Archive for January, 2014

Greetings, my beautifully deranged and wondrously enlightened lot,

You know… Inspiration can be so fickle at times,

good idea

So obvious… and yet so genius!

Plus, even when it does strike, you’re still faced with a pretty darned big dilemma, aren’t you? I mean… is it even any good!? This random thing that’s just popped into your mind — out of, quite literally, thin air. You gonna to go for it? Eh? Well? Are you? (Seriously, is there a doctor soothsayer in the house?) I mean, somebody’s got to know…

Will it be worth our time?

Will it!?

(Somebody… ANSWER ME!!)

How can we know..?

Is this concept, sometimes no more than a mere sentence in our minds, going to pan out — after sometimes years, or even decades of hard work — into something that, at the start, was actually, truly worth investing into at all? It’s enough to Tonya Harding the kneecaps of even the most intrepid risk-taker! And — furthermore, hitherto, and not to mince words — never doubt, my people, that it is indeed an investment! A huge one…

Time and Land… they’re not making any more of the stuff.

Development, (if you’re here reading this, I’m sure you already know), is painstaking work. A plodding, laborious, hair-raking endeavor, that’s seen ears cut off, peni lobbed off, and children cut off. I mean, people may think that we just don some literal thinking cap, hole away in an attic somewhere, and magically spill these things out of our ears merely by tipping our heads to the page — but that’s not the case at all, is it!? It’s hard work, dag-nabit… It’s stressful!

Sentences can take hours,

Paragraphs; days…

Re-writes… an eternity!

(Thank God for scotch…)

And that’s the funny thing, isn’t it? See, even though it may not be — as, in the end it so oft will prove to seem (ahhh, the dastardly “Creators curse”…) — it’s the pursuit that teaches us our lessons in the end, isn’t it? All of life’s little mistakes, (naturally after lambasting you with your own perceived idiocy), will invariably and without fail, culminate to show us what not to do… so that, in turn, we actually know WHAT TO DO! Thought and execution, married happily, is the only real path toward a personal truth, and an internal sense of well-being.

Or….. maybe I’m just making this stuff up.

(See what I did there?)

😉

Here’s the deal for this week’s short,

Home alone one night, my sole roommate a good 50 miles away, and likely quite liberally inebriated, I heard a rather loud noise boom out from beyond my bedroom door… and, for some reason, my genius-self beckoned it — whatever IT was — to enter. I then proceeded to entreat it, “not to fear”, and insisted “I would totally not freak out once it came in my room” — despite the fact that my heart was pounding heavier than an elephant on a trampoline in the presence of a mouse.

I said, no means no!

EEK!

So anyway, after about a half hour… I began to feel rather silly — and that’s when the inspiration hit. I reached for my head-board, scrawled the rules of this short into the page, and this is what came of it all. I present it here, now, for proof of my theorem: that it is far better to try an idea, even if it seems doomed to fail, than give in to your souls erosion.

Was it worth it in the end?

I’ll leave that for you to decide.

(But, hell. I like it.)

~J

Broker your soul

journal

11:26, December 14th, 2013:

I am awakened by a crash, a frightful clamor my living room, the room adjacent to the bedroom where I sleep. Motionless I lie, my mind spinning wild fiction, while I listen, intent on divining some sound beyond the hammering in my chest, waiting patiently for any clue as to what might be the cause — a robber, my dear friend whom I’d given a key, or the possibility of something exotic… an animal perhaps; some beast.

But… Nothing. Not another decibel for the five long minutes I spent mummified under my sheets dwelling solely in my ear.

Eventually, I’d had enough. This wasn’t me; some coward calcified by a baseless fear. I am not a feeble man. Finally, once I’d deemed my reconnaissance sufficient, I crept up from my bed to investigate the scene — my heart setting the mood with its base and snare driven score, despite my fervent insistence of bravery. Full minutes were spent as I’d eased open my bedroom door, stealing an ever greater vantage as I went. Only to discover at my final perspective precisely what I’d not expected… an empty home. Embarrassed and abashed I strode into the room, shaking my head with aims toward my cowardice, grateful to let down my guard — when a menacing shadow darted at me with blinding speed. I tensed up, assuming a fighting stance and ready to engage whatever was intent on assaulting me… before I realized my folly. It had merely been the headlights of a passing car playing through the window.

Crossing the darkened room I shut the blinds against the gag, (an exercise in frivolity, in hindsight), before doubling back to attend the wailing warmth of my comforter, and promptly knocked my tender shin against something firm. And, right there on the floor, there it was. The cause of the clamor… my papasan chair had somehow rolled off its rounded base… I must have left it charged before bed. My forlorn book lie still in its nook. Wearily I made my approach to replace it — suddenly finding myself again filled with apprehension; an irrational fear, (of what, I know not), and, half expecting electrical shock, I grabbed the chairs edge… but again, nothing. I replaced the seat to the pedestal, doubly ensuring its purchase, and merely returned to my bed… baffled, though resigned to simple happenstance as the cause.

11:42, January 1st, 2014:

As I lie restless in bed, my circadian clock maladjusted for the abbreviated work week which loomed, entertained (and somewhat annoyed) by the silhouetted performance of dancing cells playing before my eyes curtain, and considering just getting up to go for a run… I began to hear the unmistakable sound of turning pages emanate from within my home. Being I’d read window-side before bed, I’d naturally assumed that the wind had simply picked up. So, and without delay, I arose… intent on closing the pestering portal and rescuing the precious time I was left to spend on my slumber. I threw open my bedroom door, took quick, dizzied, and shuffling steps to gain on the breathing window behind my couch — only to find it clamped shut and locked. I’d done my chore after all.

That’s when the books hit the floor.

explosive

They landed flat, trapping and then exploding out loudly with the air stuck betwixt them and my planked, wooden floor — engendered, I must say, with far more ferocity than gravity alone could have possibly proffered. Now, and before the instant where my mind would begin to scrutinize the occurrence, I remember noting the two books which had fallen: one, A collection of Poe’s greatest works; and the second, a hardcover of Koontz’s inaugural “Odd Thomas” Novel. Immediately then my mind leapt back to the incident, only three weeks then past, when the papasan had left it’s base of its own accord, stirring me in the night as it played against the floor… and before long I’d had myself convinced that my poor home had become possessed. My body tensed, rallying to run, and I snatched a hunting knife from its plaque before giving in, retreating then quickly to my bedchamber and slamming the door shut in my wake. Leaning against it, weighting it shut, I heaved for the stubborn air which wouldn’t come, (silently as I could manage, as to conceal my whereabouts), both hoping to, and not to glean some sound from behind my back.

It was here that I swear I’d heard a stifled laugh — a giddy little school kid down a long metallic shaft — radiate through the door behind my form. Slumping to the floor, my legs posted firm against my bed-mount for leverage, there I sat and waited… waited for the inevitable attack: an oncoming onslaught from a creature, or spirit demonic, to take my life.

But again… all was still.

And yet I still waited… my eight inch blade unsheathed, held in a vice-like, ice-pick grip, and ready to penetrate anything that darest try to pierce my fortification. Seconds grew to minutes, minutes hastily matured to hours… though my heart raced still… my mouth pooling with the taste of tin. A singular comfort came as the dawn arrived. Perhaps, “Comfort”, here is a misnomer. The dawn had reminded me of my obligations — namely, “clients”, and “work” — and so, despite my arresting trepidation, I ran my morning routine from my bedroom as best I could, before racing through my home, bloodshot and haggard, to dash out the front door, seizing sanctuary within the world.

The day was torturous — just sheer misery. The clients I’d scheduled to train were, each of them, demonstrably tardy, and in the solemn minutes which passed as I patiently languished, it became all I could do to resist the temptation, presented by my inflamed eyelids and weighted cheeks, to slip under the easy wing of comfort, relenting to repose.

I, however, am a warrior. I refuse to be average. I was made to command my mind, never could it be the other way: never could it, a mere organ, hope win this war of wills. I toughed out the day, remaining steadfast to the fire-watch of my mind, and returned home without incident — far too frustrated and exhausted to humor some crackpot, half-cocked theory about a capricious poltergeist — and promptly accepted the rest I’d so surely earned on this day…

12:21, Jan 21st, 2014:

Supine in bed, preternaturally still but yet mentally stirring, an overarching theory percolated within my mind while I reminisced over the copious bouts of queer happenstance which had transpired as of late.

The Poe and Koontz hardbacks were found — each and every morning — strewn across my living room floor. Some sort of odd protest, I’d imagine, which I undid, each and every day, by giving my dear friends back to their preferred recess.

Only a week past now, while a storm of thunder frenzied outside, my running shoes, it would seem, had craved the world without me… usurping themselves to places unknown. A requirement of my trade, I scoured my home for their likeness, only successfully making myself late in the pursuit — merely to find them out, laced up and mud caked, at the center of my floor. It had been my third trip through that particular space while attending to this quest, and I was doubtless that they’d not been there only just before.

Just two days prior now, having drawn a hot bath to assuage my mounting stresses — and with fresh steam still billowing out from it — I stepped easily into the brief pool, only to find my water to be frigid… And so, as a show of command, I willed my bodice into the haunted liquid anyhow, making clear my statement of defiance while holding firm my failing floodgates of fear, proceeding then to linger in the wash just as long as would be custom.

And finally tonight — the crowning jewel of occasion — as I scrubbed a vaguely familiar stranger for the Sandman in the sink, bodily exhausted and off my guard from an arduous days work, a preternatural force seized my skull, shoving it madly downward toward the basin, and successfully bashed my face into the faucet… splitting my nose wide….

Though, a curious thing here happened.

I discovered… that I wasn’t angry.

I found also that I was no longer afraid…

How many times across my long career had a client erred in their training, from fatigue or distraction, and maligned my face with a errant fist? And, equally as many times, had I not then been forced thereafter to forgive this infraction without incident? Countless. I simply moved forward with the session, not a trace of poison to my mind, nary a single drip of anger — when easily it could’ve brewed into a storm. Somehow this physical slight had driven me into my comfort zone. Someway had this barbaric act leveled the playing field in my mind…

Merely then did I raise my head, blood tracing carefree lines down the musculature of my neck, and apply a ginger glob of vaseline from the vanity — pacing then easily into the bedroom, before finding myself here, now, in the present.

Now, I lie in wait — wait for what, I know not… until it would come and teach me — anxious to execute a plan, one, admittedly, compiled loosely, barely held with the unbinding twines of whim and hunch, and about to be tested in a blazing inferno, but the only true course of action I could conceive. An action driven by pure instinct alone… though, despite all this, try I must. Try I will. What other options were left to me?

Then it came — strange footfall from inside; the clicking of a quadrupeds nails against my hardwood floor.

dog

“Come in”, I tell it.

Giving the words an inflated inflection, one engendered with the authority of a recruiter preparing to oversee an applicant with slim, to no potential.

Then, for a time indeterminate due to its sheer confounding length… the air was still. The house merely maintained its stark silence. Before long I found my sanity cast back into the brimstone of question, as I raked, yet again, at all the details of occurrence which had led me to this day, and finding them, not for the first time, to form nothing more than a shamefully dubious pile of mere anecdotal evidence…

…that is, all before the door to my bedroom creaked and began to open.

door

The game was on.

In my mind, fervently excited, though maintaining well the course, I ran a countdown from three… an arbitrary condition of my makeshift scheme… and, just as the numbers exhausted, I leapt up from bed, revealing a man fully dressed, as I flourished the sheets like a mighty Torero would against the pressing horns of a bull — and somehow successfully snagged something within my slapdash net. The covers constricted the entity, veiling it and felling it to the floor, leaving it tangled and flailing at my heel. Then, in a flash, the disembodied heap lunged at me and I felt, through a wild flare-up of pain, the generous jaw of what seemed a common hound seize at my leg — teeth terrifyingly sharp, even through the generous padding of this, my thickest quilt. Out of sheer instinctual indignance, reactively I doubled over, throwing then my best right cross square into the things ribs, while switching my hips mightily for punctuation.

Heartily, it yelped… whatever it was… proceeding then to release its dire grip on my calf. The sound, I’d later note, was not all too dissimilar to that of a wolf — but characterized by an aftereffect; some otherworldly echo, an enhancement of post chosen to support an air of malice and menace. Ignoring the pain in both my leg and my nose, which had begun again to freely flow, I gathered up all the poise I could muster and walked easily into the living room… taking then a comfortable seat on my coffee table, at a place adjacent to and across from my papasan, casually then throwing one leg over the other.

“When you’re done playing the heathen”, I spoke levelly, ‘fatherly’ being my operative direction, “Come have a seat. It’s time we had a chat.”

The snout of the confused blanket searched blindly about its form — whipping from left to right, snarling angrily as it went — though, missing all but the dresser in its wild fury, it soon abandoned this pursuit, growing then to be still. I watched it, enthralled — equal parts trepidation, apprehension, and sheer curiosity — as the rising and falling of the creature beneath the sheet soon eased, calmed quickly to custom, and then physically lowered toward the ground… until nothing of it seemed to remain, leaving the sheet itself seemingly forlorn. Before long a gray, pluming mist wafted out from under a corner, lifting it ever so slightly as it went, before proceeding then to blow, breezeless, toward where I sat in living room — the suction of its wake then slamming the door behind it shut as it came.

The living, darkened air then rapidly approached my face, flowing quickly across my cheek, and striking it along the way… before then caressing the tip my right ear, rolling tenderly, thereafter, behind my head and descending easily down my neck. Threading its way under my left arm, feeling as a creeping serpent to my flesh, the thing then billowed, gathering it’s mass to a dark cloud at my sternum — before shoving violently at me, forcing me to brace, while backing itself deep into the comfortable recesses of the papasan across from me. Now before my eyes did it sit, (or, rather, float), finally permitting me a look at its form. It seemed an entity composed entirely of grey vitriolic gas, showing corporeally only two eyes of burning blue flame. I stared at them, those fiery eyes — not as some challenge of might to the beast, but rather as I would with any other being — as a show of respect. And they, in turn, glared back — clearly wizened, albeit composed with a medium of flame.

At last it spoke, using a mouth which manifest only as air passed its lips, lips not quite inhuman — though violet, voluminous, and uncannily wide — not quite human either… saying finally, “Very well. You’ve intrigued me, little Tremia. Of what purpose should I engage you?”

Ignoring for the time being this cheeky moniker, of a culturally unknown and yet obviously well fleshed out foreign lexicon, I said precisely what I’d planned, “What do you want with me?”

It guffawed at this, heartily, and with great mirth, the lips appearing again for the task though this time accompanied by the outline of two blue hued and rebounding cheeks as well. Abruptly then, its amusement subsided… leaving a frigid chill to the air, and only the duo of ominous, embering, penetrating eyes — floating without context in space — to go along with it.

“I’m here to claim what you lowly creatures have coined, ‘A Soul’.”

I swallowed my Adams-apple, before fortifying my eyes once again.

“Intriguing…” I began, matter of fact as I could manage, “So tell me, why is it important to you. My soul? What even is a soul?”

Again the thing howled with laughter, its full visage gaining tangibility for a moment, horrid, sharp, frightening features to it, before fading quickly back again into the ether, leaving mere burning eyes.

“No matter.” It began, lips showing only as words were spake, “I’m confident as to your awareness of the fact that my power greatly shadows that of a mere Tremia. What I will permit you to know, however, in these twilight moments of your existence, is that you will perish eternally once I take it.”

“I see.” I said, casually pulling a stick of gum from my pocket, and popping it into my mouth. “Well,” I continued, twisting the wrapper distractedly between my fingers to form a pin “not knowing what it is that you are, I cannot deny this… I’m certain that your might remains unchecked particularly to something such as me. But, since you are giving allowances, perhaps you can divulge this truth to me before I go… Why do you want it? My soul?”

Here the flames of its face raged, flashing keener and wider than ever before — swollen seemingly with pride. Momentarily did they squint, a sign of hesitation, a shadow of doubt that, if entertained, could easily signal the abrupt end of my existence… before they widened once more, again showing confidence in their unchecked power.

“I, as you may have guessed, am not of this world…” The beast began, as I gradually fished my phone from my pocket, “…I exist extra-dimensionally. Pan dimensionally, in truth… I have found a means of crawling backwards through the universal fabric — from complexity, where I was born, to here… the lowly third dimension; this final pathetic outpost of life. I’m able to span across varying complexities of existence by diluting my spirit to suit the rules of the realm: First, by leaching souls of natural dimensional origin; and then, bit by bit, by replacing them with increments of my own… all while consuming their life energies along the way. Soon, once I complete my journey in this particular place and thread of time — a journey over two billion years already in motion — I will become a god to this existence, as conqueror of each of its dimensions. Gaining then, and forever thereafter, the ability to continue my expansion, unabated, across all the other splintered, clipped, and forgotten strings of time… interminably spanning to cover all the possibilities of this reality as a whole… at least as it can be understood to one from within it. Then, once all of space and time has been conquered through this consumption — all that is and ever can be possiblefinally a being of this world, finding itself full of it, will be able to venture beyond it. Me. Finally, will I know what lies beyond. A painting freed from its canvas and able to explore the artists hovel. After so long, I will finally find my place among the altar of the gods, and be able to create a world suited to my interests. Leaving behind, forever, the barbaric, archaic, and simple-minded denizens of this realm.”

My face was contorted in shock… How could I hide it? Across from me, in my home, nestled deep into the pocket of my favorite chair, sat the thing which would become something greater than our peevish notions of a God. Was it even possible? Surely whatever it was which presently rested across from me couldn’t know for sure either. Though, in its efforts, it would, undoubtedly, end all of life as we knew it — and even as we ever might come to know it. Acting off this shock, my fingers loosened and released my phone, splintering it to pieces across the hardwood at our feet… it must’ve known that what it had said was simply too much for a human mind to comprehend. Blindly, without ever breaking eye contact, I flailed at the floor… finding the battery to my phone, and cradling it in my lap for comfort.

The creature eyed me suspiciously, though continued on with its story — likely recounting it for the first time in many a millenia, and relishing in the idea that it would also be the last.

“However, frightened little Tremia, for now, all you need know is that my soul is presently still too large to manifest in your world… though only just. To this end, I require your soul. Your soul, you should be proud to know, is that of a type which necessitates my taking of it, rare as it is. It’s known as a, “warriors soul”, and is most precious and quite rare indeed. Congratulations… ‘Human’, is it?” It laughed, and I shuffled the items in my sweat slicked palm, “You’ve worked very hard across your brief life indeed. Your soul has expanded in tandem with your body in a way that only very few people ever even hope to achieve — in equal parts mentality and physicality. Both the knowledge of what you may do, and your attempts of execution are matched. For this reason you, a remarkable Tremia indeed, are whom I have chosen to complete my two billion year journey to conquer all of life, so that I may stand on the shoulders of this withered Universe, and finally, after so long, peer beyond it.”

I’d heard enough. Such an ego had no place ruling anything. Steadying my right hand with my left, with the circuit of my phone battery complete and held open with the simple foil from my gum, I pushed through the violent shock currently coursing through my arm to then lunge at the pompous thing across from me, to successfully land the cathode of this paltry circuit to the still lingeringly manifest lips which hovered where a face ought to be. Fighting the violent twitches of my arm, and ignoring my melting flesh under the ever-growing heat of the highly charged ions in my palm, I watched, frightened and amazed, as this creature composed of pure energy — as attested to in the recounting of his tale — was absorbed by a simple, inanimate material in this lowly third dimension.

When it was done, I dropped the coal in my hand to the floor, and watched it smoulder — radiating blue against my bare wood floor.

I left it there for days, that battery…

and for days I had to due to the heat.

All across the globe, reports of presidents, politicians, congressmen, and clowns dying spontaneously and inexplicably began to flood televisions and newspapers. The world feared some virus, or new strain of disease… but only I would know the truth.

Finally, after a month, it was cool enough to handle.

Instinct told me to leave it in the freezer for another month.

After another month, the battery felt like any other two inch, by two inch, by one quarter inch deep inanimate object might feel: Lifeless, cool, and inert. For giggles, I shoved it back into my phone, and, once booted, instructed the voice activation to regard me with a new name: “Tremia”.

To this day, ten years after my encounter, I’ve yet to charge my phone, not even once — nor have I ever had to replace my battery. However sometimes, late at night, a burning blue flame will show on the screen, lighting my entire room and darting erratically across its face, a thing seemingly scared and lost… and I’m forced to chuck a pillow at it.

~Fin

Ahhh, and there you have it. Interpretations a-plenty are welcome, as I’ve packed in here quite a few. If the language feels weathered a bit, or ‘aged’, there’s good reason: Poe, and his macabre style and setting, played hop-scotch throughout my mind as I thought this up, and thus titillated my inner child, convincing him to try and emulate some of that vibe.

Here’s hoping it worked!

Hope you enjoyed,

Take care readers.

~J

Happy New year, Everyone!

Good_News_Everyone_by_martynasx

Hey there, everyon… Woh!

Heh. Sorry about that. You caught me off guard. No offense intended here, but… you sure put on some weight over these last few weeks. (I barely recognized ya’!). I mean, you’re still dead sexy, Readers… My readers ARE the sexiest group of readers on the planet… but come on! Let’s get with it! It’s time to kick this thang off right!

Anywho, no matter really — we’re all allowed a bit of leeway around the holidays. In fact I believe I’ve missed two weekends worth of stories, myself.

(Tsk, Tsk…)

And so, I thought I’d make up for it today.

This story needs little to no introduction, as I’ve written it, re-written it — and then deleted everything I had because it was crap and re-wrote it yet again!

And now I think I’ve finally got something of merit.

🙂

WARNING: For those of you that live with ADD (like myself) you may want to break this story up — it’s mostly why I add the pictures FYI… ‘Virtual Bookmarks’.

This story was inspired by three splinters that, despite how many times I’d removed them from my thumb over the course of a week, continued to appear. So, as inspiration goes, this was… queer… but I really had a lot of fun with what i came up with here, and believe I nailed the syllogism I was after in the end (if I do say so myself)…

Let’s see if you can catch it!

Please enjoy.

~J

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Evolution

Ominous_Mist_by_clacier

He felt it wake up…

He always did…

It wouldn’t be long now…

Hurriedly, abruptly, Hickey threw out excuses, ended conversations, and broke away from the gaggle of foreign nurses and technicians which had congregated around him.

It knew. It surged within him, flaring up from the nape of his neck and growing quickly around his shoulders to embrace his chest and ribs. His eyes watered, blurring his view, as he made his way, serpentine, toward the Janitor, entrusted today with keys that had never before been used.

“I’d like to be let in”, requested Hickey, meekly. His face down and his hands jammed far too deeply into his pockets — feeling more vulnerable than an assistant to a post op, carpel tunnel knife-thrower on a spin-wheel, he told himself.

Wait, what? Where did that come from, he wondered frantically…

Fanning the flames of his fear…

Unknowingly Feeding his demon…

Far too slowly, the Janitor raked a suspicious eye across Hickey from head to toe — it took hours. This is insane, he thought. It was calling again — of course it would, once awake it never stopped — and he didn’t know how much longer he’d be able to resist. He needed to get away. Now. It didn’t know what today was, and Hickey didn’t know what it was, to be fair… not for certain at least. But he simply couldn’t let his peers see him like this; in this sad, weakened state. No way he could let this ruin him. It was a cutthroat industry they worked in, and he remembered well what it had taken to get himself to the top — and he was now, undoubtedly, at the top. He’d arrived. The big dog, chosen alone for this special patient. Looking over toward the crowd of his contemporaries, Hickey thought, All they’d need is a little leverage, and all my life’s work

“You alright, Dr. H.?” finally, the Janitor spoke, “Normally you’re the last one in the OR.”

The overly familiar tone hit a chord within Hickey, making him tic, cocking his head to the side ever so slightly… before something behind his eyes snapped. Suddenly, with deft, explosive speed, he reached out, seizing the man’s Adam’s apple in his fist — gripping it with tremendous force — before proceeding to tear his entire esophagus out through his throat with a violent jerk. He hoisted it then above his head, his slick and throbbing trophy, while letting its fresh, warm blood trickle freely down and across his wildly grinning visage.

Seriously_Scary_by_steelgohst

It’s not real, Sam… It’s your imagination…

You know that it is…

Fight it.

He snapped back to reality, “I’m fine, thanks. Maybe it’s the locked door, George.” He said, selling the ersatz politeness like a veteran used car salesman, motioning toward the door. “It’s… unnerving. Would you mind?”

“Of course, Sam. Of course.” Said George, expertly fishing a weighty, triple-decker key-ring off his belt loop in a smooth and well-practiced motion, before beginning to rifle through the keys. “Hey, did you catch that Re-run of, “House” last night by any chance?”

“No, George” replied Hickey, far more edge to his voice than intended. “I’ve told you, I don’t watch T.V.”.

George tried a wide, bronzed key in the knob — no good. “I know what you say, Dr.H… but everybody watches T.V.”.

“Well… not me”, Hickey answered, saddened somewhat by the prospect of this simple normalcy which had always eluded him.

“That Dr. House, he reminds me a lot of you. You know?” George continued as he tried a dull silver key in the handle to no avail — and as Hickey saw a flash of himself gutting him with all the subsequent wrong choices. “He never gives up, that House. And, like you,” he glanced back at Hickey, “He’d rather be good at what he does, than be healthy”. Finally, his third try, George got the right key. He stepped into the prep room, holding the door for Hickey, and used his custom key to flip the light switches on. ” You look like you need some sleep, Dr.H…”, he concluded.

“I’m fine”, said Hickey, abruptly — before slamming the door shut in George’s face.

Violently, without hesitation, Hickey clawed frantically at his neck, eventually quieting, for but a moment, the crippling familiar which now resided therein. How much longer can this possibly last, he wondered. What have I done to deserve this? Fuck that damned rat, he thought, punctuating each word in turn within his mind… before beginning to feel a familiar warmth radiate from his chest. Returned from their charge, and speedily en-route to engage their fresh one, his hands came back from behind his head contorted, crooked, and, to his great horror, bloodied — which stopped them dead in their tracks before awestruck eyes.

Just then the light in the adjacent OR flipped on, and through the semi-transparent waved glass, just beyond the gap between his stained, seized-up hands, he saw the silhouette of the mystery man, the man who was to be his patient, being wheeled into the room.

Running to the sink, his demon momentarily forgotten, Hickey flushed his hands under the cool water, liberating them from their red coat… only to unearth a brass substrate beneath.

No… It can’t be.

Not today!

His demon laughed at this, and swelled.

Now, visible throughout the tips of each of his fingers, were tiny, filament like shards of browned steel. Most lay flat beneath his flesh, glimmering under the surface against the pulsating fluorescents above, but some jutted out straight, little daggers planted firmly in his skin — their tips sharp, foreboding, and now fairly obviously the reason behind all the blood. Without much thought, he jammed his fingers into his mouth, clamped his eyes shut, and felt about with his teeth and tongue for anything protruding… before yanking them out one by one as they were found, and spitting them into the basin.

Ting… Bing… Splat…

He had to hurry.

Ting… Bing… Splat…

They’d not be far behind…

His humanity was fading. This, perhaps, was the only bit of higher reasoning that remained with him — that he was losing his mind. Whatever he had been, prior to the Rat invasion only two weeks past, he now no longer was. Doctor, Leader, Boss, Friend… The best at what he does… These titles meant nothing to him now. Now, he was nothing but a rabid animal — cleansing himself with his teeth, and using the finished bits to slake away tiny increments of his primitive, senseless urge. God, did he itch! It was nary unbearable. But he had to hold out just a little bit longer. After all, he could always stop the bleeding on his neck, but he could never take the hue out from his scrubs. He just needed to finish the extractions, wash his hands, and put on the gloves. Then, none would be the wiser. Nobody would know. He could finish the surgery in half the time he’d quoted, rush off home to be alone, as he always was, and then calculate his next step.

Just one step at a time, he assured himself.

Just one thing, and then the next, and then… eventually…

…I’m sure you’ll get to the bottom of this.

Licking his fingertips once again reminded him of the devolved state he’d been forced to adapt, but also proved to him that he was now, finally, finished with his task. And as soon as this realization hit, like a green light after a year and a half of sitting at an intersection, he jammed on the gas, succumbed to his need, and worked himself into a tizzy — scratching this way and that, up and down, left and right, and turning about while contorting his shape in order to reach more and more exotic locations… feeling, all the while, like the Tasmanian Devil he’d loved so very much as a child.

What a stupid thing for a kid to idolize, he thought. A mindless, spinning, inexhaustible appetite with eyes. A creature of pure instinct, with no situational awareness whatsoever…

“Sam, what are you doing?” Demanded Ann in a whisper from behind his shoulder — shattering his thoughts, ceasing his motion, and causing him to leap from fear and land on the Moon. Her voice continued on then as an omnipresent echo, a hushed thunder that rang out all across the surface of the great cheese ball where now he stood, agape and staring up at a half-lit Earth, “You’re bleeding…”.

At once, the room he’d forgotten came back into focus, and Hickey soon realized, much to his chagrin, that he’d been doing the ole’, “Hokey-Pokey-Tasmanian-Devil-Itchy-Dance” right before all his contemporaries while they washed in the sink and prepped for surgery — precisely what he’d been planning to avoid.

Well, you got your leverage, he thought morosely, closing his fists to hide his shame, now let’s see if you spineless invertebrates will do anything with it.

“Come here”, insisted Ann, her hand spinning him by the hip to face the crowd, hiding the blood behind his neck as she wiped it tenderly with a paper towel. “What did you do?”

He faltered. “I, uh. I had an itch…”

Gently she grabbed his wrist, as she simultaneously conducted her blind cleaning, saying softly, “Stop. Sam, we don’t have to do this. You look like shit. We don’t know any of these people. Hell, we don’t even know the patient! What are we doing?

“We’re doing the surgery, Ann.” He said plainly, noticing an eavesdropping technician over her shoulder, holding the door for the bulk of the flock as they migrated into the adjacent E.R.. His gaze darted as it met Hickeys, but he was sure he’d sensed a healthy modicum of self-pity in those eyes before they had. Likely trying to justify why it was Hickey and not him — or at least one of their own, this supposed celebrities’ entourage — chosen to perform the surgery.

Because he was the best, he assured himself.

Not anymore, came his unconscious response.

His demon cackled heartily.

“What, were you up all night working on your book again?” Ann inquired as the room finished clearing out, successfully fishing him from the void once more.

“No. I just…. I can’t sleep at all anymore. I actually finished all three a couple weeks ago.”

“Edits and all?”

“Edits and all.”

“So… What is it?” She inquired rather tenderly. “I am so proud of you by the way, Sam… I mean, Doctor Hickey. Truly.”

Her eyes penetrated him thoroughly, leaving him somewhat dumbfounded. Proud? Who was she to care about him? He returned her direct gaze with one of his own, and their eyes began a waltz, chaperoned by dueling smiles. “Well, actually, that night… the night I’d finished, that’s when this all started. I finished typing in the final edits, clicked save, stretched back into my chair — the most relaxed I’d felt in months, honestly — and that’s when I saw it. A rat. A big, brown, bulbous-assed rat, scurrying across my kitchen floor, right in my peripheral vision.”

“Sounds like you need a woman’s touch around there.” She teased.

“I maintain a VERY clean home, thank you” He defended, quickly staving off the worst of his demanding flesh as he rubbed hurriedly at his thigh, hoping not to be noticed.

paranoia-melissa-dzierlatka

The demon was starting to win.

He had to get this going.

…But, what of Ann?

“I meant no offense, Doctor.”

“Never fear.” He assured her, feeling her draw away some. He picked up the pace of the story now, to try and win her back. “Anyway, I did a bit of quick research and found a simple solution: Steel wool. So, I bought a few cheap boxes up the block, scoured my home for any tiny passages, and shoved a ball or two of the stuff into all the spaces.”

“I don’t understand. So… What happened to you, exactly?”

“That’s just it… I’m not really sure.” He distractedly scratched at his belly,  “I woke up the next morning itchy, with a shard of steel sticking out of my thumb — so I figured it must’ve been the steel wool, right?”

“Sure.”

“Only this shard… was brown. And also… there were more.”

“More?”

“Yes. Many more… More buried in my palm. More stuck into my thighs, and my legs, and neck… and even certain… delicate areas. I mean, I did a bit of juggling at one point as I wandered about from room to room, stupid in hindsight, but this seemed… strange. Obviously. To say the least…”

“I’ll say, but…” She trailed off, noticing his balled hands held firm against his waist. “Wait, it’s happening right now, isn’t it?” Hickey didn’t answer, but his skittish countenance said all she needed to hear. She laced her fingers tenderly about his hands. “Sam, let me take a look…”

“No. It’s… it’s nothing. I’m fine. Let’s just head in and get this over with.”

“Sam Hickey,” she began, in a tone which mirrored that of his mothers when he was in trouble as a boy, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but you choose me… correction, you fought this celebrity douchebag tooth and nail to have one of your own in the room with you, and you made that person me… and you don’t trust me?” Verily, heartily, Ann was offended. “I trust you…”

Gazing into her thoughtful, deep emerald eyes Hickey felt an immense sense of guilt wash over him. He desperately wanted to relent, but the urge was reaching critical mass within him. Besides, this issue was no simple matter, not that she knew that, or even could know — and time was of the essence.  At once, he broke away and crossed the room, headed over toward the box of sterile blue gloves, saying simply over his shoulder for closure, “After surgery”.

The other side of the room fell cripplingly silent.

She hates me… He thought.

Well… What else is new?

Without looking back, Sam Hickey threw on his gloves, entered the OR, and left Ann behind in the prep room… as she silently began to weep.

In the room, everything was prepared. The patient was drugged, unconscious and entubated, and the impromptu staff had taken their proper places around the patient’s table. The head laparoscopic assisting technician was extending a scalpel in his direction, and Hickey could sense the sneer aimed at him even through the surgical mask.

Well no matter…

Let’s get this done with…

Time to begin.

Looking back over his shoulder, hoping that the soul vestige of his team would soon be at his side, Hickey saw the shadow of Ann grow through the dense and waved glass. Slowly it moved toward the OR door, placing a tentative a hand on it’s flat face, before hesitating, and then slowly retreating back away from it… eventually leaving the prep room entirely to head back out toward the hall. He sighed, and, after a long beat of hesitation, reluctantly accepted the scalpel… just as the sole of his right foot began to flare.

This surgery was going to be a test of will he wasn’t sure he’d pass…

His foot, engulfed in flame, beckoned him…

The demon was growing inpatient.

In his distraction, he never noticed the patient sit up, nor plunge the needle into his neck.

Before he could react, the group of strangers leapt at him, arresting his limbs.

He suddenly grew tired…

His demon assuaged…

Then… Reality grew dark.

Hickey slumped to the floor.

Businessman laying down on white background

The next thing he knew, Hickey was strapped to a massive, upright rotary sander, the pad wildly spinning, wobbling off axis, and making him vomitous. Across from him, on a belt sander, stood Ann, chucking scalpels at him underhand in a windmill softball fashion and missing repeatedly by mere millimeters. Then the queer, detached, markedly unenthused voice of a Man neatly broke his stupor, saying levelly, “Sam? Sam are you there? Wake up, my friend. there is much to discuss.”

Hickey’s eyes cracked open in a flash, his illusion neatly rippling into reality while fear slowly washed over him — as he soon realized that he recognized nothing of his surroundings. He sat limp, exhausted, and cotton-mouthed on an ultra modern, cloyingly adorned, white chaise lounge, amidst an expensive, well furnished, wood finished office, and just before an impossibly wide, somewhat garish, highly polished oak and birch trimmed desk. Behind the desk sat the man who he was scheduled to operate on, a man who had only gone only by the pseudonym, ‘Bojangles’.

“Oh, good. You’re awake.” spoke the mystery man from behind his small fortress. “How are you feeling?”

Groggily, he pushed himself up easy on the sofa, and then swung his legs off to the side to sit upright — and he couldn’t help but notice that his palms hadn’t stuck to the lounger as they sought comfort to lie in his lap. Turning over his palms confirmed his suspicion: there, at the end of his wrist, was bone, blood, dermis, epidermis, nails and knuckles and hair… but no steel. Not one single fiber... He shot a wary, frightened look across the room to the man behind the imposingly wide desk.

“We’ve given you a drug that can stave off the metamorphosis, but only for a little while. You’ll likely need more soon.”

“metamorphosis?” Said Hickey weakly, with a voice around three pitches below the one he was accustom to.

“Yes. Congratulations, Sam Hickey. You’re evolving. And, very likely — if you’re anything like the others — dying. Rather painfully, I’d imagine. I’m so sorry.”

Hickey’s brow knotted.

Dying…?

Evolving…?

Others…!?

Hickey was at a loss. What was he to make of all this? Could he trust this man? This imposter, who’d drugged him, and kidnapped him, and brought him… here. Wherever the hell here was.

His lip twitched…

No. He had to get away. Surely his life was in danger. He shot a glance behind him, discovering the door, and sprang to his feet to dash toward it, quickly finding the floor — which was a surprising outcome…

Speaking relaxed and unhurried from behind him, the man said, “Try again in about ten minutes, the drug is an intense muscle relaxer. You’ll only hurt yourself otherwise.”

Though he couldn’t move to look, Hickey heard the voice of the man grow, and visualized his approach from behind the desk. Soon there was an easy hand snaking its way under his shoulders, which then helped him back up and into the comfort of the Chaise lounge. The man dragged a simple steel folding chair over from the corner of the room, and set it up to sit next to Hickey now.

“Here’s the deal,” Began Bojangles, an older, silver-eyed, bald-headed man, with liver spots and tired sunk-down eyes, wearing a sad, simple smile, “You can never go back to the world.”

Hickey’s eyes went wide, quavering.

“Now you’re a doctor, so I’m going to explain this under the assumption that you know the terms I’m about to use. Have you any questions, let me know at the end, and I will answer them with complete candor. I want you to know, that I am on your side. Alright?”

Hickey eased some, and nodded — knowing that without motor function, he didn’t have much other choice.

At least my mystery has a solution, he thought, …or at least an explanation.

“Very well.” Began Mr.Bojangles, before pausing to clear his throat from what sounded like a golf ball-sized lump of phlegm — which Hickey then involuntarily visualized kicking clear out of his mouth to land a Hole-In-One out the window, which didn’t exist, on a golf course he didn’t know was there.

It had awakened…

The demon yet lived…

It was merely coping with the soporific drug’s effects, itself…

Reaper_155

Bojangles continued, wholly ignorant to his own death and rebirth that had just transpired in the last second, “Lamarckism is true, and it stacks with Epigenetics. Your father, Ron, was a very hard worker, indeed… as was your mother, Diane. As a matter of fact, we followed your genealogy back to the middle ages, and found mostly scholars along the way. Long story short, you’ve tripped an evolutionary trigger. Something you did recently, I’d say about a week ago, maybe more, filled your RNA to capacity. The reaction you’re experiencing is your body’s response to a need for more storage space. An updating of the brain, as it were, which seems to uniformly take place in its oldest region: the Medulla Oblongata.”

Hickey just stared in awe, rapt at attention.

Feeling it was OK to proceed, Bojangles forged on ahead. “Psychologically speaking, who you are is not a single entity. You are the manifestation of three — well, mostly three — distinct personalities: each arising in the major regions of the brain. This happens in any sufficiently interconnected system, given enough time and exposure to the world; consciousness forms. Here is where the problem arises. Feeling itself falling into a death spiral… The brain stem has begun fighting back. The effects can normally be felt as psychotic hallucinations, paranoia, withdrawal from society, and extreme discomfort. Without fail, these symptoms will continue to get worse, and worse, until one day you will snap… and likely go on a killing spree. This is why we must remove you from society.”

Hickey blinked… Then blinked again. Nodding then, ever so slightly, for the man to continue.

“Right.”

Here, Bojangles took a deep breath. To Hickey, he seemed redolent to dive into this next bit. He steeled his mind as best he could to accept what was to come…

Bojangles went on, holding out his fist, “Here’s the deal.” slowly, he upturned his palm and opened his fingers in turn to reveal a tiny purple pill in his hand. “This is the medication we gave to you. It has the power to stop the changes. But there’s a catch. Ultimately, it’ll be your decision whether or not to take it.”

Summoning the whole of his lungs volume to formulate his words, Hickey took the bait, “What’s the catch?”.

“The medication will insure your sanity, granting you the ability to exist without all the pain and mental torture you’ve endured as of late. However, the way it does this is by attacking the culprit at the source… it will erode your Brain stem.”

“Meaning my heart…” Hickey ran short of breath.

“Will eventually stop, yes. And you will perish…. Years from now, though. Probably twenty, maybe more… I don’t know. It’s different for everyone.” He paused here, letting the last bit catch up fully, before moving on. “Moreover, and if I’ve extrapolated properly from your case file, the bit you’ll find most pertinent… because the drug is engineered to pass the blood brain barrier, the other regions of your brain will be subject to the same fate. Basically, your brain will deteriorate. You’ll be alive, yes, but you wont be yourself. We’ll take care of you, we’ll feed you, house you, clothe you, clean you — permit you endless entertainment — but what you must know before agreeing to taking this pill, is that you will cease being who you presently are. But, from what I can gather, this option is far preferable to the alternative; remaining who you are, yes, but being all the while trapped in your mind, as your reptile brain tries to take over, and you journey along the hellfire on a spiraling journey to certain madness…”

Again, all Hickey could do was blink. This was unacceptable. Inconceivable. How could he, or anyone for that matter, willingly give up their humanity just… to be alive. Some lump on a couch with a TV… All that had ever mattered to him was improving himself, and helping others — he’d never even invested the time in someone else to have a meaningful relationship — his brain had always taken precedence… and here he sat, numb, lost, and facing nothing but a choice to give all that up… Meanwhile, in this perspective, he still had so much living to do.

He’d left so much undone in his life…

Ann’s beautiful face flashed before his eyes…

A single tear rolled toward the tip of her attractive, aquiline nose…

His ire at the prospect gave him the strength to speak, “You said I had a choice. This… this is no choice. Nobody would take that offer.”

Bojangles looked to the floor, rubbing at the back of his head with his free hand, “Everyone has taken the offer. Give it time… The pain will return, and you’ll remember why it is that you’re here, speaking with me.”

And it was true. Even as the air passed his lips, a meager flare-up, no larger than a pimple, was forming at the base of Hickey’s skull. Already he could feel it grow. Had all the others actually chosen mental suicide, he wondered? It seemed rather hard to believe, being that these individuals, like him, had reached this end due to a generationally passed down passion for knowledge. Could he really take the comfort of death, over the pain of living?

His mind was made up.

He reached out for Bojangles, lithe, arthritic hand…

And closed the man’s delicate fingers back around the pill.

“I refuse” Said Hickey plainly. “I choose knowledge. I choose myself over some lifeless husk. Even if that means constant torture…”

Bojangles looked up from the floor, and searched throughout Hickey’s eyes for even the briefest glimmer of doubt –smiling broadly when he found that none existed.

“We’ll have to cut you off from the world — you know that don’t you? If you continue learning, you’ll only accelerate the process.”

“All I require is paper, and pen” Explained Hickey, “I will make it to the other side of this… if even that place exists.”

“There is no evidence to that fact…” Explained Bojangles, the hope in his eyes and inflection to his voice mismatched to the words implication.

“Regardless… I want you to observe me. I believe that, over time, being that I now know what it is that ails me, I can conquer this…” And, as he made the claim, almost as a test, a fresh hallucination was unfolding before his eyes — Bojangles made for a very uncomfortable trench-coat, as it turned out… however, Hickey moved on. “I will do my best to document my experience, and I hope, over time, you may come to trust me enough to permit me back into society.”

Now it was Bojangles who could only blink… And with the heavy crease at his eyes, it was nary unnoticeable. Eventually, he said “Very well. The choice is yours, after all.”. Suddenly light poured in from the now open portal behind them, and two imposing men carrying shackles came to stand behind them. “You’re a braver man than me, Sam Hickey. You may always change your mind…”

“I’d like that option to be taken off the table.” Said, Hickey, cutting him off. “Who knows what I’ll say under duress?”

Bojangles looked him over, saying eventually, “Fine. That’s fine. Of course you’d say that. It’s not protocol, but… I’ll make certain that it’s so.” The both of them stood, and embraced, like old friends, before the security detail began to gently bind Hickey’s limbs.

“And… Sam?”

“Yeah?”

“Good luck.”

“Thanks” he said, while being escorted out the door. Adding, beyond Bojangles sight, while walking down the hall and toward a padded cell. “It’ll never win you friends — but somebody’s always got to be the first, before anything can ever move forward.”

Bojangles wished for something to say, something that may carry this brave man through the harrowing years that were sure to come, but failed before the sheer intimidation of what this all represented. Instead, here merely fell to his hands and knees, knowing this to be all too true.

"Thank you..."

He whispered, “Thank you”, just before hearing the bolt of Sam’s cell drive home.

“Thank you…”

“Good luck…”

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Thanks for your time, everyone.

Hope you enjoyed the read.

Opinions are relished.

Have a great day.

~J