Concrete Bedding

Make the decision not to hang yourself in the closet. Put on the heavy black raincoat. Walk outside and watch the rain fall past the streetlights. Don’t take the path by the river, go onto the main road. Don’t let the darkness scare you. Watch for bums crouched in the bushes. Keep your distance from the road and avoid getting sprayed by passing cars sneezing puddle water. Finger the pen in your pocket. Imagine stabbing your attacker in the face. Carefully pull the hood over your head, accept the security risk. Keep a brisk pace, don’t make it look like you’re following the woman to her car. Watch her pick up the pace as she slides into the car and smile at the sound of the locks. Get off the sidewalk and take the crosswalk to the bridge. Do not wait for cars to stop. Imagine being struck by a car and dying. Walk along the bridge and study the cars passing beneath it. Stare at the headlights and don’t move. Wait for something to happen or someone to find you. Do not respond to the voices, wait for them to make physical contact. Pull the hood down and let the rain wet your hair. Embrace the urge to scream but do not allow yourself to do so. Uncap the pen in your pocket. Wait for the physical contact. Look in the direction of the voices. Wave at the smiling man with the umbrella. Do not smile back. Ignore his question. Stare back into the headlights. Continue ignoring his voice. Attempt to climb the protective railing on the bridge. Respond to the hand on your shoulder with a plunge of the pen into the smile of the man. Watch him drop the umbrella and fall on his back. Ignore his screams, continue climbing. Hear the cries of pain and the screams of people as they run towards you. Wave at the honking cars, squint into the blinking headlights. Take one last look at the man bathing in crimson. Jump off the bridge and into the highway.

Scream when the body falls on your windshield. Slam on the brakes before hitting the streetlight. Brace for impact just as the airbag rushes towards your face.

Jump out of bed at the sound of the crash. Look out the window and witness the streetlight falling fast towards your fence. Swear at the damn thing for destroying it. Call 9-1-1. Tell the operator there’s been a collision. Pull on a pair of pants and drop the phone. Go back to the window and watch for a while.

Hit the lights and place the flares. Do not look at the bodies. Call for backup. Do not look at the bodies.

Park the ambulance in front of the police car. Carry the stretcher to the crumpled blue car. Step over the fallen streetlight and trip over a single boot. Taste the blood from your split lip and curse the darkness. Approach the woman folded over the steering wheel. Wrestle with the door. Swallow hard at the site of the empty car seat with torn straps.

Step away from the window. Put on a shirt and jacket, grab a flashlight. Open the back door and watch the firemen work the car door open. Walk over to the fallen streelight that missed your house by 20 feet. Tell the paramedic with the bloody lip that you don’t know what happened, you only heard the crash and the bang. Catch your balance as you step into a dark mass. Turn on the flashlight and aim it. Catch your balance for the second time as you nearly pass out. Keep the beam of light fixed on the young mans frowning face who lay in your yard.

Spit a wad of blood from your mouth. Walk carefully towards the man with the flashlight. Check the pulse of the motionless body. Load it onto the stretcher.

Thank the paramedic and turn off the flashlight. Go back into the house and make some coffee. At dawn call a Realtor. Sell your house and move far away from the highway.

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Undead Battlefield

I made a quick call to Julia before going back into the club. It didn’t ring once, went straight to voicemail. “This is Julia, sorry I missed your call…..” I hung up.

I went through the back and cracked open a beer on the way to stage. Bobby, the stage manager, stopped me. He clanked his bottle against mine and said, “Give me a great show!”

“I’ve got something special for you tonight,” I said.

“Gonna take me out back and fuck me?”

“Something better.”

“Can I fuck you wife?”

“How about you sit back and enjoy the show like you always do and keep the crowd under control, like you always do.”

“I’m flattered that you think I do my job even half the time,” he said. “How do you like the new guy?”

“I like him just fine.” I lied.

“You know I worked real hard to get him for you, real hard.”

“Yeah, I know Bobby.”

“I just want to make sure you know I do my best to make your job easier, to take care of you.”

He sounded so full of shit. “I appreciate it.”

The new guy was some pretty boy from California. He had a killer voice, which was all that mattered, but he gave me the creeps. We perform five days a week at the same joint and always get drinks after the set but he never stays. Antisocial I guess, and that makes me not trust him. He barely talks and smiles all the time but never laughs and he does this thing where he’ll tell a joke and right at the punchline take two steps towards you and get in your face and stare at you hard, real hard, searching for a flash of a smile somewhere on your face, the mouth, the eyes. And he’s got this big shiny forehead that makes him easy to spot from across the room and I honestly appreciate that part about him so I know when to head the other direction.

Just then I caught a glipmse of pretty boy’s big shiny forehead so I downed the rest of my beer and slammed it on Bobby’s table before hopping on stage to start tightening my drum heads. It was nearly time to rock.

 

 

We were on our sixth song and I was drenched in sweat and pretty drunk. The sound guy John had been slipping me shots between songs and I was feeling unstoppable. We started playing our most popular tune, Undead Battlefield. This was a huge crowd pleaser with the right amount of smooth guitar licks and intricate drum fills. Everyone was going nuts screaming, flinging the contents of their drinks on stage (Bobby hated that shit, I personally loved it, and Dwayne the guitarist loved it even though it fucked up two of his amps). During the guitar solo I reached back to grab another shot from John. He had two ready and I downed them both. Pretty boy winked at me and smiled, lit a cigarette and took a long drag. Dumbass. I closed my eyes and got back into the tune, slamming my sticks against cymbals, rolling off the snare and down the toms, kicking the double-bass pedals as hard as I could. My legs and arms were burning from playing so hard, I could feel sweat roll down my legs in fat drops. I played louder and faster and improvised a solo and I didn’t give a shit if I played over anyone else, it sounded great. My whole body ached as I strained to push myself to play the greatest solo I’ve ever played. It took everything I had and then some. I opened my eyes. I was on fire. Flames snaked around the drumset and pooled the stage around me. I couldn’t see anyone else, not even pretty boy’s shiny forehead. I tried to get up to run but I couldn’t move. I looked down and realized my legs were completely engulfed in flames, chunks of flesh falling off the bone like slow-cooked pork. My ass was melting into seat. I was so confused and upset I screamed. I could still feel my arms and tried hitting the drums and I heard the crash cymbal ring out loud and clear so I began playing the rest of my solo without any double-bass and the flames grew taller and just as I felt an overwhelming pain I fell into darkness.

An Empty Glass

It had been two weeks since I heard from Rachel, so it’s safe to assume she got the money. I was nearly broke and could no longer afford her coke habit so I sent her downtown to ask for a loan from Ricky Palmer, told her he’s especially generous with broads and could work out something special for her. But I knew if I sent her to Ricky I wouldn’t see her again unless I went to Miami where Ricky sent all his girls.

I went for another swig of the 151 but only diluted cola and ice hit my lips which sent an unreasonable wave of anger through my chest like a flame dancing across a haystack. I sucked some spilled coke off my thumb and looked at my watch. It was broken, but it’s a natural thing people do it seems, and if there were as many eyes on me as I thought there were then I would look normal. I couldn’t get myself to meet the eyes of the other patrons in fear they would sense my bloodlust and confront me about it. I imagine they’d sit next to me and ask why I was so damn crazy and why I was always so sad and I would just stare up at them and ask who do they think they are to ask me such personal questions? They would laugh and shake their head and whisper to the other patrons about how crazy I was and how pathetic I was and I’d shrink back into my empty glass and ask the bartender to drown me in the good stuff.

But then another patron would approach me with a concerned expression asking why I wanted to harm them. I would smile to myself as thoughts raced faster than I could make sense of them at the sheer overwhelming thought of conveying the slightest justification for my irrational behavior. My tongue tied, I’d look at them and say, “It’s a funny, long story!” But this concerned patron wouldn’t back off. They kept pestering me, their expression desperate as they sacrificed themselves to my madness. I explained to them how my circumstances proved a fine environment for something to manifest itself inside my chest and take hold of my existence and drag me down as to stay close to the earth where it meant to plant its roots but I always had the desire to fight it. And why I fought it I couldn’t make clear at first other than calling it human nature, a survival instinct. Something that transcended conscious desire. And as my chest was busy weaving this mess of pain into something tangible my mind constructed walls in response to seeds of malice and hatred coming to fruition but in its haste left many vulnerabilities. The darkness was swift and unforgiving as it illuminated my mind and my eyes betrayed me at every turn and my lips lost their ability to translate the chaos. With a shaky hand I tried conveying the madness and for a time it worked until what I was experiencing became so tiring that it stilled my hands and I closed my eyes and waited for the sun to go down before I’d open them again.

Drugs became appealing and for a time they were good. Until the moment came when my existence no longer allowed the relationships I held with the people who had the drugs and I was back in my bed, eyes closed, thoughts racing while I watched from a distance. I started to have the desire to watch myself bleed and so found a razor and drew lines in my arms and legs and felt the wounds send a rush of delicious chemicals through my body that said it was good. Then one day I cut too deep and bled too much and my cover was blown. It was now apparent there was something wrong and it drew attention to myself and I quickly began plotting my response to this exposure. And then it became time to recede back into the shadows and watch the world from my safe place. And the longer I waited the crazier the world seemed. So I’d wander into the world and watched closely the interactions of others and wondered if they were me and how many of them were just doing things to appear normal, like checking their watches while waiting.

At this point I noticed nobody was listening, as the seats next to me were empty as was the entire bar. I called for another 151 despite the bartender being nowhere in site. I traced my initials into the counter and smiled at the thought of lighting someone on fire. I felt myself swell between the legs and knew it was time to go.

Among the Stars

I’m shoulder to shoulder with murderers and pedophiles knee-deep in pig guts. I stuff another heaping handful of intestines into the sack tied to my waist wondering when they’ll open the doors so I can finally take a shit or if I’ll have to do that business right here and now. I notice Charlie collapse into the stinking pool of gore, exhaustion-induced unconsciousness. I wade over to his side as fast as I can before any Fabricants spot him. Pulling him out of the pool took nearly all my strength and I could feel my muscles tear and pain firing from every neuron. “Come on, buddy. On your feet.” I felt a stream of shit fall down my leg. Relief.

Charlie’s head surfaced, eyes still closed. I smacked him twice before he flinched and stared at me with wild eyes. “Put the puppies in the fire!” Charlie said.

He struggled to his feet while grabbing for my neck. I was too tired to defend myself and allowed his hands to close around my neck and shove me down. I was on my knees while Charlie strangled me and I could feel his nails digging deeper into my throat and wondered how bad the wounds would get infected.

“Charles, my lovely boy! Put those puppies in the goddamn fire before I tan your hide!” he said.

“Charlie,” I whispered.

Just as I feel myself slipping, his hands leave my neck and I fall face first into the pig guts. I look up, gag, see the back of someones jumpsuit and another man, presumably Charlie, thrashing wildly before him.

Don’t kill the poor bastard, I thought. Charlie had it worse than all of us in terms of sentencing. At least we got 3 meals and a bedroll while he was on the receiving end of countless torture devices and biological experiments conducted by Fabricants. It’s funny, though. They could be torturing any of us, and in a sense they do, but not the way they do Charlie. Whatever he did must’ve been real bad. Bad enough that they drill holes in his head every night and his screams fill the prison and they echo through your dreams and you wake up with this lingering sadness, this sense of disaster that you can’t quite understand until you see that look in Charlies eyes. That blank stare and crooked smile. The shaved off eyebrows, dimpled chin, hollow cheeks, long, thin black hair. I watch him at breakfast shovel gruel into his mouth with trembling lips but a steady hand. His actions are cold and calculated, an automation. I remember the look on his face when we were in processing and he asked me what I was in for.

“Child prostitution, first-degree murder, necrophilia, cannibalism, trespassing. You?”

He couldn’t even answer, he just stopped breathing and looked at me. I asked him if there was a problem and he just kept staring. I grabbed him by the shirt and shoved him up against the wall and told him I’d take pleasure in fucking him after I kill him that night. It wasn’t until later at dinner that he sat with me and apologized and asked if there was anything he could do to avoid becoming a dead man and naturally I made him my wife up until the Fabricants took him away. I guess I loved him, because when they took him I cried and I screamed and tried to kill myself by jumping off the second floor but got two broken legs and 5 months in solitary for that. When I was put back into general population I asked around for Charlie and was told to wait until nighttime and I’d hear him. I’ve listened to his screams for the past 6 years. When he was finally put back on work duty in the slaughterhouse I tried talking to him but he was already gone, mentally on another planet. It didn’t matter, I still tried talking to him everyday, and everyday he would have psychotic breaks and tried killing me more times than I can count. He successfully killed 14 other inmates but received no punishment because the Fabricants look at is as a natural way of cleaning up the prison population. And if I ever heard even the slightest plan of someone offing Charlie, I killed them. He needs me.

I told him this one day and for the briefest moment, I felt like he was back again. He looked at me strangely and said, “I ran a bookstore. That’s all I ever did”

I know I could get up and save Charlie, pull this mother fucker off him and save him from being murdered. But something kept me still, something convinced me it was his time to go and I watched him stop struggling and the man in the jumpsuit stand up and walk away like nothing ever happened. Charlie was gone,

I’ll miss him.

Sugar Boy Santi

     I hate the sun. It burns my skin and brings out the worst in me. My balls sweat, my ass sweats, my back, and my pits. They all sweat and they all stink. Makes me hate myself so much more. I’m a vile piece of shit.

     I spit on the sidewalk as I start walking down my block. 30 minutes ago I was in the field by Hastings park smoking with some random. We matched, but his shit was pure fire. I always smoke good shit, but whatever he smoked me put me on my ass, literally. I couldn’t get up. I finally did after realizing I had to be home soon to watch my baby brother while mom went to work. I hate her so much, but for some reason I still care. Some part of me still cares about some part of her. Truth is, she makes me sick with anger and sadness. One time when I was younger I came home late from a friends birthday and she punched me so hard in the stomach I was puking and pissing blood. That was just one of many beatings I got. Seriously, fuck her, but she’s family. You have to stick with family, right? I’m not so sure about that these days.

     I pulled the pack of Marb Reds out of my pocket and felt for the half smoked one I was saving. I stopped to light it, took in a deep drag, and blew the silver cloud of smoke skyward. “Fuck you,” I said to no one in particular.

     That’s when I heard barking.

     To my left was a dog with its head buried in my neighbors shitty vegetable garden. Who the fuck has a vegetable garden in their front yard right next to the fucking road? This old, senile bitch that lives here, that’s who. Anyways, I burned the rest of my cig and flicked it into her yard before walking over to the garden. “Sup, pooch,” I said. “Who do you belong to?” It stopped digging to look back at me with the dumbest look on its face. I hate dogs. Especially this dog which was in my neighborhood without a god damn collar. “Looks like you’re mine now.”

     The dog went back to digging. I jogged next door to my house, my sweaty thighs grinding against each other like two slabs of rotten meat, increasing the moisture and stink with every stride. My mom was already in the driveway loading up her car with her lunch, coffee, and a change of clothes. She works downtown at a pub called Harry’s.

     “What’re you running for?” she asked.

     “I didn’t want to be late.”

     “Get inside and make your brother some food. He hasn’t eaten all day. You might have to change him too, he smells like shit.”

     “Got it.”

     “Hey,” she said.

     “What?”

     “Where’s my hug?”

     Fuck. I hate being touched. I held my breath and wrapped an arm around her, making sure only half my body touched.

     “You better love your mother. I do everything for you.”

     “Okay.”

     “I’ll be home in the morning. Don’t go anywhere, you can’t leave your brother home by himself.”

     I went into the house and walked through the family room to get to my room where I had the dog collar I found at Hastings about a year ago. I walked back out into the family room and noticed my brother was laying on his stomach watching cartoons. His diaper was off and he had shit caked all over his ass and a puddle of piss next to his head. I pulled back the curtains to make sure mom was gone. She was.

     I went into the kitchen and opened a bag of fruit snacks and brought them to my brother. “I’ll change you when I get back, okay?”

     He sat up and stuffed a handful of the gummies into his mouth, drooling all over himself. I rubbed the top of his head and went out the back door.

     My backyard is weird. There’s a massive forest behind the house but there’s a chain link fence blocking it off. Of course I dug a hole underneath to slide in and out of, and I plan to cut a section of the fence out soon. We also have a shed that was here when we moved in. It was stocked with a lawn mower, weed whacker, machetes, tools, ropes, lights, boxes of Christmas decorations, cans of gasoline, broken toys, an air rifle, golf clubs, frisbees, a wheelbarrow, and a volleyball net. I grabbed some rope, the machete and the pickaxe.

     I threw them over the fence. I then ran back to my neighbors garden. My taint burned. It’s full of hair and salty sweat grinding into my flesh. Whatever, I just got a new dog to play with. Of course it was still there digging for who-the-fuck-knows-what. I slapped the collar on it without a problem and walked it back to my place. The hardest part of this whole thing was getting the damn dog under the fence. So, yeah, I threw it over too.

     It whimpered as it hit the ground. It’s game on now. I’m practically alone back here. One neighbor is a reclusive old hag and the other neighbor just moved out. I pressed my knee into the dogs side to gain leverage while I tied its arms and legs together. It cried and barked, but never tried to bite. I’m willing to bet he was used as a watchdog and the owners realized he’s as useless as a broken smoke detector.

     I tied another end of the rope over a branch and levied the pooch so it was hanging upside down at eye level. Now it was trying to bite me. “It’s about time,” I said reaching into my pocket for the Marbs. I popped another 100 between my lips, sparked it, and sucked in for a few seconds before blowing out a mushroom cloud of cancer into the dogs face. I laughed, he whimpered. I pulled my fist over my head and brought it down on the dogs cheek. I heard my knuckle pop. The pooch yelped. I cut my finger on its teeth, wiped the blood on my shirt, and brought down three more punches on his face. He was sneezing and I noticed a little blood coming from its nose. I took a few more drags and stared at him with a deep loathing. I looked over at my tools. I didn’t want to kill him too fast so I grabbed the machete.

     I slapped it in the face with the blade. “Hey, buddy. What’s your name, huh? I’m sick of callin’ you pooch. What should I call you? How about Zeus? I like that one.” I hacked into Zeus’s side. The skin burst open and a gush of hot blood painted my face.

    “Fuck!” I said. It was in my god damn eyes and up my nose. I could hear the dog crying and barking and making other noises I didn’t even think dogs could make. Low whines mixed with high-pitched wails. I rubbed most of the blood out of my eyes with my shirt just enough to see again. Holy shit, did I hit a fucking artery? Zeus was swinging back and forth in pain, trying desperately to escape. It looked so ridiculous I laughed. There was a hole in his side the size of a coffee mug oozing blood like a leaky gutter. I swung the machete into its side again, hitting bone with a wet thwack causing me to nearly drop the machete. I starting cackling and realized I was burned all over my lips from the now extinguished cigarette. The dog was thrashing side to side so hard the wounds were tearing open even further, rivers of blood falling freely down its fur. I looked up at the sky and took in a few deep breaths. I was winded. The dog let out some low howls, I continued staring up at the sky. I could faintly hear my baby brother crying.

     I tossed the machete down and went for the pickaxe. I’m not much of a baseball player, but I know how to hold a bat. I held that pickaxe with perfect form like I was at the world series, bases loaded, all eyes on me. “Knock it outta the park, DiMaggio.” I swung with all my strength. The tip met ribs, broke ribs, and stuck into the tree, pinning the dog against it. What a site. It looked too perfect, like a photograph. I laughed, the pooch was silent, but shaking uncontrollably. I knew I did well, I knew it. Too bad nobody was around to see my work. They would be witnesses to a game-winning hit. I went back for the machete and executed the dog Los Zetas style. I sawed into its throat like I was cutting down a tree. Sweat poured down my face coating my cracked lips with salty blood. I was shaking almost as badly as the dog, my machete digging deeper into its throat. Beautiful crimson waves crashed over my hands. The blood smelled so metallic. I started sawing into the bone but couldn’t get it through the vertebrae. They make it look so easy in the videos. I was getting exhausted. I stopped sawing and started hacking. Each hit caused a small burst of blood to rocket towards me and explode all over my body. I started hacking harder and faster, the sensual feeling of being showered in blood driving every muscle in my body to keep going until the deed was done. I finally made it through the bone, threw down the machete, and used my hands to twist off the head.

     I held it up to the sun and smiled. The blood dripped down my arm and pooled in my armpit. I didn’t even want to shower.

Evil Dame

Today Earth will banish an abomination. Queen Denna, the most sinister creature to walk the planet, will be sent to a prison beyond the cosmic horizon with the aid of ancient magic.

The queen emerged from the lake of fire to face her captors.

As soon as she stepped on shore, the Elder warlocks bowed. They all wore robes comprised of so many exotic colors they looked like spiral galaxies.

The queen scoffed. “You’re embarrassing yourselves. Whether it’s respect or tradition making you bow before me, you look like fools. You’re masters of magic, and you bow to me?

Before the Queen could say another word, a blow knocked her to her knees.

“Then you may bow before me, mortal,” a voice from behind her said.

“God of Jupiter, Lord of Magicians, Shamuk,” the warlocks said in unison before sinking into a deeper bow.

“You feel strong and heroic hitting a women with her back turned, Shamuk? the Queen said.

Shamuk hovered three feet above the sand wielding his staff above her head. “Silence, you wicked bitch, and look into my eyes.”

The Elder warlocks stood in a circle around the queen, frantically tracing symbols in the air in front of them while Shamuk recited the incantation to invoke the guidance of the Serpents, one of the first creatures to slither into the darkness before there was a shred of light. They were the only creatures who could pass through the furthest, darkest parts of space without being torn to pieces by endless chaos. The queen would be bound on the backs of these serpents enduring legendary suffering for thousands of years before reaching the deep cosmic prison.

An event like this is extremely rare, the serpents only existed in stories. The most well known story: the banishment of a tainted soul to the most foul depths of all existence, breaching barriers of time and space, riding on vessels of nightmares.

As the Queen looked into Shamuk’s eyes, she witnessed her fate. She could feel herself moving through the air, cold and hot. The Queen could see stars passing by faster than she could process them. Strange noises all around, thunder and screaming, explosions and high-pitched battle cries, laughter. Wars were raging all around her. Hordes of beasts with no faces appear from nothingness, running through space like a fucked up nightmare. They were running towards her. Those battle cries, they were screaming her name. Stars began to explode and light up the darkness, exposing the infinite number of beasts running at her.

The serpent rode faster and faster as the number of creatures grew so large they were ripping holes in space, exposing unfathomable evil waiting for her on the other side. “Queen,” they said, “minion” others said, “Denna, my bride.”

Shamuk closed his eyes.

Sucker Punched

The following short story is brand new as of today. I refrained from posting what I wrote yesterday because I think it was more of a brainstorming activity. 

Sucker Punched

It was December.

I stood there staring at the shed door. It was almost 5 Am. My legs began to tremble so violently I thought I might fall, but I didn’t. Instead, I held my breath to avoid sucking in the sharp winter air and prayed Emily didn’t wake up early. I’d have to drive her to school in two hours so I had to work fast.

I reached into my fur-lined bomber jacket and grabbed the key. It felt like ice. I took a step forward and played with the lock, working the cold metals together hoping to create enough friction to melt the sliver of ice packed inside. I had nearly rendered the key useless before it slid home. After freeing the lock, I opened the door to find my beauty exactly as I left him. He was sleeping now, maybe even dead. I wasn’t sure nor did I care. All I knew was his body would still be warm from the heat lamps.

I shucked off my pants and peeled off my shirt. My balls shrunk up into my belly, but my cock was already getting hard. I gave the boy a light smack, “wake up.”

He didn’t move. I brought my fist above my head and landed it on his cheekbone. He flinched back and grimaced.

“Hey! There’s my sweet boy. For a second I thought you expired.” I lifted his head up by his hair and brought my shaft against his lips. “Suck,” I said.

“Please,” the boy whispered.

“I can’t hear you? Speak up!”

“I can’t. I feel so sick.”

I laughed before knocking out another one of his teeth. “Watch those teeth. Now get to it, we don’t have much time.”

The boy just hung from his chains, face-to-face with my throbbing member. He was starting to fall back asleep.

“I swear to god,” I said, “If you keep me waiting one more second I’ll kill your entire family.”

The boy did was he was told. I closed my eyes and thought about the trouble I’d be in when I got to work. I was supposed to set up a meeting between the partners and our newest client. It was a big case and we had a chance of winning if the client was willing to spend lots of money, which she had.

After I finished, I put my clothes back on and turned up the heat lamps. The boy wasn’t blistering enough. However, his lips were chapped enough to add more pleasure.

“I’ll be back before you know it,” I said.

“Could I have some water?”

“I can’t hear you. What’d I tell you about speaking up?”

The boy swallowed. “Can I please…. have just one drink of water.”

“Of course!” I said.

I unzipped my pants once again and shot a stream of piss at his face.  The boy writhed and spit the urine all over the place. I said, “You should probably swallow some of that. It’s good for ya.”

When I finally stepped out and locked the shed, I noticed Emily’s bedroom light was one. Perfect timing. I walked around the side of the house to the mailbox to get the paper, until I saw red and blue lights. I froze. They weren’t turned on, but they didn’t have to be. Anyone in their right mind could tell it was a cop car.

It was Desmond, one of the local sheriffs.

“Mornin’,” he said.

I smiled. “It’s too damn cold if you ask me. I been living here 35 years and still can’t stand this weather.”

“Well why don’t you do us both a favor and move?” Desmond said.

I laughed. “But if I leave, who’ll fuck your wife?”

Desmond laughed even harder and said, “Watch yourself you sly bastard. I could beat the shit out of you with my night stick and still have my job in the morning!”

“Ain’t that the truth you fucking pig.” I grabbed the paper and began scanning the front page. “Any suspects yet for the Omaha kid?”

Desmond cocked an eyebrow. “Why else do you think I’m here?”

I could feel the slightest tremble travel from my toes to the tips of my fingers. My balls shrunk further into my belly. “What’re you saying, Des?”

Desmond unclipped the holster of his gun. “How long have I known you, Mitch?”

I blinked several times before I could answer. “We grew up together. ‘Bout 30 years I’d say.”

“You’re damn right.” Desmond took a few steps towards me and got so close I could smell the strawberry danish on his breath. “30 years I known you and in 30 years I got to know you pretty damn well.”

I couldn’t breathe. “You got something to tell me? Tell me now goddammit.”

Desmond unholstered his  .40 cal S&W and pressed the tip of the barrel under my chin. “I woke up this morning thinkin’ it was gonna be a pretty shitty day after I knew I had to roll up to your place and see your ugly mug.”

He turned the safety off. “Are you outta your god damn mind?” I said.

Desmond smiled, the bottoms of his teeth black from years of chewing tobacco. “That makes two of us, don’t it? Of course we don’t have a fuckin’ suspect,” he said putting his gun back in its holster. “If we did, I wouldn’t be here.”

“You’re just tryin’ to get your fuck on?” I asked.

“Like I said, I woke up thinkin’ it was gonna be a shitty day. Make it better for me. Where’s that little pretty boy? Still out back?”

“Yeah.”

Desmond made his way to the shed.

“Hang on a sec,” I said.

Desmond stopped and turned towards me. I tossed him the key. “The padlock’s tricky, gotta give it some muscle.” I gave him a wink.

I went into the house and started a pot of coffee. I went upstairs to find Emily brushing her teeth. “Good morning, sweetie,” I said kissing her head.

“Daddy, why do your friends keep going into our shed?”

I laughed and shook my head. “Baby girl, I’ll tell you when you’re older.”

Blood

Watching yourself bleed out is a surreal experience. Imagine the endless bright red arterial bursts spraying your face and clothes. You can’t cover the wound with a tissue, that’s obvious. So you reach for the hand towel. Within 5 seconds it’s completely soaked and the blood drips in a steady stream off the corner. You place another towel over the wound and apply pressure. You soon find yourself in a cold sweat, short of breath, and trying as hard as you can to keep your eyes open.

You’re so tired. The wound shoots the blood in all directions. Crumbling to the floor, you try to cry. But you can’t; you’re already dead.

Red lights, blue lights. The crackle of a radio. You watch the paramedic’s lips move,

“Another one. Call it in, Ted”

Ted pockets a small notepad before grabbing the radio, “We’ve got a 10-40 from what looks like a 10-49.  Loading the body before en route to Bellevue General.”

I watched them carefully move my body into the signature black body bag we’ve all seen a hundred times. One of them looked at me and said, “What’re you doing? Don’t just stand there! Give us a hand.”

Just before I could react, another paramedic passed right through me. I didn’t feel anything, but seeing it happen almost made me laugh. After they loaded me into the back of the ambulance, I decided to wander around the neighborhood.

I walked past Ken and Susan’s mailbox and stared up into one of the lit windows. Susan was staring out at me. Her and I used to get along. I would sometimes babysit her dogs and take them for walks and she’d pay me piles of cash. But ever since I’ve been home from prison she acts like she’s afraid of me. I wonder if she’s scared right now. I hope so.

There’s an old man who lives across the street from me. He molested his granddaughter. Every time I went outside to check the mail he’d be sitting in a lawn chair with the radio on listening to the game. On hot days when you’d want to open a window, you could always hear the commentary blasting through those little speakers. The poor guy was nearly deaf. There was a rumor that he videotaped the rape he committed. The state tried charging him with distributing child pornography but they never found any evidence so the charges were dropped. I’ve always wanted to see that videotape.

His front door was unlocked. I went in and headed for the stairs. Once I reached the top, I looked up and down the hallway. The place was a mess. Boxes stacked everywhere, papers scattered, cat shit nearly covering the floor, soiled diapers here and there. It must’ve smelled disgusting, but I couldn’t smell. His house was so foul it angered me. I should just strangle him in his sleep or set this place on fire. But first, the video tape.

I entered one of the rooms that was missing a door. It was odd to see a cradle sitting in the dead center of the room. I took small steps towards it stepping in pile after pile of cat shit. I heard the old man start coughing down the hall. It was one of those lung-clearing wet coughs that made me want to puke. Filthy bastard. People like him make me want to murder. I got to the crib and looked down at what appeared to be a pile of dirty clothes. I leaned a little closer and jumped back as three or four cats jumped out.

I cursed and regained my balance. That’s when I noticed the pile of VHS tapes stacked in the corner. There had to be at least 30 of them in a pile next to a television set with a large crack on the screen. I picked one up off the pile and read the label. Written in black sharpie: “My Love”

I laughed. My wound started bleeding again. I looked down and noticed I was naked. I got on my knees and loaded the tape.

I turned the knob to the ON position only to be greeted by a storm of white noise. I pressed play.

The first image was a birthday banner that read, “Happy Birthday, Casey!” The tape began to turn fuzzy just before a tiny girl stepped into the frame. The camera man said, “Casey, tell the camera what you’ll be doing today.”

The little girl smiled. “I’m going to show you how to do a hand stand!”

“Very good,” he said. “Can you take your shirt off for us?”

“Ummm, why?”

“Because it would be fun. It would be exciting.”

The little girl took off her shirt. “Grandpa, it’s cold. Can I please keep my shirt on?”

“No, dammit!”

The girl jumped.

“I’m sorry, honey. Grandpa lost his temper. Just be a good girl and take off the rest of your clothes.”

“Grandpa, I’m scared. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

“Do you wanna get spanked, young lady?”

“No,” the girl said with tears running down her face.”

“THEN TAKE THEM OFF!”

The girl was crying silently.

“John, what’re you doing?”

I spun around and looked behind me. There in the doorway stood the old man.

“I was just-”

Before I could finish, he spoke again, “John, what’re you doing? That’s what her father said to me when he caught me fucking her.”

I couldn’t say anything.

“Luckily he had caught me right as I was finishing or there might have been a scuffle. Well, I guess I was being sloppy and should’ve locked the door.”

I swallowed and noticed the old man was completely naked.

“Yup,” he continued. “I haven’t talked to my son in ten years. I miss him. I miss her… We were in love.”

I started hearing a man moaning coming from the television speakers. I looked at the screen and what I saw instantly aroused me.

“You and I are going to burn in hell,” the old man said.

“Sure.”

“I’m not bullshitting you, kid. We’re the rejects. The bottom of the barrel. The worthless scum on the bottom of society’s shit-caked boots. We were never meant to be born. Hell, I died long ago but my shitty luck kept me here. ”

“Hell isn’t real,” I said.

The old man laughed. “You don’t have to believe in it for it to be real. But I can assure you it’s very real. I’ll be there pretty soon myself.”

“Hey, kid!” the television said.

I looked at the picture but it was just more white noise. “Hey, kid!”

“What is this?” I asked.

The old man walked out of the room but I heard him say, “It’s your reckoning.”

I looked back at the television, but it was turned off. The knob was still in the ON position.

“Kid! Come here, quick!” The voice now sounded like it was in the room with me.

“Where? Where do I go?” I said.

“Over here, just a little closer.”

The deep voice came from all sides. I felt a sting on my arm and noticed the blood gushing out, soaking the wood floor. My teeth. One by one they were falling out of my mouth. I screamed. The agonizing pain made me shake. I went to pick them up and my fingernails were torn off. I screamed so loud my throat started bleeding.

The pain was like a hot white light electrocuting my every sense.

My hair was falling out.

I felt my ribs crack.

My right arm snapped in half.

“Come here, kid. Hurry!” and then laughter.

The room was spinning and I felt like puking. “Stop,” I said. “Please, I’ll do anything. Please. Just stop.”

Laughter filled the entire room. I opened my eyes only to be staring into the eyes of everyone I knew. My family, old friends, my neighbors, cell mates, coworkers, ex girlfriends. They were all there looking down at me. Hundreds of heads looking down and laughing. They started to vomit all over my body. I writhed in blood and puke. Leave me alone, I heard myself say. Go away. Just leave me alone. But my lips couldn’t move.

“Get ready, kid. You’re about to go on a journey of a lifetime.”

“But I didn’t get to say goodbye.”

“Who would you say goodbye to? You have nobody!”

All the heads roared with laughter. I noticed some of them didn’t have eyes. Their skin was changing. The room was changing.

I was on fire.

“No! Please no!” I screamed.

It hurts so bad. I can’t stand it. Somebody save me. I need help. I could feel the skin of my face tighten up and crack. My stomach was blistering and the skin tearing itself apart. My screams were swallowed up by the dozens of screams from all around me.

I laid there by myself screaming for just one person to be by my side while I burned in this house of fire.

Then there was no sound. I couldn’t close my eyes because the eyelids were burned off. I stared into the empty faces of people I’ve never met. They were burning just as I was. They screamed, but I could not hear them.

I watched my chest crack open, the fat crackling and dripping to the floor. My flesh fell in globs. I struggled for air and swallowed fire.

I sink in an ocean of flame. Hands reach out to save me, but they’re always just out of reach. A tunnel of hands grabbing at me, each pulling off a chunk of flesh.

This is liberation. Pull off my mask and let me be reborn.