1. A Return to Earth

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1. A Return to Earth
Senior Year, Graduation Day

My personal savior is named David Bloom, and presently he’s falling about ten stories from the top of a water tower. And my stupid stunned mind; all I can think is that he looks great doing it. Arms spread, fingertips extended, face serene—homicide by stage dive. His body returns to the earth below, the fall reducing him to a streak of white and blue cloth, brown hair. His eyes are closed. Maybe he’s smiling. Maybe I just like to think so.

I can’t see that well. I’m pretty far away, under the cover of some trees, watching through a gap in the leaves. I was supposed to meet someone here.

A masked figure is rushing down the ladder of the tower, half-sliding, spider skittering down a drain. David’s executioner. At least five people, including myself, have a good reason to kill David. Naturally, we’ve all been friends for life.

A good hero would chase the killer.

I am not a good hero. I’m not even a good me.

I run to the place where David fell, like I think he’s still going to be alive, somehow. Stupid. What I get instead shocks me, makes my legs weak and my breath feel worthless. David is pile of skin and bone, a sick mockery of my friend—limbs and neck bent at ugly angles like his skin is a sack of something, not like he’s a person. This guy - this guy who showed me the light, now just a coffin’s worth of flesh.

Still though. Face frozen in that serene stare. Still looking as good as he possibly can. Not saying much.

The wet breeze of an incoming cold front sweeps across the woods, and a swarm of blackbirds rise from the trees. If one white dove carries an average soul to Heaven during a funeral, this is a good start. Every grackle in Texas should be heading to the moon. He was a criminal, a drifter, an egomaniac. And my friend.

David was obsessed with finding out what we really were, what a person amounted to when you stripped away all the influences, all the conditioning, all the clutter. To find each person’s core, he invented a game meant to be played by small groups of people.

The game is called Eureka and there’s only one rule. Eureka is played like tag, except when touched, you have to change your life in fifteen minutes. You do this by committing an act which will affect your future in a way you hadn’t previously planned. The more consequences the act carries, the better player you are.

Your goals, relationships, and belongings are the cost of entry. Play long enough and life finally becomes about living, rather than some illusion of progress. No attachment to anything except the value of your own continuously thrilling existence.

I’ve been in a game for Eureka for the past five years, and I've been forced to make changes. I’ve sacrificed what I thought I loved, relearned what love was, and, most importantly, learned identities didn’t have to be something you bargained for with society.

The game never stops. One of the other five players could tag me, force me to change my life. Anytime, anywhere. Makes you see the real value of things.

Ideally, without regret. Ideally.

It’s how I lost the girl I love.

I pace back and forth around his body, trying not to look but finding myself unable to resist. Still horrifying. Still a loose pool of skin and meat with David’s head resting on top, staring up.

I realize that, for a variety of reasons—not the least of which being, I’m the only one standing around his corpse—I will be blamed for pushing him off the water tower.

Well, I blame the death of David Bloom on the weight of his presence. I expected the ground to tremble under his power, but that didn't happen. No split Earth, core leaking like yolk. No torn ground, but no less of an impact. The dead body is a collapsed star, and the resulting black hole will pull investigators, parents, and the community into his personal reality. I’ve been in it for years, so I have one advantage.

I close my eyes and inhale slowly, dreading what comes next. I crouch next to David’s corpse and reach a hand into his pocket, trying to avoid all contact with my dead friend’s flesh. I can’t help nudging him slightly; he shifts limply; a shattered arm bends backward. Sick. I yank the cell phone he carries from his pocket, grateful he didn’t land on his other side.

The phone works; I call nine-one-one. "There’s a dead body at the water tower next to the Kingwood High football field.”My voice cracks. Putting words to this somehow makes things worse.

The responder rattles off questions, making sure I’m not a stupid teen making a prank call. Eventually, she's convinced this is real and I hang up.

The high school football field is a half-mile back; they’re holding our graduation today. The band is warming up, and the tuning tubas sound like sick swans. My would-be girlfriend, the valedictorian, will be giving her graduation speech. Most likely, all she’ll be thinking about is what a terrible person I am.

I reach into my pocket and withdraw a pack of cigarettes. They aren’t mine, and I don’t smoke. Small quotations are scrawled on each of the paper tubes in tiny script. This one reads ‘Hell is other people.’ Appropriate. I hold a flame to the end of the nicotine stick until the tip smolders then place the softly smoking cylinder next to David’s body. The cigarette smokes itself: the closest thing to a prayer candle I can burn for my friend. How did I let things come this far? The sorrow sets in as adrenaline drains. I’m going to miss him. I’m truly alone.

A squad car arrives. A large Hispanic policeman deploys from within and steps toward me; the way he alternates between jogging and walking makes his excitement evident. I lift my hands above my head to show I’m unarmed and cooperative, then point at David’s body. The officer teeters around the corpse, first crouching nearby, then standing over, and finally touching the cadaver for a pulse.

“I need you to arrest me,” I tell him, once he’s balanced enough to accept that David’s death is the center mass around which this will orbit.

The officer asks me: “Did you kill this boy? Do you know what happened?”

I don’t say another word. After a few more unanswered questions, the handcuffs click around my wrists. Hands brush my pockets, my socks. Strange intimacy. I'm loaded into the cruiser.

“What happened out there?” the officer asks as we drive to the police station. “Are you the person that decides whether or not I am going to get charged with murder?” I ask instead, ignoring the officer’s question.

The cop clears his throat, agitation evident. “No, I’m not. You will be talking with a detective.”

“Then I’ll talk to the detective,” I say. “Until then, I’m invoking my fifth, or whatever you call it.”

“Your right to remain silent,” he explains.

“Right, that.”

There are dark clouds overhead, and the first drops of rain start falling just as we reach the police station. Jail may be the best place for me now, except for the possibility I might never leave. I try to remind myself this doesn’t matter either way. I’ve never owned anything, and never will. No bad situations or good situations, only experiences. Everything matters because nothing matters. I know this because of what David taught me. Because of Eureka.

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[sic] and all contents herein are copyright of Scott Kelly, 2012. All rights reserved.
Cover artwork copyright of Greg Poszywak. 2012.
Check out more of Greg's work at: http://thegregorythomas.deviantart.com/ 

Like any good book, this novel contains some degree of sex, foul-language, and violence. If [sic] were a movie, it would be PG-13. Please plan accordingly.

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