Craig Woodbern. Out of high school a couple years. He was a ghost that drifted through the crowds, in the background, watching, always watching. Kevin, his little brother, was my age and we interacted a few times. Nothing of significance but I never trusted him. Felt like someone best not to get close to. Because of what might happen. Nothing specific. Craig, though, another threat level.
Space Press Express was a community center formed by an old guy whose life was empty. Jim. Big fish in a small pond. We were the guppies. We published a zine under his tutelage on an irregular schedule. Printed it on white paper with black ink. A.B. Dick. Is what we called the printer, I don’t know why.
I wrote a story about a distant planet. It was fertile and green and lovely. A rocket with humans in it landed on the planet. Before they could step out onto the ground it, the planet, exploded. Committed suicide rather than let the humans contaminate it.
In the lobby with the usuals, one of whom was Craig’s girl friend. We see him approach the door, the sun orange behind him, through the floor to ceiling windows. It was on Main St. in a space meant for a business but we somehow occupied it. The sight of him, in silhouette but recognizable by the shape of him and his hair, silenced us.
He stepped inside. Quickly scanned us all before looking at her. A slight tilt of the head as he said, “We need to talk.” She stood up and they went into the next room.
We resumed talking about nothing. Muffled voices from them through the walls. Casual. Just talk.
He was tall, thin, with kinky reddish hair. His skin was pale and ashen. Thin eyes and lips. Dressed like everybody else at that time. Faded blue jeans, ratty gray t-shirt. Something about his jaw signaled danger.
His voice, though the wall, grew louder, angry. She sounded defensive but no words could be discerned. We kept talking but none of us heard each other. No idea what was being said on this side or the other. A muffled strain of apprehension and nervousness was all there was.
Suddenly, a bang. A loud bang. A gun shot. A pause in which nothing happened in silence. Time at a crescent and about to fall. A suspension of disbelief. Cars continued to pass by the windows, no sound.
He comes back in the room, leans against the doorway, watching us, looking for something. Nothing. His face is blank. A mask. We pretend not to see. He turns his back, walks out onto the sidewalk and back in the direction he came, the right.
My heart is racing. I struggle to breath, rasping, choking on the spoiled air. I leap to my feet and follow him out the door but I turn left, away from him. Away from them. From that place. From whatever happened. I don’t want to know.