Madness’ Sole Soul: A Short Story

Madness’ Sole Soul

A Short Story by Robert J. S. T. McCartney

 

“I’m sorry, it has to be this way,” he remembered his mother saying. She left him—left them all. Now, they were all being hunted down by an unknown person (or maybe organization?). Rumor was that his mother was collecting other family members to help her purge those that were left and would get in her way of officially taking over the family since his father’s untimely demise. The lands, she believed were hers; as was the town. It was her birthright. That even though the past had tarnished what should have been regulated to her—she was persistent on correcting. Everything would return to her: the land, the town, the family name—everything. It would only be a matter of time until he would perish. So, he supposed on the issue.

It was true, she had left his step-father for an old fling from the “glory days” or what have you. Perhaps to gain leverage in use against her remaining members of the Hessen household. Though he never saw eye to eye with the man he came to acknowledge as a father figure in his life, he felt sorry for him. Vengeance, karma, these things have a way of working out. Order must be maintained in the universe. Time will work its hands the way it sees fit.

The day had come—one he had anticipated. The hitmen (or so he alleged) had come for the step-father, for him, for the rest of them.

“You need to get out of here, John. I can deal with them.” The young man steeled himself with a knife in hand. “Run, run as fast as you can. Don’t look back.”

“What you’re talking about is madness, Eric. Your mother could never do such a thing! Not to us, especially, to you.” John was flabbergasted at the information that had been collected and evidence that suggested his wife had, indeed, put a price on his head and the rest of the family.

“Go before it’s too late! There’s no time to argue. I know you’re not my real father, but I do look up to you like one.” Eric gripped the knife tighter as he clenched his jaw. John nodded and gathered a few things, before hurrying straight out the back door.

Out front, Eric heard an engine approaching. He opened the massive oak door to see a black SUV coming up the drive to the estate. “Typical fashion,” Eric mumbled aloud before closing the door.

He peeked out the window to see the occupants disperse from the vehicle. He knew them all. “My Uncles? Aunts?” He noted two more vehicles coming to the estate. “This…cannot be good,” he said.

A voice came from behind him. “Hello, dear brother.”

Sister.

“Hello, dear sister,” Eric replied, still peeking out the window. “Quite the family reunion we have today; unannounced in fact. Any reason as to why?”

His sister grimaced. “Did you not hear? There’s a high price for you and ‘dad.’ We are all here to collect—it’s nothing personal. I could use the money to take care of a lot of things.”

Eric sighed. “You were always greedy. We have vast wealth as it is and yet, you squander it.” His words struck a nerve. “You do know mother will only kill you after you kill John and I, don’t you?”

“I am aware of that. I have taken precautions. I’m afraid John is already. . .disposed. He didn’t get very far,” she smiled.

Eric grit his teeth. “The man was hardly any threat, let alone needed to be involved. You could have spared him, you cold-hearted bitch.”

“Please, I have been called worse,” his sister laughed.

“And soon you will be dead, all of you. I will make sure of it—mom included. I won’t let any of you live anymore.”

“Bold words, little brother, but remember I am older,” she replied sharply.

“Remember, I planned ahead,” he grinned.

Eric’s sister pulled out a knife of her own and motioned to attack him. “At least you will die with some honor, bitch.” He quickly disarmed her and slashed her arm; sending her to recoil in pain.

“You little bastard,” she screamed.

Eric moved in hastily and stabbed her in the gut and slashed upward, bringing her to her knees and to be embraced by death.

“Sorry, Julie, but it’s nothing personal,” Eric said as he twisted the blade once more into her neck.

The door opened and in came the rest of the family: his aunts, uncles, cousins, and his mother.

“Well, you certainly save us the time in having to find you, son,” his mother stated.

“Mom…”

She looked over at the dead body of her daughter. “I see you took care of your sister. Good job, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree alright.”

“You all are ridiculous. Acting together to kill another of your family? For what? For money? Land? You will all stop at nothing after this matter is settled to make sure you solely get all of it.” Eric shook his head. “Your greed consumes you.” He pointed to his mother. “Your whore ways and betrayal to this family will be your undoing, dear mother. I will kill you all.”

His mother laughed. “You sound just like your grandfather. He used to believe we had some ‘disease’ within us that drove us mad. Granted, that’s what got him locked up. As cunning as he was, he was no match for me. It’s just human nature, sweetie. Kill or be killed.”

Everyone eyed one another, uncertain of who would betray who.

“Kill him,” Eric’s mother ordered.

The cousins were the first to swarm him, and they were the first to die. He effortlessly slaughtered them and left them dead on the floor. Then came his aunts. The one that had a change of heart was only to be stabbed in the back by his mother. They too fell in the bloody heap that was amassing in the house’s grand foyer.

Three uncles and Eric’s mother remained. They spread out around him and slowly motioned towards him. “I wish you a merciless death, dear uncles,” Eric said as he went after his more overweight uncle. He ran and leaped at the man, stabbing him in the neck and under the jaw. Collapsing atop him, Eric stabbed him a few more times in the chest before rolling off him and readying for another attack. The next attacker came, and Eric disarmed him and stabbing him with his own blade; then used his body as a shield against his other attack. He slid on the ground and slit the Achilles tendons of his last uncle, and then sliced up his backside.

“Mother, you are all that remain. It appears things did not go as you had hoped,” said Eric.

“On the contrary, honey. You did the legwork for me,” Eric’s mother replied. She then drew a small pistol from behind her.

She smiled menacingly. “Never bring a knife to a gunfight, sweetie. Thank you for getting rid of everyone for me.”

Eric reached behind him and withdrew his gun and shot his mother in the chest several times, “I knew you would.”

He approached his fast-dying mother’s side. “The only difference, mom, is that I didn’t hesitate and make a big speech before I pulled the trigger. Perhaps now you can be at rest.” He kissed her on the cheek and looked at her dimming green eyes. “I love you,” and then pointed the gun at her head and pulled the trigger once more.

One by one, he went around to each family member and shot them in the head. He called the cleaning service that the family used in cases of messes like these. He gave them all a proper burial, despite them having tried to kill him. Ownership and duty fell to him now. Eric was the lord of the manor, the land, and town that came with it. He was the sole survivor of Hessen Estate Massacre.

He was granted everything, although the attorney thought it to be proper to read the wills and testaments of the deceased. Sifting through the mess, Eric had found a piece of paper that clarified more things for him. He handed it to the lawyer.

Clearing his throat, the lawyer read aloud. “It is hereby declared that under article nine, sub-article three, clause eleven, that in the event of the purge of the household, all assets fall to the surviving heir. Debts will be settled with the provided fund, and any outstanding family members outside of second cousins will cease any violent interaction. Half siblings hold no right, nor just cause, and are therefore exempt of any claim to the family name, land, or township. If so claim is ever made, they will be disbarred, and the assets will become forfeit to the state.”

Eric sighed at this. The lawyer shook his hand and eventually left.

In due course, Eric readied himself to leave the house for good. As he is about to close the door, one by one, his family all appeared before him.

“Eric, can you forgive us,” his mother asked.

“We are sorry. . . We should have been a better family,” an aunt stated.

“Time wasted. . .” an uncle added.

“We all could have been better,” his sister agreed.

“No, it was my fault,” he said. They all looked to him, puzzled. He returned their gaze in spite and anger. “It was my fault. . .for being so weak. You may haunt me and my dreams, but you cannot escape your damnation. Suffer your fates, you wretched kin.” The house trembled and shook, and the spirits vanished; returning to their relics, paintings, and pictures. Slowly he pulled the door behind him, closing and leaving behind it all.

Eric took a seat outside in a rocking chair and rocked in it. He noted the gray sky that seemed to have plagued the day. He sighed aloud.

The family car and chauffer pulled up. He noted his serviceman and driver in black attire, with two cousins that laid claim of wanting no involvement of what had transpired. Slowly, he got his pale self, up and ventured to the car.

The driver motioned for the cousins to get in the car. Eric remembered the driver had made prior claims before that he shared his distaste for the twin cousins. He always thought they were up to no good. To spur a change in the young master’s mood, the driver accelerated and would leave a short distance between them and the car.

“Stop, Thomas. Let them in,” Eric stated.

“Thank you, Eric,” replied the one cousin who sat in front of him. The other cousin nodded and sat next to Eric. The car then rumbled away from the estate.

Soon, down the driveway, the cousin who sat next to Eric, took out a knife and slit his throat, then his brother’s throat, and then his own throat. He had tried to strike the driver but was held back by the serviceman in the back.

“Is he alright, Bennie,” Thomas asked the man in the back who applied a handkerchief to Eric’s neck. “Drive—drive to the bloody hospital!” Bennie looked back down at the bloodied Eric. “Put pressure on it! Hold it, young master!”

Eric could feel the warmth slowly leaving him. He also felt the heat of his dead cousin departing him as well.

“Faster,” Eric gasped.

Eric looked at the rearview mirror from the backseat. Who he saw was not his reflection, but rather his grandfather’s. “Grandpa?”

 “Eric, do you see now? Do you see why I did what I did?” Sadness overcame the old man’s wrinkled face. “I loved my family. Honestly, I did. I loved you all. But what I saw—what I knew that was harbored deep within, I knew it was only a matter of time. Even when shown kindness, we’ve all turned on one another. You know it well, my grandson. We carry a sickness—one that spreads like a plague. It must be contained, Eric. It must be put down.

Eric nodded. “I understand. I will purge them all. I will carry this mantle—this burden. For our family.”

His grandfather smiled and then vanished into nothingness. Eric looked out the window to the cloudy sky and the buzzing street corners. He closed his eyes and greeted the darkness.

Some time passed, Eric stared out at the gardens at the hospital. The sun shined brilliantly everywhere. He caught a glimpse of himself, and his family behind him, all mourning. He grinned as he lightly rubbed his bandaged neck. “I’m not dead yet.”

It begins again. This time the madness will be contained.

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The New Boston and Middleton, MA. Investigations: Retribution

"Shopping Carts" Photo by Dan4th Nicholas. Dan4th Nicholas has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

Photo by Dan4th Nicholas. Dan4th Nicholas has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

The New Boston and Middleton, MA Investigations: Retribution

[Roland]

By Robert J. S. T. McCartney


His gaze fell upon his reflection in the red pick-up truck’s rearview mirror. Sweat beaded on his dark brow. A pair of bright verdant eyes flickered with each hesitant blink; shifting from the outside world back to the confines of the driver’s seat. Silvered hair with sparse strands of black peppered the man’s scalp. His clean-shaven face was wrinkled with the creases of age and told of a long line of police experience, a veteran—married to no one (not anymore) but to the force, and was seeking justice.

He closed his eyes and prepared himself for what was about to unfold. As he opened them, he saw the last of the few on the list wander into the supermarket.

Well, here we go.

He wagered a glance at the discarded Middleton Police badge: Roland Johnson. The name was hardly visible anymore, scuffed, scratched, battered, and broken. He grunted as he leaned over to open the glove box. and retrieve his Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum revolver* from its resting grounds. He inconspicuously glanced around to make sure no one was watching—save for the possibility of the security cameras, but that didn’t matter. He stepped outside and closed the driver’s door behind him.

There’s no turning back now. You gotta hold it together Roland. It’s just better this way.

He took in a few heavy breaths and adjusted his long sandy brown overcoat. Underneath, his black attire laid hidden (save for his black dress shoes and slacks that peeked out with each step) and the secrets of a plan that no one knew—except for the one piece of paper that was left behind to a friend. He was a good friend and a hell of a good cop.

They’ll never understand, but I sure hope you do, Dana.

His face was beginning to show the strain of his plan. His sweat became tainted with uneasiness. It befouled the once good man and began to soak and elaborate the coaxed mask. He fixed his holster under his coat and continued with his stride of redemption and retribution.

He wrinkled his brow under the bright golden eye that loomed up high above. A swift gust of wind of the summer day cut into him, ruffling the short hair of the man. He couldn’t help but glance up at the sky: pure azure, with not a single cloud in the sky. It was the last bit of bliss he could afford.

Inside, footsteps paraded about—marching to and from the marketplace. Roland’s eyes watched everyone as he made his way in, with his hands deep in his pockets.

“Hello, sir. Good afternoon.” A soft, grandmotherly voice peeped from the short cotton-tipped elderly woman, as she greeted customers that wandered in, and said goodbye as they left. Her gray eyes hinted with a smile, but under the stress of the wrinkles and the knowing of how hard the economy was—he didn’t know if it was true or just another piss poor excuse to make a buck. Either way, he gave a nod to the elder, and flashed a brief smile, while hurrying past. She wasn’t his intention, none of the other people were.

The marketplace had sprawled since the last time he’d seen it. The produce had more than doubled, with rows upon rows of fresh fruits and vegetables that formed makeshift barricades.

Just like cattle. Herding all of us.

The produce adjoined the deli and bakery, while the back end of the bakery met with the meat and frozen foods departments. The place seemed to measure for hundreds of yards. His eyes lazily drifted off towards the general merchandise side of the store. He shook his head to disregard the notion, and to maintain focus on his objective. His eyes continued to scan around, searching for the few that he had told to meet at the designated location. A group of familiar people all shuffled about the produce section. Some were making eye contact with one another, while some were uncertain of the meaning behind this escapade, looking about as to who summoned them all.

There were six in all—save for the unannounced guest of honor. Roland’s eyes recounted each one, his mind pulling the folder for each person.

Charles Deveau, 46, White male, 6′ 4”, 330 lbs. A child predator. Thus far, he has attacked 32 children; both male and female. He has a connection with the police department. I have a hunch on who. The pattern as of late has been irregular. He has been on a four-day hiatus, due to suspicious activity. Detective’s Conway and Deupree have been tracking. It’s too long to wait. He’ll strike again soon. I know it.

Huey Porter, 52, White male, 5′ 9”, 140 lbs. Terminal Lung Cancer. Carries an oxygen tank. He commits small time acts to try and be killed via cop suicide. He has taken out a $500,000 life insurance policy, with the children as beneficiaries. He’s tried everything. I feel for the guy. I’ve been a friend of his for 30 years. This method is the only way I can help.

Terra Lhangley, 36, White female, 5′ 4”, 120 lbs. She is a chronic nymphomaniac; spreading HIV and AIDS to partners, and never tells them. To date, she has infected over 230 individuals and their partners—and the number continues to grow. Most have taken their lives or committed acts of violence, or further, spread the disease.

Michael Stevens, 45, Black male, 6′ 4”, 171 lbs. Michael has an obsession of stealing. He’s stolen almost everything: electronics, cars, etc. He’s also taken the homes of his victims. A class A+ fraudster, he’s gone up—rather down—to stealing the lives of those in his path. He’s claimed 19 lives; rerouting all monetary gain, and removed any and all links to any of the victims.

Benjamin Clarence, 79, White male, 5′ 6”, 156 lbs. a.k.a. “Bennie the Nipple Ripper.” Preys on females that wander alone at night, or in desolate areas. Has a fetish for removing the nipples of his sexually assaulted victims. Sometimes changes from clean removal with a knife or blade to a cheese grater. Has confessed to…taking delight in consuming the leftovers. It could be months for him to go on trial. Ben has posted bail and was garnished a favor from the same connection as Deveau.

Tiffany Kruger, 29, Black female, 5′ 3”, 113 lbs. Murdered her family, and is reaping all the benefits. All plausible evidence she had attempted to destroy. Detectives Conway and Deupree have some remainder of proof. I have what is leftover in my safe. Was placed on bail, and has since been posted. I’m not letting her get away that easy.

Anita Dalton (formerly Timothy Diego), 36, Hispanic female, 5′ 3”, 114 lbs. Transgender; Tim is accused of butchering his family, selling the body parts to black market buyers. With these proceeds, he funded his gender change operation. Also preys on unsuspecting men on dates, prostitution, and has a fetish with removing the penis and testicles. She needs to be stopped—permanently.

He opened his eyes. They were all here. They had all showed up, just as he had planned. He could see them starting to intermingle with one another now. He knew he had to act fast. Now.

I don’t want any of them to escape.

Roland’s right hand slid into his inner coat pocket and removed a dull pewter cigarette case. He pulled out the last cigarette and brought it up to his dry lips. His left hand searched another pocket and found a silvered zippo. He brought it up in a swift, fluid motion, lighting the hairs of the cigarette. He inhaled deep and closed his eyes—savoring the moment. He foretold of how the events were going to unfold. His moment of foresight was interrupted by a supermarket employee.

The deep voice stirred him. “Sir, you can’t smoke in here! Please, extinguish it, or go outside.”

Roland frowned, his eyes still closed.

He sighed. “I am going to say this once—go call the police. Tell them…six people have been murdered here.” Roland slowly opened his eyes and gazed up at the ceiling of the supermarket—observing it’s rather dull almond fixtures, pipes, and lines that sprawled everywhere.

The male employee began to get hysterical. “Wha—what do you mean? Murder? What murder?”

“It’s alright…just stay calm…and go call the police.” Roland’s gaze drifted down, scanning over all the people. “It’s for the greater good.”

The employee mumbled, “The greater good?” as he scurried off in haste, leaving Roland to smirk to himself.

He started to walk towards the group on his list. They all looked at him, locking eyes, one by one. Some eyes were in such a demonic twist, while others dealt in bloodshed, while the last was sad, in pain…pitiful.

“Who the hell are you?” Tiffany remarked the question pressing—drilling for an answer.

Roland smiled, “Just the man who posted your bail.”

“Really now? I don’t suppose you posted mine too?” Anita cocked her hip, her lips cracked to a crooked grin.

“Why, yes. In fact, I posted everyone’s.” Roland began to pace, his hands behind him. “Now, ladies and gentlemen, I’ve gathered you all here for a significant undertaking. You’re all in grave danger, and we need to remedy that situation. So, it’s imperative that we decide…” he stopped with his back to them all, “which one of you will be the first to die.”

All of their looks changed to such mixed annotations: anger, horror, absolute shock, except for Huey.

“Roland, please. . .” Huey whispered among the group.

“Huey, yours shall be merciful. No matter whether you are first, or the last.” Roland assured.

“Roland?! You’re that stalking, no good, piece of shit cop! Ho ho, oh no! No! Nuh uh, there ain’t no fucking way I will not be dying to some has-been, who’s been intent on making MY LIFE a living hell!” Charles rebuked, and started to storm towards Roland.

Roland turned around, and in an amazing display, withdrew his gun of righteousness; his coat unfurled, and twirled, much like the dramatic performance of an old Western shootout.

It was long past that now, Roland had already decided the order. The people around in the market hadn’t even caught on to the public execution in progress. Maybe it was better that they saw what happened to criminals in public.

A thunderous roar rang out within the store, and to that end, Charles laid crumpled and discarded on the glossy almond tile, next to the display of onions. Horror and shock remained on his face. Just like those whom he assaulted. Blood poured from the back of his skull onto the tile. Roland aimed at the next one—Terra. The shots started to become quicker, more precise, and more humane—perhaps too humane. One by one they began to fall: Terra, Tiffany—they even tried to run! He fired upon their malicious heads, sending their evil souls to Hell. Anita jumped over a display of assorted peppers attempting to spare a moment. People rushed for the exit, the march of a thousand terrified souls.

“Hiding won’t save you. Nothing can.” He slowly walked behind the display, crouching. “Give the devil my regards.” Anita’s eyes widened, her instinct forced her erect to try and run. It was too late. Her body dropped and slid across the tile, colliding into the base of a meat display. He turned his arm towards the oncoming shadow. “Eager, aren’t we?” He shot a round through Benjamin’s skull, dropping him.

Michael had tried to run but saw it was inevitable. The mighty hawk’s gaze fell upon him now. He clung to Huey, hiding behind the decrepit old man.

“Y—you wouldn’t shoot your friend would you?!” He cried behind the smiling frail man.

“You’re pathetic…hiding behind a dying man.” Roland slowly approached the remaining two. “My friend…I am sorry it couldn’t have ended another way.”

Huey’s smile grew. “It is better this way. Everything’s in place. I just ask I be the last.”

“You’re fucking crazy man, fucking crazy! You’d kill your own friend?! What the hell is wrong with you?!” Michael shrieked.

Roland nodded, “So be it.” With a quick draw and sheer precision, he fired at Michael’s head. Michael collapsed behind Huey, clinging to his oxygen tank.

Roland approached Huey. “Thank you.” The two shook hands, then hugged. Best of friends until the end.

Huey knelt before Roland, while Roland had closed his eyes. “Goodbye…old friend.”

His finger was hesitant at first. And then a gunshot thundered from within the store, followed by the warm caress of blood that splattered against him. He opened his eyes slowly to see Huey sprawled in a bloody mess with that bright smile still on his face.

Outside, squad cars had surrounded the building. Red, white, and blue patriotically waltzed in the parking lot. The armed men and women of the law all drew their weapons towards the doors. Two familiar men stood out there with distraught looks on their faces. Roland knew them well.

Dana…Walter…

Dana and Walter were veterans like him, while the pair were up and comers in the Homicide division. Dana—thin, with a broad square face, dark hair, and pale blue eyes. While Walter was slightly overweight, with salt and peppered hair, green eyes, and square glasses…he was considered a god amongst foodies.

He smiled to himself, at least he was in good company now. He loaded the last two bullets into the revolver, just as he had planned it. He began his walk of remembrance, glancing down at the bodies of his friend and the evil he had slain. Roland emptied his coat pocket and placed a piece of paper on Terra’s body, “CONTAGIOUS, BIOHAZARD” in large letters.

“Roland Johnson! Come out with your hands up!” An officer he hadn’t known shouted on the P.A.

He grunted as he walked to the doors. He scanned the army through the doors, searching, waiting.

Ah, there he is.

Sargent Ted Matthers, 52, White male, 6′ 0”, 158 lbs. Accomplice to Charles, and Benjamin. Suspected of having helped rid evidence related to said case and several others. I’ve found incriminating evidence that supports this, as well as a recording that places him and Charles at several locations of attacks. Also, deals in sex trafficking. I have a ledger where he sold his daughters, Doreen, and Mona. He’s also responsible for ordering the hit on Tina…Roland sighed. This one needs to be put down.

“Roland! Come out! You are surrounded!”

He disregarded the taunts, waiting to see if Ted made a move. Sure enough, he saw him strap on a bulletproof vest and start making his way towards the door.

The other officers lowered their guns, watching as the lone cop wandered in alone.

Roland stood with his back to Ted. Visualizing him in his mind: what he thought, what he was going to say and do.

“I see you’ve been busy. That’s a shame really. What a waste of a good cop.” Ted mumbled as he scanned the scene. It was a massacre, and he knew he stood no chance.

Still fit for as old as he was: large build. He had given up on his balding—shaving his blond head entirely. Cold blue eyes stared back at him, with a numb expression on his face. The man was an incomprehensible piece of evil. Roland never knew why, nor did he care to know now. All he knew was he was about to put an end to it and get the justice so many had been denied.

“I don’t need your patronization, Ted. You know what this is about.” Roland snapped back.

Ted grinned. “I suppose so. How about this? You give me the ledger, and we’ll work the rest out.”

Roland shook his head. “I know how you operate. It’s not going to end like that.”

Ted cocked his head. “Oh? How is it then?”

“Like this…” Roland drew his gun, turned, and fired.

Ted had already had his gun aimed, and was able to get one shot off. The bullet of righteous fury bored its way into the skull of Sgt. Ted Matthers. While Ted’s shot missed Roland—due to his step-and-turn technique. Ted dropped to the floor, blood splattering against the market’s doors.

The army of royal blue outside raised their arms and began to unleash hell.

“Hold your fire! Hold your goddamn fire, I said!” Detective Dana Deupree yelled.

“For crying out loud! HOLD YOUR GODDAMN FIRE!” Detective Walter Conway bellowed.

It was of no use. Bullets flew and whizzed by Roland.

Horrible aim the lot of them, Roland thought. Like a bunch of Stormtroopers. He smirked to himself.

The glass in the front shattered, while bullets ricocheted off the metal of the ceiling and doors. A few finally found their way into Roland’s legs and torso. He fell to his knees, still holding on to his hammer of righteousness. He peered out into the eyes of Dana, and Walter. Both shook their heads, and flailed their arms, mouthing the word “no.” They attempted to run vainly into the hail of gunfire.

Roland closed his eyes, while the concert of deafening thunder rolled on. Life began to play on his mind’s reel. Everything that was a memory started to replay one final time. He remembered the day’s sun that hung up high and of Huey. All the good times, and all the fun he had working with the only three people he could have regarded as real true friends. Of his lost love and the injustice that had been done to him. Retribution was at its end. His task, his righting the wrongs, even if it was vigilante justice. Where the alleged system of Justice had failed so many.

As the gunfire stopped, Dana and Walter encroached on the threshold of the supermarket. Outside, one last gunshot echoed. Roland slumped over lifelessly to the ground. The too late duo approached their fallen friend, their hands running over their faces, through their hair—shaking their heads in disbelief.

“Goddamn it, Roland!” Dana shouted while Walter sighed aloud.

The blue blob began to descend upon the supermarket, the 20-some guns still aimed at the freshly slain detective, while white uniforms began to intervene and begin their process of elimination.

******

Elsewhere in Middleton, a Postal Service Agent approached Dana’s home, with a manila envelope addressed to him, from Roland, in their hands. The word URGENT in bold was stamped on both the front and back. The postal worker then trotted off the steps after completing their task, oblivious to the day’s transpired events.


Ths was originally published under the A.B.Normal Publishing and Media Group website.
Retribution is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
*In case any are wondering, it is a 6.5″ barrel length S&W .44 Magnum revolver. Yes, he only had eight bullets, and yes, he was that confident. “Either hit your mark or die trying,” was his motto.
A.B.Normal Publishing and Media Group with quill logo

Future Titles and Works

Hello, everyone!

A short while back I stated that you would see fewer posts of short stories posted on a consistent basis…like say how some that have been published days in a row and so on. While I am getting the Kickstarter campaign for Lilah’s Guide to Hoyle finalized (and it’s very near) and getting pre-orders ready as well, I thought I would share what is a taste of things to come.

I have numerous titles upcoming, of course, these all range from short stories, novels, novella, and so on. Some things I will be focusing on are as follows:

  • Publishing and release of a prequel to Lilah’s Guide to Hoyle (more information coming soon).
  • Continuing of The Diary of the Wasteland Bear God (with the possible introduction of artwork) on A.B.Normal Publishing.
  • Continuing of The Chronicles of Bob: The Chronic Suicidal (with the possible introduction of artwork) on A.B.Normal Publishing.
  • The introduction of a new entertainment series on A.B.Normal Publishing.
  • Several short stories that will be stand alone stories. These include my Dana and Walter Files: The Untold Stories of New Boston and Middleton.
  • The introduction of (my so dubbed title placeholder) Sinclair Gets His Rolex. This particular story is my take on a superhero through unorthodox means.

These will be but a few of the many planned items I have. To give you a gist they are:

  • A Chucky Origins tale. Yes, that very exact Chucky.
  • Pandemic Tales, which is a small collection of a few stories.
  • A romantic comedy that pushes the boundaries of the absurd.
  • A nightmare and dream short story collection.
  • A (so far) 600+ page epic post-apocalyptic fantasy science fiction story.
  • Several other post-apocalyptic stories.
  • The next short story “chapter” of The Lodestone Files.
  • The next chapters of The Mysterious Stranger.
  • And more…

So as you can see there is quite the list of things to do, and this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg (it’s OK if you want to scream “This isn’t even my final form!”). While I am hoping for a successful campaign and launch of Lilah’s Guide to Hoyle, I know I am only eager to please everyone and make something out of nothing, where I must remember that I wanted to do this for myself…no one else. While some may think of that as selfish, it is, but that was my initial goal, and I feel I must keep that; setting high goals is good, however, surpassing them and meeting your personal ones first is a lot better…gives you room for failure.

I hope you all enjoyed this “sneak peek,” if you will, of what’s to come and a glimmer of what I have to offer. I wish everyone a swell weekend and to stay safe.

RJM

The Crucifixion of Edward Croix

Pirate Orange Cells via Image After

“There are worse things in life than death.” It’s true, at least for me anyway. I don’t even know how long it’s been. I’ve lost count of the days and stopped caring really. There’s no hope of leaving this place; truth be told, alive or dead, and in all honesty, I’d rather the latter.

My name is Edward Croix. I used to be a pawn in the vast game called Wall Street. I was married, had kids, had a nice house with a white picket fence…I can almost barely remember my past life before being taken. All I know is I had it all, I wanted more, and that led to me being here.

There is little to no light in here. I can’t see my hands, hell, I can’t even tell if my eyes are open. All around me, the darkness plays its tricks on me, but the shadows are my only company. I have no real clothing on, save for my underwear…if there was much of that left. It’s probably more like a loin cloth now, I guess. There’s no nearby lakes, bodies of water. No railways, highways, or other things to distinguish exactly where the hell I am. It’s just cold and dark.

Certainly, I’d rather be elsewhere, anywhere in fact, but here even in a grave. You may be wondering where I am? What kind of predicament am I in? I honestly haven’t an answer that could make sense; other than that I believe Hell could be a lot more of a lovely retreat than where I am. There are screams all around me from people. I can hear kids crying, screaming. There’s blood dripping off the equipment they use to torture folks. They even have animals; dogs, cats, and only God knows what else to fuel their sick, demented wheel of torment.

At times, I suppose it’d be night? Well, at night time, they gather up the ‘lucky few’—as they call them—and moments later you can hear this heinous and atrocious whirling sound—like a blender, or a grinder. I’d press my face up against the cold metal door, trying to peek in the small sliver of a crack, down the hall at the ever-so-warm light at the end of the corridor. For a moment, you hear them all clamoring, screaming, begging for their lives, and then a few seconds later—nothing. Nothing but soggy meat sloshing around. To which, I suppose that’s probably what they feed us. Typically, I can hear someone whistling a tune while he makes the makeshift meatloaf. It’s catchy really. Sometimes I feel tempted to whistle along with, but I guess that would be bad practice.

I have no cellmate. No one to converse with over our shared fate. They like us weak. In fact, they like to break our ankles, our feet, our knee caps—and for good measure, cut our Achilles’ tendon. You eventually become accustomed to crawling around. Once, someone tried to strangle one of the guys when they brought food. Props to them…they killed one of the bastards, but they got a one-way ticket to the chef’s choice platter. From what I could hear, they strung the guy up; limb by limb gave him a saline bag and started dismembering him piece by piece. Each time, they’d cauterize the wounds. The guy had a hell of a will to live, I’ll say.

Eventually, they severed his genitals and his tongue…and well…had fun with his orifices using said items. I’d like to think he passed before then, but I don’t know. They probably had fun further defecating, desecrating and fornicating with the poor saps dismembered body.

You’d think that being kept in the dark; you’d not be able to picture things so vividly. However, you hear things, smell things—God, do you smell things, taste things…and you can see clear in the night; the things that go more than bump in the night. You never see their faces. You never see anyone’s face—not even your own. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. There was a guy named Keith, good guy, I guess. Well, he had a bad run in with one of the guys. Apparently, there was an exchange of some sexual favors and well…one of the supers caught wind of things and didn’t like the idea of one of the guys spoiling the goods for The Boss. Seeing as he liked his keep fresh, and somewhat clean—least of STDs. Well, old Keith and the one guy had a face swap. The Doc, as he was called, came in and had a field day. He took a box cutter and made Keith’s face come off, and swapped it with the one guy’s. It was a good several hours of screaming. I didn’t get sleep that night. Last I remembered, they wanted to have some more fun with their bodies, but The Boss got tired of it all and ordered them to be tossed into the burn pit.

The women were treated the worst here. Most were slaves: either for sex, ‘housework’, more sex, entertainment [did I mention sex?], and the cruel bearing of The Boss’ bastard children. It didn’t matter to them if they were fat, skinny, big titted, big assed, small and tight, tiny, tall. They were all meat…for pleasure and nourishment. Rape was, of course, standard. They’d have massive orgies in The Boss’ lair, dinner parties…I’m using ‘dinner’ lightly here. They’d have wrestling matches, stripteases, and other typical outside events; just with a slight twist where the loser would be devoured by either animals, ghouls—which was a horrendous fate in itself, or be dragged to the chef to do as he pleased.

The children…Mother of God…the things they’d make the children do, participate in, brainwash them to become…I get so furious! If there were anything worthwhile in here for me to do, it’d be to slay all these bastards, and at the very least, free the kids. They make them perform heinous acts, lewd and crude. They rape them. They make brothers and sisters copulate against their will, and join them. If I ever can get out of here, I will make them all pay!

What’s the use? All the anger I possess, all the seething hatred I have for this place and the last small sliver of the will to live I possess is nothing. I am nothing. I should just kill myself. No…no, I can’t do that. I’ve tried a few times, but they always have a way to revive you. I guess I just wasn’t trying hard enough.

Days pass like water, and still here I am. Locked up. Hungry. Alone. Furious. Depressed. Hellbent. Murderous. I’ve had some dreams as of late. Ones where I walk again, fleet-footed in fact. I tear open and spill the blood of my captors, and free the oppressed. It’s a glorious dream. Sometimes, I have dreams of my past life: kids, wife, all of the good times. I miss my kids. I miss my wife. I don’t even know if they’re alive anymore. Once, they had tried to break me by torturing and killing a woman, and two kids in front of me. I knew it wasn’t them. I knew they were coaxed into screaming my name, and saying “Daddy!” I am anything but stupid. Though, still I felt sorry for the women and children, and their broken family. However, I wasn’t going to be broken. It had been some time since then. I forget how much time had passed. I think it was six months or a year now. I’ll admit I cried for them, but not the way they wanted me to, but because of the loss of innocence.

Someone’s coming! Heavy footsteps…It’s The Boss! The Boss was a giant of a man, at least, his shadow was. It’s always so dark…so, so very dark. His voice was deep and raspy; sounded like he was from the Deep South. I could faintly see his Cheshire smile, “Let’s get you out, stretch your legs a bit.”

I looked about and saw two shadows of men come into my cell and motion for me. I just sat there. I didn’t care. However, I was intrigued as to what my fate would become. They drug me down the corridor, towards that lovely glow…and here I was beginning to think it was my end. Voices whispered, heavy breathing from rooms here and there. Some cried, some laughed. It was a mad house.

They brought me to a stone room where a large wrought iron brazier flickered wildly in the center. The fluorescent lights from above hurt my eyes something fierce. The sat me down on a wooden bench. Comfortable, I thought. There were stretching boards, makeshift crosses, bloody barrels, an iron maiden, and countless other torture paraphernalia. On a solid oak bloodstained table, there was a bone saw, pliers, crowbar, baseball bat, drills, needles, a handgun. A handgun! I couldn’t take my eyes off that instrument of salvation. I glanced at it only momentarily, noting its presence, and my brilliant mind began imagining the way to break free.

The Boss was an older white fellow, long black matted hair, and goatee. He was relatively fit, at least in the arms. He had a big gut that protruded under his dingy white t-shirt. He wiped his hands on his bloodstained blue jeans, further adding to the makeshift paint job. He knelt down before me, peering at me with his icy blue eyes—the flames flickering fiercely to match his crazy. “Do you know why you’re here?”

I cocked my head slightly, pondering, and seemingly being the smart ass I was. “No, sir, but it’s something that I’ve always wanted to know since you placed me in this hell hole. Would you mind enlightening me?”

The Boss smiled an ice cream smile. “You got a smart mouth there, boy. You know what’ll happen if you run it too much, right?”

I shrugged, “Well, shucks, Boss, ya got me there! I reckon you’d string me up and fuck me in the ass with a two-by-four, and then throw me on the fire rack, or some shit!”

The Boss and the guys had a laugh. I’ll admit it; I did too. “Well, well, you’re still quite the firecracker, even after all this time. I’ll tell you what. You can keep your tongue…” The Boss motioned towards me, reaching behind and pulling out a Bowie knife. “But I am going to take one of your fingers. Do you know what I am going to do with that finger?”

“Guessing shove it up your ass, and either force feed it to me, or shove it up my ass, or some dosey doe, Cotton-eyed Joe.” I instantly followed up. I didn’t care. There was nothing they could do to me that could break me. Not anymore.

“Ha ha, hmm. Yes, sir, you’re a tough one.” The Boss sneered, “I wonder, though, if you’ll be so tough,” he stood up and motioned for his lackeys, “when I start your fire.”

One of the guys handed The Boss a gas can. He doused me with the entire contents and then struck a match. “Any last words, boy?”

I smiled, proudly, profoundly. “I’ll see you in Hell, you son of a bitch.”

“Fair enough,” he replied.

At that moment, as that match fell to meet with me, igniting my fiery fate. I knew whatever strength I possessed left, whatever will there was…I had to make this chance, this final attack count. I had to make good on my premise. The gun was still within reach, and though my legs were crippled and mangled, I had grown accustomed to being nimble on them. I sprung from the bench made my move—going for the handgun. The match fell and ignited the bench; with the trail of fire leaping in hot pursuit. The guys slowly motioned to interrupt my efforts, as did The Boss. In fact, he was able to get a good stab in my side, but that wasn’t good enough to save him…any of them. I grabbed my instrument of retribution, and fired several shots at the guys and The Boss; each had three in the gut, and a lovely hole between the eyes.

The flames had caught up by now. Burnt flesh smells horrible as does burnt hair. Albeit, I’d rather the smell any day than the incredible amount of pain it sent me into. There was one thing I was always thankful for; I always had a plan. You see, when I came into the room, I spotted a trough with water. They guys liked to do the whole…waterboarding, CIA type thing, dunk people, etc. In a fiery bolt, I dashed and plummeted into that vat of relief. It still hurt like hell (putting it mildly), but it was better than still being on fire. When I got out of the trough, the pain had remained consistent, but adrenaline was fueling the fire within. There was still work to be done.

I began by gathering scraps of clothing that were littered all around the room and soaked them in the water before wrapping my body diligently. Granted, some of the guys had wandered their way down to the chamber to see what the fuss was about because firing a firearm does that…and it sucks when you don’t have a suppressor. I was no MacGyver, by any means. I was just proficient…in eradicating my tormentors, and hopefully getting the hell out of this place. So a pair of the guys came in, and I did the only thing I could think of to make sure I didn’t miss; play possum. It is surprising how many goons fall for that trick. I mean, I always thought it was hilarious in movies; or where you’re sitting there watching, and you’re like ‘Don’t move! Play dead! Go for the surprise!’ kind of deal. I also suppose it’s a bit sad for those lunkheads. In a way but to Hell with them. They asked for it by all the monstrosities and atrocities they had committed. I laid sprawled on the floor, the gun under my leg. That’s it, take a few more steps you dumb thick fu—. A few shots and they both went down. I’ll admit, I laughed and was amazed at myself and also the artistry of the way they both landed; one’s head in the other’s crotch. I felt the need to say something witty, but I had slightly more pressing matters to tend to.

As I ‘walked’ to the exit of the room, armed to the teeth with all my captor’s weapons of choice, I thought of how I was going to go about fleeing. Do I unlock all the cells and free the people now? Do I kill everyone that dares attack me? Do I flee and get help from the authorities? There were so many scenarios and problematic instances with each one…my head began to ache. I figured, ‘let’s just play it by ear.’

After some more thought, I figured “let’s let the bulls run.” I began opening the locks with haste. I could hear footsteps; they were rushing down the stairs from the crucible above. The people screamed…oh, did the scream! Such cries for bloody vengeance. A few of them darted for the torture room to arm themselves, while others fled to the stairs. It was there, where the guys met the tidal wave of retribution. The now-freed-captives butchered their captors; smashing their heads against the stone stairs, the stoned walls, each other. Hell, some of the people even tore their tormentor’s throats out; either with their bare hands, or teeth. The sight didn’t disturb me as I watched on wielding the flashlight. In fact, I smiled at their disfiguring and dismembering.

I roamed down the corridor, stepping over the bodies of the fallen captors. Some even pleaded for help! Ha! The folks would take care of those left behind, or let them die their just deserved slow and painful death. Soon I’d finally find my way to the arena….and boy oh boy, was it in sheer chaos. It was glorious! Doors and pens for the dogs, pigs, and other animals burst open. Dogs turned on their masters, tearing out their throats, clawing out their eyes, tearing their limbs off. Pigs swarmed the Herder, trampling and devouring him. Rats swarmed their master, Timmy Dementia; gnawing on his face, eyes, nose, ears, and body. Crows flocked and swarmed their former masters; pecking out their eyes, tongues, and lips. The lions, tigers, and bears roared fiercely as they saluted, and slaughtered The Pink Brothers. There were people everywhere. It was an arena jammed full of people spilling each other’s blood. It was absolute chaos, anarchy…revenge. It was…beautiful.

As I made my way across the crucible, there came a man’s boisterous voice over the PA system. “Spoiled little children! I give you a home, food, water, and a place to sleep—and this is how you repay me? No, no, there will be none of this! No more, I say! Those of you that return to your cells may be forgiven, but if you do not. . .if you do not obey your lord, and master—” the voice trailed off, to the sound of a series of mechanical whirls that filled the arena. Time seemed to slow down, to me at least. The arena erupted into a horrendous growl of gunfire. Bullets ripped through people and beasts alike. I ‘ran’ as fast as I was able to. Screams, horrifying cries, and blood filled the crucible. I did not know who this…lord and master were. Maybe someone had assumed the mantle over The Boss? Maybe there was already a coup d’état in place, and I just fouled things up? Whatever the case, I was royally fucked, and hiding under a dead black bear. I watched women, children, man, and beast get torn to pieces with the explosive onslaught. After about a minute, the gunfire stopped.

The arena erupted into a horrendous growl of gunfire. Bullets ripped through people and beasts alike. I ‘ran’ as fast as I was able to. Screams, horrifying cries, and blood filled the crucible. I did not know who this…lord and master were. Maybe someone had assumed the mantle over The Boss? Maybe there was already a coup d’état in place, and I just fouled things up? Whatever the case, I was royally fucked, and hiding under a dead black bear. I watched women, children, man, and beast get torn to pieces with the explosive onslaught. After about a minute, the gunfire stopped.

The voice then spoke again over the PA system. “Disobedient children…look at what you’ve made me do?!” The voice then sighed, “No matter. You are all forgiven. As I am a loving, kind, and gentle lord, and master. However, it will take some time to rebuild—” the voice then seemed to go off on a distant and not-all-there, kind of rant.

The man was old. Really old. I looked around the crucible to see if I could find out where they were; the thought of perhaps dispatching them from afar came to mind. I didn’t see any of the guys around. I also hoped that maybe some folk either still lived downstairs, or had already pressed on; escaping this hellish prison. As I wondered and pondered, there came the voice next to me…my opportunity, my wish granted!

“And you, dear child, you are the catalyst in this rebellion?” Spoke the very old, frail man. He was bald, with pure white tufts of hair that peppered the back of his scalp, and formed his beard. His eyes blue; rich and pure, like a fresh, clear spring day. He was dressed in a golden robe and worn sandals. He held his weight on a solid brown oak staff. I was awestruck, that such an old man was so malevolent and cruel.

“I never wanted to be taken. I am only trying to go home—to find my wife and kids.” I replied, pushing the bear’s dead body off me.

The old man nodded. “None of us are ever asked to be taken, my dear boy. We are all the same as we come in, and the same when we leave. Nothing more, nothing less.”
I was puzzled by the old man’s way with words. “What do you mean?”

He turned and took a few steps, kneeling beside the barely breathing bear. “You see this beast?” I nodded. “His name was Johan. He has been born several thousand times, and soon will be again.” He patted the bear’s head, “Rest, my child, rest.” The bear then took its final breath. The old man stood once again, straight and true. “I could name all of these animals and people…even you, Edward.”

“I…I don’t understand. You are talking madness!”

“Yes, yes, I suppose. However, I ask you this. You have no memories of being taken, do you not?”

“I…it’s all a blur. I can’t really.” I shook my head. It began to ache tremendously.

“What you remember, are the bits and pieces.” The old man smiled. “You see, when we are taken, we lose fragments of our mind…our memories. Only when we are free, do we see everything clearly; the whole picture comes into focus, the movie played without the intermissions.” He grunted as he sat down before me.

I began to weep. “All the pain…all of the suffering. What did you have them do to us?!”

Still did the old man smile. “I had them do nothing that life hadn’t prepared for you already. These people died needlessly…however, they didn’t die needlessly.”

“Why do you speak in riddles?! You are making no sense,” I yelled at him as I collapsed to my knees.

“You claim Hell would offer much respite, and yet, you claimed to suffer tremendously here; feeling the suffering of others—their hate, anger, sadness, despair—such emotions and actions that you shared with both victim, and murderer. You’ve created this world. You alone. You. Are. Alone.”

As the words seemed to ring like a thunderous gong, the people and beasts disappeared. Everything faded until it was just the old man and me under the warm, vibrant sunlight, on a tall grassy hill. “I understand now.”

The old man smiled brightly. “You needn’t hang on anymore, Edward. You are free to go home whenever you want. You needn’t build a prison to confine yourself to. You can stay and fight, and perhaps…perhaps awaken. Awaken to another fight. Or you can make peace with yourself. Let the guilt, the pain, and end your suffering that you’ve endured for all these years.”

I remembered it all…I was in a car accident some time ago with my wife and kids—the kids were killed by a drunk driver, while I remained in a coma…for how long, I don’t know. My wife would come to visit time to time…but she took her life at my bedside. My eyes were always open to the truth, but it hurt so bad that I eventually had closed them after that because the world outside could no longer offer me comfort.

“Home…” I had long since forgotten the meaning. I cried a little bit. “You know me all too well, stranger, but I haven’t the foggiest of who you are.”

The old man smiled brilliantly, “Death knows no strangers, my boy.”

I looked up to the sun, its warmth so inviting. I knew it was a lie, but I knew where I was going. “I’d like to go home then.”

The old man nodded and sat there. “Soon you shall.”

I closed my eyes, as a gentle breeze wafted over my body. A perplexed kaleidoscope of memories of mine own, and those of my past existences came to one; the beginning, and now the end…at least this time around. As it came to a close—the encroaching darkness that would be only for a minute—there I saw the three faces I could only ever know. For I would soon be home.

In the outside world, the machines that helped sustain life beeped maniacally; sounding the alarm at the races—known as life. Doctors, nurses, and other hospital personnel rushed to save the male adult named Edward Croix. He died on a Monday, at 3:18 pm. He was 46.

 

Robert J. S. T. McCartney
A.B.Normal Publishing and Media Group

Dead Echo

"Tree Out the Shack Window" Photo by Melodi2. Melodi2 has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

Photo by Melodi2. Melodi2 has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

In a small bedroom, there sat a young man on the edge of the bed—rocking. He held his head heavy in his hands. His eyes were clenched shut, and streams of salty tears rolled down his flushed cheeks. Small tufts of sandy brown hair poked through his pale fingers as he slid them front to back. In his troubled mind, invisible knots twisted together, binding themselves tightly.

The doorknob began to twist and rattle violently. The muffled voices behind it demanded his attention; their suspicion having been aroused and they had laid blame on him for the crime.

“Leave me alone! What more do you want from me?!” The young man pleaded.

Silence did not fall. The turmoil only strengthened the problematic matter and increased the tension within. While the persistent pounding on the door and shouting from the other side seemed to subside, subtle thoughts had begun to seep from his mind. They surged and utterly destroyed the dam he had so foolishly tried to build. It had not even been a week since.

A smile scrawled across his lips as two familiar figures pierced the veil before him—a woman and child—both came to his side. Distinguished with hoary garments, yet held a holy presence. A bright light radiated around them, bathing him in a golden glow that soothed his troubled mind. However, it did not disclose their faces, yet he knew who they were.

The woman’s voice echoed in his mind—offering comfort, and it so soothed and loosened the bindings within.“Eventually, you will have to confront them. It wasn’t your fault. Hiding and locking yourself up will not solve the pain or allow you to be rid of it.”

The man lifted up his now light head, gazing upon the familiars. The thoughts continued to swell and overwhelm him. Memories vividly flashed on the back of his eyeballs—like a replay of a home movie. When days and times were better when he had it all. He rubbed his eyes as they began to swell up with tears—the tears of remembrance. Before his mind’s eye, was a young woman—his wife—holding their little girl in her arms. Fashioned in typical casual attire, he grinned, how casual she always was. Her long black hair covered her face, cuddling close to the giggling girl who sat on her lap. Their daughter—in her small white spring gown—glowing much like her long golden locks just like they did when they’d shine brilliantly on that bright sunny summer day at the park. They both smiled back at the man.

His daughter’s voice echoed, “I love you, daddy!”

While his wife giggled with her bright smile, “I love you, baby.”

Screams soon followed after that. Horrible, excruciatingly painful screams followed by gunshots. As the memory finished playing back, he began to sob uncontrollably, repeating, “I’m so sorry! Please forgive me!” Soon, the vision dispersed before him, as he sat rocking back and forth. “I’d do anything—anything to have you back. Anything to be with you both again. I’d give up anything and everything.”

Simultaneously, the doorknob and door continued to shake and rattle violently.

Again, the woman spoke in his mind. “There is one way…”

He closed his eyes as the voice spoke with assurance, and nodded to himself. He picked himself up and shuffled over to the dresser that stood in solitude before where he once sat. He opened the top drawer and pushed the many socks aside. Finally, his quest came to a complete as he removed the small handgun from the dresser and held it firmly in his hand. He looked it over making sure it was suitable for the job he had intended. Once assured it was fit and ready for its final stand, the young man calmly walked over to the window.

He gazed out into the outside world, where the trees were vibrant with the verdant fertility of life swaying in its breath. The harmonization of the birds singing to everyone, everywhere. The sun’s last caress bathed his face. Finally, the door buckled, weakened from the continuous pounding of many fists and obscured words. He looked the gun over once more and then shifted his sight back outside.

The door exploded open as the navy blue blob rushed in. The young man turned about and aimed lazily at the million-eyed blob that drew as many arms in return for him. The man fired a shot with the gun; purposefully missing. The blob returned fire—one hundred fold—upon him, resulting in the man falling to the floor.

As the warmth of life and its breath began to leave him, the familiar figures came once more—mother and child. Tears that laid in the waiting rolled off onto the floor, coagulating with the blood that pooled beneath him; comparable to the cherry hardwood floor. The blob surrounded his dying body. Some took note of toy gun that laid in the man’s hand, while bits and pieces broke off and ran out of the room to retrieve a pair of white cells to attempt to treat his wounds, but it was all for naught.

The young man laid with a smile as all the pain evaporated. His head became light, his vision now blurred, and all feeling had left his body. His last sight was that of finally returning to the arms of his familiar loves—his loving wife and daughter.

Robert J. S. T. McCartney
A.B.Normal Publishing and Media Group

The Misadventure

"Outdoors Velvet Rocks" Photo by Charles Bukowsky. Charles Bukowsky has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

Photo by Charles Bukowsky. Charles Bukowsky has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

“Hey, can you come here for a moment?” The hushed voice startled me from my slumber.

I turned over in my bed and saw him standing in the bedroom doorway that led to the pitch hallway.

“Yeah, sure,” I yawned.

I got up, stretched briefly, and got out of the bed, putting on my pants and shirt. I walked out of the dark bedroom and followed him down the hallway to the living room; bewildered as to what could be keeping him from sleeping at this hour.

We furnished our outdoor apparel, and we ventured outside. It was typical as to what ritual nature would partake of this time of year. A thick fog blanketed all around. The gray street post illuminated a soft white somber glow. The air frigid. It was lightly snowing. The dark heaven’s had rolled out its carpet of stars long ago; the distant faint beacons in the twilight that had been absolved by the grayness of the night’s fog. A few streets over at the condominiums, the horizon, was lit in a charcoal glow.
We walked along on the sidewalk together, heading down towards the river in the depths of the woods.

“So, what’s up?” I inquired, the frosty vapor vanishing in the night and snow.

He was hesitant at first. “There’s something I want to find out and probably you too. Some answers.” His words added a chill to my ears.
We meandered through the thick brush and flora, coming upon the river at last. Before us, there was a strange spectacle: dirt, twigs, vines, had shaped an eerie archway. I walked around it to view it differently, while he stood there with his hands in his coat pockets.
I turned to him. “What’s this?”

He took in a deep breath. “Well…that’s what we’re about to find out.”
I nodded, and we simultaneously walked through the strange portal. There was a slight sensation when we passed through. Nothing painful, it was just like a shiver that ran up and down your spine.

Inside, there stretched a long dark corridor—violet and jet intermingled. It seemed to stretch on forever. Behind us, the would-be portal almost appeared to have vanished; only a spiral swirl of gray and white that spun. I reached out to touch it, only to have it distort, and feel the cold shiver return.

I turned around to see him going from side to side of the corridor. Various items were strewn about on a small ledge that stretched on with the length of the hall. I reached out to touch this ledge—warm—yet cold. It was like it neared the precipice of death. I approached his side, and truth be told, intrigued, just as to what these items could be. My eyes searched: photographs, hockey equipment, cigarettes, lighters, action figures, comics, books, various multimedia, tape cassettes, CD’s, Magic cards, alcoholic bottles…the list went on. I looked over at him…his eyes still wandering piece to piece.

“These are all mine. . .” he muttered. “It’s all stuff I’ve grown up with or has been apart of my life.”

I did nothing. I didn’t even know what to say. I just kept watching…listening and waiting.

We continued our misadventure through the corridor. It slowly became more twisted, and darker with each mile. Times and memories that were troubling, moods, stuff I never really had come to know. I could sense a hint of sadness emanate from him, though. There was something that laid in waiting ahead.

At last, we came to a patch that reeked of a putrid mix of indescribable words. Hints of burnt hair, flesh, plastic, cigarettes, marijuana, and God knows what else. The acrid odor caused me to cover my face, while he did not. He simply wandered on, investigating what was abound.

On one side, there was a mini refrigerator, one that apparently did not work. He opened the door wide. There was a clear plastic bag with a body of a female inside. I could tell who it was and by his expression, he could as well. He sighed heavily, before opening the bag.

The female’s body, crumpled, like a piece of paper, gray, broken. She reeked of smoke, hair, tissue and death. What remained of her dark blonde hair, was matted against her face, a few remaining strands covered her closed eyes. A sad, solemn expression on her face. Her mouth was open, battered, and broken from this short of time. Her tongue lazily hung to one side.

He closed the bag and the door before setting off to the next container on the opposite wall.

This vessel took on the shape of a bass amplifier. He fiddled with the knobs, buttons and then turned it around to find another body. She was recent, familiar, especially to him. I didn’t know her all to well, only the praises he held for her…the good and bad. She was more contorted; arms lazily folded over her crushed chest. Her face was painted gray, nearly resembling a macabre. Vines and other plants sprouted from her ears and tangled themselves in her dark brown hair. A few cannabis leaves budded from her eyelashes. Her face hinted at sadness; adorned by the small blue jeweled crescent moon that drooped to her cheek.

He turned the amp around and continued to wander the corridor.

As we traveled further down, we heard a familiar sound [meow]. One I was accustomed to when I would visit. Now and then, we would see a gray smokey shade darting around, occasionally brushing our legs but never really there.

At last, we came to an incomplete section of the corridor. The darkest yet we had encountered.

A black and gold trimmed microwave oven perched on the ledge. It was shaped and fashioned like a casket. A gold plate adorned its face. We knew what it read, who it was.

“I’m sorry,” I muttered.

He shook his head. His face away from me, staring at the misshapen, malformed resting place of his father.

“Just don’t look, just promise me that.”

I nodded, “I won’t.”

I turned away, my back to the father and son. I heard the click of the microwave open and the beginning of an unrelenting sob. Cigar and cigarette smoke billowed into the air and wavered all around. The timer of the microwave dinged. A series of thuds…a crash—of glass and metal.

Finally, there was silence. I turned to see him place the battered microwave back on the ledge, grab the shovel that was nearby and start to dig.

“Do you want any help?” I asked.

“No, I need to do this,” He grunted as he dug into the tough malformed earth.

After several moments, he hopped out of the hole and grabbed the microwave. He wandered back to the hole and laid it to rest. He stared at it for a minute or two before starting to bury it.

He ventured once more to the ledge, retrieving the gold nameplate. “Alright, let’s go.”

I nodded as we began to return to the entrance of his ‘memory lane’.

Upon exiting the corridor, at last, we turned to watch the archway disintegrate into ash. From there, we wandered back to the sidewalk and returned to my home. There, on the porch we sat. I, myself, wondered if what happened was real or not. We both lit a cigarette, silent, not questioning or mentioning what happened. We went on with our typical night, but I could still tell something was different about him. Something—that deep down inside, this experience was for the better.

Robert J. S. T. McCartney
A.B.Normal Publishing and Media Group

The Mysterious Stranger: The Blood Orange

"Lunar Eclipse of 10/27/04" Photo by Peter Gustafson. Peter Gustafson has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

Photo by Peter Gustafson. Peter Gustafson has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

It was here—here where the stranger stood atop the mossy hilltop. He looked down at the village that laid nestled below in the sprawling green fields. Gray puffs of smoke rose from chimneys and dispersed into the kaleidoscopic swirls of magenta, orange, and the pale green horizon. The stars had begun their celestial occupation for those beneath its heavenly virtues. The warmth of the day had been scattered to the four winds of the night. The sun’s eye had made its way to bed, while the blood moon crept over the mountainside’s shoulder; continuing its scientific observation of the world below. The clamor of livestock and the harvest festival celebration overtook this small village. The drought never came to pass, and the village had been spared from certain doom.

Next to the stranger, there sprawled a sizable patch of dirt with a small flower. The man gathered his ragged brown cloak around him and knelt before this little flower. His hazel eyes looked over the seemingly fresh tilled patch. He closed his eyes: a scent of oranges filled his nostrils. It filled him with such strange emotions for such a small thing.

A soft voice echoed from within. Stay. Listen. Stay and listen to my woe, stranger. Hear the tale of my beloved that was taken from me.

The stranger opened his eyes and gave a slight nod to the unknown voice. Before him, the flower bloomed—an orange blossom. The orange, plump, ripe and juicy—was sliced into five equal parts. The earth rippled like a puddle of mud as if a portal from beneath the simple orange. A brown hand emerged slowly from the dirt—creaking, cracking—with it and took up the five orange slices before the mysterious stranger. Each piece seemed to bleed crimson intravenously with the hand. Above him, the sky began to weep, for it already knew of the tale.

Eat. Be shown the truth.

The stranger reached for the slices and ate them, one by one. Slowly, the world was peeled back—reality distorted; the layers of time reverted, days of light and darkness flash in a strobe effect.

An ancient world came to focus. Azure stretched on all throughout the heavens, while streaks of white flowed sporadically in nature’s creation. The sun hung high, projecting its warmth to those below. Here, there laid a loving couple—a hunter and his huntress—beneath an old orange tree. Their hands clasped together, with their eyes fixated upon one another. Love was heavy with each one of their breaths.

An erratic image flashed before the stranger like lightning. In the night, there was a dark figure of a man with an ax that chopped vigorously at a tree in a heavy downpour. Each strike met with the crash of lightning and roar of thunder. The rainwater thrashed off the chipped and cut bark, and off the ax with each blow against the mighty tree. The rain sloshed and splashed against the ground, the figure’s face and hands. Nearby blood mixed with the dirt from the freshly slain body that laid next to the tree.

As the tree fell and began to rot, here the figure knelt next to the body, resting its hand upon it. “Here you will lay, forever you shall stay. A vow you had made, your life for your wife; your village spurned you, your head on a spade. Her body shall be mine, one I will enjoy like a fine wine. Your “child” will be deformed, one that will be born…to my magics and ways.”

The body bubbled and began to melt into the ground with the fallen tree. The blood flowed with the leftover orange until all that remained was an unsightly blackened patch of dirt. The man let loose a malevolent grin.

As the figure left the hilltop, a soft voice escaped. “In life, you may have stopped me, but in death, I will not be so easy. I will return.”

The stranger focused his thoughts and searched for reasoning. The voice came to him again from within. Will you help avenge me, stranger?

The cloaked man nodded silently.

Then let us begin…

The Mysterious Stranger: The Blood Orange is an ongoing short story by Robert J. S. T. McCartney.

Incubus

Angel fighting a Demon. Photo by Ail Lee. Ail Lee has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

Photo by Ail Lee. Ail Lee has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

The somber gray bed sheets were torn and tattered. The alabaster covers—ripped by the ravenous razor blade teeth of a demon so putrid. The bondage of body and traitorous mind held repulsed to a shell of its former self. The heartbeat of a horse’s gallop, the panicked breathing like that of a mother in labor. The sudden rush and reminisce of life! Ah, Incubus, how were the nights when you would so boldly visit. You first came to me, a child of life and flesh. You tainted my being—possessing my mind with the sweet promise of limitless power and eternity. In return, you granted eternal suffering and torment.

The daily nightmare. Ah, yes. How many people rest their heads on their pillows, tend to, as they say, get their beauty sleep. You come to me, Incubus. The nights of old and new, since I was of the age four or five. You took pleasure in granting me such vividly grotesque and horrifying night terrors—spawning to the world, possessing new beings, and things.

Many people would say, “Oh, well they’re just that. Nightmares.” Foolish people. Stupid people. Inconceivable and dumbfounded fools! Ah, how I would have loved to have agreed with them. These, however, were more than just that, though. Oh, how you crept into our world, tainting us! The foretold events of the past, present and future. Mere glimpses of what I’ve seen from my foresight.

Let it be known that this marks as a testament…of what pain I’ve endured in the dismemberment of my mind. A fight with myself. A struggle between the forces of good and evil. War stories—of a war on oneself. The tales of love, hate, revenge, death, and life. The age old question of when we die—if we are judged, and the verdict handed down is eternal damnation and suffering—what is more painful? To experience life all over again, knowing what will happen, and to not able to do a damn thing about it. To live through every day, when you can’t change the past, present, or future. To not even be able to destroy yourself…to purge yourself of the pain that is…living. Immortality. Eternal life. What is the point of going on, when everyone around you is taken in time?

And so he came unto me.

So early, did you first approach me, Incubus. You possessed my toy chest mother had bought for me, didn’t you? You crept into the house, deep in the bewitching hour and laid hidden in it the night before. When mother and father had tucked me in, you waited. Dormant did you lay in the small bedroom, smiling at me with your velvet stitchings and patches of birds and house. A small light oak bed, t’was my everlasting resting place. The soft blue plush carpet that weighed upon the back of a quiet beast. The monsters that hid in the small wardrobe were of no concern, for you had already decimated them for me. The chest, yes, it was the chest in which you manifested unto me. It was here, here in which you finally came alive.

Your reign of terror began. There was nothing strange or odd in the day of light. However, in the nightlife, your insatiable hunger manifested and consumed me. Oh, how the many nights were it that you bestowed upon me immortality and eternal damnation on my soul. Here, you’d sit at the foot of my bed, and thus, would begin your feast! Slowly inching closer and closer. Tearing the sheets that bound me. The gaze of your red fiery glare and abysmal mouth. The razors and knives that began slicing and dicing my body. The blood that splattered—made as a fine wine, so you claimed. The slow fading of life it seemed, yet it was only the beginning. For I was mute—and could not scream. For I was paralyzed—your befouled magics, and bewitching gaze and inflictive haze. Curse you, Incubus! Curse you! How you lied and misled me. How tonight will pass, I shall endure your pain, and one day escape your treacherous way. How you cackle—putrid and profuse with your victory. The darkness in which you bind me, I will escape. For now, I float in darkness. Alone, cold, numb, and decaying.

Temporary salvation blessed am I by the morning’s blissful light. I devised a plan. Oh, dear Incubus…it shall soon be your turn. In Death’s hour and the prime twilight of darkness. The lights are silhouetted by the shadows of the deceased. The damned cry. The damned pray. Oh, Incubus, I see you stare with your hellish glare—salivating, waiting. I see you smile with your clever mouth. How you would laugh when mother would leave the lights on, and even recruited the night’s light to your aid. 

However, fair Incubus, I would soon splice your newfound ally and crumble it to its renowned daily task. For now, I am disembodied, and your attack is made. Tonight you and “Flame,” together, take excruciating glee in binding me to the grill of hell; charring my body to your hellish chef standards. Maniacally you cackle as you indulge your late night snack in your newest and latest victory. The damned cry and pray to falsehoods. Your servant now thrives and is nearly ready. My power grows, and with it, your defeat. Can you feel it, Incubus? Soon.

The new dawn breaks, freeing my soul, returning it to my body. I prepare for the day—self-preservation and honing of my otherworldly skills—I train for the night. For tonight, I would make my stand against your tyranny! So callous are you—casual, in your observance; your grin turned to a sadistic demonic glee. Alas, you wait for the night to come.

My disembodiment approaches, here and where, you thought I was unable to resist. Oh ho ho! How wrong you are Incubus! For as you can see, I have control, dexterity, grace, and agility, with the fierce ferocity of pure will. You…poor fool. I fend you off until the Light’s Salvation, t’was all I needed. Yes, for I have aligned myself with the Light. I wonder, can you now feel the fear you’ve inflicted upon?

And so it begins, fair Incubus, the fight that was destined to be. For I shall be victorious! I shall end your suffering to the people! For light cannot exist without darkness, I shall take the place, and with it, your power! Ah, glorious Incubus! Oh, how your stunned expression did linger.

A new day begins and with it does dawn break. For later in twilight’s eve, shall we face in battle, comrade. Training continuously, self-empowerment, while deep within did the seeds of darkness grow—salivating, insatiable, the hunger for power! Here, you grinned—bastard! You knew you would win. Fool, for this, shall be the final time! You evolved…dear friend—a flash of metamorphosis, bestowing upon you more teeth than a great white, stealth, and the agile reflexes of a serpent. You hiss and lunge at me, devouring me wholly for the last time.

As I laid in your disgusting gut, I listened to the cries of the damned and the demonic prayers that bellowed in your gastric abyss. Hear me, for I laugh at your wretched being and cry vengeance, justice, that I shall prevail! That. I. Will. Prevail. For I, shall be the successor, and you…you shall be the one devoured. For you see, I shall be the hunter, and you shall be the prey.

The Light’s Grace calls and summons me home—renewed and whole. I awake and endure my training for the epic battle of celestial proportions. You will not, however, see me until combat, old friend. Fair Incubus, can you smell it? The approaching scent of defeat? That is the smell of your death that now emanates from you.

Mid-day is now upon us. How you stare, anxiously waiting, hungry, wanting. You wonder…where is your servant? What sort of trickery could he be up to? My old friend and teacher, the final twilight hour has come, and with it, your end. For I shall sleep a valorous knight’s sleep, and be ready for battle.

The ancient being, Time, enslaves us both. With haste, you lunge for my soul. The damned dare pray, they dare cry. Do you hear, Incubus? They demand your demise! Relentless is your assault, as my nimble body dodges and endures damage. I try to escape through the door, yet, you had so cleverly bound it with us. Leaving only the window of truth. I make haste for it, but you knew this already. Rigorous is your charge, sending us to the depths out beneath the window—snapping at me on our downfall. I, however, have gained the upper hand and crushed you beneath me.

Wounded, I at last stand victorious. I know you—how you play possum, you dare ploy me, Incubus. I reach for a stone of relinquishment. Raised high to the heavens, as you ready your final attack. I break the rock upon your mouth, not with the hopes of slaying you, but assimilating you. Your attack dazes me into the wall, and already you motion your next move. Here you hope to finish me off and harvest my soul once and for all. I search my being and find that Light’s Grace has blessed me the dagger of truth. I raise and find it true to your body—stabbing and cutting your wooden mold.

Hereafter, I set you ablaze in the depths of Hell. For I am victorious. Your demonic gleeful grin decimated and brought to ash. Oh, Incubus, how does the pain of death, defeat and the torment of the damned feel?

The Light’s Grace has returned me too early. You linger still, Incubus, I can sense it. Tis a job left unfinished. Where are you?! The damned do not pray. The damned do not cry! They dare not say…where you are. It is unfortunate, but I must now wait for night’s newest duel.

The lion’s roar rolls across the heavens. The world blinks many at once a time and sheds its impurities on high that fall. The torrential flow of the heavens ushers in the finale of Light versus Dark. Mother Nature dances to the tribal ritual, to the sound—light sets thin and twitches, its spasms ever so often.

For this would be a turn, Incubus you have returned. You have been blessed with the agility and strength of the Gators bite. The swooning love of Pepe Le Pu, you stalk in solitude. For this night, you are to exact vengeance, old friend. Yes, tonight, there would not be any mistakes. You come to me above as I slumber. The very tool of my salvation and my freedom is now the instrument of exact vengeance, fear, and destruction. You smile as you gaze, cackling, taunting, gesturing at me, hinting my demise. Here, you crash through my window and pull me by the throat out. You devour me yet again Incubus—consuming my body bit by bit. You cackle manically as you drink my blood as your wine. My short-lived victory—and the Light’s betrayal. I will have my revenge—on them both! Yes, Incubus, your end will be soon.

So, you have come, my friend, no doubt to quench your thirst and hunger. I give unto you to quench: my anger, hatred, misery, and torment! It is here, where you pull me through the window yet again. Our fate—entwined—as we collapse together onto the ground. Broken and battered are you; I raise your Light blessed, one-half of righteousness to quell your rampage for me. You lacerate—attempting to dismember and disfigure my being. I counter with hacking and slashing at your slender, and beautiful form. It is here…here where your soul is spilled upon the ground. The damned are finally freed and pour out from your gut. The Light will not save you, old friend. I reach for your soul and devour it wholly. For I was once merciful, just and true, I grant you a merciless death—in part all the more suffering unto you. I confine and bind you, and while you are tortured, bound, and forced upon an eternity of those you took—their vengeance exacted and complete.

The Light finally arrives—disembodied spirit reclaims the body, rejuvenating the broken body and assimilates you, Incubus. You are defeated. However, I know you…one day, you will break free. For you will return, and again attempt. However, I shall be waiting—salivating, insatiable and wanting. Oh, Incubus. How I have become…you.

Robert J. S. T. McCartney
A.B.Normal Publishing and Media Group

My Suicide

"Watching a blank screen" Photo by Kenneth Lu. Kenneth Lu has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

Photo by Kenneth Lu. Kenneth Lu has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

Screams of horror and terror filled the darkened room. So many faces were contorted, twisted into obscene ways, questioning the origin of such inspiration.

“Hey, I’ll be right back.” The man leaned over and whispered into the ear of his skittish love.

“Aw, but it’s getting to the good part. You’ll miss it.” She whispered back while she cautiously munched on another handful of popcorn.

The man sighed and muttered, “I know.”

The man got up from his seat and made his way down the aisle and left the theater room.

He stepped out of the room, and turned back, watching the door slowly close; muffling the screams in the hallway. The air seemed to swirl and prance with the scent of freshly popped corn, and other various foods offered at the concession stand. The neon lights that decked the lobby and paraded attractions in big letters, ‘COMING SOON!’

The young man grunted, turning his attention to the matter at hand—his full bladder. He made his way to the restroom, with the original intent of quickly returning to the screening. Having finished, the man went over to the sink and washed his hands. After drying them off, he pressed his palms on the countertop and gazed hard into the mirror at his reflection.

The man was tall, slender and relatively built. He already had slight wrinkles and scars, which showed his experience in life’s early challenges. He dampened his fingers with some more water to part his dark blonde hair. The lighting in the bathroom brought justice to the hue of white of the man. Oblivious to the sun that rained down its typical ‘friend or foe’ alignment. He adjusted his glasses, and then his wedding ring—smiling. He became lost in his thoughts, reminiscing about the year coming to pass. He was married to the most beautiful women he had ever come to know, and the new little addition they both welcomed.

Then his smile slowly fell to a frown as he thought of his pressing matters that loomed above. His need to find a new job, and the need to relocate their homestead. The persistent doubt of himself. He sighed. His eyes dropped to the floor, then rose back to the mirror. He could feel the anger that slept, which, so far was undisturbed for the day. He wondered when it would awaken and what it would bring with it. He stood up straight and rolled his shoulders and head. He started to walk to the door, ready to leave his humble rest stop.

As he reached for the handle, he felt a particular rush of energy. The rush disturbed him so much that he tried to open the door in a panic. However, a force unbeknownst to him kept him barred and captive in the restroom. It became ironic, to him, that a bathroom could become a room of a such a face, and a spiteful thrash; quite the contrary to what it was meant for. For several moments, he struggled with the door: kicking, punching, pushing, yelling for help, whatever method he felt could make the door open. He took his phone out to see if he could call for help, but it was of no use—no service. Typical.

He felt the rage begin to swell and boil to the surface. He faced the mirror and in a fit, he struck a mighty blow against it—shattering it. The red haze took over—anger was awake now—the emotion he tried too long to suppress was now lashing out on his insides, his arms, his chest…his wrists. He had succumbed to his rage. During this fit, he grabbed the door handle and flung the door open.

He became mystified by what now laid beyond the door. He gazed out into his newfound environment, his sight playing him for a fool. All that he could see was absolute darkness and could feel the frigid air pass through him. The slight illumination from the restroom stopped only a few feet from where the door was. He peered around for anything that offered familiarity before he came into the bathroom. He took a few more steps from his sanctuary [and prison] he had become accustomed to. He kept looking back at the restroom as he pressed onward into the swarming darkness. The invisible arms of the darkness embraced the man, and pulled him closer away from the restroom, farther from the light. Slowly the light became swallowed up wholly in the black hole. Here he saw nothing, only pure darkness that blinded him, and hindered his movement. He collapsed in fear and desperation—waiting, wondering, angry.

The man had begun to press onward, to reach whatever destiny awaited him. What more punishment, judgment or salvation was there in store? The more he questioned if this was a dream or some prank, the more real it seemed it was. He would notice ripples and waves of darkness. As strange as it was he thought, he only wanted to reach the end and reunited with his love. His gut instinct made him press on, hard, and fast, while his mind told him to proceed cautiously. As he slowly wandered in the darkness, he began to hear whispers—low tone voices—from down the hall.

“Hello,” he shouted out into the abysmal darkness…there was no reply.

Since his discovery, he had begun to rush further into the darkness. Occasionally, he checked behind him for anything that lurked. The more he seemed to plunge into, the more the whispers grew. He wasn’t able to understand what the voices muttered, of who…or what about him. He only focused on if there was perhaps, maybe, someone around, and that they would know what the hell was going on, and where he was.

After swimming, as it seemed, through the darkness, he fished his way to the end. He came upon a great door that beneath its bottom emanated a soft white glow. He could see a figure’s shadow, passing left to right. He reached out to push the door, only to feel a burning sensation. He retracted his hand and looked at it in the darkness. The warmth of his blood fueled him to try kicking instead.

After several attacks, the door finally gave in. The darkness lifted to the spectacle of several candles around the interior room. A pale light from above showered on a single figure in the center of the chamber. The sight was strange to him since there were no surrounding windows, but this lone person.

He looked down at his hand, noting marks that ran along his wrist, and few marks on his hand. He considered it a fictitious wound, deployed to deceive those who would enter. He looked back at the long dark corridor from which he came from and looked at what he had left behind. The frigid air poured in, causing the candle’s flame to dance in the makeshift twilight.

The young man closed the door, a single whisper escaped to his ears—madness. He turned around, and faced the enlightened figure, noting that his gaze was jumping from each corner of the room to the next. The figure’s head turned in fashionable means, but to what, and to whom. . .the young man did not know. As he took steps towards the figure, the young man noticed several empty pews—dust inches thick, bibles scattered about, and books of hymns stacked in a strict manner, skeletons only remained.

The young man tread cautiously towards the figure. He knew where he was, how, though, he did not know. He felt the priest could answer his questions.

As the young man slowly drew the distance to a closure, he observed the well of light that bathed the priest, to him it seemed that there was no source. He followed the blind eyes of the time warped face that was peppered with liver spots and freckles and its bright white beard. His eyeglasses idle on the tip of his nose. Adorning this old figure, was a great fashionable bishop crown bearing the holy cross. It seemed that only time affected this man and room. His attire, however, was untouched by any means. The blaze of light that swarmed him, and projected only but a few feet from which he stood. His speech was weak, incoherent—mumbling.

The young man stood close to the father, watching as the he turned his head to the spectral audience that had sat still—and was in oblivion. He found a place at the front to sit down, and the man took a seat. The sermon came to a halt.

In the silence, the man was overcome by a sudden chill. He could feel the eyes of the past, present, and future upon him.

The priest then uttered words he was not expecting. “It seems we have a visitor in our service. Rise, my child, come forth and tell me what troubles your young soul.”

The young stranger silently rose, looking about at all the long-forgotten faces, before approaching the father.

He knelt down before the priest. “Excuse me, Father, for my intrusion. I am lost…and I do not know how I came upon your clergy. I ask you…can you, please help me find my way home?”

The old man’s face—much like the light that enshrouded him—beamed. He smiled, and said to the young man, placing a hand upon his shoulder, “My dear boy, you are home. Let go your feelings of dark. Sever your pain. Give up your anger…and let it all go.”

The young man became startled as he could feel a stirring deep within himself. All the pain, anger, hatred, loss, and love he had experienced so far in his life. Vivid memories flashed on his mind’s camera before him—the feelings associated came and went. All that was ill ridden, and chained him down, now left his body and coagulated into a pool.

The priest began to continue with his sermon.

The young man watched as the pool began to boil over, and take shape into a figure before him. Slowly, the figure finished its delicate touches of detail, down to the very cells. He peered at himself, just as if it were a mirror. He stood up and gazed upon the negative manifestation of himself.

The priest then spoke his last words, “Lest, we are all forgiven for our actions.”

The old priest’s voice began to drown out as the light dimmed with the resurgence of darkness. The young man was not afraid, nor was he scared, or he was angry. As the moment passed, he thought of what he valued most—his wife, family, and friends—all that he took for granted in life.

He pushed the mirror image away and watched it slowly fall and shatter to pieces. Screams, horrendous sounds, and pain flooded the room.

As the priest continued with his sermon, he slowly faded with the light—becoming one, whereas then, a new light focused on the redeemed man. He smiled as he gazed up into the warm light that bathed him. Then uncertainty hit him when the light fully engulfed him, blinding his sight and consciousness.

He heard a soft whisper, “Not yet.”

He awoke several moments later, to a face he was well accustomed to, and to those that he knew well, all surrounding him. He glanced down at his hand where an IV line had been implemented, and where cuts were made—bound with bandages. The lights from above overwhelmed him, as those around him drew closer. He knew he was indeed ‘home’, and that he would make the best of the hand he was dealt.

Robert J. S. T. McCartney
A.B.Normal Publishing and Media Group

The End’s Messenger

"Fire Place Angel" Photo by Scott Robinson. Scott Robinson has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

Photo by Scott Robinson. Scott Robinson has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

To say, “It was a dark and stormy night,” like how so many stories had begun, would be considered an understatement. This particular night was truly a testament of nature’s wrath…and beauty. The inked sky was full of irregular crackling javelins of light that blazed across the darkened heavens. In its wake was an absolute drenching rain that could soak down to the marrow of man. The winds—rabid and vicious—roared and clawed at all that would dare stand in its path. Thunder bellowed its horn of war, resonating as it rolled throughout the mortal world. Yes, my friend, this, this was truly the storm of the century.

In my ignorance, I shrugged it off as a typical phenomenon. I walked away from the large picture window, to retire to the rosewood leather chair by the fireplace (having been satisfied with my gaze out into the bewildering twilight). I lit the cigar I had retrieved earlier, happenstance upon the weather’s dastardly interruption. I crossed my legs; the silk pajamas lightly ruffled in the elegance and comfort. Here, I sat alone in the dim study. The flicker of the flames bathed the room in a soft orange intravenously with a yellow contrast. The crimson walls were now richer in their hue, as the flames’ light made the shadows dance upon the walls. Warmth radiated from the resurging power of the fire in the study. I observed the flames that danced the most tribal of nature while others feasted upon the wood’s carcass. The room flooded with the constant contest of fire and wind, it all overwhelmed my ears.

As I fixated further upon the flames, I could hear the howls of the wind and the roar of the fire become as fluent as any spoken word. Where then the flames soon took on a form: a face, a slender, and curvaceous body slowly. Here…before me now was there ever such beauty and grace! I remained seated, paralyzed…speechless. Whether it was fear or curiosity that struck my fancy, the enchantress with an elegant face flickered, as it withheld its splendor.

A soft enticing whisper echoed in my mind beckoning me nearer. “Servant of life and flesh, heed the call. War is upon the world! The end of days is to come to pass!”

The pure marbled yellow-orange-white glossed with intent—such fixated—she stared deep into my eyes, like a lioness’s gaze upon her prey. My eyes swelled with disbelief; I was dumbstruck. I turned my gaze away, having become lost in thoughts that raced, where I was led into the depths of my mind—I scrambled and sought the doors for answers, all of which were empty.

I turned to face the fatal attraction. I knelt close to the siren, and she revealed visions that flooded my mind of what would soon come to pass. The whisper, now disembodied, echoed once more.

“Man’s life is to come to an end. True retribution is at hand. The time. . .is nigh. It is the time that all mortals fear of—the end. However, all is not lost, for the world will be reborn. Fire shall cleanse the impurities. The scarring that evil has left upon the face of the earth shall be purified. The pure shall be soothed and reconciled, from which they shed from. The judgment on high has been passed. The cogs of the new future have begun to turn. To advise the ushering of the forthcoming age: selection, devotion, and truth, must endure. For on the first day—fire—purges the impure. Upon the second day, lightning will clash, tempering, and reshaping. On the third, the wind—strengthens and seals. On the final day, water shall cleanse and further purify. A new day will then emerge, marking the era of a true beginning. It is on this day. The chosen are relinquished of slumber and returned. Where then upon the next, those that committed such aggravated acts against the name of life will sprout and also begin anew.”

These events were told, bold and genuine. The wind rang soft and pure in my ears. As I stood erect before the unknown enchanting messenger, enthralled, blinded, I nodded in acknowledgment of my task.

Slowly the life-giving inferno soothes its rage and dies. The once sultry temptress now turned to ash before me. The soft glowing embers wriggle, writhe, and squirm, before erupting wildly into a hint of a new spark of life.

A smile crossed my face while a tear fell. I retired to my chair to finish my cigar while the blaze around me consumes the world, and I. I am soon greeted and embraced by a long lost love. My eyes close as I am relinquished of all wrong.

Lightning continues to play its concerto while fire and the wind elegantly waltz while the rain riddled the somber ash with its pure tears—the embers laying dormant.

The end had come…just as it was foretold…by the tempest temptress messenger.

Robert J. S. T. McCartney
A.B.Normal Publishing and Media Group