James was never the one really to believe in these kinds of things. He was always the kind of man that just liked to play football, or hang around with his friends after school, messing up the already broken furniture in the abandoned houses around town, things of that sort. They'd normally start small fires and camp inside for what seemed like hours until they had their mothers calling them hundreds of times, yelling at us over the phone to go back home. Of course, getting in trouble was worth it after all. These were the type of shenanigans that excited him. It was always worth it. But on that very night, everything that he was about to discover would lead him down a path that James wish he had avoided at all cost.
It was around the end of summer when James was invited over to a party that a buddy of his, who went by the name of Fisher Smith, was having for the beginning of the school year. It was a tradition that his family had done with all of Fisher's siblings before they graduated college, and now it was Fisher's turn. Fisher's parents would go on their usual "End of Summer Vacation Extravaganza" and leave their son unattended at home for an unsupervised get-together. Though they were the thrill seekers at times, their get-togethers normally involved a lot of video games, chatting around Fisher's back yard, and drinking. Their plan tonight was to spend time around the fire and talk over a couple of beers. They planned to have a small barbecue and just enjoy ourselves. The guys didn't want anything too intense towards the end of the summer. It was more of a wind-down time for them before the "drastic ritualistic lectures of their senior year were to start".
James had driven out to Fisher's home in Evangelin Heights that night. It was one of those fancy parts of town that you normally wouldn't go to unless you had some sort of business to attend to. James went alone, and hoped to meet everyone else there. It must've been around seven o' clock P.M. when he arrived to Fisher's home and the place looked deserted, all for Fisher's mother's red Pontiac in the driveway.
James had shot Fisher text message to let him know that he was here. Minutes went by and no answer from Fisher. He didn't respond after his usual five, nor did he respond after ten. James began to get puzzled over this and decided to go knock on the door. Maybe Fisher was in the shower or attending the fire in the backyard as the tower of smoke rose over the back of Fisher's modern home. James took a deep breath and inhaled the sweet, smoky flavor of charring mesquite. Tonight was going to be a good night, James knew this for sure.
James undid his seat belt as he turned to find a large ragged torn up face. The eyes popped out of its skull like clay popped out from in between your fingers as your squeezed it in your fist. Its teeth grinned at him in a sharp vicious manner. James swore he felt his hairs stand on end when he saw that horrid thing. That was until he realized that it was just a mask. James…was staring at a rubber mask. James was startled almost bewildered by its realism. The top of his head had begun to throb. Come to find out later, thanks to the witty remarks of Fisher, James found that he had jumped and hit his head on the roof.
James signed in relief as he realized that Fisher was the one behind the mask. It was gruesome, to say the least, but thank God that it's fake, James thought to himself.
His fear was accompanied by the laughter of none other than Fisher Smith. You could hear the barking laughter through the glass of the window. That dude has the loudest laugh I've ever heard. "Jesus Christ, man, you nearly gave me a heart attack!" James shouted at Fisher as he stepped out of the car.
"I'm sorry, James, but you should've seen the look on your face. It was priceless!" Fisher pulled off the rubber mask as tossed it to James before saying. "Don't be such a sour-patch kiddie; you'll ruin the party."
James caught the mask out of the air and examined it. It's rubber, but it feels real… a little too real. James thought to himself. It was a rather convincing piece, James had to admit, but if there's one thing that he would never get over was those pitch black, deep eyes. They were so life like. The eyes were like an abyss that spiraled into infinity, like a black hole. "Yeah, yeah, I'll keep my cool next time," James promised sarcastically.
Fisher shook James' hand before they started walking up to his squared, modern home. It looked like a piece of modern art, if James was being completely honest, though he wasn't sure if that would be a good thing or not. Fisher knew that, too. Fisher was the kind of guy who would comb his light brown hair back and poke fun at his parent's riches.
"A fine piece of art, if I do say so myself, chaps," Fisher would go about in his best British Explorer impersonation. "I will now dub this fine establishment of an art statement, Mystery!" This joke would send them flying into a rage of laughter and tears.
It was amusing to say the least, because James knew that Fisher was poking fun at modern artists, and modern art collectors, by their overly-vague and lame concept of composition. James assumed that it had something to do with "contrarianism", a concept that he had learned during his time with the self-proclaimed philosopher of a teacher, Mr. Buttons, at Bleak Park High.
Why would you splash paint on the wall, and make up some deep "back story", claim that it represented the deep internal structures of the human mind, then assume the random splashes of color represented the catharsis of human emotion, James questioned as the stocky, balding art-appreciation teacher would go on as he quoted to the class his 100 page thesis, lamely titled: "Louez L'artiste (James would pronounce those words in the most nosily French accent he could make while clasping his nose): The Modern Interpretations of Classical Art and Literature". (James would pronounces these last words as some fancy higher class jack-off).
"There is revolutionary work in this!" Mr. Button would exclaimed, ecstatically, holding up the unpublished manuscript in his hand, as a preacher holds a bible.
If James were being completely honest, the assignments that Mr. Button would hand-out during class, filled with all of the works of artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, and Joan Miro, always looked like splatters of paint on walls. He could honestly say that these modern "abstract" artists were full of shit. And don't even get me started on "Black Square" by Kazimir Malevich. It's just a fucking square! James sneered to himself.
Fisher and James had walked through the large doors and through the hallway before entering the backyard. "Well, where is she?" Fisher asked.
"Who," James questioned, almost taken aback by the question.
"Your lady, bro," Fisher placed his hand's on James' shoulder, shaking him a bit. "Don't you tell me that you've already got yourself another replacement?" Fisher grinned devilishly.
"Oh, Amanda," The realization hit James almost like a car. Amanda was James' girlfriend since high school. They've been through everything together. When the world got tough on James, Amanda was there for me through it all, making sure that he had the support he needed. She was a sweetheart, to say the least, quite the looker too, as James had bragged about to his classmates on the Monday's Anatomy 101, for non-science majors, class.
"Yeah, bro, was she down to come and hang with us?"
"Well, yeah, man. She said she was getting ready, and then she was going to pick up one of her friends or something." James responded, remembering Amanda's long silky black hair, and her dark, black eyes, so black they were almost purple, like a deep, red wine.
"Oh, nice," Fisher said picking up a couple of beers from the cooler. "Who's she bringing along?" Fisher handed James a cold beer from the ice-chest. Blue Silk this time, James noticed.
James couldn't be sure if he was being honest, but recently, Amanda had been hanging out with one of her school friends, Carry. Amanda had said that Carry was very distant girl for the most part. Something about the man she fell in love with went on some sort of horrific killing spree after the murder of his mother. James didn't blame the guy, and he didn't really blame Carry for being distant either. Leave it to my Amanda going about helping her, trying to make her feel welcome and loved, James made a mental note. He smiled at the thought. It was small smile of appreciation for Amanda.
James took a sip from his beer. "Not sure, bro'. Probably her new friend Carry. She's been down in the gutter for a while, and my best guess is that Amanda will probably bring her around." James sipped again.
"Oh, nice." That was the last Fisher said to me before his attention was drawn to the edge of the patio where William, and his girlfriend, Maria, were calling out to us.
"Hey, James, how ya doing!" Antonio Guzman called out.
"Hey, James," Maria called out too, taking a long sip of her beer after raising it over her head. Antonio held her tightly and went in for a full kiss. Figures; those two were inseparable.
James was watching Fisher greet William Peterson when suddenly his vision began to turn a deep black with stripes of light. That was when he realized that they were hands around my eyes. "Guess who?" a soft, smooth voice spoke.
"Uh…Oprah," James replied.
"No, it's me, you idiot," the voice laughed. James turned to find the voice's owner. It was none other than his Amanda. Her eyes met James, they were almost electrical.
"Oh, hey, you," James held her and went in for a big kiss. Their lips met, their stomachs immediately filled with the clenches of young love, almost as if someone had lit fireworks deep within my belly. "Yup, still fire," James joked.
"You sure you were thinking about me, and not Oprah," Amanda japed at him, holding on closely.
"Of course, of course," James responded. "Who could replace you?" That was when he noticed a small petite girl with long red straight hair behind her. She was a curious little thing, pale, really, like a ghost, her skin almost a thin silver. The bags under her eyes looked as if she hadn't been slept well in ages. "Oh, you must be Carry. Amanda's told me so much about you." James reached out and shook her hand.
"Pleasure," she responded softly, like a mouse. Hmmm, James thought. I hoped she'd be a little more cheerful, but oh well, this smile of mine can't win them over all the time.
"So where you from Carry?" James asked her.
She gripped her beer in her both hands, as if to keep it from fall out of her small frail hands. "Angel City."
"Wow! City girl, huh? How's Bleak Park treating you?"
"Well," she responded, almost empty. Her eyes looked right, left, and then down, and stayed down. A veil of shame drew itself over her face, Carry's eyes covered by the bangs of her auburn, red hair.
She is grieving, he realized. Not wanting to make her feel any more uncomfortable than she already did, James quickly changed the subject. "Well, if there's anything Amanda and I can do to help, feel free to let us know," he smiled warmly at her. Carry let a small, timid smile show before she walked off to sit herself by the park table.
Such an old thing, that park table was. Fisher and James had help Fisher's father one summer to build it. The whole process took us about a week, from designing to constructing "the damn miserable thing", as Fisher's father had said so famously.
"By the time we finish this, you'll be old men and I'd be dust in the wind," Carl began, as bent over in front of table to mark some sections to be cut on the long planks of wood. He was a big man with a thick beard with a jolly complexion to him and was always in reach of a bag of sunflower seeds. He had a thick black beard and striking blue eyes. If there was one thing that Carl Smith took fancy to, it was making random obscene references to songs and old pop culture that James and Fisher never seemed to understand.
"Dust in the wind," James asked as he finished sanding the table, the an orbital sander screeching to a halt.
"Yeah, and because of that, I closed my eyes only for a moment, and now the moment's gone," Carl Smith went on. It made no sense to James, and as he caught Fisher rolling his eyes, it was obviously Fisher wanted to bash his head in at the lame Kansas reference his father made.
Amanda sat herself on the opposite side of Carry. James walked up next to Fisher and waited for the rest of the people to start their routines. Fisher would start up the barbecue pit soon enough, with some of that famous mesquite tree from deep south Texas. "Forty bucks a pound, but worth every penny," Fisher would boast, as the flames would come up from the small cup of burning lighter fluid at the bottom of logs. William would take the liberty to start setting up a small bonfire in the hole that was dug towards the end of the property.
Tonight wouldn't be any different from any of their other, but there was a strange sensation about tonight. There was a strange sense of forbidding if James were to sit down and think about it. The small, winding wind whisped through the air, as the dead, auburn leaves of the premature autumn danced gracefully through along the floor. The sky above was a dull, gray as the pinks, reds, and oranges were sucked out by the rotation of the Earth. The clouds hung over, lingering, stalking Fisher and James as they made their way around the party area, then back to the barbecue pit. The modern homes that surrounded Fisher's own, were dark and empty, as if no one had been in there for years. James knew that that wasn't true, but as he arrived at the barbecue pit and glanced up into the dark, voids of windows, James couldn't help, but feel eyes peering down at him…those dark eyes…