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Imitates Art Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 3 and 4 of the latest work in progress. Refer to the last post for the beginning. Let me know what you think!

                                                                              3

The words jar me from my own homicidal fantasy. The class looks to me with a sort of bored impatience, part of their minds wanting to have the basic questions answered but another part wanting to leave and get to whatever social event they have planned. I shoot a look to Gary, who, after my hand slam upon his desk is at his fullest attention, before walking to my desk and seizing the stack of syllabi. I pass one to the gentleman in the front row and they circulate around the class.

Losing one’s self in fantasies can be an effective way for an author to immerse himself in his craft. By imagining what I could do to Gary and the hysterical fallout that would follow, I become closer to my character, Thomas. By experiencing such a vivid fantasy, I can aptly describe such a scene in my book, shocking the readers and drawing them in further as they question what such an unstable character may do next.

Despite this course being pure research on my end, I’ve put effort in to make Writing for Commercial Publication a worthwhile seminar. I will cover the how to’s of the writing industry, including submissions to literary magazines, the ins and outs of writer’s groups, landing an agent for literary representation, etcetera, before getting to the actual process of writing. The students will be working on various short story assignments with peer editors, however the bulk of the course’s grade will come from a single capstone project, a fifty page sample of a novel or story they will be writing.

A few students linger as I dismiss the class early, though most of them gather up their supplies and hurry out. Two of the lingerers ask more questions about the syllabus and I put on a friendly face and answer them. Once they’re gone, there’s one student left in the classroom, studying me up and down, the smallest of smiles creasing her face.

It’s Melody Brooks.

“Should I call you Professor White or Dorian?” she asks. “I figure a famous author like yourself has an affinity for his namesake.”

“Let’s go with professor, and keep it formal for now,” I say.

Her face crinkles up in a smile. She’s of average height, thin but with subtle curves. Her face is soft in an angelic sort of way, with eyes matching the color and depth of her mahogany hair.

“I took this class because I saw you were teaching it,” Melody says. “I have to admit, you’re my favorite author, and by a long shot.”

“Why thank you,” I say. “That means alot to me, I try to really impact my audience.”

I stare at this beautiful young fan and wonder if my character would have an attraction to her. To her taut body and lovely features, her witty personality and fine taste in literature. Thomas would be cantankerous certainly, but he’d present well, being charming and alluring enough to catch a young woman’s eye.  He’d let her in, let her close, but then when she saw too much…

Well, you get the idea.

“You certainly make an impact,” Melody says. “In Step Ahead, I was floored by the twist! The fact that Detective Brannigan was so obsessed with finding the killer, that his entire career was staked on it, and it turned out to be him all along. It dazzled me that you were able to present such a disturbed character with a split personality so effectively.”

“It was really meant to show the duality of our nature. That we can be so driven to be one person while simultaneously hiding from who we really are, even though the evidence was there all along.”

Melody tilts her head. “That’s exactly what I took away from it. The duality of our nature, the traumas we’ve suffered through refusing to be buried away, coming out in such stark ways. I think anyone who has a bit of darkness in them can relate.”

“You’re far too kind,” I say. “My critics certainly don’t agree with you. It’s nice to hear what I do is resonating with some people.”

“Pardon my language but your critics are talking out of their asses,” Melody says. “When I saw that you were teaching a course my heart fluttered. You’re definitely my favorite author. Wow, I bet I sound like a giddy school girl.”

“That’s just being human,” I say, patting her shoulder. “We all have people we’re fans of, myself included. And who knows, maybe after this, I’ll be a fan of your writing.”

Melody blushes and shakes her head. “I’m more of a reader than a writer,” she confesses. “I have some interesting ideas, especially inspired from what I read, but while it all looks good on my head it just…”

“Doesn’t come out,” I finish.

“Exactly. I love what I think but hate what comes out.”

I explain to Melody that many talented authors hate what comes out in their first draft. The ideas may be there but the execution is lacking. The difference between good and great writers is the time they put into their craft. Like exercise, routine and repetition is key, and the more one writes and edits, the better the future results are.

King said the first million words are just practice, after all.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Melody says. “And I’ll keep practicing, though I have to admit,” she looks down, “I’m a little nervous to have you see my work. Having your idol review what you come up with? Daunting to say the least.”

Little things like Melody looking away, blushing, deflecting a compliment, they all say something about her without actually explicitly saying anything. Sometimes, the most subtle movement, gesture, or observation can illuminate a character more than their direct thoughts and feelings can.

This is called showing instead of telling.

“Don’t be worried,” I say. “This is about growth, about improvement, and every student in here will have room to do that. Why don’t you drop by my office during office hours tomorrow and we’ll talk about your ideas for the course? Stories, goals, ambitions, and then see how we can help you out.”

“Yes!” Melody says. “That would be wonderful, thank you so much!”

“Just trying to embrace my role as a professor,” I say. “Plus, I have plenty of time for such a wonderful fan.”

Melody beams. “Sounds great, I’m looking forward to it, and this course.”

We walk towards the door together and I speak lightly.

“Oh, so am I, Melody, so am I.”

 

4

I sit in my office and stare out the window, a light mist drizzling down from a milky gray sky, pattering my window with dots of rain. It’s a breezy fall afternoon, thick layers of clouds blanketing downtown Drayton in a scene many would describe as dreary but one that I find serene. The view is limited, encompassing only the sides of a few buildings, but is pleasant enough, with a view of the street below, abound with students hurriedly crossing en route to their next destination.

My office is small, boxy, but with enough room for a bookcase stocked with some classics, the works of Dostoyevsky and Poe mingling with more contemporaries such as Palahniuk, Vonnegut, and King. Besides that it is relatively bare, a small plant on my desk and my diploma hung up on the wall, giving the office some semblance of authenticity.

I think about Melody Brooks and find it convenient that she wandered into my life on the first day of class. I jot down notes of how she can fit into my story, potential roles for her to fill during my time at the university. From protege to lover, the options seem ripe with possibility, all worthwhile research to be incorporated into my masterpiece.

Notes and outlines are important to some writers in order to provide a framework, a sense of organization for the entire novel. By laying out plot lines and character development, the author can layer what happens and present the story in an intriguing, intentional manner. By listing Melody’s character traits (attractive, creative, bright, fan of dark novels) I can realistically portray her, creating a believable character progression, especially if/when her weaknesses (naivete, amourous) are exploited, pulling her into a nightmarish situation right out of her favorite books.

It’s almost too good to be true.

I’m laying out how she may be roped into all this, scrawling notes in every direction, when I’m interrupted by the sound of my office door opening and someone stepping inside.

I look up as the interloper closes the door behind him. He stands with a firm yet amused look on his face, blue eyes dancing with a condescending sort of mischief behind his wire-frame glasses. His salt-and pepper mustache is thick, matching in color with his hair, and proudly stands above his lips as bold statement against all things fashionable and attractive.

“Dr. John Halstrom, what a pleasant surprise,” I say.

“Dorian White, I must say, I never expected to see you back here,” Halstrom says with an irritating grin.

“All thanks to your tutelage,” I shoot back. His expression barely creases.

“I always thought it would be Sam Hamilton who’d hit it big in writing,” Halstrom says. “You remember how vivid and detailed his short stories were, and he was a hit with the campus literary magazine. He’s just an editor of a small online magazine now, but look at you. Just goes to show how fickle the public is. Never can quite tell what suits their tastes.”

Apparently good ol’ John hasn’t changed a bit since he was my professor for three courses during my time at the university. As crass as he is dim-witted, John Halstrom is the type who believes his Ph.D in literature means he has the utmost authority in declaring what writing is good and which is trash. He held that air of superiority throughout my time as his student, putting down my work at every possible turn. He ridiculed my dark voice as being edgy for edgy’s sake. He said my work lacked substance and authenticity, that my style was too minimal, my writing was mostly choppy, and he called my tendency to throw in single line paragraphs gimmicky, attention-grabbing at best.

The audacity.

“I’ve been fortunate,” I say. “Readers were eager for a new dark voice, one that spoke to what lurks in the inner recesses of their minds. It’s going well, I almost can’t believe how far I’ve come since I was a clueless kid sitting in your class. How have you been? Has your writing worked out at all?”

Halstrom’s face scrunches up in a way that makes him look like he’s trying to eat his own mustache. His voice is gruff yet wet, like someone recovering from a long standing cold. “Oh, it’s going well enough. A few pieces published here and there, you know, I’ve built quite a name for myself with my short stories, particularly those in the fantasy genre. Even a few award nominations. The public, as you know, isn’t always ready for true work, actual artistry, and often accepts whatever recycled trash the big publishers throw at them.”

Halstrom is bitter because he’s never been able to break into the big time, despite his repeated attempts at publishing novels through the Big Five publishers. He’s published two through small indie presses, but both were panned by readers, hosting pitiful reviews on Amazon. The man writes like an academic, as if there’s a defined system and structure to a good novel.

He leaves out the soul.

“Glad to hear you’re finding your own sort of success, professor,” I say. “The writing world is truly a struggle. Do you have an agent? I could help you out with that, put in a good word.”

Color rises in Halstrom’s face. “Oh, no need. I haven’t tried in a while but I’m sure once I finish my next project I’ll have a few interested.”

In order to land a novel with mainstream publishers an author needs to acquire a literary agent. Major publishers will not review a manuscript that does not have representation. By sending out a query letter (usually two-hundred and fifty words summarizing the novel and your literary accomplishments) an author earns the right to wait anywhere from one day to one year for a response, at which point the agent will review a sample of the work or the full book itself. After another few months to a year, the agent may offer representation. Then, once submitted, if the book is accepted by an editor, it can be another one to three years before it is released to the public.

Halstrom hasn’t landed an agent.

99% of those who try don’t.

“I’m sure you’ll find your success,” I lie. “How are you holding things together at the university? I imagine the English program is top-notch, as always.”

“We have standards here,” Halstrom says. “Which is why I’m surprised they were so eager to bring a B student on board. I recommended to the chair that we didn’t hire you. I figured you were only in it for yourself.”

I laugh and shake my head. “Are you holding grudges, John? Because I told you off a few times back when I was a student? Because I followed my dreams? I understand your hesitancy to bring me aboard, especially with the content of what I write, but you can’t decry my qualifications.”

Halstrom laughs, a nasally tone carried by condescension. “Your writing is inauthentic. There’s no meat to it, just whatever gross, heinous thing your mind can create on a whim. It doesn’t feel real, it doesn’t feel deep, yet with your shocking subject matter and freshman level philosophy you’ve ensnared the attention of the nation.”

I walk over to Halstrom offering my hand. When he looks at it I kick his leg out from under him and he falls forward, bashing his head off the corner of my desk. The wet thunk that emanates sends thrilling sensations throughout my body. I grab him by the shirt collar and scruff of the neck, and as he lets out cry I drive his head into desk again. Blood oozes from his gash onto the desk, dripping down to the floor. Halstrom’s cry is shallow as I pull him back and slam his head into the corner again. The sound is wet and thick, like a pumpkin slammed to pavement.

This is called a simile.

I bash his head again.

Then again.

As the splats rise in volume his cries diminish. Soon all I hear is wet thumping with the occasional crack splintered in. Fluid drips from his head down onto my hand, coating it in a sticky mess. His head goes concave and rubbery bits of brain leak out of his skull and onto the floor.

I bash his head again.

Then again.

This is called repetition.

I drop his limp form to the floor. He collapses in a heap, and I feel a sense of vindication. The lowly maggot who had criticized me has been put in his place. He found out just where he belonged before I asserted my power over him.

Yes, this is exactly what a psychopath would think.

I make note to add this type of scene to my book.

“I’ll take that as a challenge, John,” I say, breaking from the daydream. “I will rise to the occasion and show my students can take away something meaningful from this.”  

Halstrom chortles. “Now you’re really writing fiction. But if you need to know how these sort of things are done, let me know. Assignments, grading rubrics, guest speakers, I know the ropes and I can help make sure the course is done professionally.”

I smile. “Actually, that sounds great. I’ll make a list of things I need shortly. I appreciate the help.”

Halstrom’s eyes are narrow slits in his bowling ball head. “Of course. I’ll be around, keeping an eye on you if need something.”

“Thanks John. If you’re free we should catch up more, get coffee sometime.”

Halstrom nods before turning to take his leave. “Yeah, possibly,” he mumbles as he shuffles towards the door.

“Bye,” I say, and he closes the door behind him.

The fantasy has inspired me to write Halstrom as a character. In a transgressive novel, where the main character is an anti-hero, an antagonist can be used to help the reader sympathize with the main character. This type of person is rude, dismissive, and overly assuming with few or no redeemable traits.

I spend another twenty minutes finishing my notes about him and Melody. Both will add great layers of depth to my story and I’m satisfied with the progress. I’m really beginning to flesh things out, and when I grab my materials to leave for the day, a smile adorns my face.

As I’m exiting St. Thomas Hall, I feel a strange sensation wash over me. Call it Deja Vu, but a preliminary sense, like I’m already experiencing the impending storm. I know something is going to happen, something big, yet I am already going through it. I’m going somewhere, and it’s dark and wild, unexplored and uninhabited. I shake the feeling off as I exit, but make a note not to forget the strange sensation.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, after all.

 

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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 4

Chapter 4 of my transgressive novel soon to be submitted to big 5 publishers. Check earlier posts for previous chapters. Strong graphic content and language throughout.

                                                                                         4

I don’t just kill random patients.

I thought we should get this out of the way.

It’s not like I’m some homicidal maniac patrolling the floor, looking for the next opportunity to strike. I only kill patients that are knocking on death’s door. Those who have lost a reverence for life, any semblance of appreciation and respect for it. I wake them up to the cold, cruel nature of existence, where everything can be taken from them in less than a moment, and for no real reason at all.

The answer to the first riddle is death.

If you need to flip back to earlier in the novel, I understand.

I cannot kill patients during the day shift; there is too much going on and too high a likelihood of being noticed. I must pick my moments wisely and operate under the cover of night, when very little is happening on the floor. I have to be very specific with who I kill as well, since the death of a relatively healthy patient would warrant an investigation.

It’s been three days since I took care of 406, though keeping track of time and what is real has been proving difficult. There’s a new 406, shipped in and dropped off like a package from FedEx. She’s a middle aged woman with liver trouble. Her health and amiable mood mean she’s not a candidate for enlightenment and thus will dodge the proverbial bullet.

Or pillow, I should say.

During the day shift, my day progresses in rounds. We start by feeding the patients. Food service delivers the food based upon dietary needs and general preferences. Some patients have the wherewithal and physical capabilities to feed themselves, however, many do not, and this is where I come in.

408 leans forward, trying to catch the latest spoonful in her mouth. Just as I complete the meal, 408, one of the patients who seems to like attention, let’s out a tremendous belch. This is followed by her pitching forward and vomiting, the chunks of sausage and egg I fed her still largely intact amongst the muck.

Now I have to change and bathe her.

408 is an elderly woman. I carefully remove her clothes (like her prom suitor seven decades earlier) and begin scrubbing with a soapy hand towel. I use a water basin to wet and rinse the cloth. 408’s breasts are narrow, like a pair of isosceles triangles, nipples pointing down as the tips. Varicose veins run down the sides, bright blue and standing out staunchly from behind her wrinkled, ghostly white skin. Everything on her is saggy and loose despite how skinny she is, and each bit of skin I scrub moves with my motion, clinging to the towel like drying silly-putty.

Life’s filled with unnecessary details.

You may want to skip the next paragraph.

The worst part of all is her vagina, which is literally falling out of itself, unwinding with flaps and folds spilling out of her entrance. There’s still hair abound, something we don’t like to think about when picturing the elderly. I ask her if she’s able to clean that region herself, as is protocol, and of course she responds that she is too weak. I dip the towel in the water and get the work, lightly dabbing and swabbing, practically giving this old bird a hand job.

On one occasion, a perfectly able woman requested I wash her, and asked that I spend a longer time on her genital region. To my surprise, she grinded up against my hand, let out a few moans, and proceeded to orgasm.

I didn’t know whether to be flattered or mortified.

I later learned that she was a nymphomaniac and had pulled the same stunt with other aides, including the females. I’ve also dealt with multiple men getting erections, much to their shame, as they claimed to be heterosexual. They couldn’t look at me for the rest of the duration of their stay.

We all have something we’re hiding from the world.

I move on from 408 and return to my rounds.

After feeding comes bathing. Most patients simply need help to the showers. For those who cannot walk, as aforementioned, they are bathed. The worst of these are the obese patients, whose flaps and folds must be lifted and scrubbed, with disastrous surprises lurking around every curve. Pens, change, and molding food are just some of the items I’d discovered while adventuring.

After this, the rounds consists of checking in on patients, asking if they need anything (which they always do) and responding to the pings of the call bell. I act as a personal attendant until lunch, when the feeding process repeats itself.  

Tick.

Tick.

It’s the only thing I really hear as I work. Everything else blends together, like static or background noise. I’m speaking, I’m acting, but I’m not really there. My routine is so ingrained I’m more like a robot than a person.

See: productive worker.

I just finish taking the vitals on 412 an ass-disaster strikes.

No, that’s not a clinical term.

These are also known as mudslides. They are rare but memorable, with a specific set of factors required to unleash the hell.

There are four patients who are on diuretics as part of their treatment. These four patients are also four who cannot get up and use the restroom on their own. After breakfast the chaos strikes, as all four patients, as if coordinating, shit themselves in an hour’s span.

Cleaning up shit is a paramount duty of mine. In fact, I’ve probably spent months of my life rummaging through people’s assholes. I’m so “good” at wiping patients that I am the go-to guy for training new hires on the proper technique.

At least I have one work accomplishment, I suppose.

I take my wealth of knowledge to ground zero. The first patient has a puddle to go along with the mudslide. This is when an obese patient, whose fat legs mash together, has a puddle of piss festering in their thighs like a small lake. Joey Dryden, the other aide on this floor, sometimes tries to amuse himself by sailing tiny paper boats in them.

We all have our hobbies.

I clean up the piss. The next part is the most challenging. The obese get so fat that their asshole is almost lost, squashed and hidden behind nearly immovable ass cheeks. I go searching and am “lucky” to find the brown geyser after pushing aside a few flaps of skin. I begin wiping up the thick sludge. The patient yawns, appearing bored, wanting me to hurry up and finish so she can get back to watching her Price is Right reruns. As I’m finishing up, she farts, a spray of crusty shit-chunks blasting out onto the blanket.

“Oof, that was a good one,” she says, distracted, before shouting out “eight hundred and fifty dollars!” as the price of the next item.

I give her the powder treatment and get onto the next room.

I spend most of the next hour wrist deep in shit.

We all gripe about our jobs, sure, but when you have to clean the rancid shit of the dying off your arms (and on unfortunate occasions, your face) becomes common routine, you have to look in the mirror and reconsider your life.

At least what’s left of it.

After the ass-disaster, the day progresses as usual. I walk by Joey and the other aide on duty, Cullen, who are puzzling over a piece of paper Joey found in the break room refrigerator. Joey reads the paper aloud:

“What am I, what am I?

I exist only in the past

Am made in the present

And am needed for the future

What am I, what am I?”

Joey says the riddle is “fucking stupid” before they go back to chattering about their favorite reality television show. Joey crumbles up the paper and tosses it to the floor.

There goes my legacy.

Lunch offers no challenges besides 403, a cantankerous middle aged man who insults me and the hospital every chance he gets.

“The food sucks, the care sucks, and you suck,” he says.

The guy is on point, but I’m in no mood to admit it.

“I am sorry the accommodations are not up to your standards, sir. Is there any way I can make things more comfortable for you?”

“Don’t mouth off with me,” he wheezes. The man is often in and out of consciousness. Lung cancer threatens to have him transferred to the ICU (that’s intensive care unit, we’ve yet to cover that one.) “Kid, you don’t know the life I’ve lived. Bitch of an ex-wife, bitch of a daughter, and now I gotta deal with you. Life sucks.”

“Then you die.”

“Oh hardy, har,” he spits. “Do your fucking job, get me a magazine to read or something. Can’t you see I’m in pain, shit-for-brains?” He coughs at the end of his question.

“Did you smoke?” I ask.

“Get my fucking magazine,” he barks. “Or I’ll make your life a living hell.”

I get him a stack of magazines. Most of them are Teen Vogue, and for whatever reason, they don’t suit his fancy. He tosses one back into my face.

“At least I make your day exciting, huh?” he says.

I think about how I can make his day exciting. How I can boost him in front of 402 as the next person to kill. The poor guy doesn’t realize that his temperament only exacerbates his suffering.

He needs a release.

To be free of the prison of himself.

I can provide it for him.

I put him on the mental list and leave him to respond to a call from room 401, a tall, thin woman recovering from surgery. I hadn’t shared many words with her, and she had been one of the rare patients not to abuse the call button privilege.

“I’m sorry for bothering you,” she says in a soft, grandmotherly sort of way as I enter.

“It’s no bother, it’s my job,” I respond.

Her face is narrow, her eyes light green, soft, and caring. A natural sort of empathy exudes itself from her, and I’m hit with a sense of deja vu, as if I’ve been here or known her before.

“But you look so bothered, so stressed,” she notes. “A walking epitome of doom and gloom, if you don’t mind me saying.”

I look to her, showing more emotion than I intend. “Just…a rough day is all,” I say slowly.  

The empathy in her eyes appears legitimate. Most patients at the hospital looked to me as a means to an end. I was more of a service than a person, but this woman looked to me as if I was family.

“Rough day or rough life? You’re too young to look so glum. There’s more for you out there.”

“What do you need?” I ask.

She tilts her head, looking eager to follow up but decides against it. “It’s my telephone,” she says, motioning to it. “I don’t believe it is working. Could you get a technician to look into it?”

I walk over to the side table. I pick up the phone place it to my ear.

Nothing.

I tap a few numbers; the results are the same.

“I’ll have someone come up and look at it,” I say, setting it down. “In the meantime, if any calls come to the desk for you I’ll be sure to inform you.”

Her face lights up. “Thank you so much. My granddaughter is away in college and is so worried about me. I want to ease her concerns.”

“That’s very considerate of you.”
“Thank you,” she says. “You’re so kind for helping me.”

I shake my head. “It’s just my job.”

She shakes her head in return. “No, being a decent human being is a choice, and one you’ve decided to make. This place wears on you, all the death and ungrateful patients I’m sure. Don’t let it. You’re making a difference in others’ lives every day, even if no one will acknowledge it.”

Normally my interactions with patients are framed around responding to their wants and needs. This woman is throwing me for a loop and I can’t help but stare. I’m curious about her in a way I hadn’t been over patients for years so I decide to ask her the question I hadn’t bothered asking a single patient during my time employed at Rosedale Memorial.

“My name is Trevor, I’m going to be your aide while you’re here. What’s your name, miss?”

Her smile is bright. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Trevor. My name is Molly.”

And so, for the first time, a patient has a name.

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Murderers Anonymous Chapter 3

Chapter 3 of a novel that made the rounds with and was turned down by Big 5 publishers. Refer to previous posts for earlier chapters. Let me know what you think! Warning: intense graphic scenes throughout the novel. Intense violence in this particular chapter. For fans of dark fiction only.

                                                                             3

There’s a reason there are minimum charges on credit card transactions.

You see, there’s a fee for processing credit card transactions, typically ranging anywhere from 1.8% all the way up to 3%, with various caveats including additional charges, and technical jargon that usually ends up screwing business owners out of profits.

This is no concern for corporate chains. They can afford to eat the loss on each purchase that is paid for with a credit card. The small businesses, however, are put in an awkward position.

Accepting credit cards as payment is convenient for customers, thus attracting a great amount and assuring they will come back. On the other hand, the more customers that decide to pay with these cards the more profits the business owner loses. Small businesses are already juggling with the keeping prices competitive while adjusting for overhead – throw transaction fees on top of this and making a profit becomes difficult.

Thus, many establishments prefer that if a customer is to pay with a credit card, the customer spends at least a certain amount to offset the inevitable loss of money to come.

Now, at least you’ll come away from this book having learned something.

You seriously should have stopped reading in chapter one.

I know the basic details of credit card processing because this is my life. Or should I say my job.

Is there a difference?

Royal Payments is a credit card processing company. It is an affordable alternative to business owner’s banks or current service providers. The combination of the industry’s lowest rates paired with the highest quality of service makes Royal Payments the go to company for any business’s processing needs.

Bullshit, Noun

 

  • Nonsense, lies, or exaggeration

 

Synonyms: Falsehood, Hogwash, Malarkey

 

I sit next to a homeless man on the bus. He reeks of piss and booze, and his straggly salt and pepper colored beard is mired with encrusted chunks of vomit. He’s asleep in the window seat, and as the bus lulls around a turn his head rolls around and lands on my shoulder. He remains sleeping, and I get a waft of the indescribable pungent odor emanating from his unwashed, lice-ridden hair.

I look to him with mild curiosity. There’s a small stream of drool oozing from his cracked lips and seeping into my dress shirt. A few flakes of skin join the spit, standing out staunchly against the black backdrop of my shirt.

Public transportation forces doctors, lawyers, and executives to interact with the unwashed masses, smelling their smells, observing their appearances, and overhearing their conversations. Egomaniacs, sadists, masochists, alcoholics, adulterers, addicts, convicts, serial killers, and many more come together for a unique shared experience.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses teeming to be free.

I rise at my stop, letting the homeless man fall to his side. He gasps, sputtering incoherently before giving into his lingering drunkenness and falling back asleep.

I pass the woman who spent the duration of my twenty minute ride berating her child, barking at him in a guttural tone, reminding him of how he was a disappointment.

I knew a boy once who was reminded how much of an inconvenience he was when he pissed the bed. His mother put her hand around his throat, and that hand, which was usually so frail and boney, would become strong and empowered as it squeezed, fingernails digging into the boy’s flesh as his breath was taken away.

“Your penis has to pay for this,” she’d whisper into the child’s ear. Her other hand (always the left) reached into his batman pajama bottoms and grab his penis, jerking and twisting it, not stopping until he nearly passed out from the choking.

Despite this treatment, the boy couldn’t stop pissing the bed. He did it at least once a week. He was a bad boy. Part of him believed he deserved the treatment.

Part of him believed he wanted it.

I exit the bus and face the uninspiring office building before me. It’s squat, dwarfed by the surrounding buildings, an utterly forgettable blot amongst the cityscape.

There are four separate office complexes housed at 421 Bay Street. The second suite on the second floor houses one of Royal Payments’ three telemarketing call centers. The staircase that leads to the door smells of tobacco and disappointment, and the discarded corpses of cigarettes smoked long ago crunch beneath my feet as I ascend to hell.

I open the door and hear the buzz of idle conversation, drifting through the air like the constant hum of some type of electrical equipment. It is disinterested – merely a daily formality.

As I walk in I’m greeted by Dave.

Douchebag, Noun (Informal)

 

  • A small syringe for douching the vagina, especially as a contraceptive measure.
  • An obnoxious or contemptible person, typically a man.

 

Synonyms: Jerk, Asshole, Fuckface

 

His spray tan is a darker shade of orange than usual. This is highlighted and juxtaposed by the brightest of his bleached white teeth, which spring forth in a rehearsed smile.

“How ya doin’ today man? Eager to set some appointments? You have some catching up to do if you want to keep pace with The Davester.” He points both thumbs toward his body as he refers to himself by the title.

I stare ahead past him, losing myself in my thoughts. He notices this and continues babbling at me.

“You there, bro? You look like you’re somewhere else right now.”

I sigh and reach my hands around to my back pocket. I pull the Beretta M9 out from it and place it against his forehead. His eyes cross as he looks up at the weapon, and he lets loose a pathetic squeal just before I pull the trigger.

Due to the miracles performed by modern medicine, a person’s chances of surviving a gunshot wound have increased significantly. Recent studies show that wounds suffered by handguns have an 80-85% survival rate if proper medical attention is sought immediately. Gunshot wounds to the head are much more devastating, however, with survival rates usually hovering between 5 and 9%.

See, you learned something else.

Chunks of Dave’s brain and fragments of his skull spray backwards, coating the wall of the nearest cubicle. The “Hang in There Kitty” poster takes on a new look as Dave’s head-meat slathers it, slowly dripping down the face of the poster and running its colors.

His body collapses in a heap, blood gushing from out of his head-crater onto the freshly vacuumed carpet below.

There are a multitude of factors to consider when assessing whether a gunshot to the head will be fatal. One factor to consider is if the bullet caused damage to the carotid artery. An average male has about six liters of blood and his internal carotid artery clears about a quarter of a liter per minute to supply the brain. If blood loss is no concern, one must examine whether the wound sustained was limited to one hemisphere of the brain, significantly upping the chance of survival, or both hemispheres, a bleak and dire situation.

Dave’s eyes remain rolled up in the back of his head. He has bitten his tongue off and it lies by his cheek. I try to assess whether he’ll survive the wound.

I don’t fucking know; I’m not a doctor.

I put two more in his chest before moving on to the next victims. My original shot caught the attention of the few workers meandering around the office, but like deer caught in the sight of headlights they are paralyzed.

Cathy is staring at me with the erratic, wide eyes of an owl. She can’t believe this is happening. To her this is a dream.

I make it a reality as I put one through her heart and another through her throat. She lets out a gurgle before collapsing to the floor, dead.

The Beretta M9 is a short recoil, semi-automatic, double-action pistol which uses a fifteen round staggered box magazine with a reversible magazine release button that can be positioned for either right or left-handed shooters. It has been used extensively in the United States military since 1985. Due to its lightweight, general maneuverability, and killing potential, it is a lethal weapon that should be kept far away from the prying hands of criminals, psychopaths, and serial killers.

Irony, Noun

  1. The expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.

Synonyms: Sarcasm, Cynicism, Mockery, Satire, Sardonicism

 

Ramon is sitting at his station, headphones on still listening to his music, his rotund body bouncing left and right as he continues digging the beat. I unload four into his back, enough to make sure the elephant is put down, and he slumps forward without a sound, face buried in his keyboard.

John goes next, his coffee launching up and scalding his face as two rounds slam into his gut. He lets out a mortified scream as the hot liquid melts his flesh and a pitiful whimper as he slides down the wall behind him.

I walk into the break room and see Christa hunkering down beneath the coffee table, as if it was adequate enough to conceal her girth. “No! Please, you don’t have to!” she wails.

I dispatch of her with a shot to the temple, her body crumpling into a heap, a steady stream of blood pooling around her head.  

Charlene is sniveling in the corner and I fire a shot her way, the bullet striking her forearm. She spits profanities at me and grabs a ladle from the sink, preparing to fight me off. I then hear the sound of approaching police sirens, signifying the end to my rampage. I sigh, give Charlene a wave, and return to the main room.

I walk over to my work station and stand on my chair, surveying the beautiful scene around me. Never again would I be constrained by the petty rules and protocols of such a backwards, fucked up establishment. Never again would I have to answer to this place to earn a meager living, and never again would I have to put up with Dave and his insufferable self-gratification.

Freedom, Noun

 

  • The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.

 

Synonyms: Liberation, Release, Deliverance, Discharge

 

Are you sick of these definitions yet?

I hear the lawmen storming the building, charging up the stairs to apprehend me. I put the gun in my mouth, somehow enjoying the strange metallic taste of the barrel.

They open the door.

“Freeze!”

I pull the trigger.

I am no more.

 

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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 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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