93. Izzy

Chapter 92

Izzy

She drew an idea up from the very depths, where it had been forgotten.

She made a chair where there hadn’t been one a moment before, out of the stuff in the air. She made the light, and it was low, and the bulb hummed above a little form wrapped in blankets. The form had dark eyes – purple eyes – and little unruly bits of hair. The form gripped at whatever was nearby.

She made a crib for her, and left the rest of the room alone. This was what mattered anyway.

Alone in her room with something taken from life, Izzy sat in the chair she had made and stared at an infant that bore her name.

“Hi, Izzy,” she said. She was asleep. She wasn’t real. She had never been born. But Chelsea was going to name her after Izzy if she had been a girl. “I miss your mom. You would have loved her.”

It was arrogant of her, she knew, to think that anybody could imagine a life in its little complexities, but seeing her there asleep, she knew it was okay. She put her hand on her tiny cheek and felt her warmth.

Sometime before she died, Chelsea had imagined what she would have looked like. If anything was, she was a lost idea. We are all idea men.

They sat in the dark, and the second Izzy, the little Izzy, the dream Izzy, had dreams too. Izzy could have looked inside to see, and she was curious. But Sunday probably wouldn’t. He wouldn’t think to.

She did it anyway.

Izzy Leigh was dreaming of a warm place, in music. In a language nobody spoke. Izzy pushed very gently, and the idea surrounded them. So Izzy Leigh would sleep in a warm place, in music.

“Goodnight,” Izzy said. She left her sleeping. She let her drift away into wherever her home would be. Into her own room. Izzy Leigh.

Something was in the room with her, and she knew it. She turned to face it.

“Hi, Izzy,” said Mister Stagger Lee.

He was cracked open – she could see inside him, and what she saw was a tangled nothing. He wore two smiles that used to be one. He was fractured, and a snakey thing. He was rainworn and rainswept and soaked to the bone, and he was chipping away in flakes like cracked paint in the wind. There was no composure to him. He was deranged, and did not hide it. And all of the parts of him just sat together and looked like a person. But the glue was gone. Everything he was, was lost.

But still he tried. The suit stayed, the black shoes stayed. He shook, but smiled. He smiled, but faltered. He faltered, but remained standing. He remained standing, but there was so little to hold him up. The thing that animated him was leaking away, and he was pulling himself along on desire and – Izzy knew – hate and hate and hate.

“Hi, Izzy,” said Mister Stagger Lee. The littlest semblance of civility. “You have something that’s mine.”

“Yeah,” she said.

Of, the storm is threatening my very life today. If I don’t get some shelter, oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away.

His voice was wavering from a mouth like a wound. And all the music was spilling out of him at once in a big cacophony. She felt no presence from him, or from his bloody, splattered hands and wrists. He walked up to her with shaking steps and cracking, failing bones, and spoke without hiding. The mask of Mister Stagger Lee slipped away all together, and he let it fall.

War, children. It’s just a shot away. It’s just a shot away.

“If you don’t give it to me,” he said, “I will crack your skull and lay you bare, and I will take it from your mind. So you will give it to me. Or I will rip you apart. I will rip you, Izzy. You are so much dust. There is nothing to you – and I can scatter you, if I want to. Give it to me.” She could feel his breath on her face. “Give it to me!

To her he looked like a little piece of something rotting. The fractious smile laughed and hyperventilated through its nose and mouth, and stopped dead and breathed still. “Please,” he said.

Oh, see the fire is sweeping our very streets today. Burns like a red coal carpet.

“I’ve seen what you do to people,” Izzy said. “I saw it in the memory room – I saw you kill Nina’s brother Sam, and Nick Christensen, and my mom. And now you’ll kill me.”

“Yes,” Stagger Lee said.

She made a knife from nothing, and held it out to him, handle first. He looked at it like he didn’t know what it was. He saw her eyes.

“Take it. Go ahead and cut me up. Here. Take it, Stag.”

He held the knife with both hands, and stared at it, and at her.

Mad bull lost your way. War, children. It’s just a shot away. It’s just a shot away.

“Come on,” she said. She pointed at her throat. Stag didn’t move. “Just like you did to Sam. Only you made Nina kill Sam, didn’t you? Just like my mom, then. Kill her just like you killed me. But that was Zig. And Nick was my grandpa. And I’ll bet you that my grandpa was already gone by the time you got that blood on your hands. So come kill me. Come and take it.”

He sputtered. He coughed, he lunged for her, grabbed her by the shoulders, lifted her bodily, and slammed her into the wall. The knife flashed, and he went for her eye.

And stopped, millimeters away, shaking and sweating. She had only blinked.

Rape, murder. It’s just a shot away. It’s just a shot away.

He hissed. He whispered. “There is nothing you can do to me, girl. There is nothing. You have nothing, and you are nothing. It would take so, so little to snuff you out. A little pressure, and your eye goes. A little more …” he grinned manically. “And your mind goes with it.”

The floods are threatening my very life today.

“So do it,” Izzy said.

“I will bleed you dry!”

“Liar,” she said.

Liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar liar l̴̼i̓͂̑̋̂̋a̶͖̱̞̠̥ͦ̆̑͗ͮr̠̯̜̩͎ͣ̓͋ͬ̽ͬ.

He stopped. “What?”

“Liar,” she said again. “Liar.”

The two stared into the depths of one another. Izzy was unimpressed.

“Put me down, Stag.”

Her feet touched the floor. He still held the knife to her, but she hardly noticed. She walked past him, circling him as he circled her. And then she turned away from him. She turned her back.

Gimme, gimme shelter.

And he didn’t touch her, or think to. He didn’t move. Coward.

She reached the door, and he stood in the center of an empty place.

She turned the knob and opened the door. The knife fell, and he slumped. His head fell too, and he stared dully at the floor.

“Izzy,” he said. “Please don’t leave me here.”

Or I’m gonna fade away. War, children. It’s just a –

She didn’t even look back at him. She just turned out the light, and left him alone in the room.

Close the door and we’ll disappear.

Close the book and we’ll disappear.

When Stagger Lee died, he died in fear and ignorance, and he was all alone. He was the only thing in the world.

Nobody saw, in the dark, the shifting thing take him in its jaws and begin to press down. Nobody saw the long tendrils grip his skull until it cracked.

Nobody saw the thin hand of Kyle Marshal plunge itself into Stagger Lee’s chest and spread its fingers until they reached his ribs and his collarbone and split them into pieces. Nobody heard the noise or felt the impact – not even Stagger Lee.

Nobody saw him crumble away.

But he did. He did.

Close the door and we’ll disappear

Close the book and we’ll disappear

Chapter 94

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