Saturday, December 22, 2012


1921 British Sixpence. 

The coin was maybe a little smaller than a nickel; tarnish creeping across the silver like pond scum.  A gentlemanly looking man with a short, tightly-combed haircut and a thick mustache looked left across the coin.  The coin sat nestled on a stained purple cushion.  The handwritten tag leaned against the cushion.

“Brian May uses coins like that to play guitar with instead of a pick.”

Jun turned.  Three glass display cases, each staggered slightly, and a bookshelf that obscured half of the front desk were between him and the stooped old man behind the desk, but the man seemed to know where Jun was despite the view.  His voice was accented, something coarse and throaty.  Jun guessed it was German but the subtleties of distinguishing foreign accents had always been lost on him.  The man’s accent could have been Pakistani for all he knew.

“Who’s Brian May?”

“He was Queen’s guitarist.”

“Isn’t Queen still around?”

The old man snorted softly.  “I guess so.  Technically.  It just isn’t the same without Freddie Mercury’s voice.  It’s like taking a man’s hand and sewing on a different one.  Is he still the same whole?”

“I guess.”

He snorted again.  Jun moved on, his gaze falling on an octagonal display case to his right.  Inside the case was a small, square platform made of dark wood.  Atop the platform rested a clean white handkerchief, folded neatly into a square slightly larger than Jun’s palm.

Pocket full of sunshine.
Guaranteed to brighten the darkest of days.

Jun stared at the little white tag and made a face.  What shit.  He let his eyes wander about the store looking for his next stop when the glass display case with the ridiculous little handkerchief caught his eye again.  Brow furrowed, mouth set in a tight line, Jun stared at the display case half expecting to see some faint luminescence emanating from the pristine white cloth.  When no such display was made, Jun rolled his eyes.  What shit.  The next display case over was empty.  No trinket, no pedestal or cushion, and no handwritten tag.  Next to the empty display case was a small end table.  It looked like the same wood as the bottoms of the display cases and the little pedestal underneath the handkerchief, but where those had a rough, more natural finish the end table was polished to a mirrored sheen.  The dark whorls in the wood seemed to descend for miles, far deeper than the underside of the table, past the little curio shop’s dusty floor and into the rocky exterior of the Earth’s crust.  Jun wondered for a moment if the whorls ever ended.  Maybe there was a matching table with matching whorls on the exact other side of the Earth.  Maybe someone was standing over that table and peering into the depths, wondering about the exact other side of the Earth.  He stared at the end table for nearly a full minute before noticing that something was resting atop the table.  It was a gardening trowel with a contoured orange handle made of plastic and a six inch blade that was white where it was not so worn that the metal underneath shown through.  A white tag rested flat against the table and read simply:

Garden trowel.

Jun picked up the little white tag, running his thumb over the front.  The card was oddly textured, like miniscule paper pebbles were imbedded just below the surface.  He flipped it over.  There was no writing on the back.  Garden trowel.  No descriptions, no clever phrases, no childish imaginings; just “garden trowel”.  Jun set the card back down and stared at the trowel.  Something had to be special about it, something made it worthwhile for the stooped old man at the front desk to have bought it and put it on display.  Jun looked left and, sure that the old man could not possibly see him through all the displays and shelves, ran a finger over edge of the trowel.  It was cool to the touch without being cold and the edge was so dull it was almost flat.  His finger wandered further up the trowel.  The grooved side of the handle was worn smooth like a well-used basketball, devoid of any grip.  Light flickered off the blade of the trowel giving off a gray-blue reflection, contrasting with the pale yellow of the lamps placed sparingly across the shop.  Jun blinked.  The blade seemed to be reflecting that cloudy blue in a pattern.  Every few seconds a flash of slate light rolled across blade before it descended back into darkness.  A soft crunch accompanied the next shift from light to dark, like metal cutting through soft soil.  Jun pulled his hand back as if the gardening tool had become a snake, rearing back and ready to strike.

There was no second crunch.  The shifts from light to dark stopped.  Jun was once again staring at a “Garden trowel.”

Jun ran his tongue around the inside of his mouth and swallowed hard, Adam’s apple jerking with the strain.  His heart tripped over itself, stumbling drunkenly around his chest cavity and a cold, tingling buzz filled him to the point of overflow.  Jun opened and closed his hands.  The cold made his fingers feel brittle and stiff.  His eyes flicked around the shop looking for lights that would reflect blue or a rocking chair rolling over a dead leaf that blew in off the street, but the shop had no overhead lighting and the lamps scattered around the room all gave off a dull yellow light.  There were no rocking chairs and the floor was immaculate.  He ran a hand over his jaw and cheek.  He had shaved this morning and there was not enough stubble to give the gesture any real feel, but it had always seemed like a thing men did when they wanted to look more tired than scared in the face of the unusual.  Some part of Jun’s mind was screaming at him, but the thought was distant and muffled like someone buried alive and crying out for help.  It was the part of him that had secretly believed in Santa Clause until he was twelve; the part that had been unable to resist a trip into the little curio shop.  It was the part of Jun that he had learned was better left ignored.  Jun snorted, rolled his eyes with the kind of melodrama that only a high school student can manage, and gripped the trowel’s handle firmly. 

Light rolled across the blade briefly; a cloudy day reflected in the curve of the trowel.  Light to dark, light to dark.  The crunch of earth and the wet, stifling heat of summer replaced the still coolness of the shop.  Crunch.  Crunch.  Crunch.  Jun licked his lips and tasted salt. 

He was starting a garden.  He had known from the moment he had moved into this house that the western side of the house would be the perfect place for a small garden and now that the unending showers of spring had past, he could finally start.  Crunch.  Crunch.  Crunch.  The trowel bit into the earth, carving out a bed for the new, nutrient-enriched soil that would usher Jun’s garden into the world.  Then the ground gave way and he saw a small tunnel running beneath his garden to-be.  He sighed and wondered how one went about humanely chasing away whatever was living in his garden.  Not willing to cave the tunnel in and unsure of how to continue otherwise, Jun sat back on his heels and stared into the hole.

A raspy screech floated out of the hole, almost too faint to hear.  Jun cocked his head to the side.  The screech repeated itself and for a moment Jun was sure he had collapsed the tunnels and trapped something down below.  Jun dug.  Careful never to bury the trowel so deep that he might accidently hurt the trapped animal, Jun started digging out the tunnels.  The screeches grew louder and Jun thought he could hear a scrabbling sound not too far down; claws trying to cut an escape route.  Jun scraped at the edges of the hole, widening it so that whatever was trapped could get out.

Sharp, needle-like pain tore at the back of his hand.  Jun jerked back and bit down a gasp. A bead of blood oozed from a small, shallow groove in his hand.  A small shard of rock stuck out from one end of the cut.  Jun picked the rock out of his hand, set the trowel down, and went to work widening the hole with his hands.  A dozen more stabs of pain stripped flesh from his hands.  Shards of rock the size of his fingernail were lodged deep into the back of his hand and blood was now flowing freely.  Jun scrambled backwards.  Pale, long-fingered hands clawed at the edges of the hole, some still hefting sharpened chunks of rock.  The faces that clambered over the edge of the hole were caricatures of human faces.  Smaller than an infant’s, their flat, wide heads were savagely scarred and sporting overly large mouths filled with splintered, cracked masses of ruined teeth.  Jun screamed.  He screamed and screamed until the humid summer air dissipated and all traces of sunlight withered away.  He screamed and fell backward, knocking a display to the floor.  The glass case shattered and a freckled conch shell skittered across the floor.  Jun screamed and shambled out onto the cobblestone road, clutching at his hands, trying to stem the phantom bleeding.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

1, 2, 3

Somewhere a piano chimed sweetly.

1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3…

A man danced on stage, perfectly in-time with the piano.  He was exquisitely dressed, as was his partner; a corpse he led with aqueous grace despite the dead weight.

1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3…

The spotlight cut out and drowned the stage in darkness.

1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3…

The spotlight flared to life.  The dancer lay on his back, staked to the stage with a metal pipe.  The corpse held the pipe in both hands, posed, hips straddling hips, back arched, head titled upward, face dotted with blood.

1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3…

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Two-for Tuesday

Yup, I went with that lame an alliteration.  Deal with it.

So I went back and touched up a story I posted earlier, Salvation.  I always enjoyed the story itself, but there were enough rough edges that I wasn't satisfied.  So I finally went back and sanded it down a bit.  The changes aren't major, but they smooth things out rather well in my opinion.  I'm not gonna re-post the story entirely but I did want to draw attention to it.

I also (more obviously) posted another story.  I like the story a lot, but the title...the title is weak.  It's basically a stand-in that I've yet to find a replacement for.  If any of the three people that ever read this blog have any better ideas I would love to hear them.

An Intruder

I stepped into my kitchen and found a stranger perched atop my counter.  Adrenaline surged.  Fight or flight instincts howled at me to run.  Every muscle in my body contracted.  I froze.  There was a stranger in my kitchen.  The intruder rocked slowly back and slowly forward.  With each movement he drew a kitchen knife across his thigh.  His jeans were ripped and bloodied and beads of blood dripped off the knife he had taken from my kitchen.  Back and forth again.

I needed to move.  I was currently standing between him and the front door.  None of my windows were connected to the fire escape and my apartment was seven stories up.  Doing bodily harm to another human being was a much simpler way to exit a building than jumping out a seventh floor window.  Had I retained the faintest amount of bodily function I would have stepped aside and offered him the door.  Let the police deal with the armed intruder after the fact.

I was less than ten feet from the intruder and I could hear my heartbeat.  I was shaking.  My teeth were chattering.  I had slammed the front door shut when I had come in.  I had jangled my keys from hand to hand and flung my shoes off, but none of this seemed to have registered with the intruder.  Still he sat atop my counter, slowly rocking himself back and forth, knife in hand. 

He resembled a cautionary tale parents use to keep their kids in-line.  “Stay in school or you could end up like this.”  The blue jeans he was wearing were at least a size too big for him.  Splatters of paint, mostly beige and white and that creamy yellow color so many suburbs seem to love, had dried in a pattern that closely resembled a Rorschach.  The knees of both legs were worn through and the skin below was covered in an ugly tangle of thick grime and matted hair.  He had on a dark green hoodie, hood up, which had retained only a ghost of its former color.  It had probably never been a cheery mint but the hoodie’s original color had very likely been a few shades lighter than its present state.  Thick, greasy lengths of hair hung inside the hood framing the frostbitten tip of his nose.  I was very glad that the sleeves swallowed his hands up because I doubted they would have been spared the harshness of winter. 

I still had not managed any movement, but all of the observations told me that the wheels were turning in my head.  I could feel my thoughts trying to gain traction. 

There was blood on my knife (I had come to the conclusion at some point that the knife he was holding was my own) and none of it had dried.


One word whispered through my thoughts again and again and again and again.  Blood.  There was blood on the knife in his hands.  Back and forth he rocked, sawing gently through his own thigh.  Thin rivulets of blood ran down his leg, spilled over my counter, and dribbled down to the floor.

I gagged and closed my eyes as tightly as I could manage, telling myself not to throw-up.  I dropped to one knee and still needed to prop myself up with my right hand.  I opened my eyes and the world wobbled like it had drunk far more than was good for it, but if the intruder noticed he paid no mind.  He was managing to stay silently seated through it all.

He seemed so unaware; almost catatonic.  Were it not so impossible, I might have thought he had not noticed me at all.  The commotion I had caused coming through the front door had not stirred him from his reverie, nor had my stumbling about a moment ago.  That fact alone unnerved me more than any other.  There was something wrong with this man.  I was completely sure that he was unbalanced and sooner or later something would set him off.

The intruder continued rocking. 

Back and forth. 

Back and forth.

The knife in his hand rocked with him, no longer able to open any new wounds, just slowly shredding exposed tissue.  Sooner or later he would hit bone.  I wondered if he would keep cutting even then.  I wished I knew how long it would take him to bleed out when he inevitably hit the big artery that ran through each leg.  I wished I knew how long it would take him to hit that artery.

Tears blurred my vision and mucus built up in my nose, I blinked and sniffled.  A cramp in my calf relented.  The return of bodily functions continued with my bladder.  It released.  My entire body was on pins and needles like I had managed to let everything go to sleep at once.  My hand scrambled into my pocket and gripped my phone.  It took three tries for my thumb to actually unlock the phone.  The phone chirped happily; glad to finally be of service.

The intruder turned his head, slowly.  The motion was every bit as trance-like as his rocking.  The frostbite covered far more than just the tip of his nose.  It spread across his face like he was blushing with ice water instead of blood.  His eyes were dark, his pupils pushing the irises into near nonexistence.  He blinked.  Recognition flickered in his eyes and then faded away again like a radio station from one town over.  He drew the knife up to eye-level and stared, turning it over and watching the light play off the blade.  Recognition tuned back in and the intruder buried the knife into his throat.  A sheet of blood poured over his hand and down my counter.  He twisted the knife once and fell from the counter.  Blood pooled around him, expanding in-time to his heart’s inane beating.  The linoleum floor had driven the knife sideways, ripping half his throat out.

I found my voice and screamed until my throat bled.


The police lead me out of my apartment and sat me down in the lobby with a Styrofoam cup of coffee and a wool blanket.  Sometime later a young patrolman was brought to me by an older man.  The patrolman apologized awkwardly.  Apparently he had nearly shot me when I had not put my hands on my head as ordered.  I nodded and the older man led the patrolman away.

The older man came back later and introduced himself as the detective in-charge of my situation.  He shook my hand and asked me a few questions.  I must have given him the right answers because he wandered off amiably enough.

Another indiscriminate amount of time later, the detective came back.  I caught his name this time, Detective Riley.  He looked tired and rumpled.  His overcoat still had dark patches on it from the falling snow and his graying hair was not staying parted properly.  He kept rubbing at the stubble on his jaw like he was apologizing for it being there.  He told me that nothing was official, but between the two of us it was looking a lot like a drug-related incident.  This year’s winter was exceptionally harsh and much of the transient population was literally freezing to death in the streets.  This guy had probably taken something—Meth addiction can be nasty—and then gotten himself lost and sought shelter.  He had probably wandered the apartment building until he found an unlocked door and then gone off the deep end.  Riley said he’s seen drugs do all kinds of screwy shit to people’s minds.  The guy had most assuredly been in a haze through all of it.  His hand was warm on my shoulder, even through the blanket.

“I’m sorry about all this, but we are still going to need to take an official statement from you.  Maybe tomorrow we can set something up, give yourself a little time to level out.  And of course the city will offer you counseling if you’d like.”

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Miss May I

Okay, between a nasty bought of writer's block, focusing on school, and then a trip to the nation's capital I've seriously neglected this blog.  It's well past time for some new content and I'm gonna offer some up whether I've got a story ready or not.

I'm a bit of a metalhead and I've loved both of Miss May I's previous albums so of course I'm listening to the two singles they released early over and over and over to get pumped for their next album.  And since what is a blog if not an ego-trip in which the writer pukes his/her thoughts and feelings all over the internet (whether or not anyone cares) I'm going to indulge in the time-honored tradition of sharing.  Without further ado, my thoughts:

Hey Mister is the album's first single and comes with an interesting music video that doesn't quite live up to the twisted Relentless Chaos video, the raw Forgive and Forget, or the surprisingly touching Masses of a Dying Breed but hey, that's a lot to live up to.  Fortunately the music itself is plenty good.  The production is still crisp but unobtrusive (something plenty of other bands can't quite nail down), Levi's screams are monstrous, both guitarists tear through the song constantly in danger of setting their guitars on fire, and Boyd's work on the drums is just destructive.  Neff's clean vocals aren't used as heavily as they might've been, as if Levi's anger is just too overwhelming for anything civil to push through.  This could just be me but I definitely didn't dig the lyrics as much as I did for most of their previous songs.  It's not that they're not good, I just can't relate to the focal point of his anger.

The first time I listened to Day by Day it gave me goosebumps just thinking of the kind of moshpits that it would orchestrate.  I want in on this shit.  Now.  Levi's screams aren't as full-throated throughout the song as usual, he sounds a bit more strung-out and ragged during the verses.  It's an interesting change of pace from to his normal screaming.  Ryan Neff's clean vocals are much more heavily represented in this song than in Hey Mister and they soar as high as anyone could want.  Compelling vocals as always.  As much as I love the thought of moshing to this song, close analysis does show little in the way of originality musically.  None of the instruments are played badly (if they were this song wouldn't have the momentum that makes it such a perfect live anthem), but they don't break any new ground.  Monument was a great album, but it's riffs didn't match up to those on Apologies Are for the Weak and it looks like At Heart won't be as consistently riff-tastic either.  That said, I still wanna rock someone while this song plays.

Miss May I were never a band that tried to reinvent the wheel, but they always pumped out Metalcore that any fan of the genre could thrash to.  If these two singles are any indication then fans are going to be handed another solid slab of pure metal.  Here's hoping they can match the more engaging riffs of Apologies Are for the Weak with the greatly improved vocal quality on Monument to form some sort of super album here.

Hopefully the three people who occasionally humor me by reading this blog won't mind this foray into less writing-oriented content.  If they do, they can bring it up with the complaints department.

Hey Mister

Day by Day

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Tick .  Tock.  Tick.  Tock.  Tick.  Tock.

I debate kicking the grandfather clock over, but it looks old, expensive, and well cared for and I decide self-control might be the better option.  And even if the clock was brand new, cheap, and indestructible it would still be six different kinds of rude and I shouldn’t ask for any more trouble.  The woman sitting next to me turns in her seat and gives me a pointed look, first at my knee and then up at me.  I’ve started bouncing my leg again, mile a minute and without any consistent rhythm.  I give her my best, most sheepish apology smile and exert conscious control over the traitorous limb, hoping it won’t further betray my nerves.

Churches make me itch.  My breathing gets shallow, my legs start to bounce, and my fight or flight instincts kick in.  For once my body forgoes any attempt at confrontation and scream at me to just run! Get the hell out of Dodge!  Never mind that if I stayed in town Father Lot could probably have me found just as easily as he did the first time around.  Never mind that my problems wouldn’t go away just because I book it out of town, that they would actually get worse.  I just want out. 

It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to peg me as a person with some deep-seated guilt and that guilt makes me edgy around a place so shrouded in shame and repentance.  Or it could be that I’m a naturally contrary person and, churches being the focal point of power in the remaining world, I’ve got far too many anti-establishment sentiments floating around my pretty little head to ever be the god-fearing type.  Or, and this is my personal guess, it could be that one of the priests caught me digging up a grave in the church cemetery the night before and they don’t really take kindly to such blasphemies.

I shrug and, to no one in particular, mutter about living and learning.  The woman next to me stares pointedly.

And then in sweeps the padre, all fire and brimstone.  He wears black on black on black, dark well-cut clothes, a wide-brimmed hat that shades his face ever so dramatically, and a black cloak that billows down around his ankles.  He’s even got a carved wooden walking stick.  That’s what the Church is really about anymore, fire and brimstone and melodrama.  Leave everyone fearing further damnation, claim you’re the only one with the answers, and people become very pliable very quickly.  I hear the padre’s lack of exposed skin is just a skin condition.  If that’s true then I have to give him credit for working it.

Father Jeremiah Lot raps his cane sharply against my knee and with an almost absent-minded grunt tells me to “Follow”.  I grit my teeth and feel a distinct urge to snatch the fucking stick out of his hand and crack him over the head with it.  Failing that, I sit up a bit straighter and cross my arms firmly across my chest.  Nuts to his air of mystery and his intimidating presence.  The priest stops and looks back at me and though I can’t see his face I get the impression that he’s arched an eyebrow at me.  My arms remain crossed.

He speaks after a moment.  His voice is soft enough that I find myself leaning forward to hear him.  “Follow me into my office.  This needs to be sorted.”

I frown at him a moment longer, to prove a point, before standing up.  I stretch my legs, my back, and my shoulders out just to be contrary and then nod toward what I assume is his office.  To his credit, he seems unperturbed.

Father Lot doesn’t offer me a seat but I drop myself into the chair sitting opposite his desk anyway.  His office is a very simple square room.  It’s of modest size when compared to the rest of the church but it’s easily as big as most families’ living rooms.  A heavy desk made of real wood sits facing the door and taking up most of the space between the padre’s barren right wall and the wall-length bookcase to my left.  The bookcase is every inch as large as the wall itself, leaving no room vertically or horizontally for the wall to peek through, and is filled to the bursting point with books.  Most of them actually look functional, like they’ve really been read.  I try not to look impressed, like I’ve seen all kinds of rooms like this one before and maybe even some nicer ones.  I lose whatever stoicism I had managed when the padre lifts a half-full gallon jug of water onto the table.  Beads of sweat roll down the side of the jug.  He brings up only one cup up with it.  Bastard.

He takes his time, filling the cup carefully and sipping daintily.  I don’t know if he’s trying harder to not waste the water or to dry my throat out but he’s surely aware of both effects.  He looks up sharply from the water and I realize I just muttered “asshole” out loud.  I wonder if he’s ever heard anyone swear in his presence before.  Even farmhands clean their mouths up when priests come around.  After all, everyone’s convinced that salvation rests in the palm of the priest’s right hand and damnation in the left.  Better to eternally brown-nose than to eternally burn.

He finishes the cup and fills it again, this time sliding it slowly across the table.  His voice is still soft enough to make me want to lean into his words.  “You’ll have to excuse my manners but I have only one cup.”

I glare at him feeling sure that he expected this exchange to play out in hopes of embarrassing me with my poor manners.  I think profane thoughts but I don’t turn down the drink.  I can feel the coolness of the water against my palm through the cup and a small, cracked sound rolls out from the back of my throat before I can cut it off.  I glare at the priest again and avoid taking an overeager sip—or just chugging the whole cup.  “So what’s there to be sorted, padre?”

The informality doesn’t bother him this time.  He reaches behind his desk again and pulls out my dirty, battered black duffel bag.  The grip-end of a shovel juts out from one side.  He drops the bag on his desk, careful not to knock over the gallon jug of water.  He looks at me evenly until I drain the rest of my water, “That’s not my bag.”

He laughs louder than his speech suggested was possible; a sharp peal of warm, honest laughter.  I blink.  I don’t like him seeming so human.

“Dear—man, I am well aware that you are not the rightful owner of this bag.” I can hear the smile in his words.  I also hear that he almost called me a child.  “And I am far more interested in the contents of the bag and what you were doing with them than in the bag itself.”

I scowl at him as ferociously as I can manage, but the lack of eye contact makes it feel underwhelming.  “Take that goddamn hat off.”

I instantly realize I’ve made a mistake.  The laughter leaves the room on a rocket and though I can’t see his eyes I can feel his gaze.  “You are in more trouble than you know and if you see fit to disrespect the Lord once more I will simply leave you to the fullness of your punishment.”  His voice is sharp and hard and I can’t help but push myself further into my chair.  “I have done everything in my power to see you released with a stern warning, but there are many in this church who do not care that you are young and that there are no records of trouble-making in your youth.”  My chair scrapes loudly across the floor.  Father Lot hasn’t moved an inch but I can’t possibly get far enough away from him.  “You defiled the body of one at rest.  Life is hard and short and knowing that there is rest at the end of this suffering is as important to people as anything else they need to survive.”

I fully expect to see fire cavorting and capering behind his eyes as he speaks and I find myself searching for something to say.  I can’t even manage to say something glib.  We sit silently until my mouth goes dry and I feel heat radiating off of my face.  Father Lot breaks the silence by clearing his throat.  His body language shifts, settling himself comfortably into his chair and he pulls the cup back to his side of the table, pouring another drink.  He sighs and takes a small sip.  “Let’s start again.”  His voice is soft again, but I no longer feel any urge to lean in closer to him.

Father Lot lifts the hat off his head and sets it on the ground behind his chair.  His face isn’t horrifically burned or misshapen but I get the feeling he doesn’t draw amorous eyes from any women who don’t get off on powerful men.  His skin is pale and dry and it’s flaking along his receding hairline.

“Tell me what you were doing last night.”

He doesn’t add an implied threat to the words but my stomach knots up like he’s holding a pair of pliers to my fingers.  I don’t even consider lying to him.  I was digging up the body of Thomas Marston, I tell him.  I tell him that the two suicides in the Felton family weren’t really suicides.  The Feltons live above the Marston family and had turned Thomas down for a loan when things on the Marston farm started turning to shit.  I tell him that Thomas Marston’s ghost had forced Louis and Sylvia Felton to slit their wrists, that Marston’s spirit holds Garret Felton responsible for the farm going under.  Marston hung himself to escape having to watch his family slowly wither away and now his spirit’s back.  I tell him I was trying to stop Marston from killing the rest of Garret’s family.  I tell him I was trying to lay the spirit to rest.  I tell him I’ve done it before.  I even tell him how I do it; salt the bones, douse them in alcohol, then drop a match into the coffin.  The salt’s a symbol of purity.  I tell him it worked with the string of cattle mutilations.  I tell him to dig up the graves of Donald Ghant and Mary Hardaway.  Ghant was killing the livestock and Mary was responsible for a rash of crib-deaths.  My voice starts to give out on me and the Father offers me a cup of water.  Between sips and with a dry rasp to my voice I remind him that the church has professed belief in spirits for centuries.

Father Lot nods thoughtfully.  “The cattle mutilations were caused by a pack of animals.  They stopped after Simon Heller waited outside one night and shot two of them dead.” 

My stomach sinks. 

“There was no rash of crib-deaths.  In such harsh conditions as those we live, the number of infant deaths was well within the norm when one considers the whole city.  It was only slightly unusual that the deaths were concentrated more densely in one area.”

He thinks I’m crazy.

“The suicides however, had drawn our attention.  That is why you were caught.  Father Murphy was going to check Thomas Marston’s grave for any signs of restlessness.”

I blink.  “Restlessness?”

“Yes, restlessness.  Certain weeds grow over the graves of those that do not find eternal rest.  They are quite impossible to get rid of until the soul has been laid to rest and the grave has been sanctified.”


Father Something-or-Other walks me home.  He talks to me the entire way, but I don’t hear him.  Restlessness.  Father Lot had admitted that the end wasn’t really the end.  Not always.  The priest asks to come in and rest his legs; the basement I’m squatting in is a long walk from the church.  I prefer the basement’s smooth, dirt walls to the hodgepodge of rusted sheet metal that composes most of the city’s buildings and walkways.  Except for the church of course.  The church is mostly made of pre-war stone and is filled with wooden pews and desks and chairs.  It had somehow survived the bombings mostly intact despite the area around it being reduced to rubble and cinders.  That had always seemed suspicious to me.  I was unaware that apocalyptic nuclear war played favorites.  Then again, I couldn’t figure why the Church would level an entire city just to build up a ramshackle city wall and fill it with tin-huts.


If death didn’t really usher the just into eternal rest than what does that say about the church?  It meant the church was wrong.  No, not wrong—lying.  Father Lot knew that Thomas Marston’s spirit had not been at rest.  He knew that the church couldn’t keep its promise of a peaceful afterlife and yet he still gave sermons promising a light at the end of the tunnel.  And it wasn’t just Father Lot, someone else had been the one checking the grave for the signs.  Father M…Martin, Min, Murphy.

I don’t realize that the priest is still in my house and hasn’t stopped speaking until I feel his hands around my throat.

“—cannot spread heresies to the people.”

His voice is sad but he wrestles me to the floor anyway.  He buries his knee into my stomach and shifts his grip clumsily.  I tuck my chin before he can bring his forearm down across my windpipe.  He blinks, looking like he hadn’t expected me to fight back.  I pull my head back and bite down on his forearm.  The priest jerks back, but before he can manage it I warp both my hands around his elbow and bite down harder.  The priest shouts and swats at my head but rather than let go I hunch my shoulders to better protect my head and I shake my head like a dog breaking a rat’s neck.  My teeth sink in and a taste like liquefied pennies fills my mouth. 

The priest cries out again and brings his fist straight down on top of my head.  The world goes black for a moment and when it comes back into focus the priest has pulled his arm out of my mouth.  This time he gets his forearm down across my throat I can stop the world from spinning.  I get my hands under his fist and elbow and push but the priest probably outweighs me by seventy pounds and is driven a zealot’s conviction.  There’s a certain inevitability to it.  He’s more than a man; he’s the weight of the entire church come to strike down the blasphemer.

The Church lives and dies by the peoples’ belief in salvation through eternal rest.  Father Lot told me that himself.  I understand why the padre’s having me killed.

The maniac priest on top of me leans down and whispers into my ear, “Eternal rest must be immutable if salvation is to be achievable.”

Seems a little overly dramatic to me, but that’s what the Church is all about since it rose up from the ashes of the apocalypse; fire and brimstone and melodrama.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Devil's Due

I have seen it all.  I was there when terrorists began bombing houses.  I was there when two jetliners full of innocent people slammed into the side of the World Trade Towers.  I watched a baseball fan shoot a rival fan dead during a post-game dispute.  I sat in the flatbed of a pickup truck while a young, promising doctor was dragged down a gravel road, noose-broken neck flagging him as a homosexual.  Not but a few decades earlier I rode in the back of another truck, the bumper adorned with another rope, and the rope adorned with another doctor; this one a recently educated “colored” man.  Nuclear arms races, concentration camps, forced famines, and walls built as monuments to hatred and division.  I watched the Inquisitors teach Europe the goodness of their God with a misguided sureness of purpose I have never seen matched.  I looked on as the Crucifixion of Christ became a blood sport for the entertainment of the masses.  I watched the first theft, the first rape, the first murder.

Few who know that would believe I arrived at these events purely by coincidence.  Their skepticism is not misguided.  I have never once been in attendance by mere chance, but by design.  I am there to watch my congregation worship and praise and give thanks.  I am there to collect what is due to me, my tribute.  They are the places, the times, and the people that I draw strength from.  They allow my existence to continue.

I am demonized (excuse the pun, as it is in rather poor taste and even poorer wit) because people need someone or something to blame for humanity’s unparalleled potential for ugliness and cruelty.  There are a great many turns of phrases for it:  scapegoat, sacrificial lamb, sucker, stooge… 

The list really does go on (almost endlessly in fact, and that encompasses but the English language).

People say that I am an elemental evil that has existed long before humans and will exist long after, that I am eternal.  They think that I spat in the face of God and took Perdition as my own kingdom, one meant to outshine even that of the Lord Almighty’s.  The truth is that I am a construct, just like God, meant to serve as a waste receptacle for all of humanity.

I am the personification of the ugliness that humanity revels in.  I exist because actions and thoughts and beliefs have consequences.  I exist because actions and thoughts and beliefs have power.  I am a byproduct of humanity and I congregate at these great places of ugliness because they call to me and I am powerless to refuse their cries.