4H00. After Rust.

4:03AM. At the end of the road, over one PRIVATE PROPERTY sign and two NO TRESPASSING signs, the old derelict ship graveyard. No more land to run on at the end of the plank. Time to catch his breath.

4:06AM. There it is, the rusting ferry heap, CHIMERA. Out of commission since 1988. Walking up the barge, it was clear that someone or something was already inside.

4:07AM. This place was popular in the summer among his friends. A good hiding spot to get stoned, tell ghost stories, take cool pictures. No filters needed. But in the winter season, so close to the water, this place took on a whole other atmosphere. It was too cold. Too easy to lose your footing from forming ice on all the metal surfaces. An easy fall to your death. So who was inside?

It had to be Ghouli. It had found his favorite hangout. It wanted to ruin his one safe, his personal church. But he wasn’t going to let it. He’d kill it before it could take this ship.

4:10AM. Sonny crossed a gangway over the murky water. Under his running shoes, it was slippery from a sheen of frost. He took extra care not only to avoid falling, but to keep as quiet as possible.

4:13AM. This rusting hulk plied the bay for something like 50 years. It could hold 950 people and 138 cars. Its name obviously intrigued him. He’d been told by an older kid that it was called Chimera because the owner’s daughter was really into centaurs, but that there was already a ferry called Centaur so Chimera was the next best thing. He had accepted that at the time, but considering this now, this explanation seemed like it had been made up on the spot by an unimaginative, loaded pothead.

4:25AM. The tension of possibly running into a monster was really cramping that his style. All he wanted was a place to cool-down from his run and think, away from everything, from the prying eyes of his parents, his girlfriend, his doctors. It made him feel resentful. He wanted to punch something. He wanted to punch Ghouli. He had all this aggression and no one to take it out on. Where are you Ghouli? All he could do was pace the upper deck. Back and forth, zig zagging over the cracked bucket seats, covered with grime and mildew. Kick the railings. Throw detrius into the water.

4:40AM. Lower level. Still no sign of Ghouli. Only freshly spun spider webs.

4:44AM. Sounds coming from above, where he just was. Like scattered noises of a mouse hidden in a wall. Then crunching. Bone crunching. Slurping.

4:48AM. It was Ghouli. It was feeding on something now completely unrecognizable. Sonny spied from a distance for a moment, before brazenly stepping into the open, making himself known. It looked up from its catch, stared directly at Sonny.
“I’m here. What do you want?” said Sonny to the hideous monster.

Ghouli replied, a series of chirps and hisses. Like a bug; a beetle or a cockroach. Unbelievably, Sonny could somehow understand it. Who knew that he could speak cockroach?

Why are you afraid of me?” chirped Ghouli, “We’re one and the same. I am you and you are me. I am inside of you. In your blood.”

“Not afraid of you anymore, I’m mad at you. I’m sick of you preventing me from sleep.”

“Rust never sleeps.”

“I hate you.”

“Then you must hate yourself. I’m everything you hate, and feed upon your hate too. Just like the rust feeds on the air around us. You understand?”

He wasn’t sure he did. But he said the first thing that popped into his head.

“Entropy.”

“Now you’re getting it.”

“I’m going to kill you.” He stepped forward, threatening to charge.

“You already did. You absorbed me in utero. Face it, Sonny, you were a jerk before you were even born. If you’re not careful, you’ll kill everybody. Except for me. I could survive a catastrophic event. I could survive a goddamn nuclear winter. Then it will be just you, me and this ugly iron husk. So why don’t you put that in your pipe and smoke it?”

Ghouli returned its attention to the carcass in its clutches, licking the bones clean, seemingly done and bored with Sonny.

“Ghouli… Are you my twi–?”

Beeeeeeooohhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! A deafening mournful sound crashes through the ferry, interrupting Sonny’s question and whipping his head in the direction of a foghorn, honking so loud that it echoed from across the bay. It was also signaling the time.

5:00AM. Sonny turned back to the monster, to discover that it had scattered back into the shadows while he was distracted, leaving no trace of its presence. Vanished.

5:01AM. Sit. Process. Fail to comprehend.

5:05AM. Time to run home. One foot in front of the other. 1 – 2 – 3 – 1 -2 – 3.

En-tro-py… En-tro-py… En-tro-py…

3H00. After Dark.

3:12AM. Here he is wasting time lying in his own sweat, heart rate thumping at 180bpm. He’s not alone, his parents are just two doors down. The house is locked. They live in a safe, clean suburb. But he is afraid of what manifests. Are his parents lying awake right now too, also afraid? What went wrong with Sonny? Is this why he was given up 10 months after his birth?

3:17AM. He gets up. If his heart is racing, if he’s sweating and afraid, he wants it to be real. Not some fiction concocted in his brain as he lies in this bed.

3:23AM. Cold enough to see his breath. Everything closed. Time to outrun the night.

3:25AM. Sneakers laced up, hoodie up to protect him from the evening chill. He stalls in his backyard. Why does he feel like he’s forgetting something? Is he hungry? Thirsty? Does he need to pee? Stop stalling, Sonny. Just run!

3:34AM. Full tilt for 9 minutes, labored breathing. He thought he was in better shape than this. He did forget something. His phone, his music, his earbuds. No electronics, only nature. At this hour, he appreciates the luxury of being able to run in the middle of the road and pays attention to things he’s never noticed before. City planners did a really crappy job in this neighborhood. No streetlights. All the street signs named after pilgrims, puritans and colonists: John Alden Drive, Paul Revere Road, Brewster Street. Boring. He recalls an elementary school project he had to do on the Mayflower. He recites as many of the native tribes the pilgrims encountered that he still can remember, mantra-like:

Pe-quotNar-ra-gan-sett… Po-ka-no-ket … Wam-pa-noag…

The multi-syllables in rhythmic beat with his footfalls, a temporary reprieve from dark thoughts and lactic acid build up in his calves.

3:40AM Heaving now. A proper stop to take in his surroundings. Tall evergreen trees tower amongst the multi-level homes here. He tunes into the signal of the trees, into the darkness of a starless, cloud-covered sky. Relief that no one will catch him in the moonlight. Even though no one is chasing him. What is he running from? Nothing. He is alone here. And is that good or bad? He could get eaten by a wolf. No one would know who he was when they found his body. He left his ID at home.

Wasn’t this the hour of the wolf?

3:45AM. Some signs of life inside the independent gas station with the tilted, squeaky windmill. It’s closed, but he sees some movement inside. He wonders if maybe it might be a chop shop, but perhaps better to mind his own business, stay unseen.

Scooting behind the garage reveals a ravine he knows well. It leads towards a tributary of Chesapeake Bay and to the forgotten structures he loves to explore.

3:50AM. Amidst the green foliage, mounds of dirt and clutter of construction material, he short-cuts through the defunct lumber mill. He knew what he was doing was not safe. Sometimes he sees a security car patrolling here, but for now, his only obstacles were the things he could accidentally impale himself on… the rusted, jagged edges, exposed rebar or rotted, splintered wood.

As that thought came to mind, he stumbled, cutting his knuckles on barbed wire. Was his tetanus vaccine up to date? Maybe cutting himself with a rusty nail would prevent him from having to give blood again next week?

3:59AM. Distancing himself from the lumber mill, his thoughts returned to what had kept him from sleeping. What he thought he may have overheard from the doctors. A single sample containing two separate blood types. Not biologically impossible, but extremely rare. Blood chimera. Abnormal.

An unpaved dirt road. A sprint to his next destination. No more names of slaughtered tribes, only one question, the same question, cycling over and over with his footsteps in a 4/4 time:

What’s/wrong/with/Sonny? What’s/wrong/with/Sonny? What’s/wrong/with/Sonny?