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Tic-Tac-Toe

Copyright Cameron Gallant, 2015

This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual people and events is strictly coincidental.

 

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Tic-tac-toe

 

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Tic-Tac-Toe

 

“At least stand up.”

Tia wails, flailing her arms madly. She is sprawled on the couch and looks up at me suddenly, her face rather demented.

“Tia, I can’t help you when you’re down like that.”

“Don’t care! Don’t care!”

“You should care, it’s your life.”

“Don’t care!”

I am sitting on the arm of the couch. I study Tia’s uncomprehending face and then sigh.

“Tia, if there’s anything I can do for you…”

“There isn’t.”

“But if there is, you know you only have to tell me.”

“I won’t! I won’t!” Tia flails her arms wildly once more. Her resistant, tortured voice is like nails on a chalkboard to my ears.

“You have to understand. You need to stop, Tia. You need to stop thinking how you’re thinking! It’s ruining you.”

“Stop! Stop!” I doubt Tia thinks at all. Her eyes roll madly and she begins to sob. For several moments I look at her before I turn and walk from the room.

Almost at once, I hear, “Come back! Come back!” Tia is now shrieking in her cracked, rough voice, spit gurgling in her throat. “Help me!” This has occurred every time I have tried to leave the room so I am not surprised when it happens again.

I am irritated at Tia’s dumbness, like a dumb ox, and her inability to care for herself, but I am a good man who does what he can to help others in need. Slowly, I make my way back to the room as Tia’s cries become increasingly louder the longer I am absent.

Tia is an unstable and extremely insecure girl, as I like to call it. She doesn’t know where she belongs or even where she is half the time. That is why I am helping. But I am irritated. Tia is taking up too much of the time I usually use to do fun stuff with people who aren’t inhibited by mental something or other.

Tia is still flopped on the couch, her sticky hair matted to her anguished face.

“Come back!” she shrieks, ruining half the cells in my left ear. She has not yet noticed that I have returned. “Come back!”

“I’m here now! Look!” I raise my voice, so our two voices together sound like a bloody murder.

“Come back!”

I shake her viciously. Her head lolls back and forth as froth comes from her mouth and she coughs. I jump back immediately to avoid getting contaminated.

“I’m here, Tia. See me?” Tia’s eyes look over my face. Her breathing is still heavy and raspy but she has calmed down from her hysterics. “What’s the matter?”

There is a moment’s pause.

“I can’t take it.”

“Can’t take what?”

“Can’t take it!” Tia is wasting my time. My temper rises.

“Tia, look at this logically, I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s up.”

“I can’t take it! Help me!” Tia does not have an ounce of logic in her.

“I can’t help you!” I shout in return. I am on my final leg of patience.

“Help!”

“Okay, listen! Have you played tic-tac-toe? Do you remember if you maybe did once? Cause if you have, the game’s like how you’re being now. I start off and I try every way I can to win, but I keep drawing with my opponent. I keep trying and getting the same results! Can’t you see it’s that way with you…”

“Don’t care!”

“You should!” I lower my voice and bring it to a controlled softness. “Actually, you shouldn’t because you winning is entirely hopeless. You might as well just give up!” With that, I depart from the room fuming at Tia’s lack of cooperation and carelessness.

Almost immediately, Tia begins to scream ‘come back, come back’ but I this time ignore her. I put her and all my thoughts and memories of her out of my mind.

Things will go back to how they used to be. I think. Back to dancing till three and sleeping in till one. I think of the club and how much better tonight will be compared to last night and the one before that.

The day passes quickly but even as I go to the club at eight, thoughts of Tia still nag me in the back of my mind. Was it right for me to leave her?

Of course… says one side of me. You have no obligation to her. The other side of me remains guiltily silent.

 

The club has not changed over the few days I have used bailing a lost cause. Its hot lights and dancers are the same as usual—sexy and suggestive.

“Hey Scott.” Scott is the bartender.

“The usual?”

“Yeah, give me my draft and a whiskey neat.”

“Goin’ dancin’ tonight?”

“Yeah, gonna get drunk too.”

“As usual.”

“Yep, as usual.”

I take a long sip of the draft I am handed, and make my way away from the bartender to where the heavy music is the loudest. My eardrums rattle and I like it. The cold draft and whiskey help me briefly bring Tia out of my mind altogether.

And then the lights get hotter and the dancers wilder. It reminds me of the golden days without the mental girl who screams and moans and then remains unresponsive.

Tia. I remember her again and a flush of guilt laps at me.

“Hey man, you alright?” It takes me a minute before I fully realize I have been addressed and regain focus on my surroundings. A man has hold of my shoulder and is shaking me.

“Yeah, sure.” I attempt to brush him off.

“You don’t look alright. Hey, I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s up.”

I hesitate.

“Come on man, none of us will remember what we’ve said in the morning.”

Reassured, I allow him to lead me over to the chairs at the bar and we sit and begin to talk as the man orders us each another drink. “It’s just this girl” I start.

“We all like girls.”

“No, it’s a confused girl. She has a sort of mental thing and screams and pouts like a tike tantrum. I was trying to help her…”

“Trying to help her?”

“Yeah, you know, have her stop screaming and understand things.”

“Understand things?”

“Yeah, but not anymore. I—”

“Ditch her man.”

“I have, but well, it’s not like we were, well, friends. I was just helping her because it’s good to do.”

The man takes a long sip of his drink before speaking in what he means to be a consoling tone, “Forget about her. She’s got nothing on you.”

I get up and drain the rest of my glass in a mouthful.

~

It’s about two o’clock and I am partied out. I stumble across to the red sign I know says Exit. Because I forget where I parked my car I decide to walk home instead. The night is dark and I think I keep seeing black crows fly overhead, but I am not sure. I walk slowly, but in little time find myself somewhere I do not recognize. I am not entirely surprised. Drunks often have trouble with directions. I try to remember where my house is.

There is a tall red brick building in front of me. It’s illuminated by street lights. Between me and it is an empty road, the concrete bearing long shadows from the light poles and the trees lining the street.

I suddenly feel an urge to reach the red brick building and to go inside it. It seems warm and cozy and holds an air of mystery. I want to find out who lives in the red-brick building I have never seen before.

Where am I?

Headlights suddenly flare as a car turns onto the street and begins driving down it, coming quickly upon the spot where I stand.

No, I think suddenly. The building might not still be here once a car passes. I attempt to run across the street before the car passes, but I cannot run. My feet fall unpredictably off the side of the sidewalk and I roll dully in front of the fast approaching vehicle.

I attempt to get up but the drinks from the club hold like lead in my stomach. I stumble and fall again. With increasing desperateness, but still the brain of an ox, I flail my arms wildly in an attempt to notify the driver. I, for some reason, have great fear of being hit, yet my senses are muffled and drowned in drinks. The driver does not notice me and the car continues closer. Closer. Perhaps he too is drunk.

I feel a stab of panic, followed by a feeling of impending doom. The world is sinking around me. And then the car is upon me.

And then the air explodes around me and I think I am being thrown through the air. I feel no pain, but I watch as blood gushes from my body at an alarming rate. I can feel it, warm and sticky, wetting my shirt. My eyesight flickers and then flashes entirely white as I land again on the pavement and I know I will die. My body rattles and I taste metal in my mouth.

Both headlights on the car are now broken and there is no motion anywhere about me. The world is entirely silent. My heart thumbs quite feebly. I know it is wrong. But I don’t want to die…

“Help.” Blood gurgles in my throat, making my voice sound rough and cracked. “Help!” There is no response and I think my voice simply dissolved into the night. But then, a door opens and a misty figure dressed in white steps lightly out of the red brick building.

As the figure approaches, I reach a sudden understanding. I realize that I have seen the building before. It was where Tia was, lying on the couch in that far away afternoon. Tia’s voice comes to me, crisp and clear. She is no longer screaming and flailing, but is standing sensibly over me watching me intently with bright burning eyes.

“Help!” I croak. “I can’t take it.”

“At least stand up.”

“I can’t! Help me!” I am afraid.

“I’m here, see me? What’s the matter?”

I begin to sob out whatever liquid I have left in my broken body. Gradually, pain of the crash is coming to me and overwhelming my body. “I can’t take it.”

“Can’t take what?”

“Can’t – take – to – die…” Blood rolls about the street and I feel my body shudder.

Tia’s misty voice is the last thing I hear, ringing out though the night, magnified in my ears. As my vision fades, I see Tia walking lightly away, leaving me on the pavement—deserting me as I deserted her.

She turns and faces me for one final time, her expression slightly repulsed but otherwise indifferent—emotionless. “Have you ever played tic-tac-toe?”


Tic-Tac-Toe

Time: Present Word Count: 1828 SAMPLE (574 words of 1828 words) (this story contains: immature drinking, death) “At least stand up.” Tia wails, flailing her arms madly. She is sprawled on the couch and looks up at me suddenly, her face rather demented. “Tia, I can’t help you when you’re down like that.” “Don’t care! Don’t care!” “You should care, it’s your life.” “Don’t care!” I am sitting on the arm of the couch. I study Tia’s uncomprehending face and then sigh. “Tia, if there’s anything I can do for you…” “There isn’t.” “But if there is, you know you only have to tell me.” “I won’t! I won’t!” Tia flails her arms wildly once more. Her resistant, tortured voice is like nails on a chalkboard to my ears. “You have to understand. You need to stop, Tia. You need to stop thinking how you’re thinking! It’s ruining you.” “Stop! Stop!” I doubt Tia thinks at all. Her eyes roll madly and she begins to sob. For several moments I look at her before I turn and walk from the room. Almost at once, I hear, “Come back! Come back!” Tia is now shrieking in her cracked, rough voice, spit gurgling in her throat. “Help me!” This has occurred every time I have tried to leave the room so I am not surprised when it happens again. I am irritated at Tia’s dumbness, like a dumb ox, and her inability to care for herself, but I am a good man who does what he can to help others in need. Slowly, I make my way back to the room as Tia’s cries become increasingly louder the longer I am absent. Tia is an unstable and extremely insecure girl, as I like to call it. She doesn’t know where she belongs or even where she is half the time. That is why I am helping. But I am irritated. Tia is taking up too much of the time I usually use to do fun stuff with people who aren’t inhibited by mental something or other. Tia is still flopped on the couch, her sticky hair matted to her anguished face. “Come back!” she shrieks, ruining half the cells in my left ear. She has not yet noticed that I have returned. “Come back!” “I’m here now! Look!” I raise my voice, so our two voices together sound like a bloody murder. “Come back!” I shake her viciously. Her head lolls back and forth as froth comes from her mouth and she coughs. I jump back immediately to avoid getting contaminated. “I’m here, Tia. See me?” Tia’s eyes look over my face. Her breathing is still heavy and raspy but she has calmed down from her hysterics. “What’s the matter?” There is a moment’s pause. “I can’t take it.” “Can’t take what?”

  • Author: Cameron Gallant
  • Published: 2016-09-06 05:40:08
  • Words: 1870
Tic-Tac-Toe Tic-Tac-Toe