(A story in honor of Halloween. As the days of October shorten, a young man descends with the sunset shadows down seven cellar stairs. If you're just joining us, you can go back to Part 1.)
Six o'clock sun beamed on Paulie's back. After yesterday's rains, crystal blue sky bore down on the day with reading glass heat.
His feet swam in the shadow on the third stair.
Below, he could see into the darkness farther. Papers and boxes and flower pot littered the floor. Something was closer now. It dissolved in the cool cavern of air.
Sometimes I can taste it I think not like the corners warehouse where it's good but empty and of course the clocks ticks really loud and the second hand shakes like it's having a seizure but it's better than school and those fucking hard seats making my back ache but at least it's quieter in the bathroom no one cleans and the bowls in the stalls stink with pieces of moldy cardboard kicked to the corners I hate going in that sewage but no one usually goes back there and I can pull on my hair with the greasy streaks sticking for the never hot water and I can sneak a joint and pick my ass until I can clean the mouse traps because nobody else wants to and all the little droppings sprinkle like those black things you put on cakes and could put on cakes if anyone would know the difference.
Paulie coughed. The muted sound slap-back echoed.
I don't mind changing the bait even with the dropping because I think about the mice nibbling itty bitty nibbling they must love those poison blocks if only I could see their stomachs burst or their brains twist spit blood but I can only clear the boxes back to the corner where the smell is strong and I find whole piles of them hair falling and mixing and dried curled toes without eyes and I take my time bending down and brushing them into the dust pan so I can bring it up close to my face where no one can see my face unless someone is looking for me and hurry away hiding my pants when I walk it hurts because it's so hard but the bathroom smells like bleach white hot bleach and the bowls stink in the stalls and it's gone again even if I take the dust pan with me and it's no use I just flush and change the bait and wait.
The hickory shadow flowed down to the fourth stair like molasses.
Before he pulled away and climbed up to the ground, he leaned forward and breathed.
It wasn’t raw like the smells in the warehouse where he worked crappy hours. Mostly, it was mildew and age. Underneath, though, he caught a scent.
Clutching and pounding and fire tearing with his aching teeth.
The sweet ghost of decay.
On to Part 4.
Back to Part 2.