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Picture 1-1 for Marshall Edwards' horror serial, "MAYFLY". Art by Dennis Coyle

Illus. by Dennis Coyle III

It began when I heard, then saw, an old college friend run down in Omaha.  I was relaxing at my favorite outdoor café when:

I heard the screech of tires, familiar enough, often streets away but now very close at hand –

I heard a man scream – this too was familiar, and with a specificity that struck the breast –

As I turned to look, I asaw a shuddering bulk of cobalt blue and a stricken body thrown free –

And following the arc of vision I saw a laye-moel smartphone flung free, arcing high, emancipated from the now-familiar corpse.

A throng of pedestrians rushed in, and I with them.  I was sure the dissembled corpse, strung here on the warped hood and across the ground, was that of my old friend, Roger Maybury.

I stood there, dumbfounded in the tumult, recalling dead old Maybury, terror of the Philosophy undergraduates.  Not a class or social gathering or casual conversation went by without him blistering in tumult, screaming humans were slaves to the desires of others.  He aggrandized Nietzsche, claiming man (he always said “man”, not “humanity”, now matter how often corrected or by whom) was a chrysalis, a larvae, stuck between its base drudgery and the realm of the gods and that one day, he would prove it.  We’d pass the wine and the weed during these rants, basking in the rage, ten we’d step in to revive the cupidic scowled when he, breathless, passed out.  All this larval talk and vasovagal extinction earned him the name Mayfly – a name I now regretted, seeing him thus on the pavement.

And as we clamored over the busted man – the body was gone, scraps of viscera left behind like footfalls in the frost.

The crowd shifted from excitation to mad bafflement.  A tall conical man grappled called emergency dispatch as a legion of smartphones captured the anomaly.  I began to think of my bag.  Whatever was going on, I’d feel more secure with laptop in hand.  As I turned away, my attention was hooked by a scream on the edge of sanity and there was Roger, no longer a wet mess of red, but clean and howling breathless.  The look in his eyes, a haunted agony that withered his features and his sanity, made me wonder if he wasn’t better off dead.

Presently I was shaking him by the shoulders, urging him: “Roger! Roger, it’s me.  You’re okay, Roger.  For the love of God, stop screaming!”

The ambulance team beat its way through the crowd – some still filming, some trying to touch the resurrected in religious fire.  And though Roger seemed physically fine, he was frozen in terror.

I rode along and guided Roger through hospital check-in and, given Roger’s state, they allowed me to stay.   The sedatives soaked his tissue, and he stopped clawing the air, and released my hand from his pin-and-needle grip.

As I sat, the adrenaline released me, and a cold ache settled in.  His breathing steady, Roger pooled his composure further into his absence.  The steady beat of machinery and hospital bustle pulled into a nodding doze.

“I thought it was you.”

Roger spoke, pulling me from my fitful nap.  HE was fixed on me now, alan wrench eyes digging into sockets long unused.

I shifted in my seat, pantomiming relaxation in an overwrought way.  “That was one hell of a trick, Roger.  You okay?”

My jocular tone didn’t sway him.  He pursed his lips to speak, then relented and returned his gaze to the wall.

“When we were at school, I often went on for hours while you listened.  I know you thought I was a joke.  But there was something else there, wasn’t there?

“I’m sorry – forgive me.  I was an asshole.  But, more than ever, I need someone to listen now.

He bored into me again with flint-sharp eyes.  His cracked lips quivered.  “Please,” he rasped.  “Help me.”

I should have run.

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