Aberration – pt. 5

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

I’m looking at the flowers.

I know you want to know.

Or maybe you don’t.

Everyone loves that moment of exposition. Everyone wants to understand the puzzle pieces. Everyone wants that moment when Neo was told about the Matrix, and no one wants the fucking sequel.

After the reveal, everything else is just a sad old man with a projector screen offering promises he can’t keep.

Tell yourself it’s a Dorian Gray kind of situation. Tell yourself it’s a curse from a warlock. Tell yourself that I was bitten by a radioactive monkey from Sector 9.

Let me ask you, sunshine, does the reason matter that much when you get shit-canned? Does it matter that much when you or a loved one catches a stray bullet that was meant for some nearby asshat, or, even worse, intended for no one because some jerk-wad is stupid, drunk, irresponsible, mentally inept, or some combination of the above?

Maybe it does.

Maybe it doesn’t.

I’m keeping my profile as low as I can which is lower than you’d expect. I feel like Dr. Manhattan hiding in a fucking petting zoo.

The messages stopped coming, and I don’t know why.

The trail of dead bodies is stretching like a newly paved highway in the roadmap of my mind. Rivers of blood are raging beneath those roads with the same fury as the blood in my own veins.

Every blip of a siren, every abnormal shift in the shadows puts me on edge.

I’m not afraid of people coming for me. I know that cops and feds and countless others from the alphabet soup of agencies are trying to get me…now more than ever. I’m not afraid they’ll hurt me. I’m not afraid of what they’ll do to me.

I’m afraid of what I’ll do to them.

I’m afraid of what they’ll do to her.

The coin of reality is flipping in my mind when a man walks by and I see him pull his hand from his pocket to check the time. A card drops from his pocket.

Say what you will about Nemesis Nancy, but the fucker has cloak and dagger down to a science.

I snatch the card and make a retreat. I don’t need to be near civilians when I decide to read what it says. A location. Old and out of the way. A payphone…one of the few remaining in the city.

I’ll cut to the chase. Moriarity wants to meet.

It’s a little building out of the way on Sheridan. Low traffic. Non-descript. No guards, which both surprises me, and doesn’t.

Inside I find him at a table. No fun shadow tricks. No all-white villain suit with a brimmed hat. No cigar. No fat cat in his lap. He looks like someone who should be named Brad and says things like, “Oh, for sure, man…for sure…” with a cocksure smile and an upper-management haircut.

Before I can do much, he pulls up a tablet and angles it toward me so I can see inside the room. I can see the flowers in that old vase that I always thought looked so tacky. I see a small red dot appear and move around the room and then it’s gone.

Message clear. Guns and what-not. No shit…

“I know you already know this, but I find that some people, in the moment, care less about what they know and more about what they feel,” he sounds like a man who spends times making above-board deals in nice rooms with well-lacquered tables.

“So let’s get to it, sunshine…”

“Now see…that,” he says, “that’s an interesting phrase. Makes you come off like some cocky anti-hero type. Like it’s a little quip. A jab.”

“Fuck you.”

“It’s always sloppiness, you know? That’s what gets everyone fucked up in the end. Those loose ends you didn’t tie. Those ones you let get away. You ever seen the movie Heat?”


“Whole thing turns to shit, and why? Because Waingro was a fucking cowboy who couldn’t keep his finger off a trigger? No. Because one idiot says, ‘Hey, cool it, slick.’ Every point from there is mere trajectory.”

“Cool story, Ebert. You gonna give me the ‘ol two thumbs treatment now?”

“What I want,” he says with a little sigh, “is for you to recognize your position and react accordingly.”

“You want Cerberus on a leash.”

“I want Cerberus back in hell where he belongs.”

“So dot that fucking i, Waingro.”

I hear the sound of where a bullet strikes. I feel a tightness in my chest. I feel a sharp pain creeping through my nerves an muscles.

“How hard do you want to make this on yourself?” he asks.

I wish I could tell you I had an answer.


Dreamer – pt.7

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5Part 6

“I see zeros and ones til zeros are done and I hear, oh, I hear, oh, the heroes and nuns disappear in the sun. I circle and circle and circle and circle and where are the words that I wrote?  They hurt you, and hurt you, and hurt you, and hurt you with zeroes for sums and a mirror of one that can never reveal what you won’t…”

– Emily Chamberlain. Notes taken 08-02-2041. Third visitation.

The patient remains unstable. Further assessment required for a recommendation. The patient appears to have symptoms of psychological detachment. Root of condition currently unknown. Previous doctor, one Willam Salvatore, unreachable. Previous notes missing.

Personal note: Associated drawings and methods show elements of repetition and might be some mental concept that she has codified. Further analysis required.

He walked casually through the inky streets and their stained glass stars. He breathed in cool air that was like the tundra in his lungs. He could feel the disparity, like a man who drinks too cold water too quickly and now feels that strange freeze within his stomach.

He pulled the world to his view. Pulled forth miles of road that twisted and turned while his feet seemed almost inert. He called himself forward to the old wreckage of lean-tos and hold-fasts where things within the Mire would slink and slumber.

How many of them had become Mist? How many had always been? That line had always blurred for him and blurred rapidly.

He remembered asking once, “If we can enter and leave…can they?”

A lecture later, the question had been answered.

It always stuck with him, though, that he’d never once heard an answer of “no”.

He saw him standing there, amidst the people whose talked and gathered. A perfect scene that one might see in a movie where a crowd has gathered at the front of a theater building. No one saw the Mire as he did. No one felt the Fume the same. He could smell the shift about the man. The other faces looked like well-done oil paintings. His was crisp like a picture from an HD camera.

To the man, he would see a world that matched his own perception. So many did. It was how they failed. It was how they got burned.

He approached the man. No pretense. No foreplay. When their eyes met, he could see the uncertainty. He was trying to process. He recognized reality within rendition too late.

The scene froze, the sound like an old modem trying to connect. The crowd stuck with faces mid-sentence, but the oil texture moved like it was once again wet and running. The man was locked into a strange stance. Layer by layer he shivered and fluttered away as if made of salt in a wind tunnel.

Tyler watched him disappear. Smelled the scent of the surrounding Fume shift and churn. It smelled like burning cinnamon.

When it ended, the man was there amidst the crowd who resumed talking. This time, all the faces were oil.

Somewhere, in the land of Merit, a man would be sitting very still. His pulse little more than an echo. EKGs and whatever else a doctor might do would call him alive.

Tyler knew better.

He slipped away from the scene, noticed the ethereal eyes of trackers in the world around them. Dogs of the same pack, they no longer noticed his scent.

He pulled the world around him. Drew in the long dark alleys and wrapped himself through cold corridors and into old cathedrals. He listened for Echoes and felt the world for traces of the Glare. No one seemed to notice the dead spots in the Mire. Those places where life met lucid and melted together. No one noticed they were, in a way, all the same location in many different places.

He pulled himself through those broken halos. Drew forth the land where crimson waters churned under skies of bruised clouds and an angry black sun.

Tyler didn’t fear much, but he feared the Gallows.

Not far within the perimeter where rain fell like ash and winds wrote their fury in the sky like a whirling breeze within a room of thick smoke, he heard the sound of light coughing.

Behind a strange growth of earth and stone that curled and wrapped up into a mass of geometric boils, he saw him standing there.

“You look like shit, old man,” he said.

“I’ve been worse…”

“You sure about this?”

“Certainty is luxury we rarely get…”

Tyler let out a sigh. “Tell me what comes next…”

Warren stood up and put his hand on Tyler’s shoulder. “Follow my lead…”

This is a collaboration piece I’m working on with Tara at Caribou Crossing. She will be doing even-numbered parts and I’ll be doing odd-numbered parts.

Link for Part 8


He sat upon the ground, his arms wrapped about his knees with fingers that threw discarded petals on the ground – a small graveyard of she-loves-me-nots. He liked to believe that somewhere in the wind her words were whispering. He liked to believe that he knew what she was saying and that they were words as kind as she had been.

Darkness slipped over the horizon as death so often does to the breath of warmer days. It found him often in vacant halls and empty rooms that held more dust than memories. Held cobwebs clinging to old images that even he could scarcely recall.

Nights bit his tongue with the bitterness of pills that often tasted strong of the wrong kind of spirits. The sort of potions that helped him close his eyes, but never helped him sleep. The kind of cure that blurred the pictures in his mind, but never the feelings they seemed to frame.

Where daylight flew in streams and banners, he moved with ink trails behind feet that trudged as lead through paper catacombs. His visions little more than an old parade of charcoal phantoms that slipped and crawled beneath him upon the semi-gray canvas of the city that only knew one song and played it far too loudly…far too often.

Where long days and afternoons turned to tepid iterations of ceramic percussion and electrostatic hums, he told himself that, there, beneath the folds of static – woven through the interstice of suspirations – he could hear her singing…if he could listen hard enough. If he could listen loudly enough.

Years came as weekends – those points forever distant until they arrived. Those moments of endless possibility so swiftly exhausted and left as cooling embers of regrets – the final words of sentences that trailed on far too long and said far too little.

He lay there in his bed with skin that felt as thin as paper – written on too often – erased too frequently – kept too long for the ache of nostalgia that danced like phantoms upon each line. The written melody of memories that sounded far too much like the end of an old record where the needle has nothing left to say.

Where death came seeking, he sat with heavy eyes and the intention of a smile on his face, even as his lips had long forgotten what that meant. He listened to the cloth of midnight slide across his floors. He waited for the chill to tell him, at long last, what those words had been saying for so long – to see the graveyard of rose petals take flight through the wind of some new wonder.

When at last those eyes met his own, they came with words. “You should have been taken sooner,” they said. “So much sooner.”

He nodded in rhythm with the words, as though it were an old song whose notes stayed with him far beyond the failing scope of time. His eyes tried to whisper, “I know…”

“But you have been dead in your own way for so long,” the words whispered. “I could not seem to find you, there beneath the quiet blanket of your own demise.”

He blinked in rhythm with the words while others came to him with the heaviness of his own last breath. Words that came upon the winds so long ago. Words he knew he could hear but never seem to hold for long enough to find their meaning.

Words that said, “Let me go…”

“Let me go…”

Aberration – pt. 4

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

The world is red and dripping.

Whatever this thing is that you might call my costume looks more like Deadpool’s suit, and I assure you it wasn’t that color sixteen hours ago.

I’m asking myself what Superman would do and I’m realizing that it’s a dumb fucking question.

I’m thinking about the view. I’m thinking about the flowers. I’m thinking about the note that I saw.

I’m thinking about the fact that you’re wondering why I didn’t sweat the messenger. Why I didn’t put my fists into his stomach and wrap my fingers around his spine and yank it like a fucking wishbone.

I’ve seen enough Homles vs. Moriarty to know better.

This isn’t a fucking comic book, Sunshine.

Superman knew that Lex Luther was fucking with him, but he held himself back because he was a fucking cad. He played the same one-note song that all the good guys want to play. The lyrics of “we don’t stoop to their level”.

Words that echo back in bloodshed when assholes don’t get dealt with, so they come back again and again and again.

Take some fucking responsibility.

Not killing an asshole means that the next person he kills is on you just as much as it is him.

So now I’m walking through a hallway with my focus making sure my steps don’t pulverize reality. It’s raining indoors like that scene in Akira where Tetsuo turns a few idiot henchmen into the equivalent of overfilled water balloons.

Much like that scene, I’d done pretty much the same. I just didn’t do it telepathically. I used my hands. I hit so hard that nerves can barely register what just happened. Blood vessels rupture.

Imagine the force of a semi coalesced into the size of a man’s fist and then imagine that speeding toward a human body with the equivalent speed of a B-2 bomber. What’s left is fine liquid mist and drips like thick red molasses that’s been mixed with very fine sand.

I’m tuning out the screaming while I’m trying to figure out how to track this cocksucker down. People are getting over their idiotic “I gotta do what I was told to do” complex. They’re scattering and hiding now. They’re not trying to shoot anymore, and I never understand why they waste time in the first place.

At the end of the hall, I take the door off the hinges with all the delicate grace of a sumo wrestler doing a belly-flop into a pool. It hits someone and I see red-stained clothes smashed against the wall where it comes to a stop.

Some sad sack of a man is in front of me crying and pissing himself.

I feel like shit. I don’t even know this asshole.

Some jackhole, businessman for a company named Rylan Industrial.

I’m not an idiot. My mind knows that it’s a clue to whoever is pulling my strings.

I’m thinking about the guy who came to my home the last time and gave me the name of the target. And yeah, yeah, I followed him. No shit, Sherlock.

Dead end city – population: me.

Nothing but dead drops.

Two days later the messenger dies in a fucking traffic accident. So yeah, now I got that shit on my hands too. Whoever it is isn’t playing fast and loose.

I want to tell Rylan What’s-his-face that, at the very least, I’m gonna make it quick. I’m gonna make it painless.

Problem is…that’s not what I was told to do. I’m the flip-side of the previous henchmen, coming face-to-face with “I gotta do what I was told to do”.

I’ve heard a lot of people scream over the years, but this guy goes for longer than I wish he would’ve. He doesn’t pass out as fast as I was hoping. He keeps screaming. He begs. He promises me money. He says he’ll do anything.

The sound of bones and ligaments ripping and popping reminds me of how it sounds when you pull a drumstick off a turkey that’s still raw. But on a human, it’s louder. It’s worse. It’s bloody as hell.

What would Superman do if Lois was in danger? What if Lois was his yellow sun? What if she was his kryptonite? What if she was all those things at the same time?

I’m listening to this guy gurgle out his last syllables. They’re a slur of blood-soaked vowels.

I feel the phone that I was given start to vibrate. I answer it with blood-slick hands.

“Good job,” the voice says. It’s got some weird filter on it so it sounds like his voice-box fucked a robotic goat.

“Fuck you,” I tell him.

He just laughs.

The line goes dead.

Aberration – pt. 3

Previously: Part 1, Part 2

I’m sulking. My disposition not so unlike the place I call my overly-humble abode.

Above, people talk. Newspapers proclaim. Everyone has a fucking opinion. None of them are gentle. None of them are kind.

No one asks the bullet how it feels. It’s just the extension of the gun, which is the extension of the hand, which is the extension of the sick mind that pulled the trigger.

So I’m the mind, arm, hand, gun, trigger, and bullet. I’m the blame in all directions.

I’m the fault line and the earthquake.

I’m thinking about Superman.

He could have ended it all, you know?

How many problems did the world have because of him? More than he ever solved. Villains showed up because of him. He never dealt with them appropriately. They came back. They did worse.

A dog with rabies bites someone, you gotta put it down. Cujo can’t be Mr. Cuddles anymore. No one wants to own that shit, but there it is.

And he could have put all the problems away. He knew the cure – it was kryptonite. He just didn’t have the balls.

I’m finding that I’m not so different.

I think about my own kryptonite. The thing that puts me down. The fucking off-button that I’m too chickenshit to push.

I’m sulking while the world above laments. I’m alive and well while countless others are dead.

I turn the details around in my head until I have a headache. Until it hurts more than I want to admit. I talk out loud – it’s the only conversation I get these days.

The time passes and the sound of water and rats plays for me like the world’s worst radio station. I’m on edge while I wait and wait some more. Wait for the message that I know is coming.

You don’t do this shit for as long as I have without knowing that some Lex Luther archetype is going to put the period at the end of the sentence that he started writing. It began with a capital asshole on building, punctuated it with a weakness that no one but me should have known about…and now…

I wait for the period and hope it’s not an exclamation point.

I hear the feet trudging through the water before I ever see a person. I can hear him breathing. I can tell it’s a he before he gets anywhere near me. I wait for him to do the classic movie villain schtik and stay cloaked in shadow – some shitty villain-of-the-week for some hack-written T.V. show.

He waltzes in, dusting his hands off like he’s just been touching all the things he must have touched to walk his candy ass all the way into my lair.

He doesn’t stop in a shadowed pose. He waltzes right in. Messenger boy of Mr. Mysterious. He’s got some balls on him, or he’s more afraid of the one holding his leash than he is of me.

But I’m not Leonidas. I’m not in the business of killing the messenger.

This isn’t 300, Sunshine.

“I’m sure you can already guess,” the man says.

“How do I know this is even legit?” I say. My knuckles are tense. I can feel the pressure of my entire body flexing. I want to pin this shitbag to the wall with my fists. The back of my mind is telling me that this isn’t some bullshit ploy. It’s telling me this is for real.

I don’t need him to know that.

“Next time you take in the view, pay attention to the flowers,” he says.

Right then, I know it’s for real. He doesn’t need to say anymore. I don’t need him to. I don’t want him to.

My teeth are clenching so hard I could sheer a steel rod with my fucking molars.

I’m not Superman. I don’t know what he would do. He wouldn’t be rattled if someone threatened his kryptonite. It would be like threatening him with a gold star sticker and a pat on the fucking back.

I listen to the man walk out as casually as he walked in.

This is how villains are made.

Villains…and sometimes…something even worse.

Dreamer – pt.5

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

“You spend so long adrift in a world where nothing seems material. A landscape of oil paint and charcoal clouds. Those faces you see grinning back are the Cheshire cat. Until they’re not. You only get to make that mistake one…”

He moved slow, features cowered low behind a high collar – spindly body tucked tightly in the cloth of a too-large coat. His coughs came ragged and wet like a man wearing sickness in his veins as thick and heavy as most of the denizens of the Carmine wore booze and prism in their own.

Red light flooded like blood, pumping through the streets and alleys in the distorted rhythm of music that merged and echoed, rattled off the walls like ghosts of eternity doing battle with the threat of good morning.

Vacant eyes peered out with faces upturned to a sky that they probably couldn’t see.

People stood with cigarettes hanging from their mouths, serpents of ash slithering away from their lips before leaping to the ground in a declaration of resignation.

All Warren could see – all he could hear – was the hum that still vibrated in his very heart. Like a touch from a tuning fork had lept into his skin and refused to leave.

He’d left what breadcrumbs he could. He’d tried to thread the needle as smoothly as he could. Even then, the hounds at been at his heels the moment he tried to exit the Drain. The Fume was thin where he’d walked. A world that felt wrongly certain. Strangely whole. A land where water felt wet and winds were more than whispers.

He’d wanted to visit the Vista but the eyes were watching him now. They could smell him. They’d tasted his frequency.

His only other avenue was the Gallows.

Ducking through grimy avenues, he slipped into a house that made others look regal in a land that made carnal delights look divine and refuse looks like respite. Inside was the normal sort that he’d expect to find. Eyes mostly closed to hide pupils that were far too wide. Needles hanging from arms. Pulses were a luxury for most who lingered there. Most would see their own relegated to the past tense, or try their hardest to do so.

Calvin had not been so different. But then, Calvin had been entirely different.

They’d all been different.

Broken things that didn’t understand why their minds were the way they were. Trying to find an escape from some false insanity in a truer version of the same.

Trying to escape the very thing everyone else was trying to run to.

There was a sad irony in both cases.

Warren moved amongst the barely living and the mostly dead to find a place tucked far from where eyes would wander and minds would care. Cradled neatly in the detritus of those that the world silently hoped would snuff out their own candles so they wouldn’t have to watch it happen in the sunlight.

His feet were in the water as he pushed through the Valley and into the Mire. He tried to be quick. Called out to the waters that ran gray. Where the world felt solid in the way a dream does when it’s too much like the waking world. He waited for a moment – his mind like fingers on an erratic pulse. The fly feeling the web for the spider feeling for the fly.

When silence met his nerves he began to walk.

He called out for the waters that rolled black and reflected like blood in the moonlight. Called out for the land where every terror you’ve dreamt of was swimming in the murk like chaos in a pit of tar and ashes. He moved fast as the world changed to meet him. Felt the wind deaden, the Fume press against him like a towel pressed upon his face and soaked in motor oil. He moved with steps that sank into a world that felt of mud and sewage.

He felt the webs tremble. He heard the Tracer like the sound of funeral bell whose tone and timber built while sounding very much like it was playing in reverse.

The pitch of his own frequency railed and rallied at the sound like a little boy being called home by his mother. He felt the knots in his stomach as the feeling of the Glare grew like frostbite in the air.

He knew his steps were damned by either success or failure.

Not even tracers would follow into the Gallows. The land where nightmares rage and terrors toil. Even as he heard the Tracer slip away with a piercing shriek, he was granted his reward: a land where the clouds moved like monsters in the sky, looking with eyes of a million bend and bloated stars. Where all the shadows seeped and slithered and coiled about with a hunger of demons.

This is a collaboration piece I’m working on with Tara at Caribou Crossing. She will be doing even-numbered parts and I’ll be doing odd-numbered parts.

Link for Part 6

100 Words – pt. 11

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10

There are questions that we inevitably ask ourselves.

How far are we willing to go and for what?

Are there lines we aren’t willing to cross?

Can we change?

Put the barrel of a revolver in the mouth of a hungover frat boy and maybe there’s a tinge of regret. Whatever service he was going to be for…whatever it was I was working against…had to be minimal. It had to be, right?

The old lady…that was one of those moments where the line moved. One of those moments where, had you asked me those three questions above, I would found that I had sorely misjudged myself. I was willing to go further. I was willing to cross that line. I was a coward, and that wasn’t going to change.

Ms. Kurtzman was a barrage of begging. A storm of tears and snot. A scene drowned out by the serpent sound in my skull that danced to a symphony of blooming sadism.

Part of me wondered how many words I even had left. Wondered where they’d gone. Wondered how I’d look when I was the one falling to pieces while Winston pulled his proverbial trigger.

And what had I done with the words I’d been given?

They’d been doled out in four-letter increments. The sounds of profanity when things went sideways…because things always went sideways. Just enough to make me think that it was never just dumb luck – it was the game, and it was rigged.

But that was the deal. They want you to win the battle, but they make sure you can’t win the war.

My hundred words – however many I’d used – was, if transcribed, something that would have looked like a dictation of an angry, teenage child playing an online shooter.

I took a moment while Ms. Kurzman wept, her voice so clogged with sadness that she choked on her words. While the serpent sang its merry song of a downward spiral that felt too much like a needle on a record that’s been playing too long.

I looked at Alice. There in her mother’s arms. Composed. Quiet. Center of the fucking storm.

I threw up. Right there. Doubled over and puked my brains out while the serpent laughed and Ms. Kurtzman cried. And then I ran.

Part of me wanted to just start screaming. Burn my words. Fuck em all. Take my medicine.

I knew. I knew there’d be repercussions.

I ran down the road and let my gun fall to the pavement. I cried like a man who forgot how to do it correctly. I wanted to speak, but for all that time, words seemed elusive – held hostage to some unknown time of disuse and fear.

“I can’t,” I said in a voice that I didn’t even recognize. “I can’t…I can’t…”

I kept running. When I heard the sirens I just ran faster. I don’t even know why I cared. Like a man falling off a cliff and flapping his arms. I have no idea what I thought was left for me. Redemption was done. Game over.

I ducked down an alley and I heard cars squeal to a stop. I heard doors open and feet moving. I heard a gun fire and felt a spray of concrete from where the bullet hit.

I ran into the open and kept going. I saw it – a cluster of old housing with the kind of yards that look like they’re on the verge of an accidental rummage sale.

“Freeze!” I heard someone yell.

I made it to the broken fence of someone’s dead, white picket fence dream and felt the sting of a bullet while I tried to get over it.

“Fuck!” I said. “Fuck…fuck…”

I felt my chest growing heavy. I heard the sound of the storm in my head. I felt the world going dark and darker still.

“I don’t…” I said.

That was it.

Those were my articulate last words. I didn’t get to look at Winston and tell him to go fuck himself. I didn’t get to stop and have some heartfelt confession with a priest. I didn’t get to tell anyone that I loved them.

I never got to say I was sorry.

While the world was going dim, I saw the man approaching, gun still in hand while he said something over his radio with that little walkie they always have clipped to their chest nowadays.

I didn’t hear the sound of eternity rushing forward. I didn’t see a bright light. I didn’t hear the roar of an engine, but I heard the impact when the car hit the officer.

I watched while the car sped away.

I watched while another man approached his body.

I didn’t need to hear to know that, when he knelt down to the wreck of a body left on the pavement, he was saying, “Do you want to live?”

“So why am I telling you this?”

She’s looking at me with those vacant eyes, her mouth starts to open, and I give her that look that says, “Really?”

“I’m telling you this because no one told me. I’m telling you this because you’re fucked. Sure as I was. You don’t win this game. You don’t find a way out. You just suffer…”

I take the last drag of my cigarette and I snuff it out in her ashtray.

“…and then you die.”

I let it sink in. I’m wondering how many times Winston tried to give people a head’s up. I’m wondering how many times he saw the same idiots do the same shit before he realized that it all rolls downhill – direction irrelevant. I’m wondering how many it’ll take before I become the same way.

“Someone once told me, and I’m going to tell you – everyone thinks it’s about the big fish, but it isn’t.” I point to the envelope that, until a moment ago, wasn’t there. “You’ll be getting those from time to time. You’re going to fuck up. Nothing I say is going to make that make sense. Sometimes we have to shoot ourselves in the foot a few times before we appreciate our ability to walk.”

I stand and walked to the door. I stop and look back at her – that look of confusion as thick as the indifference on my own.

“By the way,” I say. Then I sigh, “You know what? You’ll figure it out.”

100 Words – pt. 10

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9

You’ve never had to dig a grave, have you?

No…That was a rhetorical question. I know you haven’t. For what it’s worth, neither have I. Not the literal kind. But we’ve all dug them metaphorically.

There’s that point where you find yourself torn between wishing you were done and hoping you never are, because once you’re done…once you’re REALLY done…that’s it, isn’t it? It’s over then. All those little whispers in the back of your mind finally stop deliberating. El Fin. Roll credits.

I’d been stuck in the efforts of digging since…I don’t even remember. Like a man who mines coal trying to remember his first callous. I couldn’t have told you what city I was going to or what city I’d started in. I couldn’t remember faces anymore. Time was some obscure concept like gravity – I knew it was passing, but I didn’t really understand it.

I’d fought the current. A man reaching for shore. A man scraping and clawing for a grip of driftwood, a vine, a rope, a hand…anything…

You can only do it for so long. You finally wear down. We all wear down. We realize that we’re reaching for yesterday. We’re reaching for what’s not there anymore. We’re reaching for God and finding Neizche.

And we finally let go.

Before we do – while we struggle for every breath – time is like syrup. It’s the slow drip of water from icicles in a cave that’s just barely warm enough for ice to melt…because for a while, at least as we see it, every second counts. Every second matters. Every second is the one before we’re saved. Before we find salvation. Before someone grabs our hand and pulls us ashore.

Once the illusion dies, everything changes.

Time becomes the stream itself – rapid and violent. It shifts and moves you like a leaf in a storm – like that fucking cow in the movie Twister. All that detail washes away – it’s all a big blur.

Everything but the names.

Jonathan Maravilla – 2901 Viola Drive
Joel Holmstead – 107 Rockmore Avenue – Apt. B
Margaret Fitzgerald – 23200 Sheridan Road
Darren Rouch – 6930 Magnolia
Rosalie Esposito – 4220 Hockenberry Lane

I could keep going, but you probably get the idea.

I don’t know where they lived. Not really. Time was a court jester juggling my perspective. Distance felt relative. Locations seemed ephemeral. A meeting with Winston in a Sbarros, another in an old apartment building – I don’t know if I was living there or not, another in an old garage that smelled like gasoline and grass clippings. There were others. There was pain – but never from him anymore.

You can’t outrun tomorrow. Once you realize that your fear of death is bigger than your fear of living – that your sorrow for the things you’ve done is outweighed by the fear of what will happen if you don’t continue…you walk forward like a man on pharmaceutical grade medication – glassy-eyed and docile.

I could tell you about the kills I remember. I could tell you about how I kept trying to piece it together, if for no other reason than to understand the how and why of it, but this isn’t one of those stories about redemption and truth. This isn’t the story of how I became John McClane and took down Hans Gruber.

I want to tell you how it came to an end. I want to tell you how I finished my words. How I left things.

It wasn’t pretty.

It wasn’t heroic.

The beginning of the end was Alice Kurtzman – 52119 Bradner Street.

I’ve had moments along the way where I was hesitant. I’ve had moments where I told myself that what I was doing was mercy for some. I’ve had moments that showed me the reflection in the mirror that I didn’t want to see – the one that let me know that I wasn’t a fleeing from a madman so that I could save others from his malice – I was destroying others with his malice so that I could flee.

I’ve had moments when I opened doors on the elderly. Been met with the apologetic eyes of the soon-to-be-dead who were mothers and fathers. I’ve heard preachers in a whirlwind of profanity and a sad woman who had just been beaten senseless the night before by a drunk husband pray under her breath for forgiveness.

I’ve put people in the ground who were better than I ever was or ever would have been. I’ve fed myself lines of justification, and you’ve heard most of them. Hollow words, but sometimes we need to tell ourselves a lie to make the truth sweet enough to stomach.

But when you kick in the door and see the picture on the refrigerator, lettering that’s not quite perfect, figures not quite drawn to scale, and the name written at the bottom is that of a child. And that name is Alice Kurtzman…

Time slows down all over again.

We’re at the moment that the river meets the waterfall. We grasp and we grapple all over again. We gave up hope, but only because we didn’t see the mouth of hell as it sped towards us.

I felt my stomach grow cold like I’d swallowed liquid nitrogen.

The sound of people crying was drowned out by the voice in my head. It was like a blender filled with ball bearings if one could laugh. And it just kept saying, over and over again, “Don’t they look like razor blades? Don’t they look majestic?”

The Soldier – pt.5

Previously: Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

A loud knock sounded.

“You in or out, Benny?” Linhander said with a voice that was sharper than the sound of his knuckles on the old, oak table.

Bentwhistle looked at the wooden cards in his hand, but his mind dwelled on another game entirely – one whose stakes were more than the pile of tabers in the center of the table. His eyes drifted up to the men who sat around him – loyalists all. Not long ago, they would have died for the man that they’d only recently sent floating away into oblivion.

Likely, some of them felt proud about what they’d done.

He put two of his cards down – Rook and Sparrow – two of the men let out huffs while Linhander slammed his own cards down. “I’d almost call you a damn cheat if I didn’t know any better,” he said – clearly annoyed.

“Glad you know better, then,” Ben said as he scraped the tabers towards himself. “And now, if you’ll excuse me…”

“Take the money and run, eh? That’s how it is?” Tenpick said. “Like a fuckin’ cutpurse, this one.”

Vimmer took a sip from his cup. “Gotta go console the sad mistress,” he said while he wiped the swill from his lips.

Ben put his hands on the table and stared at Vimmer.

The room was quiet as a morgue.

“Stars, Benny,” Vimmer said as he shrank back like a cat from water, “just fuckin’ with you is all.”

“Show some fucking respect, Vim,” Bentwhistle said.

No one moved as he put his winnings in his satchel and began to turn.

“Spilled fuckin’ milk if you asked me,” Vim said under his breath.

Ben looked back. Tenpick and Linhander slid away from the table. Vimmer looked back and forth like a man in his cups trying to figure out which way was left or right.

“That’s two,” Ben said, his fingers extended on the gauntlet that was his false hand. “Don’t make it three, Vim. You won’t get a fourth.”

They sat quietly as Ben strode away. The hallways flickered with the glow of Cinder Lamps that cast shadows that always seemed oddly circular. Out in the oceanic void, the darkness swam eternal while the myriad dots of light floated in the beyond like celestial fireflies in the devil’s abyss.

He hadn’t liked sending Tes to the Amber district. He knew what it was. Everyone knew what it was. Even royalty walked cautiously there. Too many people drunk, or stupid, or both. Too many people poor or greedy, or both. That it kept the darker appetites of a world grown too hungry was the only reason it was allowed to linger.

It was like a stitch wurm grown fat around a man’s heart. Too dangerous to cut it out, the medic says. So they feed it just enough poison to slow its growth. But it’s enough that it’s still poison. And it’s never enough to kill it.

He had to believe she’d be safe. She was strong. Grieving? Sure. Betrayed? Absolutely. But Tes would limp out of the Amber with a man’s balls in her pocket before they let her bury her there.

Ben put it from mind while he wound around the staircase that separated the decks of Silvervale. He took to the lower half and wound through the sprawl of shops and houses. The avenues dotted with homes he could never afford; lived in by people he would end up dying to protect.

At the southern ridge where the glass kissed the lips of eternity beyond, he took the spiral stairs lower still into a little cul de sac of stacked domiciles.

When he reached the door, it was already partially opened. A voice, raspy as if it were coming from a throat made of old parchment spoke:

“Men they do go swimming, just
I jest, oh just you wait there, grinning
Lest you now come crawling, sinning,
Cawing like some crow who’s calling
Now, for naught, are new beginnings…”

Ben entered the room that looked tiny compared to how much space it surely had. Cloaked in shadow like a man high on thistle-sap and paranoia. He was a worn and wrinkled creature of a man. Stooped back with a neck that seemed too long and perpetually rounded down. A nose both too short and too sharp, and eyes that seemed both too large and too far apart.

Ben walked over to him and stared at the balding head that was craned so hard that the man must only see wood grain. “You didn’t say it would come to this,” Ben said as he entered. “You never said he’d die.”

“Why, oh why? They do or die, or don’t they? Ben, oh little Ben, they won’t stay buried – no – for long – oh yes – you guess and guess by much distress and then again like Tes – oh, Tes, such travesty I must confess, I weep for thee – and you and she but Ben, oh little Ben, I must digress again…”

Ben slammed his hand on the table, the gauntlet sent cracks through the wood. “I need answers. Something real. Not these…these…these fucking riddles.”

He reached out faster than any old man should be able to and grabbed Bentwhistle’s false hand. “I gave you this and more, boy,” he said, his words no longer a song. He raised his head to meet Ben’s eyes – they had the look of milk and fire swirled together. “Now,” he said as he released Ben’s hand, “what do you need and why to you need it? What can you pay and why should I heed it? Offer you bounty or blood or a soul? The heavens or hell or a lump made of coal?”

Bentwhistle sighed as he sat at the table. “Whatever it takes,” he said, knowing he wouldn’t know until it was far too late what that would cost him.


This is a collaboration with Michael of Afterwards. We have no idea where we’re going with this. Only thing you can count on is that I’m doing even numbered posts, and he’s doing odd numbered posts.

Link for Part 6 will eventually be here

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