Excerpt for Comorbid Part 9 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Comorbid Part 9: Father

Natasha Weber

Five years later, June was twenty-nine-years old with a five-year-old son. June still let Kyle have her son most days, but she told Kyle she wanted a third day with her son other than the weekends. Kyle obliged gladly. June chose Friday.

Kyle was very amiable about the whole thing, and June couldn’t have picked a better ex-boyfriend to help raise her child. She just wished he hadn’t ended up marrying that harlot, Trisha.

When June went to go pick up her child, she leaned her cheek against the door curiously. Trisha was being very loud behind the door.

“Call me Mommy, honey.” June heard Trisha say to August.

“You’re not my Mommy…” August replied.

June scowled and knocked on the door.

Trisha did so and was holding August’s hand when the door opened. June was almost frothing at the mouth from rage at Trisha attempting to manipulate her son into calling her Mom. But, she remembered a technique she learned in therapy and took a deep breath instead. She would never, ever, cuss someone out or yell in front of her child if she could help it.

She took her child’s hand without a word to Trisha and headed down the stairs.

It was summer and very warm out. June wiped her forehead as she held her child’s hand and walked with him down the flight of stairs.

“I missed you, Mommy.” August said cheerily.

“I missed you too, honey. Have you been having fun with Daddy and Trisha?” June queried as they stepped off the last stair and onto the pavement below.

“Yep! I read a new book called… Called…”

“Yes?” June wasn’t really paying attention as she opened the passenger’s door for her son.

“I think Green Apples.” August said.

“What’s it about?” June asked as she climbed into the driver’s seat and started her car.

“Um, well, there’s this tiger and elephant and…” August explained the story in a way any five-year-old would—incoherently and adorably, but still somehow understandably. At least to a mother or father.

June was driving her son to the mall where she would allow him to pick out any book he wanted, and then she would take him to the videogame store so he could pick something out from there. It was a rare occasion when she bought him things—she never liked to spoil him—but it had been months at this point.

She had asked her son many questions and got many updates about what was happening in his life, but after awhile, his answers became very short, and it seemed like there was something wrong.

“Is there something wrong, honey?” June asked as she pulled into the parking lot and turned her car off.

“I wish I could spend more time with you, Mommy. Daddy’s busy a lot and he yells.” August related drearily.

June froze. Nobody yelled at her child. “He yells at you?”

August shook his head. “At Trisha.”

June sighed a sigh of relief. They were having issues that hopefully had nothing to do with her child. “They never yell at you, right? They never hurt you or anything, right?”

August shook his head.

June breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s good. It sounds like Daddy and Trisha are just having an argument like you and your friends sometimes do. It has nothing to do with you, and I’m sure they’ll work it out, baby.”

August didn’t look like he was quelled by June’s assurances. June rubbed the back of her neck. “How about I have a chat with Daddy about it?”

August brightened at that. “That sounds great, Mommy!”

*

June had worked through her feelings about her best friend and her boyfriend cheating on her. For the longest time, she couldn’t get the two of them out of her head, but, with long years of therapy, she could finally forget about it and move on with her life. June hadn’t been in a single relationship for the past five years and focused all her attention on her son, her job, and school.

June was fast on her way to becoming a biologist, and she could finally feel proud of herself for functioning correctly in society for the first time in her life. It wasn’t fun, and there was no magic or passion to it, but it was what she needed to do in order to feel like she was a worthwhile human being and good enough to be her son’s mother. For the time being, she still worked as a manager at the fast food joint.

June texted Mercury over the years, but other than the first time, he never answered back again. Sometimes, late at night, she would cry about it and just let herself pine over him.

She had noticed for the past few months a change in Kyle’s affect. He seemed distractible and sad. She wondered if that was why he was yelling at Trisha. June, quite frankly, hated the both of them for what they did to her, but she couldn’t deny that they had previously been great parents to her son.

Those were her thoughts as she dropped her son back off at Trisha’s at the end of the day and asked, “where’s Kyle? I have something to ask him.”

“He’s sleeping.” Trisha replied.

“It’s only seven…” June was skeptical. “Can you tell me when I can talk to him?”

Trisha was making a face as she roughly took August’s hand, but her expression softened after a second and she replied, “I’ll go wake him.”

June waited outside for Kyle, and he showed up with red eyes a few minutes later looking sick and disheveled.

“Hello…” Kyle said tiredly.

“Um…” June said awkwardly. “Does Trisha mind if we go somewhere? I have something to talk to you about.”

Kyle turned to Trisha curiously and she nodded.

“Let’s go.” Kyle replied.

*

June drove the two of them to a random neighborhood and pulled over. She crossed her legs and didn’t look at her ex-boyfriend’s eyes. “August says you’re not as fun and you’ve been yelling.”

Kyle was silent, and then he said, “I’m not. I don’t like Trisha anymore. Taking care of August is a pain.”

June hands clenched on the wheel—her knuckles were white with anger. “Taking care of August is a blessing! It’s fun! And you can’t break up with Trisha; it’d be too big a change for August…”

Kyle turned to her with his red eyes. “I don’t know what’s wrong. I just feel so sad. I loved taking care of August, but now I just wish you would take him.”

June looked down at her lap. “I… I can’t take him. You know that. Even if I could, he needs you in his life. What happened to you, Kyle? Why are you suddenly so miserable?”

Kyle shook his head. “I can’t even explain it. Life just seems so empty. Trisha began nagging me about going back to school and getting a better job… Most of my free time is spent taking care of August, and I just want…”

June looked out the windshield. He was feeling it, she knew. He was feeling the same kind of things she felt. That vacant emptiness unable to be filled by anything but blind, wicked pleasure. “What do you want?”

He stared at her. She realized what he wanted, and she was stunned by it.

“Are you still in love with me?” June was flabbergasted.

Kyle blinked slowly and glanced away from her. “My thoughts always come back to you.”

June’s hands trembled. She thought it wouldn’t hurt to kiss him. She thought it might be good for August to have his parents back together. She thought it might feel pretty good to be naked with him again. Her imagination nearly ran away from her like it usually did, but she got control of herself.

She recalled the memory of just how awful it felt when he cheated on her. She recalled that she very much hated him. “Don’t you remember how I am? Don’t you remember how much I cried and how much reassurance I required and how much a nuisance I was?”

“I remember an intoxicatingly interesting woman who wasn’t like anybody else and who enticed me to always want to know more about her.” Kyle explained sincerely.

“I remember a man who had no patience for me—as well he shouldn’t—and one who couldn’t take a moment to think through his actions before hurting his girlfriend in a way that scarred her for years.”

Kyle suddenly seemed to freeze in space and time. Gray seemed to be spreading from the tip of his fingers up to his arms where it stopped.

Kyle suddenly started yelling about how much he loved her and other unconscious desires of how he wanted to make love to her. June grabbed his hand and tried to tap into his mind like she used to with Mercury, but she found, with horror, that she couldn’t remember how to do it. She tried to use her old memory of hiding in the park to trigger her mind, but it didn’t work.

With trembling hands, June whipped out her phone and thought about dialing an ambulance, but she passed Mercury’s name as she scrolled down her calling list on her phone. She tapped it instead.

“Pick up… Please pick up…” June whispered while Kyle spouted something about the lovely shade of her eyes.

Tears sprung to her eyes as an automated message told her that Mercury was not available. She left a message instead.

“Mercury, please. Please help me. Kyle is stricken with the gray. He doesn’t have much time. Please come home and help me for August’s sake.” June then called an ambulance and waited for them to arrive while Kyle collapsed further and further into gibberish.

They loaded Kyle into the back of the ambulance when they arrived and June watched them go--feeling sick.

She called Trisha nervously. “Trisha—it’s Kyle. He’s been stricken by the gray.”

*

Many people had been stricken by the gray since June’s mother had. An absurd amount. Thousands of humans were dying each year from the gray and the number just seemed to keep growing and growing. Scientists were saying that if something wasn’t done soon, the human race would be done for. With June’s mother being the first case of the gray--biologists, psychologists, and medical doctors had studied it extensively. Many of them often visited June and Father to ask them questions about Mother’s family history of substance abuse, psychological disorders, physical disorders, and any other relevant information. June and her Father, wanting no other family to suffer such a loss, gladly obliged. But, hardly any progress had been made in finding a cure.

It had stricken humanity like the plague and was whittling down their numbers absurdly.

June didn’t like Kyle, but she would never wish death on him. He was her son’s father, and he had been a great father up until recently.

“Mommy, when’s Daddy coming home?” August asked.

“Hopefully soon, honey.” June prayed as hard as she could that he would.

“I miss him…” August murmured sadly. June picked him up and pressed her forehead to his.

“I miss him too…” For her son’s sake, she truly did.

*

All the while, June kept her phone on at all times. She prayed for Mercury to come rescue her like he always seemed to. At least, it always seemed that way to her in her mind. She cursed him when a week went by and he still didn’t call. June left about a dozen messages on his phone, just begging him to come and help her try to tap into Kyle’s mind.

A knock came on her father’s door on a Friday late at night. June had been reading and she looked up from her book to go answer the door.

Finally, Mercury had appeared at the door. June dropped the book she was reading and threw her arms around him, feeling immediately warm and safe and ten times happier. “Thank God you came…”

Mercury stroked her hair lovingly. “I’ll always come when you’re in this much trouble. I assume you want me to tap into his mind? Why can’t you do it?”

June shook her head. “I just can’t remember how… I haven’t done it in so long.”

Mercury suddenly held her face in his hands. “Look at you… I can tell you’ve been doing well. God, I’m so happy.”

June closed her eyes and just allowed herself to enjoy his touch for a moment.

He took off his shades. June was stunned. His eyeswere bloodshot with deep circles underneath. It wasn’t just that; his clothes were worn and he had a beard he hadn’t been able to shave.

“I can’t sleep because I have to tap into my mind so often now. Too much stimulation. Sleeping pills do nothing.” Mercury explained.

His once beautiful and mysterious eyes now looked damaged and worn. June loved him still; she loved him even more than she previously did because of the sacrifices he made to be a contributing member of society.

“Shall we—go to the game store?” Mercury asked confusedly.

“What?” June asked.

“They’re selling the one I really want!” Mercury exclaimed and then turned around and attempted to run out the door.

June grabbed his wrist. “Where are you going?”

Mercury turned back toward her in a daze. He cleared his throat. “Another side effect…”

June wondered how awful it must be to be him. She realized she had always had a wonderful life compared to him; which was saying something. She was in pain just thinking about how horrible it would be to let your brain slowly deteriorate just to keep your emotions in tact.

All she could do was lean her head on his chest and hug him in silence for a moment.

Mercury just stood there, arms lank at his side, and let her.

*

Mercury and June visited the hospital the next day. The gray had spread on Kyle’s body—his head was shrinking.

Mercury turned to June with a smile. “I hate him. I can’t believe I’m gonna try to rescue him for you.”

“I’ll thank you for it…” June said with a wink.

“Do you want to come with me? It might be amusing to see what a man like this thinks about.” Mercury asked.

June was surprised. “Only if it doesn’t hurt you anymore than usual.”

“I’ll be fine…” Mercury promised.

Mercury grabbed June’s hand and sat at Kyle’s bedside and grabbed his hand as well.

*

They appeared at Kyle’s default soul state. It wasn’t a castle made of flesh like Mercury’s was, nor was it that tree June had hid in so long ago when she had to get away from her mocking classmates. It was June and Kyle’s old apartment. It was no longer attached to a complex, it was just out on a green plain.

It looked like fairy tale. An idyllic house on a green hill.

Mercury opened the front door and found Kyle inside with a phantom June. He was kissing her. The real June turned away, embarrassed.

“What can I do?” Kyle murmured to himself. “What can I do to get you to love me the way I love you, baby?”

Mercury shoved his hands into his pockets. “Were you pining over me?” He asked June.

June nodded silently. June felt very badly about the way she had treated him. She didn’t like him, but she was no saint either.

Kyle and the phantom June couldn’t hear the two of them. June just shrugged. “You understand me. He never could.”

Mercury removed his red shades again and tapped Kyle’s shoulder. Kyle spun around and came face-to-face with Mercury’s bloodshot eyes.

“Who are you…?” Kyle asked.

“I’m Mercury.” He said simply.

Kyle’s fists clenched. “The ghost June loves?”

Mercury nodded. “That’s all I am; a ghost. June loves me and she always will, those types of feelings can’t be revoked when they belong to a ghost. I know you love her intensely as well. Don’t the reasons seem inexplicable to you?”

Kyle shook his head. “June is special. There’s no woman like June. I just need to crack her head open to find out how to get her to love me. She’s so good with my son… She’s such a responsible and loving mother. I can feel Trisha getting more and more annoyed with me, and I with her.”

Mercury waved the real June over and the phantom one disappeared. She sat down next to Kyle. She was repulsed when he threw his arms around her and she gasped a little in fear. She cleared her throat after a moment. “There’s someone else who loves you, too.”

June conjured a phantom image of Trisha into the room and that Trisha tapped Kyle’s shoulder. Kyle visibly reproached her and enclosed his arms tighter around June.

“I’m so sorry June. I might have made you commit suicide when I betrayed you. But it’s you--it’s you I loved the whole time. I love everything about you.”

“Don’t you remember? I let you and Trisha have my child on most days because you’re such wonderful parents. Because you’re such a good team. There’s a reason you left me for her. What was it?”

Kyle thought about it. “Because she soothed me.”

June grinned. She knew Trisha was truly his true love then. Her relationship with Mercury paralleled his and Trisha’s. The ability to soothe denoted complete understanding.

June stood up then, and let the phantom Trisha take her place.

But, all at once, Kyle seized her wrist. He stood up with a malicious grin on his face. “Now that you’re back in my life, I’ll never let you go!”

A cage fell around June and she was locked in like an animal.

“It doesn’t matter what my head is telling me! I want you and only you!” Kyle cried with rage in his eyes.

Mercury was in a panic; he couldn’t leave June in that cage. If he did, she couldn’t come back to the collective reality. Mercury tried to manipulate Kyle’s mind in a way to imagine June to be free, but Kyle’s sheer force of will was overcoming his own.

June crouched down, trembling in fear. Kyle turned to Mercury, then. “It was you! Once you’re dead, she’ll come back to me!”

These were his innermost desires. Mercury knew he and June were doomed unless he could find a positive desire that trumped this negative one.


















Download this book for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-12 show above.)