Some of Us Bite Back

Some of Us Bite Back

I’ve tied him up in the bedroom next door. You might  be worried that he’ll get out, but I made sure to tighten the leather straps as far as they would go. I’m not afraid of him getting away, but I took extra precautions by sprinkling garlic all over the floor, and nailing strings of it up in front of the window.

He keeps saying that he isn’t one of them, but I know better. I saw him that night, in a parking lot, sucking on some poor woman’s neck. I’ll never forget the sound of her limp body hitting the pavement. A wet thud after her legs gave out. He just left her there, didn’t look back or show any kind of remorse. He didn’t know I was there. I hid in the shadows of the alleyso he couldn’t see me. I’m surprised he didn’t smell me somehow. I’ve always heard they can smell you from miles away or maybe I’m thinking of something else. Maybe it’s that they can hear your heart beating. I don’t know about that. Seems like if they could, they’d all be driven mad, but then again they aren’t human.

That woman wasn’t dead. She was close to it, but I saved her. The doctor said if I hadn’t have brought her in she would have died in that parking lot. I went back a few days later to visit her in the hospital. She was being released the next day, and wasn’t sure what she was going to do. She looked better, and I knew she’d be beautiful once she got her strengthen back. Not that she wasn’t beautiful then, she was, but in a weak sort of way. She’d be absolutely stunning after she was back to herself. I found out how true that was later. She was grateful that I had helped her, but she broke down crying near the end of my visit. She had just moved here, didn’t have any family or friends, and didn’t have anywhere to go. She didn’t remember much of that night, but she did remember that the man that had almost killed her had offered to help her in some way. He’d used her instead and then left her to die.

She moved in with me after she was released. Julie was her name and I loved her very much. She was here for three months, and then she left without a word or an explanation. I felt in my gut that it had something to do with him, and I was right. I started going out late at night to look for him. After about a month I spotted him in a dirty club, grinding against some woman. I thought she’d be appalled, but she seemed to be enjoying herself. He drank from her and left her just like he had with Julie. I followed him and he led me to the place where he rested during the day. Julie was there, but he had changed her. She was one of them now, and I hated her more than I’ve ever hated anyone in my life. Most of all I hated him. He had given me something, then he had taken it away. He had brought us together, now he had pulled us apart. She found him somehow, for whatever reason, and now it was all over. Maybe she asked him to change her, maybe her offered. It doesn’t matter really, because she’s dead now, and soon or maybe not so soon, he will be too.

He’s screaming, the sun has started to come up. I’ll be right back.

The board I put up wasn’t blocking all of the sunlight out, so I put a tarp up. He said the light hurt his eyes, but I saw blisters starting to form where the sunlight had been. I know he is lying when he tells me he isn’t one of them, he knows I know it too. Luckily, I remembered to pull the garlic from behind the tarp, although he doesn’t seem bothered by it all that much. The room stinks to high heaven with it, but I’m questioning how effective it is. I wonder if he has to touch it in order for it to work? Everything I’ve read seemed to state it was the smell that gets to them. I’m thinking that may be untrue. I need to find something else to use for insurance. Holy water, maybe? Crosses? I’ll have to do more research, I’ll be back later.

I’m back. I was scared to leave him alone, but I’m glad I did! Turns out the garlic thing is a myth. I could kick myself for not checking into that futher before I took him. Such a mistake could have cost me a great deal, maybe even my life, haha! I read somewhere that they can’t walk on consecrated ground, so I stopped at a church not to far from here, and dug up some soil from the graveyard. I felt bad about that, but I’m sure God will understand. They won’t notice it’s gone anyway, and I covered up my tracks with leaves. He gave me the most curious looks as I cleaned the garlic up, then sprinkled dirt all around the bed. I held a clump of it to his skin just to see what would happen. The shriek he let out was awful and made my skin crawl. It wasn’t as bad as the thump that Julie had made, but it was pretty damn close. Hold on, he’s raving about something, I’ll go see what he wants.

Just wanted to beg me to let him go. I wonder if he feels pain since he hasn’t fed in a while. What does that hunger feel like? Is it worse than the pain we feel when we don’t eat? I wonder if his body would eventually dry all up if he didn’t feed. That may be one of the experiments that I do.

So why did I take him,  you ask? The answer is simple. I want to show him that some of us bite back. I want to teach him a lesson, that he can’t just do whatever he wants to people. I’ll make him regret every single life that he has taken. I’ll make him regret giving me Julie, only to take her way. He will know what he has done, and he will be very sorry.

The best part is that he won’t die unless I let him. I could make him pay for years  to come. Maybe I will.

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Cold Harbor

Cold Harbor

The exam room smells of disinfectant and salt. Melanie sits in a plastic chair next to the door. The nurse left the door open a crack after telling her the doctor would be in shortly. Melanie can see a sliver of the hallway carpet through the crack. The carpet is gold in color, with a repeating pattern of interlocking diamonds. It reminds Melanie of a jacket her grandmother wore to church when there was going to be a guest speaker. Melanie hates the carpet almost as much as she hated her grandmother’s jacket.

She can hear woman talking and laughing at the group of desks she saw on her way in. She catches a glimpse of a dressing gown pass by the door that isn’t as white as the calf she spies beneath it. Melanie picks up a magazine and tries to read. She flips through the pages, looking at the advertisements, until she gets bored and plops it back down onto the table. She uncrosses her legs, pulls herself forward in her seat, recrosses them, then folds her hands in her lap. Melanie is nervous.

If you asked Melanie she wouldn’t be able to tell you how long she had to wait in that chair. She passes the time counting the ceiling tiles. Seventy-six. The chorus of a song runs through her head. She counts the tiles over again. Seventy-seven. The door swings open. She stops counting and sits up.

The doctor is a man in his early sixties, with light gray hair and bright green eyes. He is a kind and patient man. He sits the laptop he is holding down on the counter, slides a swivel chair over, adjusts his tie, and then sits down, spinning around so that he can see the computer screen. He scrolls down using the mouse pad, then turns to look at Melanie. Melanie holds her breath.

“Well, Ms. Shaffer, your test results have come back. Let’s take a look”, he clears his throat, then turns his attention back to the screen.

Melanie’s heart rate jumps. She feels dizzy, black and gray dots swim across her eyes, her head throbs. She slides her left hand under her left leg to steady herself. The room pulls away, then comes slamming back as the doctor clears his throat. She knows what’s coming, and even though she thought she was ready for it, she’s bracing herself for the shock.

The doctor runs his hands through his hair, puts his hand on his chest, and clears his throat again. She watches him turn, to start speaking, and then the lights go out. Melanie hears the squeak of metal. She knows it’s the swivel chair spinning around and around. The lights in the exam room come back on seconds later and the chair is empty. The door to the room has been partially opened, the hallway remains dark, and is now silent. She can feel a chill coming through the crack in the door.

Melanie stands, takes two steps towards the door, feels dizzy, and decides sitting back down is in her best interest. She puts her head down on her knees and takes deep breathes, counting to thirty. She picks up her head to look out into the hallway. The lights have not come back on. Silence greets her as she tentatively says hello. She stands up, wanting to open the door to see if she can see anything. Heart hammering, she reaches out and opens the door just enough so that her face will fit in the crack. She peeks out. The hallway is pitch black, except for an exit sign screaming red above a door at the far end of a hallway. She doesn’t remember seeing it on the way in, but she thinks it’s about twenty-five feet away from the exam room.

She sits back down in the plastic chair. Where has everyone gone? What should she do? She thinks of the test results, then leaps from her chair to view what is on the screen. Various abbreviations appear on the right side of the screen with corresponding numbers on the left. As she scrolls down a window pops up informing her that the battery life is now at 5%. She bites her lip, inhales sharply and continues to scroll. She overestimates the scroll speed, and scrolls right past the section explaining the results. Cursing, she scrolls back up.

The first half of the results are just a written summary of what was shown above. Melanie reads faster, looking for an explanation.

“…sample provided… inconclusive results…further analysis needed…positive for…” The computer screen goes black.

“No”, she whispers. “No, no, no!” She slams her fists against the counter. The laptop crashes to the floor, the monitor cracks, tiny pieces of it scatter. Melanie draws her foot back to kick it, thinks better of it, and sits back down in the chair. She holds her head in her hands, breathing deeply until she begins to calm down. “I’ve got to get out of here”, she says. She stands up and makes her way to the door, throws it open, and stares into the blackness. The exit sign waits.  

Melanie turns on the flashlight on her phone, pointing it out in front of her, she takes her first step into the hallway. The phone’s light radiates three feet in front of her. The only sounds she hears is the whir of an unmanned printer, a faint crackling, and a series of car alarms, braying like an abandoned cause on the streets outside somewhere.

The lights flicker, electricity stalls in its metal prison, then holds steady, casting its harsh glow across the golden carpet. Melanie is alone and she is afraid. The word hello escapes her dry throat before she can take it back. She runs to the exit sign, hands pumping, feet on the autopilot of panic, trips over a trash can and falls down, taking a stack of patient’s charts to the floor with her. She feels something wet and hot running down the length of her forearm. She puts her hand in the warmth and is not the least bit surprised when she sees blood. Melanie laughs, sits up, and rolls back her sleeve to see where she has been cut. A gash three inches long and a half inch wide grins at her. She gets to her feet and looks around for a first aid kit. Not seeing one, she goes back to the exam room to look through the cupboards and drawers until she finds something she can clean and bandage her cut with. After she has cleaned up she grabs some extra gauze and walks carefully to the exit sign.

Beyond the door is a stairwell. She walks down four flights of stairs and reaches another door that she thinks should lead outside. She pushes against the door and steps out into the street. The smell of smoke is unmistakable, the alleyway she finds herself in is empty. Melanie starts walking towards the front of the building with the intention of getting to her car.

To be continued…

You Can Bury Things, but They Might Claw Their Way Out

You Can Bury Things, but They Might Claw Their Way Out

Alone in his house Mark stops short of the bottom step. He saw something gliding up to the second floor. A glimpse of a gray hoodie, dark jeans, and a pale hand, floating up the stairs.

Mark was on his way out, but he needed to grab his phone charger first. He had a lovely evening planned with a beautiful woman, she liked sun dresses, and her laugh was enough to bring heaven down to earth. Mark had been looking forward to tonight, now he stands unsure of what to do.

“I’m a grown man,“ he thinks, but his breathing has become ragged, his heart beats furiously, pumping blood to legs screaming at him to run. He shakes his head, whispers to himself that he didn’t see anything, then puts one foot on the bottom step.

Creeeeaaakkk.

The soft spot on the floor of his bedroom sings its song. Mark stops, removes his foot slowly, and listens. His mouth has gone dry and everything is suddenly so loud, yet so quiet. He can hear the tick of the kitchen clock, the hum of the refrigerator, and his own breathing. He holds his breath so that he can hear better, but his heart revolts, and he has to take deep breaths until the dizziness passes. Something upstairs falls to the floor and Mark’s knees buckle slightly. He’s scared, then he gets angry. Mark makes his way slowly to the hall closet, trying not to make too much noise. He opens it and grabs the baseball bat resting inside. He thinks about calling the cops, but instead sends a text  to the woman he should be looking at from across a table right now. His message says:

Sorry, running a bit behind. Be there soon.

Mark pockets his phone and goes to the stairs again. He pauses to listen and hears nothing. He takes the first step, bringing the baseball bat up along the left side of his head. He takes two steps, waits, listens and then continues moving up. On the eighth step he hears his alarm clock radio turn on faintly,  hears Frank Sinatra singing about the big apple, then hears its click as it’s shut off. Mark thinks briefly that he may never get to be a part of anything after tonight, he pushes that thought away, and continues to climb. As he reaches the second landing there’s a loud bang. Mark jumps and stops with his hand on the railing.

“He’s dead. It’s just your mind playing tricks on you. You haven’t been sleeping, you’re tired, stressed. Go out have some fun and when you get back you’ll have a good laugh about this.” Mark believes this, he has been stressed and he will most definitely laugh when this is all over. “Fuck it,“ he says. He runs down the stairs, grabs his jacket from the chair in the kitchen, and leaves for a night out.

Hours pass. A few drinks in and Mark relaxes. He becomes more convinced that he didn’t see anything at all, or if he did it was a light from a car playing tricks with his eyes. He has the company of a gorgeous woman and they spend an enjoyable evening together. The night ends and Mark drives his date to her apartment. He asks if he can come in for drink, is offered a rain check, and then begins his car ride home. Mark starts thinking about what he saw on the stairs as soon as the door to his date’s apartment closes. He tries to distract himself with music, but he doesn’t really hear it. He switches off the radio. What if he did see what he thought saw? What could he do? He could ignore it, if he refused to acknowledge it maybe it would go away. He could run from it, but he wasn’t sure where to run. Besides, if what he had seen in horror movies was true it would follow him. He decides that if he sees anything once he is home he’d drive to the nearest church and pray. He had neglected his beliefs severely over the past couple of years, but there’s nothing like a crisis to bring a man back to God. Amen. Hallelujah.

He pulls up in front of his house five minutes later, turns off the car, and looks at his bedroom window. He swears he saw the blinds move, like someone had pulled them apart to take a peek. Mark shakes his head, mumbles to himself that this is nonsense, and opens his car door. He walks the short sidewalk to the front door of his house, unlocks the deadbolt, and steps inside. He flicks on the kitchen light, sets his keys down on the table, and stands still so that he can listen. The house is silent, he doesn’t hear anything upstairs. Mark sighs with relief, opens his refrigerator, grabs a beer, and heads to the couch to watch some tv.

After he’s finished his beer he shuts the tv off and climbs the stairs to his room. He pauses twice on the way to listen, hears nothing, and chuckles at the last step. He must have imagined it all. He opens his bedroom door, turns on the lamp by his bed, then goes into the bathroom to take a piss and brush his teeth. He crawls under his covers seven minutes later and turns out the light.

Mark is almost asleep when the whispering starts. He sits upright in bed and scrambles to turn the light on. He sees nothing. He lies back down, scans the room for a few minutes, then turns over and switches the light off again. “I’m hearing shit and freaking myself out,” he says to the empty room as he adjusts the pillow under his head.

This time the whispering is louder, but he can’t make out the words. He turns the light back on and knocks over a glass of water that was sitting on his nightstand. He scans the room again, sees nothing, and decides to leave the light on. He can’t sleep. He lies still with his eyes closed and listens.

After what feels like an eternity the voice begins to whisper, but it does not stop this time. It continues to grow louder each time the sentence is repeated. Mark can make out what is being said easily now: “you will give it back!”

He considers jumping out of bed, grabbing his keys, and getting away from whatever it is, but he can only close his eyes tighter

and muffle his sobs with the back of his hand. He thinks that if he makes it until morning he’ll find crescent shaped bruises on his knuckles. He tells himself that none of this is real, he’s having a nightmare, right now he’s asleep in his own bed, and if he could wake himself up this would all go away. He doesn’t realize that he has begun to whisper these thoughts out loud. The voice continues to get louder and louder.  Mark feels the desperation in that voice, feels its hatred, its need for vengeance.

He cries out when he feels pressure on his calf, but he doesn’t move. His sobs escalate to crying when the pressure reaches his chest. Mark starts screaming at the top of his lungs “WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP, YOU FUCK!” He feels the pressure on his throat, opens his eyes, and sees his oldest friend, the friend he killed two years ago in a car accident, looming over him. His skin hangs in yellow clumps from his skull, pieces of his dark brown hair line the inside of the grimy hoodie he wears, his green eyes burn ferociously, his lips are pulled back in a sneer and his teeth are coated with a dark green fuzz. His former, now very dead friend, leans in and screams “YOU WILL GIVE IT BACK!” into Mark’s terrified face.

Ten minutes later the doorbell rings. Mark stumbles down the stairs and opens the door. Two police officers are standing at his doorstep.

“Hello, sir. Sorry to bother you but we had a noise complaint. Someone heard a lot of screaming and they were concerned that there may be trouble. Everything alright here?,“ the officer says. He shines his flashlight past Mark’s head into the dark living room, sweeps it as far as he can without blinding Mark, seems satisfied, and puts it down to his side.

“Yes, I’m so sorry officer. I’m a bit embarrassed, I had a nightmare, it was a bad one. I’m sorry you drove all the way here because of my imagination.”

“No need to be sorry, we’re just glad everything is fine. I’ve had a few bad nights myself. Chamomile tea right before bed worked wonders for me, I haven’t had one in a few years. Anyways, have a good night.”

The officers get into their car and drive away. Mark shuts the door, turns around, and leans his head back against the door. When he opens his eyes they are an intense green instead of the bluish gray they have always been.

______

This story was prompted by my six year old son. One Saturday afternoon we were sitting in the living room and he swore he saw a man in a gray hoodie going up the stairs. He had a pale white hand and my son described him as floating along. When I checked it out no one was there (surprise). I reassured him that no one was in the house and thanked God that it had happened during the daytime. Getting him to sleep that night was only a little more difficult than it normally is. The next day my son suggested I use what he saw for a story. I’ve been working on this one for a while, it just didn’t feel right, but it’s about as right as it will ever be. I won’t be able to read this to him for a couple of years, but I’m glad I used what he saw. I hope he likes it when he’s older. If he doesn’t, maybe he’ll write a story of his own.

Between the Sheets

Between the Sheets

I remember when it happened. I was twelve, it was summer, the hottest one ever, and I had one small fan set at the foot of my bed. I had tucked the sheet under it, and tucked the sides of the sheet under the mattress. I had a steady stream of air running under the sheet, over my body, and I was still hot. I fell asleep after I had spent a considerable amount of time fighting the hot air I couldn’t see.

I woke up some time during the night. I don’t know what time it was, but the moon was still up. It hadn’t cooled off much, the air was still thick, and my shorts were sticking to my legs. I got up to use the bathroom and get a drink of water. I climbed back into bed when I was finished and began to tuck the sheet back in. Something brushed against my foot. I knew it couldn’t have been the sheet, it was still flowing in a steady current five inches above the mattress. I didn’t want to look under the sheet, but I couldn’t stop myself. What I saw there terrified me so much I would never sleep in that room again. I ran, too afraid to scream, into my Mother’s room. I told her I had a very bad nightmare and begged her to let me sleep with her. I didn’t sleep that night, every noise set my heart to racing, I squinted to get a better look at each shadow, every flutter of the curtain made me hold my breath. I begged my sister to switch rooms with me. She agreed almost instantly. She’d always wanted my room anyway, it was bigger, and had a window seat she had envied. I wonder now what would have happened if I had stayed in that room? Would she be telling everyone about her dead kid brother? Would I have made it, found a way to send that thing back to wherever it came from? Who knows, man. It’s been thirty years since she died and I’ll never be able to answer those questions.

After we switched rooms everything was normal. I started to think I might have imagined the whole thing, but then things went downhill fast. One moment my sister was the carefree, kind-hearted creature she had always been, the next she was distant, with dark circles under her eyes, her fingers constantly flexing and un-flexing. She lost weight and stopped talking. Mom took her to the doctor, they found nothing. They told her it was probably stress, depression, gave her some medication, and a referral to a psychiatrist. My sister lived another fourteen months. By the time she died she’d been taken out of school, lost thirty-two pounds, had been in and out of the mental hospital, and had made no real progress toward recovery. She wasted away right in front of us and it was all my fault. Mom took her death hard, she was never the same. Something died in her when Samantha died. She stopped feeling anything, I think. Yeah, she still loved me, but she kept this wall up, and I can understand that. The guilt I felt built a wall around me too.

I tried to talk to Samantha about what was happening on and off over those months, but she always sat there staring at me, not saying a word. A few weeks prior to her death we were sitting at the kitchen table, I was doing homework, and she was stirring her soup in this way she had. Stir, stir, raise the spoon, lower the spoon, stir, raise the spoon, touch it to the rim of the bowl, slide it to the bottom, repeat. I hadn’t noticed she’d stopped until I felt her bony, cold fingers on my wrist. She looked like she could be knocked over by the slightest gust of wind, but that grip she had left bruises, and I would be sore for days afterwards. I told her she was hurting me, asked her to stop it, tried to pull away, but she held on. She squeezed tighter, her hand got hot, her eyes turned black, I swear to Christ they did, and she said something that made the hair all over my body stand up. She said, “It eats, Charlie. It starts at my toes and works its way up to my head. It takes all night, Charlie. It hurts so much and it is never full”. I pulled myself away from her and ran outside. I had pissed myself but couldn’t go back into that house until I knew Mom was back in the kitchen. My sister never spoke to me again, those were the last words she ever said to me. I couldn’t even tell her how much I loved her, or how sorry I was. Such a great brother, what a fucking chump.

We moved out after Samantha died. I remember it took us weeks to pack, not because we had a lot, but because every time Mom would start packing Samantha’s things she’d have a break down. She would lie around the house for days after. She’d try again and the same thing would happen. Finally, ladies from our church came over and got it done in a single afternoon. Samantha’s things remained in those boxes until they were given to me when Mom passed. Going through them was very painful and gave me insight into what she went through over the last months of her life. She kept a diary, in it she calls it “ mooch". She talks about its pale skin, its black eyes, its lips half decayed exposing green and yellow teeth. On one page in her diary the words “Charlie knows” is written over and over again. The handwriting neat in the beginning, a chaotic mess at the end. Towards the end of her diary the entries become less and less often. She seems to accept whatever it is that she thinks is coming. There’s a sense of peace in her writing and a tiredness. I couldn’t understand it, but now I do. She was tired, she knew there was no changing it, and just wanted to rest. The coroner’s cause of death is listed as “heart failure, after prolonged anorexia nervosa”. I don’t care what it says, it’s my fault. I killed her, indirectly, but murder is murder. I can never make that right.

She started to visit me at night, I woke up to her crawling between my sheets. I was scared at first, she looked just like “mooch”, but then I was so happy to see her, this was my chance to tell her how I felt. I told her everything I had been wanting to say for the past thirty years. I told her how sorry I was, how I should have stayed in my room, how I should have told Mom, even if it meant she wouldn’t believe me. I told her I love her and how I’ve never forgiven myself for what I did. I’m a coward and she of all people knows that. She’s never responded, but at least I know she’s heard it, that comforts me in a way that years of therapy never could.

She started to feed on me a few weeks after her first visit. She wasn’t lying, it does hurt, like glass being ground into your bones, pushing against every muscle and tendon in your body. You lose your appetite, I’ve lost forty pounds in the past two months, a valid reason for my doctor to be concerned. I won’t ever tell anyone what’s really happening, and I don’t expect anyone to know until I’m dead. They wouldn’t believe me anyway. If you’re reading this, it’s already happened. The wonders of technology allowed me to send this out after I had died. A voice from beyond the grave. I set an email to be sent out to all of the major newspapers and magazines across the country after a date I expect to be dead. My hope for this is that someone somewhere will know I’m not making this up and will find a way to stop that thing. I have a feeling like Samantha, I’ll be damned to visit someone else the way she is me. If it’s you, please put me out of my misery.

The pain is increasing with each feeding and she’s getting stronger. I won’t make it much longer, my heart has started to have little fits, everything I do wipes me out. This is my atonement. I just hope this is enough to redeem myself. I’ll let her feed until there is nothing left. I hope that somewhere deep down where my sister still lives that she can forgive me. That hope is enough for me to see this through.

The Blind Shall See

The Blind Shall See

Eddie doesn’t know it yet, but today is going to be the day that his life changes.

On his way to work this morning there had been a terrible accident. Eight cars involved, three pronounced dead at the scene, a backup over six miles long, meant it would be a very long morning. Eddie amused himself by reading from the most recent paperback he had stuffed into his glove box for an occasion such as this one. Normally he could pass any amount of time by reading, but today he felt restless. After thirty minutes he crammed the book back into the glove box and turned on the radio.

“YOU all KNOW!!! We ALL fall short to HIS GLORY! But we have been SaaAAVVEEDdddd BY THE BLOOD OF HIS ONE AND ONLY SON! The Lamb sent by GOD, SAY AMEN, BROTHERS! PRAISE JEeeeeEESUUSSssssS! Get down on your knees wherever you are, throw your hands to the sky and sAAAAYYYYY THANK YOU JeSuS!”

Eddie liked this program, it was one of his favorites. The speaker is a man by the name of Pastor Jenkins. Eddie wrote to Pastor Jenkins about how he made Eddie want to go out and change the world. He had asked him what he needed to do to deliver souls to God’s kingdom. What could Eddie do to win over the hearts of men for God? Pastor Jenkins sent an answer three months later.

Dear Mr. Phillips,

Thank you for your kind and uplifting message. It was my great pleasure to hear from you! Receiving such messages of hope and inspiration confirms my belief that I am doing God’s Work and making a difference! I do hope that you continue listening and do your part to spread the word of God’s LOVE to the world. As a reminder All to God’s Glory! will start at a new time beginning on March 12th at 9AM (EST) /8AM (CST). Don’t forget to tune in during the all new time slot!

Now, the harsh reality is that my mission to spread God’s love isn’t free. It costs money to bring the gift of eternal life and SALVATION that can only be found through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Since I am but a poor farmer’s son I ask that you consider making a donation to help fight SIN! For less than what the average family pays for their cable bill each month you can help my message reach MILLIONS. Think about that! MILLIONS OF SOULS CAN BE SAVED!

Thank you again for the time you took to send me such a touching letter. May God’s Love and Mercy shine upon you all the days of your life.

Sincerely,

Pastor Jenkins

Eddie felt like Pastor Jenkins hadn’t read his letter, but he sent the donation, and he remembered the new time slot Pastor Jenkins had been so kind to remind him about.

Pastor Jenkins talked about a lot of things that morning but Eddie wasn’t listening. He was watching the occupants in the sea of cars spread out before him. Eddie found their actions much more interesting than what Pastor Jenkins was saying, he turned his car off and sat further back in his seat to watch. A man in the passenger seat of a green Subaru, two cars over to his right caught his eye. He was an older man, with tan skin, big teeth, he was wearing sunglasses, and a floppy hat. The man was smoking, cigarette butts littered the pavement outside of his window. The man kept his hand directly in front of his mouth so he could take the next drag as soon as he had exhaled the last one. Eddie did not like this man, but he couldn’t say why. He watched the man finish his cigarette and drop it to lie with the others. Seconds later he lit another one. Eddie couldn’t watch anymore, he turned his eyes away, and began to study the car directly in front of him. It was an older model Toyota, it may have once been a nice shiny red, but its color had faded into rust. The sun beamed through the car’s windshield. It gave the illusion of a halo hung above the driver’s head. He looked at the car’s right rear bumper and saw a series of stickers:

ABORTION IS MURDER

ALL TO GOD’S GLORY!

JESUS LOVES YOU

BILL PARKER FOR CONGRESS

Eddie didn’t know who Bill Parker was but he hoped he had won the election. He looked back to the halo surrounding the driver’s head. The light shining in through the windshield intensified, Eddie lifted his hand to block it out. He felt dizzy and laid his head back against the headrest. It was suddenly too warm in the car, he needed air, he couldn’t breathe. Eddie opened the car door and stumbled onto the pavement. The man from the Subaru was bending over him with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth. Eddie knew he was going to faint, the last thing he saw was the set of bumper stickers.

He was diagnosed with dehydration, they gave him fluids, instructions on after care, and released him. Eddie took a taxi home, his car had been impounded, he’d have to see about that tomorrow. Right now he just wanted to go home and sleep for a while. His wrist hurt from hitting it when he fell and he had a burn on his forehead from it resting against the pavement. Eddie showered, put on clean boxers, and slipped into bed. He was asleep within minutes.

His sleep was peaceful.

When he woke up the next morning he called in sick to work. He called a taxi service next, and picked his car up from the impound lot. He drove back home and dug out his suitcase. He filled it with various household items such as, bleach, duct tape, hand towels, small pruning shears, a melon baller, an ice cream scooper, a handheld can opener, a meat slicer, and several kitchen knives.

Eddie has had a change of heart about everything he once believed in. Whoever he had been died in the right lane of that highway yesterday. The bumper stickers had sent him a message. The world was full of sinners, but he had been wrong about who the guilty were. He thought about the messages on the stickers, how they preached judgment and hate. Eddie felt like he had been called to a purpose, God had spoken, and he must carry out His will.

At first Eddie had no idea how to get started, but as he was searching for anything else he might want to add to his suitcase, his eyes landed on the phone book. Eddie grabbed it and flipped it open, he closed his eyes, and pointed with his index finger. When he opened them he was disappointed to find he had targeted and ad for liposuction. He closed his eyes and tried again.

Collins, Anthony. 1524 Morgan St. 814-555-7260.

He closed the book, put it under his arm, and picked up his suitcase.

The day was warm with a nice breeze coming from the east. He gets into his car and puts the phone book and suitcase onto the passenger seat. He starts the car and backs out of the driveway. He stopped for gas before heading over to 1524 Morgan street. Once Eddie has found the house he drives by slowly so he can take a look at the vehicle parked in front of the house. No bumper stickers. Nothing in the front lawn that would speak to the inhabitants point of view on anything. Eddie pulls over and opens the phone book again.

Lux, S. 765 W. Main St. 814-555-4287.

The idea of being on Main Street makes Eddie nervous, but he has been called by God himself, and when you’re called to do something, you do it. He drives to Main Street.

It’s a small house, about eight hundred square feet. The lawn is overgrown and the shutters in the front hang at a slant. There is a car in the driveway, on its bumper a sticker that reads God Made Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve has started to peel off. Eddie parks his car a little way up the street, he turns the ignition off, grabs the suitcase, opens the door, and gets out. Main Street is a lot less busier than usual. He looks both ways and crosses the street. He walks slowly and calmly to the door of 765 W. Main St. There is no hesitation as he reaches out and rings the doorbell.

After a few minutes there is no answer, Eddie rings the doorbell again, he waits. Still no answer, Eddie starts making his way down the sidewalk back to his car when he hears the door open, and someone say “Yes?” Standing in the door is a middle aged man, a dirty bathrobe hangs open revealing even dirtier pajama bottoms. His hair is messy, his brown eyes are bloodshot, and he is missing several teeth. Eddie walks back to the door with his hand extended.

“Hello, Sir! Sorry to bother you this morning but I’m delivering an important message this morning. Have you heard it yet? Have you heard the good news?”

He takes the man’s hand and shakes it firmly, the man shakes back. After the shake, the man takes a step back into his house.

“Listen, Mister, I don’t want to buy anything if you’re selling something.”

Eddie gives the man a big smile and says, “Lucky for you the news I have doesn’t cost much. Only costs a moment of your time and a little bit of faith.”

The man seems to be set at ease, it may be the way Eddie smiles, or maybe he feels like being social this morning, he lets Eddie inside. He closes the door and offers his guest coffee. Eddie declines.

The man sits down in a recliner, Eddie sits down on an old couch with stuffing coming out of its seams. The men sit in silence, now that Eddie is here he isn’t sure where to begin. He knows he needs to gain the man’s trust, knows he has a message to deliver, but isn’t sure how to get started. Eddie’s mind is racing, the man is looking at him expecting him to get on with it. It’s hot in the house, he has begun to sweat, and is afraid he’ll end up passing out again.

“So, what’s in the suitcase, my friend?”, the man asks.

“Oh, that? I didn’t mean to bring it in, actually. I must have been awfully excited about starting this morning and I grabbed it by mistake.”

Another uncomfortable moment of silence passes and the man speaks up, adjusting himself in his chair.

“What is it that you want? I’m sorry, but I’ve got a big day ahead of me. If you could hurry this along, that would be great. What’s your name?”

“The name’s Eddie. Yours?”

“Sam. Nice to meet you Eddie.” Eddie has a moment of uncertainty, he looks toward the back of the house into the kitchen. The sun is pouring through the window, a glass cross has been hung in its center. It catches the sunlight on its edges and throws rainbows on the floor. Eddie relaxes and begins speaking.

“Sam, I’ve come to tell you something. Now I know you already know about the salvation Jesus Christ has offered to us by the bumper sticker I saw on your car, but there’s an even greater message that you need to hear. I’m hoping you’ll be willing to give me another fifteen minutes of your time. That’s all it will take me to tell it, then you can go on about your day. I do hope that you tell others what I’m about to tell you.” Eddie clears his throat, looks around the room, and then continues speaking.

“The message I have is one of love and acceptance.” He clears his throat again, it feels like he has gotten something caught in it. He swallows hard, determined to finish what he has started.

“For years I’ve been under the assumption that it was my duty as a Christian to inform others of their wrongs. To show them the evil in their ways.” He stops, still trying to itch the scratch in his throat. “Could I trouble you for a glass of water?”

“Sure, I’ll be back in a just a second. You can keep talking, I can hear you from the kitchen.” Sam gets up out of the recliner and walks to the kitchen. Eddie hears him take out a glass and turn the sink on. He hears water filling a cup.

“Let me tell you what happened to me yesterday, Sam. It was just like any other morning, only I was stuck in this traffic jam on my way to work. I had been listening to this program.” Sam comes in and hands Eddie the water, Eddie takes a long drink, thanks him for the water, and continues on. “I don’t know if you listen to the radio but there’s this program I like called All to God’s Glory and I was listening to it that morning. All of the sudden I didn’t want to hear it anymore, so I shut it off and started watching the people around me. There were all sorts of people around.” Eddie does not mention the man in the green Subaru.

“I’m watching and I see a set of bumper stickers on the car in front of me. They were very similar to the one you have on your car and then something happened. It got too hot and I had to get out of my car. I passed out on the highway then, but when I woke up my eyes had been opened. I had been so blind, Sam, and now I can see.” Eddie stands up, holding the glass Sam gave him, it is empty now. Eddie continues talking as he walks towards the kitchen. Sam doesn’t turn around, or follow him, which is exactly what Eddie wants.

“You see, Sam. Some of us have been going about things the wrong way. We condemn, instead of lifting up. We sell salvation with God’s hatred of sin as the price tag. We judge, Sam! If we’d only take a moment to understand people’s perspectives and stop throwing their sins in their faces, the world would be a much better place. So many more would find the peace of knowing a loving God, instead of fearing a God who will cast them into the pit of hell for eternity.” Eddie washes the glass and sets it on the counter to dry. He spots a rolling pin hung on the kitchen wall. Eddie takes it in his hands, and feels power surge through him.

“That’s why I stopped here today, Sam. I saw your bumper sticker. God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. I had to stop, I had to show you the light.” Eddie is behind Sam’s chair. He lifts the rolling pin high above his head and swings down hard on Sam’s head. There’s a sound, like a melon hitting a linoleum floor, Sam dips forward and lands in front of his chair. Eddie smiles as he pulls Sam into the kitchen.

Eddie walks back to the living room and grabs his suitcase. He sets it on the kitchen table, unzips it, removes the items he has brought with him, and sets them neatly on the table. He pulls one of the kitchen chairs to the middle of the kitchen floor. He tries to pick Sam up, he’s dead weight, Eddie has a moment of fear when he thinks he may have killed him with the blow to the head. He checks his pulse, finds it, and then hoists him in one back breaking motion into the chair. Sam’s head rolls back on his neck, his face turns towards the ceiling. Eddie takes the duct tape, starts the roll, then begins to wind it around one of Sam’s wrists. He does the same to the other wrist, and to his feet.

Eddie waits for Sam to wake up.

An hour passes, in this time Eddie has thought of different ways he can use what he has brought. The meat slicer is the one item Eddie is the most excited about. He figures he will start with the bleach and then go on to the other items. Eddie has checked the different rooms in the house for any sign that anyone else may live there. The bedroom was enough to convince Eddie that Sam lives alone. They will not be unexpectedly interrupted.

Sam wakes up, his eyes have the cloudy look of confusion, he sees Eddie, and they clear up quickly.

“Hello again, Sam. Did you have a nice rest? I’m sorry if I’ve given you a headache. I couldn’t think of any other way to get you into that chair and I don’t know you well enough to have asked you to sit still while I tapped your arms and legs. Not that knowing you would make a difference, people have an aversion to being tied up if they know they could suffer because of it. So, I did the only thing I could think of to do. If you tell me where you keep pain reliever, I’ll be glad to get you some.”

Sam whimpers and begins to beg. When he sees that Eddie is not going to untie him at the moment, he tells Sam there is some Ibuprofen in the medicine cabinet of the bathroom. While Eddie is gone Sam struggles against the tape, he knows it’s useless, but it seems like something he should do. Eddie comes back two minutes later, takes the glass he had used earlier, and fills it with tap water. He puts the pill in Sam’s mouth and holds the glass to his lips. Sam swallows, Eddie lets him drink, then sets the glass on the table. He takes a second chair and places it directly in front of Sam.

“Now, back to what I was saying before I hit you in the head with the rolling pin. Such a stupid decoration, by the way. A rolling pin? My guess is that you were probably involved with a woman at some point and that was her doing. I don’t know of a grown man that would keep such a thing on the wall. Yeah, you were probably married at one time and she left you. Probably got sick of you not having a steady job, or maybe she got tired of you drinking, or hitting her. Women are like that. They’ll take a lot of shit and then one day they wake up and decide they aren’t taking it anymore. They pack their bags and they’re out the door while the man is somewhere else. That’s the sneaky part, they know that if you’re around you’ll be able to convince them to stay. Anyway, back to the reason I’m here.”

Eddie pulls his chair in closer so that he can look Sam directly in his eyes.

“So, Sam, as I was saying. I was blind before. I thought telling people how much of a sinner they were would keep them from going to hell. I now know that’s the opposite of what God wants. You may think I’m crazy, but I heard him speak to me. He told me how disappointed he is with the people who call themselves Christians. He told me I must build an army. I’m here Sam, to ask you to join me. I’d like you to help me with this mission I’ve been given. We will go out and tell others about how God really feels. If you accept, we start first thing tomorrow. If you don’t, well then, I’m sorry to have to say this Sam, but you’re going to have a very unpleasant afternoon.”

“Please, I’ll do anything, just don’t hurt me anymore.” Sam has begun struggling against the tape again. Eddie ignores this and keeps speaking.

“I don’t want to hurt you. That’s not what God would want, but he’d understand if I had to hurt you. This is his will, not mine, you understand? I’m merely his messenger. You said you’d do anything, and I’m starting to believe you, but I need reassurance that you’re going to keep your word. I want you to tell me how you’ve seen the light. I want you to tell me the error of your ways, lay it on me, Sam, and I’ll listen. God will listen. He’ll forgive you, he always does. No sin is greater than any other, and his mercy is very great. Now, you tell me how you’ve been wrong.”

There’s a look of bewilderment on Sam’s face. He tries to speak, but his voice fails him. He tries again and is only able to manage asking Eddie not to hurt him anymore, and please would he let him go? Eddie knows this has been a waste of time, Sam cannot help him, he cannot see. Eddie sighs and gets up from the chair. He pushes it back under the table, stretches his back, and cracks his knuckles.

“This is unfortunate, I had much hope for you Sam. All you had to do was see what I see and be willing to tell others about it. I’m sorry Sam, but I’ve got no choice in the matter. God told me what to do if someone wasn’t able to see.”

Eddie picks the duct tape up off of the table, he unrolls six inches and tears it off the roll. Sam is screaming to let him go, that he’ll kill him, the final pleas of a desperate man. Eddie puts the tape over Sam’s mouth and walks back over to the table. He picks up the bottle of bleach and a hand towel. He places the towel over Sam’s face, Sam is trying to knock himself over in the chair. Eddie unscrews the cap off of the bleach, forces Sam’s head back, and pours the bleach in his eyes. The sound that Sam makes fills Eddie with a mixture of sorrow and joy.

“This is just the beginning for you, Sam. Since you cannot see, I’ll make sure that you’ll never see anything again. Don’t worry though, your time on earth is limited. You’ll be in the arms of Jesus before the end of the night. Take comfort in that and pray that God is more merciful than you have been.”

The morning’s sun gives way to the afternoon’s. Children play on the sidewalk outside, cars go up and down the street, and the birds sing a song that neither Eddie or Sam can hear. Eddie uses every item he has brought except for the meat slicer. He hopes the next one will join him, but if not he’ll use the meat slicer first.

_______________________________________________________

“A man thinks that by mouthing hard words he understands hard things.”― Herman Melville

Special thanks to my friend Matt, who prompted this story by asking the question: “What if a bumper sticker could change your beliefs on a subject?” He also said Eddie should bring a meat slicer. You’re as fucked up as I am, my friend. Thanks for the inspiration and for reading the stories I write.

Life’s a Bitch that I Should have Rode Harder

Life’s a Bitch that I Should have Rode Harder

I don’t know how long I was out but I’m awake now. I have no idea where I am or who has done this to me but I’ll find out. My head is pounding, my mouth is dry, and my wrists hurt from the rope. I could really use a drink, a double, no ice.

I remember unlocking my car door and putting my bag on the passenger seat. I remember hearing the sounds of other people getting into their cars around me. That’s the last memory I have before waking up here. If I get out of this I’m going to change my life. I’ll quit my job and start painting again, move up to Maine like I’ve always wanted to. I’ll call all of my exes and tell them how sorry I am for being such a piece of shit. I’ll try harder for Trish, she deserves a better man and if I get out of this I’m going to be that man. There are so many things left to do. It’s amazing how motivated you become when faced with the possibility that this might be it. You might be clocking out, this may be game over.

I’ve been trying to think of some reason behind all of this, something I may have done to deserve it. I’ve got nothing and I’d much rather think of the way Trish smiles when I stumble into the kitchen in the morning. The snort she makes when she’s had enough of my shit and is too tired to fight about it. How she looks sleeping in the sunlight on the days I wake up before her. God, she’s beautiful. To think I may never see her face again is too much. Please God, get me out of this. Whatever I’ve done, just help me.

I’m in a medium sized room, its walls are covered in wallpaper. It’s water stained and peeling in several places. The pattern is hard to make out because I don’t have my glasses on but it looks like a series of tiny roses with lines intersecting to form diamonds. It’s the ugliest wallpaper I have ever seen. The only thing in the room is the chair I’m tied to. My hands and feet have been bound to it. At least they didn’t gag me, I scream for help until my throat gives out. I don’t think anyone can hear me anyway. I turn my wrists back forth trying to loosen the knots, no dice. I try to wiggle my feet free but they won’t budge. The only shot I have is talking to whoever has done this. I won’t beg but I’ll try to reason with him or her. I have hope.

I can hear them somewhere, I focus on the sound to try and figure out what it is. I’ve heard it before but can’t place it. It reminds me of summer and grass bending with the wind in the fields behind my childhood home. I smell the grass and feel the sunshine on my face, the sweat of youth dripping down my back, the rush of cold liquid spilling down my throat as I swallow my Mom’s lemonade. I long for those days. I don’t want my end to be in this room.

Trish will call the police when I’m not home from work. They’ll make her wait twenty-four hours to file a missing persons report though. I never did understand that, the human routine is one of the hardest habits to break. They’ll look for me but if I don’t think they’ll find me.

The sound had stopped for a while but it’s started up again. It’s something metallic and makes these slick sounds. It’s hard to think with that sound in my ears. I have to piss and my throat is on fire from screaming. The sound stops and I hear footsteps. The doorknob starts to turn and I hear the groan of the warped door pulling away from its frame.

A man stands there. He is around 6’4”, about two-hundred and twenty pounds, dark brown hair, green eyes, and he’s built. His neck is wider than my head. His hands are behind his back, something I don’t like very much. Veins bulge on his shoulders and I can see every muscle trying to push its way through his skin.

“Who are you?”, is the only thing I can think of to say. He doesn’t respond, he steps into the room. His feet swing outward like he is dancing when he walks, it’s a slow waltz and I think he must have taken dancing lessons at some point during his life. He steps in front of me and smiles. He has the most perfect teeth I have ever seen. Razor straight and their whiteness hurts my eyes. I ask him again but I only get his smile in response. He starts to bring his arms from behind his back and I don’t want to know what he’s holding. I watch in slow motion as he brings them to his waist.

He’s holding two very large knives. I know what the sound was now, it clicks in my head and I know why I thought of the grass. It’s the same sound I heard as a child when my father would sharpen the blades of the lawn mower.

“Here’s where I prove that we are all the same on the inside.”, he says. My bladder lets go when I see the grin on his face.

My throat has rediscovered its ability to scream.

She Speaks

She Speaks

I’m hungry and I’ve been driving so long my ass has fallen asleep. I have a lengthy drive left and I won’t be stopping until much later, so I take the next exit.

I pull into the parking lot of a familiar chain and turn off the car. It takes me a while to shake my legs out but eventually I start walking towards the front of the building. They have high backed rocking chairs out front but it’s cold so I don’t expect anyone to be using them. There is, an old woman sits in the one closest to the door. She’s so thin at first I thought she was a Halloween decoration left out by mistake. Her skin looks like pantyhose, the slightest touch could poke a hole right through her. I can see knots of green veins running below the surface of her arms. Her head is down and she’s rocking back and forth while humming. I pick up the melody, it’s Ain’t No Grave she’s singing. My Grandmother use to sing the same song when she was in the kitchen. Normally hearing that song would make me smile with the memory of my Grandma drumming out the beat with her rolling pin while she sang in her alto voice but the way this lady is singing makes me want to erase the song from my memory.

I want to get inside the restaurant badly, the air doesn’t feel right and it’s much colder than I remember it being when I first got out. I move faster towards the door and silence collapses around my head. I’m no longer mounting the stairs of the restaurant, I’m standing with my feet at the edge of a lake looking down at my shoes. They’re getting wet, I back up confused and look around. Everything is gone, every building, every car, vanished. The lake I was standing at the edge of is huge, woods line its sides. Nooses hang in the trees on the edge of the forest. I turn around and the old woman is there, still in the rocking chair. I don’t want to go near her, I’m telling my feet to run towards the woods but they aren’t listening. They’re dragging me to the old woman. She’s still humming while she lifts an arm and starts to open her arthritic fingers from the claw they’ve become. I can’t scream, my throat constricts and that starts a fit of coughing, even with the coughing my slow walk continues.

By the time I reach her, her hand is unclenched and her head is up. She’s looking at me and her eyes are the deepest brown I’ve ever seen. She opens her mouth and she has no teeth, saliva dribbles down her chin and onto her chest. The humming has stopped but the silence is worse, or so I think. She speaks.

“The noose has not been filled. You have not atoned!”

Her mouth collapses against her gums after each word, there’s a rattle coming from deep within her chest. I want to bolt but my legs are locked in place. Tears form in my eyes and I’m unable to wipe them away. She grabs me with her hand and closes it around my wrist. I find my voice, scream and close my eyes.

Everything goes black.

I come around on the steps of the restaurant, a crowd has formed around me and in the distance I hear the sirens of an ambulance. I sit up shaking all over, someone to my left pushes my shoulder gently and tells me to lay back down. That’s alright with me, I’m beyond the point of exhaustion. I wait for the ambulance to come. I must have passed out and had a terrible dream. The paramedics load me on to a stretcher and wheel me into the back of the ambulance. Before they close the doors I catch a glimpse of the old woman watching me from the rocking chair. She smiles a toothless grin and lifts her hand in a wave. I start screaming and the paramedic gives me something that calms me down. Right before I go under I hear myself telling the paramedic that my shoes are wet.

The old woman was right. I haven’t even begun to atone for anything. I’ll start first thing tomorrow.