An essay by Tina Eikenboom, as provided by Sarena Ulibarri
Art by Leigh Legler
I set the room on fire–I didn’t know what else to do. Two bodies slumped against the dresser. A woman and a man. My roommate and her obnoxious boyfriend.
Stephanie and Jason.
I shook their names out of my head. Corpses now. How I had overpowered them both, I didn’t quite understand. Strength like I’d never known before ran through my arms.
My heartbeat seemed to echo through that grungy rental house while I packed a hasty bag, set fire to the curtains and bed sheets, and drove. I stripped my bank account at the gas station ATM: $400, it’s all I had, twenty twenties now stuffed into my purse. Some strawberry blonde dye and a pair of “reading glasses” and I would be unrecognizable, Clark Kent-style. Though none of it mattered until I could get rid of this car. Surely my license plate would be all over the billboards soon, texted to every phone.
My phone. I took a longing look, then placed it in front of a semi-truck’s wheel at the pump next to me, and lingered until I heard the sick crunch of glass and circuits. The semi’s exhaust billowed into my face.
And then I drove, and I drove, and I drove.
Where should I go? Canada–no, too far, too many questions. I had a friend in Kentucky–would she hide me? I hadn’t even talked to her in years. Some no-name town off the highway where you could rent a room and work for cash, that’s what I needed. Those places still existed, right? I headed toward Wyoming.
Four hundred dollars wouldn’t get me far, but still, I drove, I drove, I drove.
As my gas gauge slipped toward empty, I thought maybe prison wouldn’t be so bad. I could read, I could work out. Maybe the weird super-strength that put me there would come back the first time another inmate picked a fight, and I could be Queen Butch. What good had I been to the world anyway? Just another rent-payer, gas-buyer, phone-checker, traffic-jammer. A million others just like me had managed to live their adult lives without accidentally killing the person they shared a house with. And over what? Some stained carpet and owed money, some rude words and misused photos.
I pulled off the road, hid my car behind some bushes, and tried to sleep, the murder re-playing through my mind on a loop.
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Spring 2018 collection.
Tina Eikenboom is a real nobody. You’ve never heard of her, or met her. Unless maybe you went to high school with her. Or community college. If you ever lived next door, you might know her as that girl who plays music too loud. Tina’s not her real name, but it does start with a T, and if she has too much to drink, she might accidentally tell you what it is.
Sarena Ulibarri is a graduate of the Clarion Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop at UCSD, and earned an MFA at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her fiction has appeared in Lightspeed, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Weirdbook, and elsewhere. She is editor-in-chief of World Weaver Press. Find more at sarenaulibarri.com.
Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at http://leighlegler.carbonmade.com/.
“Cocktails at the Mad Scientist’s House” is Copyright 2018 Sarena Ulibarri
Art accompanying story is © 2018 Leigh Legler