Man, do I love Stanford!Sam. He's pretty much one of my favorite things to write. Thus, have a series of ten drabbles focusing on him. Each one is exactly one hundred words according to Word. Written from 5am-6:30am, so please forgive any random weirdness. Enjoy!
Palo Alto Normality Blues
(pick-up session with variations on a theme)
The way a guy's raised—it influences the way he sees stuff, shifts the importance around. You bring a guy up believing the world is full of opportunity, he'll probably subscribe to that his whole happy life. You bring a guy up placing a heavy emphasis on sports, chances are in the game of averages, batting will be much more important than grade point ever could be.
And if you bring a guy up to see the evil in every single damn thing around him…well, that isn't gonna go away just because he stepped off a bus in Palo Alto.
"Dude, is this fucking potpourri? Smells like ass!"
He looks up as the sachet of spirit-repelling herbs skids across his desk and comes to a stop against his philosophy textbook. His roommate is standing across the room, face twisted into a laughing sneer.
There's only one chest of drawers in this crappy, cramped dorm room, but he'd thought he'd hidden the little bag well enough in them. Obviously not. Now his obnoxious roomie's gonna think he's a pouf or something. Better than telling the truth, he guesses. Then the dude'd just crack jokes about protecting his underwear from malevolent spirits.
He's sitting in class one morning, half-dozing. It's mid-May and rather warm, and the combination of the slow heat and the droning lecture is making the class drift away.
The girl in front of him jerks violently, her muscles spasming as her bare shoulders erupt in gooseflesh. Then he feels it too: a sudden chill, like his spinal fluid's been replaced with icewater. He knows instantly, and he hisses out an incantation as he sketches a symbol onto the wood of his desk.
Someone closes a window and the chill disappears. He's left wondering if it was just a breeze.
It's June and he's moving out for the summer. His roommate's three days gone, his stuff crammed his parents' Suburban and hauled back to Oregon. As he packs, he keeps uncovering little reminders of his paranoia.
Salt ground into the wood grain of the windowsill.
A crucifix kept for purportedly religious reasons.
A tiny sigil painstakingly carved into his door next to the knob.
He runs a thumb over this last one, a feeling of foolishness washing over him. Nothing's happened, and nothing will.
When he moves into his new dorm in the fall, he doesn't do a single thing.
It's easy to forget, what with exams and coffee shops and classes and friends and normality. It's easy to find the rational, scientific explanation for things that he's been told his entire life are devilish and dangerous. It's easy to accept good common sense over the dark and writhing fear.
It's easy to look at the gutted cat by the side of the road, fly-crusted, missing its heart and eyes, and simply say roadkill.
It's easy to read about the gutted bum found in a back alley, fly-crusted, missing his heart and eyes, and simply see no connection at all.
Sometimes he sees flashes of sleek black out of the corner of his eye, hear snatches of music that hit too close to home. It's been month—years—at this point, and he should know they're not gonna show up. But the uneasiness sticks there, in his chest, like a stitch. This world he's made for himself, this Palo Alto he calls home, it doesn't have room for the likes of his family.
Because if they appear…then maybe it's all real, the past he's allowing himself to forget.
They don't (thank god), so it all must be just a lie.
He meets her and his world heaves. There've been girls before, but there's never been a girlfriend. She's tall and gorgeous and self-confident and totally into him. So when she sits cross-legged on his bed and asks do you believe in ghosts, the obvious answer is no.
"Really?" she says. "I do."
He's taken aback for a moment before she elaborates. Her ghosts are simply homeless spirits, harmless and mischievous and sometimes even helpful. Her ghosts are more like angels than anything from his childhood.
So he lets her have her ghosts. He knows none of it is true anyway.
Their apartment is perfect: small and cozy, within walking distance of campus, and free from lines of salt and bags of herbs. She loves him and he adores her and they do laundry on Saturdays. It's everything he ever wanted and more.
The first time he sees her pinned to the ceiling, burning in that little white nightie he finds so sexy, he pins it to a bad dream brought on by stress. The second time, it's trauma from the first time. The third time, it's just a recurring nightmare motif.
There's always an explanation, because none of it's real.
He's angry, so angry when his brother shows up. There's a noise, then he's on full alert. He may not believe in the supernatural, but he sure as hell believes in the evil of man. He's gonna be a lawyer, for christ's sake.
He's not pissed about the two years of radio silence, or the lost hours of sleep the week before finals. It's the destruction of his carefully constructed normality, the unauthorized intrusion of his dead past into his thriving present.
His brother is leather and talismans and sweat and gunsmoke, and that's just not who he is anymore.
He's been through a couple days of hell, faced again with purposely-forgotten things. Shit like that only comes after guys who go looking for it, and he's never looking for it again.
So he slinks back into the apartment, and he can feel the hunt slip away like a single hitch in an otherwise smooth path.
He falls back onto his bed like falling back into normality, and he has three blissful seconds before something splatters against his face.
No salt in doorways, no symbols carved in walls.
His pretty illusion bleeds down and burns up, and only reality's left.