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Fiction by Travis Dahlke

Seaside Condos of the Minneola Coast

While I’m carving a dick-sized hole out from the pizza box, Joan Heart closes her eyes and says the condo has weird energy. I’m not going back in that bathroom. I was attacked on all fronts, she says. Joan wafts her hands as if pushing a weight further away. The palm trees outside are being chewed to shreds by Tropical Storm Cassidy. Our producer, Barry, tells me to kill the blinds because we’re about to mic the oral scene.

Trucker Dallas glances up from his phone. Did anyone just see the lights flicker? He takes a slow sip of Poweraid from a Starbucks tumbler. He returns to his phone. Everyone’s in a mood because this morning’s footage was ruined by the soil gnats floating around Joan and Trucker’s assholes throughout their cowgirl scene. The soil gnats weren’t there yesterday, but today, suddenly every house plant throughout the condo was infested with them so we stashed the plants in the bathroom and set up vinegar traps. Barry’s phone has been vibrating nonstop. He is closing a scuba instructional video package for a resort near the beach. The storm makes a sound like a giant bone breaking. The lights go out.

Jesus fuck, Barry says. No, not you, Fran. A siren blares. He collapses the phone and says this storm is trying to end him.

I love thunderstorms, Joan says, her eyes still closed. Trucker says the storm sounds thinner than other ones. We put the Weather Channel on. In between the blinds I see sewers gurgling lagoon water.

Check this out. Barry flips his laptop around. He replays footage from his last snorkel video. See in the corner? We peer into the screen, past two blondes demonstrating how to breathe so the hydrostatic pressure doesn’t make their chests cave in.

What am I looking at? I ask.

It’s an orb.

That’s dust, Trucker says.

No. This is from the Blue Dunes Resort. Where that powdered chlorine went up in the eighties and a bunch of caterers were trapped in the basement.

I believe you, Joan says. The laptop goes dark. The acid of marinara sauce surges up my throat.

That was weird, I say.

It’s probably just the battery, Barry says, lifting it and inspecting the plugs. This pizza tastes like cigarettes, Trucker says.

Florida’s humidity thins their peels, Joan says. Rain drowns the sound Barry’s phone makes vibrating against the coffee table.

I had a college roommate who was followed by the spirit of Julian McGrath, I say.

The nerd from Him & Harriette? Trucker asks.

Yeah but before the drugs. He had felt the presence since he was a kid. I guess Julian’s spirit had this scent too, like hand soap. Then one day he sees on TMZ that Julian overdosed. Remember, they found him in his Lamborghini? After that, my roommate never felt it again.

Trucker says, when we’re dead and gone, people will still be jerking it to us. I think of that every time I look in the camera, like I’m looking right through the lens to someone years from now.

Wind knocks something from the roof. I venture into the bathroom’s darkness to search for Tums. My phone’s flashlight grazes to photos of the condo’s family arranged behind the plants. Gnats crawl over people in sweaters glowing in birthday cake candlelight. Kids holding up crabs on a beach. Spaces where teeth used to be.

When I return, Trucker says his mother is religious because the house he grew up in had demons. All Victorian houses do. He starts talking about curses feeding off spiral staircases. How certain mathematical angles can invite the spirit world. I spread the blinds to check on the storm. A landscaping truck has stopped near an overflowing drain. Barry restarts the modem. He assesses each light as it comes back on.

Joan opens her eyes, her lashes a carnivorous plant expelling curdled mascara. Back in Delaware when I was a kid, I had this boyfriend. He was my seventh grade crush. Ryan Polaski, she says, smiling. Ryan was kind of a redneck, you know? That whole family hunted and they had a whole preserve behind their house. They’d come back with all sorts of dead animals. One time they brought back a bobcat and Ryan made me a bracelet from its teeth. In the summer, Ryan and I, we used to fool around in the fields. We had this one spot near this boulder that he wrote our names on with spray paint. He told me it was a meteor. Thinking about it now, I guess it couldn’t have been a meteor because a meteor that size would have wiped out all of humanity.

An alarm from the TV cuts the softness of Joan’s voice. I watch Barry and Trucker refocus on different parts of her face. The storm is Vaseline, drooling over the window. Gnats are emerging from the bathroom now to colonize what’s left of the pizza box.

Joan places both hands flat on her lap. I do the same but am unsure why. There was one winter Ryan’s mom wanted a field turkey for their Christmas dinner. She was a real pioneer like that. She sends Ryan and his dad deep into the preserve where the turkeys nested in irrigation pits. Most they marked with spray paint. Ryan and his dad are scouting for the perfect bird, further than they had ever gone. They hear this moan. They think maybe it’s some kind of animal in distress and follow the sound to a pit where a girl’s voice is singing up from the dark. When they called back the singing stopped like they scared her. Then there was quiet, a quiet, dark hole in the woods and they never did anything, they never called the cops. They just left it there and went home.

Travis Dahlke

Twitter: @travisdhlke
IG: @travisdhlke

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