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Imitates Art first Two Chapters

Beginning of a new project perhaps to be shopped by my agent soon. Thoughts? Suggestions? Good jokes?

                                                                            1

By the end of this story I will either be dead or imprisoned for the rest of my natural life.

And I’ll deserve it, too.

There will be no injustice, simply consequences for the atrocities I have committed. Things that are heinous. Things that are vile.

Unspeakable, even.  

Some claim that all writing is autobiographical. That, to a degree, everything the author writes comes from experience, whether it be a character, place, story, or observation. This book is autobiographical in that sense.

But also another.

We think of autobiographies as creative works spawned from a lived life, but what if the inverse is also be true? Perhaps sometimes, it is the art that creates the artist.  

Art is what makes us human, after all. Without our imagination, our ability to create alternate realities, we’re just the same as any other animal. Miring in simplicity, there would only be the mundane, with existential suffering the sole respite.

Art is what sets us free.

It keeps us entertained. Inspired. Fulfilled. It provides us purpose and individuality. Identity. It even allows artists to live beyond their physical years.

Everyone wants that taste of immortality.

Even if it’s a knock-off brand.

I may die for my expression. Others already have. Their bodies have been butchered, mutilated; the savagery an intricate detail of a beautiful process. In death they have become a part of something so much more magnificent. Once this production is completed, regardless of the consequences, it will all be worth it. Every horrific thing I’ve done will be absolutely worth it.

There is no art without sacrifice, after all.

 

                                                                              2

She’s looking at me amorously, lashes fluttering as she bats her eyelids up and down in an intentionally slow motion. Her eyes are locked onto me, honed in on every movement, waiting for every word, but she looks dazed, in a dream-like state.

It’s the type of look you’re flattered to receive but ashamed to enjoy.

I stand in front of the class and wonder what the hell I’m doing here. Tall and skinny, my suit billows around me, wafting with every motion, somehow the correct size and baggy at the same time. My tie is too tight, so much so that it feels like I’m choking, and my glasses just won’t seem to stay on straight.

What am I doing here?

Sure, I had signed on to adjunct this course. Yes, it was research for the next novel, and of course I had a lesson plan for the class…

But I’m no professor.

Even as Melody Brooks, the curvy brunette Junior stares at me, plugging me into her hot for teacher fantasy, I do not fit the role of professor. I did not go through a rigorous Ph.D program; I’ve never taught a course in my life.

I’m just a writer.

A New York Times Bestseller of transgressive fiction, gory and grotesque works at that, but a writer of books all the same. If you tear away the titles, labels, the fanfare, we’re all just human deep down.

Well, most of us.

I walk back and forth in front of the classroom, surveying the bored and distant faces of my students. I am surprised to see that they look incredibly young. I’m barely in my thirties but this crowd looks wide-eyed and babyfaced. I’m supposed to feel out of place, intimidated even, but the sight before me eases my woes.  

“Write what you know” is a principle nugget of wisdom used by many writers. Fiction is more engaging and authentic when it’s been seasoned by real thoughts and experiences. My latest novel is about a college professor, Thomas Murrow, a stuffy pompous type from a privileged background. He’s been a refined egghead all of his life, and currently is residing in his ivory tower, but soon something else rises to the surface.

Something savage.

My last two books, while commercially successful, have been panned by critics as hollow, inaccessible, inauthentic, and too sparse. They say the books lack a “genuine voice.” Thus, I contacted my alma mater, the University of Drayton. I offered to adjunct a course, one per semester, nothing intensive, just a way to dip my feet in and experience the life of a professor.

I write a phrase on the whiteboard, a light thumping noise echoing throughout the room as I construct the letters, underlining the phrase when I am finished. There are fifteen students in my class, and I will attempt to learn the names of a handful, the types that distinguish themselves as memorable.

If life was a book, would you be a named character?

Would you be mentioned at all?

“The first line of a novel is the most important,” I read the words in a cliffhanger tone. I survey the sea of faces in the classroom, each staring to me in one of two ways. A few are interested, leaning forward, lips pursed together and brows furrowed. A majority of the students choose the second option, vaguely glancing my way with glazed, glossed over eyes; attention as a mere formality.

I pace back and forth. I stare at the faces with an air of challenge to my expression.

The first line is the most important in a novel because it’s the baited hook. It’s what captures the reader or lets them slip away. People won’t read stories that don’t interest them, that don’t speak to them right away, so it’s imperative to begin the book with an intriguing message or description.

The students stare at me. One lets out a yawn.

While the hook is very important, it is nothing without some line to keep reeling the reader in. If the hook is followed by fluff, unnecessary description and needlessly long words, it’s practically literary masturbation.

Is that writing done for the audience or the author?

A student snickers at the word masturbation used in an academic setting. The metaphor catches the attention of a few of them, whose eyes shoot open in surprise.

A student raises her hand. She’s a blond and reveals her name to be Leah. She asks me, in a soft and timid tone, if any writer can truly create art. If the practice is not purely subjective.

Postmodernism at its finest.

I tell her that art is certainly subjective, as everything is, but within subjectivity is a form of consensus, a type of hive mind if you will, where certain techniques and works strike a chord with an array of hearts, truly touching humanity. In this way, the artist has engrained themselves within the viewer in a meaningful way, changing their perspective or outlook, in their own sense, becoming part of the viewer.

A good book never leaves us, after all.

The girl appears unconvinced but nods, biting her lip and not following up her question. It’s a topic we will get to in time, and I make a mental note of Leah’s name. She may prove herself worthy enough to end up in a book one day.

I scan the room and see that some students have offered me their attention, however, there are others who still slack. In particular, the scruffy kid in the second row, who taps away at his phone while barely bothering to hide it. His hair is oily and greasy, draping down in limp curls over his pudgy face. If I were pressed to describe him in one of my books, I’d call him doughy and forgettable.

I remove a pen from my shirt pocket and walk over to him, twirling it in my fingers. The smile on my face is warm, soft, and welcoming; the type of look one would reserve for an old friend. I slam my hand down upon his desk and he jumps.

He looks up at me, face lit with surprise, and opens his mouth to apologize, a harebrained excuse en route just as I cut him off.

By stabbing him in the throat with my pen.

This is called a tonal shift.

I drive the fountain pen (solid metal and with the finest of ink, no expense spared) into the zit-pocked nape of his neck. He lets out a stunted cry, the sound of violin strings snapping, as I sever his jugular. The screams of his classmates rise around me in a chorus.

I seize hold of his shoulder, fingers digging into his shirt, and rip the pen from his neck. A rush of blood sprays out, a line of it shooting across the aisle and dousing another student. She cries out and falls from her desk to the floor, wiping her face like a maniac.

The student (Gary, I believe his name is) lets out a wet choke and slaps my arms away. He falls from his seat to the floor but I’m upon him, standing over him as I drive the pen down, piercing his throat again. I grab hold of him, continually stabbing him with the pen, the side of his face and neck turning into a punctured jelly doughnut.

I stare down at the frantic, dying man, and think about how this is an excellent teaching moment for my class.

A central challenge of writing transgressive fiction is balancing the descriptions of violence and gore to the point where they are effective yet not too gratuitous as to push the reader away. For example, I could describe how, through the mutilated mess of Gary’s neck muscles, I can see his ravaged artery flapping as blood squirts out of it. While this detail would be powerful to describe the pure intensity of the scene and truly convey the utter savagery of my action, it would be ill-advised since it borders on the grotesque, a move that would simply be gore for gore’s sake.

Gary flops around like a fish out of water, splashing in the blood pooled around him, leaving streaky hand and shoe prints on the floor. His face is a torn and ragged palate. I take a moment to appreciate just how much damage I’ve done with a simple writing instrument.

The pen is mightier than the sword, after all.

The students are shrieking. Gary’s breaths are shallow. He looks to me, his eyes glazed and listless, a bubble of blood caught on his lips. His complexion is pallor, his ghostly white skin staunchly juxtaposed by the dark puddle growing around him. I stand over him, leaning down for our final exchange.

“Use of technology for social media purposes in class is expressly forbidden,” I say.

Gary stares at me.

I drive the pen into his eye and erase Gary from existence. His body jolts before going rigid. A final wheeze of air slips out from his lips before he exits the world.  

I stare down at my body. My hands and suit are stained with blood, My hair is wild with gore. I must look like some kind of psychopath.

I clear my throat, regain my composure, and turn to face the rest of the class.

“Now it’s time to cover the syllabus,” I announce.

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Terminal Chapter 3

Chapter 3 of my latest novel, Terminal. Soon to be pitched to editors by my agent. Check earlier posts for the previous chapters. Warning: intense graphic content throughout the novel.

                                                                                              3

Lester the Molester was a folk hero of sorts.

That seems strange to say.

Lester never molested anyone, at least to my knowledge, but the name was a moniker given to him by residents of the town. Despite the fact that it was shameful, the title came as sort of a badge of honor to Lester, who, became part of the unique lore of the town of Rosedale.

Lester was a middle aged man, unkept, quiet, and unassuming. He kept to himself, was socially awkward, and had a longstanding history of mental illness. This is a history I could probably look up and provide to you, but like most of the residents of Rosedale, I know him based on hearsay and assumptions.

Lester is more legend than man now, after all.

I should get to the point.

Lester liked to pee in odd places.

Well, I guess not so odd. Plenty of animals and even people have peed on cars and storefronts, but for whatever reason, Lester had to do this in front of other people. The incidences were isolated at first, spread out by months of times, but like a serial offender they soon began happening more frequently. First, he was spotted pissing on the grocery store, grinning and giggling as he released the pressure. Next, he popped out of an alleyway and drew a line in the sidewalk no pedestrians dare cross. He doused the door of Nick Losinno’s sedan as he stood screaming at him from his porch, and went a step further by trying to pee on Jon Duff’s shoes as he stood waiting at a traffic crossing.

No one really knew who Lester was back then. The paper shared the stories like they were a part of some urban legend, and everyone around town was on the lookout for the “phantom pisser” roaming the streets of Rosedale, waiting for his next opportunity to strike.

Seriously, a local printing shop made t-shirts geared towards tourists. “I survived the spray in Rosedale, PA.”

The shop went out of business, for what that’s worth.

The thing was, Lester was never violent or aggressive with these acts, and every time he attempted to conceal his penis from view. Whatever voyeuristic pleasure he gained from the act, Lester never came off as dangerous, just deranged in a sad enough way to be viewed as entertaining.

And this is how the mystique was born.

Suddenly, people had a scapegoat. A reason to talk shit on the town without having to mention their own personal failings or lack of an attempt to leave it. Lester was the hero Rosedale deserved more so than it needed, one that allowed residents to laugh at and hate themselves without being aware of it.

We all need outlets.

Lester never really got the help he needed, as far as I know. He was fined a couple of times, spent a week in the slammer, but was always thrown back onto the streets. He had nowhere to go and no one was really keen on helping him. It wasn’t until the “downtown brown” incident of two years ago that Lester was looked at as a real problem. This was when he shat a load so huge upon the floor of the twenty-four hour laundry mat, the owner was convinced it came from a diarrhea-stricken stray dog.

Security footage revealed the truth. Lester, grinning like a rosy-cheeked child on Christmas day, had waltzed into the laundromat in a calculated strike, and, in all of his glory, laid his goliath dookie right center in the floor, never once breaking stare with the security camera.

Unlike you and me, this man will be remembered.

I forget what happened to Lester after that incident, but he was “sent away,” whatever that means. Some optimists in town believe he is finally getting the help he’s always needed, while others, who also fashion themselves as optimists, perpetuate the story that Lester is still out there, mysterious and elusive, pissing freely like a sasquatch with a bladder problem.

Some questions are best left unanswered.

I think about Lester as I walk out of the hospital into a cold spring day, the sky milky gray and overcast. Lester is the unofficial mascot of Rosedale, a town so rural and downtrodden he’s still the biggest talk of the area, only the omnipresent rumor of a new Taco Bell occasionally taking the mantle.

Rosedale is the central hub of Wayne County, an area so isolated that some folks have to span fifty or so miles for basic goods and services, including medical care at Rosedale Memorial Hospital, the only real option they have.

See: up shit creek.

See also: without a paddle.

To put Rosedale’s situation into perspective, my ass wiping job, currently starting at 10.15 per hour, is one of the highest paying jobs available in the town.

See: The American Dream.

Did you know the suicide rate in small towns is twice the rate of that of urban centers?

Does that surprise you?

I walk down the sidewalk, uneven and filled with cracks so deep they can masquerade as potholes. I pass the park,where children as young as five play unattended, their parents uninvolved, uncaring. These children are dirty and foul-mouthed, and I hear a series of swear words as I walk by.

The good thing about Rosedale is, as a town devoid of culture, expectations, or standards, it’s okay for parents to neglect their children. It’s always okay for people to be exactly what they are.

Nothing.

Okay, I’m being a bit of a downer. I shouldn’t be so judgemental. I should focus on myself. But I am out to accomplish something. I’m not talking about murdering patients; I’m working towards something on a much larger scale. Something that will not only wake this town up and give the people a newfound appreciation for life and opportunity, but also cement my legacy and ensure that I will be remembered forever.

We all want a taste of immortality.

Even if it’s a knock-off brand.

I walk onto my street and head towards my home. It is the eleventh home I have lived in during my life, though all have been in the Rosedale area. It’s dilapidated, so small it appears to be cowering on it’s own weed-strewn lawn. The windows are dusty and cracked, and the gutters overflow with water, leaves, and a buildup of muck.

I think about Rebecca and her idea of representing on the outside what is within.

The door is unlocked but I have to crank the knob a few times to get it to open. I walk by three of our eight cats and step over a few piles of clothes and an overflowing garbage bag and into the kitchen. There Mom sits, obscured by the towers of unpaid bills and old magazines, mail and junk piled upon our dining table without rhyme or reason. Every day the size and location of the junk towers change as we readjust and move them to make room for our dinner plates.

Mom is drinking wine. She’s also crying, puffing on a cigarette between each sob. This isn’t an unusual scene for this early in the day and I greet her with my standard level of avoidant enthusiasm.

“Hey Mom,” I say.

“Trevor,” Mom cries. “I’m sorry, Trevor. I failed you, I’m so sorry.” She appears nearly hysterical and I see a bottle of pills near her slippered feet.

“Sorry for what?”

“I…I…” she heaves. “I should have been…been there for you. I should…I should have loved you more. Oh God, my baby boy!” Mom wobbles in her chair and for a moment it appears she’s going to topple.

Mom has her moments.

Most of them involve rehashing the past.

“Don’t worry about it, Mom,” I say. Sure, there were the times when she left me and my brother unattended. And yes, she passed out plenty of times because of drugs. And certainly, it sucked eating Cheerios as my only sustenance for four straight days, but the past is the past, isn’t it?

I mean, we all make a series of mistakes.

Most of us every day.

“Come back to me Trevor,” Mom rasps.

“I’m right here, Mom, calm down.”  

“Trevor..”

“Mom I’m right here.” This seems to get through to her. Mom’s eyes pop open and she smiles through the tears, revealing her coffee and cigarette stained teeth.

“Why were you gone so long?” Mom asks, her words slurred. Her hands move and fumble with the cigarette maker, hastily packing in wad after wad of tobacco as she slides the wrapper into position.

Did you know that an estimated 25 million people in the United States suffer from some form of substance abuse?

“I was working a double,” I reply.

“I worked today too, you know,” Mom says, swearing under her breath as the cigarette wrapper crumbles in the maker. Tobacco spills out the sides and joins countless other strands decorating our table.

“Yes, I know.”

“This…this thing…it’s…a piece…” Mom losses the word. “A piece of shit,” she mutters, slamming the cigarette maker onto the table.

That children of addicts are significantly more likely to develop addiction themselves due to genetic and environmental factors?

“How was work” I ask.

“It was tough,” Mom says. She wobbles in her chair and as she moves her arms to steady herself she knocks the bag of tobacco to the floor. It spills out and Chester, one of our cats, rushes over to gnaw on it.

“Damn it,” Mom says. “Oh well.” Her eyes return to me. “Work sucked. It was…hard…a rush. There was this..fat…fucking…slob who wanted a refund.” Mom’s hands scramble to pour more wine into her glass. She does this with a trained precision, nary a tremble to her hand as she tops off her glass.

That these children also have an increased risk of being physically and sexually abused?

And developing depression?

Mom slurps down the wine and it’s gone before she’s even a few sentences into her story. A thick splash decorates the right corner of her shirt, but she doesn’t seem to notice. Her words and story are incoherent, but Mom’s hands are as focused as ever as they pour another glass of wine. She rambles on, saying something about “wanting to slap the grease off of that inbred hog’s face” and wanting to “tell the manager to shove it straight up his narrow ass.” She then shares with me a particularly salacious rumor about her manager which she told me last week, and I take note of her vicious tone more so than the content of her words.

“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” Mom rasps, chugging the last bit of wine. She takes a long draw of her cigarette before coughing, smoke billowing into my face. “I don’t know how I put up with all of this bullshit,” she mutters.

I feel like I’m fading. Mom collects the tobacco from the floor, shooing Chester off, and I become distant. I’m not sure if it’s the exhaustion from the work day or another oncoming round of disassociation, but I don’t feel like I’m there.

My head hurts.

Everything is going black.

I hear the screech of the brakes, and then, a shrill beeping sound.

“Trevor? Trevor?” Mom snaps. She coughs again, this one wet and throaty. “Are you there?”

I snap back to it. I can feel my body again. I feel blood in my veins and for a moment the sensation is foreign.

“I’m here,” I say. “Just exhausted. I think work is getting to me. I have to get to bed; I have another shift soon.”

Mom looks skeptical. “Oh…fine…fine then. No time for your mother, even after I’ve had such a hard day.” She drinks from her wine glass but it’s empty. “It’s always work, work, work, with you, Trevor.”

“Well, we have rent to pay, you know.”

“Oh screw you,” Mom belts. “I damn well know we have rent to pay.”  

“Has Jeff pitched in for it?”

Mom lets out a snort. “Oh don’t start this again. You always take an opportunity to harp on him. He has it so hard you know.”

Jeff is my younger brother. He has not held a job since high school and is currently twenty years old. He spends his days listening to music, playing video games, and getting high, usually on marijuana but he will occasionally switch it up with by taking some acid, OxyContin (often borrowed from mom), or shrooms.

We all have our hobbies.

“It’s not fair that…”

“It’s not fair that you pick on him you asshole!” Mom barks, waving her wine glass at me. “He got kicked out of high school, right off the baseball team too. You know how much that hurt him. How much he was traumatized.”

Traumatized.

“Nevermind, forget I said anything,” I say. “I’m just tired. I have to go lay down.”

“Pfft, you and the rest of us,” Mom says. “ Fine, fine then, get to bed. I see where your priorities are.”

“I have a shift at seven. I’ll see you before I go,” I respond.

Mom waves me off, focusing on the cigarettes once again. “Yeah, yeah, I made chicken for dinner. Make sure you eat some before you go. You’re losing so much weight it looks like you’re falling through your own asshole.”

“Thanks Mom, I will,” I say as I walk out of the kitchen, Mom’s haggard coughs chasing behind me.

There’s a certain difficulty that comes with my mother and brother but I can’t stay mad at them for long. I suppose this comes from a place of understanding. A twisted sense of solidarity, perhaps. They have their vices, but don’t we all?

We’re all addicts in some way.

Or at least we want to be.

You have to wonder if the Devil is real or just the absence of completion in our own hearts.

I walk towards my bedroom. I hear my brother blasting music from his bedroom, the door rattling on its hinges as a heavy bass riff thunders outward. My brother is screaming, short of breath as he dishes out some type of freestyle rap. He records them and posts them on Facebook. I hear a snippet of the latest effort as I get to my door.

“Uh! Yeah! Your rhymes are from the bottom of the barrel! My rhymes are from the core. Bone Marrow. I come in like motherfucking Jack Sparrow. And yeah motherfucker I will wear a sombrero cause I don’t even care-o!” There’s a pause as my brother stops the music to listen to what he’s recorded. It’s short lived as I hear him smack his hands together and say, “oh shit! This is ill!”

I close my door behind me but the music still radiates through my walls. I’m long past the point of arguing with Jeff over the volume of his music. I sit at my desk, looking over the paperwork, eyes lazily listing over the schematics, the steps, the plan of action. In my weariness I feel accomplishment, a warm caress of purpose.

I’ll finally have a chance to make a difference.

I roll up the schematic and place each paper in the appropriate pile. I walk to my bed and lay down, closing my heavy eyelids. All my worries fade as I focus on my plan. They, like Jeff’s music, become background noise, and as I drift towards a welcomed slumber, I hear only one thing, a faded sound, distant yet booming.

Tick.

Tick.

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Murderers Anonymous Chapter 2

Chapter 2 of a previous work, Murderers Anonymous, which made the rounds and was rejected by Big 5 Publishers. Looking to revise and resubmit in the future. Check chapter 1 to get caught up to speed. Warning: Intense graphic content throughout.                                                 

                                                                        2

Murderers are people, too.

It’s the type of headline that catches your attention. Not in a positive way, hell, not even in a negative way, but just in a way.

I study the flier in my hand, the paper worn and crinkled with yellowing edges, as if it had been previously given to someone else. Even still, the flier manages to remain bright and vibrant, an offensive color scheme of orange and yellow assaulting my eyes. Below the header is a stock photo of two men embracing, one’s head buried deeply into the other’s shoulder. Below that is the most bizarre array of questions I’d ever seen.

Are you a serial killer? Are you in need of support? Do you need someone to talk to? I continue scanning downward, the flier becoming even stranger as I realize it’s serious.

Then come to 202 Beecher Street Apartment 305 for some well-deserved therapy! The 2014 Murderers Anonymous self-help personal growth group begins Wednesday the 27th from 7 to 8:30pm.and spots are limited. Don’t deny yourself this opportunity: Self-care isn’t selfish!

I let the flier fall down to the floor. It settles near the legs of my coffee table. There’s a bug there near it, some type of beetle, and I think about stepping on it.

I imagine the beetle crawling up my nose as I sleep; its prickly legs doing their due diligence as they latch into the skin of my nostrils, propelling the creature towards its goal. It finally reaches my brain and lays its egg behind my eye before leaving as stealthily as it entered. Eventually they hatch, and the newborn beetles feast upon the spongy, deteriorated mess of my brain, chomping into chewy bits and eating their way out of my head through the back of my eyeball.

This isn’t why I want to kill it; that’s just a silly thought.

I just want to be God, even if for a moment.

I step on the beetle, leaving a nickel-sized imprint of its guts splattered on the hardwood below. I lift my foot and bring it down upon the flier, wiping a sticky trail of yellow ooze across the faces of the embracing men.

I stomp the paper for good measure before leaving the room.

In the shower, water runs down my body but I barely feel it. My mind is on the flier and its mysterious appearance. The envelope it came in had no writing upon it, meaning someone had simply come and slid it under my door. This leads me to two conclusions. Either someone was playing a prank on me, or I was being targeted.

Regardless of their intention, the arrival of the envelope and the flier it contained revealed that whoever was behind the fiasco knew one very important fact about me.

I am a serial killer.

Compulsion, Noun

  1. The action or state of forcing or being forced to do something; constraint.
  2. An irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one’s conscious wishes.

Synonyms: Urge, Impulse, Need, Desire, Obsession, Fixation, Addiction

 

I consider jerking off to alleviate my tension. One hand trails down my body, dancing along my abs, navigating through my pubic hair until it grasps my shaft, while the other (always the right), rises to my throat, seizing it.

The carotid arteries, located on either side of the neck, carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart directly to the brain. When these arteries are compressed in any way (such as by strangulation or hanging) the sudden loss of oxygen to the brain combined with the accumulation of carbon dioxide increases feelings of giddiness, lightheadedness, pleasure, and the thrill of orgasm.

Nearly one thousand people die yearly as a result of autoerotic asphyxiation. Their final battle is fought trying to blow a load.

I choke myself, the harsh grasp of the hand on my throat mirroring the motions of the hand upon my cock. I squeeze and rub both, but soon let out a frustrated sigh as I realize it’s all for naught.

I keep thinking about the flier, and it kills my libido.

34% of women and 42% of men have reported having some form of sexual dysfunction/disorder during at least one period of their lives. Typically these people report the dysfunction having an extreme adverse effect on their lives, ranging from self-esteem issues to relationship deterioration.

You’re not alone.

Sincerity, Noun

  1. The quality of being free from pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy.

Synonyms: Honesty, Genuineness, Truthfulness, Integrity

 

I turn the water off and exit the shower, not even bothering to dry myself as I slip into my pajama bottoms.

I look into the mirror. There are red marks on my neck where my fingers clamped down around it. When I became particularly frenzied, I’d sometimes leave sickly yellowish purple bruises on my neck.

My dark hair is tussled, my wet bangs clinging to my forehead. My once bright green eyes are dull and faded. My prominent facial features normally make me look handsome, but now the harsh angles make me look malnourished. I continue staring into the mirror.

There’s nothing staring back.

An hour later, I lay in bed, staring up at the sporadic cracks in the ceiling, tracing them as they jut out in every direction. Someone knows, I think. They know my deepest, darkest secret. The idea of prison neither new nor frightening. Now, more than ever though, it seems to be a realistic possibility.  

You don’t think about the consequences of committing a murder. It’s kind of like sex, sure you’ll wear gloves and toss them out after the crime, the same thing you’d do with a condom after plugging a skank, but in the moment nothing else matters. As you’re killing someone, just like when you’re stinky, sweaty body is grinding and bucking against someone else’s, you’re lost in the moment. You’re thinking about the physical high, the adrenaline rush, and both with sex and murder, no matter how poor you are at it, you feel great and feel like a winner for doing it.

Then it ends.

Shame.

Regret.

Dishonor.

Disgust.

Am I talking about murder or sex?

Is there a difference?

Only after the good feelings wash away does rationality return, does the reality of consequence dawn upon you. Oh, I can get caught for this. I can be imprisoned. I can get this whore pregnant; she may have already given me an STD. I may have left evidence behind.

But I’d be the playboy. I’d be the self-assured smug piece of shit who’d become immune to shame after countless disgraceful consequence-free romps.

I’m talking about murder, not actual sex.

It’s a metaphor, asshole.

For a brief period, as I stew in my thoughts, prison seems like it’s coming. Would I be able to rough it in the clink? Probably not. I’d be too scrawny to defend myself, and I’d have to resort to chomping off some thug’s cock as he pushed it towards my face in the shower. He’d kill me afterwards, no doubt, but at least upon my death I’d become a legend in that penitentiary.

We all want to be remembered, don’t we?    

The conjecture is moot, however; this was no sting operation. If they knew who and where I was, they’d simply have arrested me. No time for games when dealing with suspected serial killers. An elaborate set up like this hadn’t been done by the authorities. Whoever did this didn’t want me arrested, at least not immediately, but the fact I couldn’t figure out the aim of their game was slightly disconcerting.

My concerns over the nature of the therapy group are met by a strong urge to attend the meeting.  

I am fucked up.

This has to stop.

If it was hoax I could end up jailed, or even killed, but so what if I did? Did those things even matter to me?

Apathy, Noun

  1. 1. Lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.

Synonyms: Indifference, Dispassion, Languor, Lethargy

 

What’s the point of caring if there’s nothing left to lose? In a strange way, the prospect of my life as I know it coming to an end is invigorating. I’d either attain a degree of healing or be freed from the suffering of every day existence.

So really it’s a win-win.

Right?

I continue pondering this until my eyelids finally give way to gravity’s pull and I slip into an unsound sleep, my nightmares filled with vivid images of the past. 

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Terminal Chapter 2

Chapter 2 of my novel Terminal, soon to be sent to editors by my agent. Refer to the prologue and chapter 1 to get caught up to speed. Warning: Intense graphic content.

                                                                                  2

His dick looks like a swollen eggplant.

That’s one way to start a chapter.

I’m serious, though. His schlong is engorged. So bloated with blood it’s purple, skin stretching beyond proposition like a water balloon ready to burst. His veins race like serpents up on the length of his shaft, looking ready to tear through the veil of his skin.

I hold 414’s ankles down, securing them to the bed. He’s letting out breaths in rapid heaves, his face thick with sweat. A nurse secures his arms while another confers with the doctor, getting him the proper medical equipment.

I’m eye level with his dick. Head to head staredown. I have to make sure he doesn’t move or this operation could be disastrous.

Cue dramatic music.

I’m thinking Ennio Morricone’s score from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The patient has maintained an erection for hour ten hours. The medical term for what is happening is a priapism, which is when blood is trapped inside the penis and isn’t circulating. This is why his cock is a slowly-dying-purple instead of the pasty pinkish hue of the rest of him.

Viagra commercials warn you about this type of thing.

Because they’re super concerned about your health, after all.

Blood that doesn’t circulate cannot carry oxygen to cells, which then die. This results in severe tissue damage and the potential loss of the penis itself.

The man had been rushed in as a medical emergency. They shoved him down in the first bed they could find. Apparently there wasn’t enough time to get anesthesia going, because he’s going to be awake for this “operation.”

He’s been told to close his eyes like seven times.

But could you do it,, knowing what was coming?

Dr. Sherbrooke is using a butterfly needle, a particularly thin instrument used to administer shots to infants. They gave him a pill for the pain but there’s no way it’s going to suffice. There’s a panicked look in his eye and he wiggles as the doctor draws near. Sherbrooke says something, it’s reassuring, I’m sure, coming out in a docile, complacent sort of professional voice. You know, the voice that cares because it’s supposed to, the tone thinly veiling the fact that the current situation is a major pain in the person’s ass.

You get it.

At least I think you do.

The man is panicking. He swears. Horrible things, the worst you can imagine. He calls the nurse a few choice terms I dare not repeat. It takes all I have to hold his ankles in place as his legs attempt a frenzied dance. He’s wiggling and squirming as the needle approaches his swollen dick.

Then it happens and everything becomes slow motion.

The needle pierces his skin and 414 thrashes to the side. I stumble forward, nearly face-planting into his balls. His body is stabilized but then a nightmare charges my way.

There’s no avoiding it.

The spray.

Like a punctured water balloon his cock squirts, sending a rush of blood straight into my face with the fury of one thousand super soakers. As engorged droplets of the mess cascade down my face, the errant cock taunts me, dancing with the epileptic shakes of those inflatable tube men outside of car dealerships.

It’s at this point you should really question if this book is for you.

The others respond to the man’s needs. I sigh, take a step back, and walk over to the counter. The man is thrashing and shouting, but the doctor and nurses have control of him. His cock is withering and there’s the rich taste of iron on my lips.

I grab a hand towel and wipe my face. I decide to get back to my rounds.

I don’t tell you this sort of thing to gross you out. Sure, puncturing bloated dicks may seem unusual to some people, but this type of thing is every day life for others.

Just last week, an ER nurse had to help the doctor tug a six inches long by four inches round Yankee Candle (scent: Seaform Breeze) out from the rectum of an obese forty-eight year old man. He insisted he had fallen on it, even though the waxy nightmare stuck out of his asshole wick first. It was rammed up there with enough force to tear the lining of his anus and cause internal bleeding. Eventually, they had to take him into surgery to dislodge the item.

True story.

It ended up in the hole bin – a plastic container in which we store unusual items removed from the orifices of patients. Children’s toys, hair brushes, eating utensils, power tools, and even unopened pickle jars have found their way into the bin, recovered from this, that, and the other place.  

I’m not kidding.

Seriously, look this stuff up.

On second thought, please don’t.  

What I’m getting at is, being around this type of thing constantly warps your perspective. Makes you see things a little differently.

Have I given you that impression?  

The hallway is cramped and cluttered, discarded medical equipment lining the walls like loiterers. I’m about to transition back into my rounds when I start to hear the ticking. Soft at first, but then louder, booming, the rhythm steady and unshakable.

Tick.

Tick.

The Taos Hum is a phenomena reported in the town of Taos New Mexico. It’s estimated that approximately two percent of people who live in/visit Taos report hearing a constant humming sound in and around the town. Those who have heard the Taos Hum report it to be a low frequency rumbling sound, similar to a droning hum or distant diesel engine, which is heard both indoors and outdoors. While there are scientific theories abound, including biological as well as environmental causes, the true nature of the Taos Hum is still unknown.

I don’t hear humming. I hear the ticking.

Tick.

Tick.

Like a clock in an otherwise silent room.

Now, unlike the Taos hum, I know the origin of the ticking. I’m aware it’s inside my head. It hasn’t been my whole life either. No, after I received some news, the ticking began.

Tick.

Tick.

Time’s running out.

I’m fading back.

I hear the blare of the horn.

The hallway in front of me begins fade away, a ring of darkness clouding my vision. I lose sensation in my body, feeling as if I’m floating, literally exiting my body and going back in time. I hear the screech of the brakes and the hallway becomes the back seat for just a moment, before I clench my fists and shake my head, snapping the scene away.

I can’t go back there.

With a pop I’m back and it’s alarming to feel again, the warmth of my body surprising me. I shake my head as Linda, a respiratory therapist, mutters a comment under her breath while sidestepping me.

Rude.

Disassociation is a medical condition whereby an individual, who has experienced past trauma, feels detached from themselves, literally as if they are not who they are.

If you haven’t already guessed, there’s something going on with me.

Shocker, right?

Disassociation results in emotional and physical numbness, and in severe cases the odd sensation that a person is “beyond” themselves, feeling as if they are floating above or near their bodies, watching their interactions like a spectator. Disassociation is often linked to clinical depression and posttraumatic stress disorder.

I’ve seen some shit.

And I’m not talking about the ass-wiping I have to do as part of my job.

Well, not yet anyway.

When a person experiences a traumatic moment in their lives, it’s easier for their mind to detach and dissociate, as to not deal with the crippling reality of their situation. Therefore, when stressed or worried, individuals who have disassociated in the past may do so again.

Your body’s coping mechanism.

We all have our ways of dealing with stress.

Some of us better than others.

A pain lingers in my skull after the event and I have a fairly good idea of why. There’s a reasonable explanation as to why my mind keeps fading back to that day and place I want to leave behind.

We’ll get to that later.

Probably.

The ticking reminds me of the time I have and what I have to accomplish. This all reminds me of something greater. I try to push it all from my mind as I walk back to perform my rounds. The business with eggplant dick was spur of the moment; a diversion from the normal routine. Most of my day and actions are structured, all part of that rinse and repeat existence.

I enter the room of 409, a fossil of a woman in her 90s who always smells like a strange mix of rotting fruit and cat piss, and my thoughts shift from the ticking to something much more disgusting.

Bedsores.

I scratch my back. I feel imaginary bedsores. I feel the need to turn in my bed. I feel helpless and unable to. It’s a strange sensation and I wonder if I’m disassociating again.

Bedsores form due to a lack of oxygen from limited blood flow. Without this oxygenation the tissue in the affected areas becomes necrotic and dies, literally rotting away. The signs of this are progressive, with redness and mild swelling showing as an early sign of the process while putrid rotting flesh craters develop as the result of long term inactivity. In advanced cases, the decaying flesh can be pulled from the body in chunks.

This is why we turn patients.

Standard procedure dictates that all patients be turned every four hours. There’s no need to do this in the case of physically able patients. Critically ill or elderly patients, however, often lack the faculties or awareness to do so themselves and must be turned to prevent the development of these festering ulcers.

Now you can walk away from this experience claiming you’ve learned something.

I get to the side of 409’s bed. She has an NPO sticker slapped to the foot of her bed. NPO stands for “nil per os,” a Latin phrase which translates to “nothing by mouth,” and indicates a patient is not to receive food or medicine orally. This can be due to the medical condition, current dose of medication, or due to the need for surgery the next day.

Hey look, you learned something else.

I place 409 on her side as gently as possible. One time, another aide was so tired that he turned a patient without paying attention. He didn’t notice the elderly man’s arm was wedged under his body at an awkward angle. Some nurses said they heard the pop of the dislocation from the other side of the floor.

But you can never really know who to believe.

Some people just like to be part of the story.

I turn 409 without an issue, but then she stirs from her sleep. She delivers an elbow to my groin with far more power than I thought she possessed.

See: occupational hazards.

I let out an “oof” and check to see if everything is in place, hoping 409 doesn’t misinterpret this motion as she squawks at me. She complains that she doesn’t need anyone touching her at night, and that she can turn on her own. Her final bold proclamation is that me and the rest of the lowlifes that work here don’t know the difference between proper medicine and our own assholes.

I agree with her and wish her a pleasant night as I walk out of the room.

The official title of my job is CNA, which stands for certified nurse’s assistant. In order to become certified, a series of coursework and a certification test are required. In my case, however, since I had college courses under my belt, I only had to take the certification test. Being certified as a nurse’s assistant is not even a requirement for hire at my current place of employment, nor does it come with a salary bump. Instead, anyone with a high school diploma can be hired to care for the wellbeing of your seriously ill loved ones.

There’s something to think about.

As a kid, you kind of figure that the people who do these types of jobs are competent. That lives, for example, are in good hands. The older you get the more this illusion fades. Kind of like the idea that you can achieve your dream career or find true happiness.

I’m just kidding about that second part.

Well, sort of.

I am currently working the night shift, which runs from eleven to seven. However, I am scheduled for a double, meaning I’ll be turning, feeding, bathing, and wiping ass until three in the afternoon, with my next shift starting again at eleven that night. This kind of schedule makes the days and details blend together, like a song on repeat or a movie marathon where they play the same film over and over.

You’ve seen the details a thousand times but you still forget them.

I’m walking towards room 410 when I see Rebecca in the hallway. Her outline is nothing more than a slit, the bright white lights of the hall casting her as a slender shadow. She’s thin, with sunken cheeks and liberally applied mascara. Her bright green eyes are emeralds shining out of a black abyss. Combine this with her hair, dyed a vibrant red with streaks of black highlights, and the array of pink scars running up the lengths of her arms, and she’s someone who doesn’t fit your typical mold of a nurse. She’s two years older than I am, and we’d both starting working at hospital three years earlier.

I recall the first time I spoke to her.

I didn’t speak to many nurses. They just weren’t my type. But Rebecca was different. There was just something about the way she carried herself throughout my first few days at the hospital.

Oh, and the scars.

Yeah, she had a multitude of them running up and across the length of her arm, like a do-it-yourself flannel pattern. Some were pink and faded while others were crimson, so fresh they were still scabbing. As far as I knew, she had been working at the hospital for three days and no one had broached the subject with her.

People like to leave most doors unopened.

I walked up to Rebecca at the beginning of my shift, as she stood studying a clipboard in her hand, put on my finest shit-eating grin and asked the question that had to be on everybody’s mind.

“So, why do you cut yourself?”

“Well, nice to meet you too.”

“My name is Trevor,” I offered.

“Fuck off.”

It’s estimated that between two and three million people habitually cut themselves yearly in the United States alone. The true numbers are difficult to discern since many cutters hide their habit out of fear of social stigmatization.

“I’m sorry…”

“No you’re not,” Rebecca interjected. “You’re a snide little punk ass is what you are. I’ve heard about you, Mr. Doom and Gloom.”

“Is that my nickname?”

“Does Fuckface sound better?”

“Kind of, yes.”

Rebecca sized me up. “Do you really want to know why I cut or are you just being an ass?”

“Are those things mutually exclusive?”

Although there’s evidence suggesting an increased risk of suicide among those who cut, it’s inaccurate to categorize all who cut as being suicidal. Self-harm via skin cutting is often a symptom of underlying conditions, most commonly depression.

Rebecca tilted her head. “Isn’t it obvious why I cut?”

In many cases, cutting is an unhealthy coping mechanism, a way for individuals to release stress by focusing on physical pain rather than their emotional suffering. Studies indicate that such behavior can be psychologically addicting, and individuals can develop the belief that they need cutting as a coping mechanism and cannot function without it.

“If it was so obvious, I wouldn’t ask,” I responded.

“Smartass.”

“I thought I was Fuckface.”

“Are those mutually exclusive?”

Treatment options for cutters include a psychological evaluation to determine the risk of suicidality and therapy in conjunction with whatever medication may be prescribed to assist in treating the underlying condition.

“I suppose not,” I say. “But I’m actually curious. No one else has asked you, but you don’t seem to be hiding it, so I figured why not ask?”

Rebecca wore an assured smirk.  “The answer to your question is simple. Do you know why people get tattoos? Why they sully their skin with unnatural images?”  

I thought about it. “To feel expressed,” I responded. “People want to express themselves and represent who they are, the ideals they hold dear.”

“Ah,” Rebecca said. “To feel expressed. So you’d say it’s fair to say they want to represent what is inside, on the outside?”

“Yeah, or at least what they hope is there,” I replied.  

“So my question to you is,” she said, her smirk growing with a twitch, “is why don’t more people cut?”

“What do you mean?”

Rebecca played with her scab, picking at it and drawing blood. The sound made as it detached from her skin reminded me of children eagerly unwrapping presents on Christmas morning.

It’s strange where our minds go.

“We all feel so incomplete, so torn,” Rebecca explained, blood streaming down her arm. “I’m just expressing how I feel, like a dagger is cutting into my soul. So why not represent it? Isn’t that authenticity the closest we can be to being whole?”

As she stood before me, blood staining her porcelain skin in a zigzag pattern, I found I was drawn to this woman.

What does that say about me?

“Physical mutilation as genuine expression then,” I said. “You choose not to hide how you feel from the world.”

“I choose to be what I am on the inside: cut, bleeding, broken. The triumph and tragedy of human life is that we feel.”

“Poetic,” I said.

“Realistic,” Rebecca responded.

“You’ve been through a lot, haven’t you?”

“Haven’t we all?”

“And like marble, each chip away from us moves us closer to becoming a work of art,” I said.

Rebecca stared at me for a moment before laughing. “Are you calling me a beautiful work of art? Is this your attempt at flirting, strange nurse’s aide?”

“My name is Trevor,” I said. “Or Fuckface, whatever you prefer, but no, I’m not flirting. I just think that those of us who have endured trials in life have the potential to become unique and beautiful in ways others cannot.”

I often wonder why I said these types of things to her. I guess I identified us as two birds of the same feather, each broken in our own way. And it’s better to be broken together than broken alone, certainly.

Right?  

“You might be onto something there,” Rebecca said with a smile. “ My name is Rebecca. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Maybe we should be friends.”

“Yes,” I said, letting a smile grace my face. “We should.”

A beautiful friendship blossomed.

Beautiful is a subjective term.

Now, as I approach Rebecca, she’s slouched against the wall, face dropping downward with her expression. The years hadn’t been kind to her spirit, and this setting, with its sterile white walls, constant buzz of conversation and machinery, and consistent odor of death had worn away at her.

Life will do that to you.

“Hey there,” Rebecca says. “406 went, how about that?” In the hospital we use the term went as if they are hotel guests checking out.

I suppose in a way they are.

“Really?” I say. “He wasn’t in such bad shape, that’s a shame. At least he’s done with this place.”

“Unlike us,” Rebecca says. “Maybe he’s the lucky one. People don’t think enough about how life isn’t necessarily a good thing. That’s why I get confused about babies.”

“Babies?”

Rebecca stares at her fingernails, picking some grime out from under them. “Everyone celebrates them like they are the greatest thing ever when babies are just a game of chance. That sweet little bundle may just end up as a rapist, serial killer, or the next Adolf Hitler. How will everyone feel about their celebrations then?”

“I get what you’re saying, but I think kids are just an opportunity for most people,” I say. “That chance to leave the past behind and make something worthwhile.”

“You’re right,” Rebecca muses. “I just wonder how many parents are disappointed in what they made when those hopes don’t pan out.”

I feel a stab of emotion and look away.

What does that say about me?

“We should talk about this stuff more, get coffee soon,” I suggest.

“Oh smooth,” Rebecca says with a sort of disinterested laugh. “Are you asking me out again? It’s been almost a year.”

I shake my head. “Just for conversation. I wouldn’t wish the burden of my romance upon anyone. Plus, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around.”

Rebecca’s eyes widen. “You’re quitting?” This is asked in the hospital, in some capacity, at least a dozen times daily.

“Something like that. Never know what tomorrow will bring.”

“Way to be vague, smartass,” Rebecca says. “You’re the one leaving riddles around the floor, aren’t you?”

“Riddles?”

Rebecca throws me a sideways glance. She reaches into her pocket and removes a slip of paper. She hands it to me and I read.

What am I, what am I?

You can see me but never hold me

You can fear me but never avoid me

I am the shared experience of all man

What am I, what am I?

The paper is creased, folded, and wrinkled, only about the size of a napkin. It’s the type of thing you’d expect to find next to a trash bin, or left lying on a park bench somewhere.

“Do you know the answer?” I ask.

“Is it love?”

I shrug. “How should I know?”

Rebecca rolls her eyes. “You’re something else. I have to get back to a patient. As for the coffee, maybe Tuesday, keep in touch, champ.” She gives me a pat on the shoulder as she walks by.

Tuesday. I strain my mind thinking of what day it is. In the hospital business, it’s always the same day, the same dredge of a stretch with no holidays or weekends to take advantage of, the same fluorescent lights shining down the same downtrodden group of people.

Never ending.

Stuck on repeat.

I already made that reference, I’m sorry.

I’m losing track.

Rebecca was right; I wrote the riddle. I scribble them down and hide them in various locations during my shifts. Sometimes it’s under a patient’s covers, other times it’s under a coffee mug in the break room, the potted plants, toilet paper dispenser, nowhere is off limits. Sometimes I hide them so well they aren’t found until months after the fact.

Or never at all.  

So what do you think the answer is? I’ll provide it at a later point in the novel.

Now there’s a reason to keep reading.

I turn 410 and get some water for 411 before walking down the hall en route to my next task. The call bell is ringing for 413 and I’m hurrying around the corner to their room so fast I nearly collide with the person coming the opposite way.

Mark Rubino.

Do you know what they call the person who graduates at the bottom of their class in medical school?

Doctor.

“406 just went,” Dr. Rubino says. His hair and stubble are dark but coated throughout with a smattering of gray. He glares at me from behind his wire frame glasses. His eyes are light blue, what many would describe as a soft blue, but their stare is always harsh, accusatory.

I nod in an absent sort of way.

“Did you fuck something up?” he growls.

“No,” I reply. This is an honest response; I’d accomplished what I set out to do.

“Are you sure?” he says. “You barely look like you’re aware enough to be here. Are you high on something?”

“I’ve passed every drug test while employed here,” I say before tactfully adding, “sir.” This was also true. I simply failed to mention two occasions when I’d used someone else’s piss.

He shakes his head. “Well let’s see if you can keep that up. If I find out 406 was your fault…” he trails off, assuming I can conjure up the horrid consequences.

As if termination scares me.

As if release from this position wouldn’t be liberation.

As if the fear of death is nothing but irrational.

Dr. Mark Rubino has it out for me. Most of the time, these grudges are all in someone’s head. It isn’t that people are out to get them; it’s that they are misinterpreting situations and intentions. It’s that they haven’t clearly communicated with the other party and there’s a misunderstanding.

This isn’t the case.

Dr. Rubino had made it clear on several occasions that there was a reason why “people like him” were doctors and “people like me” wiped ass for a living. The funny thing is, I agree with him, but for entirely different reasons. Dr. Rubino views himself as a “success,” someone who used the indomitable force of his sheer will to work hard and achieve where others had failed. In Dr. Rubino’s opinion, he earned everything he had while others wasted the opportunities life afforded them.

I disagree.

Dr. Rubino was born with two doctors as parents. He was raised in an upper middle class setting. Food, safety, and security, were never concerns. Dr. Rubino was given everything he needed to succeed in life and had only made it this far. Despite his parents being excellent practitioners, he had graduated last in his class from Temple, and for this reason he found himself working at this low-level hospital in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania.

He had two failed marriages under his belt.

A DUI conviction.

He once filed for bankruptcy on a doctor’s salary.

And he is judging me?

The audacity.

Dr. Rubino should be one of the top medical experts in his field, saving countless lives, publishing valuable research to make a positive change in the world, yet here he is before me, a sad excuse for a doctor in a go-nowhere town, the ultimate representation of good genes and care gone to waste.

I’m no winner myself, but at least I know it. I come from a different background. Generations worth of white trash DNA compose my being, with experience to boot. Single parent household, drug addiction, abuse, living off of food stamps and twenty thousand dollars a year.

A place where expectations are up, up , up.

No one in my extended family had ever considered college; most didn’t graduate high school. But I did. In fact, I lasted two years in college before dropping out. By this standard, I’ve gone further than Dr. Rubino ever has. A person in my situation was supposed to fall to the wayside, become an addict, a leech on the system, have more kids than he can afford, and continue the cycle. But here I am, college credits under my belt, working in a professional setting, contributing to the majority of my household’s bills.

I’ve risen from my parents and he has fallen from his. So really, I’m the success and he’s the failure.

Right?

“Are you proud of your life?” I ask.

“What did you say?” Rubino snaps.

“Are you all you dreamed you would be when you were a child?”

He puts on a scowl. “Don’t be a smartass.”

“So the answer is no, then?”

“Oh this is rich,” Rubino scoffs. “The ass-wiper trying to taunt me. You better watch your mouth and do your job or I’ll make sure you’re out of a job and that you and your low life mother will have to sell her extra pills to pay the rent.”

“Quite a threat.”  

“A promise, one you best remember you little pion,” Rubino remarks, walking away as if he’s won.

“You never answered,” I call. “Are you what you’d dream you’d be as a child?”

Rubino’s laugh is that of the schoolyard bully, somehow as directive as it is dismissive. “And what did you dream you would be? An ass-wiper? Making eleven bucks an hour cleaning up piss and shit and giving baths? Please, indulge me.”

I shrug. “It’s better than what my mother said I’d be.”

Dr. Rubino narrows his eyes. “And what did she say you’d end up as?”

“Nothing.”

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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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Murderers Anonymous Chapter 1

Sample of a very intense and graphic novel I wrote. Made the rounds with Big 5 Publishers but has yet to find a home. Let me know your thoughts. Warning: for fans of dark works only.

                                                                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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The Road to Becoming a Published Author

 

When I tell people I’m a published author I get a lot of questions. Some are the most common are about how to pursue publishing a novel. What is the best way? How is it done? What do you do? And while I can’t give the exact best answer for everyone, I can share my experiences. I’ve taken the road of attempting to be published through the large traditional publishers. As you will see, it can be a long arduous journey. For what it’s worth here’s my timeline. I hope it’s helpful to some of you, whether it is to affirm the value of your perseverance or convince you to get the hell out of writing (just kidding, life’s too short not to chase your dreams).

June 2011: At the age of 21 I started Harbinger, my first serious endeavor into novel writing. Inspired by the writing and style of Stephen King, it emanated some of his themes.

October 31st 2011: Finished the first draft of Harbinger, began querying agents.

December 2011: After countless rejections (100 or so), I receive a phone call from Adrienne Lombardo of Trident Media Group. We discuss possible representation and I nearly have a heart attack.

January 17th 2012: I agree to be represented by Adrienne Lombardo and Trident Media Group, one of the largest and most successful agencies in the world. I think my dream of writing stardom is about to come true.

January 2012 – July 2012: I’m in purgatory. After receiving a positive blurb from New York Times Best Seller Jonathan Maberry, Adrienne shops my novel to no avail, each editor having a different issue. I was considered by Penguin, Random House, and a few other big companies. Each time my hopes were dashed and it stung a little more. Perhaps none more so than the rejection from 47North, where the editor went back and forth for three weeks (and even authorized an advance for me) before ultimately rejecting it. So close but yet so far.

July 2012 – October 2012: With the outlook on Harbinger fading, Adrienne and I focus on my other works and attempting to land them with a publisher. Two of my novels, Harrow House and Sheep’s Clothing, are in good enough shape to throw out there. She sends them out to a couple of editors but the results are the same.

October 16th 2012: Adrienne convinces me to release Harbinger through Trident Media Group’s E-Publishing Service. It is an exciting time and I finally get to share Harbinger with the world. The sales are moderate, but without adequate marketing it is difficult to spread the word. The reviews that pore in are largely positive.

November 2012: Adrienne informs me she is leaving Trident Media Group to become an acquisitions editor for an audio book company. I am left high and dry with no other agents at Trident interested in me or my work.

November 2012- January 2013: While focusing on my other works I am bounced around Trident Media Group, with John Silbersack handling Harbinger. He ultimately isn’t interested in my other works however.

March 2013: I contact my friends at Hobbes End Publishing, a passionate and dedicated independent press, and find out they are interested in publishing Harbinger. With Silbersack unwilling to represent any of my other works I decide to end my relationship with Trident Media Group and have Harbinger re-released as a paperback and e-book with Hobbes End.

April 2014: Harbinger is released with an updated cover and is available in paperback form.

November 2014: After two years of trying with various different projects and receiving a couple of hundred rejections, I earn representation from an agent yet again, this time Adrienne Rosado of Nancy Yost Literary for my project, Murderers Anonyous, a transgressive thriller about a self-help support group for serial Killers.

January-March 2015: Adrienne sends Murderers Anonymous out to about 20 editors. It is praised for being unique, edgy, and having a powerful twist at the end. However, all editors end up passing on the project.

March 2015-Present: A year and a half of writing and editing other projects. We are prepping another novel for submission and hope to have it out soon.

November 2015- Adrienne switches agency to Leibo Literary. I go along with her for the ride.

Summary: 5 years, nine completed novels, over 700 email queries sent, two agents, 40 submissions, countless emails and phone calls, and I have one novel out there from an independent press. Yeah, it’s a waiting game, and a long one at that, but I’m not giving up. All I can do is improve my craft and keep trying to make it. It’s tough being so close without really breaking through, but if there’s one thing this journey has taught me it’s that perseverance is key.

If you have a second check out my novel. Let me know what you think. I’d appreciate it my friends!

https://www.amazon.com/Harbinger-David-J-Bright-ebook/dp/B00JXC0O2K

Peace,
David

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