Gateway

Claire was sitting at the counter, eating her canned chili out of a bowl. It was salty and overcooked and she needed to go shopping for more supplies so she could actually cook something. She swallowed a bit of the beefy stuff and washed it down with a gulp of two-buck chuck. The taste of the Shiraz seemed to mix all right with the meat.

Her boyfriend Anthony was on the couch texting.

Brittany, her roommate, was cooking something resembling alfredo on the stove and she moved about the kitchen for this activity. Claire watched her stirring, dumping spices in the pan, tasting.

“Tell me what happened today,” said Claire, referring to the text Brittany had sent about the random guy who hit on her.

“Oh my God, like, he came up to me and was all, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ and I’m like ‘Ew, get away!’”

“You said that to him?”

“No, but that was what I was thinking in my head.”

“So what did you say?”

“I didn’t say anything and he was like saying all these things. He was flirting but he kept saying all these dirty jokes and shit. And he’s like, ‘want to go to my apartment?’”

“Oh my God!”

“Yeah. I and I said, ‘No thank you.’”

“Did he go away?”

“I had to say it like three times.”

“That’s good.”

“He’s saying all these things like, ‘You’re hot. Your hair is hot.’ All that stuff. I mean, it wouldn’t normally bother me it was just the fact that I was alone and he was just totally being creepy.”

“Yeah,” said Brittany.

The door squeaked open and Anthony stepped into the living room. Claire turned around and said, “Hi, Anthony.”

“Hello,” he said. He was breathless but calm, and slouched his backpack onto the ground by the couch. He stood for a moment and said, “How are you guys?”

“Good,” they said. Claire watch him sit down on the couch, groaning. He put a foot up on the coffee table and leaned back. His dark hair was gelled up and formed messy spikes.

His face was not devoid of acne and he had pointy cheeks and deep-set eyes, with long narrow eyebrows above them. He was somewhat tan from summer.

“Did you do your thing?” said Brittany.

“My thing?” said Anthony.

“Yeah, your vampire thing or whatever?”

“Vampire thing?” his face was blank and he looked around the room to remember.

Brittany turned around and saw that he was confused and said, “Last night, you said you had to finish something. Wasn’t it vampires, or, what was it? Skeletons or whatever.”

“Oh,” said Anthony, “The zombie thing.”

“What is it?” said Claire.

“For the writing class I’m taking,” he said, “Our theme is zombies.”

“Oh,” said Claire, “For Writing 39B?”

“Yeah.”

“How does that work out? The zombies theme.”

“It’s ok,” he said, “You don’t have to take it seriously. We don’t take anything seriously in that class, it’s like a joke.”

“We did the American West,” shouted Brittany at the stove.

“That’s a good one,” said Anthony.

“Yeah, we watched this John Wayne movie and everything. It was good.”

Claire finished the last bite of chili and said, “We had Utopia and Dystopia.”

“Oh that sucks…” said Anthony.

“I know! Everyone else gets these fun themes. It was interesting, though.”

“What do you do for that?”

“Well, we read some articles and stuff. It was weird. Like there’s this cult in Montana, and, I don’t remember. Cults had a lot to do with it because they try to make utopias but it usually ends up as a dystopia.”

“Hm,” said Anthony.

He seemed genuinely interested. She continued, “I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Heaven’s Gate. It’s like this UFO cult group in San Diego and they thought they had to kill themselves in order to escape the world. There was this comet, the Haley’s comet?”

“I don’t know.”

“Anyways, there was this passing comet that was supposed to be a UFO and they all were wearing Nikes when they killed themselves. They thought the UFO was going to take them to heaven. The police found them all laying in beds dead—it was like they were waiting to be beamed up. That’s how these cults are, you know? They get you to really believe you’re part of this sort of transcendent situation, this better state of society and personal spiritual improvement. Like this idea of advancing beyond your body into the Oneness, into the higher plane—it ends up, from the outside, being this destructive thing. You lay down thinking you’re going to salvation, but in reality you’re just…dead.”

They were quiet. Then Brittany spoke in her shattering voice, “That’s so weird.”

Claire scratched her arm. She shouldn’t have shared the story. Anthony’s phone was down and he was looking right at her. He reached over for the remote and turned on the television.

“There’s nothing on,” said Brittany.

“There never is,” he said. He scrolled down the guide screen past the sports and cable channels. After he had gone through the segment of three hundred channels twice, he turned it off.

“Fuck it,” he said.

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