Another piece for class. This was due at 11:30 am this morning. I started it at about 5:00 pm last night, with a break for Heroes, and finished it at about 3:30 am this same morning. Ultimate procrastinatory win. Inspired by the absolutely off-base, irrational fear I have of coming back to my dorm to find my roommate in the bathroom dead via suicide.
This is like Sincerely, Yours Truly in that there's about five things going on in here that I'm not outright mentioning. Yeah, like that. Again, slash if you want it, not if you don't.
Title: Exquisite Corpses
Author: Alyn Drasil
Disclaimer: Yeah, mine.
Warnings: suicide...but not really
Lorelei kisses him goodbye at the door before roaring away in her station wagon, and Julian enters his apartment with a smile. He tosses the keys on the counter, his jacket on the chair, his backpack on the couch. He goes into the bathroom.
The body is on the floor. The head is half hidden behind the toilet. The legs stretch out towards him at angles. A red-black pool congeals beneath it, still and glassy. The red is coming from dark, angry slits on the pale arms of the body.
Julian leaps back, flailing, his hand striking the chin-up bar fixed across the doorway. His sneaker slips on a spattered red drop and he careens backwards, his fingers snagging the bar. He catches himself and dangles, his shoulder abruptly aching. He garbles out a whispered curse, still staring at the body.
When it starts moving, he can't speak at all.
The body stirs first, twitches, then rolls over. It sits up, half the face a bright, clown-red. And grins.
"Morrigan?" Julian gapes, still dangling from the chin up bar.
"Yo, roomie," the disheveled thing says. It climbs to its feet, dripping red. "Don't break my bar."
Julian lets go and drops to the floor, using the door frame to push himself back to his feet. Morrigan winks at him, and swipes blood from his face. It speckles across the white porcelain of the bathtub. Then he turns on the sink faucet and drops the plug into the drain. The water that pours out hisses white clouds that fog and streak the mirror.
Julian stares. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Me?" Morrigan looks up at Julian through the cloudy mirror's reflection. "Cleaning up."
"So, what? You're done now? Were you just waiting there, on the floor, for me to come back and find you?"
Morrigan plunges his curled fists into the steaming sink. Red veins twist off his arms, curling and dissolving in the water.
"Sure," he says. "What good is a death without someone there to see it?"
"You," Julian says, "are the worst roommate I've ever had."
He comes back early from class on Thursday in time to see Morrigan kick the chair out from under his own legs and twist, dangling from the neck, from a rope tied to the chin-up bar lodged in bathroom doorway.
"You're not scaring me this time," he informs the swinging body.
Morrigan cracks open one eye.
"That's not the idea," he says.
"So what is?"
Morrigan shimmies his shoulders, and the noose lolls him around in a slow circle. "Help me down."
"This is ridiculous," Julian says, and gets a knife from the kitchen. He hacks at the rope while Morrigan dangles, grinning, his face red and swelling. The rope splits at last and Morrigan falls, tangling with the chair.
Julian sticks the knife through his belt loop because he can't think of somewhere else to put it. He holds down his hand and pulls Morrigan to his feet. The rope still dangles around his neck, like an obscene tie.
"So," Julian says. "Are you going to tell me what this is?"
Morrigan grins. "I'm preparing."
"Preparing. For death?"
"One never knows when the real thing might hit." Morrigan waggles his finger in a motherly fashion. "Always say please and thank you. Always look both ways. Always prepare for death."
"Funny, I never learned that last one," Julian says.
"You have now," Morrigan says.
Julian shakes his head. Morrigan points at his waistband. "Diggin' the Dundee look," he says, as he disappears into his bedroom. Julian yanks the knife out of his jeans and slices half his belt loop off.
On Tuesday, it's cyanide. Morrigan is on his face on the kitchen floor with the empty bottle lolling around near his fingers. Julian rolls him over with his foot and watches him gargle and foam and turn a spectrum of colors. Then he goes into the living room, sits on the couch and turns on the Food Network.
Morrigan comes out of the kitchen within a minute. He sits on the other end of the couch and throws his foot on the cinderblock end table. He still has froth on his chin. Julian makes a face at him until Morrigan scrubs it away with his sleeve.
"Do you ever have class," Julian asks, "or do you spend all day thinking up new ways to die?"
"I've got a list," Morrigan grins. "Want to see?"
"I'm going out," Julian says instead, and gets up to call Lorelei.
Friday Morrigan isn't there. Julian skulks around the apartment checking every room and small space that Morrigan could have crawled into and died. But the apartment is empty save him.
He dawdles on his homework all day and keeps an eye on the phone. He pounces on it the one time it rings, but it's only a telemarketer, and he already doesn't read the newspaper that gets delivered.
At nearly four he realizes he never checked the yard. He slides the glass door open and steps out onto the concrete patio. The chill hits him from his bare feet up.
The plastic kiddie pool left over from the last renters is set up and filled on the small patch of wilted lawn. Morrigan is sprawled into it, face-down. Water laps over the top of his dark head.
Julian pushes him out of it, sloshing icy water over the legs of his jeans. Morrigan flops onto the muddy grass. Water dribbles out of his mouth.
"Have you been here all day? The neighbors will see," Julian said, toeing him in the ribs. "Want me to go to jail for killing you?"
Morrigan laughs and water comes out instead of sounds. "No," he says. "Who would help pay rent?"
"Kevorkian," Julian says, and Morrigan laughs so hard Julian wonders if he might actually suffocate. He rolls around in the mud until flopping up to his knees. He dips his hand in the half-empty pool and throws it on his face. Mud runs down his neck.
"Only you could drown yourself in a kiddie pool," Julian says. "Don't you treasure your childhood sanctities?"
"I got cholera from a kiddie pool once," Morrigan says. The lawn squelches around his knees.
Julian scoffs. "You didn't."
"Totally did. And then, all my oxen died and I couldn't ford the river."
Inside the apartment, the phone rings. Julian runs for it. He leaves Morrigan in the mud.
Morrigan doesn't die every day. Julian will return to the apartment and find him doing chin-ups on the bar, hockey or soccer or a monster truck rally on the television behind him. Or he'll find him limp across the couch with a plastic bag over his head, sucked halfway down his throat.
He believes Morrigan does have a list. It's never the same twice. Morrigan complained for days after he went into the bath with the toaster, at the way his hair stood on end and wouldn't lie flat. Julian laughed at him and hid his comb. The next day Morrigan poisoned himself via carbon monoxide inhalation, in Julian's car. Julian gave the comb back.
One week, Morrigan doesn't die at all. Until on Sunday his eyes roll up and he falls off a kitchen chair and goes still, and Julian realizes he hadn't been drinking water the whole week. He pours a bottle of Arrowhead on Morrigan and goes to call Lorelei.
He's browsing a magazine on the couch by the time Morrigan staggers out of the kitchen, wringing out his shirt.
"Know anyone with a katana?" Morrigan asks, leaning over the back of the couch.
"I'm not going to be your second for seppuku," Julian says, flipping the pages of GQ aimlessly.
Morrigan grins. "Fine, fine," he says. "Enjoy your date."
The restaurant is dimly lit, and the white-clad waiters swim their way through the haze and murmuring din of the other diners. Julian pushes his chicken around on his plate and imagines one of them tripping, steak knives flying, fatal accidents. Unknown chronic allergies setting in. Choking. Heart attacks.
He jerks his gaze back to Lorelei, shimmering in a silvery shirt across the table. "What, what?"
"You were telling me about your roommate. You said 'he has a-', and then you stopped."
"Oh." Julian squints down at his plate. The light is so low it could be anything, really. "He has a condition."
"Really? What is it?"
"Chronic suicide," Julian grimaces and throws back the last of his drink. "I think it's genetic."
"Not catching?" She slides her fingers along the top of his hand. He turns his palm over into hers.
Lorelei smiles through the candlelight at him. "Sounds all right, then."
He gets back late that night. Morrigan is on the couch. His mouth is open and his shoes are off. One of his socks has a hole in the toe. Julian takes a minute to make sure he's sleeping, not dying, then locks himself in his own bedroom.
Morrigan collapses from heat stroke the next day on the front walk. Julian rolls him back into the apartment and leaves him slumped against the air conditioner. He heats leftovers and does homework at the kitchen table until Morrigan opens his eyes and climbs to his feet.
"What do I tell people," Julian asks, "when someone besides me finds you dead?"
"If you're vague enough, you can cover every situation," Morrigan replies.
"Excellent example right there," Julian says, and stabs his rewarmed chicken through with a fork.
"Anyway," Morrigan says. "No one else is ever around at the time."
"Don't kill yourself," he informs Morrigan one night sometime later before leaving to pick up Lorelei. "If I come back and you're dead again, I won't care. I'm tired of it."
"No choice," Morrigan says. "You can't avoid death."
"I can if I change the locks to his apartment," Julian says, and stalks out the front door without his jacket.
When he remembers and comes back, five minutes later, Morrigan is gone.
He doesn't change the locks. But Morrigan doesn't come back.
Julian walks the pedestrian path on the bridge over the bay. Joggers and tourists and families with strollers bustle past him, even under the warning of the thick grey sky above.
He stops in the center of the bridge and leans his back against the rail. He's between the two suspension towers, their tops poking into the fog. Light mist settles on his face. A stroller runs over his toes.
He imagines falling to the water from one of the towers, even from the guard rails. The bay water below is grey and choppy, white froth cresting before the wind. He puts his hands on the rail, gauges the height, the difficulty in climbing up. How long it would take, and who might stop him.
Julian starts walking again. The fog rolls in thicker; he almost can't see the rushing cars to his left. And he almost doesn't see Morrigan, when he reaches him.
Morrigan is perched on the vermilion orange rail, his back to the road and the cars and Julian. His legs dangle off, over the water, into the fog. Julian stops, back several yards from him. He glances around and sees that none of the other bridge walkers are watching. No one even looks in their direction.
"Taking this public now?" he shouts. Morrigan glances back at him.
"You're the one yelling," he says.
"I meant, this." He gestures. "Planning to jump?"
Morrigan smiles. "Not today. I like the view from up here."
Julian leans against the rail and stares into the fog. The water is shielded entirely now, by textureless grey.
"Where've you been?" he asks.
"Around. How've you been?"
"Fine." Julian stares down over the bridge, and amends. "Confused."
"I was trying to tell Lorelei about you," he says. "Then I realized I couldn't, because I don't know anything about you."
"Sure you do," Morrigan says.
"I don't even know your first name," Julian says. Morrigan just smiles, and turns back to the bay.
He doesn't see Morrigan again for nearly a week.
Julian is late, lacking sleep, jaywalking, and dodging an oncoming cable car when it happens.
There is no squeal of breaks, no warning. The station wagon hits him mid thigh and bucks him up over the hood. The slope of the hill and consequently the wagon tilts him back and he bumps over the windshield, tumbles over the hood, cartwheels off the trunk and crashes to the pavement. Blackness reigns his vision for seconds, minutes, indeterminate time.
When he opens his eyes, he's flat on his back. The pavement is warm through his shirt. Morrigan is standing over him, grinning. There's a kitchen knife stuck through one of his belt loops.
"I hadn't considered that one." He extends his hand. Julian takes it, and is hauled to his feet. He dusts his hands off on his jeans, which are torn and embedded with road grit and his own blood.
"What?" he says, dazed.
"The car," Morrigan says. "It was nicely done."
Julian winces against the bright sun, shades his eyes, and peers around. There's no one on the street.
"It wasn't on purpose," he says.
"I know," Morrigan says. "Just preparation."
"So," Julian says. The knife in Morrigan's belt is too long to be a knife, now that he's looking. It also has a sheath. And a hilt. "So. That's it?"
Morrigan nods. "That's it. Easy, right?"
"Not too bad." Julian rolls his neck around. He's not even sore.
"So, want to talk to anyone? Lorelei?"
Julian looks around the empty street again. The sword on Morrigan's belt glimmers. He reaches up, feels the flap of his own belt loop where he cut it, weeks and weeks ago.
"No," he says. "No. Let's just go home."
Yes. I know what I was saying here, but I have the feeling that no one else will. That's okay. I just like a character named Morrigan. In fact I like him a lot.
If anyone knows what an exquisite corpse is without looking it up, they get…a lot of respect.
I'm also really tired of getting the "YOU have not read the GUIDELINES!" page every damn time I want to submit something here. Yes, I have read them. See my ten other stories here? I have read them.