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?”
“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?”
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.
“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.