Dr. Death

They call me Dr. Death.

I offer a service, as discreetly and humanely and as painlessly as possible, to shuffle those off this mortal coil who cannot do the shuffling on their own. Those who are broken. Those who are beaten. Those who are so tired but cannot bring themselves fall asleep.

Do no harm, the oath says; but who’s to say that if someone is suffering, really, truly suffering, that the act of putting them out of their misery is doing more harm than good? That ending a life cannot be a benevolent act? An act of healing? An act of righteousness?

I am bound to a chair. There is blood everywhere on the floor beneath me. I’d never have thought a person could bleed so much and still be alive.

“I’m not afraid to die,” I say once more to my captor. The words come out slowly and quietly, choked whispers. I’m gasping for air again and I don’t recognize my own voice. “I’ve seen hundreds of others do it. I’m not afraid…”

“You killed her!” he screams, for what seems like the thousandth time. The bloody straight razor hangs from his hand at his side. He is covered in my blood. My vision is blurring and I can’t see his face anymore. His voice sounds garbled and distorted. “You took her away from me!”

“She wanted to die…” I gasp weakly. “She asked me to do it…”

My vision is fading. This is it. I feel myself slipping away. And then, far off, a pin prick in my arm, again. He’s stabbed another needle into me and is pushing the plunger.

He draws his face close to mine and I see it clearly now. He is grinning wickedly.

“Not yet,” he says. “Not yet.”

They call me Dr. Death. What I’d give now for my own medicine.

You’re Not My Real Dad!

“You’re not my real Dad!” I screamed. “You can’t talk to me like that!”

“Well, I’m the closest goddamn thing to a father you’ll ever have, so I can talk to ya how I damn well please!” Stephen said, and he hit me again. The slap of his hand was hard against my cheek and stung. I knew it was turning red.

“Fuck you!” I yelled. “Fuck you, Steve! You’re shit! You’re a terrible fucking person!” And I retreated back into my bedroom and slammed the door in his face.

I’d show him. I’d show him. I went to the closet and dug through the boxes in it. Where was it? Where was it? In the shoebox. In the shoebox. There it was, there it was.

I took the shoebox out of the closet and lifted its contents out of it. So beautiful. I’d spent so long creating it. So many hours. So many countless nights up alone in the darkness of my room, with only the light of my desk lamp to keep me company.

I fished the sewing kit from out of the desk drawer. Took out a shiny metal pin with a plastic red ball atop it.

I stuck the pin into the doll and from the kitchen downstairs I heard Steve scream.

It was going to be a long night. One I enjoyed.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas

The highway is empty and the sky is clear and stark. It’s cold outside; the interior of the rental hasn’t yet warmed from the struggling heater. I rub my red hands together above the steering wheel and blow into them, trying to keep them from going numb.

After the Christmas dance, I’d driven her back to her parents’ house. The way the snow was falling so beautifully and slowly outside and the way her face was lit by the light of the big plastic candles on the lawn, it just seemed like the right thing to do, to try to kiss her. To hold her.

I don’t know what came over me then. But when she rejected me that way it just made me so angry, so very very angry, and before I knew what I was doing I’d reached for the crowbar in the back of my Dad’s pickup, and I was on top of her and tearing her clothes off and beating her face in with it and stabbing her with the sharp end. Her father ran out of the house screaming. I think he wanted to kill me.

That first Christmas, my present: tried as an adult, 25 to life, attempted murder in the first degree. I’ll never forget the bang of the judge’s gavel. I’ll never forget how she ruined my life, how she took it all away for me, for just one kiss.

25 years. 25 Christmases. No phone calls. No visitors. No presents. No cards. In prison Christmas is just another day. 25 years of being the model inmate while I was beaten and abused and tormented. While I learned what it was like to be on the receiving end of someone’s anger. Why they’d locked me up in the first place.

The heater is finally starting to work. The interior of the car is gradually warming. There is a crowbar on the back seat, blue like the one in my father’s old pickup so many years ago, God rest his soul.

That’s the thing about small towns. People don’t go far. People aren’t hard to find if you want to drop in on them. To wish them a Merry Christmas, as it’s that festive time of year. Or perhaps to reminisce about Christmases past.

I switch on the radio and music floods the car in AM, crackly and far away, and I start humming cheerily along with the tune:

I’ll be home for Christmas…

Crows

We should have stayed in the house. Julia and I are huddled amongst the rows of hanging plastic trays of flowers in the greenhouse, shivering in the humid air from our brief exposure to the howling wind and rain of the outside. The banging on the thick glass panels continues without relent, over and over.

“I’m scared Daddy, I’m scared!” Julia cries, draped beneath the gray blanket around her shoulders. Her little face is red and wet with the rain and her tears.

“I know, honey, I know. It’ll be okay.” This is one of those times a parent fears, a time where as a parent I can’t tell her that I’m scared too. That I’m not sure it will be okay. That I don’t know what to do.

“What do they want, Daddy? Why are they doing this?” She looks up at me from beneath her blond curls.

“I don’t know, baby, I really don’t. Just be brave, okay?”

She’d found a crow behind the barn. Cawing pitifully, it had hobbled on one bad leg and hopped lop-sidedly around in a circle in the grass. It looked like its wing had been broken too.

“Aww, Daddy look!” she’d said, after calling me over. “Can we keep him?” Her eyes had been full of pity.
“Okay, we can keep him in the barn.” I splinted the poor bird’s leg as best I could manage and Julia had a new pet.

Two days later I found my little girl on the ground between the house and the barn, crying, the bird she’d saved and two others pecking her viciously, blood pouring from her face and arms. I ran and shooed the savage creatures away and they flew off into the grey sky. I guess the crow’s wing hadn’t been broken after all?

After that I saw them and many others watching: from atop the barn, sitting on the hydro wires between the house and the road, on the eavestroughs of the house. They were waiting. Waiting for the right moment. And when tonight’s storm had kicked up and knocked out the power they’d had it. We should have stayed in the house. We should have stayed in the house. But they’d broken in through the windows, hundreds of them, and we’d ran, out into the yard in a panic, past the barn and into the greenhouse. How I had the presence of mind to grab the gun I’ll never know.

“I’m scared, Daddy, I’m scared!” Julia cries again. “Shhh, shhh, shhhh,” I say, trying to console her. “It’s okay, baby, I’ll protect you.”

I’ve never been more terrified in my life. The fluttering and the cawing and the banging is so loud it’s like one animal, one monster coming out of the night for us. And now the banging on the panels is joined by the sounds of breaking glass.

I only have two shells.

Exile

There is no hell, only the one I inhabit.

There is, however, a God, and he wanted to punish me. It’s nice to know that servitude is rewarded and honoured, but ambition and aspiration are what brings down the wrath of those who are on top. As on Earth so it is in heaven.

I thought I didn’t care about man. I thought I didn’t need anyone but myself. But I know now that I do. Some say hell is other people, but it’s not. It’s loneliness. Pure hell is isolation.

I know who I am, but now because of him, no one else ever will. I can never tell them the truth – for who would believe it?

Descartes – ha, strange bastard he was – he was wrong. The soul is more than just the sum of one’s memories. It’s more than just the mind. The body forms identity as well, and as I’ve now discovered, no small part of it moreover.

I am not lost, but wander, as I’ve been doomed to – through time, space and physical manifestation. It doesn’t matter whose form I borrow, or for how long. I will never be whole again, and no one, no one except him and me, will ever know.

This is hell.

Second Sight

I never asked to be this way.

It’s kind of ironic really. I actually hate other people. Or maybe I hate them because of it. I can’t really remember, it’s become sort of a chicken-and-egg thing.

Of course, if you could see what I see, you’d hate everyone too. Every brush of a sleeve, every touch on the hand, every tiniest bit of human contact, and it’s all there before my eyes: the sadistic boss fucking his secretary in the boardroom at night, then verbally and physically abusing her; the loving mother going home and torturing her five-year-old son, cutting him with jagged pieces of glass; the innocent teenage girl seducing an old man in an alley, only to stab him to death just for the few measly twenties in his wallet.

The train is crowded and I hate it. It lurches as it pulls into the next station, and a man in a ball cap and dark sunglasses falls into me. There is a bright flash – that’s never happened before – and then I see it all again: her body tied down on the table, the fearsome array of tools on the tray, the blades slicing, her screaming.

The man looks me in the face and I see nothing through the dark glasses.

“I know what you did,” he says, “And I’m going to find you.”

He disappears into the throng of bodies and out onto the platform. I try to follow but cannot; the doors close with a hiss and the train pulls away.

I was so shaken it wasn’t until I got home that I noticed he’d taken my wallet.

Welcome to Crazyland

No one knows how it started; no one know why. A virus? Biological agent? Collective global psychosis? Or maybe one day half the world just woke up and said fuck it, I’m taking what’s mine.

Very soon two classes emerged. The Brawlers, the ones on top, and The Runners, most everyone else. Me, I’m a Runner. I’m no murderer.

I’ve had my fair share of scrapes. I’ve seen them roaming the streets during the day, weapons in hand. Watched them empty assault rifles and shotguns into men’s chests, sometimes for food or resources, sometimes just for the sick pleasure of it. I watched them beat the life out of a group of innocent women and children with aluminum baseball bats and crowbars; so brutal and merciless, so wanton, so bloodthirsty for no purpose or reason at all.

Sometimes they hunt in packs (never more than 3, as far as I’ve seen), but most often they hunt and kill alone. But always their identities are hidden. Balaclavas. Welding hoods. Animal masks. Motorcycle helmets. They never show their faces. And most frighteningly of all, they never speak. They are not an organized body, there is no ruler or order among them, but still somehow these rules, these common characteristics, emerged without ever being spoken and agreed upon.

All we can do is run. Run, and hide. But sooner a later a man has enough. Has enough of hiding in abandoned, decaying buildings between blood-soaked walls. Enough of eating scraps and what vermin he can catch. Enough of running. Sooner or later a man fights back.

I killed one of them the other day. I buried a fire ax deep into his chest and watched until his twitching limbs ceased their jerking. After the adrenaline faded, after my panting breath returned to normal, a strange feeling washed over me, one of elation.

Yesterday I found an old goalie mask in what used to be a sporting goods store. As I pulled it down over my face, suddenly I didn’t feel like talking anymore. Silence seemed a welcome natural state, one of which I’d been unaware of my whole life. No more talk. Just action. Just doing.

Brita Jug

“MARVIN! I TOLD YOU TO REFILL THE GODDAMN BRITA!”

“Sorry dear!” Marvin called out from the bedroom into the kitchen. He wasn’t sorry. Later Sue-Ann refilled the Brita.

The next day, Marvin got up and walked over to the fridge. He pulled the Brita jug out and poured himself a tall glass of water, emptying it.

He walked back to the living room. He saw that the red light was blinking on the answering machine. He pushed the button and drank all the water from the glass, very nearly spitting the last of it out when he heard Sue-Ann’s angry voice coming from the machine.

“You didn’t refill the goddamn Brita, did you Marvin? Did you? How goddamn hard is it to refill the goddamn Brita before you put it in the goddamn fridge? I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times!

“It’s not just about the goddamn Brita, Marvin. It’s not just about me opening the fridge door and finding that stupid empty jug staring me in the face and picturing your lazy ass putting it back in the fridge. It’s everything. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t handle being around your lazy ass anymore. I can’t handle listening to you bitch and complain all day and never do anything for anyone but yourself. I’ve had enough.

“I really hope you play this message, because I really want you to realize what you just drank. I really want you to learn your lesson before you die.”

Marvin set the glass down on the table next to the answering machine. His stomach felt warm.

The warmth began spreading.