Urban Life Decays

by C.J. Pendergast

Inspired by: “Slow Motion”, Third Eye Blind, A Collection (2006)

Mrs. Jones taught me English, but I think I just shot her son. And in an attempt to be objectively certain, I studied the body. It was a white male, frail build, with black hair. He lay on his back, arms outstretched and above his head in surrender, chest swollen. With a weighty gasp, the boy deflated in front of me. He remained still and silent as a desert. What fol-lowed, to my surprise, was surrender to anonymity—blue eyes wide and empty. Became unoccupied. Freckles sank into the skin and dissipated in the light of the sun. I came to the conclusion that in this particular condition—expired from life—it was impossible to predict who inhabited this frame previously. If it were the young Jones, he lost the name with his final breath. He was merely a victim now.

I knelt to the pavement, warm from the interminable glow of the afternoon. I shoved my hands into the victim’s pants pockets. Nothing. I closed my eyes and cursed silently. Blood leaked from underneath the boy’s shirt and onto my fingers. The lovely shade of red was thick, and it trickled down my carpels, merging into a gory pond of life in my palms. I gently grazed my hands against each other, washing them with blood. I considered life after death. I wondered if the boy could feel me hovering over him like this—the complete opposite of him—alive.

J.C.’s voice trailed with the violent winds, disturbing my peace of mind, “Let’s go, Tre!” I left the gun by the boy’s side and caught up to J.C. in an instant, taking in the infinite scope of the vacant lot.

“Man, you should’ve seen it,” I said, leaping into my accomplice’s excuse for a car. I sprawled across the backseat. Shift: Reverse. Neutral. Shift: Drive. The Xanax made me feel as if I was a cloud of molecules.

“Did you find anything?” J.C. asked between his panting. With his weight, I’m not sure he’ll ever be reimbursed for the oxygen that he lost during our crime. His eyes darted from me to the road. I watched them, swimming with panic, in the rear view mirror. I watched his chubby fingers tremble on the steering wheel.

“Nah,” I said, wiping the blood off on the back of his seat.

“You’re kidding right?”

The car squealed at the turn as we sped onto the bridge. I wasn’t kidding. I needed the money, but I could get it else-where. Maybe rob a bank, or steal a car from someone in the financial district. The fabric on J.C.’s seat was rough and it prickled my hands—I cringed at the feeling. My bony frame left a ghastly image of melting fingers on the chair, like a bleeding ghost reaching out for the life in front of it.

J.C.’s eyes shot back again in the mirror. “How could you be so,” he paused, “nonchalant about all of this?”

“Ah,” I said raising my finger. “Now that’s a good word!”

The fat man glanced back at me confused, but I had other things on my mind.

“Take a left here,” I ordered.

J.C. obeyed and continued to annoy me, “Are you sure he was dead?” I think it’s something about his voice that makes my veins crawl—it’s whiny. “I didn’t see you feel his pulse. How could you know for sure?” he asked.

“Because, you idiot, I felt his last exhale graze across my lips. It was calm and triumphant all at the same time. I opened my mouth and I swallowed it whole.”

This either perplexed the airheaded fool, or the reality of the situation outweighed his conscience. J.C. was silent for the rest of the ride. I stepped out of the car, muttered thanks and slammed the door. He rolled down the window before I could escape.

“What should I do now?” he asked as if I knew.

I kicked his tire and he sped off.


Leah’s apartment was on the seventh floor. I decided to take the stairs because elevators are too easy. As my adrenaline wore off, I felt my body melt from the fading Xanax. I searched my pockets for some coke. I knocked.

She stood in the doorway with no pants on, an oversized shirt dangling off of her pale, skeleton frame. It was exquisite.

“Come on in,” she slurred.

I shut the door behind me and the apartment shook from the tremors.

“You holding?” I asked.

“Depends on what you’re looking for,” she said, looking up at me with famished eyes, like she wanted to be what I was looking for.

“You know.”

“I’ve got a balloon of black tar,” she said, floating through the doorway of her room. “At least.”

“I’ll make you a deal!” I shouted through the walls. They were as thin as Leah. She slid back into the hallway with the product enclosed in her fist.

“Lets hear it,” she said and rolled her eyes slowly, like she was dying.

I stepped toward her and put my hand on her side. I felt her ribcage, eating through her skin, so delicate, lovely, ravishing.

I whispered graphic fantasies in her ear. She became my words as they rolled off my tongue. Her body quivered as I dangled the bag of coke in front of her face.

We can both get off.”

She bit her lip.

The afterglow rushed through me. It guided me to a wondrous conclusion: I’m detached from all of you. And like the flesh that exploded from the youngster I shot earlier, I was missing a piece. My mind regressed into liquid form, a result bizarrely close to enlightenment. You are not one of me. You’re one of them. And I’m just a character placed here, gloriously, for your own entertainment.

Leah awoke from a daydream knotted by overindulgence. I watched as a trickle of red crawled out of her nose. A drop seeped into her bed sheets and spread, trying to become more than it actually was. Ambition. Leah really started to bleed now. She asked for a tissue, but the ruby-pigmented fuel of life dripping out of her paralyzed me. It was stunningly beautiful. I couldn’t help but sit there and let it rush out of her nostrils and all over her naked body.

“Help,” she muttered, reaching a shaking hand toward me.


I backed away and leapt off the bed. I abandoned Leah, passed out in a sea of her own fluids. Her nosebleed was relentless, so I dragged her—like a paraplegic cat—out on the porch where she could see the sunset. Who knows, it could have been her last.


At home, I am perturbed by the incessant whirl of life that is my younger sister. I slam the door, pull out a spoon and ignite the flame. I draw my blinds. The lights across the bay are less than marvelous. A ruckus is going on in the house across the yard. I watch shadows beneath the unkempt streetlight.

My neighbor’s masculine screams make my spine crumble. I unlatch my belt, pants shuffle below my waist. My neighbor shoves his wife against the table. She shrieks. I tighten the belt around my forearm. The woman cries out, banging her hand against the windowpane. I wonder if she sees me watching her. I wonder if she thinks I will help.

My neighbor arches his back, brings his fist forward and cracks it against the back of her skull. There is another inhuman scream. She turns toward the man and throws her hands up. He whacks her again, this time the blow across her face. Her neck snaps backward. Oh man, what a beautiful thing. I salivate. She slumps, helplessly, and stares into me again. Her eyes desperate, mine shallow. Her hand slaps against the window once more and slides lower down the glass. She disappears.

I stuck the needle into my vein. Sinking deep and slowly into another numbing jaunt. But, this time, something went wrong. My lungs closed, chest tightened. My eyeballs seeped deeper into the back of my head, drying out and sizzling my vision to nothingness. Pure black.


As death slides close to me I tell him that I’m going to live forever. I am the dark print, bold type—a headline in tomorrow’s paper. Front page. I am something new for your paranoia to fornicate with. I am something new for somebody else to use, awakening a disposed fear inside of your chest. You know, the one that chokes you when you drive through that bad neighborhood.

And it really doesn’t matter if I exist or not. Because I’m more real than the breath you didn’t know that you just took. I’m immortalized by my wrath. Glamorized in the ink of tomorrow’s tabloids and cemented with every word spoken from the late-night news anchors. I’m more significant than you will ever by in your entire, pathetic little lives. And just like that, my life—a crime—starts over with one gunshot, in slow motion.

C.J. Pendergast is currently in pursuit of his MFA in Creative Non-Fiction at UNC Wilmington. He is a featured music writer for both Encore Magazine and Brooklyn Arts Center and has been published in Atlantis, UNCW’s creative magazine.