‘Spaz’, a horror short story

Giorgio Bianchi was playing dodgeball in PE class. None of his classmates understood why he chose to continue taking PE all the way to grade twelve instead of stopping as soon as he had his one compulsory PE credit; after all, he was clumsy and spastic in the extreme, always embarrassing himself in front of them. Taking elective PE classes made perfect sense to him, though: he’d hoped all that sports practice would improve his coordination. 

But it didn’t. 

At one point in the game, he dodged the ball, but bumped into Ben Davis, one of the most popular jocks in St. John’s Catholic High School. 

“Watch it, spaz!” Ben shouted. 

“Sorry,” Giorgio said. He dodged the ball again, but tripped over the leg of Karen Schultz, Ben’s pretty girlfriend. She ended up falling, too, and right in the trajectory of the ball.  

She got hit on the head with the ball, and was out of the game. 

“Eat shit, Bianchi!” she shouted at him as she walked out of the playing area. 

“Language, Karen!” the coach said. 

Again, a guy on the other team was aiming at Giorgio, who dodged a feint throw, but ended up bumping into Ben again; the thrower, seeing Ben’s disorientation, now threw at him and hit him in the shoulder. Ben was out. 

“I’m gonna kill you, Giorgio Bianchi—Jar Jar Binks, more like it!” he said before walking off to the outer circle, where Karen and the other players stood, out of the game. 

Towards the end of the game, there were only Giorgio and two girls on his team, and an Asian girl and the boy who hit Ben on the other team. That boy had the ball again.  

Giorgio was nervous; he was also at the side of the play area, not at all aware that he was standing just in front of Ben. 

That boy with the ball was getting ready to hit Giorgio. Before he even knew what was going on, Ben had already pulled Giorgio’s gym shorts and underwear down. 

The chorus of laughter, especially the piercing, shrill cackles of the girls at the sight of his exposed penis, made him almost not notice the impact of the ball pounding him in the face. 

“It’s so small!” shouted Karen, who was on the other side from Ben in the outer circle, and thus facing exposed Giorgio, as was the Asian girl, Sophie Chang, who covered her eyes. 

As Giorgio lay there on the floor, he scrambled to pull up his shorts and underwear. The laughter was hurting his ears. He didn’t dare look in anyone’s eyes. 

“Way to go, Jar Jar Binks!” shouted Ben.  

Now everyone was chanting Giorgio’s nickname, one he’d had to put up with for four high school years: “Jar Jar Binks! Jar Jar Binks! Jar Jar Binks!” 

Sophie, the only one who didn’t chant, just stood there with a frown, for she felt his humiliation. 

*********** 

In his bedroom that evening, Giorgio was at his computer, reading for the tenth time about Reddit user Lumpawarroo’s theory that Jar Jar Binks was originally intended by George Lucas to be a villain skilled with the Dark Side of the Force, and only pretending to be a bumbling fool deserving of universal contempt. 

“If only I could come out and surprise people with a hidden kung fu ability,” he said to himself as he watched the video comparisons of Jar Jar’s clumsy, yet uncanny luck in fighting battle droids at the climax of The Phantom Menace with the staggering, pretend clumsiness of the zuiquan wushu masters. “If only my bad coordination was really ‘drunken fist’ kung fu.” 

*********** 

Sophie was eating dinner with her parents that same evening. 

“You look unhappy about something, Sophie,” her mother said. 

“I saw a boy get publicly humiliated in gym class today,” Sophie said. “Somebody pulled down his shorts and underwear in front of everybody. Poor guy.” 

“Ooh!” her mother said. “You didn’t look, did you?” 

“No,” Sophie said in Mandarin. 

“Good,” her mother said. “I was worried you were interested in him based on what you saw.” 

“Who is he?” her father asked in Mandarin. 

“A rather clumsy boy named Giorgio Bianchi, but I think he’s cute, and I feel sorry for him, because he always gets bullied,” she said. “Instead of calling him ‘Giorgio Bianchi’, they always call him ‘Jar Jar Binks’.” 

“Man, that’s mean,” her father said. 

“I wish I could help him somehow,” Sophie said. 

“Is he Chinese?” her mother asked in Mandarin. 

“Is he Catholic?” her father asked. 

“Of course, he’s Catholic, Dad,” Sophie said. “He goes to my school.” 

“I mean, is he a practicing Catholic,” he said. “‘Cause if he is, maybe he’ll get you out of that silly talking-to-spirits nonsense.” 

“The spirits help me with my homework and studying for tests,” Sophie said. “That’s how I get such good grades without having to spend so much time studying.” 

“Whatever,” he said. “I just wish you’d study the normal way.” 

“Also, it’s dangerous to tamper with the spirit world,” her mother said. “Is this boy Chinese, though?” 

“No,” Sophie said in Mandarin. “Does the name ‘Giorgio Bianchi’ sound Chinese?” 

“No,” her mother said.  

“With a name like ‘Giorgio Bianchi’, he’s obviously Italian,” her father said. 

“Anyway, nobody’s perfect,” her mom said. 

“What does he want to do for a job, though?” her father asked. “Does he want to be an engineer?” 

“I don’t know,” Sophie said in Mandarin. “I don’t think so. He doesn’t take any classes at school that would lead up to studying engineering.” 

“What about computers?” her dad asked. Sophie shook her head. “Business? Economics? Law? Medicine?” She kept shaking her head. 

“I doubt it,” Sophie said. Then she said in Mandarin, “He doesn’t seem the type.” 

“Well, he doesn’t sound like he’s worth your time,” her dad said. “Let alone worth your worries. Probably just some lazy kid who just wants to play a guitar and smoke dope.” 

“Daddy!” Sophie shouted. “I like him!” 

“He sounds like a loser,” her dad said.  

“Well, excuse me for not having tastes worthy of your high standards, Daddy! Donut-eating policemen like you are all high-class types, aren’t they?”  

“Hey, don’t take that tone with me, young lady,” he said. “You should respect us cops. We do a hard, dangerous job, and we’re not appreciated much these days!” 

Sophie sighed. “I’m finished my dinner.” Then she asked in Mandarin, “May I be excused?” 

“Yes,” her mother said in Mandarin. 

Sophie got up and left. I hate you two sometimes, she thought. 

She went into her bedroom and locked the door. She stripped down to her underwear, then took out twelve small candles and laid them out in a circle around her, over a black silk blanket with a white pentagram on it. She lit the candles, turned off the light, and got naked. She sat cross-legged in the middle. 

I’ve succeeded at summoning spirits to help me with my homework and tests, so I don’t have to study so hard, she thought. I wonder if I can summon one to help Giorgio. 

She closed her eyes and took several slow, deep breaths. She chanted a triad of words in Mandarin, over and over again. As she got more and more relaxed, she ‘listened’ for any spirits who may have been approaching her. She ‘felt’ their energies touching her bare skin. 

“Oh, all you guardians of the world between spirit and matter,” she whispered, hoping her parents wouldn’t hear, “release one of your kind to rid Giorgio Bianchi of his tormentors. I speak to all the spirits in the entire spirit world, from all times, all nations, and all traditions. O Lady and Lord, yin and yang, Mother Goddess and Horned God, hear my prayer.” 

Just then, her parents walked past her bedroom, speaking in Chinese. 

Sophie heard a spirit say, in Mandarin, I hear you, and I’ll help you. 

Sophie smiled. 

*********** 

Giorgio lay in bed that night, never able to forget his humiliation from that afternoon. Crying himself to sleep, he thought, over and over, I wish I could kill Ben and Karen… 

He had the following dream: 

He found himself in a dark room, what looked to him like a basement or boiler room. An Asian man of about forty years of age, wearing a fedora and red wool sweater, appeared before him. His face was glowing gold. He reminded Giorgio of Freddy Krueger. 

“Hello, Giorgio,” he said to the boy in a husky voice. “My name is Di. I have been summoned to protect you from all your enemies. You’ll have your revenge on your tormentors, as well as protection from any reprisals, starting tomorrow morning.” 

“How can that be?” Giorgio asked. “What can you do?” 

“I can cause your body to work miracles. I am a spirit from ancient China; don’t let my modern clothesor my fluency in English, deceive you. We in the spirit world transcend all time and cultures. I know many kinds of kung fu, though I won’t really be using them to help you. You’ll get your revenge through ‘accidents’. You’ll see.” 

Giorgio wanted revenge for his many humiliations, no doubt, but he didn’t like the grin he saw on Di’s shining face. 

“I’m still not sure of this,” he told Di. “What kind of ‘accidents’ will be used as revenge on people like Karen and Ben?” 

“You’ll see,” Di said, the evil grin never leaving his face. “Your protection is assured. All I ask is your appreciation for what I’m about to do for you. Your soul and mine are one.” 

“This revenge will be in proportion to what they’ve done to me?” 

“The pain they feel will be in proportion to the pain they’ve given you. You’ll see.” 

“How do you define that ‘proportion’? You’re not going to kill them, are you? I don’t want anyone’s blood on my conscience. I mean, after what happened yesterday, a part of me wanted them dead, but–“ 

“I am that part of you. You’ll see, because you’ll do it. Your soul is mine.” He began cackling maniacally, his laughing echoing throughout the boiler room. 

Giorgio woke up, his upper torso shooting up from his pillow. He was shaking. 

I’d like to kill Ben and Karen, he thought, but only in my dreams, my fantasies. 

He fell asleep again after ten minutes of trembling. 

He was in that boiler room again. A knife in his hand, he was staggering about for a few seconds, then he flung it at a mirror, cracking the glass. In the reflection, he saw himself in Di’s fedora and sweater. His face had Di’s yellow glow…and his grin. He saw himself laughing as Di had before. 

*********** 

The next morning, he was in biology class. Ben and Karen were sitting at the table behind his group’s, chuckling. 

“Mesa Jar Jar Binks,” Ben said in the character’s annoying falsetto. 

“Mesa pi-pi so tiny,” Karen said in the same voice. Giorgio’s heart was pounding, almost in pain, at the sound of their laughing. 

At each table, where trios of students were teamed, lay a carcass of a cat in the middle. Each student had a scalpel for dissecting the cat. Giorgio held his with a trembling hand. 

“Don’t you cut me with that knife, you spaz,” a girl at his table said to him. 

Di’s face appeared before his eyes in a split-second, flashing light. 

Karen stepped over to the other side of her table, putting her immediately beside Giorgio. He began staggering. 

She turned to him with her scalpel. “Mesa cut your pi-pi off, Jar Jar,” she said, then giggled. “Mesa make–“ 

With a sudden jerk of his hand while staggering, Giorgio swiped his scalpel in an arc across her throat, cutting her off mid-sentence because he’d sliced the blade clean through her throat! Her blood sprayed in all directions, several small dots of red splashing on Giorgio’s face. She fell to the floor. 

Everyone screamed, not least of all him. 

“What’s going on?” the teacher shouted. 

“That little dork, Giorgio, just cut Karen’s throat with his knife,” the female student next to Giorgio said while backing away from him. 

“Oh, my God!” The teacher said, taking out his cellphone to call 9-1-1 as he saw Karen’s blood surrounding her body in a growing lake of red. “You didn’t do it on purpose, did you, Giorgio? I mean, after what happened yesterday?” 

“Of course, I didn’t!” the shaking, sobbing boy said. “It was an accident, I swear to God!” He began staggering again. 

“You spastic idiot!” Ben shouted, stepping around his table, with his hands in fists, to get at Giorgio, who saw Di’s face flash before his eyes again. The teacher was calling an ambulance. “You killed my girlfriend, and I’m gonna kill y–“ 

Staggering Giorgio slipped on Karen’s blood and lunged at Ben with the scalpel, stabbing him deep in the gut. Ben buckled, coughed blood, and fell on top of Karen. 

Again, the students screamed deafening, piercing cries that made everyone’s hands cover his ears, and in the confusion, Giorgio ran out of the classroom without anyone stopping him. As he ran down the hall, he passed Sophie, who shuddered at the bloody knife in his hand, the spots of blood on his face, and his bloody footprints on the floor. 

“Oh, shit,” she said. “What have I done?” 

When she saw a mob of students running out of the biology classroom to chase Giorgio, she knew exactly where to look to find out what had happened. When she poked her head in the doorway, already full of anticipatory dread, and then saw Ben’s and Karen’s bloody bodies, she retched. She was as frozen in shock as the biology teacher was. 

A minute later, she heard sirens. 

“Wow,” the teacher said. “The cops sure got here fast. Must’ve been nearby.” 

“Oh, fuck,” she said, then ran down the hall. 

“Get that little bastard!” shouted a student from the biology class as she and Giorgio’s other chasers saw him go for the stairs. “He killed my best friend!” 

He ran up the stairs, not tripping over even one, to his amazement: he’d tripped over steps so often in the past, it was as if he’d taken fewer successful ascending steps than tripping, even when walking up them with perfect calm. It was as if…someone…was helping him get away. He saw a flash of Di’s face again. 

He reached the roof of the school, opened a door, and was outside. The students had him cornered at the edge of the building. He looked down four floors to the pavement. He shook as he saw the students closing in on him. He started staggering again. 

“You’re gonna pay for what you did today, you little spaz,” one boy said, his face tensed in a malicious pout. 

More sirens could be heard, as could footsteps up the stairs to the roof. 

“Jar Jar never died in the Star Wars prequels,” another boy said. “His death would’ve almost redeemed them. We can make this Jar Jar die, though.” 

“No, you won’t,” said a female cop coming out onto the roof with two others, all of them pointing guns at Giorgio. “C’mon, kid. Let’s not make this any more difficult than it already is. Come in the car with us.” 

“OK,” he said, still staggering. He dropped the scalpel and held his hands out to be handcuffed. The female officer approached him with cuffs. 

Another one of the cops, Sophie’s father, noted Giorgio’s staggering. “What’s wrong with you, kid?” He said. “Are you drunk?” 

“No,” Giorgio said. “I just feel…woozy.” Di’s face flashed before his eyes again. 

Just when the cop with the cuffs was about to put them on him, Giorgio slid his foot on a pebble, swiping his leg in front of hers and making her trip. She fell off the roof, screaming till her head cracked open on the pavement below. A growing circle of red surrounded her head. 

Immediately after her tripping and falling, Giorgio saw Di’s face in another flash. The third cop aimed at Giorgio’s chest and was about to fire, but the boy’s foot slipped on another pebble, kicking a larger rock that flew at the cop’s gun, knocking it to point up at the man’s face. When in a knee-jerk reaction he pulled the trigger, he shot a bullet up just behind his chin, up through the center of his head, through his brain, and out the top of his head. 

Blood sprayed everywhere, like a gushing fountain. Screaming from all directions was hurting Giorgio ears. 

Sophie’s father cocked his gun. That can’t be mere clumsiness, he thought. No one’s that clumsy…and that lucky at the same time. 

Giorgio looked down to the pavement beside the dead female cop and saw Sophie’s car, a distinct one with black paint and large white pentacles painted on the sides. Its roof was also removed. She looked up at him; she felt…someone…making her drive over there. 

Jump, Di’s voice whispered in Giorgio’s ears. 

He saw Officer Chang coming closer, with that gun pointed at him. “C’mon, kid,” the cop said. “Let’s end this. No more people have to get hurt.” 

“I agree,” Giorgio said. “Let’s end this.” Then he jumped. 

As he fell screaming, he saw Di’s face flash several times in his eyes. The spirit also took over his body, carrying him in midair and placing him neatly into the passenger seat next to Sophie. He landed with his ass hitting the seat, and his feet dodging the glove compartment to land on the floor with no pain. 

“Oof!” he grunted. “How the fuck did I do that?” 

“A spirit made all this happen,” Sophie said. “We’re outta here.” 

She sped off in her car, past her father’s squad car (in which his female partner was sitting), off the school campus, and down a road in a direction that would take them out of town. Both of them were shaking. 

“I…just killed…four people…including two cops…in the past…fifteen minutes,” he said, tears soaking his face. “What the fuck’s going on?” 

“I’ll explain later,” she said, turning a corner with screeching tires. “Right now, we’ve just gotta get you away from my dad and his cops.” 

“How do you know what’s going on?” Giorgio asked. 

“Because I’m the one who summoned the spirit that’s making you kill all your enemies.” 

“How do you know I won’t kill you? 

“Because I’m not one of your enemies, of course.” 

*********** 

Officer Chang got into his car, as did other cops in two cars behind his. They all raced down the road after Sophie and Giorgio. 

“I’m pretty sure he’s in my daughter’s car,” Chang said to the female cop in the passenger seat beside him. 

“How do you know that?” she asked. 

“Because during dinner last night, I had a conversation with her about the boy, identified by his classmates as Giorgio Bianchi,” Chang said. “My daughter feels sorry for him because he’s been bullied at school. She wants to help him. I saw the car they raced off in: I bought it for her last year. From the roof, I could tell by the pentagrams she later had painted on the sides. Only she’d be strange enough to paint pentagrams on her car. She believes in weird ideas, like communication with spirits. It’s a phase she’s going through.” 

“OK, but how was this Giorgio able to survive that jump?” his partner asked. 

“Good question. Anyway, I talked to the biology teacher, who told me the two kids the boy killed had been bullying him. Sophie, my daughter, told me that Ben, the second of the victims, humiliated the boy yesterday by pulling down his shorts and underwear in gym class, right in front of everybody.” 

“Humiliation enough to make him want to kill?” 

“Seems that way to me. Funny thing, though: he has a reputation for being clumsy, and the killing of Ben and the female victim looked like accidents, just the kid being spastic again; but what I saw on the roof, Giorgio staggering for a moment before ‘accidentally’ killing Officers Denny and Howard, looked a lot more like zuiquan than clumsiness.” 

“Sorry. Zuiquan?” 

“It’s a form of kung fu. It means ‘drunken fist’. You see Jackie Chan do it in a few martial arts movies. The fighter tricks his opponent by making him think he’s drunk or clumsy, then he throws a surprise punch or kick. I’m guessing that Giorgio secretly learned zuiquan, and was hoping to kill his enemies by making their deaths look like an accident. If so, his plan didn’t work.” 

“Still, I saw, from this car, him fall and land in her car,” the female cop said. “He didn’t even look injured. They drove off chatting with each other, as if he’d just walked over and gotten in. How could he have done that?” 

“I know, it’s crazy. I’m a practicing Catholic, but I believe God causes miracles to save only the lives of the good. Sophie believes in weird things like the ghosts of our Chinese ancestors, but come on! There must be a scientific explanation. I’m gonna call her.” He took out his cellphone and dialed Sophie’s number. 

“Hello?” Sophie said. 

“Honey, where are you?” her dad asked. 

“Sorry, Daddy. I can’t tell you.” 

“You have that boy, Giorgio Bianchi, in your car, don’t you?” 

“Sorry, Daddy, I can’t let you have him. He didn’t kill those people on purpose.” 

“What makes you think you’re an authority on this issue?” 

“Because I raised the spirit that took over Giorgio’s body and made him kill those people.” 

“Well, I suppose that might explain his miraculous jump off the school roof and into your car without even an injury, as it seems…” 

“That’s right,” Sophie said. “He didn’t even get a scratch.” 

“But I don’t think a supernatural explanation will hold up in court,” her father said. 

“Can you explain it any other way? Can you explain how a guy with a reputation for clumsiness could have performed all those feats with such precision?” 

“I can’t explain the jump, but ask him if he ever studied zuiquan, you know, the martial art.” 

Sophie looked over at Giorgio. “Do you know zuiquan? You know, a kind of kung fu called ‘drunken fist’.” (She pronounced it ‘dzway-chüen’.) 

Giorgio thought for a second. “Huh?” he said. “Wait. Do you mean ‘zooey quahn? Like, a kung fu guy pretends to be clumsy or drunk, staggers a bit, then he lands a surprise punch or kick?” 

“Yeah, that’s right,” she said. 

“I’ve read about it a bit, but I’ve never learned it,” he said loud enough for her father to hear on the phone. 

“Did you hear that, Daddy?” 

“Yes,” her father said. “And that’s proof enough for me. As far as I’m concerned, he’s lying about having no training. Come on, honey, be a good girl and get him to turn himself in. I don’t want you to be charged with aiding and abetting a felon.” 

“Daddy, if I let you take him in, the demon inside him will kill you! Giorgio just told me about the two cops on the roof who he killed. Please stay away, for your safety!” 

She hung up. 

“Oh, Goddammit, Sophie!” her father said, then tried to call her again. “Oh, she’s turned off her phone. Fuck!” 

“So, what do we do now?” the female cop asked. 

“What do you think? We’ve gotta find them. And it’s gonna break my heart, but I’ll have to bring my daughter up on charges, too.” Di’s face flashed before Chang’s eyes. “What the…?” 

Suddenly, a kind of fog came over all the cops’ heads. 

All three cop cars came to a halt. The drivers and passengers in each car looked at each other in confusion. 

“Wait…w-what were we just doing?” the driver of one police car asked his partner. There was an awkward pause. 

“I-I forget,” the partner said. “We were pursuing a perp, weren’t we?” Another awkward pause. “Wh-who were we pursuing?” 

The driver used his radio to call Officer Chang. 

“S-sir?” He said. “I feel really embarrassed to ask, but–?” 

“What are we doing?” Chang said, anticipating the question. “We’re feeling the same confusion in this car, as are the officers in the other car. Just give me a few minutes to think, OK?” He got out of his car and looked around the roads and buildings, hoping in vain to see something that might help him snap out of his oblivion. 

*********** 

As Sophie kept driving, she was checking her rearview mirror with paranoid eyes: were any police cars trailing her? She heard no sirens; were her followers being furtive about it, waiting for a chance to pounce on them when she least expected it? 

Then, both she and Giorgio heard Di’s gravelly voice: You lost them. 

As if no proof were needed to verify the spirit’s words, Giorgio and Sophie believed Di with perfect faith. She slowed her driving, and both of them heaved a huge sigh of relief. 

“Hey, over there,” she said, pointing to an abandoned old building she sometimes visited to get away from the world. “We can hide in there. Nobody will bother us in there.” 

“But it’s so filthy and awful-looking,” Giorgio said. 

“Exactly,” she said. “No one else will be there. Not even squatters, winos, or derelicts.” She parked behind the building, hiding her car between two tall piles of garbage. They got out. 

“Oh, God, it stinks,” he said, then plugged his nose. 

“We don’t have a lot of options, Giorgio,” she said, also covering her face. 

They walked into the building and across to the other side, where the stench wasn’t so bad. She pointed to a corner. 

“Here,” she said. “Let’s sit here and think this through.” 

They sat, and he asked, “OK, what’s all this about a spirit?” 

“Last night, I thought about what happened to you in gym class, and I felt sorry for you,” she said. “I wanted to protect you from more bullying. I also know a few things about tampering in the spirit world, so I summoned a spirit to protect you. I didn’t mean for it to kill your enemies, though! This has all been my fault. Don’t blame yourself.” 

“So, whenever I see the shiny, golden face of an Asian wearing a fedora, right when one of these freaky things happen, that’s the spirit that’s caused all this trouble?” Giorgio asked. 

“Wait a minute,” she said with her mouth and eyes agape. “An Asian with shiny, golden skin? That voice I heard, saying we lost my dad and the cops. That husky, gravelly baritone voice. And he made you move like someone who knows zuiquan…” 

“You know which spirit he is?” 

“Di,” she said. Her whole body looked as if it would drop. 

“He said his name was ‘Di’, in my dream last night.” 

“Oh, no!” She fell to her knees. “When Di is summoned, he doesn’t go away. If he leaves you, he’ll just enter someone else. The best we can hope is he’ll enter someone far away, someone neither of us knows or cares about…not that I’d wish Di on my worst enemy.” 

“Well, what are we going to do?” Giorgio asked, his voice rising in a crescendo of panic. “I don’t wanna be possessed of a demon for the rest of my life! I don’t want any more blood on my hands! You have any idea what it’s like, having no control over your own body? It was bad for me before, but not like this! I’m scared just to move! Look, Sophie, you got me in this mess, you’ve gotta get me out of it!” He grabbed and shook her. 

“Calm down!” she shouted, slapping him. “I need to communicate with Di. Maybe I can make a deal with him.” 

“How do you ‘communicate’ with him?” 

“There’s a ritual we can do with him, to get his full attention. But you have to do it with me, and…we both have to get naked…and sit together.” 

He blushed and shrank away. 

“Giorgio, I won’t see anything I didn’t see yesterday. We have to be naked so our bodies’ energy won’t be blocked from receiving the energies surrounding us. That’s part of how we can communicate with the spirit world.” 

He didn’t stop blushing. “You OK with me seeing you?” 

“Sure, why not? I have a good body, even if I do say so myself. What can I say? I hope you like what you see.” She took off her blouse right in front of him, then unbuttoned her skirt. 

“Wh-why do you hope that?” He unbuttoned his school uniform shirt. 

“Because I’ve always liked you.” She dropped her skirt, revealing her white bra and panties. “You’re cute…and your ass is cute. You’re eighteen, aren’t you?” 

“Yeah,” he said, blushing again while pulling down his pants. 

“I’m eighteen, too, so don’t worry about anything. We’re grown up enough to be doing this.” She took out some candles from her bag, arranged them in a circle around herself and Giorgio, and lit them. She got a piece of white chalk from her bag, then drew a pentacle on the ground, just inside the circle of candles, getting the sides of the five-pointed star as straight as she could, and the circle around it as symmetrical as she could. Then she and Giorgio took off their underwear, she in all insouciance, and he with trembling hands and a purple-red face. 

They sat cross-legged, facing each other. His hands were covering his crotch. 

“Giorgio, you have to be open. I saw it. It isn’t small. Karen was just being mean.” 

He moved his hands away, but he avoided her eyes. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a smirk of pleasure on her face, her eyes looking down at him, and it encouraged him to look straight at her. 

“Don’t be so shy,” she said. “I’d do you.” 

“This is so embarrassing.” 

“You don’t need to feel that way. It’s just the human body.” 

“But I’m getting a boner from seeing you.” 

“Thanks.” She grinned, looking down and noticing the growth. 

“One thing I don’t get,” he said, trying to refrain from looking between her legs. “If we’re summoning a Chinese spirit, why are you incorporating Western pagan symbols into your ritual? I don’t mean to be racist or anything, but the two don’t seem to go together.” 

“Oh, there’s where you’re wrong,” she said. “I find my rituals work a lot better by mixing ideas from different traditions. The Moon Goddess and the Horned God of Wicca, they’re just like yin and yang, as I see it. These opposites are archetypes that manifest themselves in all things, in all traditions, and they’re the basis for contacting the spirit world.” 

“Oh, OK. So, what are we going to do?” 

“Summon Di, and talk to him. I’ll be speaking in Chinese. That should draw him in better. Let’s close our eyes and take some deep breaths.” They closed their eyes. “Breathe in slowly, a long, deep breath.” They both did, grimacing at the foul odor around them. “Hold your breath for a moment.” They did. “And…let it out slowly.” They did. “Let’s do it again, two more times. Just relax. Breathe in slowly…hold it…and let it out slowly.” They did this one more time. 

Sophie started chanting something in Mandarin, repeating the three-word mantra of the previous summoning, saying it several times in a rhythmic way. She and Giorgio started feeling a vibration all around their bodies, between each other, and in front of themselves, where they sensed a presence. 

Suddenly, they heard Di speaking in Mandarin. Sophie replied, and the two began a conversation Giorgio wished he could participate in, for he couldn’t speak a word of Chinese. Sophie and Di kept talking and talking, their voices getting louder, more and more emotional, and with more tension, more agitation. Finally, they ended with Sophie fighting back tears. 

“W-well, what is it?” Giorgio asked. “What did Di say?” 

All you need to know, Di said in Giorgio’s and Sophie’s minds, is that I find you a most ungrateful host, Giorgio. I rid you of those two tormentors of yours—Ben and Karen—I helped you elude the authorities, and now you want to throw me away, like some object that’s exhausted all of its usefulness to you. You’ll be rid of me, boy, but not in a way you’ll like. You’ll see. 

Di laughed in his portentous way, then Sophie and Giorgio sensed he’d left them. 

“Well, what are we going to do?” Giorgio asked. 

“We’re going to make love,” she said, a tear rolling down her cheek. 

She reached forward and kissed him on the lips. She crawled on top of him as they continued kissing. 

“But what…are we…gonna do…about Di?” He asked in between kisses. “What did you…say to…each other…in Chinese?” 

“That doesn’t matter,” she said, then kissed him. “Di will…leave you. That’s all…that matters.” 

“But Di said…I won’t like…how he’ll…” Giorgio began. 

“Shut up and fuck me,” she said. “I don’t wanna d–, be a virgin. Put it in me.” He did. She winced as she bounced on him. “Ow! That hurts! Oh!” The pain in her heart made the pain between her legs seem trivial. Her pain was love for him, just as he was loving her more and more. She was the only person in that whole school who’d ever been kind to him. 

He pulled out and made a mess on the ground. “Ooh!” he grunted. 

“Eww, that’s gross,” she said, noting also her blood, which was mixing with his come. 

“I didn’t want to get you pregnant,” he panted. 

“What difference would that have made?” She got a tissue and wiped herself clean. 

“What?” Noting she looked away from him and wouldn’t answer, he then yawned. “I feel worn out. I gotta sleep for a bit.” 

“Me, too.” They put their clothes back on, lay side by side, and fell asleep in each other’s arms. 

Giorgio, this time, had pleasant dreams…unlike Sophie. 

*********** 

The other two police cars, in their confusion and oblivion, were allowed to drive back to the police station. Chang and the female cop were about to turn around and go back, too; he had vague misgivings that he was urgently needed somewhere and didn’t want to turn around. He let the other two cars go because cops were needed elsewhere in the city. Chang just kept hoping he’d remember again what they’d just been doing.  

Just then, Di’s golden face flashed before the eyes of Officer Chang and his partner; the fog of forgetfulness lifted from their minds. When they finally remembered who they’d been chasing, they wanted to kick themselves for letting the other police cars go. 

“Shit!” he shouted, then started the car. “Let’s go.” 

“I’ll call backup,” she said, picking up the two-way radio. 

As she was calling for backup, Chang was thinking about the series of supernatural events that had occurred. He was merely assuming that boy knew zuiquan. He’d made a miraculous jump of four floors without any injury. And suddenly, conveniently for him and Sophie, all the cops had forgotten who they were chasing. Sophie often talked about summoning spirits who helped her with her homework and tests…and she routinely got excellent grades, without much studying. 

Could she have really involved the supernatural in this? 

“I don’t believe it!” the female cop said. “They said they have nobody available right now to send to help us, and nobody at the police station remembers the killings at St. John’s. How could that have happened?” 

“Spirits,” Chang said. 

“Sir, you can’t really believe what your daughter…” 

“Do you have any other explanation?” Chang said, getting no answer from his partner. “Look, whatever’s going on, we’re getting no help. We’re on our own. The point is, that crazy kid’s with my daughter, and I’ve got to get her away from him. I have a hunch I know where she’s hiding, too. A dilapidated old building on Mason St. She often goes there, and it’s near here, too. If the station has any back-up available to send us, call them and tell them where we’ll be.” 

*********** 

A half hour later, Giorgio and Sophie woke up to the sound of footsteps and talking. They scrambled to their feet, their hypervigilant eyes darting around in all directions. 

“Who’s that?” Giorgio whispered. “The cops?” 

“Shh!” she said. “How should I know?” 

They hid in a corner, behind a stack of crates, and eavesdropped through the wall between them and the approaching voices. 

“Oh!” the female cop whispered. “I’m glad the worst of that stink is behind us.” 

“Shh!” Chang said. “If they’re here, they’ll hear you.” 

“Oh, no,” Sophie said. “That’s my dad’s voice.” She took out a switchblade from her purse. “There’s something I’ve gotta do. You’re not gonna like it, Giorgio. Neither will I, and that’s because…I…I love you.” 

“I love you, too,” he said. They kissed. “But what do you have to do that’s so awful?” He shuddered at the knife, the blade of which she was holding against her wrist. 

“I can’t say,” she said. “You’ll try to stop me.” 

“Oh, God, Sophie, you’re not thinking of…” 

The two cops turned the corner. 

“And here they are,” the female cop said. She took out her cellphone to call the station. 

“Come on, Sophie,” her father said. “Let’s just go home and forget this ever happened.” Then he looked at Giorgio. “Son, for some strange reason, maybe it’s this…demon…my daughter was talking about on the phone, all the cops have forgotten the crimes you committed today. I’m gonna make this real easy for you: just let Sophie go, and you’ll walk.” 

“But, I want to be with her,” Giorgio said. “I love her.” 

“I love him, too, Daddy,” Sophie said, hugging Giorgio. 

“Oh, fuck me,” Chang said. “C’mon, honey. He’s dangerous.” 

“Not anymore,” Sophie said, then let go of Giorgio and began staggering, the switchblade hidden behind her hand. 

“What’s wrong, honey?” her father asked, walking toward her. 

“No, Daddy,” she said. “Stay away!” She saw a split-second flash of gold. 

“Back-up should be here in a few minutes,” Chang’s partner said, putting her phone away. Giorgio shook at Sophie’s staggering. Her father came closer to her. 

“Sophie,” he said, grabbing her free arm, “I just want to…” 

She slipped and lunged forward, stabbing him deep in the gut. 

“Unh!” he grunted, buckling and coughing out blood.  

“Daddy!” Sophie screamed, then pulled the bloody knife out of him. 

He fell on his face on the ground before her, his blood soaking the ground. The female cop pulled out her gun. Sirens could be heard outside. Giorgio backed off, the whites of his teary eyes showing. Sobbing Sophie staggered a bit on the pebbly ground. Di’s face flashed before her eyes again. 

“Sophie,” the cop said, cocking her pistol. “Let go of the knife. I don’t wanna hurt you.” 

Sophie’s right foot slipped on some pebbles, and the knife flew from her hand and into the cop’s neck…but not before she put a bullet in Sophie’s forehead. 

“Sophie!” Giorgio screamed as he saw both of their bodies fall to the ground. 

He fell to his knees sobbing and put his arms around Sophie’s lifeless body. 

Five cops entered the area, guns pointing at him, their faces grimacing from the stink. 

“This is the kid who killed all those people at the school,” one of the cops said. “I’ll bet he killed these people, too. How did we forget about the school, then remember again? Weird.” 

Don’t worry, Di said in shaking Giorgio’s ear. I’ll never trouble you again. The echo of his laughing voice bounced off the stony walls, then faded out. 

Infamous Hearts

Infamous Hearts Full Wrap.jpg

Though I sometimes write erotica (to be found on the Literotica website) and erotic horror, my own writing isn’t to be found at all in this dark romance anthology. I wish to promote it, nonetheless, in order to help out a friend and fellow writer, Emery LeeAnn, as well as help out all the other writers whose works grace this volume.

So if you like dark romance writing, you might be interested in the following:

#NewRelease #InfamousHearts

The Infamous Hearts Anthology is #LIVE!! One click your copy of this twisted historical anthology today!

 

  • •••••Buy Now••••••

Amazon Universal Link: myBook.to/infamoushearts

 

  • •••••Join the Release Event••••••

https://www.facebook.com/groups/darkndirtyromancebookclub/

 

  • •••••Goodreads••••••

http://bit.ly/Infamous_

 

  • •••••Synopsis••••••

Thirteen authors come together to provide a glimpse at notorious couples through history. When finding love in the arms of Hades must be escaped before dawn. Where the secret of the outlaw’s bride is found only in a place between heaven and hell. Where the wrath of Rosaline swings ominously like a pendulum and rapture can be found in the most iniquitous of times. When the secret of hieroglyphic hearts are drawn by daddy’s toy to overcome the feeling of being a darling little pet. When the blonde bombshell thrives high above the world in a tower made up of wanton lust and lies. When becoming a Kray is the only way to survive the mean streets of London. Time becomes frozen in each moment and secrets are told in whispers only to the most coveted.

 

Infamous Hearts: A Match Made in History.

 

 

Author pages:

Ashleigh Giannoccaro: https://www.facebook.com/Colourmyugly/?ref=br_rs

Avery Reigns: https://www.facebook.com/Avery-Reigns-Author-552254841785731/

C.A. Bell: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorC.A.BELL/

Dani René: https://www.facebook.com/DaniReneAuthor/

Destiny Hawkins: https://www.facebook.com/authordhawkins/

Elizabeth Cash: https://www.facebook.com/ElizabethCashAuthor/

Ellie Midwood: https://www.facebook.com/EllieMidwood/

Emery LeeAnn: https://www.facebook.com/EmeryLeeAnn/

Julia Clare: https://www.facebook.com/authorjuliaclare/

Natalie Bennett: https://www.facebook.com/NatalieBennettWriter/

Rose Devereux: https://www.facebook.com/rosedevereuxbooks/

Virginia Johnson: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorVirginiaJohnson/

Yolanda Olson: https://www.facebook.com/yolandasendlesswords/

 

  • •••••What Early Readers Are Saying••••••

“Wow, this collection completely blew my mind away! Not only it combined my two favorite genres – historical romance and dark fiction – but each pair in each story was written absolutely incredibly!”
“A different take on famous or infamous characters that spin a different tale on romance. Each author propels the need to keep reading, a different way of thinking in every mini-story, a different level of consuming darkness.”

So, go and check out this awesome collection of writing!

‘Bloodsuckers’, a Surreal Horror Short Story

My name is Samir. I am ten years old, and I don’t know how many days it’s been since the last time I ate.

I do remember the bombs, though.

When they hit our house, I was with my parents and sister, trying to celebrate her sixth birthday.

I haven’t seen any of them since.

I haven’t eaten since then, either.

I don’t know how many days I’ve been in this hospital. I just lie on a bed, and the nurses have no food to give me. I have dirty bandages on my half-naked body. The blood from my wounds has stopped flowing, but other spots of blood, little red spots, drip blood from new wounds.

They are from the bites of the purple, flying insects.

They’re like mosquitoes: I’ve never seen such bugs before. They bite me, and suck out a little of my blood each time.

Do they put something in my body, too? I think they do.

I lie on my back, my head swinging left to right—not so much left, anymore, since I don’t like what I see in the mirror to my left.

My upper head has blown up into the shape of a giant, green-yellow ball. Much of my hair is gone. My skin is green-yellow, too. I look like an alien, or a monster. I’m like a skeleton with skin.

Did the bombs do this to my skin and head? When they hit our house, I remember something burning in my nose, eyes, and mouth. I was coughing, desperate to suck some pure air into my lungs—then everything went black; then I woke up here. Did I inhale a chemical from the bombs?

Or are the purple flies doing this to me, squirting some kind of poison into my body while they suck out my blood? I think that’s what it is.

I’m not sure if I’m awake or dreaming, but I see a TV, I think, on the ceiling. What a TV is doing up there, of all places, I don’t know; maybe I’m seeing and hearing things, because I think I’m awake.

Anyway, a white man in a dark blue suit is talking to me on the TV. He is in his fifties or sixties, I think, because he has lines of silver in his combed-back hair. He smiles and speaks with a gentle, kind voice, but his words don’t comfort me. They confuse me.

My stomach is grumbling. It hurts so much. Could someone please give me some food? Was I a bad boy? Am I being punished for eating too much at my sister’s birthday party? I’ll be good next time, I promise!

“You are being a very good boy,” the man says to me in Arabic (Wow! I didn’t know white people could speak my language!) “My name is Brian Oates, Samir, and I want to tell you that your sacrifice is bringing happiness to a number of worthy people in my country. You should be proud of your selflessness!”

“Am I…giving them something?” I ask Brian, who seems to be able to hear me. (Is this TV that thing they call ‘Skype’?) “I have…nothing to give. I’m just a…poor Yemeni boy. I only feel…as if someone is…taking everything…from me.” I begin to sob. “Where is my family? I want my mother! I’m so hungry.” My tears are the only wet my face has felt in so long.

“Well, some people would say you’ve had everything taken from you, but it’s only a point of view,” he says, grinning like a friend. “There are other ways of understanding what is happening to you. Alternative interpretations, other facts that are equally valid, if not better, explanations of what you’re doing.”

“There are?” I ask, hoping his alternative facts will ease my pain. I stop crying. I almost smile as I listen.

“Yes, of course there are. It is possible for many different realities to coexist, in the same place and at the same time. One reality says you’re starving and dying on a hospital bed, being bitten by insects. Another says you’re giving qapita, your life-force, so others may live better.”

Qapita? My ‘life-force’?” (Is that an Arabic word? I’ve never heard it before. His Arabic must be really good.)

“Yes, qapita, your life-force. Yemen isn’t the only country in the world that’s dying, Samir. Even we in the richer countries are running out of food and other needed things. Some people say that Big Business destroyed the environment, but that’s just their facts. Our facts say that too much government caused the problem. Too many rules took away people’s freedoms.

“Anyway, the fewer and fewer resources in the world are why we invented the purple bloodsuckers, which are taking out little bits of your life-force at a time, then we’re having them all flown back to Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand, where we have the technology to turn your life-force, as well as that of millions of other poor people in countries like yours, into food and other necessities for us.”

“You can…turn blood into…food?” I look around the hospital room. The other patients on the beds all have purple flies biting them, too. I don’t see anyone from my family among them, though.

“Yes, we can transform qapita into food, with the help of machines we have over here! It’s amazing what modern technology can do in the 2030s. We need you to stay alive as long as you can, though. As the bugs suck out your blood, they also inject a greenish-yellow blood substitute, to keep you from dying, so we can get as much life-force out of you as we can, before you finally die. By keeping you alive as long as we can, we are showing you how much we love you and care about you. You’re very important to us, Samir!”

“I am?” My stomach just keeps on growling. I feel as if my belly is eating me up from the inside.

“Yes, of course you are!” His smile reminds me of my mother’s: oh, how much more comforting she would be to me now! She would have her legs cut off to feed me! “Some say we’re using you and your people; but that’s only one reality. There are so many others to consider. We would say that you, Samir, are a hero, generously giving of yourself to people here that you don’t even know, as if they were your own family.”

A memory is flashing by my eyes at this moment: my mother, father, and me giving toys to my sister, and the wide-eyed joy on her face when she saw them. Two seconds later, we heard bombs falling.

“Why believe in sad truths when you can accept alternative ones, happy ones?” the white man goes on. The video on the ceiling TV shows happy white people laughing, dancing, drinking, and…eating! They are handsome young men, beautiful young women, enjoying a large banquet of food, delicious dishes covering a long table from one end to the other: chicken, vegetables, fruit, breads, noodles, rice, wine, juice, eggs, and so many others! A small drop of spit falls out of my mouth, the only wet it’s felt in a while. I reach up at the screen, hoping at least to touch it. My failing strength, and the pain in my arms from trying to move, means my arms keep falling back down on the bed with each two-second try.

“Can I…have some?” I say in a rough whisper. “I’m so…hungry.”

“Now, Samir, if you had some, there would be less for all the people in that party, wouldn’t there?”

“I guess so.”

Remember, you’re a selfless hero. You don’t want your own desires to spoil their happiness, do you?”

“No, I shouldn’t…be selfish.”

“That’s right. As I said before, happy realities are better to think about than sad ones. That’s why we in the West show only happy things on TV and in movies, to help people forget the troubles of the world. We never show our people the reality of places like Yemen—it would make them unhappy. Similarly, you should forget your sorrows and think of the happiness you’re giving people on the other side of the world, so I’ll leave you with this video of the banquet, and all the happy Americans here enjoying food converted from the life-force of the blood of heroes like you. Alternative truths, Samir! They will give you comfort. Watch, and enjoy!”

I’ve been getting light-headed. The purple flies are buzzing around my face. I’m too weak to swat at them, and the pain from moving my body is greater than the pain of their bites, so I mostly just let them bite me.

Their purple is glowing: is my vision getting blurry? Am I dreaming? I see purple balls of light floating in the air above me, then rising up to the ceiling TV screen. The purple balls seem to be changing into new food on the banquet table, when they touch the TV screen.

I feel bites, then I see the purple, glowing balls rise up to feed the white people. I see my shining life-force being taken up to the TV.

My stomach is growling louder now. It’s making my body shake. I look down at my chest: red spots of blood are everywhere. The purple bugs keep biting and flying up to the ceiling-TV. I can’t see my legs.

I look to my left and see myself in the mirror again: I’m all green now. I look like a rotting corpse! Also…where are my legs?

My bald, swollen head looks like a giant melon. Before the bombs, Mother, Father, my sister, my friends, and my neighbours all used to say how cute I was. What an adorable little boy, they’d say! What would they say if they saw me now?

I look down at my growling belly. I no longer have legs or a pelvic region. Am I dreaming? What I see can’t be real! There is a huge mouth where my belly should be. The mouth is like a huge navel. With the teeth of a tiger, or some wild beast, it is eating at my flesh above. Am I eating myself?

Below is too painful to watch, so instead I look above, a much happier place to be. The glowing purple balls are floating up to the banquet on the ceiling. They flash when they touch the TV screen, then turn into meat, bread, fish, and other delicious dishes.

The white people sitting at the table are smiling, laughing, and talking to each other as they bite into the food that was once my blood. The love they reflect to each other on their grinning faces, it’s like a big, happy family. Is my family up there, eating with them in Allah’s paradise? I hope they are, but I don’t see them anywhere: I see only white people, dozens of white people.

They’re young, handsome, and beautiful. They’re wearing nice clothes, unlike the filthy rags that covered the private parts I once had, or the bandages I have on my arms, or those I had on the legs I used to have.

Well, if I cannot have food, let the white people have it for me.

If I cannot have a family, let them be the family I’ve lost forever.

If I must be naked, let them wear clothes for me.

If I cannot have a body, let them have bodies instead.

If I cannot live, let me die so they can live.

I don’t want to be selfish. Let them be selfish instead. I don’t want to be a burden to anyone.

I feel numb, even where I still have a body. I look down at myself, to see what is left of me. I have only a head and neck now, a longer neck, almost like that of a giraffe; that mouth is still eating, chewing at the base of my neck with loud chomps. The mouth’s bloody, beast-like teeth seem to be grinning at me as they bite their way up my neck. There is very little blood, apart from the tiny dots of red that splash in all directions with each bite; the mouth must be drinking the rest of it up.

I don’t care. Let me die. Numbness means no more pain. I don’t feel hungry or thirsty anymore. My mouth is dry; everywhere I feel dry, if I feel anything.

I don’t want anything anymore. Let the white people do the wanting. The fight in me is over now. I accept my lot, my place in the world. It is the will of Allah.

There are truths other than mine here in Yemen. Happy truths in the West. Believe the happy truths. Forget the bad ones.

Two tears are running down my nose. It’s all right, though, everything is alright.

I love my white brothers.

I’m happy for them. Losing my family and my life doesn’t ma…

My Short Story, ‘Hot Sauce’, in the Horror Anthology, ‘Depraved Desires 2’

Screenshot 2017-08-04 22.31.39

I have a new erotic horror short story published in a horror anthology called Depraved Desires 2 (Volume 2), published by HellBound Books. My story is called ‘Hot Sauce,’ and it has a political subtext, allegorizing how, after rising in revolution against one’s oppressors, it’s crucial to protect one’s gains from counterrevolution, and not be distracted by one’s personal desires.

There are a bunch of great stories in this series, including ‘The Elk Woman of Friedland Woods: A Tale of Erotic Horror,’ by Jacob Mielke; ‘The Lifeguard,’ by Matt Payne; ‘Going Down,’ by Ken Goldman; ‘Black Dress Society Part 2,’ by M.J. Sutton; ‘Loves Embrace,’ by D. Norfolk; ‘June at the Hellfire’, by J. Stanley; ‘Love Bites,’ by Tim J. Finn; ‘Oven Picking,’ by Shane Porteous; ‘The Giant and the Lovers,’ ‘Between Heaven and Hell,’ ‘Cut the Raggedy Man,’ and ‘The Nutcrackster Suite,’ by J.L. Boekestein; ‘For Hire,’ by Becky & Lee Narron; ‘Red,’ by Marela Aryan Ballot; ‘Your Breath Is Mine,’ by Becky Narron & J.L. Boekestein; and ‘Desperately Seeking Bigfoot,’ by Jennifer Lynne.

All our stories were compiled by that great auteur, Bonny Capps, author of such books as Snuffed and Stranger. The cover artwork and design are not mine: they’re by HellBound Books Publishing. The Foreword was written by Xtina Marie. I want to thank both Bonny and Xtina for the opportunity to give my writing exposure here! Hugs and kisses to them!

‘Pills’, a surreal horror short story

“Here’s his address,” Max said, handing me a small piece of paper. I looked at it. “You know where that is?”

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “Easy to find. But will this Pauly guy have what I need?”

“Of course,” Max said, waving his hand to reassure me. “Trust me. Tell him I sent you.”

I left Max’s apartment building. Walking on the street to the bus stop to catch the bus to Pauly’s place, I found myself ruminating on my life, and why I was hoping Pauly could…help me.

I went over memories of my life with my family, a dysfunctional bunch. My brothers and sister bullied me, the baby of the family. One brother used to spit on my face for the fun of it, laughing as I wiped the spit off my cheek; the other once pulled a chair out from under me when I was about to sit on it, so I fell on my ass on the floor, everyone else in the living room laughing at me, including my mom. My sister once made me do something that was…well…private…with her…

I twitched from that memory as I arrived at the bus stop. I continued going down bad memory lane, standing in the bus shelter and frowning.

My mother never cared how much my siblings hurt me. She made excuses for them instead of defending me. She was hurtful herself, always undermining my ability to develop self-confidence.

I’ll never forget the day my mother looked me straight in the eye and said, “The kind of things you’re good at simply don’t make a lot of money, Paul.”

I was twelve when she said that.

My high school grades weren’t good enough for me to get into university. As a young adult, I roamed from job to job, usually working in either restaurants (in my late teens–a busboy, dishwasher, or cook), or as a cashier once, in a pet food store, when I was in my mid-twenties.

In contrast, my brothers became an engineer and a salesman, and my sister got a job in the government. Mom never failed to point out the difference between them and me.

Just after the cashier job, there was my disastrous experience as a clerk in the reserve army: I’d made an error setting up the monthly pay for my regiment, and when everyone’s pay got delayed, I practically got a lynching.

After getting fired from yet another menial job, I was faced with either moving back home to be reminded by my mother of what a failure I was, or being homeless. Pride compelled me to risk the latter.

I’d been homeless for six weeks before I found my current job, making stuff in a factory.

I felt trapped in that job, working long hours, feeling lonely among a crowd of other workers, with none of whom I had a meaningful friendship. I’d never been good at making friends, as a kid at school, or anywhere: if you can’t be friends with your own family, who can you be friends with?

I’d chat a little with Max (a coworker in the factory as well as my personal drug connection), and take orders from Carl Parshin, my manager. But there was nothing beyond that, in terms of human contact: it was just a drab, tiring job. I could have quit, but then where would I have gone? Back on the streets again, panhandling? Enduring my mom again?

Don’t bother asking about my luck with women–I’m even more pathetic there. (I’m awkward with even the occasional prostitute, for fuck’s sakes. Seriously, I have to pay for it, and it’s not as if I were hideous or something.)

The only escape I’d ever had in life was with drugs. Some marijuana or hashish for my pipe on the weekends, or some LSD if I was lucky enough to score some, could see me through. Now, I was pushing thirty, and my depression, about aging without having done anything respectable with my life, meant I needed something stronger in the hallucinogens area.

I got on the bus, sulking in my seat the whole ride.

Please, Pauly, I thought, have something to help me forget my shitty life.

Ten minutes later, I’d got off the bus, and I was now on the sixth floor of a high-class apartment building, knocking on Pauly’s door. A man in a yellow and black striped suit answered. He looked like a hornet with red hair, more like a pimp than a drug dealer.

“Yes?” he said, looking at me as if I were a cop.

“My name is Paul Turian,” I said. “Max Midea sent me.”

“Oh, Max,” he said, then put out his hand to shake mine. “Pauly Tishin. Come on in.”

The living room of his apartment was roomy, with orange-red wallpaper, and large mirrors on each wall. I could see myself from all angles. What a strange interior design, even frightening: it was like being surrounded by the flames of Hell, where one judges one’s own sins by seeing oneself for all eternity.

“So, what can I get you?” Pauly asked. “You seem tense.”

“I am,” I said. “I need something to take my mind off my troubles.”

“And what would those troubles be? I don’t mean to pry, but knowing something about them will help me get the right…product…for you.”

“Well, I feel lonely, alienated, like I can’t connect with anyone, or anything.”

“Alienated from who? From what? Can you elaborate?” He flapped his upturned hands at himself, as if gesturing to me to come closer, or to draw out more about what was troubling me.

“Well, I work at a factory, making household things, like taps, doorknobs, pipes, and fans…mostly metal stuff. All of us there work long hours, the pay is shit. We don’t really talk to each other, or even look at each other, except for two or three coworkers, Max is one of them. There’s also my manager, Carl Parshin. They’re not really friends, though, just acquaintances. I have no real friends. It’s depressing. I have no real creative outlet in my life. I’m going nowhere.

“I get home late, and I’m really tired then, too tired to do anything creative or social. I just turn on the TV, hoping to be diverted, but the news just reminds me of what a shitty word we all live in. Movies and TV shows are just the same old, Hollywood garbage. As I said, my life is depressing; it feels meaningless. I don’t like myself. I need an escape from it all. Do you have any acid, or ketamine, maybe?” I was fighting back sobs.

“Actually, I have something even better, if you’re willing to try something new. I synthesized it myself. I guarantee it will take away all those problems you just mentioned. Are you in a daring mood?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said. “Anything to make me forget about my problems.”

“I think you and I have a lot more in common than just our names, Paul. You see, I’ve been working on a solution to just that whole ‘alienation’ issue myself.” He put his arm around my back and led me to a corner of that mirrored living room, where he had a large, black garbage bag filled with what looked like hundreds of pink pills. “I’ve discovered something even better than escapism, even better than a drug high. I’ve found a solution to your problem, for it was once my problem.” He took one of the pills and showed it to me. “I once felt lonely and powerless, but having this…and giving it to others…gave me a new power few people have.”

“Really?” I looked around at the opulence of his room, the expensive furniture (antiques?), the golden frames around the mirrors. “This is a nice apartment building you live in, but I don’t wanna be a drug dealer. I’m just looking for a few hours of escape.”

“Oh, I’m not saying you’ll be a drug dealer. I’m not a drug dealer. I’m a realizer of dreams.”

What was he talking about? I wondered. Whatever it was, it sounded too good to be true, and was turning out to be more hassle than a good high was really worth, more danger than dream. I took a few steps back.

“You know the difference between the successful and the poor? The real difference? It’s attitude. You need to believe in yourself. You need confidence. You need to see yourself differently. That’s what my mirrors are for. Take this pill, then look in the mirrors. When you see the difference, you’ll want more. Trust me.”

Well, I thought, I may as well get something out of this dandy. “How much?”

“$20 for one, $30 for three, but you must act now.”

Act now? I thought. He sounds like one of those pushy internet ad-men. “What if I don’t like what I see?”

“Money back guarantee, and you walk out of here as you were as soon as the pills wear off.” His grin was Mephistophelian, an omen I should have thought about more.

“And how long would it take for them to wear off?”

“Oh, just a few hours. No more than that.”

I paused, looking at that pill between his finger and thumb. Was I seeing things, or did it seem to shake slightly?

“The $30 offer ends in a few seconds.”

“OK. Hit me.” How bad could it be? I wondered, giving him my cash.

He dropped the pill in the palm of my hand; again, it seemed to fidget a bit. I thought I could hear an ever-so-faint, squeaky, high-pitched voice calling out: No, no, no!

Where the fuck was that coming from?

Nah, I thought. I’m hearing things.

I tossed the pill in my mouth. I felt it shaking again slightly before dissolving in my throat.

Then, the weirdest thing happened.

I gagged, feeling something metal growing out of my mouth, starting in my throat, pushing my jaws open and pushing past my lips. My tongue was stuck between the steel outgrowth and my lower teeth: damn, it hurt! My eyes widened as I looked at myself in his mirror to the right of me: there was a fucking faucet coming out of my mouth!

I tried pulling it out, but it was stuck in there, attached to my body, as if grown into my jawbone and the flesh of my throat or something. It hurt my tongue even more from trying to pull it out, so I gave up trying. I wanted to say, “What the fuck’s the idea?”, but with this thing in my mouth, I could only whine muffled squeals.

He put his hand in the bag for another pill, but I shook my hands to tell him not to; I could only make inarticulate grunts, so I gestured to him to give me my money back.

“Oh, you want your second pill,” he said, smirking as if only pretending to misunderstand me, while acting as if I had to have the full experience before asking for my money back. Then, he held the faucet still and put the next pill under the spigot, which acted with some kind of bizarro vacuum function and sucked it into my body.

As it went in, I thought I heard another faint, mouse-like No! again.

My right ear started to swell; it felt hard, metallic, it grew heavy. My head tilted from the weight. I looked in the mirror. It morphed into a doorknob, like one of the ones my factory makes! Indeed, I felt like a knob for agreeing to this conman magician’s offer.

“You see?” he said, getting a third pill from the bag. “Now you’re not so alienated from your work. It’s truly a part of you. Wait for more changes to come.” He giggled.

He brought the third pill over to my faucet-mouth, but I tried to back away. I felt my legs stiffen and grow hard. I looked down at them. Below my shorts, I no longer saw the flesh of my legs. They had turned into pipes that penetrated into the floor, rooting me to the spot!

I tried to swat at his hand with the pill, but my arms were now stiffening, though they didn’t feel like metal. I looked to my left and right: they’d turned into tree branches, with leaves and shiny, red apples hanging from them!

What kind of a monster is he turning me into? I wondered. Is this a drug trip, an intense hallucination? Or is it some kind of black magic? I looked at that flame-coloured wallpaper, and had a feeling the latter was the correct answer, for that devilish grin remained on his face.

I could only moan like a gagged prisoner, and fidget with my still-human torso. I tried shaking my head, but he grabbed the faucet and put the pill under it. It got sucked in.

I could suddenly see all of the room, from many different angles at the same time, for eyes had appeared all over my body: on my chest and my back (though my T-shirt was blocking their view), on my tree-branch-arms, on my pipe legs, and on the back of my head, peeking through my hair. The sight of my monstrous new form, from all angles in those mirrors, made the fear in all those agape eyes too easy to understand. Tears formed in all of them.

I kept shaking, trying to hit him with my branch-arms, but he grabbed the left one and plucked an apple.

He ripped my T-shirt off my torso. My chest and stomach eyes, no longer shrouded in darkness, looked up in terror at him. Tears ran down my belly.

I whined in annoyance. Damn this faucet, I thought as it kept pressing my tongue into my lower incisors, still stabbing sharply into it. The steel had a rusty taste mixed with the blood from my tongue.

“Now,” he said, holding the apple level with my belly, “you can enjoy the fruits of your labour.” He laughed as a mouth opened in my belly and ate the apple…which I could feel breaking up not into smaller apple pieces…but into a few dozen, dissolving pills.

My torso turned into a huge fan, with that mouth in the middle axis, and weeping, bloodshot eyes all around the fan’s outer circle. I could no longer move, for I no longer had joints. I tried speaking through that mouth, but I could only make it moan and babble like a madman.

Is this just a drug trip? I still wondered. Will it wear off in a few hours? Or will this be the rest of my life?

The doorbell rang.

“Ah, my guests have arrived,” Pauly said with a smile as he walked to the door. Three young men came in the room. One of them was Max, the second, Carl, my manager. I didn’t know the third man.

Oh, Max, Carl, please! I thought. Help me!

“Paul!” Max said as he and the others approached me. “Looking good!” All four of them laughed at me.

I’m fucked, I thought.

“Holy shit, what a freak-show!” the man to Max’s right said. “This is totally worth the price of admission.”

“Indeed, it is,” Max said, playing with my doorknob-ear. “I promised you a good show, and I always deliver on my promises, don’t I, Paul?” Still playing with my doorknob-ear, he rapped his knuckles on my head, as if it were a door. “Hello? Anybody home?” They all laughed again.

You fucking bastard, Max, I wanted to say.

“Speaking of the price of admission, pay up, guys,” Pauly said, gesturing with his hands. “$50 a man.”

They all paid him. As he counted the bills in his hands, the other three were feeling me up, fascinated with what I’d turned into.

My nose now felt metallic, pushing forwards and swelling. It turned into a valve for the faucet. They all laughed at me.

“Whoa!” Max said. “Check this shit out! Paul, you’re a metal-head!”

Everyone laughed loud, high-pitched howls that stung my human ear, the only one that heard anything anymore.

I looked at the ridiculous monstrosity that I’d become in the mirrors. It made me think of my school years, when I’d been laughed at and bullied, my classmates taking over the duties of the tormentors in my family. At that moment, for a few seconds, I thought I actually saw four of my high school bullies instead of these four men.

The reflections of everyone in the mirrors, seen from all of my eyes from all those angles, from time to time looked like everyone in my old classrooms…all of them laughing at me.

“Does he dispense beer?” Carl asked.

Everybody laughed some more.

“Try his nose for yourself, Mr. Parshin,” Pauly told Carl, who then turned my nose-tap. Nothing came out.

“Useless!” he shouted, then slapped my still-human cheek. The sting of that slap made me so want to hit him, but I could only stand there, motionless. His slap caused a tear in my cheek, which now was dripping blood. “Eww!” Carl said, then wiped my blood on the side of my fan-torso.

In my daze as I recovered from the sting, I thought, just for a few seconds, that instead of seeing Max, Carl, and the third man in the mirror reflections, I saw my siblings tormenting me. I thought I saw myself as a little kid in one of the mirrors, and instead of Pauly, I saw my mother. Then I snapped out of the daze and saw my present tormentors. Again, I wanted to twitch from the memory of my childhood trauma, but I couldn’t budge.

I looked over at Pauly…and saw horns on his head! I blinked, then looked again: the horns were gone.

Did these brief hallucinations mean that my monstrous form was all one extended hallucination? I could only hope so.

“Want an apple?” the man to Max’s right asked, pulling one off my right branch-arm and handing it to Carl.

“No, thanks,” Carl said, swatting it out of the guy’s hand. “I might turn into this kind of freak. This is what happens when you do dope, Paul.”

“I like your fan, Paul,” Max said, laughing at me between each sentence. “Nice and comfortable breeze you’re blowing. Yeah, I got caught with a stash of weed in my apartment, and the only way Carl would save my ass from the cops was if I ratted you out. So I did. But since Carl doesn’t like you–actually, nobody has ever liked you–he said he’d love to see what you’d do if Pauly gave you some of his stash. Man, you didn’t disappoint. The third guy with us here is a cop, by the way. Again, I promised he’d be so entertained by you that he’d drop the charges against me. I guess I’m safe. Thanks, bro!”

Fuck you, I thought.

My many eyes were trying to avoid my oglers, who kept touching me, ripping off pieces of bark from my arms, or running their fingers along the screen of the fan.

Stick your fingers inside, guys, I thought. Let the fan blades cut them off, you compassionless bastards.

Blood flowed from where they’d torn off pieces of bark from my branch-arms. Any drops of my blood that got on their hands, they wiped off on the edges of my fan-torso. They wouldn’t tear off any more: I suppose I should have been grateful for that, at least.

As an hour or so of this ordeal went by–their eyes always staring at me, their hands touching me, their fingers poking a few of my eyes (which spouted blood, too, now), and their mouths laughing at me–my eyes kept looking at my mirror reflection, hoping for my transformation back to normal, or for an end to this drug trip. This has to be a trip. It can’t be real, can it?

Instead, I began to notice myself turning pink. Were those flesh tones I was seeing? My monstrous shape was the same, but everything looked flesh-like. Were the pills finally wearing off? They had to be! In my mind, I was begging for it.

A funny thing, though: I was now all pinkish, but every centimetre of me looked detached from each other. I looked like a man in a Georges Seurat painting–pointillistic, my body was all pink dots.

“Whoa!” Carl said. “What the fuck is he turning into now?”

Max tapped me on the chest. My body broke into thousands of little pink pieces…I was all pills now! I lay there in a pile before my four onlookers, who continued to gaze down on me without any pity, but with contempt.

I looked up at them the way many of us think a fly must see the world; for each pill-unit of my body was an eye of its own, looking up at the four men in utter helplessness.

“Man, that’s the weirdest shit I’ve ever seen,” Carl said.

Max brought his foot up as if about to stomp on me. I actually hoped for it.

“No!” Pauly said. “I have a use for him still. Don’t step on any…of him.”

The others laughed.

“Alright, guys,” Pauly said. “Show’s over now.” He motioned for them to leave. “I’ll have another spectacle for you to see soon.”

“When?” the third guy asked as they all reached the door.

“When she gets here, of course,” Pauly said. “I’ll let you all know. Until then, good-night.”

“Bye,” his visitors said, then left.

Pauly came back over to the pile of me.

“I know you still have consciousness,” he said, bending over. “Enjoy your new life. At least you won’t have to work in that awful factory anymore.” He walked away and laughed.

********************

The next day, his doorbell rang. He answered it. I saw, through my pill-eyes, several dozen images of the same girl–a teenager from the looks of her–entering his apartment and approaching me. All my other pill-eyes saw only a hellish blackness. Was I put into a black garbage bag while I was sleeping?

“You were telling me about your problems,” Pauly said to her.

“Yes,” she said, beginning to sob. “I feel so alone. I hate my parents. No one pays any attention to me. I’m sick of feeling so…ordinary.”

Picking up one of me, he showed it to her. “I have just the thing for you.”

No! I said, hoping she’d hear me.