Are You Happy

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Are You Happy?

Stephen Thomas, the Everyman of every conversation, finally snaps and decides to listen to his inner demons: both of them and the three embark on a journey that spans for miles...or as far as the front door of his apartment...or perhaps only in his head.
Either way, the question remains: Are You Happy?

Chapter titles

Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth
Who Say
Women
The Rise and Fall
Chain Reaction
Skin Turns Blue
Where the Monkey Meets the Man

Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth

"I did it. It's done," I proclaimed as I clicked the screen off on my phone.
"Did what?"
"I sent her flowers."
"You did what?"
"I sent her flowers."

We stood on the street corner. Skully threw a cigarette on the ground and dropped several others as he stared at me with his bare eye-sockets.

"You sent flowers to someone you haven't seen in thirteen years?"
"Felt good too."
"How much was it?"
"Worth every penny."
"That's not the answer I wanted to hear."
"But it is an answer."

Skully lit up another cigarette and the smoke billowed out the hole where his nose would be and gathered under his cloak.
"You're an idiot."
"But they were on sale and with free delivery!"
"You're a big idiot."
"Who's an idiot?" Aylese asked as she turned the corner and stood next to me.
"He is!" Skully snorted, if a spectral skeleton could do so.
"What did you do now?" Aylese put her hands on her hips and took two small steps back as a car drove by.
"He sent her flowers."
"Her again?"
"Yep."
"I thought we were over this."
"It appears we're not."
"Well, crap."
"Why don't you sprinkle some more fairy magic on him. You know, that worked so well the last time."
"I don't need any magic. I'm good," I replied as I took my phone out again as it buzzed. "The email confirmation came through!"
"Ooh what kind of flowers did you send?" Aylse looked over my shoulder and at the phone.
"Orchids."
"Blood orchids?"
"No, purple ones."
"Terrible color."
"I would have sent poison ivy," Skully commented as he wrapped two bony fingers on the lamppost.
"Why? She didn't' do anything to us."
"Let's see...umm...she said Stephen was a wuss who would never amount to anything."
"But...but we got to know her," Aylese retorted As she stepped up to Skully.
"She stole fifty dollars."
"She bought a present."
"Yeah, for Scott."
"Scott was our friend."
"Scott was a jerk."
"You're the jerk."
"No, I'm death incarnate--"
"Don't go there! Wrong context and not a part of this discussion."
"Hey, Stephen? How do you know she still lives there?"

I looked back to them, they ones who looked after me when I was younger. The ones who were there in my darkest times...usually they caused them though.

"She lives across the street. Right there."
"That's an abandoned building."
"She lives there."
"It's partially burned down."
"I'll watch her face when she gets the package."

Aylese stepped up beside me and took her "wand" out. And by wand, I mean a short sword that just appears at her command. She tapped it on the ground and then pointed it at the building across the street.

The building glowed in a bright orange and white light, as if the fires of Hell came up to consume it. Not a fire truck was around; but there sirens could be heard in the distance. I stood inside a phone booth on the corner--one without a phone (it had been stolen a few month prior).

No one had survived the fire.
Not even Amber.

II. Who Say

I don't remember it all; they're just fuzzy memories.
I recall she had huge hair--it was black and looked like a beehive and that she smelled like cigarettes. And I mean the smelly kind, not the kind in those stores at the mall that make you want to walk in and buy five kilos of "Cherrywood Afternoon Delight" pipe tobacco just because the aroma invades your nostrils.,

No, this was the stinky kind that hung all over her clothes as she would lift me over the metal an wood child gate and into a sub-basement floor that was wall to wall shag carpet, dark ceiling and black recesses in the corners that were lit up only by the dim light of a television set playing Sesame Street.

I wanted to go and visit with Oscar, Big Bird and Mr. Snuffaluffagus but the shadows fell over the floor...so I watched it from the distance of twenty feet--which is like watching it from across the Grand Canyon to a four year-old. The TV was old so at times the picture would fade--it was also in black and white--apparently, this person was watching me as a favor to my parents...either that, or this was a 'Rugrats' version of a sensory-deprivation chamber.

"I can't see the TV!"
I was startled at the voice, as it seemed to come all over the room--but most form behind me.
"I said I can't see! They're about to show 'Geometry of Circles!"
I turned around, expecting to see, maybe, another child like myself' but no one was there.
The TV then flashed off with a spark and I was in the darkness with a serial killer in underoos.

I do recall that I kind of wish I still had diapers on at that point.
It was complete blackness-well, except for the faint, psychedelic pulsing of the picture tube dying out.
"Crap!" The voice in the darkness said. "We'll never see the conclusion."
"It may come on again."
"Not before they feature some annoying red puppet that insults our intelligence it won't."
"You take that back!"
"And he will be everywhere!"
"Who are you?"
"I am death incarnate."
"What do you look like?"
"We're in the dark.""
I could barely make our his form in the grey fuzz--in the afterglow of the TV filter where your brain starts to say things like "Hey, let's imagine the scariest, Hell-spawned creature that our post-toddler minds can think of! And say, guess what, it's right in front of us!! You're so welcome!!!"
The lights then came on as the lady with the black hair and the cigarette with the mile-long cherry stood at the top of the stairs.
"Did the power go out again to the TV?"
I turned from her to see a small skull, wrapped under an over-sized cloak staring at me. He raised a bony hand and put a candy cigarette in his mouth.
I looked back to the lady.
"Looks like you better use your imagination."
"Okay," I replied as the skeleton took my hand and shook it, " I will."

From that day on, I always had a dark, gloomy shadow following me...along with a grim reaper-ish looking kid in a long cloak. It was Skully's unique way of looking at things that allowed me to survive a fight with some kid who was several feet taller and older than I was.
That same kid may have some issues with his sex life nowadays...but I digress, he had it coming to him.

"How much money have you spent today?" Skully asked as he stood next to the arcade game I was playing.
I had been at the "Wonder Hut"--a small youth center on KI Sawyer AFB, Michigan--with three dollars in quarters in one pocket, four Reese's Peanut Butter little cups in the other and a sweet and sour sucker in my mouth.
I just shrugged at him as I pumped another quarter into the machine. There were days that I used to go out on my bicycle on the residential streets and run through the trails and hidden passages through the foliage between the neighborhoods. It was like a hidden kid's path--where no one over the age of twelve would roam; or maybe it was vanish from their minds when they hit the teen years--a fleeting memory or a dreamworld.
Except for one group of teens--who seemed to want to become a variation of the Lost Boys Their unofficial Caption Hook was named, interesting enough, Pete.

Pete didn't like me.
Not sure why.
It may have been the day I had walked down the path and saw something going on up in an old tree fort: Pete and his compatriots were drinking beer. Please remember, they were thirteen at the time and I was eight. I had no idea what beer tasted like but I knew the shape of the bottles, seeing that they were on TV sometimes.

Pete saw me looking at me and yelled something that even to this day I don't understand and would be afraid to pull up on Google.

Anyway, for some reason Pete assumed I must have ratted him out to his parents even though I had absolutely no idea where he lived so.

Also, if you recall the past reference that I "used" to go out on my bike because after that day the pirates of freaking Never-again and I mean never again let me ride around without trying to down me like a medieval joust match.

III. The Rise and Fall

"Okay. Explain it to me. One. More. Time."
"Nope."
"And why?"
"Because I've explained it eight times now, bonehead. And that's just in the past two hours."

Aylese and Skully stood talking in the corner of my room as I stepped out of the shower. I had decided it was time to go out to a local pub, you know, go out and see people and maybe talk to a few too.

Maybe.

"You should wear the striped shirt." Skully noted as he lit a new cigarette.
"No. It has to be the solid green one with the blue jeans and Clark's shoes. You're going out to be seen by people."
Aylese walked into the closet and threw my green polo at my face.
I dropped my towel in the process.
"The stripes stand out. He will be seen," Skully replied.
"Seen like a rodeo clown. Why in the Hell do you still have these?"
"I only have, like, four shirts." I said as I picked my towel up and dried my hair.
Aylse stepped out of the next to empty closet...most of my clothes were on a trunk at the foot of the bed, separated into two stacks: ones I could wear one more time before having to wash; the other being ones that could one day gain sentience and walk themselves to the laundry room on the first floor.
"Which is twice more the underwear you have."
"They're comfy," I replied.
"Let me make a suggestion: Never volunteer that information to anyone."
"You could go commando," Skully suggested as he blew smoke rings.
Aylese drew her dagger and...was. This. Close. To throwing it at him.
She sheathed it as she muttered "It's not worth eternal suffering. It's not worth eternal suffering."
I got dressed as Aylese suggested. She was the only woman in the room...the only woman in my life for the past few years but she was determined to change that.
"Remember to buy her a drink." Aylese said as we walked up to the "Otter and the Pooch"--a quasi-Irish pub with a name that was a quasi-copyright infringement waiting to happen.
"I have to meet her first."
"What if he wants to buy a guy a drink?" Skully asked as we reached the front door. We could hear the muffled beats of an unknown song reverb through the glass.
"Do I want to buy a guy a drink?" I asked as a couple of woman walked out, belting the music out onto the sidewalk.
It was Coldplay.
Karaoke style.
"At this point in your life...does it really matter?" Aylese asked. "Oooh...They have karaoke!"
"We need to request "YMCA."
"No. No. You just keep your cigarette smoking, scythe holding, tattered grey rags in the damn corner and let me handle this!"
"Charcoal...This robe is charcoal!"

IV Where the Monkey Meets the Man

I thought I was Dr. Phillips' best patient. My psychologist bingo card was full--even if you were to not count the free space. I was sure that he was able to just blow off the rest of this schedule and have his entire practice revolve around me.

He was very interested in Aylese and Skully and would ask me questions, like:

"Are they here?"
"They're always around...except--"
"Except?"
"Sometimes they go off and do their own thing. Skully smokes outside and Aylese loves to look at the fairy rings and the flowers."
"So, are they here now?"
"When are we going to change doctors?" Skully asked.
Aylese shrugged.
"I mean he asks the same questions over and over. Have him ask five questions, record them and we can just send two thousand dollars to his bank without having to waste our time!"
Aylese nodded as Dr. Phillips looked to the corner.
Skully flipped him off.
"Yes," I replied. "They're commenting on how helpful you've been."
Skully snorted.
"I hate to agree with him," Aylese stated. "I really do. But with this quack, I agree with you."
"Thank you."
"Damn world must be coming to an end."
Dr. Phillips looked back at me. "I think we need to increase your dosage level.
"Just prescribe a joint, eh?" Skully said as he flipped the doctor off again.
"How about a pinch of meth?" Aylese mocked.
"Meth knocks you out and he still needs to work."
"You don't say?"
"They really appreciate the help." I commented to Dr. Phillips.



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