By Guest Contributor

W hen Rocky got home that morning, Victoria was sitting on the couch, wings molting, a pale, fragile bird. Rocky took a look in Victoria’s eyes, took her EMT kit off her shoulder and popped it open on the floor. She pulled out a thin white tube and uncapped it. She took Victoria by one shoulder, pushed her back onto the cushions and quickly ran the uncapped tube along her roommate’s top lip.

Victoria gagged. “Jesus fucking Christ! What-”

Bolt upright, she looked around the apartment, eyes of a cornered cat, panting loud and heavy. Rocky wondered how many animal metaphors she’d run through before the end of the night.

“Tea,” Rocky said, walking to the kitchen. She punched a couple buttons on the maker, stuck a cup in it and returned to the couch. “Lay back. Your last gene tweak is breaking down.”

Victoria sputtered stupidly and Rocky ignored her, pulling more work out of her kit.

“I don’t have any way to stop it degrading, but I can ease the pain a bit. Where’s your goddamn useless boyfriend?”

Victoria had to try a few times before her tongue slipped into the present. Rocky didn’t press. She was certain Nile wouldn’t be back tonight, or the night after. He’d turn up, like a bad song lyric, a month or year later, strung out himself, asking Victoria to take him back, telling her he didn’t do anything wrong, getting her hooked on black market gene tweaks wasn’t his idea, and who was she going to listen to, him, the guy that loved her, or that bitch, Rocky, who had to ruin everything because she couldn’t get a man of her own?

“Oww!” Rocky jabbed the hypo in a little harder than she had to. “Rocky!”

“Vic. You don’t die, I’ll take you to the hospital tomorrow. You can be my first call.”

Rocky brought her the tea, with two crushed redcaps in it, and made her finish that and a slice of dry bread. She wished she smoked, so she’d have something to do with her hands while Victoria struggled into a chemical sleep. The wings were pretty. The sun shone through them as they spasmed, dancers in water, turning brown and wearing through like melted film stock.

The baby she couldn’t save that night, the baby that had been dead before they’d even responded to the call, crawled from the kitchen to the bedroom, slow, too damn slow, and never once looked at her.

Rocky picked up the mug of tea, threw it against the wall, and went to sleep.

 

–James Smith

James Smith is a Brooklyn based writer and graphic novelist. Read Gang of Fools from the beginning on Activatecomix. To see more of James’s work go to http://www.jamesmith.org/