Phantom Blunt
rating: +44+x

The snow was just starting to melt. He would've been back at another semester at school, if it wasn't so horribly uncool to continue one's schooling. Everything was still dead, but it was just starting to come back.

Jude liked that. He always liked the heroism of the seasons, the casual reincarnation of the earth every goddamned year, like fucking clockwork which was funny because it was what they based clockwork on. Probably.

They deserved it. It wasn't a question. He could do it. It wasn't even up for debate.

Doing it would be cathartic. It would never erase what they did to her, but it was justice, wasn't it? An eye for an eye. God would never forgive him. But wouldn't a Lord of all things see his logic, see his reason? They had to die before they did any of that again. The Sculptor had proven himself a monster, and it was Jude's responsibility to end it. It would've been immoral not to do it.

He was sober. Jude never liked it when he was dry, even when things were good. But it was better that way. He needed to be completely on the ball for this. And not the fake on the ball where he got high beforehand and said it was cool and he was still on the ball but really wasn't, but the real shit.

He was going to let himself go. He knew that much. Jude stared out the window of his crappy apartment, overlooking a beautiful, scenic view of a warehouse garage.

Somewhere, deep down, Jude was hoping it would kill him. Jude was hoping one of them would have it in them to do it.

They didn't. Even if they had time to prepare. He'd always been the best at the ol' razzle dazzle.


The art show was nice enough that one could almost forget that it was a showcase for a rapist and a murderer. It seemed so normal. Wine. Awkward boys hobnobbing with people worth more than anyone they'd ever known times seven. Close to innocence. So close.

The artist was the Sculptor. Real good title, right? Definitely broke the mold with that one. Jude didn't realize it, but he'd been waiting until now to make his move, as it were. He held a glass of white wine in his hand and stared out.

The cool art shows were rarely much different than a normal art show. Certainly, there was magic, but why fuck up a perfectly good format? It was a time to network, to get paid, to look at new things that were beautiful or horrifying or both. But wasn't it usually horrifying at the cool shows? Sure, he had seen some beautiful things. Even from the Sculptor.

But making one beautiful thing couldn't take away the horrifying things.

Jude had a migraine. Jude always had a migraine. Jude wondered if the source of all of his magic was a wild sense of dysphoria and a perpetual headache. Even in this body he had made himself, a body he had wrought from his own flesh and blood, he still wondered if it was his. If he deserved it. If it wouldn't just crumble underneath all of his stress. And he'd revert. Last known saved data. A thirteen year old girl in this pit of tigers.

And so many of them were men. Most of the crowd, really. He only counted one woman. A socialite. Probably. He couldn't place her age. He didn't want to.

They made the statue, and no one thought it was a big deal. The Sculptor sculpted the statue, and women were hurt. Were they so far away from themselves they couldn't see the terror in their art? Jude wondered if he was having a panic attack.

He did not give them a speech. The executioner and judge did not let them know their crimes.

Instead, he slipped into himself. Cold overtook him, and heat came out.


Everyone had a cellphone. Even in 2008. Maybe they weren't as fantastic. Maybe everyone wasn't hooked up to the internet. But they all had them.

And there were so many electrical outlets in a place as big as the one they were in. Light fixtures. A refrigerator. Air conditioning. So many things ran on electricity. Jude always thought people ignored the small bits of magic in life. Like electricity. How the fuck did that work?

It always astounded Jude, the things that he could put his mind to when he was angry.

He tore their bodies apart. Bit by bit. Electrons. Protons. He didn't know from science. What he knew was that it hurt. They screamed electric, buzzing in the air. The crackling smell of ozone.

It was all yellow light and screeching. Some of them were pulled through their cellphone's receivers, flip-phones popping on open. A few jammed into electrical outlets, bodies rippling and coursing with visible yellow arcs. It was clean. There was no blood. There was only that smell. And then there was silence.

That was when the phone calls started. Hundreds in the tri-state area. He could hear them all ringing. Cellphones and landlines, powered on and off. Dead batteries sprang to life. And the heat ground them out. Meat at a butcher's shop. Nothing but noise. Didn't it sound like screaming? Being pulled apart, being pulled through, until even their atoms sizzled off into energy.

In the middle of a now empty art gallery, covered in buzzing cellphones and warm clothes, the Roller fell to the ground. Jude wept.


The Critic hadn't been there. Of course he wasn't. He wished the old fuck would've been there. He had to settle with cronies.

Fourteen people. Judging by the shoes, the cellphones, and the feeling in his gut that he had just done something he could never undo. Thirteen of them mattered. One was unlucky. He wondered what she had been like. Mary, mother of God. A Magdalene. He cried again, wiped a tear from his eye.

Saul made thirteen. And Matthias replaced Judas. And wasn't that him? He had named himself after the patron saint of hopeless cases. But wasn't Jude so close to Judas? But who had he betrayed?

“God.” Me.

In the field of clothes, he found the Sculptor's glasses. Bloodless. He reached down and picked up the pants he had been wearing. Underwear still inside. Gross. He pulled a bag out from the pants pocket. Fantastic.

The one good thing about the bastard was that he was always holding. Dirt weed. But it was weed, and he was sober.

In the pile of clothes, he crossed his legs beneath himself and rolled a blunt. As he lit the end with the green BIC, Jude knew that he was going to Hell when he died.


It had been on the news. The janitors had cleaned it up. No one else would've done that. They were saying it was a warehouse fire. There was nothing about the phone calls. He wondered if they would be able to connect the two. If they were good as everyone said, they'd probably put seven and seven together. Or thirteen and one.

Fourteen. The number buzzed in his head. Lives. Extinguished. Jude would have been able to bring them back, maybe. If he hadn't been so thorough. If he hadn't taken all the life and vitality and spark out of them like bud in a vaporizer.

It made sense to lay low. Greece. Athens. It drew him like some infernal magnet inside of him. He had betrayed God. Greece made sense. Theseus killed the Minotaur at Jericho, and the walls came a-tumblin' down. Wasn't that how it went?

Jude Kriyot was never very good at laying low. And in Athens, he decided he was going to do something. Art. He had never been too into the art end of the cool kids. He wrote. He enforced. He was one of the Critic's little minions, sometimes, when bad things needed to be done. But, there was something about the city that inspired him.

And he hoped the Critic would hear of it. And he hoped the old bastard would have a heart attack before Jude could leave the city.


Sometimes, Jude wished he could remember making the art piece. Sometimes, Jude wished he still had that creative spark. He only remembered bits and pieces. He remembered the coins. He remembered crying. He remembered the men in ice.

Theseus took the thread and got himself out of the labyrinth, but he was sucked in by it and spat out. Cold, clear glass. Walls that were too white. How stupid. They couldn't see magic. They didn't know gold if it came out of their own ass.


The art piece had gotten him caught by the janitors. He had thought they were a myth. And he had provided enough trouble that they stooped down to clear it all up. Twice in two weeks. Maybe it was a record. But, seeing their inner-workings was a trip. Jude stepped out of the airplane, shaking his head from side-to-side in a vain attempt at getting webbing out from his ears. For someone like him, for someone so magic, a little bit of memory-loser wasn't going to work. It just made everything a bit strange. Like permanent deja-vu. It wouldn't last long. He knew it, because he thought it. And when he thought something about his body, it always came true.

They had arranged his ticket back home, and he played complacent and empty. The comedown made him want to get high. So high. What was it they called it? A Class-B? Maybe a Class-Z could get you fucked up. He should've asked for one. Janitors wouldn't know gold if it was coming out of their ass.

It had been two weeks since he had a taste of it. Which, to him, was an eternity. He felt his body gurgling in irritation. He had snapped at a waitress, a sin worse than the murders maybe. Irritation. He couldn't sleep. But he didn't want to sleep. Not if he couldn't go to a beautiful dreamless world of darkness. Or whatever.

In the airport, he stopped at a Starbucks. It was expensive, but usually people didn't notice that the serial numbers on a bill all ending in the same three digits. Kind of stupid, but Jude's magic was particular. The weed number just popped in sometimes, at the weirdest parts. He ordered an iced coffee. Black. No ice.

Head down, eyes ringed with crust. His fingernails were filthy, uncut. Jude hadn't shaved, and his facial hair was an embarrassment. Patches missing, here and there. But why bother with self-care when you were going to burn for eternity? So he sat alone, drinking his black coffee.

Jude was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't notice someone sitting at his table until they spoke.

“Hey. Buddy. You dropped this.” And the person placed a green lighter on the table. The safety yanked off, to make it light faster and smoother.

“Thanks.” He took it from the guy, took a sip of his coffee and said, “It's just a lighter, though.”

“Yeah, but I saw it. And I felt like grabbing it. And I felt like giving it to you. And I've learned that when I get a notion, it's best to do it right then. Like talking to you. It feels good. It feels like I'm supposed to. What's your name?”

“Jude.” This dude was weird as hell. “I'm not into anonymous sex.”

“I'm JJ. And don't worry. I'm not trying to fuck you.” A pause and he pointed at the lighter, “Nothing's coincidence. Look at the tar at the bottom of the lighter. You use it to pack down your bowl, don't you? Not a joint man, are we?” A pause. “I bet you want to smoke weed, don't you? I just got a call from the girl I'm gonna be staying with. She told me her ex left a shitload of weed in her apartment. Couldn't've been an amicable parting, huh? Where's your luggage? We can get a cab.”

Jude stared at this weirdo. JJ. He smelled nice. Showered. Unlike Jude, who had forgotten what a shower was in his haze. Dark hair. Bright eyes. He was cute. Small. Cupid's bow lips. Like a cherub. Cherubim, seraphim, thrones, yadda yadda. Maybe it was fate?

“Yeah, uh, I guess.” Jude's head felt okay. It felt like swimming. Thickness. It was the air. Was it destiny, or was he just hungry for more pot? “I don't have a suitcase.”

“Great. Come on. You'll love it.”

JJ extended his hand to Jude.


The girl was short and plump, with dark frizzy hair and eyes ringed with sleep. Her mouth was a little crooked. Her teeth had a gap, but they were clean, white. Which was wild to Jude, all things considered. He could barely remember that toothpaste existed on most days. But hers? Pristine. Jude tried to remember the last time he took a shower when she said, “Dude, are you staring at my teeth?”

“No.”

“What the fuck is your problem?”

“Be cool,” said JJ, his voice cutting in like a lute or something. “He's just weird. So are you. Jude, this is Esther. Esther, this is Jude.”

“So, uh, are you two, you know.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Esther poked Jude in the chest. She was shorter than he. By a foot and a half or something, he guessed without really being too certain of the measurement.

“In the airport, he said like. You know. He was staying with you,” said Jude.

“So if a man stays with a woman, that means they're going to fuck? Is that the kinda shit you believe? You smell like an asshole. Anyone ever tell you that?”

“Sometimes.”

“Calm down, lady and gentleman. Why don't we chill? It's a beautiful day outside.” JJ was grinning. None of it concerned him. He had already slid to the kitchen and was making himself something to eat. “On a day like this, it's divine providence to smoke weed. The sky is perfect for it. The air is good, too. But the sky is better.”

Jude turned to the window. It was overcast. Rain fell in tiny, near-freezing droplets. The sky was dark black in the horizon. To the east. Or west. Or really any of them. Jude wasn't a fucking compass. But, he knew what the wind looked like, when it made the trees scatter, when it brought leaves sliding across pavement. The storm was coming closer. It would only get worse.

“Yeah, okay. You better not be fucking him when I get back,” said Esther.

“He doesn't like anonymous sex.”

Esther's laugh was harsh and quick. A singular proclamation of hilarity. She was out of the room before he could say anything else. Jude blushed then shook his head back and forth. Up and down. It felt like his ears were popped, but it was deep in his brain. It was like an uncorked bottle of pop. It was losing all of its fizzle.

“Did you know you can stick your finger in pop to make the foam go down faster?” Jude hadn't moved. His shoes were off. His own smell was starting to get to him, which had to have been a bad sign. He took a bottle of deodorizer (the friend of all stoners) from a table and began spraying himself.

If JJ thought that was weird, he didn't show any sign of it. “Yeah, if you wipe your nose with your finger and you stick it in, it goes down even faster. But you get nose oil in your drink.”

“Yeah.” Jude sat down at the kitchen table. And then he got up and sat on a couch. And then he stood up, walking into the kitchen, lingering. JJ was making a sandwich that Jude tried not to look at. A combination of things he didn't want to think of. Ketchup and pickles and meat and cheese. He tried to avoid looking at the sandwich when he said, “She hates me, doesn't she?”

“Yeah.”

“Why'd you bring me here then?”

“Because it's a good idea.” He took a bite.

Jude decided to go back to the table, sitting down. The apartment was small. Three rooms. A living room and kitchen barely divided by a counter and those weird overhead cabinets. She had a bathroom, probably. And a bedroom. Three rooms. If you counted the bathroom. And he did.

“She hates everyone,” said JJ. Jude tried not to look at a speck of ketchup on his tooth. He tried not to hurl. “She'll like you as soon as I do something to annoy her. My girl loves a teammate during that kind of thing. It's what always happens.”

“How do you know? Have you done this before?”

“Nope,” said JJ.

Before Jude could question it, Esther was back in, with a bowl and a bag of weed that made Jude salivate visibly.

“I can't find a fucking lighter. I think she took it. Bitch.” She threw the bag on the counter. “Who wants to go to the fucking gas station?”

“I have a lighter.” And he took it out of his pocket and held it out to Esther. She snatched it out of her hand. She didn't say thank you.

As Esther began to break up the weed, in a slow way that, to Jude, showed her as a complete weed novice, she said, “Fucked up that I have to rely on this shit-smelling guy for help when I got a fucking lucky little magic boy in the house.”

“I found it,” said JJ, just as Jude said, “I'm magic, too, you know.”

Esther finally had barely filled up the bowl when she pressed it to her lips and took a short drag, punctuated by a coughing fit that Jude could've counted as a gale if he had a barometer or whatever. “Don't be a show off. I figure everyone he picks up is. You're not special. I can do shit, too.”

Jude took the bowl next. The smoke filled his lungs. And he let it stay there. He could feel it inside of him. His capillaries took it. His lung opened up like a fucking clamshell. His blood was a dancing little Macarena man, bringing it into his brain and diffusing the numbness like the most beautiful chill. Like sleeping. Like buzzing.

And then, for the first time, Esther smiled. She smiled with all of her teeth. But she caught herself. And frowned. “What can you do anyway, Jude?”


Smoking weed with someone, especially when it was more than two-thirds of the people in the room could handle, was a weird experience. Esther had been on the floor, laughing and giggling. She was nearly passed out. It was a coughing fit that had sparked it, long after she admitted that it had been the first time she had smoked weed.

JJ was calm, but it was clear that not a single thought was going through his head. Jude kept trying to explain how JJ was like the Golden Man from the Philip K. Dick story, but JJ just kept grinning, those beautiful eyes two small slits.

Jude wasn't the best babysitter. It was hard for him. He was usually the one on acid that people were looking out for. Of course, the people who looked out for him were dead. Or wanted him dead. Or were forgetting he ever existed.

As he bent down to get Esther on her feet, the doorbell rang. Without stopping, JJ walked to the door and opened it wide.

“What the fuck is wro—,” said Jude. A spiky tendril emerged from the bag of weed and wrapped around his mouth. It was thorny, tough. It smelled like a weed. A single purple blossom grew from the top of the tendril, that waved in front of his eyes. Bull thistle. Milk thistle. And there were more. They sprung out from the bag. They had no beginning point, just suddenly jetted out from the bud.

The tendrils wrapped across his limbs, pulling him to the counter and plopping him onto a seat. Esther fell forward again, and JJ calmly closed the door after the man at the door stepped inside.

“I could smell you from outside, Jude,” said the man with the emerald hair and eyes like the sea. “Fourteen. That's how many. Fourteen lives. The perfect amount for my Green Fields of France, little man. Video Killed the Radio Star doesn't work if you can't move, does it? I've always told you, my stand is much better than yours. I don't need to be there. I don't need to touch anything. Green Fields of France loves plants and hates all those who murder. And you, Roller, have quite a bit of blood on your hands.”

Esther stood up on shaky feet and said, “What the fuck kind of nerd shit are you talking about, dude?”

“You didn't tell them, Jude? How cute. Your Catholic guilt is what will kill you in the end, you know, Jude. You think a little statue is gonna undo what you did, little guy? You're shit in God's eyes, and the eyes of all that's cool.” And the man smiled at Esther. “Hello, dear. My name is Eric Furey. My old friend Jude here used to know me as The Gardener. I've just come here on behalf of some old friends. For some retribution.”

JJ laughed and sat down next to Jude, spinning on the chair. “You are totally pretending to have a stand, aren't you?”

“What's a stand?” said Esther.

“It's an anime power thing. Like, it's a punch ghost. Except this dude's is super shitty.”

“It is not a shitty stand,” said Eric. The tendrils tightened on Jude. Fourteen. Blood trickled down his shirt, down his legs, and he made a noise that sounded like a moan and a scream. It was kind of both. Jude wiggled against the grip. His hands were lashed tight to his sides. The thorns were horrible. It smelled like cutting the grass. It smelled like falling down in a field while playing contact sports. The fingers of his right hand wiggled. “It is a very useful stand for wetwork, and it's absolutely fucking amazing at what it does. All it needs is a plant, and I can kill the guiltiest son of a bitch in a room.”

“What if there aren't any plants?” JJ said. “What if he doesn't feel guilty?”

“Wait. Did you dye your hair to fit with your, uh, stan?” A pause. Esther giggled. “Dude, those are contacts, aren't they? You don't even fucking have green eyes, do you? And look at his nails. Oh G-d. JJ, look at his fucking fingernails. Green. Oh G-d. I think they sparkle. Do you see that?”

“Are you two even fucking listening to me?” The tendrils pulled Jude to the ground, along with the bag. The weed and the animated thistle fell onto the ground. It gave them better coverage. Better angles, as they spread across the floor, and in turn, spread Jude at a painful angle. “This smelly bastard you brought here is a murderer. A filthy fucking killer. They bite him because of that. They gnash their teeth, because he has spilled blood on Mother Earth. And Mother Earth does not take kindly to being tainted.” To punctuate the moment, the tendrils tightened and twisted Jude's body. His right hand flashed.

Too quickly for Eric to see, who was staring at JJ and Esther. They had finally listened. And he always loved a good audience.

“You mean, Jude? Who did he kill?” JJ's expression was blank. There was curiosity, but there was no longer warmth. Nor was there coldness. It was clinical, interested. Jude would have loved to study it if he wasn't being killed by plants.

“That smelly piece of shit?”

“Fourteen. Thirteen men. One woman. Innocent people. Artists. By all accounts, they didn't see it coming. They couldn't have, of course. But trust me, it's in your best interest for you to let us do this. It's our code.”

“What the fuck?” said Esther.

The moment was perfect. The green lighter flicked to life in his hand. He was the flame. The heat that was everything inside of him and outside of him. It radiated outward. The end of each tendril sizzled, and it slid inward, like a cigarette being pulled by an unseen giant. Eric's eyes had bugged out before he realized that his body was aflame. And then he was on the ground, rolling. The flame was quick. It scorched the carpet, but it didn't consume him.

As Esther jerked over to the kitchen for the fire extinguisher, the flame went out. Eric was crispy on the ground, gasping for breath, but very much alive.

“They'll send more, Jude.” He coughed. Eric strained to speak, his mouth lipless and charred. “You can't beat all of us.”

Jude coughed, wiping the blood from his mouth. He reached out and picked up an unscorched marijuana bud from the carpet. A single one untouched. He was happy there hadn't been a fifteenth person there. Without thinking, he stuffed it into his pocket. Esther probably wouldn't mind.

“I think we should leave,” said JJ. “All of us.”

“I'm not going anywhere with a fucking murderer. What the fuck, JJ? What the fuck?”

“We're going with him. You have to come.”

Esther didn't argue. Neither did Jude. There was a burnt man moaning. Esther packed away her laptop, her clothes, a few pictures that made Jude's head hurt, and a few books Jude didn't see. Two suitcases. “Where are we going? For how long?”

“It depends on where Jude is going,” said JJ as he left the room, walking down the hallway. The elevator doors opened and closed.

Esther and Jude stared at each other for a long moment. He coughed and sat up. And then stood up.

“Uh, I can take one of your suitcases for you. If you want.”

“I can hold my own fucking stuff,” she said.

Jude took a suitcase, and she didn't say anything. The two of them didn't move.

“I was in Are We Cool Yet?, and I didn't stop something bad. They did something to a woman. My friend. They hurt her. Raped her. Killed her. For an art piece. They made it magic to do this. So I killed them.” Jude coughed, moving from his right foot to his left. “I don't know if I'd undo it. But I killed them. I didn't want them to do it again. He was there. It's okay if you're weirded out. It's pretty fucked up. I should've mentioned, uh, my killer thing. I guess.”

Esther stared at him. She took her suitcase in her hand and walked to the kitchen table. She picked up her car keys as they jingled in her hands. As she passed Eric, she kicked him once in the stomach. She walked out of her apartment, and Jude followed. Together, they walked into the elevator, and the doors closed behind them.

“Did you guys seriously name all your powers after some anime?” Esther finally asked, breaking that long silence.

“Yeah.”

“Who fucking does that?”

“It's more common than you think. You ever hear of Serpent's Hand? I know a lot of their assassins pretend they're super saiyans.”

“And what does your stan do?”

Jude coughed, looked at the ground, and shuffled. The elevator opened, and JJ smiled placidly at them, waving his hand slowly from right to left.

“So, where are we going?” said Jude.

“Fuck you. What's your stan?”

“It's called a stand. With a d. Video Killed the Radio Star. I manipulate electricity.”

“But you said you can do a lot more than that.”

“They don't know that. Real stand users keep their super powers secret. It's the fucking move. All I do is send some people through cellphone calls and text messages and stuff. Nothing, you know, too magic. I didn't wanna, uh, be made to do too much.”

Esther was quiet for a moment, before she said, “Jude, do you think text messages are sent through the power grid?”

“Yeah. Why? Aren't they?”

JJ burst out laughing, eyes as red as his cheeks. “You're a dumbass, dude. It's a good fucking thing you didn't watch Naruto. Fucking Grand Hokage Jude, who doesn't know what a satellite is.”

“If I had a stand, it'd be Joy Divison,” said Esther, as they walked out of the apartment complex. Alarms blared down the street as a firetruck and a police car sped down the street.

“You can't,” said Jude, staring at the ground. Esther's car was a battered Honda Civic. It was a sickly shade of blue. Jude hated it. “That's been taken.”

“You know it's not fucking real, right? Like this is just a fucking game? Your anime isn't real. Like, G-d, Jude. Chill out.”

As Esther unlocked the door, JJ opened the back and slid in, leaving Jude and Esther to sit together in the front.

She took the front, and Jude sat in the passenger seat.

“So, do any of you drive.”

“I probably could,” said JJ.

“No,” said Jude.

“Fucking great. Nice. Okay. In a car with children. Where to then?”

Jude shrugged.

JJ said, “Let's get something to eat. I'm fucking starving.”

Jude and Esther looked back at JJ at the same time, both tilting their heads in confusion.

“A dude just burnt like crazy in front of you, dude,” said Esther, just as Jude said, “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Esther sighed and turned the key in the ignition. “Can you fucking believe him, dude?”

“No. No, I can't,” said Jude, leaning his cheek against the cold window.

In the back seat, JJ smiled, and he closed his eyes.

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