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Murderers Anonymous Chapter 1

Chapter 1 of a dark thriller which made the rounds with Big 5 Publishers. Didn’t make the cut. What do you think?

                                                                                           1

You don’t want to read about me.

Seriously, I’m not worth your time.

You’re still reading? Are you one of those types who has to leave a handprint on the wall because you don’t trust the wet paint sign? Or is it just a rebellious streak? Have you been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder?

Approximately 26% of Americans over the age of eighteen suffer from at least one diagnosable cognitive disorder. Spend some time researching your personality quirks on the internet and you’ll come up with a myriad of disastrous issues. Are you obsessive compulsive? Bulimic? Maybe you have ADHD? Social anxiety issues? Ergophobia? List some things about yourself – don’t worry you won’t be alone! We can give you a nice little label, some pills, and most importantly an excuse for all of your shortcomings.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not discounting disorders entirely. We are all legitimately fucked up. Maybe I’m just saying the titles, categories, and treatments are misnomers. Maybe I’m saying narrowing the scope of what’s wrong down to one “condition” only serves to give us the illusion of control.

Or maybe I’m not.

Are you seriously still reading?

I knew a guy once; let’s call him Billy, who went off to Iraq fresh out of high school. Billy was pretty fucked up before he went to Iraq, a borderline alcoholic with penchant for fighting anyone who looked at him the wrong way. Billy had issues, but these combined with his miserably low high school GPA made him a perfect candidate to become one of Uncle Sam’s boys.

Three weeks into deployment an RPG struck Billy’s Humvee. He probably would have become meat pudding if it hadn’t been for his best friend in the unit, a poor son of a bitch named Joe Murphy, who happened to be standing between Billy and the Humvee when the grenade struck.

“So she lifts up the burka and she’s packing a dong!” Kind of sad, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you wish your last words were more flattering, and not the punch line to a joke about a goat-herder’s unfortunate run in with a transsexual Sunni?

I don’t know; who am I to judge?

What was left of Joe coated Billy. I’m talking searing hot flesh melting into his skin, gore forcing its way into his mouth, and eviscerated organs clinging to his body like parts of some grotesque ensemble.

I remember the party his family threw for him when he returned. I attended not because I was particularly fond of Billy; I just wanted to feel a sense of belonging. You know, the type of feeling that you get when tell someone you donated to charity, or ran a 5k to support cancer research.

You just do it so everyone thinks you’re a good person.

Everyone includes you.

Halfway through the evening, someone popped a balloon and Billy shit himself, put his hands over his ears, screamed at the top of his lungs, and ran until he tripped and fell face first into his welcome back cake, destroying it as he fell to the floor, face coated in vanilla frosting and pants soaked through with feces.

Approximately 7.7 million Americans over the age of eighteen suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, typically resulting from an injury or severe psychological shock. Symptoms include loss of sleep, constant vivid recall of the traumatic experience, inappropriate emotional outbursts, psychological regression, and a dulled response to the outside world.

The last I heard, Billy was addicted to pain killers, had a constant twitch, was unemployed and blowing dudes for pills in an alley in Tacoma, Washington. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not.

Does it matter? He’s fucked up, you’re fucked up, I’m fucked up.

And you’re still reading.

I knew a kid once, an imaginative, bright little boy who had the misfortune of being born into a low income family. Maybe his creativity came from his mother, a failed artist turned pot dealer who was more concerned with completing high school level pieces of art than she ever was with taking care of a son. Or maybe it was from his father, who so inventively named the belt he beat his son with “Mr. Slack” for reasons unknown.

“You’ve been a bad, bad boy!” Mr. Slack would say in a voice eerily similar to that of Mickey Mouse. “Mr. Slack is comin’ for ya!”

But honestly, the boy probably got his creative and unique perspective from watching his parents fuck. His first memories of this were from when he was four or five, but he thought that the experiences went further back than that. His parents had the odd habit of stripping down and boning right in front of him, literally dropping whatever they were doing to go at it.

“Oh let him watch! He’ll learn early!” his obese father cackled as he thrust his stubby cock into the eagerly awaiting mouth of his wife. The boy was startled by how his mother stared directly into his eyes the entire time, as if she was taunting him.

Or enticing him.

Maybe his parents caused his social anxiety and sexual dysfunction issues, but these were exacerbated by wasting four years of his life dating a stuck-up, cold-blooded cunt who left him during his most trying time.  

I fucking hate you, Kelly.

I love you, Kelly.

You don’t want to read about that boy. It will only make you a worse person. The baggage he’s carrying, well it’s just too much. Why don’t you go buy one of those commercial novels? You know, one of those feel good stories with the predictable arc where, despite the central conflict and the tension that arises with the love interest, the main character learns a valuable lesson, all misunderstandings are cleared up, the conflict is resolved, and everyone lives happily ever after.

This is your final warning.

No?

Maybe you’re just as fucked up as I am.

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Ice Cream and Debauchery Chapter 2

Chapter two of a humorous sci/fi horror adventure!

2

“Ice cream and debauchery?”

“What?” I ask.

“Cigar and a soiree?”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Rigatoni and a rave?” Will asks with a grin, flashing his pearly yellows in the process. He’s leaning on the counter across from me. We’re both wearing our K-Mart shirts, blue and embroidered with a red K. Will’s has an accompanying mustard stain that’s gone crusty. I’m on register and he’s on stock, but with how barren and desolate the store is, we both can afford to kill some time.

“C’mon you schmuck, I’m asking what you want to do tonight,” Will says.

“It doesn’t matter to me, man,” I reply. “Drinks, video games, whatever. I have nothing on the agenda.”

“Dude,” Will whispers, leaning forward on the counter. “I heard there’s a sweet new laser tag place in Johnson City. You can see the lasers shooting through the air. Pew pew and all that shit.”

I look Will in his (dilated) pupils and consider the prospect. A couple of twenty-five year old guys in sweat-stained t-shirts going all out on a group of middle schoolers, diving behind cover and screaming while firing a barrage of light beams in a retaliatory strike. It would be like Saving Private Ryan, but somehow more sad and desperate.

“Sounds great,” I say. “I’ve always wanted to shoot thirteen year olds.”

“Yeah, fuck kids!” Will declares.

“A-hem,” a voice rasps.

Shelly, our manager, stands with her arms crossed a few feet away. She’s a rigid stick of a woman, tiny but imposing, and she’s wearing her “you fucked up” expression on her face.

You’d know it if you saw it.

“Oh shit!” Will says. “Liam didn’t mean he actually wants to shoot thirteen year olds.” He pauses. “And I didn’t mean I like to…”

“Enough!” Shelly belts. “I don’t care what you two morons blather on about. Most of the time it doesn’t make a damn difference in this place but I’d appreciate if you didn’t do it while there were customers waiting in line.” Shelly extends a bony finger past Will, where two customers stand.

“Oh, got it, got it,” Will says. “I’ll go and…”

“Get the boxes from storage,” Shelly says. “I’m sorry folks,” she says to the customers. “It won’t happen again.” Shelly shoots me a glare before stomping off. Will looks to the customers tepidly, offering a shy smile and wave.

“The children are our future,” he declares before trotting off.

“Sorry about that,” I say as the man approaches.

Most people would be worried about being fired for such a transgression. Admittedly, when I first joined the K-Mart team, I was concerned about my performance. About being on time. About doing things the right way. About greeting every customer with a smile.

Now I’m tempted to tell half of them to buzz off.

There’s no threat of being fired. The place can barely keep enough employees to function. And how can they? Minimum wage pay, no pay increases per year, extremely limited mobility, the unsavory assholes taking out their daily ilk and strife on you as they berate you over the price of shorts, the limited variety of snack cakes, and the behavior of their own mutant children.

Okay, so they’re not really mutants.

Most of them.

The point is, who cares? Slap that on a bumper stick. Sell it to all the millennials. Nothing matters we’re all going to die, have some fun in the meantime.

“Excurse me!”

That’s not a typo.

“Excurse me!” The man in front of me repeats. He has a strange accent, or some type of slur. Regardless he sounds Scandinavian, or eastern European or something.

“Hello sir,” I say. The man before me is tall, and Frankenstein-like in his demeanor. His body moves in lurches, lumpy and improperly set. He’s like an action figure a kid’s twisted one times too many, his shoulders pushed upward and permanently displaced.

This isn’t the only odd thing about him. I swear to God (well, at least some iteration of the higher power that does exist) that this guy is the spitting image of Gary Busey. Well, Gary Busey if he’d gotten in a bar fight. His face is swollen and lumpy, though there are no sign of cuts or bruising.

I feel a strange vibration. A chilling tickle up my spine. And that’s not some revisionist history. I didn’t know what was up with this guy or what was bound to happen, but when you see a Frankenstein-like Gary Busey with a strange accent and those horrible horse teeth staring at you with corpse-gray eyes, you know something’s up.

Busey slams three objects down upon the counter. His hand shakes over them, as if he is straining to pull his arm back. To make his arm work. He used his other hand to grab his wrist and assist. I stare down at the three items.

A cucumber. An opened (and apparently bitten) stick of butter. A pack of Trojan Brand Condoms.

Again, the R’s aren’t typos.

“Therse are the things that are being bought togrether, am I being of the correrect?

“Excuse me?”

“Excurse?” Busey coughs. His breath smells like dogfarts.

“What did you ask, sir?”

His eyes roll in his head. His tongue falls out of the side of his mouth. Now, for the first time, I understand the true nature and severity of what I’m dealing with.

A meth head.

In a town as forlorn and economically distraught as Rosedale Pennsylvania, plenty of people hide from their problems with drugs and alcohol. There are no jobs, no opportunity, just failing businesses and disappointing people. I can’t blame people for hiding from themselves, for hiding from the reality of their lives. I’ve done it plenty, but the meth heads…they are a different variety. Often times they are…

“Dangerous,” Busey says, except he pronounces it “Dan Grr Us.”

“What?”

“I am dangerous,” Busey repeats, slobbering down his oafish face. “I am are buying what the humans are liking to be buying.”

I look down at the cucumber, the half-eaten stick of butter, and the condoms, and agree that the combination could indeed be dangerous.

“Yes, very dangerous. Um…do you have…a rewards card?”

Busey recoils like he’s been struck. His eyes go wide and he bears those impossible piano key teeth.

“Cardddddd?” he slurs.

I flick on my checkout station light to indicate I need a manager. Busey looks up, confused, and runs his hands through his stringy hair.

“The realms are of the threatening of to merging,” he rasps.

“Sure,” I agree. It’s at this point, the customer behind him, who so happens to be his cohort, approaches, and I shit you not, he looks almost exactly like Danny DeVito, except paler and covered in grease.

“It has been foretold,” DeVito says solemnly in a voice vaguely reminiscent of Sean Connery. “That the Keybearer would react in such a way. So said Lekreshi, Snake Lord of the Black Sun. The moment of triumph is upon us.” He babbles this as snot leaks down his nose onto the collar of his shirt, which I notice, is a women’s designer brand.

“Are we…larping or something?” I ask taking a step back from the counter.

“What are you name?” Busey shouts, drawing the attention of others in the store.

“Liam,” I say. “Liam Carroll.”

They freeze. They go rigid. Their eyes shoot wide open.  

“Uh, what…did I say?”

DeVito tilts his head back. He cranks it back until it’s pointing straight at the ceiling. Green gunk oozes from the side of his mouth as he lets out a guttural cry, sounding like some unholy union between a cockroach and an automotive engine.

“Sccrrrrunnnnnnnkcccchhtch!” Devito wails.

Busey opens his mouth as well, though that’s a bit of an understatement. His jaw unhinges and out from his gullet spring forth scaly, black as night tentacles.

It’s at this point the story gets weird.

The tentacles force their way from his mouth like a creature trying to escape his throat. They’re two fingers thick, and six of them whip out of his mouth, flailing violently. As the nightmare tentacles force themselves out, Busey stumbles around drunkenly, struggling to keep his head raised.

“The transfer is still young. The process is incomplete,” DeVito rasps, green gunk spilling from the corners of his mouth.

I stand back, mouth agape, and convince myself this is a dream. Yep, I’m asleep in my bed, the one spring near the bottom of my mattress wedged up against my spine. I’ll curse at it when I wake up but boy will I be happy to get out of this nightmare.

I pinch my cheek. I shake my head. Anytime, now. C’mon Liam, wake up and get back to your mediocre existence. Anything is better than this.

Busey slams his hand on the counter and squeezes the edge of it. There’s crunching as the counter gives under the force. The eel-like tentacles are pointed my way now, molesting the air and reaching out for me.

DeVito begins singing in a voice that comes across as static. His tone is deep and rhythmic, like this is some hymn or cultic chant.

“Sommmmmmmeboddddddddddy onccce tollld meeee the worrrrrrrrrld issss gonnnna rolll meeee,” DeVito belts.

“What the hell?” I whisper. I’m paralyzed, unable to move as the tentacles grow closer. This isn’t real. It can’t be.

“Blooorrck,” Busey grunts as the tentacles extend further from his throat. He’s leaning over the counter as I back up against the wall. The hungry tentacles whip and lash, seeming to grow excited as they approach my face.

“I ainnnnnn’t the sharrrrpest toooooooool in the shedddddddd,” DeVito continues.

“What’s going on?” A voice cries. I’m broken from my paralysis and see Shelly rushing towards Busey. She’s coming from behind and can’t see the appendages bursting forth from his mouth.

No, get out of here Shelly! Run! I want to shout the words but they collide in my throat, tumbling out as a stunted croak.

Shelly puts her hand on Busey’s shoulder, meaning to spin him around. When touched, he shoots up straight and rigid.

“Intruder!” he croaks through the tentacles. They vibrate with each word. He spins around to face Shelly.

Shelly’s eyes go wide and all color flees her face. The reality of the nightmare is made apparent to her fragile mind just before Busey strikes. It all happens in a blur, but I’ll never forget the expression engraved on Shelly’s face for that split second. It was absolute horror dashed with bafflement, all coated in a sick layer of acceptance.

She knew what was to come.

“Heyyyyyyy nowwwww you’rreeeeeee an alllll starrrrrrr.”

The tentacles lash at Shelly, stretching to impossible lengths and wrapping themselves around her. Effortlessly, they lift Shelly into the air, Busey craning his neck back as he holds her over himself. The tentacles slither over Shelly’s skin, wrapping themselves around her limbs as she cries out hysterically. Then, they find their targets, burrowing into her flesh like worms into wet soil.

Wiggle, wiggle, slicch, slicch.

Shelly’s cries are bloodcurdling.

Chaos ensues. People scream. Some pull out their phones and call the cops. Most run out of the store. Amidst this I’m frozen, heart barely beating, as I watch my manager be drained of blood. The tentacles act like pumps and I hear the suction as they slurp the blood from Shelly’s body, pulsating as they take in her essence. Busey’s eyes are rolled up in the back of his head in an expression of ecstasy as he absorbs Shelly’s lifeforce.

Shelly is fading. The color is gone from her body, and it looks like she is shriveling up, like the tentacles are a straw as she’s a Capri Sun pouch. The pain in her eyes is rich, and all life is fading from her eyes as her skin goes loose and…

“COWABUNGA MOTHERFUCKERS!” Will yells. I look over and see him flying in on a Razor scooter, kicking the floor with all he has to gain speed. He’s wearing a Chewbacca mask and holding a shovel. He hops off the scooter and it clatters to the floor next to DeVito.

“Hey now, you’re a rock star,” DeVito observes.

“That’s right I am shit-weasel,” Will shouts. He presses the side of his mask, which lets out an electronic Chewbacca roar, before he lays into DeVito with the shovel, striking him in the crotch.

DeVito doubles over, gasping for air. “A…all…t-that…gl-glitters…is….g-gold,” he sputters.

“ONLY SHOOTING STARS BREAK THE MOLD!” Will screams before bashing DeVito on the back of the head. DeVito falls to the ground, writhing and sputtering.

Will presses the side of his mask, letting out another Chewbacca roar as he shouts, “Can you DIG it, sucka?!”

Shelly is nothing more than a ragged corpse now, skin hanging off her bones, eyes sunken in and nearly falling out of their sockets. The tentacles discard her, tossing her aside like garbage. Busey turns his attention to Will, tentacles whipping and lashing his way.

He’s going to kill him. have to save my best friend.

Will approaches, shovel wound up behind him like a baseball bat. I fumble behind the counter for anything I can find. Anything to help my friend, and I throw the first thing I get my hands on.

It soars through the air and my aim is true.

The pack of menthol cigarettes connects with the side of Busey’s face. He winces, and one of the tentacles catches the pack before it hits the ground. The tentacles rip the pack apart and bury themselves into the cigarettes, sucking them dry just like they did Shelly.

Busey stumbles, going pale. He lets out a series of coughs and for a moment the tentacles go limp. He holds his head and tries to regain his composure.

The cigarettes. He must not have liked them.

“Ha,” Will shouts. “Didn’t your mom ever tell you not to smoke? Well, too bad for you because the only thing worse for you than cigarettes is a shovel….to….your…nads.” Will presses the button but the Chewbacca cry doesn’t come. He runs forward and swings the shovel, throwing his whole body into it. The head of the shovel connects with Busey’s crotch, letting out a loud thunk in the process.

Busey doesn’t crumple. He doesn’t even react to the shot. He still seems to be recovering from the menthols.

Fuck this. I can’t let Will go at it alone.

I grab a plastic bag and hop on top of the counter. Busey is hunched over so I have my angle. I jump onto his back and pull the plastic bag over his face. The tentacles are forced downward and hang limply from his mouth as I yank the bag and suffocate him.

“Hell yeah!” Will shouts as he brings the shovel back and busts Busey’s balls again.

Busey bucks as regains some composure. I feel the tremor of the tentacles as they shake and come back to life. I don’t think I’m going to be able to hold him.

Thunk! Will slams Busey in the dick again.

“Sterrrp….sterrrp crunching my balls,” Busey coughs. Just then he’s back, snapping up like a rodeo bull. The tentacles spring to life and cut through the plastic bag, leaving it as shreds in my hands. They launch forward and seize the shovel, yanking it from Will. They waive it above Busey’s head like a spoil of war, and I wonder if they’re about to bash me with it.

“Playground tactics!” I cry, letting go of Busey and falling to the ground. I crouch behind him, pressed right to his legs.

Will gets it.

He picks up the scooter with both hands and raises it above his head. Will whips it around in a circle, like it’s a flail, and the stand of the scooter picks up speed. The tentacles pull the shovel back like they’re going to swing it but Will is too fast. He charges forward and blasts Busey in the chest with the scooter, back wheel hitting him dead center. Busey is hulking and powerful, the shot barely sends him back, but I’m right under his feet.

“Werrrt therrr ferrrrk?” Busey cries as he falls backwards over me. There’s a deafening crack and wet thud as he bashes his head off a nearby display shelf. I scramble to my feet and witness the result of our attack.

Busey is out of commission, at least for the time being. He’s laying in a heap, head tilted against the shelf. A puddle of black liquid congregates around his head, his eyes rolled up completely. Some of the tentacles hang from his mouth like half slurped spaghetti, while others are severed in two. The bitten ones wiggle on the floor like fish out of water. After thrashing for a few moments, they straighten themselves out, and as if coordinated, slither towards me, each leaving a thick trail of black ooze behind.

“I….like….girls that wear Abercrombie and Fitch…” DeVito rasps. Will and I turn back to him and see him rising to his feet. Boils have overtaken every visible inch of his flesh, and through their thin membrane is something contained in them.

Something wiggling.

They look like worms, or a smaller version of the Busey tentacles. Either way, Will and I don’t want to find out.

“I’d take her if I had one wish,” DeVito grunts as he gets back to his feet. “But she’s been gone since that summer.” There’s a pause, and then his eyes shoot to us, resolute with as much purpose as they are malevolent hatred.

“Since that summer,” DeVito snarls.

“Fuck this, let’s go,” I shout and start running towards the exit.

“That song blows, bro!” Will says before pressing his Chewbacca mask, letting out another valiant electronic cry before he hops on the scooter and pedals his way behind me.

We scramble out of the store into the cool night, the chaos of songs and shouts behind us and the calamity of sirens ahead a mere taste of the insanity yet to come.

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Ice Cream and Debauchery

Chapters 1 and 2 of an experimental new project, similar to John Dies at The End.

1

It’s not every day you learn you’re a link between worlds and a crucial peg in the ongoing struggle of good against evil, the fate of the entire universe hinging upon your actions.

In fact, I’d say it’s pretty rare.

At least I think. I can only speak for myself. The types of things I learn in a usual day are that the Doritos have gone stale, or one of our eight cats has pissed in my bed. On occasion I learn the Netflix subscription has expired, and sometimes my brother’s back hair and toenail clippings amass so much that they clog the shower drain.

Gross, right?

Anyway, that’s what you deal with. Typical everyday bullshit. The ancillary details that somehow become the staple of your life. And yeah, it sucks. My home smells like weed and my car is constantly on the urge of breaking down but at least it’s normal.

Acid spitting demons. Tentacle…things. Interdimensional beings with the power to phase out facets of existence.

Like what the fuck?

And I’m a boring dude. Forgettable. Stinky, even. I’m not a protagonist. A hero. I’m just a unkempt slacker with a mountain of student loan debt constantly paralyzed by crippling anxiety and self-doubt.

Okay, so that’s like half of my generation, but whatever, you get the point.

I can’t even remember to return my DVDs to Redbox, yet I’m charged with saving all of existence?

And who the hell rents DVDs anymore?

Okay, fine, fine I’ll stop wasting time. I’ll get to the point. It’s one that took me 3,500 years to understand (time’s not linear – it’s a long story) but here’s my best summary:

There are infinite universes. Infinite timelines. Infinite outcomes. You are just a thread in the entire cosmic rope of you. Also, there are demi-god assholes wagering on the fate of all of our lives. Most of them are dicks.

Get it?

Good. So we’ll start from the beginning, because this guide might be helpful to whoever comes next. Even if it’s another iteration of me. Or something.

Stick with me, I barely get it myself.

So all of this…the murders, the massacre, the interdimensional travel, it all started in one place. A place many of us think of as common, but that was destined to be the hallowed ground, the launching point for the ultimate conflict, the one that encompasses all of our lives and which very well could end them all.

We begin at K-Mart.

2

“Ice cream and debauchery?”

“What?” I ask.

“Cigar and a soiree?”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Refreshments and a rave?” Will asks with a grin, flashing his pearly yellows in the process. He’s leaning on the counter across from me. We’re both wearing our K-Mart shirts, blue and embroidered with a red K. Will’s has an accompanying mustard stain that’s gone crusty. I’m on register and he’s on stock, but with how barren and desolate the store is, we both can afford to kill some time.

“C’mon you schmuck, I’m asking what you want to do tonight,” Will says.

“The same thing we do every night, Pinky,” I reply.

Will blinks. “Why are you calling me Pinky?”

“Never mind.”

“Do I have marker on my face or something?” Will wipes at his face.

“Stop it,” I urge. “I don’t care what we do tonight. Drinks, video games, whatever. I have nothing on the agenda.”

“Dude,” Will whispers, leaning forward on the counter. “I heard there’s a sweet new laser tag place in Johnson City. You can see the lasers shooting through the air. Pew pew and all that shit.”

I look Will in his (dilated) pupils and consider the prospect. A couple of twenty-five year old guys in sweat-stained t shirts going all out on a group of middle schoolers, diving behind cover and screaming while firing a barrage of light beams in a retaliatory strike. It would be like Saving Private Ryan, but somehow more sad and desperate.

“Sounds great,” I say. “I’ve always wanted to shoot thirteen year olds.”

“Yeah, fuck kids!” Will declares.

“A-hem,” a voice rasps.

Will and I look and see Shelly, our manager, standing with her arms crossed a few feet away. She’s a rigid stick of a woman, tiny but imposing, and she’s wearing her “you fucked up” expression on her face.

You’d know it if you saw it.

“Oh shit!” Will says. “Liam didn’t mean he actually wants to shoot thirteen year olds.” He pauses. “And I didn’t mean I like to…”

“Enough!” Shelly belts. “I don’t care what you two morons blather on about. Most of the time it doesn’t make a damn difference in this place but I’d appreciate if you didn’t do it while there were customers waiting in line.” Shelly extends a bony finger past Will, where two customers stand.

“Oh, got it, got it,” Will says. “I’ll go and…”

“Get the boxes from storage,” Shelly says. “I’m sorry folks,” she says to the customers. “Won’t happen again.” She shoots me a glare before stomping off. Will looks to the customers tepidly, offering a shy smile and wave.

“The children are our future,” he declares before trotting off.

“Sorry about that,” I say as the man approaches.

Most people would be worried about being fired for such a transgression. Admittedly, when I first joined the K-Mart team, I was concerned about my performance. About being on time. About doing things the right way. About greeting every customer with a smile.

Now I’m tempted to tell half of them to fuck themselves.

The rude mean half. I’m not some type of monster.

Not yet, anyway.

There’s no threat of being fired. The place can barely keep enough employees to function. And how can they? Minimum wage pay, no pay increases per year, extremely limited mobility, the unsavory assholes taking out their daily ilk and strife on you as they berate you over the price of shorts, the limited variety of snack cakes, and the behavior of their own mutant children.

Okay, so they’re not really mutants.

Most of them.

The point is, who cares? Slap that on a bumper stick. Sell it to all the millennials. Nothing matters we’re all going to die, have some fun in the meantime.

“Excurse me!”

That’s not a typo.

“Excurse me!” The man in front of me repeats. He has a strange accent, or some type of slur. Regardless he sounds Scandinavian, or eastern European or something.

“Hello sir,” I say. The man before me is tall, and Frankenstein-like in his demeanor. His body moves in lurches, appearing lumpy and improperly set. He’s like an action figure a kid’s twisted one times too many, and it looks like his shoulders are permanently pushed upwards out of place.

This isn’t the only odd thing about him. I swear to God (well, at least some iteration of the higher power that does exist) that this guy is the spitting image of Gary Busey. Well, Gary Busey if he’d gotten in a bar fight. His face is swollen and lumpy, though there are no sign of cuts or bruising.

I feel a strange vibration. A chilling tickle up my spine. And that’s not some revisionist history. I didn’t know what was up with this guy or what was bound to happen, but when you see a Frankenstein-like Gary Busey with a strange accent and those horrible horse teeth staring at you with corpse-gray eyes, you know something’s up.

Busey slams three objects down upon the counter. His hand shakes over them, as if he is straining to pull his arm back. To make his arm work. He used his other hand to grab his wrist and assist. I stare down at the three items.

A cucumber. An opened (and bitten) stick of butter. A pack of Trojan Brand Condoms.

Again, the R’s aren’t typos.

“Therse are the things that are being bought togrether, am I being of the correrect?

“Excuse me?”

“Excurse?” Busey coughs. His breath smells like dogfarts.

“What did you ask, sir?”

His eyes roll in his head. His tongue falls out of the side of his mouth. Now, for the first time, I understand the true nature and severity of what I’m dealing with.

A meth head.

In a town as forlorn and economically distraught as Rosedale Pennsylvania, plenty of people hide from their problems with drugs and alcohol. There are no jobs, no opportunity, just failing businesses and disappointing people. I can’t blame people for hiding from themselves, for hiding from the reality of their lives. I’ve done it plenty, but the meth heads…they are a different variety. Often times they are…

“Dangerous,” Busey says, except he pronounces it “Dan Grr Us.”

“What?”

“I am dangerous,” Busey repeats, slobbering down his oafish face. “I am are buying what the humans are liking to be buying.”

I look down at the cucumber, the half-eaten stick of butter, and the condoms, and agree that the combination could indeed be dangerous.

“Yes, very dangerous. Um…do you have…a rewards card?”

Busey recoils like he’s been struck. His eyes go wide and he bears those impossible piano key teeth.

“Cardddddd?” he slurs.

I flick on my checkout station light to indicate I need a manager. Busey looks up, confused, and running his hands through his stringy hair.

“The realms are of the threatening of to merging,” he rasps.

“Sure,” I agree. It’s at this point, the customer behind him, who so happens to be his cohort, approaches, and I shit you not, he looks almost exactly like Danny DeVito, except paler and covered in grease.

“It has been foretold,” DeVito says solemnly in a voice vaguely reminiscent of Sean Connery. “That the Keybearer would react in such a way. So said Lekreshi, Snake Lord of the Black Sun. The moment of triumph is upon us.” He babbles this as snot leaks down his nose onto the collar of his shirt, which I notice, is a women’s designer brand.

“Are we…larping or something?” I ask taking a step back from the counter.

“What are you name?” Busey shouts, drawing the attention of others in the store.

“Liam,” I say. “Liam Conners.”

They freeze. They go rigid. Their eyes shoot wide.

“Uh, what…did I say?”

DeVito tilts his head back. He cranks it back until it’s pointing straight at the ceiling. Green gunk oozes from the side of his mouth as he lets out a guttural cry, sounding like some unholy union between a cockroach and an automotive engine.

“Sccrrrrunnnnnnnkcccchhtch!” Devito wails.

Busey opens his mouth as well, though that’s a bit of an understatement. His jaw unhinges and out from his gullet spring forth scaly, black as night tentacles.

It’s at this point the story gets weird.

The tentacles force their way from his mouth like a creature trying to escape his throat. They’re two fingers thick, and six of them whip out of his mouth, flailing around violently. Busey seems in limited control of the tentacles, stumbling around drunkenly and trying to keep his head raised.

“The transfer is still young. The process is incomplete,” DeVito rasps, green gunk spilling out of his mouth.

I stand back, mouth agape, and convince myself this is a dream. Yep, I’m asleep in my bed, the one spring near the bottom of my mattress pressing up and poking me in the spine. I’ll curse at it when I wake up but boy will I be happy to get out of this nightmare.

I pinch my cheek. I shake my head. Anytime, now. C’mon Liam, wake up and get back to your mediocre existence. Anything is better than this.

Busey slams his hand on the counter and squeezes the edge of it. There’s a crunching sound as the counter gives under the force. The eel-like tentacles are pointed my way now, molesting the air and reaching out for me.

DeVito begins singing in a voice that comes across as static. His tone is deep and rhythmic, like this is some hymn or cultic chant.

“Sommmmmmmeboddddddddddy onccce tollld meeee the worrrrrrrrrld issss gonnnna rolll meeee,” DeVito belts.

“What the fuck?” I whisper. I’m paralyzed, unable to move as the tentacles grow closer. This isn’t real. It can’t be.

“Blooorrck,” Busey grunts as the tentacles extend further from his throat. He’s leaning over the counter as I back up against the wall. The hungry tentacles whip and lash, seeming to grow excited as they approach my face.

“I ainnnnnn’t the sharrrrpest toooooooool in the shedddddddd,” DeVito continues.

“What the hell is going on?” A voice cries. I’m broken from my paralysis and see Shelly rushing towards Busey. She’s coming from behind and can’t see the appendages bursting forth from his mouth.

No, get out of here Shelly! Run! I want to shout the words but they collide in my throat, tumbling out as a stunted croak.

Shelly puts her hand on Busey’s shoulder, meaning to spin him around. When touched, he shoots up straight and rigid.

“Intruder!” he croaks through the tentacles. They vibrate with each word. He spins around to face Shelly.

Shelly’s eyes go wide and all color flees her face. The reality of the nightmare is made apparent to her fragile mind just before Busey strikes. It all happens in a blur, but I’ll never forget the expression engraved on Shelly’s face for that split second. It was absolute horror dashed with bafflement, all coated in a sick layer of acceptance.

She knew what was to come.

“Heyyyyyyy nowwwww you’rreeeeeee an alllll starrrrrrr.”

The tentacles lash at Shelly, stretching to impossible lengths and wrapping themselves around her. Effortlessly, they lift Shelly into the air, Busey craning his neck back as he holds her over himself. The tentacles slither over Shelly’s skin, wrapping themselves around her limbs as she cries out hysterically. Then, they find their targets, burrowing into her flesh like worms into wet soil.

Wiggle, wiggle, slicch, slicch.

Her cries are bloodcurdling.

Chaos ensues. People scream. Some pull out their phones and call the cops. Most run out of the store. Amidst this I’m frozen, heart barely beating, as I watch my manager be drained of blood. The tentacles act like pumps and I hear the suction as they slurp the blood from Shelly’s body, pulsating as they take in her essence. Busey’s eyes are rolled up in the back of his head as he absorbs her lifeforce, a look of ecstasy on his monstrous face.

Shelly is fading. The color is gone from her body, and it looks like she is shriveling up, like the tentacles are a straw as she’s a Capri Sun pouch. The pain in her eyes is rich, and all life is fading from her eyes as her skin goes loose and…

“COWABUNGA MOTHERFUCKERS!” Will yells. I look over and see him flying in on a Razor scooter, kicking the floor with all he has to gain speed. He’s wearing a Chewbacca mask and holding a shovel. He hops off the scooter and it clatters to the floor next to DeVito.

“Hey now, you’re a rock star,” DeVito observes.

“That’s right I am shit-weasel!,” Will shouts. He presses the side of his mask, which lets out an electronic Chewbacca roar, before he lays into DeVito with the shovel, striking him in the crotch.

DeVito doubles over, gasping for air. “A…all…t-that…gl-glitters…is….g-gold,” he sputters.

“ONLY SHOOTING STARS BREAK THE MOLD!” Will screams before bashing DeVito on the back of the head. He falls to the ground, writhing and sputtering.

Will presses the side of his mask, letting out another Chewbacca roar as he shouts, “Can you DIG it, sucka?!”

Shelly is nothing more than a ragged corpse now, skin hanging off her bones, eyes sunken in and nearly falling out of their sockets. The tentacles discard her, tossing her aside like garbage. Busey turns his attention to Will, tentacles whipping and lashing his way.

He’s going to kill him. I have to do something. I have to save my best friend.

Will is approaching, shovel wound up behind him like a baseball bat, when I strike. I fumble behind the counter for anything I can find. Anything to help my friend, and I throw the first thing I get my hands on.

It soars through the air and my aim is true.

The pack of menthol cigarettes connects with the side of Busey’s face. He winces, and one of the tentacles catches the pack before it hits the ground. The tentacles rip the pack apart and bury themselves into the cigarettes, sucking them dry just like they did Shelly.

Busey stumbles, going pale. He lets out a series of coughs and for a moment the tentacles go limp. He holds his head and tries to regain his composure.

The cigarettes. He must not have liked them.

“Ha,” Will shouts. “Didn’t your mom ever tell you not to smoke? Well, too bad for you because the only thing worse for you than cigarettes is a shovel….to….your…nads.” Will presses the button but the Chewbacca cry doesn’t come. He runs forward and swings the shovel, throwing his whole body into it. The head of the shovel connects with Busey’s crotch, letting out a loud thunk in the process.

Busey doesn’t crumple. He doesn’t even react to the shot. He still seems to be recovering from the menthols.

Fuck this. I can’t let Will go at it alone.

I grab a plastic bag and hop on top of the counter. Busey is hunched over slightly so I have my angle. I jump onto his back and pull the plastic bag over his face. The tentacles are forced downward and hang limply from his mouth as I yank the bag and suffocate him.

“Fuck yeah!” Will shouts as he brings the shovel back and busts Busey’s balls again.

Busey is getting a little more life in him. He’s wheezing as he stumbles about, each motion with more force. I feel the tremor of the tentacles as they shake and come back to life. I don’t think I’m going to be able to hold him.

Thunk! Will slams Busey in the dick again.

“Sterrrp….sterrrp crunching my balls,” Busey coughs. Just then he’s back, snapping up like a rodeo bull. I’m nearly thrown from his body. The tentacles spring to life and cut through the plastic bag, leaving it as shreds in my hands. They launch forward and seize the shovel, yanking it from Will. They waive it above Busey’s head like a spoil of war, and I wonder if they’re about to bash me with it.

“Playground tactics!” I cry, letting go of Busey and falling to the ground. I crouch behind him, pressed right to his legs.

Will gets it.

He picks up the scooter with both hands and raises it above his head. Will whips it around in a circle, like it’s a flail, and the stand of the scooter picks up speed. The tentacles pull the shovel back like they’re going to swing it but Will is too fast. He charges forward and blasts Busey in the chest with the scooter, wheel hitting him dead center. Busey is hulking and powerful, the shot barely sends him back, but I’m right under his feet.

“Werrrt therrr ferrrrk?” Busey cries as he falls backwards over me. There’s a deafening crack and wet thud as he bashes his head off a nearby display shelf. I scramble to my feet and witness the result of our attack.

Busey is out of commission, at least for the time being. He’s laying in a heap, head tilted against the display shelf. There’s a puddle of black liquid congregating around his head, his eyes rolled up in the back of his head. The fall caused him to bite down on the tentacles. Some of them hang from his mouth like half slurped spaghetti, while others are severed in two. The bitten ones wiggle on the floor like fish out of water. After thrashing for a few moments, they straighten themselves out, and as if coordinated, slither towards me, a thick trail of black ooze left behind with each motion.

“I….like….girls that wear Abercrombie and Fitch…” DeVito rasps. Will and I turn back to him and see him rising to his feet. Boils have overtaken every visible inch of his flesh, and through their thin membrane is something contained in them.

Something wiggling.

They look like worms, or a smaller version of the Busey tentacles. Either way, Will and I don’t want to find out.

“I’d take her if I had one wish,” DeVito grunts as he gets back to his feet. “But she’s been gone since that summer.” There’s a pause, and then his eyes shoot to us, resolute with as much purpose as they are malevolent hatred.

“Since that summer,” DeVito snarls.

“Fuck this, let’s go,” I shout and start running towards the exit.

“That song blows, bro!” Will says before pressing his Chewbacca mask, letting out another valiant electronic cry before he hops on the scooter and pedals his way behind me.

We scramble out of the store into the cool night, the chaos of songs and shouts left behind us and the calamity of sirens ahead a mere taste of the insanity yet to come.

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Suicide Jack Chapter 1

Chapter one of a completed novel that my agent wasn’t so enthusiastic about. I think it has some appeal though, what about you?

1

There’s classical music playing. This is Richard Landry’s first thought as his senses come back to him. Everything is dark, but his ears key in on the sound, which at first seems far away but then drifts closer.

Piano, he thinks. Someone is playing piano, and they’re damn good. He sees it in his mind, a pair of hands dancing over the keys, producing the notes in perfect rhythm. Richard almost feels himself swaying to the tune.

Then his cognition reboots.

Where am I?

He was going home, wasn’t he? He had put his keys in the door and opened it, stepped inside then…

Blackness.

And now, classical music.

His head aches, and he feels the pain pulsating from the crown of his skull. He tries to move and finds he can’t; his arms, legs, and body strapped down. He’s tied to a chair, or something similar.

What the hell? he thinks. He’d been too incoherent to understand the gravity of the situation before, but now the possibilities race to him.

Richard opens his eyes.

The beauty of the room before him is the first thing to catch his attention, a regal sort of elegance infused into the foyer. The floors are shiny, perhaps marble, and are a decorative royal pattern. There are two large antique mirrors on either side of the far wall, followed by a series of paintings, classical portraits and baroque market scenes. A crimson red Berber carpet directs his eyes to the staircase to his right, where it ascends the stairs and guides visitors to the second floor.

The music stops playing.

Richard looks towards the grand piano, where a figure is seated, wearing a sleek charcoal gray suit. The man stands up and speaks in a voice that is silky smooth, but void of emotion.

“Your hands are dirty, Richard.”

Richard looks down. He’s strapped to a heavy chair by a series of belts. He gazes at his hands.

They aren’t there.

Richard stares down in disbelief. Each of his arms now ends in a stump, stitched closed where his hands are supposed to be.

“Oh my god!” Richard screams.

“That was Rachmaninoff’s Number 2 in C Minor, in case you were wondering,” the man says. “Pardon me taking liberties with my interpretation, I must admit I rarely play pieces exactly as they are written.”

“Holy shit!” Richard screams. “Where are my hands? You took my hands!” He thrashes in his restraints.

“Relax, Richard,” the man assures, his voice even.  He reaches inside either side of his coat and pulls out two objects as he approaches. The man tosses the two items into Richard’s lap, and after a short bounce they settle into place.

Richard lets out a cry and bucks his hips upward, launching the hands from his body. They tumble to the floor with a thud. “Help! Someone help me!” he sobs, throwing his body as hard as he can in each direction.

“No, no, no,” the man says as he places a butterfly knife to Richard’s throat. “If you cannot behave yourself, we’ll have to make this encounter short.”

Richard stifles his cry, his body going rigid. The man looms over him and for the first time Richard looks at his face.

His eyes, Richard thinks. They are blue, icy blue, but so faded in color it is as if they don’t exist at all. They are pale, faraway, detached, yet in the moment, so intently focused on him.

“Wh-what do you want?” Richard croaks. “Please, let me go. I won’t tell anyone about this.”

The man laughs. It has the vocal quality of a laugh but lacks the human element. “Detective Landry, this was about you and your dirty hands,” the man explains. “Taking bribes to misplace evidence? Selling drugs that had been confiscated to make your own side profit? Rather audacious of someone who is supposed to protect and serve the public.”

“I’ll stop!” Richard gasps. “That’s all it is? I’ll stop. I’ll give you the profits. I’ll give you any amount of money you want!”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” the man says, shaking his head. The blade digs into Richard’s flesh just slightly. “This isn’t about money, Detective Landry, this is about principle! What gave you the right to act in such a manner, to be above the laws you enforce on others? Do you think your job gives you that sort of power?”

“What?” Richard asks. “No, I just…I just needed more money.”

“Needed?” the man asks, grinding the blade into Richard’s skin. A trickle of blood zig-zags its way down his neck.

“Wanted!” Richard gasps. “I wanted it. And now you can take it from me. All of it!”  

The man is shaking his head again. “You acted as if there would be no repercussions. As if you had an inherent right to do as you did. I’m not here to make you change your ways, detective, and I’m not here for a cut of your money.”

“Wh-what are you here for?” Richard asks.

The man smiles and it’s the most horrifying thing Richard has ever seen. “Call me an agent of truth,” the man explains. “I’m here to show you that there’s really only one type of power in the world.”

“What do you…” Richard began before letting out a wet choke.

The man drags the blade across Richard’s throat, slitting it. Richard’s head falls forward and the world begins turning dark again. He spits up blood and shakes violently, and just before the world fades away, he processes one last thing.

The man has started playing the piano again.

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Murderers Anonymous Chapter 4

Chapter 4 of my novel, previously submitted to Big 5 publishers by my agent. Refer to previous posts for earlier chapters. Strong graphic content advisory.

                                                                    4

“Hey, hey, you there?” Dave asks, waving his hand in front of my face.

“Still waking up,” I respond, snapping back to reality.

It is believed that 70% of all Americans have had at least one homicidal fantasy. Homicidal Ideation, or habitual contemplation of homicide, is estimated to be incredibly prevalent amongst the general population, with only a small percent of those who experience it actually committing the acts.  

You’re not alone.  

“You better wake up, because we have a long productive day ahead of us. Charlene said she’s giving a special bonus to whoever sets the most appointments.” Dave rubs his hands together.  

Charlene is the office manager. She’s in her late forties, and her too skinny frame combined with her long, wild blonde hair gives her the appearance of a human mop.

Dave wants to fuck her.

There’s no way around it; Dave Ulster wants to get four inches deep into that woman. Maybe it’s so he can continue to win her favor in the office, securing more perks, bonuses, and accolades, but part of me always felt that Desperate Dave would fuck a garbage bag of mashed potatoes if someone poked a hole in it.

Charlene is a chain smoker with three delinquent teenage boys, fathered by two different men. She has reminded the entire office on numerous occasions that her third child, Andy, was so big that when he came out he “tore her from slit to asshole.”

Sexy, Adjective 

 

  • Sexually attractive or exciting.

 

Antonyms: Distasteful, Unattractive, Disgusting, Unsexy

 

Dave goes on talking about something, and as usual I cruise right by him, walking into the break room. My goal is the refrigerator; I need a Diet Coke, but standing between me and my elixir is someone I don’t wish to see.

I knew a kid in middle school; let’s call him Gary, who was terrified of attractive women. I don’t mean he got red in the face and started shaking, no, that would be a breeze for him.

He pissed himself around girls.

If a girl Gary found even remotely attractive walked by he’d start biting his lip, twitching, and then the release came. He knew the cause was lost and he was horrified at what was happening, but then there was a change. His face would soften as the urine flowed down his leg. It was over. Despite the fact he dreaded it, now it was done. He could move on with his life.

I remember Gary because of my own issues with pissing the bed. I remember the attention that came his way whenever the dark stain on his crotch became too big to notice.

I remember envying him.  

Through extensive counseling Gary began to master his bladder. By high school the accidents were few and far between, and it looked like Gary was finally taking control of his life.

Then he got hit by a bus.  

It was ironic; as soon as he learned how to control his urination he lost the need to. The last I heard Gary was paralyzed from the waist down with a nice little catheter and piss bag combo to manually handle all of his pissing needs.  

I think of Gary and the odor of his piss-laden jeans as I stare at Christa.

There are vast differences between fucking, having sex, and making love. I’ll leave it up to you and your life experiences to determine which you prefer most.

Me, well I like to fuck.

Christa stares at me with a pathetic desperation, like a disregarded puppy eager for attention.

Or looking to get fucked raw.

Christa is boring, fat, and unattractive. I had never paid any mind to her and for whatever reason this made her infatuated with me. Maybe I was the mysterious guy around the office, the edgy rebel who did his own thing.

Or maybe she’s fucked in the head.

In any case, she asked me out for a cup of coffee once in the break room. She looked to me hopefully, as if I’d sweep her off her feet with a debonair response and a romantic kiss on the lips.

I told her if she plopped her fat ass up on the table I’d finger-fuck her right then and there.

Thus I found myself knuckle deep in a moaning cow. I slammed my three fingers into her, practically punching her cunt as I rammed her over and over again. I wanted to hurt her but the harder I tried the more she cried out in pleasure. Her loins gushed as I fucked her, the ooze trailing down my forearm and coagulating on the table below, leaving a thick glob of fluid behind which Barry, the unfortunate new guy, later ended up mistaking for creamy Alfredo sauce.

I said nothing after I pulled my hand out of her, wiping the gunk on my pants. We both regained our composure and got back to work, no one any the wiser to what had happened. Since then we had a few trysts in the bathroom, where I literally would try to make her vomit by thrusting my dick into the back of her throat as hard as I could. Whenever I finished I tried to spray her in the eyes.

She took every bit of abuse, and kept coming back for more. Freud would say she had daddy issues.

Or maybe not. I don’t fucking know. Google him.

We still had never had a conversation and I intended to keep it that way. I don’t acknowledge her existence and step around her to get to the refrigerator.

I open the door and retrieve my Coke. As soon as I close the door she presses against me from behind, wrapping both arms around me as she reaches down to grab at my crotch.

“Do you want to fuck me?” she asks huskily. “You can put it in my ass. It belongs to you.” She stresses the last words, as if ownership of her rancid black cherry was in the least bit appealing.

I push her away with a nudge of my elbow. I say nothing, avoiding eye contact as I stroll past her into the main room. Any woman who finds me attractive is the furthest thing from a keeper and needs serious psychological evaluation.

Don’t we all?

“Bet ya I’ll get at least five more than you today!” Dave says as he rushes to his station. I sigh and reach around to my back pocket, feeling for my Beretta.

Disappointment washes over me as I remember I never had one.

 

5

I’m going to fuck your grandmother. I’m going to fuck her until she breaks in half.”

“My grandmother is dead, sir.”

“I’ll dig her up, shit in her skull, and fuck the eyehole then. You call me again faggot and you’ll see.”

Click, he hangs up.

Ring, ring, the other call begins to go through.

“Hello?” an unfamiliar voice says.

“Jonathan Marcus, please,” I say.

“Just a moment please,” the female voice says.

“Jonathan speaking.”

“Hello Mr. Marcus,” I begin. “I’m with Royal Payments. I’m calling in regard to the merchant account.”

“Merchant account?”

“Yes, the merchant account. You accept credit and debit cards as a form of payment at your business, correct?”

“Yeah, are you with my bank?”

“No sir,” I say quickly. “I’m calling to inform you that as of April there are new federal policies in place qualifying your business for industry low processing fees. The unfortunate thing is your current processor is not required by law to inform you of what you qualify for.”

“I’m not interested,” Jonathan says.

“Of course you’re not, I haven’t told you anything to be interested in!” I say this approximately two hundred times a day. “We have representatives in your area ready to drop in and show you the benefits of switching to Royal Payments and break down just how much money you will save. And if you still aren’t interested, we’ll give you a five hundred dollar Visa gift card just for your time. Fair enough?”

“I said I’m not interested. Have a good day.”

“Sir, if you would just…”

“Take a fucking hint you cocksucker. Never call again.” He slams the phone down.

Ring, ring, the next call begins to go through.

Rinse and repeat.

An “appointment setter” at Royal Payments will handle anywhere from seven to nine hundred calls in their eight hour day. This depends on a multitude of factors, including but not limited to, how many people hang up the phone without saying a word, how quickly the automated system deals out numbers, and the success rate of the appointment setter. A strong day would see five of eight hundred calls ending in success, where a normal day can range from zero to three.

Appointment setters are paid a rate of eleven dollars per hour with various commission-based incentives thrown on top of their salary. While these commissions are generous, for the most part they are unobtainable due to the fact that people do not wish to speak to telemarketers.

If an appointment setter is successful, they ring a bell at their station, raise their hand, and wait for a “closer” to come and finalize the appointment. Then they revel in the joy of victory, putting a mark up on the board, before getting back to the grind. Every day begins with a cheer and chant to revitalize spirits, and every day ends with competitive jiving and promises to perform better the next day.

They call one man Paulie Payments because of his uncanny ability to set appointments. With commissions he nearly makes forty thousand dollars a year, making him a hero in the office.  He uses his vast array of wealth to seduce recent high school dropouts; he’s gotten two pregnant. He’s marrying the latest one. He’s forty-three, she’s nineteen.

God Bless America.

I do not buy into the revelry. I speak like an automated machine. I recite the same lines time and time again. I navigate through the most wretched filth of human emotions, taking on the brunt of people’s strife and hatred for hours on end.

Rinse and repeat.

I do not think. I work.

Is there a difference?

We purchase the numbers from companies that compile lists. Sometimes the data is bad. On one occasion I called asking for a Mr. Frank Orden, only to hear from his distressed widow that he had passed seven years earlier. She began sobbing on the phone, attempting to give me his life story.  Another time I called the number for a doctor’s office; I was connected to a sex shop.

Both times I read the script as usual.

During our lunch break, I hear a group of the guys talking politics, expressing their dismay with the president and asserting they know the direction the nation needs to take. They do this despite the fact that two barely graduated high school and the third was a community college dropout.

The Dunning- Kruger effect is a common phenomenon in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, causing them to mistakenly rate their ability/intelligence much higher than is accurate. This is attributed to the inability of these people to recognize their ineptitude. As a result of this, actual competence, as exhibited by professionals with a wealth of knowledge or experience, is often perceived as threatening and is met with hostility.

I walk into the break room to grab another diet Coke when I see her. She turns around from the refrigerator and my heart nearly stops.

It’s the new girl.

It’s Kelly.

I can’t breathe. I want to run but my legs become a mix of cement and Jello; too heavy to move yet too weak to support me. My hands start shaking and my vision blurs.

She raises her eyebrow, giving me a curious look as she observes the sweat pouring down my face. My breathing is heavy and my motions spastic, but I am able to force my legs to move, stumbling as I turn and hurry out of the room.

I let loose a choking cough as I head towards the bathroom. I push my way past Michael and into the nearest stall, falling to my knees and spraying the contents of my stomach into the porcelain below. There’s barely any food in there but more vomit comes, a hot mix of digested meat and bile coating the seat of the toilet.  

She wasn’t Kelly, but she was damn close enough. The silky chestnut colored hair, the deep, shimmering brown eyes, the soft skin and supple lips.

She could be her sister.

I have to strangle her.  

I ignore the vomit, placing my hands on the toilet seat and pushing up to rise, my legs threatening to buckle the entire time. I finally get to my feet and wipe the drool from my lips, letting it seep into the sleeve of my shirt.

I walk out of the bathroom and head directly to the exit. Charlene stands between it and me. Her mascara is running, and the wrinkles of her face are more prominent than usual as she scowls my way.

“Where are you going?” she demands.  

“I’m ill. I’m going home,” I say in a faraway voice.

“What’s the matter?” She changes her tone to appear concerned.

“Stomach…threw up…” I mumble some more words. Normally Charlene was a hard-ass in regards to letting people leave early, but my appearance seems to convince her and she steps out of the way.

“Shit, you’re a mess. Get home and rest up then.”

I say thanks and keep going, making sure not to look back.

If I saw that girl again I just might lose it.

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Terminal Chapter 1

Work in progress currently being reviewed by my agent. Refer to the prologue posted previously. Dark work of fiction with strong adult content. Let me know what you think!

                                                                                   1

Have you ever smelled death?

I’m not being dramatic when I ask this. And no, it doesn’t reek like rotting flesh or festering excrement. There’s a sterile quality to the smell. A stale, sort of expired scent permeating throughout the air.

Don’t believe me? There are dozens of documented stories of dogs, cats, and even pigs become worked up in the days leading up to their owner’s sudden passing. There are the tales of hospice cats snuggling up to patients in their final hours, comforting them as they drift off to the big sleep. Some people think the animals have a sixth sense, but I think it’s simply the smell.

Working in a hospital makes you privy to it.

I think about this as I stare down at 406, his body gaunt and emaciated below a tangle of thick sheets. His chest rises and falls in shallow breaths as he awaits yet another day of bedridden treatment.

A day that shall never come.

The first time 406 met me, he squinted, eyes beady and distrusting as he said, “what are you, some type of spic?”

I informed him my dark features came from my mother, who is predominately Italian in heritage.

“So you’re a dago,” he barked. “A fucking w.o.p.”

At least he had his acronyms down.

406’s food was never warm or good enough, the bed was never in proper position, and his pillows were never quite fluffed to his liking.

“What took you so long?” he once demanded after repeatedly pressing the call bell. “Lazy bastards like you are what’s wrong with this country. We should send all of you Mexicans back to where you came from.”

“My heritage is Italian, well, only a part of it,” I corrected him.

“Shut up, greasebag,” 406 rasped. “And get me more pillows. These are as hard as rocks.”

406, like so many, wanted something to complain about. Some proclamation to be heard and respected. Some demand to make and someone to assert himself over.

A fleeting moment of control in a life spiraling out of it.

406 isn’t an isolated case. He’s a frequent flyer. These are the types who visit the hospital so much they should have their own reserved rooms. Honestly, some of the people are unfortunate, cursed with bad luck and genetic predisposition. A vast majority of the regulars, however, end up coming back as a consequence of their own choice.

Refusing diet and exercise despite a heart condition. Refusing to take medication appropriately even as symptoms worsen. Refusing to abandon carbs and sugars even as diabetes continues to wreak havoc on their body.

You know, unavoidable stuff.

406 has a given name, but in a hospital a person becomes a number, a set of duties and responsibilities. A temporary occupant in a bed until they’re shipped out.

Shipped out can mean one of two things.

406 lets out a ragged cough in his sleep, a wheeze so deep I hear it settling into his lungs. He’s deteriorating, and the affliction isn’t only physical. Sure, his feet have been amputated due to the complications from his diabetes, and yes, his hands are next, but there’s also something much worse wearing away at him.

A cancer of the soul if you were being poetic.

A shitty life if you weren’t.   

406’s family had been helping themselves to his social security checks while he wasted away in the hospital. They rarely bother visiting him, and when they do, it’s always about money.

See? It makes sense.

Pricks like him aren’t formed in a void.

Miserable outside and in, he wallows in bitterness, liver and kidney failing. At this point he’s near the end of his journey. His doctor says he may not make it out of the hospital again.

He’s right.

I take a deep breath. I’m holding a pillow and standing over him. The privacy curtain is closed around his bed. At 2:03 a.m. there is no one to bother us; the only other aide is on the other side of the floor and his nurse has no business with him at this hour.

I smile and wonder if the pillow is fluffed enough for him as I lean over and cover his face with it.

Trust me, he needs this.

This isn’t about revenge.

Well, not entirely.

406 is peacefully asleep for the first few seconds, then he springs to life. He thrashes in a desperate struggle to avoid the inevitable.

Call this expedition.

Call it deliverance.

“Shhh, I’m helping you,” I whisper.

406 doesn’t see it this way. He scratches at me, nails grinding down my shirt sleeve. I press my knee to his midsection to take the air out of him and keep him in place.

“This can be so beautiful if you’d let it be.”

Research indicates that many who experience severe medical trauma go through a “near death experience” which entails feelings of euphoria and peace, usually accompanied by a vision, either the classic brightly lit corridor or a pleasant memory. A sort of natural high occurs in the brain when this happens, and we’re transported to a state where there is only calm acceptance.

Your body’s coping mechanism.

About twenty percent of cardiac arrest survivors report this or a pleasing out of body experience. It can be such a magnificent thing, waltzing towards death, your body letting go of all ills.

406 doesn’t seem to get it.

“Mmmmrrrfffph!” he cries.

His screams are muffled by the pillow. His struggles are mighty at first but already start to fade. I press down on him with more force.

As 406’s chest heaves up and down his cells are going through a process called respiratory acidosis. This is when his cells are unable to remove their carbon dioxide and thus poison themselves with their own waste. With the delicate cellular pH levels thrown off, system after system begins to fail as cells melt away and die.

Crazy, isn’t it?

We self destruct on even the most basic levels.

One of 406’s legs nearly connects with me but the blankets hold him down, trapping him in a death cocoon. As he fights, I think about the state of his soul. I wonder if 406 thinks he’s going to Heaven or Hell, assuming he is a believer.

Purgatory is a state in between salvation and damnation, where those with hearts dedicated to God, but who may have sinned, receive spiritual purification before ascending to Heaven.

Think of it as detox for the soul.

Twelve step spiritual counseling.

A complete luxury spa treatment wiping away the grime and filth of your life.

As long as the person’s heart is dedicated to Jesus Christ, there’s a chance they’ll transition into Heaven. It’s not guaranteed, however, and there are many factors to consider. There are venial sins, mortal sins, sins against the Holy Spirit, ways of being accessory to sin…

Purgatory must look and feel like the DMV on a busy day.

406 thrusts up, his final major attempt at escape, but I have him corralled. The effort robs him of what little air he has left, and I hear him sucking on the fabric of the pillow.

Just imagine all of those cells dying.

You don’t actually have to.

There are a few weak coughs, his final proclamations to the world, but 406 goes still. I wait a minute before checking his pulse, putting two fingers to the damp skin of his wrist. The deed is done. I remove the pillow from his face, avoiding staring into his now glassy, doll-like eyes, and slide it below his head, fluffing and adjusting it for him one final time.

He finally looks relaxed.

I pull back the privacy curtain and exit the room. I’ll soon have to deal with the aftermath of a patient “coding” but I’ll take that when it comes. A patient of his age, in his condition, it won’t stir much of a fuss. Cause of death? Complications; we don’t have time to do an autopsy on a guy who was knocking on death’s door. Ship him out and drop another body in the bed.

This is just how things are.

I walk into the hallway, narrowing as my eyes adjust to the light, and think about why I did what I did, and why any of us do what we do. I come to a quick conclusion.

Everything we do is a symptom of the same illness. Our shared diagnosis: Life. The truth we all try to hide from is the outcome. Our shared prognosis: Terminal.

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The Process

A hefty part of my year has been devoted to writing and editing my novel, Sinners’ Saint, in my opinion the greatest thing I’ve ever written (or even accomplished). I’m happy to say that an agent has requested I revise and resubmit it to her, because she loves the story but doesn’t like its wordiness and pace. Time for the 4th full edit! It’s always an adventure going back and tearing up a manuscript. Part of me doesn’t want to touch it (it’s like my child) but I realize that I’m making it better.

It shouldn’t be out there until it reaches its full potential…and we are certainly on our way there. 3,000 words have been nixed from the first 50 pages and I’m sure there will be plenty more to go. This 126,000 word behemoth will have to come down to about 110,000 if it’s going to have any sort of good pacing.

Want to help me out? I love beta reader opinions. Let me know if your’e interested. I will love you long time if you help me. Seriously…you’d be so awesome.

In other news…my debut novel Harbinger is slated to be out within the next few months. Get excited people!

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