I think the opening fiction for our new zine, Dia De Muertos, is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Props to Filamena on that.
Same Time Next Year
By Filamena Young
I’m on Rose and Baker in the Flip, I think. A little girl rushes past me. She’s wearing a store-bought witch costume, size S, purple with black trim, and her mother helped her put on red lipstick, but it’s mostly smeared away, probably from her sneaking candy. She’s trying to catch up to a boy in a black plastic bag with tin foil armor pieces taped to it. I guess he’s supposed to be a knight. Cute as a button, really. A third friend, in a cardboard box with a head hole cut out, spray painted silver, toddles after the witch, calling out for them to wait up. Behind me, a little boy dressed as a construction worker shouts, laughs, and runs almost through me like he just didn’t see me. The whole thing looks familiar, but I don’t know why.
My name is…
“Kennedy?!” A woman shouts behind me and I turn. I know her, but I’m not really sure how I know her. She’s rushing up to me, tears in her eyes. It looks like she’s going to grab me into a hug, but stops short. It’s awkward.
“I can’t believe you’re really here! I’m so glad to see you. I thought…”
My head hurts and I shake it. Rub my forehead with the flat of my palm.
Two more people rush up behind the woman who knows my name. “Holy shit, Kennedy!” A tall black guy says, his face breaking into a brilliant smile. He’s wearing skull makeup, but street clothes, like he was headed to black metal concert or…
Halloween. I remember that. Today is halloween. And it’s really special for some reason.
“Fuck. Kennedy. How… how are you?” The other person, a woman, she pushes up her coke bottle glasses to rub at her eyes. I think she wants corrective surgery. You know, with lasers, but she can’t afford that.
I know these three people, and they know me. But something is… missing.
The first woman, small and exuberant, I want to say her name is Patricia or something like that, gushes. “I can’t believe you’re really here. We never found out what happened, but then we hired this psychic and…”
My head hurts again. Like there’s a spot in my brain that’s all metal shards instead of meat, and if I try to think certain things it’ll cut me inside.
“Jesus, Paddy,” I was close. “Give the man a fucking moment. He’s been through it.” The tall man with the skull face says.
“It’s not your fault.” I tell him, but I’m not sure what compelled me to say it.
The man snaps his eyes to me, and goes deadly still. “What?”
“It’s not your fault.” I say again.
A choice of seconds.
Something moving big and fast.
Like a small truck, but covered in fur.
“You made a choice. It’s okay. I’m glad you’re okay.”
“Jesus fuck.” He breathed out so hard, I thought he was going to faint on the spot. The perky one, Paddy, gripped his arm to steady him.
“There’s so much none of us got to say to you and…”
“Stop.” I put a hand on my head again. The world looks fuzzy around the edges. Like when your character in a video game loses consciousness in a cut scene. Or how they describe migraines sometimes.
“Hey. Hey… Steady, Kennedy. You gotta stay with us.” The woman in the glasses says. My chest hurts when I look at her. “The psychic said we shouldn’t push him too hard. He’s,” she sniffs and wipes her nose on her sleeve, trying to stay strong. “he’s been through a lot to be here tonight.”
“Heh. Yeah. Sorry man. Let’s not dwell on that old shit.” The tall man says, clearing his throat. I want to hug each one of them. I don’t know why, but I know I can’t.
“You wanna run a hunt with us?” Paddy asks, and her voice cracks on the final word. “We,” she breathes out hard, looking away from me, getting herself straightened out. “We could really use your help.”
“Yeah, man.” The tall man sniffs. He was Jacob. Jay, usually. “We can’t do it without you man.”
“There’s so much we can’t do without you,” the woman in glasses says, under her breath, choking a little.
“I’m so sorry.” I say, and I’m not sure why. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before.”
“I knew.” She said, looking away from me. “I knew from the start.” She slips her glasses away and meets my eyes. “We should have said it though.”
I nod. I think, I think I’m in love with her? But the idea, the connected feeling is so far away. Like through a mirror, our under water.
“I want to hunt with you.” I say, and as with everything else, it’s kind of like the words are happening before I know I need to say them. But I did need to say them. “One more time.”
“One more time.” Paddy whimpers. Jay says it too, looking at the ground. For a minute, the one with the glasses looks like she’s going to break. Like she can’t handle what I’m offering. It’s too much, and as much as I sympathize with her, I know I need this so much I can’t retract the words.
“Not one more time.” She says, wiping her face with both hands. “Tonight. Next year. Every fucking Halloween between now and the whole planet gets eaten by the fucking sun.”
She would say something like that.
“Maris, he can’t promise that…” Paddy says, trailing off.
“The fuck he can’t.” Jay says. “Why can’t he?”
“Because he has to move on, some day.”
My head hurts as much as my heart hurts, but this is one of those split-second decisions. I can feel the weight of the choice on my soul. Not do or die, but stronger even.
“Every year. Tonight. This night. I’ll be here until you don’t come anymore.”
“I’ll always come.” Her name is Maris, and I believe her.”
“We’ll see.” I tell her, and I know I can’t touch her, but I wish I could. “Let’s worry about the hunt tonight, huh?”
“Yeah.” Jay says, and Paddy agrees.
“Yeah.” Maris says, looking at me with such sadness. “We’ve got tonight.”
My name is Kennedy. I used to be a hunter. I’m dead now, but tonight it’s Halloween, and I’m going to hunt a fucking monster.