Author: Brian Byrdsong

I'm a writer living in Denver, CO. I'm a bilingual Spanish/English speaker and a Communications major who graduated from the University of Northern Colorado

Glow

          A soft, bright blue glow hung silently in the window of Johni’s bedroom. Like clockwork for the past several weeks, the light had awakened him from his sleep. It was a pleasant glow, but tonight, he began to realize that it was robbing him of some much-needed rest. Johni was unable to discern just what the glow was, but in his bones, he knew it belonged to something alive.

          Every night he would get out of bed and walk toward the window. As he got closer, the light backed away from the window. Tonight was no different. Johni rose from the bed, slipped his feet into his purple bunny slippers his daughter gave him for his birthday last year, and sleepily strolled over the window. As he expected, the light responded in kind and increased its distance. When he was closer enough to place his hand on the window, the glow disappeared, and once again, the room grew dark. Johni rubbed his eyes, yawned loudly, and made his way back to bed.

          The light of dawn shined through the window, and Johni rose again for the second time that day. He gathered his work belt and tools and headed for the construction site. He passed by a few of his co-workers, greeted them quickly, and went to check-in by the foreman’s desk.

          “Morning, Johni,” Khalil said.

          “Morning, foreman,” Johni responded in kind as he placed his finger on the print reader to clock in.

          “You’re early today. Everything all right?”

          “Yep, everything is A-ok,” Johni said. Wanting to avoid conversation with Khalil as much as possible.

          “Good! Because you look like shit. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were on that stuff!” Khalil said with a slight chuckle.

          “Very funny, KJ,” Johni responded.

          Johni left the trailer and headed to his workspace, and was promptly followed by Khalil, who, presumably had some sort of meeting in mind. They stopped underneath several steel beams that had been placed atop one another. The view from above would have made it look like an asterisk. The team below cared very little what it looked like; they only cared that it got done and got done quickly.

          “Alright, guys. We’ve got a few months left to install this “art installation,” Khalil said, making air quotes around the last bit of his sentence. “And my husband is expecting that I come home with a fat check to celebrate the completion of this work. So get it done as fast and as accurately as possible. Any and all questions or concerns with this project can be submitted to the newly cemented workplace suggestion box, that I will empty and discard every morning,” Khalil said with another laugh. “I’m just kidding, guys. But in all seriousness, you see any violations of code, anything that might put this team in danger, or something just not going to plan, let me know, and I’ll review it.” With that, Khalil left the group, and Johni and his co-workers Tommy, Sari, Atticus, and Shamari, got to work.

          They worked until a bit after dark when they finally decided that enough was enough. Weeks ago, Khalil had given the entire site free rein of overtime and urged them to work as much as they wanted. The project was something of a priority. It was apparently commissioned by some reclusive billionaire somewhere in the world; Khalil was a bit short on the details.

          Johni wished his co-workers well and headed back to his house just a few blocks away. He stepped through the threshold of the blue wooden door that stood out amongst the pale white paint of the rest of his house. He turned and locked the door, careful to pull and twist and ensure the lock held. He went upstairs, removed his clothing, and laid down in the bed. It was times like this that he missed his ex-wife and daughter. He would have loved to come home to a house full of love and laughter, but Cherie, his ex-wife, wouldn’t have it. He loved Cherie, but she was always convinced that he would cheat on her. Being bisexual, it seemed, was a no-go for her, even though she married him knowing that.          

          So, a thousand miles away, on the coast of Georgia, Cherie and their daughter Thomasina lived with little to no contact with him. Thoughts of them kept him up until the late hours. Midnight turned to 1 AM, then to 2AM. Suddenly, the familiar soft, blue glow appeared. He had spent many a night awake and worried, consumed with his thoughts of his former family, and never before had the blue glow made itself so plainly obvious.

          Johni rose from his bed. He made his way towards the window in his purple bunny slippers, shuffling his feet across the plush carpet. The light didn’t move this time. Instead, it held its ground. Johni inched closer. As he reached the window and placed a hand on the glass, the glow blinked out of existence.  Johni thought that strange, but he didn’t spend much time wondering about the strange light that night. Instead, he made his way back to bed for a peaceful, uninterrupted night of sleep.

          Dawn arrived, and once again, Johni completed his personal grooming, grabbed his tool belt, and began to make his way to the construction site. When he arrived downstairs, the front door to the house was wide open. Johni had been sure to lock the door, as he had done every night. Despite his meticulousness, the door had been flung to the absolute limits of its hinges, exposing Johni’s house to the neighborhood.

          Johni did a quick once-over of the house and didn’t see anything to be missing. He resigned himself to check again once he returned from work, but for now, Johni knew that he had to be at work. He closed the door, verified that it was locked, and left the vicinity of his house.  He raced down the block, dedicated to making it on time. He arrived with one minute to spare. Khalil said nothing as he entered the trailer. Johni, placed his finger on the scanner, confirming his identity.

          “Shamari hasn’t shown up yet, so, if he doesn’t eventually show, I’m just warning you that you, Atticus, Sari, and Tommy will definitely need to put in some overtime,” Khalil said. Johni could tell that Khalil was none too happy with Shamari’s absence. Shamari’s disdain showed, as he frowned his face and rubbed his thick, black beard while scrolling through his cellphone.

          Johni made his way to his team. Sari, Tommy, and Atticus were seemingly waiting for him to arrive before they began. They were huddled like a group of football players discussing their next play.

          “Morning, Johni,” Sari said. “We were worried you wouldn’t show up,” she said as she looked at Tommy and Atticus for validation of her statement. They shook their heads in agreement.

          “Well, you don’t ever need to worry about that. I’ll make it here come hell or high-water. This place pays me too damn well to even think about taking an unscheduled day off,” Johni said as he rolled his eyes.

          The group laughed at the facetiousness of Johni’s statement and began to put themselves to work on various parts of the building. Day turned to night, and Johni started to make his way home. He was exhausted, his muscles hurt, and he was sweating as if he just ran a marathon.

          His blue door was still closed, he noticed, as he neared his home. Johni placed the key in the lock and stepped inside. Everything still seemed normal, so he began to prepare himself for bed. He removed his shirt and pants, dropped them near the living room couch, and made his way upstairs.

          Then his phone rang. He silently cursed to himself, then almost immediately, he regretted it. Johni knew who was calling, and he was eager to talk to her. It had been a few weeks since he last heard Thomasina’s voice.

          He tapped the green icon on the screen and quickly lifted the phone to his ear.

          “Dad?” Thomasina said.

          “Yeah, honey? How’s is everything there?”

          “They’re coming.”

          “Thomasina, who are they? What are you talking about?” Johni said. He sat up in the bed, prepared to hop online and purchase the first flight out to Georgia.

          “The-,” Thomasina began to speak, and suddenly, Cherie’s breathy voice sounded through the speakers.

          “Everything is fine, Johni. She’s been having night terrors lately and doing the strangest things.”

          “Are you sure everything is alright? I can fly down there to see her and –“

          “Yes, everything is quite alright. I’ll talk to you soon,” Cherie said as she abruptly ended the call.

          Johni was suspicious, but despite the issues that he and Cherie had, he believed with all his heart that she was a capable and competent caregiver. He laid back down, covered himself under his bedsheets, and slept.

          The glow did not appear that night, and for the first time in weeks, Johni had a full night of uninterrupted sleep. He woke up in the morning completely refreshed and ready to tackle whatever was going to be thrown at him that day, or at least he thought he would be prepared. As he neared the worksite, his phone rang. An unknown number flashed on his phone screen.

          “Hello?”

          “Hey, Johni. It’s Sari. If you’re on your way to the site, don’t bother. Nobody showed up except Khalil and me. I’m sure you know we can’t really run a construction site like that so, Khalil canceled the day. He’s still at the site, but I was wondering if you maybe wanted to meet me at the little breakfast spot near the worksite: Annie Crepes. You know it?”

          “Sure, Sari. I’ll be there in a minute. That work?”

          “Perfect!”

          Johni strolled down the street. On the one hand, he was delighted to have a surprise day off; on the other hand, he was worried about what was going on. Was there some strike he wasn’t made aware of? Were his co-workers okay? He didn’t have the answers, and if they didn’t come back, he wasn’t sure he’d get them.

          Before Johni could step inside the restaurant, Sari came rushing out. She grabbed him by the wrist and dragged him into the alley nearby.

          “Something seriously messed up is going on, and I don’t know what. There was this glow last night at my window. It seemed like the same glow that Tommy and Atticus told me about a few days ago, so I got up and left my house. I spent the night in a hotel room last night.”
          “A glow? Are you sure?” Johni said.

          Sari looked at him incredulously, as if she couldn’t believe he was questioning her senses in a time like this.

          “I’m absolutely positive, man.”

          “Sari, I’ve been seeing that weird glow for weeks.”

          “Sari’s already large eyes seemed to grow bigger. We need to figure out what’s going on.”

          “No, we don’t. Whatever is going on, I want no part of it. I just want to go down to Georgia and make sure my daughter is okay.”

          Sari began to speak, but seemingly, the sound would not escape her lips. Tiny blue lights began to float down from the sky as Sari was lifted in the air. Johni saw her struggling in the air, grasping at the blue lights around her, to no avail. In moments, she was gone. Seemingly just teleported away. Finally, Johni gathered his senses and ran. He didn’t know where to run, or what exactly he was running from, but he figured that standing there was not a good idea.

          He made it halfway down the street before the blue lights revealed themselves to him. He befell the same fate as Sari. He was lifted into the air, as the muscles he had attained over years of construction work were rendered useless against his luminous foes.

          In seconds, he found himself blinded. Not because his vision didn’t work, but because his surroundings were so dark that his eyes could not register where he was. He realized he was no longer in the clutches of the light, and that he was standing on solid ground and so he tried to feel his way around. He walked in the darkness until his hands felt dry, dusty concrete. Then, a bright blue light began to shine brightly in front of him. This time, the glow that, for weeks had kept its distance, got closer and closer to him.

          “What do you want with me?” Johni yelled at it. The light floated around him like a dragonfly. It darted quickly and stopped, only to dart to another location in his vicinity.

          “You hear me? Answer me! What do you want with me!”

          “We want nothing with you,” a high pitched mechanical voice responded. “We simply want you.”

Bright fluorescent lights began to turn on one by one, illuminating the bodies of his co-workers on black gurneys. They had been sliced open and were seemingly left with empty caverns where their organs once were.

“No,” was Johni’s last words as his vision faded to black.

The Pothos

Samitha sat in a chair by the window of her 3 bedroom apartment. She opened the window, letting just a bit of the outside air inside her home. She thought it was becoming stuffy…she also wanted a smoke. She carefully reached in her tiny pockets and slid out the red and white pack. She reached for the table and grabbed a lighter and lit the cigarette, inhaling deeply, and savoring the taste and feel of the murderous pleasure.

          Samitha gazed around at her apartment and shocked herself. She hadn’t realized just how many plants she had acquired in the short six months of living there, but they made her feel a sense of contentment. She remembered it was watering day for most of her plant babies, and so with a quick flick out of the window, and a spray of the air freshener, she began to pull them down from the ceilings and out of the windowsills. The grabbed a glass and filled it with water. She took great care not to overwater them as she feared too much would drown them. One by one, she grabbed the potted plants and gifted them with the gift of nutrition. She imagined that deep inside their cells, they were jumping for joy.

          Nearly half an hour after she began the task of nurturing her semi-motionless children, she grabbed the final one from the hook in the ceiling and began to pour water in the soil. As she did so, a leaf ever so slightly brushed against her. She placed it back into its initial position as soon as she noticed.

          It moved again. This time it was a quick brush against Samitha’s thigh.

          “This can’t be happening. I’m losing my mind, right?” Samitha said to no one.

          Samitha decided to pour the last of the water in the plant and replace it on the hook by the window. It was the perfect place she thought at the time. As she let the full weight of the plant and its pot rest upon the hook in the ceiling, Samitha noticed something peculiar about the plant. She noticed that it seemed to be swirling its leaves. No plant she had ever seen before had moved in such an obvious way, save the venus flytrap.

          Samitha reached towards it, and the stems reached back. Quickly brushing against the palm of her hand.

          “Oh, hello there!” Samitha said. Running her hands through the rapidly growing stems of the Pothos. Enjoying the fact that it was behaving more like an animal than a plant. Before she knew it, though, the plant had begun to enmesh itself in the cells of Samitha’s body. It had started to learn who she was, not just in the sense of her personality, but in the very roots of her being.

          The Pothos dug itself deep into her muscles. Samitha tried to rip herself away from the thing, but the pain in her muscles forbade her from doing so.

          “Stop,” She managed to whisper, hoping that it would be able to recognize her pleas for mercy and show the same compassion she had show it in its early days. Samitha didn’t realize that the more she did while under its grasp, the more it learned. The more it became like her.

          The flesh on her arm began to quickly decay as the plant made its way around the rest of her body. It engulfed the whole of her arm, wrapped itself around her torso, and began to silently snake it way down her legs. In mere minutes, Samitha was nothing more than a shell of her former self. A pile of dead skin lay beneath the plan, which continued to grow and form something different than itself.

          The stems and leaves of the plant began to wrap around each other, and eventually, they began to form a small foot. Its colors began to morph, seemingly struggling to find the right shade and finally settling on a light mocha color as they continued to grow and pile on one another.

          As the minutes passed, a foot turned into a leg; that, in turn, created the beginnings of a torso. Within the hour, the Pothos had recreated itself into a walking and barely talking copy of Samitha herself. It matched the blueprint it had stolen from Samithas cells from the mole near her eye, right down to her glimmering hazel eyes. With its purpose complete, the Pothos Samantha set out, eager to explore its newfound world.

The Siren

Jessica Ferretti sat quietly at the dinner table with her husband Shawn. They had arrived at le Vrai to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary. They normally hosted a big party, but this year, they decided to do something a bit more lowkey. Shawn had grown tired of her months long planning for the past 13 years so, out of respect for him, she had relented to his desire, and agreed to a small dinner.

                The place was dimly lit with romantic lighting scattered across the ceiling. The lighting gave everyone a ‘sexy glow’ and made them all look like stars. The smell of fine French food wafted through the air and made Jessica and Shawn more anxious for their meal.

                A tall and sprightly waiter bounded over to refill the water glasses that Jessica and Shawn had drank in anticipation of their meal.

                “Apologies for the wait, but please enjoy another basket of bread.”

                Jessica’s face twisted, “I don’t want another basket of bread. I’d like the meal that I ordered,” she said as she slammed her hand on the table. Shawn sat across from her and shook his head. He rubbed his lightly sweating forehead and just watched as another of Jessica’s famous tirades began.

                “Don’t you know who I am? Offering me bread is like offering water to a drowning person! Useless! Did you really think that I, Jessica Ferretti, a model, would like MORE bread?”

                The waiter stood in silence, listening to her berate him.

                “Honey, can you chill? Please? The man is just trying to do his job. It’s not his fault things are taking longer than normal. Plus, think of how much better things will be once we get it. The anticipation makes it all the better.”

                Jessica shot him a look that would have killed him if her eyes were weapons. “That means jack-all to me Shawn! They need to hurry up and get our stuff. We’re paying a couple of hundred bucks for what? Mediocre service? I will not accept that.

                Jessica unleased a slew of curses at the waiter who began to back away and stutter that he was going to get a manager. Shawn looked around and noticed that the entirety of Le Vrai was staring at them. His face grew hot with embarrassment and eventually Jessica calmed down.

                “Damnit Jessica, do you always have to do this?” he whispered to her.

                “I absolutely do.” She said, indignant at the implication that she might just be mean. “I mean, they have a job to do, and if they aren’t doing it, and that impacts me, then I’m going to say something about it.”

                Shawn knew there was no arguing with her. They continued sitting in the perfectly lit room, and Shawn reminded himself of whey he was married to her. She could be horrible, at times, but when they were together, alone, he felt a spark of love. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever dated. She had also treated him the best. Shawn had always considered himself an average guy. He was slightly overweight, and had a bit of a patchy beard that for some reason he always let grow out. He never understood how an international supermodel ended up with him, and yet, 15 years later they were still married. Shawn worked hard to make their marriage the best it could be.

                As they continued to wait for their meal, The entire restaurant heard a siren blare from outside. It was unusual, not like the usual sirens they would hear from a cop car or a fire truck. It didn’t even sound like a tornado siren, a sound they had grown accustomed to in the Midwest summers. This sound was almost like a snarl, like a corrupted, demonic animal who decided to let everyone know where it was.

                Jessica and Shawn covered their ears and were met with little success. The sound penetrated their ears and they felt as if they were going to go mad. They closed their eyes and hoped it would soon end.

                Moments later, the sound suddenly stopped. Shawn opened his eyes at nearly the same time as Jessica. The man she saw before her was not the same man who sat before her minutes ago. His patchy beard had grown somehow into a fully filled out and shaped beard. Something she had only seen on her co-models in the past. The man in front of her was toned, with an angular jaw and near perfectly smooth and unblemished brown skin. The only thing that seemed off about him was his crooked teeth. Somehow though, through all the changes, she could still see it was Shawn. His eyes gave it away.

                Shawn was horrified when he opened his eyes to check on Jessica. Her silky hair had turned into a crumpled mess of dry and cracked ends. Her skin was pockmarked with what seemed to be miniscule stab wounds on her face. She now seemed ill proportioned, with a head that was nearly three times larger than her neck. Her teeth jutted in multiple directions, and her eyes seemed to disagree with one another as they faced different directions. The way she looked reminded him of the witch stories he was told as a child.

                The people inside Le Vrai all reacted differently. Some couples embraced each other as if they hadn’t seen one another before, others ran away from each other, and you had others where one half of the couple was leaving and the other half begging them to stay. Jessica and Shawn did no such thing. They merely uttered each other’s names to confirm they were themselves and slowly got up and headed to their home.

                Moments after they walked through the threshold of their front door, Shawn shook his head.

                “Just what the hell is going on? You look like a troll, Jessica!” Even through all the changes that Jessica had endured, he could tell when she was upset. Her face twisted to an expression even uglier than the one that had already manifested itself on her former visage of beauty.

                “And now you look like several of the guys I wanted to cheat on you with!” Jessica yelled back.

Shawn lowered his head and ran off into another room of their million-dollar home. They slept in separate rooms that night, afraid of any other statements that would exit their mouths, and afraid of the person that could possibly have been sleeping next to them.

Jessica woke up to bright light shining through the blinds of the windows and the loud sound of news blaring from the main room.

“Our top news story tonight is that god-awful sound that apparently the whole country heard last night.” the anchor said. She was an average looking woman before, but now, Shawn thought, she was downright beautiful. “Officials from the white house are saying they have yet to determine the cause but have determined its effects. It seems that the sound has distorted our vision and somehow entangled them with our perception. People who have been taken ‘ugly’ actions against others now seem to appear the way that they behave. And it also appears that those that have been quote, unquote “nice” to other people seem to have gotten an appearance boost. We will now broadcast the presidents’ press conference regarding the issue.

                The president flashed on the screen, looking the same as he always did, as ugly as ever, with maybe just a few more face spots and comically large scars. Shawn muted the tv as Jessica made her way into the room.

                “So, that’s what this is, huh? I look how I’ve supposedly behaved?” she said, as she made air quotes with her hands. “I’m a good, and nice person, so im unsure of why I’ve changed to look…like…this.”

                Shawn looked over at her and rolled his eyes. “Is that what you really think, honey? You’re downright mean to just about everyone you come across.”

                “No, I’m not!” Jessica retorted.

                “Oh, come on, Jessica. You told your sister she could do with some birth control because it was irresponsible to bring so many ugly children into the world.”

                “I was joking!” Jessica said.

                “No, you weren’t. You never apologized, and when I asked you to, you said “why should I apologize for telling the truth.” Shawn slowly closed his eyes and looked back at the tv. “That statement 10 years ago made me wonder if that’s why you never wanted kids with me., after all, I’m not the epitome of beauty…I’m just some average dud who was lucky to even be in the same room as you.

Tears began to fall from Jessica’s eyes.

                “I didn’t…I didn’t realize.”

                “Of course, you didn’t. You never have, despite how many times I’ve told you that some of the things you have said or done were not ok.  I’m going to ask you for something that I’ve been thinking about for a while now.”

                “And what might that be, Mr. Perfect?” Jessica said.

                “A divorce.”