Spiral Notebook

I hate you all, the message read. It was written in adolescent angst with simple blue pen, on a lined page torn from her spiral notebook.

No one will ever know truly I feel, how it feels to never fit in, not matter how hard I try, no matter what I do or say, the next lines down read.

To feel like everything good is happening somewhere else, and all the girls are pretty except me, and they’re talking to the good-looking guys, smiling and laughing, and having fun. They’re laughing because they’re pretty, and all the boys love them, and are fighting for their attention. They’re laughing because their lives will be easy, because they’re skinny, and because of their beautiful long blond hair and shapely bodies. They’re laughing because they’ve won and it was so easy for them but everything will always be hard for me.

And I know that somewhere underneath in that laughter they’re also laughing at me.

Because I can never be like them, no matter how hard I try.
Because I can never look like them, no matter what I do.
Because no one will ever want me the way they want them, even if I were beautiful inside, and even though they’re beautiful on the outside but inside they’re horrible, self-absorbed narcissistic bitches. Fuck them.

I hate you, the message read. Go to hell and burn and suffer. I hate you all.

I love you all, and I’m sorry, the message said. I love you Dad, even though you yelled at me, and I love you Mom, even though you drank so much. I love you brother and I’m sorry that it’s only going to be harder for you growing up now. I hope you never have to feel the way I do.

I love you for wanting the best for me. I love you for providing as best you could, even though the family is poor and times are tough. I love you for making me dinner and giving me a place to lay my head.

I’m sorry, the message said, and I love you all. I just wish it felt like someone loved me back.

The message was found on her locker first thing Monday morning, but her body not until the end of the week, when it washed up onshore, far downstream from the old suspension bridge.

The Blighted

“Alms, alms for the poor,” the gypsy begged, holding out gnarled fingers. She was wrapped in filthy rags and stood hunched on the packed dark earth of the town square.
“Out of my way, you old whore,” said a passing knight, brushing her aside with his gauntlet.

I watched the old woman lose her balance and collapse into the dirt. She began to weep.

“Curse you,” she wept, “curse you all! Twenty-five years I have roamed the earth, relying on the kindness of strangers. Twenty-five years I have given back and brought joy where I could. No one in this wretched village will help me. No one in this heartless place will offer me but one meagre piece of copper. Truly you are most heartless in all this land.”

She arose and gathered her wretched rags. “All that you have known and loved shall come back to haunt you! All those you once loved shall be your destruction! This, I vow. Curse you! Curse you all…”

I thought nothing of the old gypsy’s words that day, nor that I did not see her in the square the weeks following. But two weeks hence when the dead rose from the earth to besiege our town, I do remember clearly the sad voice of the little girl who ran out to embrace them. She ran out into the empty field between our village and the cemetery in the dark woods, into the gulf that separated the living from the dead.

I remember the strangest feeling, a horrible mixture of terror and sadness, when I heard her young voice ring out against the empty blue sky:

Mommy…”

Painkiller

I’m addicted to painkillers.

“You have a very rare disorder,” the doctor had said. “Which is why it took us this long to identify it, why we had to run so many tests.”

Lucky me, a very rare disorder, like having the winning ticket in some cruel genetic lottery. Like giving the winning ticket to the guy behind the counter at the convenience store, and he puts it into that blue plastic machine that sucks it up and makes all those cheesy electronic sounds, bells and whistles that mean we have a winner!, only for you instead of a million dollar jackpot your prize is a gigantic genetic fuck you from mother nature.

I’ve been in horrible pain for most of my adult life and no one could tell me why.

Horrible, stabbing, piercing pain all the time, pain that I could feel all the way into my bones, and no one knew why – until that moment.

“You have a very rare disorder,” the doctor had said. “You have a developmental defect in your nervous system that causes your pain receptors to fire incorrectly.”
“So what does that mean?” I’d said, gritting my teeth.
“It means that you’re in pain all the time.”
“And the cure is…?”
“There is no cure, it’s a part of your biology. The best we can do is try to mitigate your symptoms so that you can get through each day. This is something you’re going to have to live with for the rest of your life.”

So now I’m addicted to painkillers.

Do you know what it’s like to be numb? Do you know what it feels like to not feel any pain at all? I do, now. I bet you think constantly having that shit running through my veins would make me feel goddamn invincible. With drugs that powerful I could do anything, I could feel no pain. The pain would be gone and I could go back to living my life and feeling good again. Enjoying it. Climbing mountains. Kayaking on the sea. Going on a bike ride with an attractive brunette and laughing about it afterward, all smiles and white suburban bliss like one of those motherfucking lifestyle ads.

No. It’s not like that.

The doctor hooked me up, yes. I’m on the painkillers 24/7 now, and damn they’re strong. Yes, they make the pain go away. Yes, I can live. But they make other things go away too. It’s a spectrum, you know, the feelings people are capable of, the material that makes the experiences of human existence. The drugs own me now, I’m dependent on them to live. I can never run out. I’m always thinking about the next time I have to refill my prescription. The pharmacist and I are good friends now. She said she’d never seen a prescription written out indefinitely. Here you go sport, enjoy your drugs – for the rest of your life.

But the painkillers have taken other things from me too. Pain and pleasure lie on that spectrum of human existence. The drugs let me function by keeping the pain at bay, by keeping me from feeling like my bone marrow is being ground out of me with belt sander. But they also take away something else, and this is the price I pay. They’ve taken away my ability to feel.

No more pain. No more pleasure. No more feeling. No matter how blue the sky or how brightly the sun shines, every day of my life is one of gloomy overcast November. The kind of day when you feel a little off. The kind of day when the traffic just seems to move a little slower. The kind of day when manic depressives finally commit and ignore the scrawled message in permanent marker on the overpass handrail that says don’t jump.

Is this best my life can be? My doctor says yes and I try to believe this is true. A lack of feeling must be better than feeling pain all the time. But I still just feel so empty.

The drugs do what painkillers do: they kill the pain. But they’ve killed the other parts of me too, the parts that feel.

The part of me that would have seen red when I came home and found her in bed with him. The part of me that would have been upset when she yelled at me and said she was leaving. The part of me that would have felt remorse when I put the knife in, and when I pitched that last clod of earth on top of the grave I dug for her.

Now there is only emptiness. Now there is only darkness. But at least the pain is gone.

Pyrrhic Victory

The smell is heavy in the air, that of death and of burning asphalt. My eyes are drawn to the bodies strewn about in the carnage: lying exposed on piles of rubble, crushed beneath fallen concrete pillars, and shredded in tangles of twisted rebar, like the web of some giant mechanical spider.

We made the first strike but they hit back hard. They bombed our cities, evaporated the seas, poisoned the earth. All of what had once been civilization now lay smoldering beneath a sky with air that smelled of ozone, the horizon now ever-dotted with plumes of rising smoke from fires burning on distant continents.

It had been the ultimate irony: finally discovering there is other intelligent life in the universe, and their first words to us are not we come in peace or take me to your leader but surrender your planet and be eradicated. Not or. AND.

But we got ’em. You’d be proud mom, ’cause we got the bastards. Delivered a fist of all of earth’s nuclear power to the breast of their colossal mothership and watched it fall, a burning hunk of scrap metal, into the Atlantic.

As I gnaw the bloody bone – a femur, once a woman’s – and breathe in the acrid air, I look off into the horizon and think, clearly for once, the first clear thought I’ve had in the 5 long years of chaos since the war began:

Victory is ours. But at what cost?

Dorian

It seemed a good deal at the time. It played to my lust, my narcissism, my yearning to be forever beautiful and admired.

Eternal youth and eternal beauty. Eternal virility. All that is required is your immortal soul.

Something so lovely for something so useless, it seemed too good to be true; for what good is the human soul? I’d never given mine a second thought. But youth, beauty, vigor – those stared back at me from within the mirror every morning, and I could feel them slowly slipping away with each passing moment.

“Done.” I scarcely needed convincing. “You’ve got yourself a deal.”
Always a pleasure doing business. It was the first and last of it I ever saw.

I enjoyed the time while it was mine. The parties, the revelry, the drunken debauchery – orgies, even. The world was my oyster. I was irresistible. I was flawless. I was eternal.

That was many years ago.

Now, though my outside is full of life and youth, inside I am hollow and empty. My body continue to carouse and indulge in hedonistic pursuits, but my mind is being dragged along for the ride, as behind a train. To all I am the very picture of youth and gaiety, but inside I am tired, an old man, broken down.

I am but a shell of a human being drowning in sin, and the love of myself. Now when I look in the mirror, I no longer see the beautiful milky white skin of my youth, but with each passing day in an ever-worsening state of decay, a different face: the face of a corpse.

Infest

Oh god, it hurts. I can feel them underneath my skin. I can feel their tiny black bodies writhing, crawling, wriggling inside me. I can feel them scraping, their millions of tiny mouths gnawing away inside of me. Their tiny insectile limbs are burrowing in me, leaving long jagged trails of torn flesh and bone and vein behind, turning my insides into a ravaged wasteland, into a scarred and dead world.

I stand beneath the steaming water pouring from the showerhead, but the water does not soothe the burning pain inside my skin, the millions of pointed teeth set inside microscopic mandibles chewing away relentlessly at my insides.

I scrape my sharpened fingernails across the red patch on my side, where it is swollen and it burns the worst. Long trails of red are left behind and the pain of them devouring me is replaced momentarily with a greater pain of my nails digging into my flesh.

I dig too deep and the skin breaks and I watch blood stream out, thinning in the water as it runs down my skin. With horror I see a growing black trail follow the red, slowly at first, then gaining mass and courage. I feel a new burning as the black swarm slowly makes its way up my side in a winding path. It stretches out and covers my torso, then my shoulders.

I hold my arm up in front of me and watch as they envelop it totally, their billions of tiny black bodies crawling over my skin, their billions of tiny jaws biting into me, eating me alive, and I begin to laugh.

Went the Chainsaw

ruhn ruhnnnnn went the chainsaw
out of its cardboard box brand new
with a wicked smile I made it roar
and cut my dog in two

reeean reeeeeeean went the chainsaw
said the girl, “I’m young to die”
“so unfair,” I laughed, in streams of blood
as i carved into her side

raaaawr rawwwr went the chainsaw
“I have a family!” the man begged
“I know,” I screamed maniacally
“and you’ll join them when you’re dead!”

reeeee reeeeeee went the chainsaw
in the mirror all alone
“why?” I asked my reflection
he said “you’ve always known”

ruuhn ruhhhnnnnn went the chainsaw
and I…. reeeeeee raaaarrrr ruuuuuuuu
RAAAOAORRRRR REEEEEEEEEEE
tut-tut-tut-tut-tut-tut-tut-

1974

I remember when I came in from the field there was a car in the driveway I didn’t recognize. It was a big car, more of a boat really, a beautiful black 1974 Buick sedan.

That this strange car was parked in the driveway was odd enough; Mom hadn’t said anything about anyone visiting, and Dad was still at work, and would be until late in the evening. What was even stranger was that the car looked brand new. It looked as though it just had come out of a carwash, and someone had waxed and polished it to a fine shine. No, it looked even newer than that. It wasn’t just immaculate, it was pristine. Even though it must have gone down the couple kilometers of dusty gravel road to reach our farmhouse, there wasn’t a spot of dirt on it. The chrome on the wheels shone in light of the setting sun. It looked as if it had just rolled off on an assembly line.

I went in the side door to the house and winced when the screen banged behind me. Mom hated it when I let it do that.

“Mom?” I called out. I heard voices coming from the living room, quiet polite conversation, half-murmured. The kind you have when someone is over for tea, or a relative is visiting.

I came into the room and yes, there was Mom was sitting in the big chair drinking a cup of a tea. The service was laid out on the glass of the coffee table.

Across from my mother on the couch was a strange man I did not recognize. Though he was sitting down, I could tell he was the tallest man I’d ever seen; his long lanky arms rested at his sides, and though his feet were on the floor his long legs were bent upward and angled at the knee. He looked like a giant spindly insect trying to blend in and be a good houseguest.

He was dressed all in black, in a suit. The suit looked new, new like the strange car that sat out in the driveway, like it had just been pulled off the rack. His clothes fit him strangely though. I could see his pants were too short and exposed some of his socks at the ankle. And his jacket was clearly made for a smaller man and fit him too tightly.

He wore the shiniest black oxfords I’d ever seen in my life.

“Honey,” my Mom said, “This is Mr. Smith. He works for the American government.”
“Hello little boy,” he said. His voice was high pitched and nasal, the last voice I would ever place with a giant man like the one before me. “I’m John.”
“Mr. Smith and I were just talking about your father,” my mother continued, with forced politeness. “Why don’t you go into the other room and read?” They both looked at me expectantly, my mother with annoyance.
“Okay,” I said, and did.

I could hear Mr. Smith asking my mother all kinds of strange, personal questions in his high pitched voice. Where did you grow up? How long have you and your husband been married? Do you have any family living in the area? How long have you been living in this house? I remember wondering what someone from the American government would want with my Dad, and how strange it was that they’d come all the way up to rural Ontario just to find him.

Finally I couldn’t take it any more and went back out into the living room.

“Mom, when are we having dinner?”
“…about your husband’s work with CSIS?” I had interrupted just as the strange man was mid-sentence.
“Dear, don’t be rude,” my mother said sternly.
“Dad works at the hatchery,” I said, and then without thinking, blurted out: “Oh, you must mean Mr. Trammel!”

Mr. Trammel was our ‘next-door’ neighbour in that he lived about a kilometer further down the road from us. Sometimes he came over for dinner and talked with my mother and father. Even though he lived here in the country, he drove into Ottawa every morning to work at CSIS. Whenever I asked him if he was spy he said no, that he just had a desk job like a lot of other people there, but that he did still help put the bad guys away.

“DEAR.” My mother repeated, in her I mean it this time or you’re in big trouble voice. “Please go to your room and close the door. You’re being rude.”
“Sorry Mom.”

I went to up to my bedroom. I could still hear my mother and the strange man, John Smith, talking as their voices carried up through the floorboards. It was one of those strange times where you can hear the tone of people’s voices but the words all garbled and indistinguishable. I heard the back and forth of my Mother’s soft, polite replies and the high-pitched, hurried inquiries of the strange dark visitor.

Time passed, and later I heard the man leaving and the front door slam. Through my window I watched the beautiful black 1974 Buick slowly back out of our driveway, and head down the darkening gravel road in the twilight. A cloud of dust rose up into the warm evening air behind it.

Later I heard Mom call someone on the phone and talk a lot while I read my comic books. Dad came home early that night for dinner, so I figured it must have been him. During the meal they didn’t say anything about the strange visitor, or his big black Buick.

I don’t remember a lot of things about my childhood. Sometimes it’s hard for me to even remember exactly what the old farmhouse looked like. But I do remember the lights I saw in the sky out in the field that night, and that black 1974 Buick sedan; the same one I’d see parked down the road outside Mr. Trammel’s place, the night before he disappeared.

Join the Line

All was black. I could feel the cobbled stone of the square beneath my bare feet with each step, and hear the jeers and catcalls of the mob from beneath the black hood covering my head.

My captor lead me up a wooden stairwell. I heard the boards creak and felt the coarse grain of the wood on my soles. We came to a stop upon a platform.

I felt him put the key in my neck shackle turn it. The iron ring fell with a loud clank when it hit the boards beneath us. The hood was pulled roughly from my head and daylight blinded me.

Slowly the world came into focus and I saw another man, naked save for a filthy loincloth, hung upside down from a wooden frame, his legs parted in a wide V. Two cruel cords suspended him, bound tightly around his ankles, biting into the flesh and making him bleed.

“No! No!” I screamed. “Anything but The Saw!”

“Join the line and enjoy the show,” said the executioner, gesturing to the row of other prisoners behind me. “You’re fifth.”

The Heiress

“I HATE YOU!” I screamed, and threw the tray at her. It bounced off the tempered glass of the far wall and clattered metalically to the floor. “I HATE YOU! How could you does this to me?!”

The orderly grabbed me from behind and pulled me away from my mother’s hospital bed. She was a shadow of her former self, a skeleton; all her hair had fallen out, and she was sickly and emaciated. Her eyes sat sunken in her skull above two scarlet rims.

Despite her wretched state I could still see the disgust for me in her eyes. I could feel the animosity between us hang in the air, even as she lay there dying before me.

“Settle down ma’am!” said the orderly, releasing his grip. “Don’t do anything crazy. Can’t you see she’s a sick woman? Give her some peace!”
“How could you??” I begged again, sobbing. “How could you cut me out of the will and not Todd? What about me? Where’s my inheritance?”

My mother’s voice was low, cold and devoid of emotion save for a tinge of disgust.

“You are a failure,” she stated flatly. “You’ve always been a failure. You may need that money more than your brother, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give it to you to squander. I may be powerless here in this bed but I will make damn sure of that. You are a disappointment to me and an embarrassment our family name.” I’d heard the last words before but they still stung like hot needles piercing my skin.

“What about the children? Mark just left me! Mother! Please…”

She was unmoved.

“You will have your inheritance,” she said, her bloodshot eyes piercing deeply into mine. “The doctors told me the day I found out, but of course you never came to visit me did you? Not until now, with the end so near. Not until you found out that I’d cut you out of the will. The disease is hereditary. It is passed on only through the women of a bloodline.”

The room in the air grew colder. I felt a vice tightening on my chest.

“As I lay here now, so too will you one day,” she said, savouring the words. “And your daughter after you. This I leave to you child, my legacy. I leave you what you deserve, my young heiress.”