Thomm Quackenbush, author

Suspension

I struggle to small anything beneath the reek of marijuana and the sweat of writhing teenagers. Phosphorescent murals of Dante's inferno adorn the walls of the vacant factory where the rave takes place. Above me, a devil the blue of a lighter's flame attempts rape on a comely, earth tone angel.

I preside from a ratty velveteen couch, suspended from the staircase above. I ease more deeply into my perch, enjoying the bald depravity of a couple. The latex of their shirts sticks and pulls as they increase their friction, as though to simulate intimacy. Though I lean forward so as to not miss a single moment of frottage, they exist only for one another and the Ecstasy coursing through their blood.

As their embrace threatens to transcend the startling edge where experimentation turns to molestation, a fair-haired woman propels them apart. She moves as though dancing through water. I nod, which she takes as invitation.

A stumbling drunk interferes with her glide to my sofa, causing her to tumble onto the cushions with an utter want of grace, nearly spilling the drink she holds. My throne sways for her, almost meeting the beat of the music.

"I am terrible sorry, I didn't mean to fall," she gasps into my ear. The scent of her, exquisite and subtle, wafts and I ache to know her better, perhaps Biblically.

"There is no need for apology. If your falling for me is the worst thing that happens tonight, I'll consider myself lucky. What are you doing here?" I pat the cushion beside me. Dusts wells up in swirling motes, like florid smoke in the light show around us.

She casts a look at the revelers, one laced with sweetness and pity, tugging at the white sleeve of her lace shirt thoughtlessly. "What are any of us doing here tonight?"

"Rising and falling." She nods slowly, wetting her top lip. "You avoided my question."

Her eyes dart through the crowd. The sour expression etching the corner of her eyes marks that she does not approve of their excess, but there is not an ounce of fear in her. In this decaying world, these moments with her help keep me sane.

Her attention drifts back to me, though I avoid eye contact. Not just yet. The apple must ripen enough to be delicious.

"What am I doing here?" she asks. "Mingling... Partying."

I laugh. Her face betrays no hurt at my outburst, and I explain. "Somehow, I doubt you are the partying type. At least, not this type of party."

She grins like a sleeping baby. "Pardon my saying, but you don't seem to belong here either. That's what drew me to you. You seem... troubled."

Could she know more than I gave her credit? But no, never were we so clever or cruel. That was our virtue and our fault. I close my eyes against the lights, though it is impossible to evade them even were I blind. While not decked out in vinyl like so many, I had practiced due diligence in camouflaging myself for this evening, arrayed as a lost soul in need of release. Are people ever anything else?

Gingerly, I place my hand on her shoulder, more to steady my thoughts than to tests how much contact I would be allowed. "This is one of the few places I imagine I do belong. It reminds me of home." Nothing in this was false. I am not a liar, that being my virtue and fault. I may conceal, but never could I bring myself to lie, no matter what was demanded of me...

Read the rest in Find What You Love and Let It Kill You


Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings.


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