and actually make them better.

But you only say

—Hey. Sorry.

The second word growing as you say it. A novel between each of the five letters.

—I’ve got to get going. Talk to you later.

You understand the last part only as courtesy.

Down the hall, you see the blue men, two holding a ladder, the other screwing in a lightbulb.

lightbulb

You freeze when you see them. An unknown feeling keeps you from stepping forward, your body keeping your distance for you. But your curiosity and need to be in your apartment push you forward.

They look no different up close. Their skin is still dull, their hair still a violent blond, where it sprouts from their head, a dim green like the light that seeps from your roommate’s door.

Walking past them, you see the one on the ladder begin his descent. Above, the bulb flashes, glitching almost, strobing the hallway. You point at it and say to them

—It’s still—

But they only stare back at you, unmoving. Their eyes not like those of a deer in headlights, but of one already struck down, bled out and embedded in the hood of the car. You break contact first.

You unlock your door and are hit with a wall of sound. His screams are louder now that you have heard before. You expect the blue men to jump, to glance back, to give you a look of disgust that you would allow a creature that could emit such an earth-shattering cacophony to live with you.

But they don’t. And you close your door as they leave the hallway, the ladder hitting the edge of the wall when they turn the corner.

****

You pick up your pipe, pack it and

Exhale.

You open a new word document to begin writing, maybe a story about him. About April. Something. Anything.

But instead

Open → Chrome → Facebook → April’s timeline → About April → Relationship Status

She hasn’t changed it.

You feel relief and take another hit, and you scroll down her timeline for a while until you find a photo in which you are both tagged from months ago and time no longer feels real, as if you have not been experiencing it linearly. There are bright, red bricks in the background of the three photobooth-style photos, line up horizontally, “Congrats Ben and Mark” in sparkling gold against white at the bottom. Looking at it, you think you could smile.

You open the album and start to click through each photo. You see photos of your friends and you, April’s friends and her, your friends and people you have never seen before.

It comes as no surprise when the three blue men show up, dressed in black, feathery boas and oversized, sunglasses. Their hands are up, thumbs to noses, fingers waving above, you almost expect their tongues to be out and spitting, but their faces are neutral, blond hairs spurting from their chins and upper lips.

Your mouse hovers over each of their faces to reveal their names. Clicking on each of their profiles, you see that their expressions remain the same. You begin to scour through profile pictures, cover photos, the barren About sections, trying to find something, trying to find anything that will satisfy this hunger that’s burning in your stomach, but you only find that the second blue man you click on, the one on the left, is mutual friends with someone you went to high school with.

There is a stirring on the other side of the wall. The creaking of bedsprings, the crack of pressure from an old desk chair, a fan booting up, stirring the air, and then

—FUCKING FINALLY FUCKING FINALLY I HAVE A TEAM THAT ISN’T TOTAL SHIT MAYBE WE CAN WIN FINALLY

Turning the monitor off, you take one more hit and crawl from your desk chair into your bed. You plug in your phone, not bothering to set an alarm, and clutch a pillow to you, in the space April used to be.

Brushing your hand against the wall that connects your room with your roommate’s, you feel a buzz. You, baked and struggling, sit up and place your palm against the wall, vibrating your bones. From the corner, on the other side of the wall, you heard his computer’s fan scraping against its case, the whirr interrupted by scritches from the broken plastic. You imagine the computer’s body leveled against the wall.

You feel your pillow begin to buzz, bleeding into your mattress, the box springs, until your whole room is bombinating and your head starts to spin.

Shaking, having to strike the lighter five times before maintaining a stable enough flame, you take one last, giant hit that leaves you coughing. At least, you believe you’re coughing. The vibrations in your throat and lungs still all but the kak you pull from your stomach.

You remember the ugly, yellow La-Z-Boy massage chair your grandfather bought when you were eight. You loved to sit in it and watch football, letting the massage technology vibrate your vision until the colors of each team’s jersey blurred together. It wasn’t as comfortable and soothing as the chairs at Brookstone, where the balls and joints inside of the chair actually massaged your back, but it was fun. It reminded you of riding down a steep, gravel hill on your bike, or when you would set the showerhead to its heaviest setting and let the water vibrate your skull.

You accept the buzz as calming, and, lying head to pillow, are asleep, waking up to the sun through the blinds before you had the chance to even think

Finally.

****

Since the blue men have moved into the next unit, it’s almost all you can think about. In your apartment, you listen, from the living room, between screams from your roommate, to unearth what it is they talk to each other about. You never hear anything.

You’ve staked out the front of their door, waited for them to appear, seeing if they leave one by one or all at once. When they do leave, always all at once, you notice that they all acknowledge you, but they do not nod their heads upward, nor do they smile or wave or even raise their yellow eyebrows in your direction. But each of their eyes meet yours as they pass, dressed, as the weather turns colder, in heavier and heavier coats, until all you can see is the blue around their eyes.

Sometimes you can see April walk out her door, but she never looks in your direction.

****

It is colder than it was a year ago.

park winter 2

The snow soaks up sound, eating any echo from the children sledding down the hill at the park. You have forgotten what quiet sounds like, misplaced it among the sounds that rattles your walls.

Your entire self is wrapped in coats, sweaters, long-underwear, wool socks and snow boots, all zipped all the way up. You’re reading the messages to and from April on the bench at the park, holding your phone through gloves in the pounding snow.

—Hey, can we meet at the park and chat for a bit?

—Yeah. In the snow? What about?

—Please?

—Yeah.

You look to where the blue men used to be, no longer circling around the frozen pond where children ice skate and play hockey. You wonder if it’s from the cold that they’ve stopped coming, or if it’s because they grew bored from the habit, the repetition of cycling around and around, over and over.

From where they used to sit at the pond, April walks up, hands stuffed inside a bright purple coat that stretches to her knees, brown-gray wool around the hood and up and down the seams. She approaches, her dark red hair, spilling from her hood, blowing in the wind with the snow. She sits next to you.

You don’t listen to most of the conversation, even what you’re saying back. You turn on autopilot, a skill you’ve tuned to mastery, sounding engaged when almost completely withdrawn. She cries as much as she can in the snow, you only hang your head. You want to tell her that the only stories you could finish were the ones with her in them, that even though you are broken and dependent and uncommitted, she held you together long enough to put pen to paper, that she fixed you in a way that you only thought a book could. But instead, you say

—I wish this could have happened at a better time. Like, for me.

She wipes the frozen tears from her face and says

—Yeah, me too.

And then she leaves you there her purple coat the last thing to disappear into the harsh white.

****

The blue men have made their way into your stories. They circle your characters as they did the pond, driving their orange car from plot to plot. You are never sure what they are doing in each story, but they are there, at the center of the page, drawing attention away from the development or downfall of the main character.

You hate the blue men, just like you hate any of your stories that have stuck around too long. Each draft they find their way into eventually gets destroyed or forgotten, sitting in a folder on your computer labeled “fuck this.”

April is there, too, but more subdued and in the background; the blue men have taken the limelight.

One wall over, you can still hear him screaming, still hear his clicking and slamming and crashing: you no longer understand the sound of silence.

He, on the other hand, has not made it onto the page. Occupying too much of your real life, you do not let him ruin your escape.

Pot doesn’t help anymore, you’re not sure that it ever did. Now you just get hazy, stuttered, sometimes it gives you the headaches it used to prevent. You load and light a bowl anyway, getting ready to shower in the frozen water, the knob is still busted.

Walking to the bathroom, the blue men crawl from you page and follow you. You close the door and they help strip you of your clothes. Using a flathead screwdriver and a pair of pliers, the blue men work as a unit to take the knob off the cold and attach it to the hot, turning it slightly so the water only dribbles out.

They guide you to stand under the dribble and you feel each drop burn your skin. You are still cold. The blue men turn the knob looser, strengthening the pressure and twist of nerves in your shoulder. You break out in goosebumps, but are still shaking from the outside cold. The water keeps coming, stronger and hotter, until the knob no longer turns. Your skin is covered in gooseflesh, the stream clouding up even the tile in front of you; your skin has turned a bright pink.

The blue men tug at your skin and crawl up your spine, burrowing their way into your ears and mouth and nose. The last thing you see of them are their dress shoes, squirming and kicking from your orifices.

Through the water-turned-white-noise, you hear a thunderous, sustained scream from the other side of the wall, louder than anything your roommate has wailed before. But you do not jump, nor does the sound make your skin crawl, nor do you want to scream back, for he has trained you too well.

In the haze of the steam and the blue men rattling around in your brain, you try to fix your mind to your stories, to April, but the pot and your roommate and the blue men keep you here, burning under the halo of the showerhead.

You can feel the blue men in your nerves and veins, they push you to try to turn the knob even further to the right, you can feel the knob cracking and, just like the other, you feel the plastic inside snap and the water stops.

Skin red, you stand in the tub, water pooling slightly at your feet, listening to the cries coming through the wall, still shivering.
*******

Andrew Walker received an English degree from Colorado State University and has recently relocated from Fort Collins to Denver, Colorado. He’s been published or has work forthcoming in paperplates, Crack the Spine, Literary Juice, the Blotter, and Two Cities Review in both nonfiction and poetry.

 

 

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