His legs were sore. His mouth was dry and sticky. And the constant barrage of frigid air from the fan confirmed that it was time to move. He rolled over onto his back and swiveled off of his bed. The carpet of garments was warm and soft, dampening the shortfall. He rubbed the gunk out of his eyes and squinted out the window at the fresh blue light of a new day. Waiting for him in the kitchen was a tray of muffins, each one decorated with shreds of almond. The almonds disguised their gummy, dry flavor, the kind usually generated by the beef byproducts and cold gravy of Alpo. His thin fingers grasped the refrigerator handle and tugged, revealing many raw ingredients. What he wanted was the milk, but he knew that it was off limits. His eyes closed tightly shut and opened again before closing the door. He wasn't going to eat anything. The dog started to whine so he turned around and opened the cage, the dog, overjoyed, ran to the door. He opened it and sat down on the cold cement step. He gazed ahead, admiring the dog, dashing around the grassy yard. A fly landed on his arm, catching his attention. He glanced down at his arm, and started to follow it down to his hand. He stared at it for a bit. Three fingers, he felt his face. Bone. He felt himself in space and dragged his foot towards him, propping him up.

“Maurice? Maurice! Get over here now.” He sighed and went back into the house, letting the screen door slam behind him. His parent was standing in the kitchen, holding a broken plate.

“Why?” Maurice shrugged, “I didn’t do that.”

“Really? Because it’s just you and me, and I didn’t do that.”

“Alright?”

“You need to stop forcing things into the cabinet. You are very strong, and you don’t know how strong you are.” Maurice grabbed his arm behind his back and looked at the floor. “Sorry…”

“Just don’t do it again. Here.” They opened the case and tossed him a muffin, “Eat.” He begrudgingly snatched the baked good out of his guardian’s hand and stuffed it in his mouth. The dryness of the muffin almost choked him and he ran to get some water. Without thinking, he went for a glass in the cabinet, but, in his haste, dropped it on the linoleum floor. His guardian didn’t hear, they were in the shower. Maurice quickly picked up the glass in clumps and threw it down the drain.

The train station was frigid. Overhead wires buzzed softly against the gentle breeze. Streetlights were still illuminated in the sunrise, and rain drizzling over top of Maurice’s head. He pulled one of his headphones out of his long, antenna-like ears to listen for anyone who might be telling him to move out of his seat. It was something that he was afraid of, especially during the winter season. The only place under cover were the seats, everywhere else was exposed and wet. He looked down at his feet, and let them collapse on their sides. The rain had cleaned the dirt from his soles. Bright lights from the train could be seen in the distance, muted somewhat by the water falling from the sky. The train shuddered and squealed to a halt, the first out of four cars coming to a stop just in front of Maurice. He got up from his metal bench and donned his raincoat hood. His ears pushed through two tears in the top of the hood. The doors silently opened and he stepped on. The floor was rigid and cold, directing the water down into the trains middle and out the sides. There was a sign on the trains inner wall that Maurice looked at every time he boarded. It was a white sticker, with a red no symbol on it. Under the no symbol was a black circle with two horns sprouting out of it. He knew what this meant, though every day he would try and pretend that it meant something else. Maurice started to feel himself grabbing the support bar as the train ascended onto it’s bridge. The view was amazing - to him at least - he could see most of midtown. It was calm. Not a lot of people were out, and there was a train running perpendicular under him. He felt both of his fingers grip the bar tighter as the train took a gradient curve back onto the ground. The train began to slow, and then stopped violently. Maurice was thrown back into the door panel, buckling onto the floor afterwards. He looked at his headphone jack. It was bent, hanging loosely out the top of his phone.

“Fuck” he whispered to himself. Maurices school was a small one, only about four-hundred students or so. As such the school was not really packed with kids, it was calmer. Maurice was deep in thought, and was interrupted by a deep voice.

“It’s wednesday my dude.” Maurice smiled as best he could. “Do want me to scream now, can I scream?”

His friend chuckled, “Did you sit down today?”

“Nah.”

“Why not?”

“Dude, Syd, I’m not you okay. I’m not ‘human’” Syd furrowed his brow, “You’re still a person.”

Maurice felt the inside of his hand, and looked at the ground. He looked back up at Syd, who was on his phone at this point, his long blonde hair concealing his face. Maurice giggled. “I’ve been listening to MRI sounds all this morning.” He lied. Syd laughed, “That’s my fuckin jam dude.” He dabbed. Maurice felt a pang of sadness and his smile faded. It was almost time for class and he still hadn’t had any water. “I’m gonna go to the bathroom, see ya.” He said before running down the hall to the bathroom. He descended on the water fountain and gobbled tons of water. He trundled into the restroom and gazed into the mirror. The thing that always confused him was the fact that he had no flesh on his face. It was dry - save for the rain - and was just bone. He had scraggly fur growing from his stomach to his head, it turned from white to black as it climbed up his body. His eyes were completely white, with the closest thing to a pupil being a black circle devoid of color. His eyes darted around, studying each of his features. Maurices eyelids drooped after a moment and he slinked on to his first class “Could you pass that over here Maurice?” Asked a peer. Maurice fumbled with a stack of papers and pinched one in-between his fingers before handing the stack of worksheets to the person at the adjacent table. He picked up a pencil and scrawled his name on the top. He erased and tried again - his name was not mlrice. This time was better, so he left it. He looked up from his paper, ignoring the instructor, and staring at the pile of tentacles and slime resting in the chair across from him. The class was mostly humans, save for him and Gastheng - the creature across from him. He knew Gastheng couldn’t see him, so he continued to stare, examining all of the folds and creases in the creatures pale body. He looked back down at his own and knocked on wood. Come lunch time, Maurice headed down to Louise’s classroom to organize his club. Wizdom closely followed him, GameCube and controllers in tow. “Are you excited?! We ‘bout to fuck these bitches up.” Maurice thought about his fingers and panicked a little. He went from his own hands to Gastheng and prayed a second time. He glanced behind him and saw the creature slamming his tentacle legs on the ground, slowly stomping his way towards Maurice. He knew what was coming. “You need to chill with that man, he wasn’t as lucky as you.” Wiz said, rolling his eyes. “You act like it’s a blessing.” “No I’m just saying, he likes the club, just be nice.”

“I am, he’s just...weird.”

By the time school was over, Maurice was ready to fall asleep. The still pitter-pattering rain and dark sky didn’t remedy the situation. He knew he had to walk home today. He was out of tickets and money. Some of his friends had urged him to ride without but it was too risky. Each step was carefully placed as to not end up in a puddle, the absence of music forcing the sound of impact into his ears as a dull thud, thud. His bag weighing heavily on his shoulder. Every so often someone would pass, giving plenty of space between him and the passerby. He was admiring the sky when a phone call interrupted his train of thought.

“Hello?” He growled.

“Hey man!” A distorted voice from the other side, “Wanna chill tomorrow?”

“Sure, when?” No reply. Maurice pulled his phone away from his face to see if he disconnected. When he pulled it away a picture of a gruff looking beast appeared. The beast was staring just off to the side of the camera, his eyes wide open in shock. On the top in blue it said “Skip.”

“Sure, when?” Maurice repeated.

“I dunno probably around four?”

“Sure, I’ll come to your house.”

“Sounds good.”

“No no no, you have to play it even man. It’s not that hard.”

“Sorry.” Skip replied. They were in Skip's garage. It was filled with recording equipment and instruments, from trumpets to electric bass guitars to drums. Skip held a trumpet in his giant mitts, the bell and valves were visibly scratched and dulled from his claws. Maurice stared at Skips two tour giant fangs, two of which jutting out from his upper jaw, and two of them protruding from his lower jaw, and wondered how he could play the trumpet. Thier drummer, Ref, was standing up scolding Skip. Ref was a tall guy. He looked much older than he actually was. He had thick, wavy black hair that he had to constantly flip out of the way of his vision. Ref had been drumming with them for a while now, and Skip had known him for years before Maurice. Their pianist, Koppel, was on his phone. Maurice assumed he was looking at memes or something of the like. Koppel was another monster, but he was less twisted and hulking. For the most part, Koppel was normal. The only thing that really set him apart were his milky white, blank eyes and long beak. He was a strange one because there was no real distinction of where it started because his entire body was covered with thin, yellow fur. Maurice pulled out his phone to check what time it was. 5:42. He had to be home in an hour. The neighborhood didn’t like monsters out past dark.

“Guys.” He interjected, “Can we get like, one more song in before I have to go? I don’t want to show up the Cheaters without some CD’s.”

Ref rolled his eyes and snapped his fingers in Koppels face. “Stop looking at memes.”

As Koppel started to pick out his notes and Ref started hammering out a beat, Maurice stared at Skip. He wasn’t wearing anything except for a pair of swim trunks. He couldn’t wear anything else, he was too big. Skip was busy looking a Ref for queues and started to play when Ref simplified the beat. Skip was constantly moving about while he played. Maurice felt a pang of guilt. Skip’s heart wasn’t strong enough to get the blood out of his legs and back up to his body, and as a result, blood pooled in his ankles. Maurice realized it was his queue to start playing, so he placed his mouth on the reed of his saxophone and started playing. Skip backed off and observed Maurice playing. Ref simplified the beat further. A gentle humming came from Maurices instrument, and he started to close his eyes. Ref added the hi hat back in and Skip joined as well. Their melodies danced and weaved in-between each others, and Maurice felt his mind let go. Then, as soon as it started, it was over, and Ref and Koppel carried the sound out to it’s slow and tranquil end. Skip started to clap, and Maurice followed. Koppel chuckled and Ref stood up from his throne and bowed. Koppel the most skilled in the group, Ref a close second.

“I’m gonna go grab a soda from inside, do you guys want anything?” Skip asked.

“Maurice?” Ref questioned.

“Yeah?”

“You okay?” Skip interrupted. “Something on my face?”

Maurice caught himself and nervously said “No...I was just spacing out, sorry.”

Skip paused, “No problem man.” And left the room.

Ref immediately fell on the floor and lost it.

“What?” Maurice asked, feigning confusion.

“Nothing man don’t worry about it.” Koppel said, answering for his incapacitated friend.

Maurice shrugged and went back onto his phone. Maurice coughed, prompting Lox to snatch the joint away from him.

“First time?”

“Shut up.” Lox was 16, not much older than Maurice, but it felt like Lox had lived much longer. Lox was always out, always doing something with someone Maurice had never heard of. They had been friends for a while, Maurice had seen his thick brown hair go from long to short to gone to what it was now - long. Lox billowed a long stream of smoke, imitating the steam rising off of the pavement.

“Can we do this somewhere else?” Maurice asked, The alleyways in downtown created miniature valleys in-between the rectangular glass mountains that surrounded them. Pools of water collected from the rain glimmered in the yellow streetlights, polluted by synthetic oil and broken glass. Smells of cheap burgers and movie popcorn merged with rank water and pot smoke. Lox ignored him. Maurice shoved his hands in his pockets and looked down each end of the alleyway. No one except for them.

“Whatcha worried about? Pigs?”

“Yeah.”

Lox took another hit, “What are they gonna do? It’s just a plant.”

“Dude.” He made eye contact with lox and took a step back. “Ow.” He said, and then took in a breath of air between his teeth.

“Glass?” Lox asked.

“Yeah.”

Maurice sat down on the concrete and started to pull a shard of glass out of his heel.

“Shit.” Lox muttered and started dashing down the alleyway. Maurice looked up and then both ways down the alleyway. There was a cop car in the opposite direction of where Lox was headed. Maurice jolted up and followed his friend down and out the alleyway. Lox had turned a corner and ran into a parking garage. When Maurice entered, he frantically scanned the garage for Lox. Behind him he heard a policeman yell, Stop monster! Lox was standing with a arm outstretched in the elevator door. “Come on!”

Lox darted into the elevator and mashed the door close button. The doors slowly creaked shut and the car lurched into motion. Maurice collapsed onto the floor and prodded for the shard of glass.

“Sorry M-Money…” Lox said. Maurice stayed quiet, focused on relieving his pain. The elevator continued to grind upwards. “Do we have a plan or are we just backing ourselves into a corner?” Said Maurice through gritted teeth. “We’re gonna go up and then run down the staircase.” Maurice sighed and replied “What if they’re running up the same staircase?” Lox leaned against the elevator wall. “Fine. We find a car and hide under it.” Maurice looked up at Lox. “Alright.” The elevator chimed and the doors pulled open, revealing the top floor of the parking garage, about five stories up. Lox stepped out of the elevator, and scanned the floor for the perfect vehicle to hide under. Without saying a single word, he ran towards a white Jeep parked in-between a two sedans. Maurice followed slowly, limping. They slid under the truck and waited patiently. One pair of boots passed, then two more. Lox heard Maurice’s breathing become more laboured and placed his hand onto Maurice’s. He whispered, “Act like you’re getting out of this car, you know, just in case they’re still here.” He rolled out from under the truck and sprung to his feet, peeking around and through the tinted windows. “Are they gone?” Maurice asked. Lox shushed him. “I think so yeah.”

Maurice dragged himself out and off of the ground. He brushed himself and his clothes off. When he looked up from his clothes, his friend was standing with his head over the side of the concrete wall. Maurice jogged over to him and looked out into the city.

“What time is it man?” He asked.

“I dunno, late probably. Want to go to like, Target or something?”

“How would we get there?”

“Walking.” Lox declared, as if it was a stupid question to ask.

Maurice hesitated. “Can we just stay here and look at the lights?”

“Sure.” He put his hand on Maurice’s head and messed up his hair.

Frit fumbled with his jacket zipper before Maurice stepped in to help. The monster was always messing and fiddling with his clothes. Maurice pulled the zipper up to Frit’s neck and backed up. “You good?” He asked.

Frit’s thick brow furrowed. “Yeah, thanks.” He scratched his nose. Frit’s hands each had two fingers and one thumb, but both fingers were forever tensed and curled. For the most part, he kept his hands in his pockets or behind his back if he couldn’t have someone help him in the morning. Maurice stared.

“Sorry Maurice.” He looked at his feet, which were equally fucked up.

“Don’t worry about it man.”

Frit slinked down the hallway and into the bathroom. Maurice shoved his hands in his sweatshirt pockets, realized the time, and then went to class.

Maurice wandered about the halls looking for Skip. He knew he would find him, he had to be somewhere. He thought maybe he could be in the bathroom combing his hair or picking stuff out of it. When he got close he could hear yelling.

“Do you know how much fucking trouble you could have been in?!” No response.

“Yeah you do you’ve done this before! Fucking look at us Lox! Look! I’m a killing machine to these people homie!”

The principal pushed past maurice and stormed into the restroom.

“Get your hands off that kid and come to my office, now!” Maurice saw the principal drag Skip out of the restroom by his arm. Lox followed close behind him, rubbing the back of his neck.

“What was that about?”

“Nothing, we’re friends, we just fight sometimes.”

Maurice turned around to face the office. “That sounded serious. Why was he shouting like that.”

“He thinks that I can’t take care of you or something.”

Maurice stepped towards Lox. “Take care of me?”

“Yeah I accidentally told him about last night.”

“Why?”

“It just came out man.”

Maurice buried his head in his hands, “He might get expelled Lox.”

“It’s not my fault he can’t hold his temper.”

“He just doesn’t want more trouble than he’s already had man.”

“I know it just,” Lox looked at the ground and then to the side at the drinking fountain, “He overreacts to everything. I can’t take him seriously anymore.”

“Hmm.” Maurice complied. “I guess…” Maurice started towards the cafeteria without saying a word, Lox followed.

“Do you think they’re gonna actually expel him?” Lox asked, nervously.

“Probably...he’s breaking like ten rules just by being here. He’s a liability at this point.” Said a voice from behind. It was Frit. “Hi guys.”

“What's up my man.” Lox said trying to fistbumb him. Frit panicked and cupped his large hand over Lox’s. Lox nervously giggled. Maurice rolled his eyes.

“Anyway see you around guys!” Frit said and dipped into one of the classrooms. Maurice rolled his eyes and said,”i don’t have anything against him but like, I just wish he wouldn’t but into conversations like that.”

“Yeah I know, whenever he speaks I’m just like, ‘really, was that necessary?’”

Maurice laughed. Charles park was always vacant and quiet, save for a few homeless or on some occasions kids from the neighboring school. Punching out of the grass were many tall metal poles, each painted green and adorned with a lamp. However, only a few of them worked, leaving the area to the mercy of the sun and sky. Skip rolled onto his stomach and muttered.

“Could you pass me a fry.” Maurice complied and pulled a fry out of a splotchy brown paper bag and placed it on Skip’s bulbous snout.

“Thanks…” He plucked it off and took a bite out of it.

“Why do you eat fries like that?” Maurice before tearing a piece of his burger to eat.

“Because I want to make the most of the short life I have on this planet.”

“Ha…” They were silent again. Each was observing the trees gently creaking and shifting in the breeze.

“Why do you still hang out with that kid?” Skip asked.

“Who?”

“Lox.” Maurice thought for a minute, “Because he’s my friend and I’ve known him for a while.”

“I have too.” Silence again. Maurice ate some more of his burger and said between mouthfuls of food, “Then you know he’s a good kid.” Skip answered immediately, “He get’s drunk out of his mind and the puts us in danger, Maur. He doesn’t think before he acts.”

“I know, that’s why I stay with him. If I wasn’t there he would be dead, probably.” Skip turned onto his back, “That’s exactly why I stuck with him. But that kid needs to learn from his mistakes, we can't just keep coddling him.”

“He just needs to be around nice people. Like us.”

“He doesn’t think of us like that.”

Maurice pulled at the grass, “Nice people?”

“People.” He sighed, “We’re objects, pawns, beings whose actions are there for him and him only.”

“I don’t think that way, Skip.”

“What? Intelligently?” Maurice opened his mouth, “Whoa now, you’re not the smartest guy either.”

“Yeah but I know not to fuck with bigots.”

“I grew up in East District, you think I don’t know?” Skip paused. “Yeah okay, you’re a fuckin midget ass bitch. Maurice I’m a giant. I loom mean okay. You know why I walk here eight fuckin miles? Because security kicks me off the train. And yeah, I did have a bike, but that got confiscated by some bitch who thought that I had stolen it. Got it Maurice? I don’t need my fuckin friends treatin me the same way people do on the street Maurice. Fuck.”

Skip threw the rest of his food on the ground and stormed away, leaving Maurice alone on the grass. He felt a knot in his throat and stood up to yell at Skip’s hunched back “That’s why people cross the street when they see you!”

Skip stopped and his hand curled into a fist. He turned around and bared his teeth. “You better be talking to someone else.”

Maurice quietly shook his head. His friend then drove his fist into Maurice’s stomach, forcing him to double over. Skip kicked maurice to the ground and rested his heel on Maurices neck. Maurice wheezed, begging for air, and Skip released him. Maurice turned onto his stomach and started to hack up blood. Skip kicked him again before he heard a shout from the street. “Drop whatever weapons you have and get on the fucking ground!” A squad car had pulled up and two police officers emerged, each armed with a .22. Skip put his hand up and the officers shouted for him to put his hands on the ground. Maurice covered his stomach and watched on his knees. Each officer had a gun aimed at each beast. Maurice collapsed onto his stomach, crying out in pain. He heard Skip saying that he had no weapons over and over. And then, he heard it. One bullet punched through Skip, and then another. Maurice felt a pit form in his stomach and his breathing became shattered. He felt the hand of a human being grab his arm and turn him over. He caught a glimpse of Skip’s body laying on the ground as the officer rotated him to onto his back. The same hand prodded at Maurices stomach and then scratched his head. “Are you okay?” The owner of the hand asked. Maurice choked twice and then started to wail. … The hospital was bright. It was way too bright for this time of night. The room was small and vacant. Maurice turned his head and felt a sharp pain in his neck. He winced and coughed. “You okay sweetheart?” He recognized that voice. “Mom?” “Yes honey.” She caressed his face and kissed his forehead. “I’m so happy you’re okay.” She tried as best she could to hug him. “I was worried about you.” She kissed him again. “I brought you a kitkat.” Maurice swallowed his spit and accepted the candy his mother was soon feeding him. A new person entered the room, holding a clipboard. Maurice didn’t notice. “Is Skip okay?” “No.” The new voice said. “He was shot once in the chest and once in the head.” “Oh.” He said. His vision started to go black. “Maurice?” his mother called. The monster didn't answer.

...