“Open your hands!” Avery shouted, nodding towards Brian.
“I’m going to be sick, Avery. I am not touching that.”
“Don’t be such a fucking baby, Brian. Open your hands!”
Brian’s face was pinched with sickness as Avery slapped the thick mess into his palms. It was strangely cool and calming.
“Rub them together, “Avery said.
Brian began to massage the grubs in his hands, feeling their bodies break down, and releasing the delicious smell of burned marshmallows. Brian’s eyes widened as his hands began to glow an electric blue.
“What is this?” he asked.
Brian had heard rumors of Avery’s shady dealings, and though he had never experienced it first hand, he was still skeptical.
“Wait for it,” Avery smiled, “You’ve never experienced anything like it.” The hairs on Brian’s arms were standing on end, and he was aware of every square inch of his flesh. It danced in time with the music.
“I found these… things, in a crack in the wall behind that big Eden Corporation poster. I accidentally smashed one.”
“Incredible.” Brian couldn’t take his eyes of the brilliant blue paste that was running down his arms and dripping from his elbows.
“You’re an artist… paint me something,” Avery said grabbing Brian by the shoulders and pushed him toward the corner of the room. Brian pressed the paint to the wall and began feeling the surface out with his hands.
“My clientele awaits.” Avery started toward his other guests but stopped, “Oh hey, I almost forgot.” He pulled a brown piece of paper from his pocket, “Open your mouth.”
“What is it?” Brian scratched his chin, smearing grub across his face and neck.
“Does it really matter?”
Brian hesitated for a moment then shook his head and opened his mouth in acceptance.
“Hey,” Pete stared at his brother through the railing of the top bunk. “Hey asshole, wake up.” He poked him in the face.
Brian swatted his brother’s hand. “Leave me alone… sleeping.”
“You need to get your lazy ass up and clean this mess. You’re fifteen for crying out loud. You’re supposed to be the responsible one!”
“Ugh… what mess?” Brian rolled to his side and opened his eyes. His room was covered in blue paint. Lewd drawings and profanity were on every wall; all in the same electric blue. “I didn’t do that!”
“You sure as hell did! You’re just as blue as these walls. And this,” Pete pointed to a picture by his desk, “dick sucking stuff… better come off, or so help me, I will kill you.”
Brian tried not to laugh at the photo of Pete with a large penis painted behind his head, “OK, OK! I will clean it up.” He rolled onto his back and looked at his hands. They were caked with blue grub guts. He vaguely remembered being at Low End with Avery.
While Pete continued to curse him for his art, Brian looked closely at the painting above his bed. It was an ongoing project, but now the image on the ceiling had a fresh coat of blue paint. He was amazed by the detail on the portrait of Jen. He hadn’t seen her since she disappeared before this year’s matching ceremony.
“Who’s Jen?” Pete shouted from their bathroom.
“What?” Brian blinked as he stared into the eyes of the painting above his head.
“Jen? Does Rachel know about her?”
“Can we not talk about Rachel?” Brian shuttered. The mention of her name caused his stomach to turn. They were to be married in the coming months, and Brian still despised her. He closed his eyes and imagined squeezing her in his hands and painting her on the walls.
“Jen is the lucky one… miles above basking in the sun.”
“That is what it says in here. Jen is the lucky one… miles above basking in the sun. It doesn’t make sense, does it?” Pete walked back into the room.
“No, it doesn’t.”
“What’s that on your neck?” Pete pointed.
Brian reached his hand to his neck and felt a grub attached to his skin. He could feel his pulse in its fat belly and pulled it off.
Pete’s face contorted in disgust as Brian began to rub his hands together. “This is how I made this paint,” he said. “Look.” Brian opened the palms of his hands, but this time red coated his skin and dripped from his fingers.
Brian managed a weak “Oh… “ before hitting the floor.
“Grow up, Brian,” Pete rolled his eyes and left his brother lying in the mess he’d created.
I cannot thank Kemari Howell (email@example.com) enough for her editing expertise and patience with me and my brainworms. You're awesome, Kemari!