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        It was only when winter rolled around that the college kids renting out the place up the block trickled out into the night. Since moving in late in the summer, Sadie had seen only traces of them, indecipherable, aggressive logos on the bumpers of a few older cars and carved into jack-o’-lanterns that sat on the stoop until they drooped and degraded into frowning nothings. But now that sweaters and jackets were coming down from the attic, the youth represented themselves out in the wild, amassing night after night in the arena of a hastily dug-out fire pit, surrounded by old cinder blocks in their open backyard. 

        She’d heard their shapeless chatter lying in bed the last couple of nights. Nothing wild. Nothing vulgar. Nothing the ceiling fan couldn’t drown out.

        Then, on a particularly sleepless night, she caught a whiff of music drifting through the darkness and up above the whir of rotating blades. Her imagination ran quicker in the dark and she immediately found herself concerned that an opening salvo had been fired and she would be drafted into a lengthy, passive-aggressive conflict with her new neighbors. Notes passed. Police called. Tires deflated. Why did they need to play their music outside? Why so loud? Why at night? 

        She was relieved to peer out of the blinds in her bedroom and see no trace of youth down the street. Not so much as a glowing ember in their pit. From all she could see the block was asleep. As it should be. 

        But for the music. 

        But for that song. 

        What was that song? 

        She’d heard it before. 

        The words began to reveal themselves like figures emerging from a dark room. 

        “Come and get you. Come and get you.” 

        What is that?

        There had been a set of monkey bars on the hill behind the house her family had moved into when she was about 10, flanked by a forest of pine trees. No playground. No swings or jungle gym. Just a set of monkey bars. Sadie could remember going up the hill and dangling from them, looking down at a cul-de-sac of new strangers. Waiting. She was on display for her new neighborhood and if she waited long enough, if she were interesting and disinterested enough, someone from below would say hello and beckon her back to the cul-de-sac. If she waited long enough, rehearsing endless scenarios conjured with only her wits and monkey bars, something would happen to her. 

        Waiting to be acted upon she’d heard it. That song.
        “Come and get you.” 

        From the woods maybe. Those rows and rows of pine trees, like soldiers in formation. Not from home. Not from below. From those woods. From outside. From the darkness somewhere above the ceiling fan. 

        “Come and get you.” 

        A woman’s voice. Snarling lips. A guitar that sounded like guitars never do in real life, playing something more than notes. There was a beat but she could not find it. It was the rhythm of a running shower or television static and as soon as she strained to decipher it the whole thing was gone so that she was left with only words and a feeling and a memory of monkey bars at the top of the hill behind her family’s house. 

        Later it came with the rain. 

        The worst kind of rain. Cold autumn rain, frigid to a body not far enough removed from the summer, disgusting on the ground as it made a soup of dead leaves destined for the maw of a gutter. 

        She was in her car trying to solve the puzzle of the defroster. The windshield wipers heaved and collapsed lazily against the deluge as the turn signal indicator on her dashboard took its little mechanical breaths. It seemed to come down with the rain and she was brought back to a bus ride. Back from school, or a field trip, perhaps. All she’d wanted to do was read her book but reading on the bus made her head swim. Through the buzzing of peers who were not friends it came to her from all around, like the vague shape of so many letters on a sign just far enough away to be able to tell what it wasn’t. The music, the feeling of music. And the words. Swarming like flies and now plummeting like rain. 

        “Come and get you. Come and get you. Come and get you.”

        Too quickly, the light went from green to yellow to red and there were two empty car lengths ahead of her and a line of honking, perturbed motorists behind her. When she’d moved up and they had sufficiently vented their frustration the song was gone. 

        Heaving. Collapsing. Mechanical breaths. 

        Come and get you. 

        By the time she made it home, any hint of how the tune went had abandoned her. But she remembered exactly how it had felt.

        What her athleticism lacked in teamwork or coordination, it made up for in rhythm. More than made up for as far as she was concerned. Cardio was the name of the game. Heart health. Running, biking, swimming. And always her breath accompanied her like a dependable hi-hat. The controlled clomp of her feet on the sidewalk punctuated each beat in measures of the new spring air she breathed, beats and measures she would be unable to read or write down. But she was all too able to lock into the music of exertion, to feel it, internalize it, lose herself in it. 

        In the depth of her rhythmic cardio any stray thought could become a mantra. Street signs, bits of overheard conversation, sudden mundane epiphanies. All were potential instruments in the symphonic loop of leg and lung and thought. 

        Her symphony is where it found her again. 

        “Come and get you.” 

        That song. 

        Was she hearing it? Or remembering it? 

        Like big snarling teeth. Like attitude and the veiled threat of violence. Melody had infected her rhythm. Unnatural instruments. And the words. There were verses. She knew there were verses. But they never came. 

        “Come and get you, come and get you.” 

        She was speeding up. Her pace. Her breath. Faster. Trying to catch it. Trying to pass it. To look back at it and understand. But it sped up with her, never changing pitch but always some infuriatingly proportionate beats per minute ahead of her. She breathed louder now too, and was gripped by the uncertainty of what would happen if she stopped running. Would it turn around? Would it come back? Would she ever hear it again? And what if she stopped and the song did not?

        She continued her pursuit, faster and faster, always expecting to catch a glimpse of it just around the corner or just over the hill. A glimpse of it. A glimpse of what? 

        And she stopped and it stopped. She hadn’t even thought about it. She’d turned a corner and stopped. She was home. 

The streetlights were on. The moon was out. But the sky was still bright. The sun had not quite sunk. Sadie sat down outside of her house, her sweaty back sticking to the front door. Her feet throbbed. Her stomach hurt. There was no rhythm to her thin, desperate breathing. 

        What was it? How did it go? 

        A passing neighbor asked if she had locked herself out and she said no, went inside and pounded cold water until she felt icy spikes in her scalp. She splayed out on the cool tile floor of the kitchen, writing the words onto her brain in thick, inky permanent marker. 

        Each song she found in every library she searched infuriated her more than the last. 

She knew the words. Everything else was just out of reach. She couldn’t tap it. She couldn’t hum it. But she knew the words.

        Come and get you. 

        But in every title or lyric in which they appeared the context was ludicrous. The melodies, the rhythms, they were so outlandish and wrong that the words meant nothing. It was not a matter of not finding the song she was looking for but of finding, time after time, songs that were incorrect. Swings of various trajectories and techniques that all missed so spectacularly. It ceased to feel like a search and became something more like grading papers and there was red ink everywhere. On her hands, in her ears, in her mouth. Everywhere. They were offensive, flagrant, these facsimiles of the thing. Each the equivalent of dropping a whale in the desert and declaring it The Definitive Whale. 

        She didn’t know how old it was but she knew how young it wasn’t. She thought she knew the language was her own but then sometimes she wasn’t so sure. She didn’t know what it looked like but she knew what it fit in. And she was becoming increasingly confident no one else had discovered it yet. 

        It seemed almost to echo when she heard it tumbling with the bedding in the dryer. That meant something, she thought, as she tried to distract herself from picking at the gnarly new calluses that had come to occupy her raw fingertips.

        The woman at the store had explained that nylon strings, classical guitars, were easier on the fingers but that electric guitars had steel strings and if she intended to play an electric one day she would have to grate her fingers up sooner or later anyway. And what Sadie had heard, what she kept hearing, was not nylon. Thus, the tattered fingers and dead and dying skin demanded her attention. But if she picked, she would keep picking. Picking and peeling until that sharp little bite that told her she’d picked too far and that tiny pinpoint of blood that stung more than it ought to. 

        The presence of the guitar in her house, in her life, did something to it. The song. Nothing drastic but something had changed. It behaved differently, showed different facets of itself and hid familiar ones away so that she began to doubt her memory of them. It behaved like a dog sharing a room with an idle vacuum. Or a vacuum sharing a room with a dog, maybe. Patiently waiting to be plugged in. 

        When it came, it rarely stayed long enough for her to take up her new instrument. It wouldn’t dare present itself if she were already holding it. Regardless, armed with the memory of a feeling she plucked every note up and down the neck of her guitar searching in a new kind of darkness. It wasn’t very high up, she had decided. It didn’t come from a land of shredded, flaming fretboards. It was somewhere more comfortable, where the frets were still big and it was easier to keep track of where you were without getting disoriented. Suburban danger. She knew this. Knew it. And every time it came to her it was verified all over again. But in the midst of the hunt, she could not help her fingers from creeping into even the highest notes on the instrument. Just in case.

        Monday nights were open mic night down at the brewery. She suspected, but did not care enough to confirm, that this was because Mondays were the least popular night to go to the brewery. 

        It was a precarious position, going by herself, but she found that if she sat at a small table and focused intently enough on the performers, most of the Monday night patrons, a majority of which were said performers, paid her no mind. 

        With the exception of the occasional rogue keyboard, the performers overwhelmingly played guitar. None of them came close to brushing up against what followed her and while she was more determined than ever to be the one to finally catch the thing, a part of her burned with frustration at the foolhardy exploits on display each Monday night that seemed so brazenly disinterested in the truth she’d been hunting. 

        No matter. The time would come and when she had it, she would unleash it here and see where it took her. 

        On the whole, the performers at the brewery were competent. Better players than her. Better singers than her. Though, she was only just getting started. Most could not transcend the tone of the room, could not turn heads or raise pulses or coax hairs to attention but once in a long while, a voice cut through Monday night and fingers moved over a guitar as if there were no strings, conjuring cries from the pick-eating maw of their seduced instrument and Sadie would forget to curse them for idiots and their songs for blunders. 

        A woman sat at the stool at the end of the room, clutching the most boring guitar. Her only stage was the empty space afforded to her by decorum and the humble speaker at her feet. She was all hair and when she bowed her head to the microphone, the thing appeared to fade into oncoming shadow. She said nothing and played. Her chords swallowed the room and her voice sounded like thought dragged into matter. She was an autonomous instrument. Like a player piano. Like a player orchestra. And when she was done, her hair spit up the mic and she became something mundane and human again. 

        Watching the woman latch up her guitar in its case, Sadie felt as though she were watching a lover get dressed or the cleanup of a particularly brutal car crash. She was unable to blink and acutely aware of her own heavy breath. 

        That woman. Wow. 

        Her calloused fingertips itched. She had to get home. Had to get to her guitar. Now. 

Propulsion had replaced whatever transcendence the woman had momentarily afforded Sadie, but as she stood up ready for launch, she found the tank empty and gasped, covering her mouth and flopping back down into her seat. Her shoulders hunched and her fingers curled like she was bracing to be doused with ice water. 

        The song. The words. What was it? What were they? She couldn’t find them. Couldn’t remember them. They were gone. Her hand shot to the notebook in her pocket and she hurriedly opened it, to what page it did not matter. 


        Come and get you. 

        Come and get you? 



        Come and get you?

        No, no, no. 

        In her mind, it read as though she were reciting complex information phonetically, spitting out all the correct sounds as incorrectly as possible. She was on the tail end of a game of telephone she herself had initiated and the words on the hot breath in her ear were all wrong but she couldn’t remember what it was she had said.

        How could she forget? Now, after everything, how could she be coming up empty? 


        The woman. 

The woman with the most boring guitar. She’d tricked Sadie into some sick trade somehow, left her high and dry with nothing but the memory of a performance she could already only conjure the feeling of. And in return, the woman had it now and when her hair overtook the mic in the next town over and growled the words, they would ring true. 

        Come. And. Get. You. 

        The woman was already out the door and on her way. Sadie abandoned her purse on her chair and leapt up in pursuit, stepping out into the night to catch a glimpse of a guitar case fishtailing into a waiting car. Brake lights gave way and the car, the guitar, the woman and the words were gone before the door had even shut. 

        Sadie was shaking. She felt sick. Behind her in the brewery, she could hear the nothing noise of another performance beginning. 

        She could not escape the sensation that she was in big, big trouble. 

        She leapt off of the sidewalk and crashed down with a shriek into a stagnant puddle in the parking lot. 


        Come and get you. 

        Her casual flats had offered little in the way of support against her misplaced righteous indignation and her feet stung in the disturbed puddle but her hands tapped along quietly against her thighs and her head bobbed on a loose neck as her breath calmed. 

        Right. Right. 

        Come and get you. 

        “Thought I’d left my keys in the car,” she told the woman behind the bar as she closed out, pantomiming turning the ignition over the Earth-moored voice calling through the humble speaker. 

        Everything was backwards and when she thought of it that way, she found herself inching closer and closer to something like the truth, like she’d been chasing a loose pet and had finally discovered that if she stopped, it would stop and if she ran away back into the house, it might just follow her inside.

        When she flipped the chord shapes around, contorting her hands into unnatural positions, she seemed closer. When she strummed up against gravity over and over and over again, up and up and up, she seemed closer. When she said the words over and over again until they ceased to have any order or relationship to one another, she could just make out the tracks of the thing and hear twigs snapping off in the distance. 

        get you come and get you come and get you come and get you come and get you come and 

        It occurred to her only rarely, fleetingly, that she did not know what she’d do when she fled back into the house and it followed her inside and stood between her and the door.

        She wasn’t hanging upside down but gravity seemed to have flipped or that was her primordial sense of things. She was strapped into her driver’s seat, her arms and hair dangling up and away from the planet, her fingertips just grazing the surface of an ocean that had consumed the sky and was working its way through the roof of the car. The water crept up her fingernails and licked at her hair, higher and higher or lower and lower, and the water was rusty and the water was dirt. As it inched closer and closer to her face, she could make out a thousand little ripples of movement. Her stomach began to ache as something inside of her started to reach and reach, hunting for something outside of herself, like ivy crawling toward the sun. It was coming out or the ocean was coming in. That much was certain. That much was true. 

        More than once she’d been asked by coworkers to stop tapping on her desk, which she was quick to cease and apologize for. Afterwards, beneath her desk, her fingers would dance like avant-garde ballerinas, eliciting any and every manner of sound from her amplifier brain. 

        They do not get it. They would not know the store to go in to look for it. 

        Come and get you.

        Intermittently, she would break to jot down her little notes. Plans for the way ahead. Nonsense to anyone who might find her plots should she drop them in the street somewhere. 

        Opposite open strings. 

        All of the top notes, all of the bottom notes, all of the top notes, all of the bottom notes etc., etc. 

        Every upside-down chord in a row. 

        And she’d get home and try it all out and inch closer to or be knocked back yards from the song. She’d go to bed listening to the night. She’d wake up, head back to the front and start again. 

        It wasn’t a moment, or an X on a map.

        It was like waking up, having already fallen in love with someone who had left for work and taken with them any recollection of the beautiful, mundane specifics of courtship. 

        One day, she just sort of had it. It came in bits and pieces over months and years. A chord here, a little bit of insight into the rhythm there. Little joints snapped into place and solidified slowly until the parts she had to tinker with were outnumbered by what was concrete and known.

        She’d once thought of it as a dog she had to trick back into the house but, all the while, she’d fed a stray cat and when winter came, she felt bad and let it in and when its eye started to look weird, she took it to the vet and that thing she called it as a joke was, turns out, its name and I’ve got news for you lady, you own a cat. 


        Oh. Well. 

        Well yes, I suppose I do. 

        Come and get you. Come and get you. 

        But it never did feel exactly right. 

        Like a movie she’d seen as a child and aggrandized for decades in her memory dragged into the corporeal now in the body of a bruised and beaten VHS tape. This is it, yeah, but this isn’t it, you know? 

        When she was alone with her guitar, she would play it from time to time and something would stir in her guts and if she was sure she was alone and no one would hear, she would belt the words and gnash her teeth and the hairs on her arm would stand on end and her eyes would cloud with a thin sheet of water. But there was some magic or evil she couldn’t catch, could not even approach, dangling out in the ether on the astral umbilical cord of whatever it was she’d managed to find so that she possessed only the devastating majesty of a caged orca’s drooping fin. 

        Mostly, she and the guitar played other things. Other things they’d written, other things other people had written. And they played them well. In the backyard on warm days. At the end of the night to the fledgling remnants of a sated dinner party. Mostly, it was a neat trick. The vestigial bits of a journey that hadn’t so much ended as become home. 

        But it would still call out to her. 

        Through the groaning of the vents as the heat came on, or the frying of oil in a pan. She would bob her head or tap her foot or, if the stars aligned, play a little air guitar. 

        It was her favorite song and it still sounded better when it came to her than when she came to it. 

        They didn’t do open mic night at the brewery anymore, opting instead for performers whose names were written down ahead of time but by the time that decision had been made, long before she’d caught anything worth bringing to show and tell, she’d developed a rapport with the aromatic, floral beers and the jovial staff.

        She found herself among the only patrons in the place one Saturday afternoon shortly after the brewery had opened, sipping a beer of one autumnal hue or another as an older woman began the first of her two sets that would carry into the more populated evening. She was a known entity to Sadie, like a brilliant shooting star made just imperceptibly less spectacular by its dependable orbit. She tuned up her guitar and even the methodical plucking of open strings sounded resonant and warm. 

        Sadie took another more generous sip of her beer and settled in, knowing she would be here for at least another round. 

        It was hard, in a space in which the patrons were outnumbered by the bar staff, for Sadie to downplay her ravenous gaze and as the performance began, she stopped trying. There was such precision and power in the woman’s fingers. They were like so many intelligent hammers striking home with every swing so that each note rang out like a peeling bell in the cold morning air. Her voice had the quiet, come-hither swagger of a muted trumpet and her body swayed hypnotically as she lured music out from the silence. They were covers, Sadie knew (though most of them she only knew via the reporting of this worthy troubadour) but it didn’t matter. When she played them, they were hers and when the last notes rang out, they did so with no guarantee that they would ever return. 

        Sadie’s beer grew warm and flat. 

        A body would come in here and leave there but she’d lost track of how empty the place still was. The woman would offhandedly solicit requests from the assembled but Sadie could never. And apparently neither could anyone else. 

        “Oh, do you play?” the woman asked into the microphone with a voice very much unlike a muted trumpet. 

        Sadie looked around at the other patrons, one on their phone and a couple absorbed in conversation. 

        “You play?” she repeated, gesturing to Sadie’s hands, one clenching an invisible chord, the other an invisible pick. 

        Oh, God. 

        “Oh, God,” Sadie muttered. “Oh, uh, I do, yeah. I mean I’m not,” she motioned to the woman as if presenting her, “you know. But, but yeah, I do play.” 

        The woman laughed, glancing around the disinterested venue and taking a long sip of her beer. 

“You should play us something.” 

        At this, the most authoritative of the bar staff offered a sideways glance and a smirk before returning to their work.

        “Ha,” Sadie offered, saying a laugh more than laughing.

        “C’mon girl, show us what you got!” the woman smiled.

        “Oh, I don’t have my guitar.”

        “Whatever could be done to mitigate that unfortunate circumstance?” the woman retorted, tilting the guitar in her lap forward toward Sadie. 

        “Well, well I’m not… these folks don’t want to hear me, they want to hear you.” 

        “I don’t think they came here to listen, I think they came here to drink,” this she pantomimed, whispering away from the attention of the preoccupied audience. 

        Sadie was running out of words. 

        “Look,” the woman leveled with her, abandoning her charisma, “I don’t know you. But I feel like I kind of do. And I feel like if you don’t come up here and let it out, by the time you fall asleep tonight, you’ll wonder what would’ve happened. The stakes are low. We’re all friends here. Please, play me a song. I would be honored.” 

        Sadie’s hands shook, her heart quaked in her chest.

        “Okay, okay,” she muttered. She nearly spilled her beer standing up out of her chair. 

        The woman handed Sadie her guitar, which Sadie’s shaking hands miraculously managed not to drop. It felt huge and solid and lighter than it should have. The strap was big and as she found her place on the warm stool, it hung apathetically low off her shoulders. 

        She worked her way around a few frets near the middle of the neck and strummed a few chords, taking in the sound of the thing. It was a beautiful instrument with a beautiful soul. Her guitar and it would get along. 

        Then she looked up at the microphone, a contraption with which she had no experience, and saw that what few eyes were in the place were on her. 

        It was a long and miserable moment before she cautiously began the chords to a simple, recognizable folk tune she would have to go out of her way to screw up. A party trick. She strummed the chords of the introduction twice over and when her voice finally did come in it was quiet and dry for the first few words but then, like a runner catching themselves after clipping an uneven patch of sidewalk, she was on her way.

        The audience was gone. The woman was gone. Sadie’s eyes were open but she was not using them. They were on standby. So much of herself was on standby while the rest of her birthed this strange thing, this sound in time. 

        And like a clap, it was over. 

        The applause of her semblance of an audience was polite, perhaps out of reverence for a lowly audience member such as herself, who had been called up to the big time and managed not to crack her head open on her way up the stairs. 

        Sadie breathed again. A tiny pit of emptiness seemed to be steadily growing in her gut. A hunger, maybe. She felt her throat tighten as if she was preparing to say something that would yield wild and unknown consequences. An anxiety gripped her. Now. It was now or it was never. Here it comes, waving from the window of an oncoming train, barreling down tracks that will whisk it away forever. 


        Say it now, or you will find yourself in big, big trouble. You will find yourself damned. Worse. 

        Come and get you. 

        Her stomach hurt. 

        Her hands were numb. 

        And then she stopped. 

        The woman in the crowd smiled up from Sadie’s seat because she was right, she did know Sadie. Sadie did not ask permission but she offered the woman a quick glance as she began to twist the tuning pegs of another player’s instrument and she caught no resistance. She felt the guitar’s nerves flare at being manipulated and soothed it with a few exploratory strums of the newly loosened strings. 


        Just like that. 

        Just so. 



        Her heart exploded with the first chord and became a non-issue. Her hands moved with a youth she was just leaving behind and her voice commanded a wisdom she was just beginning to earn. 

        “Come and get you. Come and get you.” 

        There’s so much more. So much you aren’t hearing. A torrential downpour of cymbals and a choir of guitars made of the radioactivity on a Geiger counter and bass you hear through your bones and all of these things, these things she never got right, these things that eluded her, she now willed into being, challenging the integrity of her calloused fingertips, pummeling the strings like a drum, hearing a voice from her throat that did not belong to her. It had never happened before. It would never happen again. She played it for all time, hurled the words out into history and into the future, sang them loud enough to be heard on the monkey bars and on her deathbed. 

        And when she saw herself, observed herself in the light of something like success, thought crept back into her mind, the euphoria skipped a beat and Sadie was using her eyes again and an explosion of silence filled the space. 

Spit dribbled down the chests and necks of everyone before her. They looked to the ceiling, every one, and from their mouths, thick worms had erupted like a clown’s never-ending scarf. They swayed from side to side a foot into the air from the drooling maws whence they came, in tandem with one another such that it appeared as though a light breeze had taken up residence in the brewery. 

They had been drawn out. 

They had been placated. 

But Sadie had stopped playing. 

Something had settled back into her stomach. 

Heavier, she thought. I am heavier again. 

        And the comatose bodies began to thrash as the worms climbed out higher and higher, sailing through the air like whips. 

        Mouths. They had mouths that were open and screaming. The woman fell out of her chair and still the worm came out and out and out across the floor, sliding chairs across sticky linoleum with its convulsions. It dragged her body behind it, like a snail with a human being for a shell.

        The weight in her stomach seemed to shift and morph, threatening to heave her off of the stool. 

        let me out let me out let me out let me out 

        The train was a pillar of smoke in the distance, barreling toward a precarious fork in the tracks. 

        come and get you come and get you come and get you
        let me out let me out let me out let me out 

        Now or never. 

        Now or never what? 

Let me out! Let me out! Let me out!


         Okay, she thought, even as her head began to tilt back and her chin began to droop, even as her eyes went to the ceiling and rolled back into her head and her fingers began to loosen their death grip on the neck of the guitar and her arm went slack and then began to strum wildly, up, up, down, up, up, down, up, up, down, down, down, down, down. 

        She felt her voice coming on now, shy in her belly for a moment, then bursting forth up through her throat, a solid thing sprouting out of her mouth and still up and up and up. 

        “Come and get you, come and get you, come and get you.” 

        Once again, the brewery seemed to have captured a breeze within its walls and the thick worms swayed in tandem, receding into their shells until they were just peeking out from crowns of teeth. 

        When her song had ended, Sadie felt as though she had come back to herself and her body had been renovated in her absence. Her skin felt new. Colors were louder. Sounds were brighter. 

        There was a smattering of applause that felt like something more than politeness to her and then hushed conversation retook the space.

        The woman stared at her wide-eyed for a beat and then let out a breathy chuckle. She opened her arms, her hands, her fingers. 

        “Now aren’t you glad you did that?” she asked Sadie.

        “I’m not sure.”


Joshua Lawson

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