Daniel was sitting alone in his room, alone with something like a smoke and the tar burnt in monotone over his windpipe and his wallpaper.
Ma was out, attending some kinda... therapy. However that went. Dad was out, and still hadn't returned as of some twenty odd years. It was Pops birthday today, something like that. Ma still announced that on those days repeated each year, even to rich ol' Ben the boyfriend up in his cushy Vegas penthouse. Hey. Happy birthday, dude. Danield light one up for the old man who'd nutted in his mom once. Life was only life when you were around to live it, or maybe that was one of those philosophical sorta deals Daniel usually understood best through curls of vapor.
He had himself bit of a moment on his hands, with his joint all wrapped up in his joints. His lungs quietly burst, and he coughed and exhaled delicious toxin over the nettle skin of his collarbone. He watched the peal of rattling smoke bristles climbing up over themselves, bodily inserting their mass into his eyes. Hurt a bit, but he was somehow used to that. He could blink it away in bite size pieces.
Something loud filled his ears. Hed unplugged some amount of the headphones from his computer, and the speakers looked like they were straining. Ben upstairs wherever he was was probably pissed off since it was loud enough to get into his ears from all the way down here. He called this kinda music like it wasnt music, and sometimes Daniel wasnt too sure himself. Sounded like there wasnt much there when there was no words. Just drums and piano and some instruments or synths or the like that Daniel couldnt identify. He listened some, watching the fleshy innards of his eyelids for a quick second.
When he opened his eyes he wandered. Dimly lit room, not like he usually turned the lights on anyways. Only the lamps ever stayed on, and he'd let those lamps burn out to the bulb weeks worth of days ago. Daniel knew shit all about the lamps that had been in his room for four some-odd-number years. No price tags, specifications, whatever.
Daniel paused. Only thing that kept going was his computers speakers, all that stick thin drums, maybe his lips. Daniel grunted, then stuffed up a little more ash down the pipes.
Ma had gotten him a computer at some point. Auntie Maggie had convinced her to convince Ben to convince him. Something about a word processor for homework and internet for research. Rather, the porn had been a bit slow to load but it'd been worth it. He actually sometimes did a little bit of homework. Had himself a couple of folders worth of that shit he typed up in minutes on midnight coffee, eye crust, nicotine. Also a few more folders. Pictures of old girlfriends mostly. Substituted for porn in a pinch, he guessed.
But there was one girl all conspicuously absent. It was kinda funny. Daniel had dug through everything at some point or another. Overturned all his shit, or at least relocated it from nebulous messy pile to other nebulous messy pile. All the files on the computer, in the room. The manila folders haphazardly stuffed with photos, theyd coyly playing hide and seek under his bed and under tables and all. But not a single picture of her.
Had to pull a little something up instead.
Something kinda like a scene of a fucking nightmare straight out of the depths of his skull. Daniel had drawn these kinda pictures before, at the direction of one of his old professors whose name hed long forgotten. Anatomy, fluid phys-ed, that kinda fancy sounding shit that amounted to 'draw this like this'. He'd even found those sketches, also buried away.
But this picture wasn't a sketch. Like, Daniel had never used this sort of picture as a reference. It was all stark detail. If he looked close enough, and he kinda did, he could see the individual sinews, tendons. Kinda yellowish and white, at least what he could see in contrast to the sluice of crimson from every pixel. Daniel's eyes scanned carefully, for the hundred-somethingth time. The picture was neatly encapsulated into a mundane box, and flanked by white text on black background. Only one extra bit of color stood out, outside of the centerpiece of the proper photo. Red. Like blood.
Simple but effective. Elegantly stoic. Effortless. Pointed. Brusque. All kinds of words Daniel's teachers would have encouraged him to describe the scene with. Put on the airs of critique.
His eyes carried over the screen without really seeing. He didn't know what words he could use.
His eyes turned, a bit downward away from the riot of grotesque colors on his screen. Just in the periphery now. He'd recovered one thing, somewhere in all the searching. Homely. Innocent. Effervescent, like the essence of a hearth.
They'd bought it together, in the local Safeway. Maybe two dollars fifty, split between the both of them from the loose change in their pockets. She had wanted to sketch a particularly gnarly, thorny looking cloud strutting itself through an otherwise clear blue summer sky. She'd forgotten her supplies back home. Probably Daniel's fault, he'd been distracting her some by half-juggling some of those marbles in the key bowl her parents left in the foyer. She'd improvised. No pencil, so she'd torn up some grass from the skinny of a sidewalk crack and ground it for what it was worth against the pad.
That particular sketch had blurred away to almost nothing by now. Just a couple of green blots that had once been...
Most of the other pages were in pencil. Schematics. All Tina's, detailing how to move the furniture around, install the lamps. How to watch the plants while they budded. Instructions in shorthand. Crisp. Efficient.
One weird thing was shed occasionally arbitrarily dot an 'i' with a heart. Not one of those kinda loopy ones, it would be a small and pointy thing like all the other things she drew. It did kinda remind him of an ex. Maybe she'd observed the style those days she'd been looking over Hayley's shoulder, creeping on the both of them while they'd been doing homework. How long ago had that been? Hayley had always been his favorite. First cut and all. He still spoke fond of her to this day.
Daniel picked up the booklet. Flipped through the instructions. Usually, he had followed them adequately. A couple of pages in he found a few lines worth of carefully coded reminders. Looked like these ones, he'd forgotten. Huh At least the crops had usually turned out alright, besides.
Ben called out from that realm beyond Daniels door, though his voice mostly just flatlined against the walls and all. Something about a guest. Probably not coming down here. Daniel could stay in his chair, he did, though he kinda creaked around a bit. The picture of Tinas corpse was still on screen, he didnt look too much at it for now.
He put the booklet back down, and it managed to end up on his desk somewhere. He looked around at the shadow draped aging capes of his furniture, drowning in a vague oil slick haze that was kinda close to him and kinda far away by now. Seemed like multiple colors, but he couldnt eyeball a single tone. A kinda color others would just call dark, or something.
His fingers creased a bit and the tunes loudly banging away cut off with some kinda baby-like squeal. That sorta blunt butchers knife to the meat of the sound when all the volume knobs puttered away into a hangmans drop.