This is Chapter 2 of my novel, Foreign. Each Friday, I publish a new chapter
“Final preparations are complete.”
“Perfect. This is what we’ve been waiting for. Inform me of the result.”
-From the office of the Secadoma
The instant Mark opened the door to his apartment, he realized that something was definitely wrong. Without traveling more than half a foot or so, the swinging door collided with a cardboard box. This startled Mark. He knew that their apartment wasn’t tidy by any means, but he never just left garbage sitting on the floor, especially in the entryway. Squeezing through the partially opened doorway, he bent down to pick up the cardboard. With bold white letters, the box was labeled “Miller Genuine Draft.” It was a twelve pack, completely empty. Not tonight, of all times!
After discovering the empty case of beer, Mark’s attention was next drawn to the heart-wrenching music that was blasting from their stereo at the other end of the room. He instantly recognized the song to be one of Justin’s favorites for when he was feeling melodramatic. The band was notorious for writing songs about girls and failed relationships. As he walked over to the stereo, he heard the melancholy lyrics of the song “My Heart is On the Floor For You” blasting through the room in a harmonious conglomeration of screaming and singing.
I gave my all to you, every ounce of me.
I was such a fool, so young and naïve.
You took that free gift, and you spat on it.
My heart was crushed, was turned to sh –
Mark turned off the music. It had been on so loud that he couldn’t think. With some peace and quiet, he turned around from the stereo system, hoping to find Justin lying on the couch, in one of his Emo moods. Instead, all he saw was the yellow couch – empty. Panic sparked in his mind. We don’t have time for this! Where could he be? The music alone implied that he must have been in a foul mood, and the idea of Justin pounding twelve beers… Justin was going to be useless in coming up with a plan. Mark scanned the room, looking for some indicator of what Justin had been doing that night.
On the small, oak coffee table in front of their couch were four empty beer bottles. By one end of the couch were two more. Six, he tallied. Near the other side of the room, behind the couch and next to the kitchen, three more bottles were found. Nine. This scene was looking worse by the minute. He still couldn’t hear anything happening anywhere in the apartment. So he walked around the couch, past the dinner table, and around the counter, into the kitchen. Sitting in the sink, he saw the last three empty bottles.
Twelve beers! I know the guy can party, but twelve? And by himself? And where the hell is he?
Mark tried calling Justin’s phone again. A second after hitting “send,” he heard the all too familiar ring tone from down the hall in the apartment. I guess he’s not making out with Heidi after all? After three rings and no response, Mark started to walk out of the kitchen and turned right, heading down the hallway.
Five rings and still no response.
He could hear the ring get louder as he reached the coat closet at the end of the hall. Following the sound, he turned the corner and walked past the pictures of Portland and Mount Hood on the wall that Justin had taken last winter, and on toward the bedrooms.
“Hey, you’ve reached Justin’s cell phone. You know what to do.”
Mark put the phone back in his pocket and thought for a moment. Where is that fool? Did he leave the apartment, drunk, at midnight without his phone? He’s practically asking the cops to find him!
He continued down the hallway only to be taken aback by what he found in the bathroom. To his left, was Justin, shirtless, doubled over the toilet, hands tightly gripping the filthy seat that neither of them had cleaned since they had moved in. A foul odor wafted from the toilet bowl into in Mark’s nose. Justin’s moist, yet still distinctly green eyes centered on Mark. However, before any word could be said, Justin’s chest started to heave again.
Cognizant of what was about transpire, Mark plugged his nose and turned away. Even though he couldn’t see what was happening, the sound of Justin’s retching combined with the sound of his bile splashing against the toilet was enough for the Mark to feel sick himself. He had never been able to handle vomit very well.
He brusquely said, “I can’t watch, but we gotta talk!” and hurriedly paced down the hallway back into the kitchen, covering his mouth with his hand. Looking into the kitchen sink, his face was surrounded by stacks of dirty dishes and greasy pizza trays. He realized that cleaning this sink would be a nightmare if he vomited in it. Lifting his head up, he closed his eyes and tried not to panic.
Shit. Shit. Shit. What are we gonna do? He’s drunk off his ass. I’m gonna puke, and the cops know that guy’s gone or dead, or whatever the crap happened to him.
“Dude, you gotta get out here. Like now!” Mark called down the hall, fighting the sick feeling.
“Hold on, man!” Justin flushed the toilet as he yelled back.
As Mark was pacing back and forth in the kitchen, Justin slowly emerged from the hallway, still shirtless, wiping snot, tears, and vomit from his face with toilet paper.
Mark eyed him up and down, “Dude, you look terrible. What happened to you? Wait, I don’t even wanna know. We don’t have time for this. We gotta talk”
“Nice to see you, too, ass. Heidi’s been cheating on me.”
“Are you kidding?” Mark said. “Great. This is all we friggin need tonight.”
“Um. You’re kinda being a dick right now,” Justin point out.
“Man, I don’t care. We’ve got bigger stuff to handle right now.”
Incredulous, Justin asked, “Bigger stuff? I just found out the girl I loved has been screwing some tool in her Econ class for the last three weeks. Excuse me for thinking that’s a big deal!”
Mark stuttered as tried to piece it together. “Three weeks? That’s half the time you guys were together. What a fricken – wait, what did you say? You loved her?”
“I think I did, yeah.”
Reeling, Mark said, “Man, I knew she was too hot. But anyway, as much as this sucks, we’ve gotta talk about Buck Mountain.”
“Buck Mountain? Why now? And wait a sec, what do you mean ‘too hot?’” Justin took a step closer to Mark, and edge in his voice.
Back peddling, Mark explained, “I just meant, she looked like the type of girl who slept around a lot. But that’s not important right now. I heard on the news that cops have found stuff up on Buck Mountain! They found an empty shotgun shell. Somebody reported the guy was missing. He has a name. It’s like Barry or something. What are we gonna do?”
“Whoa. Slow down, man. I’m drunk as hell. Cops found the guy?”
“No. But he’s been reported missing for weeks, I guess, and they found blood and an empty shell where we were. You realize what this means, right?” Mark tried to explain.
“Yeah. It means that you think I was dating a slut! You thought she looked like the kind of girl who’d sleep around?”
“Cripes, are you still stuck on that? Yeah, she was hot. But she was a total ditz, kinda even bitchy. Now can’t we move on? We gotta make sure the cops aren’t gonna find us, and if they do, what we’re gonna say.” Mark was getting exasperated.
“Bitchy? If she was so bad, why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I thought you just wanted some action. I was your wingman, remember?”
“Yeah, but a wingman tells his partner if he’s flying into MIG territory, right?”
“What the crap are we talking about right now?” Mark asked. “Where did you hide the knife after that night?”
“Um. I gotta think. Gimme a sec. Man, my head hurts. Crap, I think it’s still under my bed,” Justin gave a sheepish look.
The sick feeling returned to Mark, this time for a different reason. “Under your bed? Are you serious right now?” He was yelling.
“Yeah man. Lay off it. Heidi and I were spending a lot of time together after that night. You remember how it was. We spent the next like two days just laying low. I couldn’t go out anywhere.” Justin was getting defensive.
I knew I should have taken care of it myself!
Mark’s frustration turned to anger. “Lay off it? Dude, you realize what could happen with all this, right? If they find us, we’re screwed. Like, years in jail screwed. And there won’t be any conjugal visits with Heidi.”
“Dude, keep Heidi outa this,” Justin said, his voice raising now, too.
“If it weren’t for her, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.”
“So not true, man,” Justin corrected. “We had planned to get those shots of the valley for a while. And besides, you were trying to hook up with Tammy, too.”
“Man, I can’t even believe we’re having this conversation. The cops are probably after us, and you’re still all broken up about this girl that you started dating only six weeks ago!”
“I already told you, I loved her,” Justin said through clenched teeth.
“Yeah, you did tell me. And that’s ridiculous. She must have made up for her personality with some other characteristics.”
Justin shoved Mark squarely in the chest. “What are you implying?”
Marked stumbled back and as he regained his composure, said, “I’m not implying anything. I’m saying that I don’t care about Heidi right now. I’ve gotta figure out what we’re gonna do about the dead guy on the radio, named Barry!”
“Screw you. You’re the worst friend. I’m not gonna deal with this. I’m leaving.”
“Leaving? What about the knife? The cops?” Mark yelled, incredulous,
“Don’t care,” Justin said as he turned to walk away.
“Wait, you idiot!” Mark leapt toward him, trying to grab his shoulder.
Mid-reach, a brilliant light flashed in between them, illuminating the entire room. The pervasive light instantly shrunk down into a miniscule luminous dot that was hovering at eye level in front of Mark.
Oh no! Not again! Everything around him seemed to freeze. Time appeared to be creeping forward at an infinitely slow pace. His hand never made it to Justin.
Suddenly, the sound of Mark’s own words were sucked away from Mark’s ears with a piercing screech. The ear shattering pitch was drowning out all of his other senses. All he could concentrate on was this noise as it grew in intensity. It distorted and swallowed up everything around him, including his sanity.
Just when Mark thought the pain in his head couldn’t get any worse, he experienced a searing pain in his abdomen. It felt like his insides were being pulled toward this blinding dot with a winch. This acute pain began to extend within him. It grew and grew so that his entire torso felt like it was being wrenched toward the light. After his torso, his legs began to rip away from him and they were followed by his arms. He wanted to scream in agony, but found that his voice was torn from him as well. Everything he knew was rushing toward that one infinitesimal, radiant speck.
And finally his head was pulled forward. Fear, confusion, and agony surged through his head as it intersected with that magnificent, terrible light. The next thing he knew was pure whiteness, nothing else.
For chapter 3, click here.