This place is not a place of honor...

No highly esteemed deed is commemorated here... Nothing valued is here.

What is here is dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger.

Welcome to my webzone. The purpose of this site is to act as a repository for information that I think is valuable.

If I directed you here, it was probably because I wanted to send you to either the page on Marxism, or to one of the pages of choice quotes.

I'm fairly certain that if we, as a species, fail to adopt some flavor of radical leftism within the next century or so, we will wipe ourselves out. Some day I'll elaborate on what I mean by that. For now, though, please peruse some Marxist literature, as I suspect learning some of these core concepts will ultimately lead you to a similar conclusion.

This site is organized into numbered pages and subpages. This is purely for ease of navigation and should by no means be interpreted as any sort of value hierarchy.

Sometimes I write things. Usually fiction. I could reveal a little more, but let's leave it at that.

You may contact me at if you like.

On Marxism

Or rather, perhaps, On The Rejection of Capitalism

There are a litany of excellent descriptions of Capitalism, and its many problems. There are, however, significantly fewer excellent descriptions of Marxism, Socialism, and Communism, and the many solutions they offer. Here, I seek to present some of those few excellent descriptions. To be clear, however - to paraphrase a quote from the late Unibomber - it wasn't anything I read that radicalized me. I just got mad seeing the homeless huddling up against the police station walls in winter.

My favorite - and indeed, for now, the only - comprehensive summary linked here is dessalines' essay, hosted on github. (Archive). Dessalines directs those short on time to read reddit user /u/theDashRendar's explanation of Capitalism, hosted on reddit. (Archive Unavailable due to Reddit).

I have taken the liberty of rehosting both of these writeups. Mostly, I must admit, for my own convenience - my URLs are short and easy to give out - but also to provide another host for them, should the existing hosts prove untenable. You will find my rehosts listed below:

/u/theDarkRendar's What exactly is Capitalism?

dessalines' Crash Course on Socialism

I have only just begun my study of it at time-of-writing, but already I can tell that Guy Debord's The Society of Spectacle is essential to adequately understanding the flaws inherent to our society. Sorry I can't tell you more yet. Study it yourself if you have the time.

I hope that you find the information relayed here to be educational - or, if nothing else, useful as a resource to teach others. If you know of a write-up you think should be linked and rehosted here, shoot me a message at the email address listed on the homepage.

The Capitalism Write-up

This fantastic description of Capitalism was written by reddit user /u/theDarkRendar, originally hosted here. It is reproduced, unaltered, below for convenience and posterity.

Capitalism is, fundamentally, about the underlying property relations at the base of society. Claims on ownership granting special rules. So kind of like how in feudalism - the King got a bunch of special rules that only applied to him (sometimes from God), and later some of those would extend to the nobility and aristocracy, but not to the serfs and peasants - or how in ancient Rome, masters got one set of rules and slaves got a different set of rules - well Marxists make the argument that we've still got a two-tiered ruleset in place today - where one group of people (or CLASS of people) have to live and play by a basic set of rules, but another, smaller group (or CLASS) of people get some bonus special rules that help them out extra and give them bonus power and authority that members of the much larger group don't have the same access to or ability to wield. Even moreso, Marxists make the argument that these bonus rules are actually detrimental and damaging to the larger group, in order to amplify the benefit provided to the smaller group.

So let's talk about these two groups. The first group is probably the one that you and I are a part of, as is the overwhelming majority of humanity. This group is a CLASS of people that acquire and grow their wealth - that is to say, make their money, earn their income, etc - primarily through doing work -ie/ labour. This can be a lot of different things: flipping burgers, writing code, building houses, transporting goods, etc. Lots of different things. But how they all get paid is largely the same. They perform this task, over a certain amount of time, and they receive money from the person or people who owns the business at a fixed rate of pay, multiplied by the amount of time that they spent working. So you make X dollars per hour (called a wage), or you make Y dollars per month or per year (called a salary), or you get paid Z dollars for doing a specific job that will take a specific amount of time.

Now there's a lot of interesting characteristics to talk about with this relationship - but one of the obvious ones is the mathematical limit to wealth growth through labour. Karl Marx calls this group the PROLETARIAT.

If you are getting paid at X dollars an hour, then there's only so many hours in a day that you can work, (and lets face it, you need to sleep to some extent, and there's likely transit and other life obligations involved in there too) and there is a clear upper limit to how quickly you can grow your wealth. Yes, if you have the fortune of being born into a very privileged position, you might be able to negotiate a higher X dollars per hour rate, but it is still a fixed rate, and it still is capped off by how many hours you can physically perform work over the course of a day (or a week, or a year). So even if you are a super skilled, super hard worker who negotiated a good contract, you can still only grow your wealth arithmetically - in direct proportion to the time you put in. But overwhelmingly, that's not how fortunes are made.

Now let's talk about that other group in society - the much smaller and much more powerful one - the one with all the fortunes - the one that really gets to make use of those bonus rules I mentioned. So remember, the PROLETARIAT primarily makes their money from doing work - that's the defining characteristic of that class. Well this group, who Marx calls the BOURGEOISIE, grows their wealth, makes their money in a very different way. Their wealth does not primarily come from doing work - their money comes primarily from ownership claims. They make their money simply by owning things.

Rich people sell you a story about working hard for their money - for the most part, that's a myth - most of their money is made via ownership. In the old days is was the certificate they had that said 'this factory belongs to me (or me and my business partner), and in more modern times, it's divvied up a little differently with things like stocks and bonds - people with differing amounts of equity and portions of the total ownership claim. But the money they make from the ownership claim - that money is made while they sleep and play golf. That money is the money made by the workers, that they only pay a fractional portion back to the people who did the labour to make the money in the first place (salaries, wages, etc). The owners pocket the rest, and the mechanics of how this system works is not the standard of history, but something that has come into place only in the past few hundred years.

Think of a coal mine for example. The owner doesn't physically go into the mine and dig up the coal. He doesn't run the local office and organize the labour. The owner lives thousands of miles away. Yet, because he has a little sheet of paper that say he owns it, every three months he can expect a substantial cheque in the mail paid out to him. He gets a (very large, rather significant) cut of everything that mine produced this quarter. But he didn't mine any coal. Capitalists love to say that "There's no free lunch" - except that there is - as long as you have enough wealth to belong to the ownership class - you can extract free lunches from actual working men and women for as long as you own property. It's not the poor and powerless who are leeches - it's the wealthy who are the parasites.

dessalines' Crash Course on Socialism

To preserve the author's intended reading experience as much as possible, I have simply reproduced the entire original page and assets here.

Phrases, Opinions, Articles, Documence, and Other Findings

The painfully unavoidable central fact that underpins truth, generally, is that it comes from all manner of sources. Pieces of songs, pieces of articles, posts made online by the totally ignorant - all things have the possibility of containing something true. Here, I try to catalogue pieces of truth.

Uncategorized truth is found below, sorted alphabetically by source.

Most of the movies that have really influenced me as a storyteller aren’t in the imdb top 250, and I’ve seen most of the movies on that list. Many are quite good. But very few are among my influences. Consuming the media that was sent to you and nothing else doesn’t mean you have taste, it means you have none at all, because taste is something you curate. It’s a muscle you develop. A filter feeder has no taste because they’re not picky; they have to eat what comes their way. People who want respect for watching a curated list of “the movies with the broadest appeal and marketing budgets and thus the highest ratings” don’t deserve it; why would I respect you for consuming media sent to you by committee? I respect people who develop their own interests.

If you’re just sitting there passively consuming popular media and demanding respect for it, it’s like, I don’t know, someone insisting I call them a high society gourmand for going to McDonald’s every day. Like, come on, dude. Try for more than that. You don’t have taste, you just eat whatever’s in front of you. That’s tasteless, even if it’s collectively considered “good,” because you have to put effort into this.


Because that’s the thing: taste is personal. If you’re out there trying to demand respect because you consumed an easy list someone sent to you, you won’t get it because why would you deserve respect for being lazy? Taste is really about you developing your preferences of the world around you; good taste, refined taste, is being discriminate. That means not liking things; it doesn’t mean looking down on people or demanding that people look up to you because of what you consume.

    -Doc Burford, how to be a creative and good writer (its very hard). (Archive).

[P]iracy is not a pricing issue. It’s a service issue. The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting antipiracy technology to work. It’s by giving those people a service that’s better than what they’re receiving from the pirates.

    -Gabe Newell, founder of Valve, WTIA TechNW Panel Speech, 2011.. (Archive).

The Christian audacity to assume that every non-Christian, especially non-believers, are secretly miserable and unfulfilled because they're not Christian is definitely in one of the top ten insulting and degrading things Christians believe about other human beings.

    -tumblr user, apostate-in-an-alcove. (Archive).

Every week some streamer chud jettisons their extremely easy and profitable career of literally playing video games for a living because they simply HAVE to comment on the Transgender Question on Twitter

Imagine getting to make hundreds of thousands of dollars selling Fortnite skins and Raid Shadow Legends to middle schoolers, quite possibly the easiest way anyone has ever made exorbitant amounts of wealth ever, and risking it cause trans people drive you that fucking insane. Thousands of years of human social evolution and unequal wealth distribution leading you to a lifestyle kings and emperors of yore could not glimpse in their wildest imagination and i just. i just gotta tweet about the Drag Queens

    -tumblr user, brendanicus. (Archive).(Babel Entry).

cars trying to modernize their controls in order to look slick makes me like, irrationally angry. 25 buttons on the steering wheel to fumble around with instead of discreet components that only do one thing and replacing physical gauges with a big fucking tablet that's also used for fifty other useless techy special features kill yourself NOWWWW

    -tumblr user, dyatlovepassingprivilege. (Archive).

I see a lot of people joking about the adhd thing of "I have a appointment/phone call at 3pm, guess I won't do anything all day!" But no one seems to make the connection that it's a time blindness thing. One of the symptoms of ADHD is not having a good and accurate sense of time. And not doing stuff prior to an event with a hard deadline is an obvious coping mechanism for that.

Can I go to the store? It's 10am and the appointment is at 3pm. How long does going to the store take? An hour? Three hours? Five hours? I DON'T KNOW!

I get anxious trying to do things before appointments because I'm aware that I don't know how long those things take, and that if I think I do, I may be very wrong. Too often I've been like "hey I can walk to the corner store and grab a drink, that'll take like 15 minutes!" and then an hour later I get back and whoops my rice has burnt.

Plus there's also the fact that ADHD people know that motivation and focus is a two-edged sword.

Like, let's say you decide to play a video game. You've got time, you can pause/save whenever, so this should be a perfect fit to make good use of your waiting-time. So you start playing and WHOOPS you get really focused for some reason today (because people with ADHD do not get to pick when their brain decides to focus) and the next time you look at the clock it's 2:49 and you haven't showered or dressed and the appointment is 30 minutes away. Fuck. (you could have set an alarm, but now you're asking people with the forgetting-things-and-time-ignoring condition to remember it set alarms)

And with motivation, it can be almost worse. Instead of playing a game, you so something useful or creative. You clean your room or fix your plumbing or write a story or draw a picture. And suddenly it's great. Your brain is firing on all cylinders. You've got all the motivation you can ask for, and you are FLYING. the ideas are brilliant, your hands are nimble, you're getting stuff done you've been putting off for weeks or months. And then the alarm goes off. Time to go to your appointment. Fuck.

You drive there, your brain still full of ideas and plans. But by the time you get back, the motivation is gone. You may still have the ideas but you don't have the drive to write them down. You can't force yourself to do it. Your sink is still in pieces. Your room is half-cleaned, and you have to shove all the sorted clothes into one big bin just so you have somewhere to sleep. You've left things half finished again, in a cycle that has been repeating your whole fucking life. It seems sometimes that nothing ever gets finished. So next time you don't even start. There's not time. You've been burnt too many times. Why add another half-completed project to your pile of shame? My point is that people seem to be going "lol I can't do anything all day if I have an appointment at 3pm" like this is a quirky "oh I'm so scatterbrained!" weirdness they alone have, and not a major complication of a disabling mental illness. (and that's not even getting into the secondary effects. If you know that having an appointment ruins your whole damn day, you're going to avoid them. Even when it's things like "going to that party" or "meeting your friends for a drink/game" or "going to a movie with that cute girl from your math class". Things you should enjoy. Things that'd help you be social. Things that make you feel human.)

    -tumblr user, foone. (Archive).

Remember when if you wanted to play Tetris you could just download an app called Tetris and the entire game was there and it didn't have any ads or login bonuses or in-app purchases to make the game easier, no logging in or making an account, it didn't want access to your contacts or to send you push notifications. It was just Tetris, the whole Tetris and nothing but the Tetris. That was a better time.

    -tumblr user, grouchythefish. (Archive).


    -tumblr user, havingrevelations. (Archive unavailable due to user settings).

If you are ever thinking of an autistic person and say to yourself "I never really have to make any/many accomodations for them."


That is because WE are the ones making the accomodations for YOU.

You always hear about how we need all this support and patience but no one ever talks about the sacrafices ASD people make for he NTs in our lives that they never even see or know about.

Oh, you think I am "well spoken?" Thats cuz i spent a ridiculous amount of time rehearsing my lines and facial expressions to make sure they meet your liking.

I don't seem to have any sensory issues? My guy, i have nerve damage from raw dogging the pain. You ever watch a lactose intolerant person eat dairy? They aint gonna shit their pants in front of you. You dont have to follow them into he bathroom to believe them.

Oh you mean you dont remember me ever having a meltdown? I locked myself on the bathroom to have my "temper tantrums" in private since i was 5 years old.

You think I dont stim? Let me roll up my sleeves and show you the gashes and scars from clawing myself under my shirt. The inside of my mouth looks like a crime scene. I can taste the blood. You cant. I would much rather be "squirming" or wearing very strong perfume but i know that bothers people so i find another way.

You think i am "smart?" Yeah i might be, but that is because i am constantly using my problem solving skills to quietly and covertly solve problems i am not "supposed" to have. Problems that would never even occur to you. Problems you would never even know about because i am fucking terrified of what people would say if they knew it takes me 3 hours to get dressed and shower sometimes.

I have given myself perminant nerve damage just because i was afraid to make other people even a little uncomfy.

You understand body language because it comes naturally to you.

I understand body language because it comes naturally to you.

We are not the same.

    -tumblr user, madamefortressmommy. (Archive).


    -tumblr user, zootycoon-archive. (Archive).

Political Philosophy of Debatable Value

This section is sorted alphabetically by source name. Many of the writings listed here are not from "authoritative" sources; in fact, most of them are direct quotes from internet comment sections. This is because I am of the opinion that the source of wisdom is far less important than the wisdom's value, as previously described.

To be able forcefully and threateningly to oppose this party, whose betrayal of the workers will begin with the very first hour of victory, the workers must be armed and organized. The whole proletariat must be armed at once with [..] rifles, cannon and ammunition, and the revival of the old-style citizens’ militia, directed against the workers, must be opposed. Where the formation of this militia cannot be prevented, the workers must try to organize themselves independently as a proletarian guard, with elected leaders and with their own elected general staff; they must try to place themselves not under the orders of the State authority but of the revolutionary local councils set up by the workers. Where the workers are employed by the State, they must arm and organize themselves into special corps with elected leaders, or as a part of the proletarian guard. Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary. The destruction of the bourgeois democrats’ influence over the workers, and the enforcement of conditions which will compromise the rule of bourgeois democracy, which is for the moment inevitable, and make it as difficult as possible – these are the main points which the proletariat and therefore the League must keep in mind during and after the approaching uprising.

    -Karl Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League (Emphasis Added)

idk who needs to hear this, but the capitalist plan for climate crisis and pandemics and breakdown of food supply chains and increasingly limited access to clean water is to funnel every public resource into militaries and police to prevent you from accessing what you need to survive. they do not give a fuck about you. they not only are willing to let you die, they are planning for it and investing in it.

this is why biden pushed public covid relief funds to police, prisons, and detention centers and then declared it over. US presidents enact policy to benefit capitalists, because that is what government exists to do in capitalist countries. you are not going to 'push him left.' there is no one you can elect--of any party or affiliation--that won't cave to the demands of capital. this is the system we're in.

there is no version of events where a capitalist leader of a settler state (to be clear, not just in the US) is going to save anyone. your life isn't simply a lesser priority; your life is not a priority to capital. your survival is truly not relevant when determining policies to enact, funding to allocate, etc. the plan across the board is to suppress any direct resistance or survival efforts with intensified state violence.

you need to start planning around this continuing systemic abandonment. there is no long-term survival within this system.

    -tumblr user, closet-keys. (Archive unavailable due to user setting).

I think people need to be more comfortable with illegalism and I’m not kidding. Of course the more legal something is, the safer and easier it is to do, but the more people who disregard the law, the harder it is to enforce. There are plenty of laws on the books that people just ignore and are never or rarely policed.

Becoming more comfortable with little illegal activities makes you more comfortable with bigger more important illegal activities. Additionally, it is crucial to build a wall of silence. Nobody talks everybody walks.

People who give out food without a permit, hold a march without a permit, grow a garden without a permit, are more likely to be people you could turn to to work with on preventing an eviction, or keeping people out of cop hands, or helping your friend Jane get crucial healthcare when it’s not legal in your state.

Communities comfortable with these acts won’t call the cops, and then nobody knows that it’s happening.

People have got to shift from both the idea that lawful = good/ illegal = bad, and that the illegality of something means that’s the end of it, and the only fight left is to make it legal again.

    -tumblr user, cock-holliday. (Archive).

Imo, The mindset of the modern American reactionary is that of the estranged parent. It's a person who cannot allow themself to understand that yeah, they were a shit parent, and their kids aren't talking to them because they were a shit parent. It's the two-time wanna-be small business failure who cannot allow themselves to believe that they failed, and that there may have been consequences to their choices.

I think it has something to do with why transphobia is the popular cudgel now. This idea of the "trans cult" that took their kids away gives shape and form to the storm of negative emotions in their life. Its something to focus all their emotions on. Comparing trans people to pedophiles gives them the justification they need for righteous anger. By framing their anger as "you were keeping them safe" it allows them to feel like they were right all along.

    -tumblr user, cryptotheism. (Archive).

citizen of a country where politicians are legally allowed to lie about what they’re going to do once in office in order to get elected and where the only viable political parties are, by some CRAAAZYY coincidence, the ones backed by a major media conglomerate or two: This is a democracy.

    -tumblr user, lordandgodoftheobvious. (Archive).

when i see english speakers say "marijuana"...looks like somebody isn't immune to propaganda

cannabis was demonized/criminalized in america in the 30s cuz the logging industry didn't want hemp to fuck up their shit and a huge part of their campaign was connecting cannabis to mexicans and being hella fucking racist

cannabis is not even native to mexico it's from east asia. and btw if u wanna talk abt how asians have had their shit fucked up by bullshit american drug laws, opium was just criminalized in the early 20th century because chinese immigrants smoked it. the u.s. wants to absolutely fuck your shit up in any way possible if you are a person of color and criminalizing the extremely common, human activity of doing drugs is a ridiculously incidious way to do that

L + ratio + question everything + especially the government trying to control your bodily autonomy + the d.e.a. is evil and only exists because of corporate greed + examine your beliefs about drugs and ask yourself "why do i think this and who benefits from me thinking this way" + free your mind + do drugs + have fun + be anti-racist

    -tumblr user, meatmensch. (Archive).

i think a lot of people need to have the concept of violence explained to them better.

like, murder and assault aren't the only forms of violence.

there are other forms of violence that people wouldn't consider violence, even though they have extremely similar reasonings and end results.

like, for example, knowingly removing a safety measure or ignoring a safety flaw from a workplace or product because the lawsuits of people hurt or killed by this would be less expensive than fixing it or implementing the safety measure throughout is a type of violence- it is a use of one's power to cause harm. it's not someone killing someone with an axe, but the result is the same.

anyways i just wanted to bring this up because people considered the concept of workers killing their factory owners directly as unacceptable violence, but refused to consider how the factory owner was inflicting greater-albeit indirect- violence on his employees.

    -tumblr user, mono-red-menace. (Archive).

It is actually way better for 100 addicts to get their fix on pain pills than a single person in pain go without. I call this the "Torture is bad" principle. You should be able to get the good stuff forever after a single doctor's visit. If you're worried about addicts fund rehab centers and needle exchanges instead of torturing people.

    -tumblr user, phaeton-flier. (Archive).

There is a certain type of liberal who is, more than even creeping fascism, terrified of the little voice in the back of their head, louder every day, that tells them that the bitter proles were right, that the amiable dirtbag with the apple pipe and the Tarantino posters who says that voting is bullshit, the McDonalds shift manager single mom who feels like her life is getting worse under both parties, the trans 17 year old with the red and black twitter pfp and no future plans who says that all politicians are garbage, that they're all onto something, that maybe these people who didn't attain all the signifiers of elite education and bourgeois sophistication actually have come closer to a true understanding of politics in the United States by sheer intuition and experience than they have, and these liberals, they aren't just afraid of that little voice, they're fucking furious, and they're gonna take it out on anyone who dares challenge the worldview they've sunk all that pride and satisfaction and faith into, anyone who even in a politically incoherent or naive way suggests that maybe we can't vote our way out of this one.

    -tumblr user, pupyjpeg. (Archive unavailable due to user settings).

is anyone else just like. constantly filled with rage about their position under late capitalism and how we are expected to just keep playing this game that we know will literally kill us, is already killing people all over the world, and yet everyone around us is somehow fine with going about business as usual, with pretending we are free by being able to choose between different ways of being exploited. there is nothing more dehumanising than being forced to partake in a system that is actively detrimental to our survival as human beings, that is so physically, psychologically and spiritually destructive, and i don’t know how to deal with this anger anymore

    -tumblr user, ratanarchist. (Archive).

Thesis: Mental health problems are (largely) due to chemical imbalances in the brain, and should be treated with psychiatric medications. (Biomedical model).

Antithesis: Mental health problems are (largely) due to harmful societal structures, from abusive relationships and the nuclear family all the way up to the nation state and capitalism itself, and should be treated by abolishing these structures. (Social model).

Synthesis: If not for capitalism, the meds would be free.

    -tumblr user, regicide1997. (Archive).

[In response to a profoundly stupid message complaining about the generated output of AI:]

firstable, the art isn't stolen. it is still on the artist's hard drive/website/portfolio. complaining about digital files being "stolen" makes you sound like the RIAA.

secondly, before you start arguing semantics about how "well obviously i didn't mean they were LITERALLY stolen, just used without permission," that's not even true either. the current legal theory they're operating on (until it gets challenged in court) is that the AI's output qualifies as a "transformative work", meaning it doesn't violate the original artist's copyright. your kneejerk reaction to this might be to expand copyright law to make this kind of use illegal, but that would also necessarily outlaw a LOT of art forms/techniques, like fanart, fanfiction, collaging, sampling, etc.

at a base level, these AIs aren't doing anything humans weren't already doing - human artists have been taking inspiration from other artists since the first cave painting. anyone telling you the AI is "just mashing together parts of existing art" or whatever has 1. no idea how AIs work because that aint it and 2. no idea how copyright works since "collaging parts of existing art" (which, again, is not what they're doing) is already explicitly protected as transformative work. we don't know enough about how humans OR AIs think to conclusively say that the way one makes art is quantitavely different than the other, and trying to make ethical or God forbid LEGAL judgements based on this imaginary, unmeasurable difference is a losing proposition from the start. there are reasons to be wary of AI art, but "the way an AI views my art and uses it to generate output is fundamentally different than how a human would do it, and that difference means that i am being wronged somehow" rings a bit hollow to me.

to be clear, there are definitely valid reasons to be wary of/dislike AI art. the main one that inevitably comes up is the impact it will create with artists who work on commissions. why would someone pay $50 and wait a week to get a picture of their fursona/concept art for their video game world when they could just punch a few sentences into an AI and have dozens of pics for cheap basically instantly? setting aside the obvious answer of "because most AIs actually suck at drawing really specific things", i feel like this is akin to complaining that the invention of the camera/daguerreotype put professional portrait painters almost entirely out of business. yeah, it did, and that sucked for them, but nobody would ever suggest boycotting the camera for those painters' benefit because that's the nature of technological advancement baybee!

also not to be a communist on main but i NEED to point out the possibly insultingly obvious fact that this is an issue with capitalism, not the "integrity of art" or whatever. the main negative impact the technology has on artists is potential loss of income due to competition, which would stop being an issue if your ability to stay alive was decoupled from your ability to work/sell your labor.

    -tumblr user, sexhaver. (Archive).

To my international friends: If you ever wonder why Americans are the way they are, just remember that 1/3rd of all US citizens are in a cult that teaches them to suppress the activity of their prefrontal cortex, particularly when it comes to doubt, critical thinking, and differentiating emotional responses from personal values.

1/3rd of Americans are Evangelical, and Evangelical Protestantism is a cult. We just don’t think of it as one because it’s so normalized. However, it follows the B.I.T.E. model of cult dynamics.

Evangelism teaches its followers to always maintain states of bliss and ecstasy for Jesus. What this does is condition the brain to always operate out of less-evolved parts; areas that are responsible for more primal emotions like euphoria, anger, and fear. Because of how we’ve evolved to survive, the brain will actually shut down our higher functioning—including critical thinking skills—in favor of these primal emotions, when they’re active.

Always feeling bliss = never questioning or feeling doubt. Evangelicals may actually fear the thoughts that do originate from their higher brain-parts because they think it’s the devil tempting them away from their religion. They’ll engage in self-indoctrination techniques to make this stop.

This creates a cognitive dissonance so great that many Americans have no separation between how they feel and what they believe. This is really bad because their minds have literally no defense against undue influence. They’ll vote for the dude who hyped them up enough. They’ll buy into the conspiracy theory that excites them the most. They’ll side with whatever gets the best reaction out of them, and getting a rise out of people is super easy to do.

Things like financial insecurity and low employment make this worse, too.

    -tumblr user, skaldish. (Archive).

'anti-civs' will so often hold that it is not capitalism & the structuring economic systems of societies that are to blame for extractivism and ecological destruction but instead "civilization" or "technology" or some vague description of "human exploitation of the environment" & yet always position this as an anti-colonialist/pro-indigenous stance -- a circle that you can only possibly square if you have constructed the exact same definitions of these terms, circularly defined to exclude the technologies & societies of indigenous peoples, as 19th century colonial anthropologists !

    -tumblr user, txttletale. (Archive).

bear in mind that my perspective is just one and quite limited -- & also that i very much approach marxist theory from the lenses of anti-imperialism and cultural studies. that said, my basic recommended reading list of books that equipped me with the ideological tools i have now would look something like:

  • engels, principles of communism
  • marx, wage labour & capital
  • marx, the german ideology
  • engels, socialism: utopian & scientific
  • luxemburg, reform or revolution?
  • lenin, the state & revolution
  • lenin, imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism
  • fanon, the wretched of the earth
  • rodney, how europe underdeveloped africa
  • nkrumah, neocolonialism: the last stage of imperialism
  • gramsci, the prison notebooks
  • adorno & horkheimer, the culture industry
  • parenti, inventing reality
  • chomsky & herman, manufacturing consent
  • benjamin, the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction
  • castro, capitalism in crisis

a lot of these texts can be found for free on the rest can be found for free on all kinds of cool websites if you type their name into google search with 'pdf free' at the end

    -tumblr user, txttletale. (Archive).

it's so fucking crazy how the Colorado River is running dry bc of the agriculture industry but they can't just stop farming in the desert bc it'll put people out of work and it'll cause food shortages bc they can't give food away they have to produce way more than everyone could ever eat and then make sure people can't afford it and go hungry anyways and then throw it out and let it rot and they have to keep doing that forever the farmers have to produce more and more food to barely break even and the stores have to throw more and more of it out to keep the prices artificially inflated and it takes more and more water every year until the ancient river system that forged the Grand Canyon and supplies water to a dozen states dries up and all of this is allegedly the most efficient economic system that will ever be possible

    -tumblr user, zoethebitch. (Archive).

gets elected on a platform of dealing with X problem

can't do anything about X problem because lobbyists

start a study to prove Y about X because lobbyists say without proving Y they won't fund my campaign

study takes most of my tenure in office before I'm not allowed to run again

now that I have the results of study Y I can actually start to address X issue

draft legislation to address X based off evidence from study Y

my maximum length in office runs out

bc I didn't address X my ideology is seen as ineffectual

successor throws my efforts in the trash, starts brand new plan to address X

You know what would be a great way to address X? If we commissioned a study on Z

Lucy lowers the football again with a smirk that would disquiet the most assured of quarterbacks

    -tumblr user, zvaigzdelasas. (Archive).

Gender and Sex Politics of Debatable Value

This section is sorted alphabetically by source name. Many of the writings listed here are not from "authoritative" sources; in fact, most of them are direct quotes from internet comment sections. This is because I am of the opinion that the source of wisdom is far less important than the wisdom's value, as previously described.

On the one hand,

I feel it's a form of cowardice to humor the feelings of bigots with a warning - but on the other, I know many bigots who would read the contents of this page, learn information that conflicts with their bigoty, and then become angry, all while believing that they are themselves not bigots. The reasoning for this is complex and I don't profess to know all (or even much) of it, but I digress.

Consider yourself warned that the ideas and concepts here are likely considered at least slightly radical by American social standards. If you think you'll respond poorly to that, don't read it.

A number of studies on trans youth have taken on “misinformational afterlives,” says TJ Billard, an assistant professor of communications at Northwestern University and executive director of the Center for Applied Transgender Studies. Among them are four papers published between 2008 and 2013 that have together been used to claim that most children “grow out” of gender dysphoria and opt not to transition. All have been shown to have numerous shortcomings. In some, nearly 40% of young people surveyed did not meet the criteria for the official gender dysphoria diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders edition used at the time. In two, researchers classified some subjects as having detransitioned—or reversed their transition—purely on the basis of whether a parent or third party said it happened. A 2018 study found that three of the papers labeled those who had stopped responding to researchers as detransitioners; and in one, a subject who identified as nonbinary was classified as detransitioning.

“There’s a wealth of bad science that is out there, and this science doesn’t stay in journals,” Billard says. Parents unfamiliar with trans issues, who don’t understand gender-affirming health care and don’t have the expertise to read the studies themselves, often fall under its sway.

When Littman took up the question, she decided to survey parents, who she felt would be easier to reach than trans youths themselves. In her Methods section, she writes that “to maximize the chances of finding cases meeting eligibility criteria”—meaning youths who suddenly became gender dysphoric, according to their parents—she turned to three websites:, a “community of people who question the medicalization of gender-­atypical youth”;, which says it’s concerned about “the unprecedented number of teenage girls suddenly self-identifying as ‘trans’”; and, a now-private website that was “concerned about the current trend to quickly diagnose and affirm young people as transgender.”

The results were in line with what one might expect given those sources: 76.5% of parents surveyed “believed their child was incorrect in their belief of being transgender.” More than 85% said their child had increased their internet use and/or had trans friends before identifying as trans. The youths themselves had no say in the study, and there’s no telling if they had simply kept their parents in the dark for months or years before coming out. (Littman acknowledges that “parent-child conflict may also explain some of the findings.”)

Restar noted that Littman chose to describe the “social and peer contagion” hypothesis in the consent document she shared with parents, opening the door for biases in who chose to respond to the survey and how they did so. She also highlighted that Littman asked parents to offer “diagnoses” of their child’s gender dysphoria, which they were unqualified to do without professional training. It’s even possible that Littman’s data could contain multiple responses from the same parent.

Many people who are citing Littman’s work probably haven’t even read the study or seen the correction, Billard says: “People are citing a Reddit post in which somebody invoked the idea of Littman and her research.”

Lawmakers in more than 25 states have introduced anti-trans bills during 2022 legislative sessions. Politicians writing such legislation have plenty of questionable studies, partisan doctors, and associations that lobby against transgender rights to draw on. Littman’s ROGD study is often a go-to. The Coalition for the Advancement & Application of Psychological Science wrote in 2021 that many of the “over 100 bills under consideration in legislative bodies across the country that seek to limit the rights of transgender adolescents” are “predicated on the unsupported claims advanced by ROGD.”

    -Ben Kesslen, How the idea of a "transgender contagion" went viral. (Archive).

If any given cis person were to sufficiently "get it," they wouldn't be cis anymore.

    -tumblr user, bowserwife. (Archive).

when an intersex baby is born and they have what’s called “ambiguous genitalia” aka they have an intersex condition which causes them to develop a mix of traits from both male and female genitals, doctors will just pick which one it’s closest to and without consent from the parents and obviously without consent from this living human person that just got born, perform a permanently scarring cosmetic surgery to force the baby’s genitals to align with societies perspective of either male or female genitals. these surgeries cause lifetime medical issues and sexual dysfunction and are only performed because our medical understanding of intersex people was written by a bunch of bigoted genicidal monsters. And yes it’s genocide they are removing our ability to conceive children in almost all cases of these surgeries, on top of generally erasing us from public view by hiding our own existence from everyone Including us from birth. these surgeries aren’t well known about because parents literally aren’t told (my mom only managed to figure it out cuz she overheard the doctor talking to a nurse about it when she came down off her painkillers) and scientific literature on it is not only hard to read it sounds like fucking nazi shit so obviously most medical establishments don’t want it in public view. I had one of these surgeries performed on me, I literally don’t even know exactly what it was cuz it’s not on my medical records anymore but I have the scarring and still have uterine tissue so in compensation for our current human society systematically mutilating my body and genociding people like me I think I deserve some banger bazhoingas i think that’s fair

    -tumblr user, dreamyintersexpuppy. (Archive).

I think a lot of people who get into discourse about it/itself pronouns or other niche queer expressions of the self like neopronouns miss that these things are supposed to be subversive. They see someone saying to call them pup and think that person must not see the absurdity. They see someone going by it and think they are unaware that that sounds derogatory. Like these actions would not have meaning if they were normal and not absurd or unsettling. The person using its doesn't need you to insist that that pronoun is never derogatory in its defense... I'd be shocked if it wasn't choosing that pronoun because it sympathizes and loves and lives in the space of the derogatory. Some of us are maligned and strange and freakish. Some of us are unable to escape being identified as other. We all find our way of navigating that life, some people are not going to choose to do it in your way. When they choose those pronouns they're asking you to participate in humanizing the derided. I think that's a great thing to be invited into

    -tumblr user, giritina. (Archive).

I know it feels like an understatement but you sometimes make more progress by pointing out that conservatives are fucking rude. going out of your way to call someone the wrong name because you don't like them? rude. childish. this isn't fucking kindergarten, Carl. she said her name is Jennifer. Everybody knows her as Jennifer. You are the one making things confusing. Grow up.

"misgendering is violence": invites discourse over the TraNs DeBatE, puts people on the defensive, opens you up to accusations of liberal snowflakery, comes off as a hypothetical thought exercise

"Who the fuck is Jason? I don't know a Jason. Oh her? You mean Jen? You mean fucking Jen? That's Jen, dipshit." : crystal clear. you're making shit more difficult for everyone because you're a rude manchild.

    -tumblr user, hollowboobtheory. (Archive).

At the heart of most jokes about polyamory is the fact that the critic is appalled that people they find unfuckable get sex and physical affection from multiple other people instead of sequestering themselves in a bell tower

    -tumblr user, gracklesong. (Archive).

Me taking my hypothetical children to pride:

See that man in the dog mask? He's playing a game of make believe with his friends to have fun, just like we do! See how his tail is wagging?

See that man with a gun? He's part of a violent institution that serves the ruling elite and upholds white supremacy. Fifty years ago he would have been raiding all these bars and arresting us all. He could shoot you in the face right now and probably not even lose his job. If he tries to talk to you, remember to say, "I won't speak with you unless I have an attorney present."

    -tumblr user, homojewqueerhobbit. (Archive).

the thing is that they're so fascinated by sex, they love sex, they can't imagine a world without sex - they need sex to sell things, they need sex to be part of their personality, they need sex to prove their power - but they hate sex. they are disgusted by it.

sex is the only thing that holds their attention, and it is also the thing that can never be discussed directly.

you can't tell a child the normal names for parts of their body, that's sexual in nature, because the body isn't a body, it's a vessel of sex. it doesn't matter that it's been proven in studies (over and over) that kids need to know the names of their genitals; that they internalize sexual shame at a very young age and know it's 'dirty' to have a body; that it overwhelmingly protects children for them to have the correct words to communicate with. what matters is that they're sexual organs. what matters is that it freaks them out to think about kids having body parts - which only exist in the context of sex.

it's gross to talk about a period or how to check for cancer in a testicle or breast. that is nasty, illicit. there will be no pain meds for harsh medical procedures, just because they feature a cervix.

but they will put out an ad of you scantily-clad. you will sell their cars for them, because you have abs, a body. you will drip sex. you will ooze it, like a goo. like you were put on this planet to secrete wealth into their open palms.

they will hit you with that same palm. it will be disgusting that you like leather or leashes, but they will put their movie characters in leather and latex. it will be wrong of you to want sexual freedom, but they will mark their success in the number of people they bed.

they will crow that it's inappropriate for children so there will be no lessons on how to properly apply a condom, even to teens. it's teaching them the wrong things. no lessons on the diversity of sexual organ growth, none on how to obtain consent properly, none on how to recognize when you feel unsafe in your body. if you are a teenager, you have probably already been sexualized at some point in your life. you will have seen someone also-your-age who is splashed across a tv screen or a magazine or married to someone three times your age. you will watch people pull their hair into pigtails so they look like you. so that they can be sexy because of youth. one of the most common pornography searches involves newly-18 young women. girls. the words "barely legal," a hiss of glass sand over your skin.

barely legal. there are bills in place that will not allow people to feel safe in their own bodies. there are people working so hard to punish any person for having sex in a way that isn't god-fearing and submissive. heteronormative. the sex has to be at their feet, on your knees, your eyes wet. when was the first time you saw another person crying in pornography and thought - okay but for real. she looks super unhappy. later, when you are unhappy, you will close your eyes and ignore the feeling and act the role you have been taught to keep playing. they will punish the sex workers, remove the places they can practice their trade safely. they will then make casual jokes about how they sexually harass their nanny.

and they love sex but they hate that you're having sex. you need to have their ornamental, perfunctory, dispassionate sex. so you can't kiss your girlfriend in the bible belt because it is gross to have sex with someone of the same gender. so you can't get your tubes tied in new england because you might change your mind. so you can't admit you were sexually assaulted because real men don't get hurt, you should be grateful. you cannot handle your own body, you cannot handle the risks involved, let other people decide that for you. you aren't ready yet.

but they need you to have sex because you need to have kids. at 15, you are old enough to parent. you are not old enough to hear the word fuck too many times on television.

they are horrified by sex and they never stop talking about it, thinking about it, making everything unnecessarily preverted. the saying - a thief thinks everyone steals. they stand up at their podiums and they look out at the crowd and they sign a bill into place that makes sexwork even more unsafe and they stand up and smile and sign a bill that makes gender-affirming care illegal and they get up and they shrug their shoulders and write don't say gay and they get up, and they make the world about sex, but this horrible, plastic vision of it that they have. this wretched, emotionless thing that holds so much weight it's staggering. they put their whole spine behind it and they push and they say it's normal!

this horrible world they live in. disgusted and also obsessed.

    -tumblr user, inkskinned. (Archive).


The regret rate for having children in the US has been estimated at 7%.[(Archive).] A survey in the UK found the regret rate to be at 8%.[(Archive).]

The reported regret rate for total knee replacement varies. I have linked to two studies, one finding 17.1% of patients reported moderate or severe decision regret, the other finding a dissatisfaction rate of 8%.

  • Source[(Archive).]: ‘TKA patients reported moderate or severe (Mod/Sev) DR [17.1% (56/328)]’
  • Source[(Archive).]: ‘In an analysis of dissatisfaction after primary total knee replacement, 8% of the sample were dissatisfied at a mean follow-up of 37 months.’

The regret rate for surgery in general is 14.4%

  • Source[(Archive).]: ‘Self-reported patient regret was relatively uncommon with an average prevalence across studies of 14.4%’

The regret rate of trans related surgery is found to be around 1%. The most common reason for regret was lack of social acceptance.

  • Source[(Archive).]: ‘A total of 27 studies, pooling 7928 transgender patients who underwent any type of GAS, were included. The pooled prevalence of regret after GAS was 1%

[…] Overall, the most common reason for regret was psychosocial circumstances, particularly due to difficulties generated by return to society with the new gender in both social and family enviroments. In fact, some patients opted to reverse their gender role to achieve social acceptance, receive better salaries, and preserve relatives and friends relationships.’

    -tumblr user, is-the-post-reliable. (Archive).

i hate when ppl (trans or cis) say like ‘theres SO many more trans people these days!’ like i should have some reaction to that besides jumping in the air and yelling ‘Yipee!! Hooray!!’

honestly. i dont care WHY the reason more people seem to be coming out these days is. What i care about is the fact that more people are finally finding words to describe really tough experiences and are searching for community, and i am literally never ever ever going to deny that to them. more out trans people is a good fucking thing. it means that people who were struggling are able to get help and change their lives for the better, what a fucking gift. if your main concern in a world that is trying to eradicate our community is trying to weed it down to who you feel are the worthiest of transitioning you are a peice of shit and i hope you live in misery. wanting acess to transition is wanting everyone ever who needs to transition to be able to do it easily, safely and cheaply. what a fucking gift that more people that would be trans anyway are able to say it, i hope the number of out trans people who can transition in whatever way they want skyrockets.

    -tumblr user, pansyfem. (Archive).

When straight society invented the sissy, the faggot, the equivalent in almost every language, to intimidate men and trans women into compliance, they unwittingly created a new gender. It's a lesser, or at least separate class of man, or in many cases not a man at all. Created as an nebulous threat, the possibilities of what it means to be one became endless. Either weak or brutishly strong to the point of unfair advantage, neutered or hypersexual, ignorant bimbo or cosmopolitan intellectual, starving underclass or ostentatious elite, victim or villain, powerless but powerful enough to be a threat to society just by existing. People who would never admit to seeing gender on nonbinary terms still intuitively recognize and treat this class as a distinct, socially recognized gender with its own signifiers. Despite the cruelty behind this category, its defiance of convention makes it alluring even to people who hate it. Those who embrace their faggotry are not putting themselves into a box but tapping into their limitless potential.

    -tumblr user, rthko. (Archive).

fun ballet fact: part of the reason you’re supposed to start ballet young is so you stretch and hold your joint in certain ways regularly enough that your body grows different. You know how men who do ballet look only sort of muscular but then like lift a whole ass person? Their muscles are trained to lie flat like that for flexibility, they don’t bulk up. Girl in your class who always stands in turnout? It’s likely not just habit, her joints probably sit like that now.

I started ballet when I was six and stopped after three years. I then took a break for three years, and came back and did jazz ballet (which has most of the same body mods but without turnout) and tap for another couple of years. And every physio who works on my body looks at my feet, hips and calves and goes “oh you danced”. I was never even flexible enough to do the splits, but you best believe I stand in turnout. I never went en pointe, but I’m 95% sure tap is the reason my feet have random spasms if I don’t take to them with a tennis ball once a week.

When I said I wanted to be a dancer at six years old, adults took that to mean I’d want certain permanent alterations to my body. Unlike with young trans kids, no one was looking to make sure I fully understood what I was getting into. And unlike with young trans kids, these changes were not reversible when I changed my mind. There wasn’t even a way to delay things to buy time (like puberty blockers), it was all or nothing. If I wanted to be a professional dancer, my normal ass joints were a ticking timebomb.

So like cis opinion, but I really don’t have a lot of time for people getting feral about trans kids socially transitioning or going on blockers or even (when they’re old enough for it be relevant) hrt. Me “identifying” as a dancer at six years old was more physically impactful and less informed than if a six year old changed their name and grew their hair, but you don’t see any of the adults in my life getting accused of child abuse.

    -tumblr user, thatgirlwhokeepsreading. (Archive).

  • "Intersex" does not mean "non-binary." Non-binary is a gender. "Intersex" means "my sexual characteristics are not as easily slotted into male and female as you'd think."
  • Some intersex people are non-binary. Some use "intersex" as their gender label. Some are cis. Some are binary trans. Intersex people can have any gender you can think of frankly they're people just like you.
  • Intersex people are not "assigned non-binary at birth." They're assigned a binary sex like everyone else. Hence why there can be cis or trans intersex people.
  • While I'm certain the human experience is vast enough that there must be someone out there with a working dick and pussy at once, the large majority of intersex people do not have that sort of body.

    -tumblr user, versegm. (Archive). This post was deleted before it could be properly archived. A reblogged version has been archived instead.

Quotes, Lines, Samples, and Other Delightful Words from Music

Much of what will be listed here is intentionally inflammatory or bombastic. It's organized alphabetically, by source. The exact degree to which I believe in any of this (and thus the exact degree to which I propose you believe in any of it) is left intentionally vague as an exercise for the reader.

So what do you want?
You want to be famous and rich and happy?
But you're terrified you have nothing to offer this world -
Nothing to say and no way to say it.
But you can say it in three languages.
You are more than the sum of what you consume;
Desire is not an occupation.
You are alternately thrilled and desperate;
Sky high and fucked.

    -KMFDM, Dogma. (Youtube).

My Pain is good. Pain is God. My Pain is God. Pain is God.
I feel the rush and the rise. Don't spare the rod, Pain is God.

    -Raymond Watts, better known as PIG, Pain is God. (Youtube).

Sometimes, I write fiction.

Some of it is worth reading.

I write stuff, on occasion. Most of it's horror. I'm not listing individual content warnings, it would take too long and spoil too much. Consider yourself warned: here be BODY HORROR; EXTREME ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOR; INSECTS; TORTURE; TERROR; and MASS, AGONIZING DEATH.

Here is the (alphabetical) list:

Carbon Copy Demo

This utterly disgusting body horror piece is intended to be expanded upon. I'll do that eventually. Then it'll just be "Carbon Copy."

Quill gained consciousness vomiting on the cold tile of the post office floor, surrounded by a crowd of shouting, puking people. His sick burned his throat and nose as his lean body retched and thrashed uncontrollably, spewing sour liquid in a messy arc around his head. The hot smell of his own vile spittum threatened to overwhelm the scent of the rapidly spreading pools of blood and acid the others were expelling.

Thick, black, coagulated chunks of what Quill guessed had once been his stomach caught on his teeth as he choked on the sour mixture of digestive fluid and liquified organ. Rubbery balls of something that tasted like rotting fish and felt like tapioca ruptured in his mouth, squirting an uncomfortably hot fluid all over his tongue. Spitting hysterically, Quill managed to roll onto one side to dig at the slick husks of flesh that had ruptured in his mouth like awful black cysts. Though it only took a few moments for him to clear his maw, the flavor of his own putrid organs seemed to last for an eternity.

Still spitting and gagging, Quill managed to rise to his feet. His vision swam as he staggered over weeping, groaning people, dying in pools of dissolving organ and semi-digested lunch. To his left and right, only check-out counters stained red and black with gore. Straight ahead, however, daylight streamed through a pair of slightly smudged double doors. Agonized moans trailed after him as he burst through the doors onto the sidewalk in front of the post office, where he stumbled and fell, rolling onto his back as he did.

"Woah, easy," a man in a jogging outfit said as he approached Quill's stricken form. "What's happening? Did someone go-"

Quill interrupted him by gagging briefly on a slurry of blackened, marble-sized orbs and stomach acid before spilling the mixture down his chin. The man uttered a choked combination of an expletive and a scream, recoiling from Quill as his eyes rolled back and the remnants of his gastrointestinal tract made their way out of his mouth, covered in a foamy layer of aerated blood and malformed shit. Color drained from Quill’s reality as his consciousness faded. Laying on his back on hot concrete, rapidly digesting organ steaming on his chest, Quill entered the last few seconds of his life twitching in soundless agony. Death seemed to abandon him for these seconds as every sensation transformed into a pinprick of white-hot pain across every inch of his bleeding form. Then, mercifully, when there was nothing left for his brain to process except terror and a suffering he quite literally would have previously been unable to even imagine, Quill finally experienced the endless exhalation of dying.

“Which one was this one, again?” murmured muffled Male Voice Number One.

“Thirty-six,” replied a similarly muffled Male Voice Number Two.

“Jesus,” muttered One. “Are they all, y’know,” he trailed off, then made a strangled retching noise.

“Uh-huh,” Two grunted back affirmatively. “Corp says all of ‘em need to split ‘n’ scan. And FRCA says I don’t have to anymore.”

“Yeah, great,” One said. “Get outta here. Leave me to do the back-half alone. Asshole.”

“Far as corporate’s concerned, it’s a disability, same as yours,” Two barked. His voice was distant now.

“Nicotine addiction is not a disability!” One shouted as a door opened and shut. “Fucker. Whatever,” One said to himself, “guess we better get to work, eh, sport?” He slapped the bodybag containing Quill’s remains affectionately on the shoulder. “Ahhhhh, Jesus,” he sighed as he reached for the zipper, “I gotta file for a transf-”

One froze as the zipper passed the bridge of Quill’s nose. Something about Quill’s body spooked him, but for a moment, he couldn’t quite grasp what. Then, a hypothesis: One grabbed a flashlight off the instrument tray beside him in a hazmat-gloved hand, and shone it in Quill’s eyes.

Quill’s pupils contracted, and One’s eyes went wide behind his single-panel glass faceplate. He took a step back and reached for the radio strapped to his toolbelt with a shaking hand. He had almost reached it when Quill’s body suddenly jerked sideways, startling One so badly that he backed into the occupied autopsy table behind him.

One’s backstep put his rear foot over the crossbar connecting the pairs of wheels at the head and foot of the table. When he shifted to put his weight onto it, his front foot came up and his lower back collided with the table’s edge. Off-balance, One fell backwards, pressing all his weight onto the edge of the table, which pivoted at the fulcrum created by his boot and the crossbar pinned in front of it. It hit the ground first, spilling its disemboweled occupant onto the floor moments before the small of One’s back smashed into the metal bar that formed the table’s frame. A sickening crack rang out, and One screamed in pain and surprise as he realized he could no longer move his legs. Through his sudden panic, One was able to slide into a seated position, back to the underside of the now-horizontal autopsy table.

Quill’s curious hands pulled at the zipper of his bodybag until he had a half-torso sized hole through which to climb out. The air smelled harsh, sterile. The unmistakable, overwhelming smell of bleach and antibacterial spray flooded his sinuses, sending sharp pains up through his already sore forehead as he emerged from the bag. Rank fluid dripped from him as he stepped free and rose to his feet to look down at One, who was now pushing his panic back down into someplace manageable.

Quill watched as One’s fingers clasped around the radio, and then he felt a sensation. At the base of his skull, a tightness suddenly formed. A strange kind of twitching ran up his arms in waves. His vision changed, and the world around him seemed to suddenly wash out, except for One. He was almost too bright. He was glowing, vibrant. Quill’s flesh bristled all over as the hard-coded human instinct to pluck a fine, juicy fruit from a low-hanging tree took control and he darted forward to grab One’s wrist. Their gazes locked through One’s faceplate, and if anyone were able to ask him later, he would have described Quill’s gaze as inhumanly hungry.

Quill wrenched One’s hand off the radio and up, over his head. One swore and swung his opposite fist up for Quill’s temple, where it collided with a meaty thud.

“What the fuck?” gasped One as Quill, utterly unaffected by the impact, held his gaze. Then, with an insectile quickness and precision, Quill snatched One’s fist and wrenched it around above his head too, next to his opposite hand.

Quill cocked his head curiously and stared down at his subdued prey. This was the first time he had ever done this, and no one had trained him in it. In fact, he realized, no one had ever trained him in anything that he could remember. No schooling, no parents, no mentors, no friends, no family - Quill’s history had suddenly become an empty book. Even knowledge of a self - an identity of any kind - was absent but for a name: Quill Burnes. But, he realized, shaking his head, it didn’t matter. Universities didn’t offer courses in indulging overpowering urges anyway.

The tightness at the base of his skull had begun to tingle like an erection. A new physical need had sprung up in Quill’s body, one just as demanding as arousal. Just as demanding, he determined, as hunger. In the same way that his stomach once told him he needed to eat, Quill felt some new flesh living in his upper vertebrae tell him he needed to meld, to join, to coagulate and yield and take. One’s vulnerable body felt to Quill like it was vibrating at an impossibly high frequency, sending thousands of tiny waves of muted pleasure up his arms from where his hands held One’s wrists. On instinct, he squeezed them a little, and a sensation very much like that of a building orgasm began to form between his shoulderblades.

One shrieked, startling Quill from his reverie. In so doing, though, he only made Quill grip harder, which made the burning sensation around his wrists much worse. Every nanometer of Quill’s skin burned One down to the bone as if he wasn’t wearing a hazmat suit - or anything else, for that matter - at all. Face contorted in pain, One stared up through his glass faceplate into Quill’s eyes as he tried weakly to shake his arms free. But all he saw there was a lust that knew no satiation.

Something was flowing out of One and into Quill, of that Quill was certain. His growing spine-orgasm and tingling sense of tightness in his skin assured him of that, but it wasn’t enough. He needed more. Growling, overwhelmed with desire, Quill squeezed One’s wrists until his knuckles went white, eliciting beautiful, agonized, throat-tearing screams of terror and pain. The space between his shoulderblades throbbed once, twice, then twitched and wrenched into an orgasmic cramp. Warmth and pleasure flowed forth from Quill’s shoulders, down his rapidly melting, shifting arms, and into One’s wrists, which were now also Quill’s wrists. In mere seconds, his hands had melted into a grasping putty, and when his spinegasm began, they sank into One’s wrists, melting them too, bringing them together.

One was staring up at the (wound? seam? appendage?) place where his hands once were. The fire that ran inside the bones in his arms had spread to those in his chest and abdomen, and were quickly making their way through his pelvis to his legs. This was when One learned what it is to truly suffer. Every fiber of his being was experiencing the invasion of Quill’s aberrant flesh, and not one single cell of nerve would allow him to forget. Mouth locked open in a scream that made his throat bleed, One felt the burning turn to suction as it reached the tips of his toes. Just as suddenly as Quill’s hands had melded with his wrists, One became aware that his meat was being sucked into the space where his bones had once been. Quill’s searching tendrils had devoured and replaced every bone leading down from One’s hands to his feet, and now those same tendrils were latching onto, dissolving, and suckling down his flesh. The last coherent thought One experienced was the realization that his boneways had been fully transformed into an external digestive tract for the ex-corpse called Burnes, Quill. After that, only terror and agony in their purest, most distilled forms.

Each ounce of One’s pureed flesh made Quill’s upper back throb with pleasure. The concoction of liquified human life nourished and filled him, made his skin feel tight and his newly acquired desire fulfilled. He found himself unable to look away as One began to turn inside-out from the feet up, boots, hazmat suit, and all. As his hips and pelvis disappeared into the sucking maw of his own chest cavity, One had his last coherent thought and was then reduced to a gibbering pile of twitching, soon-to-be-consumed meat. Then, with anticlimactic suddenness, the maw reached One’s collar-bone, precisely between each shoulder, and stopped. The head that One’s shattered consciousness was trapped within was pulled taut between the two competing arm-probosci for a brief second before, with a wet cracking sound that made Quill’s hips shudder in unison with his spine, it split vertically in half. One was set free at last from this Earth as his skull was ripped asunder, tearing his brain and sending each hemisphere splattering to the tile floor below. Each half of the carcass dangled and flopped wildly as Quill’s arms slurped them up like cheap spaghetti.

Pleasure faded from Quill’s arms and back as his hands reformed from the gelatinous substance that now composed him. But as he looked down at the halves of One’s brain, still shiny-slick with brain juice, a new desire pulsed at the very center of his own skull. Giving in to instinct, Quill knelt and examined the wrinkled grey matter before him. It seemed to whisper One’s voice. Without his noticing, Quill’s fingers began to quiver and stretch, reaching and grasping for the meat all on their own. It was only when they had nearly touched the damn thing that Quill noticed. He swore and shook his hands, causing his fingers to snake dejectedly back to their rightful size. But after a moment’s contemplation, Quill concluded that they were probably correct, and grabbed the last traces of One’s existence in each hand. As his palms softened to absorb the brain, Quill learned that One’s true name was Secil Freemaster.

A childhood marked by tragedy, Secil had been eight years old when he watched the beloved family dog get smashed by a garbage truck at the local park. Sobbing, he had scooped up the dog’s remains and run home, but arrived to find his parents dead too. Purely coincidental, of course - an unrelated robbery gone wrong - but trauma rarely tries to remain coherent, and Secil’s was no exception. So began a lifelong fascination with death, one which continued two years later when, after being taken in by his aunt and uncle, Secil’s aunt was killed when a drunk driver t-boned the family station wagon on the way home from church. Wife and faith alike slaughtered, his uncle shot himself in the head six months later. Secil had stayed home from school by hiding on the roof, and was thus given an accidentally perfect vantage point to watch his uncle blow his brains out in the back yard.

He lived with his grandparents until he was seventeen, when he came home from school just in time to see his grandfather emerge, on fire, from the burning home. Grandfather’s screams would echo through Secil’s head every time he heard, saw, or smelled fire for the rest of his life. Grandma’s charred skeleton would later be recovered from a windowless bathroom she had inadvertently become trapped within. His eighteenth birthday occurred before CPS had time to rehome him, so he crashed on friends’ couches until his first semester in undergrad started. He had known immediately what he wanted to do: Criminal autopsy. Figure out exactly how the victim died, exactly how long they suffered, and exactly who did it to them.

He had only become licensed a year prior. Still wet behind the ears when Quill showed up. But his youth and naivete made him sweeter, Quill thought, as Secil’s memories were tucked away.

Quill was still squatting next to the fallen table where Secil had died when he heard footsteps approaching beyond the double door entryway to the examination chamber. Secil’s memories told him that these footsteps belonged to Kenneth Brant, who Quill knew as Two.

“Shit, shit, shit,” Quill hissed as he glanced around for somewhere to hide. All the autopsy tables were hollow beneath, and the only contents of the room were the shelves and counters along the walls. With a shrug of chagrin, Quill stood to jog over next to the double doors, hoping to catch Ken unawares. As he stood, however, he caught a glimpse of something blue on his arms. Closer inspection yielded no insight; his arms looked just as fleshy as they had before. He was just about to abandon the endeavor when he noticed his skin rippling with each step he heard Ken take. Further, he noticed that when he breathed deep and let go, the ripples got bigger, seeming to tear and writhe on their own. Beneath them lay the blue hazmat suit Secil had been wearing.

Glancing at the doors, then back at his arms, then back at the doors, then down at his arms again, Quill decided to take a gamble. He shut his eyes, took a really deep breath, and tried to think Secil-y thoughts. He thought of Secil’s favorite professor (Dr. Czernobog, who was an asshole with a heart of also asshole, but who was also a genius), he thought of Secil’s favorite food (eggplant ravioli), he thought of Secil’s favorite girlfriend (his left hand), and when the double doors banged open, he opened his eyes and looked through the glass faceplate of Secil’s hazmat suit to catch eye contact with Ken.

“Goddammit, dude,” Ken yelped at the sight of the room. “Are you fucking drunk? What’d you do, push that one over? An-and, God, and for fuck’s sake dude, it had to be one of the finished ones, didn’t it? Fuck!”

“Sorry,” Quill said, his voice alien and Secil-y sounding. “I, uh. I fell.”

“Oh yeah?” Ken barked exasperatedly. “Look, I’m not cleaning that shit up.”

He was approaching Quill now, gesticulating as he walked and talked. Quill’s eyes locked on to the closest hand, and his mind stilled. Now he would keep Ken talking until…

“You hear me big guy?” Ken yelled. He snapped his fingers in front of Quill’s face and said, “I swear to God, I’ll file a rep-”

Quill snatched Ken’s snapping hand and yanked on it, pulling Ken into his chest. They fell together as they collided, and when they landed, Quill wrapped his arms and legs around Ken as tightly as he could.

“What the fuck, man?” Ken shouted as he tried to squirm free. “Are you some kinda fuckin’ pervert or somethin’? What the fuck, what the FU-

Ken’s voice had risen in volume and pitch as Quill’s fleshy facsimile of Secil’s biohazard suit softened and started to reform Ken’s body everywhere they touched. Just like Quill and Secil’s agonizing deaths, Ken felt each of his cells turn to searing pain hotter than the depths of Hell, one after another as Quill’s flesh digested and absorbed his own. In a way, though, he was far luckier than Secil: Quill’s new technique for subduing and digesting worked much, much faster. Ken’s sanity shattered almost immediately, and though he did get to experience having his every sense turn to the most excruciating, pure, unavoidable and unmanageable suffering, Quill managed to make his way all the way up into Ken’s skull and brainpan within about thirty seconds.

Something pricked Quill’s mind when the devouring process consumed Ken’s throat. He didn’t stop screaming as his vocal cords were melted, producing a distorted, animalistic squeal that burned itself into Quill’s memory. Quickly thereafter, Ken’s memories flooded Quill’s mind, too, and in only a few seconds more, all traces of Ken and Secil’s human forms were mere nutrients for Quill’s exotic new existence.

From their combined memories, Quill learned that he was in a morgue owned by Silfina Industries, a biotech company focused on producing vaccines. Their lives yielded no suggestions as to how he had gotten there, but they did suggest that a third coworker, Mr. Srinivasa, would be coming by for a shift change soon. He would enter the hallway outside the morgue from an elevator that led up to the ground floor lobby, where a security checkpoint would stop-and-frisk any personnel entering or exiting the building. Shit, he thought. Getting out would require him to hold Secil’s form through the search, in enough detail that his pockets could be checked. Would they even let him leave in the hazmat suit? After a moment’s thought, Quill concluded that he would need to take a new shape to leave the building. One in business casual, ideally.

The morgue was on basement level four. Basement level three was, according to Ken, a “boring place for boring people,” which his visual memories yielded to be a wind-pattern analysis lab. Floor two housed a set of office suites - populated with “the pointy-haired bosses,” Secil chimed in - and floor one was used as storage. So, seeking a pointy-haired boss to emulate, Quill found himself wearing the Secilsuit, experimentally shifting his hands from his, to Secil’s gloves, and back again as he rode the elevator.

A ding sounded, and a mechanical voice informed Quill that the elevator had stopped at “Level. Three.” Wary, he shifted his hands back into Secil’s and waited.

The doors slid open with a soft rustling sound, and a gorgeous blonde woman wearing a white labcoat and small, circular glasses stepped aboard. The nametag clipped to her lapel read “ALBERTSON, CHRISTINE.” A glance down at her waist informed Quill that she was loosely carrying a manilla folder labeled “AERATION TRIAL PT. 1.” She bumped the button for the lobby, then took position next to Quill, each staring straight ahead.

Tension jangled up and down Quill’s nerves. His heightened sense of smell informed him that Christine had eaten an omelet for breakfast with ham, cheese, and peppers; that she was about thirty years old; and that she was currently menstruating. The coppery scent of her blood made his spine ache, and it took everything in him not to simply devour her right there and then. But this was too risky, he had already decided. Ken had been relatively clean, but Secil had left a huge mess behind. Even if he managed to get her completely absorbed before the elevator doors opened next, odds were decent that her death would splash blood on the elevator walls, and that certainly wouldn’t go over well with the security team at lobby-level.

They had reached floor two, and Quill had taken a full step out of the elevator when his concentration broke. Something rippled through his back foot. He prayed Christine wasn’t looking down, but-

“Careful big fella,” she said. “That boot’s gonna trip ya.”

Quill’s pulse thumped loudly in his temples as he pulled his back foot out of the elevator and glanced down at it. She wasn’t using a euphemism; “his” boot really was untied.

“Thanks,” he grunted over his shoulder before taking a knee to re-tie it as the elevator doors slid shut behind him. It was only after fumbling the knot twice that he remembered that all of his clothes were part of him, too. A moment’s impulse made the laces shoot back into the boot before re-emerging, tied, with a wet squelch. Footwear situation thusly resolved, Quill stood back up and inspected his surroundings.

He was standing on a thinly carpeted floor in a rectangular chamber. Two elevators were laid into the wall behind him and the wall directly opposite. To his left was a wall with a bulletin board on it (populated with neon-colored fliers advertising things like “company volleyball,” “corporate meet-and-greet”s, and “range-day rebate”s) and to his right, a T-intersection with hallways leading off on either side. Signs indicated that suites 0201-0217 ran down the left corridor while 0218-0238 ran down the right. With a shrug, Quill chose the 0218-0238 block, and turned right.

The hallway proceeded about fifteen feet before turning left. After the turn, the corridor stretched far, far away. The carpet pattern and the distance combined to give Quill a brief touch of vertigo. As he walked down the hall, he glanced at the crack under each door, searching for one that was occupied. Finally, suite 0233 gave him what he wanted: light streaming through underneath promised prey within. He knocked a short rhythm on the door.

“Come inside, sit down,” called a male voice from within. Quill obliged, pushing the door open.

The office space was not large, but it was home-y. A large wooden desk occupied much of the space, strewn across with papers and piles of folders. Pens, paperclips, highlighters, and loose sticky-notes littered the surface. Behind the desk, sat in an anemic-looking office chair, was a middle-aged man wearing a black polo and khakis. His hair was buzzed down into a military-style high-and-tight that failed utterly to conceal the streaks of grey that had begun to form. Enormous biceps pulled his sleeves taut, and just below the sleeve line, a barbed wire tattoo circled each arm. His hawkish face was thin and wrinkled with scowl lines, and a five o’clock shadow ran from his cheekbones to the underside of his jaw. A placard on the desk indicated that his name was Bryan Ironsides.

“Any relation?” asked Quill as he entered the room.

“What?” barked Bryan, face contorting into the scowl that his lined face strongly suggested was his default expression.

“The actor,” mumbled Quill - though Secil’s baritone made it more of a growl - “Michael Ironsides. Any relation?”

Bryan rolled his eyes upwards as if seeking aide from heaven. “No, Cutter. I, associate director of Silfina’s public relations and general punching bag of the c-suite am not related to famed Canadian actor Michael Ironside. Singular.”

“Oh, I see,” Quill accidentally growled again, “my bad.” He swung the door shut behind him.

“No, no,” said Bryan, “leave it cracked.”

“This conversation is privileged,” Quill growled once more, this time intentionally.

Bryan raised an eyebrow. “What could the autopsy team possibly have to tell me that’s privileged?”

As the door clicked shut behind him, Quill’s upper-spine “erection” began to tingle again. The tightness at the base of his skull was back, too, and his vision washed out but for Bryan, who glowed all over like an angel. He took a shuffling step towards the desk, jaw working left and right, eyes unblinking, locked into Bryan’s gaze.

“Cutter,” said Bryan, a warning tone creeping into his voice, “I need an explanation.”

Quill slouched, and his arms hung limp from his shoulders as he shuffled his way to the desk, staring Bryan down the whole way. When he arrived, he leaned forward on his hands, his whole upper body hanging over the desk, forcing Bryan to crane his neck upwards to look him in the eye. Quill’s entire body was trembling with anticipation now. An excitement that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be hunger or lust was pulsing through his being. Bryan smelled of sweat, whey protein, and waning testosterone. His musculature seemed almost effervescent, bubbling and twitching beneath his thin dermal layer with each pump of his heart. Quill’s jaw went slack, and a dribble of saliva slipped off his lower lip, dangling by a thin string of mucus.

“I’m gonna call security,” Bryan said as he went to reach for the desk phone. “You’re clearly having some kind of episode, and-”

Quill lunged for Bryan’s hand, flinging himself bodily up and onto the desk. He caught Bryan’s hand and rolled with it into Bryan’s body, knocking the chair backwards and onto the floor. Bryan shouted something as they fell, but Quill wasn’t listening anymore. As they landed together, Quill yielded his flesh (Secil’s hazmat suit, his own threadbare hoodie, his torso, Ken’s torso) and sank his grasping melt-flesh into Bryan’s vulnerable body. Bryan managed to scream for roughly half of a second before Quill melted his way through Bryan’s ribcage and consumed his lungs, putting a stop to his noise-making capabilities forever.

Bryan was acutely aware that Quill’s digestive tendrils were spreading all throughout his flesh. Muscle, bone, and nerve seared with a hideous pain he had never known as his body was dissolved from the inside-out. Each second seemed an eternity as Quill ate through him; first through his torso, then down, through his genitals, his legs, and then, at last, up his throat and into his head. In his final moments, Bryan’s world was one of endless suffering.

Quill shakily stood as the last remnants of Bryan’s skull sank into his body. Then the memories overpowered him, and he fell, nauseous, sweating, and trembling to his knees, clutching his head. His brain ached. Pulsing waves of pressure rolled through it as Bryan’s life integrated into his (and Secil’s and Ken’s).

Bryan was ex-military. He had served in the Gulf War, and had a head for combat. No-nonsense, no feelings, no-nothing but devotion to his cause. He had taken pride in his dedication to his orders, to his tasks. Although he never rose beyond petty officer, Bryan spent twelve years shooting at foreigners for Uncle Sam. Killed more than his fair share, too. Repressed memories of a tooth-necklace he had made as a trophy tickled the underside of Quill’s brain.

Said tooth-necklace was what wound up getting him out of the military. Turns out, commanding officers aren’t particularly fond of war crimes. But his CO respected him (weird and frightening though he was) and managed to convince him to retire when his tour ended the following month. Honorably discharged, Bryan was hired onto Silfina’s security team as a squad leader. That position lasted one month. During the shift that would end up being his last, Bryan was taunted by a teenager on the street outside the corporate headquarters. According to Bryan’s most recent memory of him, that teenager was now paralyzed.

Seeking to retain their asset but protect themselves against liability, Silfina’s c-suite moved Bryan to the public relations department as a form of ironic punishment. That led him to work on marketing for the Divinity Program, which in turn meant he had to regularly meet with the Program’s department heads. Drs. Evans, Phillips, Yuri, and-

The ache in Quill’s skull became a sharp bolt of agony. It seemed as though his brain would split, explode, self-obliterate from the inside as he probed Bryan’s memories of the Program. Then, just when he thought he could bear not one second more, Quill saw, and Quill knew.

Doctor number four’s full name was Dr. Quill Burnes.

The next thing Quill knew, he was regaining consciousness on his back on the floor behind Bryan’s desk. As he sat up, he looked down at his arms and saw that they were thick, muscular, and each had a barbed wire ring tattooed around the bicep. Apparently, he assessed, he had become Bryan during the feeding. This was convenient, since he intended to wear him out of the building. It did worry him slightly that his body hadn’t shifted, by default, into his own form, but he chose to ignore that fear for the time being. He stood, rubbing his temples and blinking hard to get the sleep-goop from his eyes. Then, with a start, he realized that Bryan’s eyes weren’t goopy. They were near-sighted. He must have been wearing contacts, which were now almost certainly being gently expelled from his body as dust somewhere. Fuck, he thought to himself. This threw a wrench in his whole plan to use the Bryansuit to get past security.

“Whatever,” he grunted aloud, trying out Bryan’s voice. “It’ll be fine. Just head through the security line, get patted down, and walk right on out the front doors.”

Even to himself, this sounded unconvincingly simple. But, lacking any other plan, Quill made his way out of Bryan’s office, down the hall, and into an empty elevator heading up to the lobby.

Upon the opening of the elevator doors, Quill found that the lobby was a large, open, oval space with a high ceiling, easily several stories high. The elevator bank was at the back of the lobby, behind a small check-in counter. Occupying the massive space in front of the check-in counter was the security checkpoint, which was composed of a series of extendable cordone-belt posts, arranged to create “in” lines and “out” lines, and several metal detectors. Armed security personnel filled the area, lining the cordones and staffing the metal detector. Quill decided, from a quick estimate, that there were easily twenty guards present. With a nervous sigh, he emerged from the elevator in the Bryansuit, and entered the left-most “out” line.

Getting through the line took some time, and Quill was quite anxious by the time he arrived at the metal detector. If he had still possessed a normally-functioning human body, he would have been sweating bullets. As it was, though, his impossibly clean skin oozed nothing from the pseudopores dotting its surface.

“Put any metal items in the tray,” a bored-looking security guard ordered him, holding out a small plastic bin. After a moment’s hesitation, Quill fished in his (Bryan’s) pockets. It was only with great effort that he was able to hide his surprise at finding that, although there was a hole in his (Bryan’s) pants, what lay within was not a traditional pocket but rather a stretchy, humid “womb.” It contained no metal objects, however, so he pulled out his empty hands and held them out, palms-up, to the security guard.

“Walk through the metal detector with your hands at head-height,” intoned the security guard. His eyes were half-lidded, and he looked to Quill like he might fall asleep at any moment.

Quill obeyed, and took three slow strides through the device with his hands up. The alarm triggered, and he looked over at the exhausted security guard inquisitively.

“Do you have any metal body-parts, such as a replaced hip, knee, or other joint?” asked the guard. His lines were well-rehearsed.

“I do,” Quill lied. “Metal hip. Still gives me fits when it rains.”

“Really? Huh, always thought you the athletic type,” said the guard. “Wait here for just a moment. You’re not in trouble, but I do need to go get the wand-detector.”

As the guard wandered off, another took his place to continue passing other employees through the line. Quill watched the guard trundle away, and, noting a limp, mentally assigned him the name “Limp.” Even before his bout with amnesia, Quill was never a creative man. Not that he knew this, of course.

Mildly impatient interest turned to worry as Quill saw the guard stop for a conversation with a much larger, bulkier guard. The two kept glancing over at him, and after thirty seconds or so of discussion, Limp hurried off towards the check-in desk and Big Guy strode purposefully towards Quill across the lobby.

This, Quill thought, was a bad sign. He’d been relying on his physiology being close enough to Bryan’s to not raise suspicion, but clearly there was something metal in his meat that had not been in Bryan’s body. His eyes darted nervously back and forth, scanning the lobby for an escape route. He was already on the other side of the checkpoint, mostly. Maybe if he just made a break for it-

“Mr. Ironsides,” boomed Big Guy as he approached. “Didn’t know you’d gotten that hip replaced. Me, I just got done paying for my ma’s hip swap.” He sidled up to the other side of the cordone barricade next to which Quill stood. “Hell of a healing time on it. ‘Pparently she’s not supposed to walk on it for at least a month. How long did it take you?”

Quill (Bryan) swallowed. “Just a couple weeks,” he choked out.

“Ah, lucky fella,” said Big Guy. “Say, though - it’s a little odd that your shiny new hip hasn’t pinged the metal detectors before, ain’t it?” The hair on the back of Quill’s (Bryan’s) neck stood on-end. Very suddenly, he realized that the situation had slipped out from under his control. Struggling to keep his voice even, he replied, “Yeah, I suppose it is, isn’t it?”

“Now, Mr. Ironsides, I’d never want to call you a liar,” Big Guy told him, “as that would be quite the accusation for me to make against an associate director such as yerself.” He dragged out the word “director” so that it instead became “die-rector.”

Quill’s eyes flicked wide for barely a quarter of a second, but even this tiny tell was too much. Understanding settled on Big Guy’s face, and his eyes narrowed.

“That being said, I’m gonna need you to turn out your pockets, sir,” Big Guy ordered. “I hate to ask this, of course.” His face suggested that this was a lie. “But it’s procedure.”

“I can’t,” Quill said slowly, “they’re sewn to the inside of these pants. Sorry.”

“I see,” replied Big Guy. There was an awkward, momentary silence as Big Guy looked Quill (Bryan) up and down, clearly sizing him up. “I’m gonna have to frisk your pockets, then,” he decided, and he set to unclipping the cordone barricade to step through.

The cold rush of panic shot up and down Quill’s body. Yeah, he thought, the situation was firmly out of his hands now. Nothing left to do but decide: Run now, or run later?

Big Guy had gotten the barricade unclipped and retracted by the time Quill made his choice. He bolted, and was immediately tackled by Big Guy, who was yelling something he couldn’t make out. He fell face-down, with Big Guy on his back. His teeth clacked painfully together as his chin slammed into the tile floor, breaking it. A brief second of terrible pain shot through his jaw, but only a brief second. Gooseflesh ran over his body as Quill realized his jaw had knit itself back together in less time than it took for him to fully comprehend that it had been broken in the first place. Perhaps, he thought, he was less vulnerable than he had initially assumed.

Big Guy had gotten ahold of his wrists, and was now brutally yanking them behind his back. If his body had been what it once was, Quill was sure his shoulders would have been broken. A flash of anger and predatory hunger flushed through his system. How dare this man - no, this insect - lay a hand on him? Everywhere their bodies met, Quill’s flesh softened.

Big Guy so rarely got to indulge in Security Work. The PD had rejected his application due to an adverse mental health report. Personally, he had resented this fact. He hadn’t even been diagnosed with a full disorder, just a borderline one, and even that was just a personality disorder, nothing serious. If he was just on the borderline, why couldn’t they just look past it? This resentment fueled his career working for the Silfina security team. Now, he got to let some of it out on Bryan Ironsides, Squad Dickhead Extraordinaire. When first hired on, he’d been placed in Bryan’s squad. In fact, he’d tried to handle the Rude Teenager Incident - that ultimately saw Bryan reassigned - himself. Revenge had never felt so sweet. As he sat on Bryan’s back and yanked his wrists around, he felt a burning pleasure forming in his groin and hands. Ahh, he thought to himself, this was what he wanted to do with his life. Take the freedom of other men.

It was only when he tried to release his grip with his right hand, so that he could reach back for the handcuffs on his toolbelt, that pleasure turned to pain. The burning that had felt so good a moment before was suddenly quite painful. Worse still, it kept getting hotter, and he couldn’t seem to pull his hand away. He was sending the command to release his grip, he was certain of this, but his nerves weren’t responding. It felt like being electrocuted: muscles painfully taut, unable to stop seizing.

“Backup! Backup! I need-” his call-outs terminated in an abrupt yelp as the burning sensation in his hand increased tenfold. Looking down with wide eyes, he found that Bryan’s wrists and his own hands were melting, melting together into a single mass with no beginning or end and-

Big Guy was screaming, and Quill had a spinerection. With perfect precision, he could feel his own flesh digesting, dissolving, and integrating Big Guy’s hands. First the skin and meat was dissolved, then the bones, and then their arms were joined as one, giving Quill two skin-lined tunnels to worm his digestive tissue through. Up, up, up Big Guy’s arms he went, pureeing muscle and tendon and bone.

Agony of this type was something for which Big Guy’s brain was fundamentally unable to prepare. Although he took great pleasure in getting to slap around the occasional rule violator, Big Guy had never tried to think too hard about what it must feel like for any of said violators in his whole career. After all, they deserved what was coming to them. This meant that now, experiencing the terror and excruciation of being digested from the inside-out, Big Guy had no response prepared except an animalistic squeal. And squeal he did. Like a wounded sow, Big Guy jerked and thrashed atop Bryan’s prone form.

Other security personnel were rushing to the scene, weapons drawn, but Big Guy’s howls of agony were reverberating distractingly off the tile floor and hard concrete walls. Even if he hadn’t been distracting them, none of them knew what to do when they couldn’t determine where the target ended and their colleague began. One of them had to vomit when she saw Big Guy’s mouth start spraying blood through his screams.

What she didn’t know, but what Big Guy was acutely aware of, was the fact that his internal organs were being liquified. The blood making its way out of his mouth was from the dissolution of the organ that had once been his stomach. His body felt like it was burning from the inside out, as if someone had opened a gateway to the sun in the pit of his stomach. Even worse, despite having no idea what Bryan was or what he was capable of, Big Guy could feel the meatshake inside his skinbag sloshing within. A mental image of a fully-wrapped fly being liquified for consumption by a spider was all Big Guy could think about as his spine and ribs were dissolved, and, lacking a skeleton to maintain its structure, his existence was transformed into that of an agonized skinsack of organ-remains. Like a beanbag chair, his body collapsed on top of Bryan. Still alive, still terrified, and still trapped in agony that covered every speck of his being, Big Guy found himself face-down in Bryan’s hair, unable even to continue his panicked shrieks due to his lungs having been pureed.

Quill yielded his flesh where the skinbag that had been Big Guy touched. They melded and became one, with no tearing or seam. The sack of digesting human being on his back that housed a still-conscious Big Guy perfectly joined with Quill’s form, spilling not even a single drop of precious human life. Realizing how the situation looked for the rest of the security team, Quill got an idea.

When his skinsack joined Quill’s form, Big Guy was made privy, briefly, to Quill’s consciousness. Although Quill was unaware of it, and although his flesh, once fully consumed, would retain no memory of it, Big Guy got to briefly see Quill’s true nature before the digestive flesh that had wormed its way around his skull beneath the thin skin covering it managed to work their way through the bone. All human faculties destroyed, Big Guy was in for one final torture before he would receive the mercy of death: slow dissolution of his brain. Through their shared consciousness, Big Guy was informed that Quill’s anger was slowing the digestive process. Big Guy’s very existence, his sense of self, his memories, his personality, were all being melted away as Quill’s enzymes worked their way through his grey matter. Like whittling layers off of wood, layer after layer of tissue was dissolved, and as it went, Big Guy’s very essence felt like it, too, had been thrown into the sun. Searing agony bored through his brain, shattering whatever remained of his sanity, before he finally perished. Big Guy died an animal, with no brain tissue remaining beyond a small knot at the base of what had once been his skull.

Blissfully unaware of Big Guy’s agony, and in fact, lost in the near-orgasm his upper-spine was undergoing, Quill was trying out his idea. By stretching Big Guy’s skin over his own body before integrating it, he hoped to seamlessly transform into him. It seemed to be going fairly well, too. He felt the skin mold and integrate with his own, covering him. He felt his features shifting and changing beneath his new meat, altering to match Big Guy’s bone structure. By the time Big Guy’s misery finally ended, Quill was Big Guy, whose name he learned was, defying all belief, Thorn. Specifically, Johnathan Thorn, though his memories indicated that he would not answer to his first name or any variant of it. His memories also indicated that he had a particular hatred for Bryan, which, Quill considered with some chagrin, did explain why things had gone downhill so suddenly.

“Let me see your fucking hands!” screamed a male voice, originating about fifteen feet from Quill’s head, breaking his reverie. Slowly, he obeyed, sliding his hands from his sides, where they had landed during the digestion process, along the tile and up, in front of his head.

“It’s me,” he tried out, in Thorn’s voice. “Don’t shoot.”

The security team glanced at one another nervously. What had just happened in front of them was quite beyond their comprehension.

“Mr. Thorn?” one of them asked, hesitantly.

“That’s right,” Quill responded, cautiously lifting himself up onto his knees, hands still up by his head. “I’m fine, I’m fine,” he said, doing his best to sound winded and shocky, but otherwise unharmed.

After a beat, a young guard took a shaky step towards Quill, and asked, “What the fuck was that?”

“I don’t know,” lied Quill, rubbing his temples. That’s right, he thought. Put on the “exhausted colleague” routine. “Listen,” he said, kicking one foot up to put his weight on, “I need you to-”

“Don’t you fucking move!” echoed a much deeper male voice from behind the security team. “I’ll handle this mess myself.”

Looking out, over the heads of the security team, Quill saw a giant. At least, he saw a man built very much like a giant. A security man wearing a blast-proof flak jacket with limbs like tree-trunks was approaching the scene. He towered over the others, reaching easily eight feet in height, but was still so wide that he did not appear lanky - the opposite, in fact. The man was the closest thing a human being can be to a tank.

“I don’t know what the hell you are, or what the hell you think you’re gonna do,” the Tank’s voice filled the space. “But here’s the deal.” He pushed two security team members out of the way by their shoulders. His hands were bigger than their heads. “You’re gonna stand up, and you’re gonna come with me. Then we’re gonna go back down to the labs to have a little debrief.”

Quill stood, rising to Thorn’s full height, which suddenly felt very short indeed. “I outrank you, shitheel,” he tried.

“The fuck you do,” Tank replied, continuing his gorilla-swagger to Quill. “You’re coming with me, little man,” he grunted as he reached for Quill’s shoulder.

Rather than sticking around to find out whether he could consume someone so large, Quill chose the path of tactical retreat. In a flash, he had turned and was sprinting for the glass doors and enormous windows that composed the front of the facility. The ground shook behind him as Tank took off after him, and frantic gunfire rattled off behind them.

Tank was gaining on him, Quill knew it without looking back. The booming footsteps were getting so much closer, so quickly. Although he would later discover he didn’t need to breathe at all, the basic biological instinct to breathe more heavily when running nonetheless triggered anyway.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,” he huffed to himself as he ran.

Then Tank roared and crashed to the floor behind him. “You fucking morons,” he heard Tank shouting. “When I figure out who just shot me, I’m gonna take you apart by hand-

Tank was interrupted by the shattering of glass. Quill hadn’t even tried to aim for a door. Instead, he shoulder-checked his way through one of the giant window panes, and took off down the street. By the time the security team had left the building, he was around the block. Although Silfina security personnel spent the next eight hours combing through the surrounding area, they never did manage to recover Thorn’s body.

The Groom

A story of revenge.


The rounded head of my hammer struck the side of Brad’s midsection. Beneath its heft I felt two of his ribs crack, reverberating through the handle, along my arm, and up into my teeth.

“God, why?” he shrieked as I reared back for another blow.

“You know why.” I spat into his lap.

Brad was tied to a wooden dining room chair. I had come over a few hours earlier under the guise of sharing a particularly fine whiskey with him. He was ironically easy to drug.

I was what we will call “a bad kid.” By the time I was a freshman in high school, I had already developed a strong hand with a spray can. My friends, hoodrats that they were, admired my work enough to begin trying to copy the pattern. We worked so hard at our art, in fact, that I and two others - Kyle and the aforementioned Brad - failed our first go-round at year one. As a fifteen-year-old sophomore, armed with increasingly loaded friends, a spraycan, and a scary-sharp switchblade, I was pulling girls twice my year. Once I even managed to visit the bedrooms of a senior and a freshman in the same night. They were sisters, but still.

I was slated to graduate at nineteen. That did not come to pass, however, as in April of that year I finally got too cocky and broke into the school to leave a mural in the gym. The school apparently had numerous security cameras that I had failed to take into consideration, so instead of walking at graduation, I instead walked into county for petty vandalism. The judge who sent me there was an old, old man whose voice sounded like the rasping gasp of a mummy buried for fifteen thousand years. But under his severe, decrepit exterior, I saw who he really was, who he had been: a little scar across the eyebrow, a laser-removal discoloration from a long-gone neck tattoo, a crooked nose. He understood. And he was lenient.

Finally, at age twenty, I graduated from high school. During my stint in jail, Brad, Kyle, and two new friends we had picked up in our high school career - Matthew and Clay - had graduated, but they didn’t forget me. In fact, I almost failed that year again, but this time due to spending too much time bringing girls to their house parties to drink. How their parents never caught wind of this, I never knew. As for my own parents, they gave up trying to shape me early on. My visit to county was no surprise to them, and seemingly no disappointment either. I was not an only child. My two sisters had graduated long before me. But I was the last, and if that hadn’t been evident enough from the empty home in which I was raised, then it certainly became evident when my parents decided that trying to raise me was more effort than they cared for.

Yep, high school was pretty great for me and the boys. Kyle introduced us to the magic of cocaine before any of us turned eighteen. Brad’s step-dad bought us booze. And Matt and Clay? Well, put it this way: They knew which girls came from broken homes.


My hammer’s rounded head descended on Brad’s helpless form once more, this time on his kneecap. The strange sensation of another man’s bones breaking beneath my ministrations went up into my teeth again, but was somehow different. It felt less alien, this time. Easier.

Brad’s head snapped back and his eyes glazed over, darting wildly across the ceiling, as he loosed a guttural howl.

“Don’t be such a baby,” I mocked as he ran out of air, “it can still get so much worse.”

“We just wanted,” he gurgled around his own terrified snot and tears, choked, and tried again, “just wanted to help.”

A bitter laugh crawled from my throat. “Oh yeah? ‘Help’ is what you want to call it?”

Brad’s head had lolled forward against his chest now. I could see pinpricks of sweat beading along the browline of his high ‘n’ tight black hair, running down his temple to his jaw, and falling between his legs to the chair below. In lieu of response, he simply groaned - or tried to groan, as it quickly turned into a terrified whimper.

“So much worse,” I whispered to myself as I took a swing at his shoulder.

You might think that a bunch of nearly-dropouts like ourselves would have gone on to burn out in a ditch somewhere, each dying a junkie’s death of exposure or overdose. But life has a funny way of rewarding assholes. Yes, I know we were assholes. I know a lot of things that my ignorant, feral younger self didn’t know. Couldn’t know, really. None of us graduated with GPAs worth a shit, but we had the good fortune of having been raised in a college town. Middleton Q. Ginglewich University (or, as we called it, “Midwich U,”) had an on-going scholarship program for underperforming local youths just like ourselves. It was designed to, in some way, give back to the small village the school had completely bowled over in the last three or so decades. I don’t think any of us originally planned to apply to any sort of college, but somehow Clay had caught wind of this scholarship program and thought that we, in his words, could “find dumbass drunk fucking college chick strange! Co-eds, dude! Girls what don’t know how much to drink yet!” This last remark was always accompanied by either an actual or implied wink. The girls may well have known how much they could drink, but the pocket full of pills hanging inside Clay’s camo cargo shorts would make their knowledge useless. So, at his recommendation, we all met at Clay’s place on a weekend while his parents were on a Vegas bender. We split an 8-ball, each drank enough beer to embarrass a feudal king, and filled out our Midwich U and scholarship applications.

Brad’s shoulder broke with a gratifying crunch beneath my hammer. He jerked to the opposite side and let out a keening wail that cut into my abdomen and took hold of my lower intestine. In a fit of rage, I swung back, and then forward down onto his groin. I don’t know why I didn’t expect that to make the screaming worse. From the strength of the blow and the reaction from Brad, I’m certain I completely obliterated his testicles. His legs and hips began to shake uncontrollably and his keening wail pitched up into a register I never thought he could enter. His face wrenched into an expression of the purest, most exquisite agony I had ever seen. He soon ran out of air and began to hyperventillate and squeal.

“Not so fucking funny when you’re the one having your life ruined, is it, dickhead?” I laughed at his suffering.

In response he twisted his head to look at me through tear-drenched eyes. He tried to speak, but only a hissing gasp came out. I smiled and waited as he tried to speak, but found his diaphragm was twitching too hard for him to do so, three or four more times. Finally, though, he managed to get a few words out. “I’m sorry,” he wheezed, barely below a stage whisper, “help meEEEEEEE-”

I interrupted him by swinging the sharpened, nail-removing end of the hammer up into his chin, where it punctured the soft, dangling tissue beneath his mouth and impaled his jaw.

EEEEEEEEE-” he continued to squeal.

For a moment I found myself struck dumb by the thought that, if a fish on a line could scream, it would probably look and sound a lot like Brad here. Then, laughing quietly at my own thoughts, I gave the hammer a good, two-handed tug, and broke his fucking jaw off.

Moving day out of my parents’ home was uncomfortable. Mom and dad had, as I outlined before, written me off long ago, so I didn’t expect any tearful good-byes or see-you-soons. But, nonetheless, as I slammed shut the trunk of the hatchback I had bought from Matthew’s middle-aged aunt for fifty bucks and one no-holds-barred night of methamphetamine fueled passion, my dad awkwardly made his way down the front driveway to see me off.

“Well, son,” he meandered. “Guess this is it. All grown up now. Outta the house.”

“Yeah,” I grunted.

“Sad to see you go,” he said, turning his head to look at the hatchback’s a-pillar and away from me.

“No you’re not,” I snapped.

“No,” he admitted with some chagrin. “I’m happy to see you go-”

“Fucking great,” I barked, “me too.”

“Look,” he turned to stare me down, eyes suddenly aflame with a bubbling resentment and hate I had thought him incapable of possessing. “We did everything we could, and you-”

“And I,” I interrupted again, “found a way to live my fucking life without your fake ass fucking bullshit pity!”

He back-handed me and I recoiled, grabbing my stinging cheek. “Ungrateful wretch,” he growled, “we kept you fed, clothed, and housed while you,” his voice rose to a shout, and I was suddenly acutely aware that our neighbors could certainly hear him, “squandered every fucking opportunity to grow, every fucking chance to-”

“Fuck you, old man!” I straightened back up and screamed in his face. Though I try not to remember it this way, I know my voice broke, and I sounded like the immature child I was. “I don’t need you, your bullshit, or your whore wife’s-”

He slugged me in the gut and, as I doubled over, kneed me in the face. I fell sideways onto the grass, hands wrapped around my jaw, feeling it for breaks.

Fine,” he said. “You don’t want your family anymore? Then you don’t fucking have one.” He spat on my face, turned, stalked back up the driveway, and slammed the door, leaving me outside laying on his lawn, face swollen and red from the blows and a shame I couldn’t keep myself from feeling.

Brad’s jaw ripped from his face in a spray of his blood and viscera. Pulled taught by the hammer, torn tendons and shredded muscle tissue snapped and sprang back, slapping him along the cheeks, sending flecks of blood and tiny fatty fragments flying across his lap and my chest.

“See,” I shouted at him over the wet, gurgling screams fighting to make their way out of his quickly-filling throat-stump, “now I’m gonna have to steal one of your fucking shirts, too!”

There was no response from Brad, who simply began to choke as he ran out of air. We stayed there together for a while, he and I, his terrified eyes staring into mine, silently begging me for help as he aspirated his own blood. When a man begins to drown, his eyes take on a peculiar tone. He knows his life is ending. And in Brad’s case, he knew exactly who was doing it to him, and why. This, I think, accentuated his suffering like salt accentuates a meat’s flavor.

“Well, Brad,” I leaned in close to his face, hands on my knees, as his eyes began to cloud from want of oxygen, “looks like this is it. Last stop.”

Eyes still foggy and unseeing, he shook his head violently and made one last desperate attempt to squirt the blood from his clogged esophagus. This attempt failed, and he finally, finally felt remorse. I saw it in his eyes. It is rare for a man to feel genuine guilt for his crimes, I think, but Brad certainly did, during those final seconds of his life.

“If there’s a Hell,” I whispered, barely an inch from his face, “I think you’ll fit in just fine.”

What little spark remained in his eyes dulled and their subtle movements stilled over the next few seconds as the life drained from Brad’s body. Then, limp at last, his head lolled forward once more, and a river of blood began to stream from his stump onto his lap.

One down. Three to go.

The rest of my move into the Midwich U dorms was fueled by my hatred for my dad. I know, upon retrospect, that I should have hated my mom too, but I didn’t. Towards her I felt only apathy. She did her best, I guess. Or maybe she didn’t. I’m partial to the neglect theory now, as an adult, but at the time I couldn’t find it in me to really blame her.

The boys helped me move in. I don’t think I’d ever describe any of them as generous, but they all clearly wanted me there with them. All-in-all it only took an hour or so to get everything inside and my half of my room set up. Matt and Clay had gotten a room together, as had Kyle and Brad, but regrettably none of them wanted to sleep near me due to a problem observed and described by all as “sleep-masturbating.” To this day I don’t know whether this was something I actually did, or merely something they thought would be funny to convince me I did, but regardless, the school placed me in a room with a much younger kid named Tyler.

Tyler was a good boy until we got ahold of him. Never a straight-A student, mind, but he had gotten through high school with high Bs and without ever trying cocaine. We remedied that situation on our first night together.

Brad’s keys were hanging on a hook by the door to his garage. I snagged them and made my way into the darkened garage using the flashlight on his phone, which I had stolen off the armrest of the couch on which I had roofied him. By the flashlight’s glow I made my way to his BMW, clicked the fob eliciting a chirp from the vehicle and a spark from the turn indicators, and slid into the driver’s seat. His garage door opener was clipped to the sun visor. I made sure to shut it again after I had rolled the car out. No reason, I figured, for him to be found sooner than necessary.

Tyler took to us disgracefully well. In less than a month, I couldn’t see any trace of the high-performing accounting major I met on move-in day. Gone were his dress shirts and slacks, in were cut-off t-shirts and ripped jeans. The man liked to drink, but more than he liked to drink, he liked blow, and brother let me tell you there was more than enough of it. My parents had cut me off, of course, but Brad’s step-dad saw a lot of himself in Brad and kept us loaded - or at least, loaded enough to keep visiting Kyle’s contact. Lord almighty, to this day I don’t know how any of us survived that first month.

Next on the list was Kyle. Kyle and Brad had always been close and, true to form, had bought houses just a few blocks from one another. Well, I say “bought.” Neither of them had the money to ever buy, as in purchase, a dwelling. They rented. Well, I say “rented.” Neither of them had the money to rent anything, either, but towards the end of our time at Midwich U, Kyle’s parents bit it in a car crash. They had, we then learned, taken out hefty life insurance policies and arranged for an accountant to manage the money, which Kyle found convenient. Where once he had called his parents when he was broke, he now just called Mr. Carrieworth. His overall lifestyle, therefore, only improved after the departure of dear ol’ mom and dad. With their family home now vacant, Kyle immediately sold it at well under its value so he could move to be near Brad.

The home he rented near Brad was a tear-down. This, he had once told me, was a tactical decision. He was, after all, still a huge fan of cocaine and preferred to, as he put it, “buy in bulk like an adult.” The worse his house looked, the less likely it was to be broken into, he reasoned. Perhaps this reasoning was correct, but personally I would have taken my chances in a building without roach nests in the walls. Whatever. The dilapidated state of his house proved useful to me now, at least.

BMW parked at the curb, I made my way up Kyle’s driveway to his porch. The screen door had fallen off long before he had moved in, and only the rotting wooden main door remained. This door gave way easily from one quick whack of the hammer against its knob. It groaned painedly as it swung open into Kyle’s darkened living room.

“Kyle?” I greeted hesitantly.

A loud, apneatic snore came as the reply. How convenient.

Slowly, to allow my eyes to adjust, I entered the main living area in Kyle’s tear-down. Though the space was fairly large, all that it contained was a ceiling fan (broken), a couch (rotting, full of insects and currently also Kyle), and a television (no cable service) placed on the floor opposite the couch. Oh, and it also contained bugs. Lots of them.

Kyle had a high tolerance for the disgusting, or at least had developed one in the two years since he’d dropped out. There was, upon retrospect, an incident in the dorms involving two co-eds, anal sex, a severe lactose allergy, and a distinct lack of cleaning supplies that may have broken Kyle’s grossometer. High tolerance for nastiness aside, though, Kyle was also a man who thought himself High Class. This, incidentally, was the reason behind our exposure to cocaine in high school: he felt it was a classy businessman’s drug, not like the “faggot stoner burnouts” who “wouldn’t stop fucking smoking fucking dope” behind the school dumpsters. A High Class Man would, in Kyle’s mind, make at least a nominal attempt to put a stop to the roaches, so scattered around the crumbling structure were numerous roach motels. It would take a little time for me to properly leverage them, but I figured it would be worth it.

By the end of our first semester, I had managed to score five two-girl threesomes, one uncomfortably homosexual two-man threesome, and more one-time hookups than I could count. All thanks to Clay, of course. He always did have a way with women.

Tyler took a month or so to get comfortable with our party routine, but by October, he was out tearing it up, drinking it down, and sticking it in like we were. God, how the time flew. Looking back on it now, there are weeks that blurred into days. I liked to imagine it was primarily due to our collective coke diet, but in actual fact I think essentially all of us started mixing a not-insignificant amount of meth into our diet too. It wasn’t until I had flunked the spring semester that I started to consider the fact that if we didn’t turn things around, we’d get kicked out, and what would we do then? Get real jobs? Try to meet chicks at bars? Good lord, they would all be over twenty-one, barely even worth the effort. So the following fall, the boys and I had what my eldest sister would have called a “come to Jesus” meeting.

Kyle was still snoring the sort of snore that a man can only emit after losing large swathes of his nasal tissue to a coke habit by the time I had finished my preparations. Using his scissors, I had cut open a handful of roach motels and removed the fragments with bait-scent on them. These plastic shards I then dropped into an enormous empty plastic container that, the label on the side assured, had once contained cheese-balls. I then laid the container on its side by the wall with the most roaches around it, and waited.

Sure enough, within a few moments, what seemed like thousands of roaches poured out of the wall and into the jug. With a quickness to which I am unaccustomed, I snatched the jug off the floor and slammed on the lid before any of the horrible things could escape onto my skin. If I spilled them, I would probably have woken up Kyle, and while I could do this another way, I felt that this method would be the most satisfying. Then it occurred to me: Kyle would need to be restrained. How was I to accomplish this? I hadn’t thought to bring a rope, or to buy a paralytic agent. For a few awful seconds, I stood there in his darkened living room, left arm wrapped around a jug filled with live roaches, and sweated in irrational terror. I could do this another way, of course. But dammit, dammit, dammit, I wanted to do it this way! It had to be this way! But as quickly as it hit me, the terror passed, and I knew what my solution would be.

“Fuck off,” Kyle had snorted dismissively. “We already paying-”

“We’re not paying for shit, Kyle,” I had interrupted him. “Scholarship, remember?”

Clay nodded along. Kyle did not.

“I don’t like having to buy our way outta this crap any more than you do, but you know what I do like?”

Kyle grunted resentfully.

“I like girls, I like beer, I like fucking girls while drinking beer.” I counted up to three on my fingers for emphasis. “Do you know what happens if the school makes us leave?”

Kyle just glowered at me.

“No more girls,” Matt contributed from behind me. “No more beer.”

“Well, not ‘no more beer,’” added Brad, “I mean, it’s not like the gas station will stop serving us if the school kicks us out.”

“But certainly no more ‘fucking girls while drinking beer,’” I pointed out. “Look, you all like college pussy, right?”

The boys nodded and murmured their general agreement.

“And until now, it’s been free, right? Minus Clay’s fee, of course,” I said, nodding deferentially towards Clay.

They all nodded and murmured again, and Clay smiled proudly.

“Well, all that changes now, is it’s not quite so free no more,” I concluded. “There’s services for this shit. We go online, send someone our homework, PayPal them a handful of bucks, and keep slippin’ on through.”

“Slippin’ on through the pussy!” Matt shouted joyfully.

“Exactly,” I laughed and nodded, “exactly.”


It was happening again. My hammer was impacting part of one of my best friends and cracking their bones beneath my grip. This time I was breaking Kyle’s hips.


There. Got both before he fully regained consciousness.

Then he yowled in surprise and pain as he awoke completely to discover me, standing over him, and his hips, broken. “W-what the fuck, dude!?” he yelled up at me, sleep still coloring his voice.

“Kyle,” I intoned, voice flat and even, “good to see you again.”

I brought the hammer down on his shoulder. He tried to throw up an arm to protect himself, but the sleep still weighed heavily on his body, and he was too slow. The joint of his shoulder cracked, and the ball slipped out of it with a dull pop.

This time he screamed a far more lucid scream. Then, gasping and trying not to squirm too much, lest he hurt his shattered hips further, he looked searchingly up at me and choked out, “Fucking why!?”

“You took everything from me,” I told him before slamming the hammer into his remaining good shoulder, eliciting another squealing yell. I could barely imagine the pain and horror he must have been feeling, going from a comfortable heroin-nap into this torture at the hands of someone he thought a friend. Trying to imagine it nonetheless made me giddy, like a kid about to lose his virginity.

“What,” his breath hitched and he sobbed before trying again, “What did I even do!?”

“You may not have hired her,” I growled, “but you took the shots. You showed them off. You told her the lies.”

“It wasn’t,” he gasped out, “just me, you know this.” He tried to push himself into a seated position but, of course, none of his limbs obeyed. With a brief squeak, he fell back onto the couch, helpless.

“I know,” I said with a smile, and dangled Brad’s BMW keys an inch over Kyle’s head.

His eyes widened. “Oh fuck,” he whimpered, “am I number two?”

“You’re a real piece of shit, alright,” I joked as I put down the hammer and hefted the roach jar.

“Wait, wait,” he begged, realization dawning on his face. “Please, please, Greg, please, I swear to god,” he became hysterical. Tears ran freely down his cheeks and despite his agony he squirmed where he lay trapped. “I didn’t mean for it to go this far, Greg, you gotta believe me, Greg please-”

His voice pitched up an entire octave as he saw me unscrew the lid on the roach jug.

“God, no!” he screamed. “Anything but this! Not like this!”

I leaned down close and held the roach jug in hands that trembled from excitement. Oh, to hear his terror, to know he was now, over the course of this ten minute interaction, experiencing all the horror and fear and sadness and betrayal that I have been sitting on for the last year. When I tell you it was as close to orgasm as a man can get without porking, I make no exaggeration.

“Please!” he sobbed openly, unashamedly. “Please, please, please not like this not like this not like this-”

He went on chanting even as I flipped the jug over and mashed the opening over his mouth.

“When I’m not looking, you. Are. Some. One. Else,” crooned the song playing over the frat house stereo. One of the boys - I think it was Matt, but honestly it could have been any of them - had scored us an invite to the Delta Epsilon Kappa Halloween party during our sophomore year. I was collapsed on a couch, a joint of the finest Gorilla Glue I’ve smoked to this day hanging limply from the edge of my mouth. It had been one week more than two months since our “come to Jesus” meeting, and I was the only one still taking the routine seriously. Each week, we were supposed to get our assignments, pool them into one large document on Google Drive, and then send them to a kid Clay’s brother knew online who ran a small group of completed-homework-peddlers. By mid-September I was the only one who still bothered, and it had begun to occur to me that mayhaps my friends were somewhat less clever than I had originally taken them for. Depression hung from my head over the rest of my body like a blanket woven from my own overgrown, unkempt hair.

“Hey,” sighed a beautiful woman as she sank into the couch next to me. Her flawless, platinum blonde hair flowed across her shoulders like mercury and her angular, hawk-like features accentuated her crystal-clear blue eyes. She turned to look at me, and I let my head fall to the side to look at her, and when our eyes met, I swear to you on my life, my mother’s life, and whatever god or God you hold dear, that she saw straight through my soul. She saw the weakness inside of me, the gnawing pit made by parents who never gave a shit, the pointless rage and hate and casual cruelty that I had used to cover up that pit. My very essence was laid bare to her, in that moment, and she forgave me.

I opened my mouth to speak.

Roaches flowed like liquid from the mouth of the jug into the mouth of Kyle, thousands of legs skittering, grabbling, clawing, clicking and clattering. His eyes flew wide open in terror and he tried to wriggle his head free with his neck, but he was far too weak from his wounds and the heroin he had all but certainly mainlined prior to my arrival. A muffled scream made its way around the edges of the jug, but was quickly choked and silenced as hundreds of my tiny brown soldiers flooded his mouth, throat, and sinuses, their chitin scraping his soft tissues and their teeth tearing his flesh. Kyle’s whole body thrashed, and his wild eyes locked onto mine, and he silently screamed with them, Do something! Do something to stop this! Please, God, end this suffering I am so fucking sorry for all I’ve done please forgive me-

Matthew, Bradley, Kyle, Clayton, and Tyler had dropped out by the next January. I made sure all my homework got done - not by me of course, but done - and they didn’t. That’s just the way it is. And though I did miss them, I found the spring semester actually went by very quickly.

The girl I met at the DEK party turned out to be named Caroline, but she preferred Lenny. I fell for her immediately, of course. I didn’t stop partying similarly quickly, but instead tapered off. The boys had naught but disdain for this choice, try though I did to help them learn to slow their roll a little like I had done. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful.

Lenny became my whole world by the time the spring semester began. With the boys out of my hair, she had time to convince me to start actually making an attempt at learning the material I was theoretically studying. When finals rolled around that May, we, in the middle of an all-night study session, finally made love. We didn’t fuck. We didn’t have sex. We made love. Our bodies rolled and bucked and moved and, yes, came together in an expression of utmost devotion. For hours after, while we were still trying to study, we would occasionally glance over at the other and just laugh, a pure, blissful laugh. We held one another as we worked. When the morning rolled around and we had to go actually take the final, I didn’t even feel the sleep deprivation.

Kyle’s terror had given me an erection, the first one I had since that shameful night last year. He, however, would never know this, as he was at that moment drowning in roaches. As much as he, or perhaps you, reader, might hope that I am speaking figuratively, I am not: Kyle’s windpipe was clogged with a flood of insects, crawling, biting, clawing at his unnaturally expanded nasal cavity, his esophagus, his lungs, his stomach, eager to feast on his helpless flesh. He shook violently all over as his body struggled to clear itself of the tiny invaders, but regrettably, the human form is just not made to expel a hundred furious roaches.

Realizing what must be done, Kyle began to chew for his life. The snap and crunch of the creatures beneath his teeth echoed through the jug, amplifying the sound. The muscles around the edges of his jaw tightened and tensed, struggling to work through the flood of chitinous exoskeleton. Between his lips I snagged a glimpse of what seemed to be a million legs and wings, caught in his teeth and giving them the impression of having fur. Then, as he tried to bite down once more, Kyle’s jaw locked (I guessed from lack of oxygen). His eyes rolled back up to meet mine, and we held eye contact as his death throes weakened. Eventually the flood of roaches subsided, but there were already far too many filling his upper body’s previously-empty spaces. Mouth still full of putrid insect parts, Kyle tried to mouth a request for help with the last of his strength. I nearly came as his eyes dulled and his face went slack.

Two down. Two to go.

Lenny and I spent that summer in each other’s arms. For the first time, I had someone who genuinely understood me, who loved me, who trusted me. She had seen my past, and seen what it had done to me, and wanted to walk away from it with me. We loved, we ate, we drank in moderation, we made merry. Once a week or so, I’d get a call from one of the boys asking me to hang out with them, but I turned them all down. They had refused to change when life came a-callin’.

Once they were kicked out of school, they were forced to get real jobs. In less than a month, Tyler realized how much we had helped him torpedo his future. He left us each a voicemail filled with fury and tears at what “we had done to him.” I felt bad at first, but Lenny convinced me that this was a manipulation tactic, and that he had done it to himself by choosing to join us. Her wisdom made accepting his suicide almost frightfully easy.

The other four fared better. Matthew and Clay found night-security work at our town’s Amazon distribution facility. Apparently being big and stupid were the two job requirements there. Brad ended up working at McDonald’s, where he was promoted to manager. Kyle, as I mentioned, inherited a shitload of money and spent much of it buying drugs for himself and Brad. Essentially every weekend, they would get together “for a ho hunt,” they would say while inviting me. This, I at first assumed and was later told, involved cruising the bars closest to campus for girls obviously under 21. The boys would get her drunk (courtesy of Clay), find her real ID, and blackmail her with it. This tactic was dishearteningly successful.

I kept my distance. Caroline was the only woman, no, the only person for me now. That summer, I experienced growth that I could never have imagined. Life suddenly had meaning, other people suddenly had humanity, and my past suddenly had regrets. She showed me a new way to live, and I embraced it. All the while, the texts and voicemails from the boys got first aggressive, then distant. It hurt me to watch them fall away like that, but every time I tried to help them like she had helped me, they laughed in my face. Whatever, I thought. It’s fine, they’re wasting their own time.

Clayton lived in a trailer. One might assume this meant he owned a truck, but one would be incorrect. Clayton owned a battery-powered low-CC dirtbike that he had stolen from a child. He defended this dirtbike viciously with a machete (also stolen). Sprinkled throughout the curtilage surrounding the trailer were a number of poorly-hidden security cameras, which Clay used to pounce on intruders. One such intruder ended up becoming our state’s first case of a beheading in self-defense, or so Clay told me. All this is to say, I approached Clay’s trailer with my hammer tucked into a back pocket and my hands up and bare by my shoulders.

“Howdy-ho, Clay!” I said at slightly raised volume, with a cheerfulness I did not feel. “Brad just wanted me to pop in for a moment, got something to ask you about!”

When I was about six feet back, the door to the trailer slipped open a crack and one wild eye peered through. “Hi, Greg,” hissed Clay. It would seem I caught him on the tail end of a meth binge. “You still with it?” The words slid greasily from his lips.

“Not today, Clay,” I said, trying to assuage his hallucination. This was a common one of his. For some reason, when he had been awake on meth for several days, Clay came to the bizarre conclusion that I had an angel of vengeance riding my shoulders. Couldn’t imagine why.

“Hmm,” he meant to hum, but it came out as more of a feral growl. Single visible eye still darting back and forth across his “yard” (dirt, fragments of broken metal, and clumsily strung up security cameras do not a yard make), Clay bumped the door open further and disappeared within the trailer. Accepting this as the invitation it was, I stepped up the rickety metal stairs leading to the trailer’s door and gently clicked the door shut behind me.

Nearly the same second that the door shut, another click sounded, and all the lights in the trailer flicked on. Momentarily blinded, I shielded my eyes with my hand and staggered back into the door, exclaiming, “Jesus, Clay, a little warning next time would be nice!”

“Sorry,” he hissed, standing hunched at the opposite end of the trailer, leaning halfway out of the bathroom, “I had to look. See. Y’know. For it.”

“Understandable,” I muttered exasperatedly. “Listen, Brad’s waiting in the car so this won’t take long,” I told him as I advanced into the RV.

The interior of the trailer was long but thin. Directly in front of the door and to the right of it was a small kitchenette. To the left was a passageway, abutted on either side by a dining table booth and a couch, leading to the back of the RV, where the passage ended in one door straight-on and one door to the right. Inside the right door was the bathroom - where Clay was currently cowering - and inside the back door was the bedroom.

“Oh yeah?” asked Clay rhetorically as he finally relaxed a little, straightening up and leaving the bathroom behind. “G-good to, to hear from Brad,” he stammered. Putting sounds together to form words in a logical sequence seemed to be challenging to him.

“How many days is it this time?” I asked, a mirthless chuckle escaping my throat.

“It isssss,” he trailed off into a serpentine hiss as he turned to look at a nudie calender hung up on the wall (this month featured a disconcertingly young woman spreading her legs and covering herself with one extended middle finger), poked it as he counted the days aloud under his breath, leaving greasy fingerprints behind, then turned triumphantly towards me and barked, “eight days!”

Luck was with me tonight, then. I considered this a blessing from whatever the fuck “almighty” might be out there. “Sorry to hear that,” I said instead, feigning sympathy. While he had been distracted with the calender, I had pulled an enormous knife, meant for cutting vegetables, off his kitchenette counter. It was currently held behind my back in my right hand, blade down. “Well, Brad was hoping you’d have something left that we could pick up for tonight’s ho hunt. You still got any of your, ah, ‘yesmakers’?”

“I might,” he mewled. “Just let me check the ol’ goodie bag, hehe.” He turned around and squatted, back to me, to open a hidden-panel drawer under one of the dining table booths. The way he spoke made my skin crawl. I flicked the blade in my hand to rotate it, point up, preparing it for the next step.

My freshman year, as I said before, passed in a drug-induced fog. My junior year, however, passed in an entirely different fog: Lenny and I were well and truly infatuated with each other. She had met me at my worst, and pulled me up out of the depths of Hell into a Heaven I had only imagined as a naive child. Love, it seemed, truly did cure all ills. We studied, we worked, we cuddled, we made love, and life was good. Never before or since have I felt such a profound warmth, both in myself and towards another person, as I did through that fall and spring. That summer, I decided to take it one step further.

During a warm, but windy, July evening, Caroline and I drove her truck out into the boonies surrounding the town. We had brought a pair of joints and two acid tabs. Laughing, we laid down in the truck bed together on a huge, thick blanket. As we stared up at the stars, we dropped acid, and soon found ourselves both there and somewhere else, somewhere beautiful, somewhere all that mattered was here and now and the stunning majesty of the heavens above and the grounding profundity of the Earth below. Something changed in me, that night, and as we came down off the acid, we each smoked a joint, sitting together in blissfully exhausted silence.

Staring up at the stars, and the smoke curling up from my joint far below them, I murmured to her, “let’s do this forever.”

She just smiled and nodded.

“No,” I said, turning to face her, “I’m serious. Let’s do this forever.”

Her smile turned quizzical, but still she said nothing.

“Marry me. Let’s make a life together. I wasted so much time without you, I don’t want to waste another second.”

She lunged forward, grabbing the back of my head and slamming her lips against mine. Lips locked, our tongues thrashed together, sharing our love and saliva in equal measure. When she finally decided it was time to come up for air, she pressed her forehead against mine, pulled her lips back, whispered “yes, please,” and sighed the same sigh I heard from her the night we met on a decaying, booze and piss stained couch in the DEK frat house.

“Yeah, hehe, I got a whole unopened bag of ‘em right here,” Clayton chittered as he pulled a clear plastic baggie full of tiny pills from the hidden drawer. He rose to his feet and turned to face me, which was a fatal error, as once his eyes were above my beltline I slammed the knife forward and buried it to the hilt in the right side of his belly.

“Ow, shit!” he wheezed, startled, and dropped the baggie which fell to the floor with a plastic-sounding rattle. I wrenched the knife to the left before he could further react, and slit his guts open all the way from his right side to his left.

The lower half of the wound sagged open like the mouth of an elderly stroke victim, drooling blood, intestine-tongue unspooling hungrily from this new jaw-line, demanding sustenance.

“Greg, I…” he trailed off as he grabbed with both hands at my knife-holding wrist. I allowed him to do this as he sank to his knees atop his own entrails, trying to hold himself up on me.

“It’s funny,” I told him in a tone that indicated I thought no such thing, “Brad and Kyle screamed and cried like bitches before they went, but you,” I sneered. “You’re too far-gone to ever understand any sort of justice.”

“Why?” he asked breathlessly, tears welling up in betrayed eyes that stared uncomprehendingly up at me, like a kicked dog.

I bent down and gripped the side of his head with my left hand. “For Lenny,” I whispered an inch from his face before, wrist still held in both his hands, driving the blade into his throat.

Still holding eye-contact with me, Clay fumbled at my hand gripping the blade. He did not choke, whimper, wheeze, or struggle, and I felt almost cheated. After Kyle’s gratifying display, I had expected better from Clay. No matter. Just like the last two, I was granted the privilege of watching Clay’s soul ebb from his body, leaving only bleeding meat behind.

Really, it’s all my own fault, I suppose. This was my fatal error: I still loved them. Horrible people though I knew they were, immature dickheads though they acted, Brad and Kyle had watched my back when I was a kid. Matt and Clay may have come along later, but they had proved their value just as well. They were more than my friends; they were my family. And when it came time to add Lenny to my family, I wanted them present.

So I called them up. All of them. I explained that I was marrying “that slut from the DEK round-up” as they called her, and that I would be honored if they would attend. Not just attend, in fact, I went on, but to be groomsmen. Brad and Kyle I asked to jointly take the honor of being my best man, but all four would be groomsmen. They agreed, seemingly excited for my upcoming marriage, and I believed them.

The engine of Brad’s BMW roared as I flew down the highway to Matt’s house. Last stop. Like any self-respecting cunt named “Matt,” he was renting out an enormous house in the suburbs, safely far from the stomping grounds of which he and the others were so fond. The speedometer crept up past 80, to 90, to 100, to 110, to 120, and I finally felt the frame begin to shake. It was the middle of the night now, and mania buzzed through my skin. I had just killed three people. Not just three people, three of my brothers. And now here I was, driving a dead man’s stolen car at speeds that carried a mandatory jail sentence, to go meet the last one. To go kill the last one, I self-corrected. My foot felt heavy, and the pedal sunk a little further.

Wedding planning went beautifully. Lenny had a better eye for those sorts of aesthetics, as well as a family with a budget to draw on, so I spent my time concentrating on helping the boys write appropriate speeches and avoid any awkward faux pas like “smacking the ass of a bridesmaid” or “referring to the caterers as ‘the help.’” All through the process, they smiled, they were kind, helpful, genteel even. We sat through rehearsal dinners together, held rehearsal speeches together, and posed for rehearsal photos together. All smiles, all grins, all good.

The tires squealed as I made the ninety degree right turn into Matt’s neighborhood at sixty miles per hour. My hands were shaking violently now, and my whole body was covered in a cold sweat. This was it, this was fucking it, the last one, all I need now is to keep from fucking up this last one. Breathe, breathe, breathe motherfuCKER BREATHE, calm those nerves, yeah, that’s it. Settle down. No good to lose your shit right before the last one, especially not this last one.

Matt, you see, owned a massive firearm collection. If I made too much fuss showing up, he’d come out armed to see what’s happening. I didn’t think he’d shoot me outright without provocation, but since I intended to murder the man, I think he’d eventually feel provoked. I would be better served, therefore, if he was unarmed.

They offered me a bachelor party. Their treat. I agreed, but on the condition that we only drink lightly, and smoke pot. No coke, no whores, no bar-hopping, just a nice night in. They agreed to the first three, but laughed at “night in.” We, they explained, would be going to a casino, getting our drank on, and losing a large quantity of Kyle’s dead parents’ money on blackjack tables and slot machines. While this wasn’t my ideal evening, it sounded relatively kosher by their standards, so I agreed. Casino, drinking, smoking. No bar-hopping. No snorting. No whoring.

I dropped Brad’s BMW into 2nd and let the resistance from the engine bring it down to a reasonable speed for the suburban neighborhood in which I was maneuvering. Matt’s house was fairly deep into the subdivision, but I made no rush to get there. Roaring engines, squealing tires, god forbid a fucking car crash, any of those noises would have put him on edge. Paranoid man that he was, Matt would walk around his home with a pistol strapped to his hip for hours if he so much as heard a vehicle backfire three blocks away.

The night started out just as kosher as they had made it sound. We hotboxed Matt’s SUV, then went inside reeking of pot and flashing hundreds. The blackjack table blessed us, and we took our winnings over to the slots, where we conveniently found five open in a nice line.


I pulled the lever, time after time, occasionally winning back what I had lost the last three or four spins, and every once in a while, a waiter bearing a tray loaded with drinks would bring them by. If I was distracted by the spinning of the slots, one of the boys would take my drink and hold it for me.

Brad’s BMW was almost too low to clear Matt’s driveway, but thank god it cleared without a scrape. I pulled all the way up to the house, killed the engine, and went up to his door, where I knocked gently. After a few moments, he greeted me.

“Greg!” he said, pleasantly surprised. “Pleasant surprise to see you here this time of night, what’s up?”

“Hey, Matt!” I said, feigning an identical pleasure. “Listen, I was hoping you could lend me a firearm. See, this creepy-ass prowler has been wandering near my house recently…”

It was definitely Brad that started it. He handed me my last drink. I know he put something in it, because my coherent memories stop right there like someone laid a brick fucking wall in my head. From then on, the evening is just flashes of events, which occurred something like this:

I fell down off a slot machine stool. I was hustled, essentially carried, by two of the boys into a suite they had rented out above the casino. The air conditioning was cool, but I felt hot, and dizzy, and nauseous. I asked to be let go so I could vomit safely. I was laid down in a bed, and almost immediately rolled to the side and threw up my guts into the nightstand drawer on top of a King James Bible.

Matt led me into his basement armory where no less than (he said, with some pride) eighty-seven firearms hung from the walls. I stared at them each contemplatively and pondered which would be the easiest to heft in this enclosed space. Then, upon second thought, pondered which one was the least likely to give me hearing damage down here.

“This prowler,” I said, “he doesn’t look like he’s, y’know, in great shape. Probably a junkie of some sort. Got anything small-ish? Like, a nice .22 that won’t rupture my ear-drums?”

Matt nodded. “Smart man. The nine is usually the go-to self-defense weapon, but by God will it fuck up your ears. This one, however,” he leaned across a workbench, covered in various weapon parts, tools, and other workshop detritus, to grab a small revolver off the wall, “should do you just fine. People joke about the smaller rounds, but quite frankly, dead is dead no matter the size of the bullet. Aim center mass, put that fucker to sleep. Lights out." He laughed an abrasive, cruel laugh.

I held out my hand for the pistol.

I know I lost consciousness after puking on the Bible. I don’t know how long. What I do know is that when I next opened my eyes, there was a naked woman on top of me with sagging breasts, an obvious c-section scar, and bags under her eyes big enough to steal multiple TVs out of Walmart.

“The fuck…?” I mumbled as I realized two things: I couldn’t move, and she was unzipping my pants.

“Shhhh,” she shushed me, “ya boys tol’ me how it is. You jus’ stay down, I’ll do the work.”

“No, no,” I grunted and tried to push her away, but my hands would not obey. I was fucking paralyzed. It suddenly hit me in the worst way that, my God, this is what Clay had been putting those poor fucking girls through. What we had been putting them through.

She ignored my protests and kissed my shaft until, despite my burning hatred for what was happening, I hardened to my full length.

“Please stop,” I choked out, but she just laughed. “Bill’s already paid for, honey,” she said in a tone that would have been comforting if that had been my problem.

She sat on my erection without putting a condom on it. My shaft slid into her and, god help me, I felt the familiar tingling of an orgasm building already. Then, as she began to ride, the door to the room flew open, and my friends piled in, laughing, drinking, and smoking cigarettes indoors (which I, for some reason, was lucid enough to realize was certainly a violation of casino policy).

“Help me,” I whispered to them.

“What was that?” asked Brad mockingly. “Help you? Well, if you insist!” he joked as he pushed down on the whore’s shoulders, driving my shaft further into her.

“I said,” I moaned, “I said no whores.” Why were they doing this to me? My head swam with betrayal, confusion, and terror.

“Y’see Greg,” laughed Kyle, “it goes like this.”

They each pulled out their phones and held them up, facing us. They were recording.

“When you left us for that DEKunt, we knew you’d gotten whipped, pusssssssssssy-whipped as they say,” Matt told me. “We know a man in desperate need of a little, uh, masculinization when we see one.”

“No, no,” I could barely get out. The tingling in my genitals was growing. I didn’t want this. I didn’t want this. I didn’t FUCKING want this.

“So we thought, hey,” Clay continued for Matt, “if he’s too weak to leave that isolating bitch, we can help with that, we can do it for him!”

“What??” I asked, suddenly delirious. My head was spinning, I was nauseous, my stomach was cramping, and then I was experiencing orgasm, in front of my friends, on camera, inside of a filthy whore, with no condom, with my loving fiance at home, waiting for me, the night before my wedding.

“Feels good in the hand,” I told Matt as I hefted the weapon, feeling its balance. “The wood-carved grip is a nice touch.”

“Isn’t it?” he said wistfully. “They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Goddamn antique, that thing is, you keep a good eye on it.”

“Oh don’t you worry,” I said, unable to keep a sardonic tinge from coloring my voice. “I’ll keep a damn good eye on it.”

“Good to hear,” he chuckled. “Listen, Greg,” he clapped me on the shoulder and stared deep into my eyes, “I know last year was, let’s say, traumatic.”

I just nodded.

“But my dude, my guy, you’re on the other side! You are out! O-U-T, out! And man, I’ve never believed in that supernatural shit,” his hand dropped, and he turned away from me to walk up the stairs. I leveled the gun at the back of his head. “But what a hell of a night for you to drop by! You’ll never believe who I’ve got over!”

The videos they recorded were, of course, for my fiance’s “benefit.” They left me there, still in delirium, still covered in my own unconsenting juices mingling with those of the whore, while they went to our home. To my home. The home that Caroline and I had built, the home that we had moved out of the dorms for and the home to which we intended to return each night after getting our first real adult jobs. All solemn-faced, playing the “good friends,” they knocked on my fucking door and told my fucking fiance they needed to talk. Once inside, they sat her down and showed her the videos, all carefully clipped around any protestations on my part.

By the time I got home the next day, all her shit was gone. There was no sign anyone had ever lived there besides me. When I called her phone, I discovered my number was blocked. Same result from calling her parents. Of course, I sat down, tried to regroup a little bit, and ultimately chose to visit their house the next day. When I did, her father came out to greet me holding a 12 gauge.

“Sir,” I said, “please, I need to explain-”

“Any explanation you want to give her about that slut your friends caught you with,” he replied, “can be explained just as well to Betsy, here.” He hefted the shotgun up a little.

“They didn’t catch me at all, they set me up-”

“Sure, sure, they made you get hard, they made you willing to fuck that nasty old fucking whore when you had a beautiful wife-to-be, my beautiful daughter who loved you and trusted you-”

“It’s not like that!” I protested.

“Oh is it now? Is it not like that?” Lenny’s father taunted. “Then explain why four of the kindest men I’ve met - kinder than you ever were to her-”

“Kind!?” I spat, almost laughing with shock. “Those monsters-”

He laughed so hard and so loud in my fucking face that I just stopped talking until he was done. “They told her everything,” he said. “You can call them ‘monsters,’ but I’ll tell you what I saw: I saw four horrified young men tell my daughter about your infidelity. I saw them show her proof. And I saw them cry with her when she broke down.” He slung the shotgun up over his shoulder in one hand. “I’m not gonna shootcha, Greg, though I do think you deserve it. I’m just gonna tell ya to get off my property and the hell away from my daughter. And you know why, Greg?”

“Why?” I asked flatly. My body felt numb. All the love I felt for Caroline had turned into inwardly directed hate. I was disgusted at myself for getting hard, for coming inside the whore. For letting it happen. For trusting the boys.

“Because, Greg,” Caroline’s father told me, a grim smile resting on his lips, “God has a funny way of givin’ you what’s comin’ to you.”

I let my gun arm fall limp to my side. You’ll never believe who I’ve got over. Matt’s words echoed and swirled like furious clockwork inside my head. You’ll never believe who I’ve got over. Who I’ve got over. I know last year was, let’s say, traumatic. Who I’ve got over. I followed him up the stairs, revolver swinging limply at my side. Who I’ve got over. The din of Matt’s voice running up and down the walls of my skull as our feet made their way up the stairs from his basement was driving what little sanity remained out of me. I trembled and shook and had to lean on the wall to stay upright as we made our way up the stairs.

I know last year was, let’s say, traumatic.

You’ll never believe who I’ve got over.

My ears rang like the sirens from a freeway full of fire-engines.

We emerged from the stairs into the main corridor, the one which we had come down from the front door. “In here,” Matt laughed, leading me through another doorway into his living room where I saw-

I saw the whore they had paid to fuck me sitting on his couch, languidely laid back, facing the ceiling. She was blowing out a thick cloud of marijauna smoke taken, I was sure, from the bong on the small coffee-table in front of her.

My vision swam. My head throbbed. Equal measures of rage and delight flooded my body, and I became aware of a whining sound that threatened to deafen me.

“Jesus, Greg!” shouted Matt, “Are you good?”

The whining, it seemed, was coming from me. I pulled a harsh breath in and stopped it.

You’ll never believe who I’ve got over.


We just wanted to help.

I fell to my knees, clutching the left side of my head and pressing the side of the revolver into the right side, trying to massage out the emotional war going on inside. What luck! What divine fucking providence! My God, my God, you really do have a funny way of givin’ what’s comin’! That I might find, not just the last one responsible for destroying my life, but the one who had done the fatal act, too! Both the hitman, and the customer! Hysterical laughter started bubbling up from inside me, bubbling up my throat and out my mouth in wet, disgusting hiccups and coughs.

Matt knelt beside me and put an arm around my shoulders. “Are you fucking good, dude?” he asked me. Genuine concern tinted his voice. That such a man could have genuine concern, even now, for my health convinced me that God had, indeed, delivered him and that disgusting whore to me. Why else would he still feel for me, if not so I can make him suffer with it? I turned his pistol towards his chest and shot him.

Matt fell backwards with a cry of surprise, grasping at his chest.

The whore stood up and screamed. I spared her no time and shot her in the head. The entry wound was clean, but the exit wound exploded out the back of her skull, sending fragments of bone and chunks of brain flying, turning Matt’s wall into a red Jackson-Pollock. For a moment, I caught myself wondering if, inside those chunks of brain, splattered and stuck to the wall, there was still a memory of what she had done to me. Then I stood, and turned to Matt, who was writhing on the floor, screaming, “What the fuck!? You fucking shot me! I’m fucking shot, you fucking shot me!”

“And her,” I murmured when he had to pause for air.

“Fucking why!?” he yelled up at me.

“You took my life from me,” I said, delight being slowly overtaken by rage. “You just couldn’t fucking grow up, you stopped aging at what, thirteen!?”

“What, the fuck,” he gasped out as his chest started to seize, “are you talking about?”

“Lenny freed me from the bullshit, self-destructive life you were so addicted to,” I spat, “and you had to take that away, you couldn’t just let me grow and change and leave your stupid, cruel, filthy ass behind.”

Then he had the gall to laugh at me, which was a mistake. I leveled the gun at his groin and shot his cock off. His pants, fortunately, contained the viscera. As amazing as it felt to finally torture him, I knew if I saw his mangled genitals I would certainly vomit.

At first I couldn’t hear his wail over the ringing in my ears from the gunshot, but I could definitely see his mouth working and wrenching and screaming. When I could finally hear again, I was satisfied to hear the beautiful tell-tale high-pitched shriek of hysteria.

“They’ll fucking,” he squealed, breath hitching and chest convulsing, “fucking find you, fucking kill you-”

“They’re fucking dead,” I replied and threw Brad’s BMW keys at his face.

For a moment, perhaps due to blood loss or perhaps due to genuine unfamiliarity, Matt stared at the keys as if they were an artifact from an alien world. Then I saw recognition dawn on his face. Anger and pain quickly drained away, replaced with raw fear.

“Greg,” he whimpered, “listen to me, listen, listen, it doesn’t have to go this way-”

“No,” I admitted, “but it will anyway.”

No! No, no, Greg, you’re gonna,” he laughed maniacally here, and tried again, “you’re gonna call an ambulance, we’ll tell ‘em the whore did it, I’ll be ok-”

I kicked him as hard as I could in the ribs. That shut him up. Broken by terrified agony, Matt curled into a ball on the floor, clutching his cracked ribs and bubbling chest wound, hips helplessly twitching, trying to find a position that didn’t send streaks of miserable fire shooting from the frayed nerves in his shredded genitals up his spine. Graceless, gut-wrenching sobs wracked his body as he cried out half-spoken apologies, begging for mercy.

I just watched him weep and bleed. Inside, where there should have been satisfaction at my revenge, or revulsion at his state and what I’d done, or at least anger at his past crimes, was simply nothing. I had been consumed by rage for the past year. Going to therapy had not helped. Drinking had not helped. Pot had not helped. For three-hundred and sixty-five days, I had been furious beyond sanity and now, abruptly, all the objects of my rage were gone. What was I to do?

Blood loss began to overtake Matthew. His cries turned to soft mewls, and his begging for mercy changed to begging for death. I sat down on the floor next to him and watched, empty inside, as the icy fingers of death grasped his body, first stilling his limbs, then his throat, torn ragged from screaming, and then taking his soul entirely, silencing his cries and stilling his chest at last. I think we were there together for a half hour or so before he died.

So what now? Well, obviously I know I left a shitton of evidence. The cops will all but certainly find me, and when they do, I’m not going in cuffs. My life is already over anyway. But I felt I had to write all this down - to leave a note, if you will - even though I know there’s no one left who would even care about my motive besides a ninety-cent tabloid. I don’t have a final statement or wish or manifesto or nothin’ like that. Though I will tell you this: I wish the satisfaction I felt at their ends was even half as intense as the year’s worth of suffering that preceded them.

The Gunner

A short story of the madness begat by middle-class, suburban-American living.

“Life is a curse.”

My father said that to me. Every day, over and over again, my father reminded me that, “life is a curse, son. Every new day is a new kind of suffering. It’s the human condition. You get used to it.”

I never got used to it.

Every day, I work with people I hate, doing something I hate, for the purpose of “helping” people who hate what I do. I teach eighth grade math. No one wants to be there. The other teachers preach these high-minded ideals, these concepts of educating the youth of America, but it’s all lies. I can tell. The quirk of their mouths when they talk to me, the manic flitting of their eyes, they give it away. They know our job is pointless as well as I do. And the kids, my god, the kids, they’d rather be doing anything else. My job is a pointless, miserable slog of torment, for all involved.

Today was worse than usual.

We opened a new semester today; a fresh batch of kids, a new start. Usually at least one or two kids in each period enjoy the subject. They are my lifelines, they’re the reason I keep going. But not today. Today, every single one of them made it very obvious just how much they hate my job. I wish I could tell them how much I agree.

Late in the day, during the last period, I found one kid that I think I understand. His name is Marcus, but he goes by Mark, and there’s something behind his eyes. Something that makes sense to me. It’s obvious he knows how pointless this all is - not just learning, not just teaching, but life itself. Mark makes sense to me.

I went home and heated up a microwave dinner. It tasted like airline food. A mash that purports itself to be potatoes, rubber pretending to be chicken, and amorphous green something, all combined on a semi-plastic, biodegradable tray. It tastes like vomit, but I don’t care enough to cook. What will I gain from cooking? Taste is overrated as a sense. It all comes out the same in the end.

As I watched the news and tried to ignore the bilious mass going into my mouth, my thoughts went to Mark. I wondered if he would grow up to be like me. He understands the world like I do, he understands that life is a curse like I do. Maybe one day, he’ll be slumped halfway down a stained recliner, mindlessly chewing what might as well be pre-chewed food, contemplating suicide. I glanced at the semi-automatic sitting on my end-table. It was chambered in 9mm, Glock patterned, with a seventeen round capacity. I never kept it that loaded. One chambered round was all I needed.

“No, not today. Not quite yet,” I muttered to my pistol.

I fell asleep listening to a news report on a vaguely Middle-Eastern bombing.

It’s been one week. Six more nights of microwaved dinners. Six more nights of disaster on the TV. Six more nights of contemplating Mark.

He really drew my attention today. He never looked up from his desk, but he wasn’t slouching or sleeping. He simply never looked around, like he was in another world. We were covering a basic algebra concept, when a girl in front of him asked to go to the restroom. I wanted to say no, because I hate her. Every question she Kristen Stewart-whispers out is asinine, I swear she doesn’t think through a single word she says. But I said yes, because the rules for girls are Different, and as she walked out, she bumped Mark’s backpack. He froze, and his eyes shot to the pack, and as she finally passed him by, he visibly relaxed. I understand his disgust. I would flinch if she touched anything I owned too.

As I was trying to leave, I was accosted by one of our history teachers. Sorry, “social-studies” teachers. Pretentious assholes.

“Hey, Jimmy!” she greeted me, nearly shouted at me. Too cheerful by half. How can she not know how awful life really is?

“Hi, Pam,” I grimaced out, feigning a smile. She bought it.

“Listen, we know you’ve been having a rough go of it this time around. It’s hard when your kids don’t like your subject, but, and hear me out, a few of us think we can help you,” she lied. They all know I’m beyond help. “Me, Sam from the English department, and your very own Andy Emerson are putting together a little gathering at my place this weekend. We’ll talk about, y’know, the kids and how we can better ‘engage’ them. We gotta work, but if we make it fun, it doesn’t have to feel like work! And engaged kids mean more fun!”

I nodded, and “hmmed” appropriately.

“So can I pencil you in? We’d love to have you, and we think we could really help you with these kids!” Her smile was wrong. They don’t want to help me. They want me around so they have someone worse than themselves. It’s comforting to know you’re not the worst in the room.

“Sure, I’d love to go,” I lied. I have to play nice or they’ll know I’m onto them.

“Great! It’s BYOB, but I’ve always got a little wine stockpiled away!” She winked as she concluded, then turned on one of her entirely too high heels, and stalked back down the hall.

I dragged my feet all the way to the car.

The next day was Tuesday. Three more days until I have to pretend to like the horrible pricks at Pam’s meeting. I had my usual black coffee and cigarette for breakfast. The drink hurt my stomach, like it always did. First period was full of cramps. After the pain subsided, my day went by in a blur, until I got to last period. Mark was present, and he looked alive. He had brushed his black hair out of his eyes, his hoodie was down, and he was laughing and joking with some of the larger, meaner kids on his way in. They were picking on him, and he didn’t know. It made me sad to think he was losing his grasp on how the world really works. As I taught, he paid attention and watched me with a bright spark in his eye. He asked questions, real ones, and I answered them, but I could tell he already knew the answers. He wanted attention. I kept him after class.

“Alright Mark,” I said, after the others had all filed out. “What happened?”

“Oh, oh, Mr. Schumacher,” he burbled, “my folks, they, they finally got me to go to a psych! He tested me and told me I have ADHD and gave me pills and now I can focus on things! It feels so strange, to care, but I finally do! And I finally have a plan!” I cringed internally. He had, indeed, lost his way.

“That’s,” I hesitated briefly before conceding to diplomacy, “great! I’m so glad you’ve found a way to succeed here. You put together a study plan?” As if studying is any help. As if any of this material is any help, anywhere.

“Yeah, after a fashion! I’m excited, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel!” He was grinning ear-to-ear. All trace of the knowledgeable creature I had, somehow, grown attached to was gone. I could not have been less pleased.

“That’s amazing, Mark. I hope it goes well for you, and don’t hesitate to let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” I think I kept my distaste out of my voice.

“Oh don’t worry Mr. Schumacher, I won’t. Hesitate, I mean,” he said. We exchanged goodbyes, and he left.

I drove home sad and angry that night. My microwaved dinner tasted worse than usual, and my gun was more insistent than usual. I hoped he would find a way to see the truth again.

Saturday came much sooner than I had hoped. Our meeting was at eleven, so I slept in until ten. I threw on some fresh clothes, didn’t bother to brush my teeth, and hopped in the car to drink my coffee and smoke my cigarette on my way to Pam’s place. She lived in a nice house, a suburban house, one of a thousand exactly like it. Faux-brickwork siding held up numerous small windows, spattered seemingly at random around the building. Fucking modern architecture. She greeted me at the door with that lying smile of hers, and ushered me through the short entryway to her living room. Sam had already arrived, and was crouched in front of her coffee table, unfurling a perhaps endless number of papers out from a folder. He looked genuinely excited to be sifting through the pointless, meaningless morass of “student engagement” concepts. I bit my lip to hide my sneer.

“Andy hasn’t got here yet, so here, have some snacks. I’m trying out charcuterie!” Pam babbled as she brought a tray of cheeses and meats out from the kitchen. It looked positively edible. She set it down on the coffee table, and I politely tried a piece of the least smelly cheese. I gagged on it, but swallowed anyway.

“This is delicious,” I lied. “Excellent choice as always, Pam.”

“Why thank you Jimmy,” her voice took on a sing-song quality, as if she was speaking to a child. “I love giving people good things to eat. Satisfies some deep inner need, y’know, like my human instinct to break bread with others is being fulfilled. Eat as much as you like!” I cursed internally. Great. Now I’ll have to eat even more of this unstomachable garbage.

Fortunately, Andy arrived soon after, and attention was taken off Pam’s miserable cheeses. We spent the next four hours “discussing” ideas for “student engagement.” I had nothing to add, which they all knew when they invited me, so I sat in awkward silence, nodding along and agreeing when one of the others did. For some reason, they never tried to box me into discussing my students. They must have known I had nothing to add. I had thought they’d invited me to have someone worse than themselves around, but now I knew they just wanted a yes-man. A promotion of sorts, I guess.

By around four, the conversation had moved on from “productive” topics to personal lives. I hate these kinds of talks. They’re alienating by nature. What am I supposed to bring up? The specific flavor of vomit that last night’s dinner had?

“So, Andy,” Pam lead-in, as she poured herself (and me) a massive glass of wine, “I hear you’ve got a new boo.”

“Hah, yeah,” Andy chuckled to himself, “but you wouldn’t know her. She goes to a different school.”

They laughed. Was that funny? I didn’t think it was funny.

“She’s great,” he went on, “bright, funny. Gorgeous, drop-dead gorgeous. I’ve never been happier with a girl in my life.” Gross. Dragging more people into your life is just setting yourself up for sorrow. They either leave you, or die.

“Oh that’s wonderful! What’s she do? Does she have a car? Is her house nice?” Pam chittered. Sam was looking on with polite interest, but I could tell he’d rather be talking about literally anything else. Me too, Sam. Me too.

“Well,” Andy looked sheepish, “She’s still trying to complete her GED. It’s how I met her, actually - she was looking online for a tutor, and I do teach for a living.” Pam and Sam laughed. I hate Sam’s laugh. He sounds like a sneezing guinea pig. “Since she’s studying,” he went on, seemingly endlessly, “she doesn’t currently have a job, but she’s been a receptionist before. And yes, she has a working car and a nice enough house. I’m going over later tonight actually.”

Sam raised a suggestive eyebrow.

“Not like that!” Andy followed up, just a little too quickly. “At least, not initially. I’m going over to help her study.”

“On a Saturday? She must be a very studious girl, good for you,” I threw out, in an attempt to appear polite and interested.

“That she is,” Andy nodded, “that she is. I admire her dedication.” Of course you do, Andy. You don’t have any.

“Personally, I like ‘em a little less studious and a little more, y’know, nuts. I spend enough time watching people study at my day job,” Pam tried to joke. Sam and Andy laughed. I don’t know why. She isn’t funny.

“Yeah, yeah, you aren’t happy if they won’t help you steal tranqs from the zoo,” Sam riffed. Another laugh from Andy, and one from Pam. They’re not really stealing tranqs. Why is that funny?

“You know it!” Pam shrieked, garnering a guffaw from the room. Her voice cut right through my skull. I wanted to choke her.

I went to sip my wine and realized I had downed the entire glass already.

“Hey, I know this is a little spontaneous, but there’s this free concert next weekend. Saturday, noon to six, out in Green Park. You guys should come! It’d be so much more fun with friends!” Sam said. God, no. I’d rather be anywhere else.

“A week in advance isn’t spontaneous, c’mon man,” Andy laughed. “But sure, I’m happy to go. Anything free is well worth the price of admission.” A pun. The lowest form of humor.

“I’m in! I’ll bring the girls, we’ll make a whole evening of it! Bar crawl after, yeah?” blathered Pam excitedly. “The girls.” Who has so many friends that they warrant their own label?

“I,” I hesitated, searching for a polite out, “I’ll be visiting my mom for her birthday. Sorry fellas.” What an obvious lie. They’d see right through it.

“No worries, Jimmy! If you find time, you’re always still invited!” chirped Sam. They can all tell I’m lying, I can see it on their faces, hear it in Sam’s needlessly chipper voice. Condescending fucks, why don’t they ever call me on it? Why don’t they say something?

“Hey, thanks. For the educational afternoon, and the invitation, I mean. But I gotta go, it’s getting late and I don’t want to mess up my sleep schedule too badly,” I told them. Excuses, obvious ones, but if they won’t call me on it, I’ll milk the lies.

“We’re so glad you could make it! I hope we helped!” lied Pam.

“Me too,” I lied in kind.

Monday was all set up to be an insufferable slog. Same terrible kids, same terrible school, same terrible coworkers, all conspiring to remind me, once again, that life is a curse. The day dragged on, seemingly interminable, unending. I was taking lunch alone in my classroom, when suddenly I heard screaming. I was used to screaming. Kids are loud, and the inside of my head is louder, but this was different. This was a whole crowd of screaming children. My heart-rate jumped and I felt adrenaline flush through my body. My hairs stood on end as I went to the door. I opened it and leaned out into the hallway to see what the matter was, which I quickly found to be a mistake. A flood of terrified children shoved me aside and poured into my classroom, flipping desks on their sides and cowering behind them.

“What the FU-” was all I had time to yell before we were all deafened by the gunshots. Somewhere, out in the halls, someone was shooting a gun. The panicked screaming outside reached a fever pitch, and I could catch the faint hints of agonized screaming from wounded children through the noise. I was still holding the door open, and two kids pushed me aside to slam it shut. Two others hefted a desk and pushed the chair-back up under the knob before all four of them retreated back behind the desk blockade the group had constructed in the room. I stood by the door and watched them huddle, fascinated. It was an out-of-body experience for me, as if it wasn’t really happening at all. I felt sluggish, like I was in a dream. I could hear stampeding kids fleeing down the hall. A few tried our door, but couldn’t get it open.

More shots rang out, closer this time. Our door had a tall, thin window in it. I peered through at the thinning, terrified crowd. I knew I should be afraid, but instead an eerie sense of peace overwhelmed me. Perhaps I would die, and this curse would finally be lifted. I heard more shots, very close now. One of the stragglers slammed against my door and furiously cranked the knob. I watched through the window as he struggled. He looked up at me, terror etched across his face. I was unable to suppress a smile as it dawned on him that he’d be unable to get inside. I watched a hooded figure walk up behind him, and my smile drew to a rictus grin. He turned, saw the figure, turned back to me, and pounded on the glass. His voice cracked as he shrieked and begged for help, then his head exploded. Short, blond hair, fragments of skull, brain matter, and more blood than I thought was possible painted the window. Through a tiny dry spot I looked out at the shooter. He stalked the short distance over to the door, looked down at the body, and fired four more times at the corpse. When he looked up at me, his hood fell, and I saw Mark’s shining green eyes sunken in a face painted with the sprayed blood of his fellows. He saw my grin, and flashed one right back at me, then turned and ran down the hall, on the hunt for fresh prey.

I realized suddenly that I was hyperventilating. The therapist I saw when I was a teenager had taught me some breathing exercises, and I leaned on the doorframe, doing my best to soothe myself. Even as shots were still sounding out down the hall, I felt the adrenaline drain from my body. The grin fell from my face and I sagged, eventually falling and rotating into a seated position against the wall.

The kids in my room were crying. Some of them were my students, others I’d never met before. Deep sobs, the kind that come not from any human definition of sadness, but from a deeper, more animal place, wracked their tiny bodies. I was so glad that so many students got to learn the most important lesson in life today: that life is a curse. Every new day is a new kind of suffering. It’s the human condition.

You get used to it.

By the time the police and the paramedics arrived to escort us out, the excitement was over. They had moved the child’s body out of our doorway, but we still had to step over a pool of blood and memories. There were news crews interviewing the survivors. Out in the parking lot, as I headed, numb, towards my car, Pam crashed into me, enveloping me in a sobbing hug. She blubbered and sobbed into my shoulder, staining my dress shirt with snot. I couldn’t even feel disgusted. She said something about one of her favorite students going down. She watched her die, she said. Watched her bleed out, she said. An ugly death, a death no one deserved, she said.

I wanted to tell her the truth, to point out that life is a curse, to remind her that her favorite student was free of this burden, but I didn’t. I bit my tongue so hard it bled.

My microwave dinner tasted better than usual tonight. I watched the news reporting on the shooting late into the evening. Listened to Mark’s family talk about how no one saw it coming. Watched weeping children talk about their dead friends. Saw the helicopter footage of the SWAT team spraying Mark down with their MP5s, killing him on the pavement outside.

I knew, in my heart of hearts, that Mark had always known the truth.

The school was closed Tuesday. The administration said it was to give people time to grieve, but the reality was that they needed to mop up the blood and cover the bullet holes. My numb feeling was gone, replaced by something else, a greater understanding, of sorts. I realized that yesterday was the first time I smiled a genuine smile in a very, very long time. The terror on that boy’s face, the realization that he was going to die, it stuck with me. I had nothing to do with myself, so I sat in my chair and continued to watch the news, reliving the event in my head over and over. True knowledge always comes at a price. Suffering is a necessary part of the learning experience. That boy, in his final moments, experienced the horror of learning, with the utmost certainty, the truth. I thought about what Mark had said the week before, about having a plan, about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I thought he was talking about a plan of study, or maybe about having gotten a tutor. I was wrong, and in that moment that Mark and I shared a grin through the window, our roles reversed. He was the teacher, and I was the student.

I lay awake long into the night, staring at the ceiling, seeing the carnage. I imagined what must have been going through Mark’s head, how he must have known that he was freeing his peers. He was a liberator, a revolutionary. Heroes are rarely understood in their own time, but I understood. As I lay in bed, I saw, I felt, what Mark had seen and felt. The desire to be a savior, the plotting, the execution of salvation. I fell asleep, and knew what had to come next.

I woke the following morning with more life, more desire, in me than I had ever felt before. The sense of purpose that had always eluded me had finally settled deep within me. My chest felt light, I felt free. I sat on my chair with a legal pad and pen, and began to plan, just as Mark had done. The first step, choosing a location, was easy. Sam’s free concert at Green Park would be a perfect venue. Unsuspecting morons, brought together by the common goal of pretending life can be pleasant, all gathered in a wide, open space. Security would try to stop me, but I could plan for that too. I admired Mark’s intent, but felt he had made one crucial mistake: lack of an exit strategy. If I am to spread the truth effectively, I cannot allow myself to be stopped. Using my phone, I pulled up a map of the park and quickly sketched it out on my pad. The park was largely square-shaped, with an outward-jutting entry area near the parking lot. For concert security, I was certain they would set up temporary fences around the sides. These I could scale easily. The stage would be placed near the far side of the square, away from the parking lot entryway.

If I was to get away after the deed was done, I would need to stay on one side of the square. Getting caught in the middle of the crowd was a bad idea. Adults are more prone to fighting back against new ideas than kids, and if I were to navigate to the center of the crowd before beginning my service, they would doubtless swamp me and disarm me. Looking at the map of near-by buildings, I decided the left side of the square was probably the best way to go. Green Park was in downtown, and the left side had only a narrow side-street to cross before I could disappear into an alley. Being away from a major avenue might mean lighter security on that side as well.

For my armament, I settled on my suicide pistol. It had always been intended to be used as a curse-breaker, so it seemed only fitting that it should be used for such a purpose now. I would need a set of bulky, oversized clothing to disguise my appearance, and to stow my weapon until I was in position. I decided to visit a resale shop later in the afternoon. I already owned a bulky denim jacket, and planned to wear it under my disguise - I’d heard something about denim workmans’ jackets stopping police rounds before. Obviously I had no intention of taking shots, but if it came down to it, I’d rather be protected than not.

Gear and locale selected, I had only my actual strategy left to decide. Security locations weren’t listed anywhere online, so I figured I would need to drive around the park once or twice, marking locations of security guards. I’d take a switchblade with me, and if any guards were stationed near my exit point, I would need to quietly take them out of the picture before the main event. The concert itself, I thought, should provide enough noise that no one will hear a man choking on a blade. After dispatching guards as necessary, I would enter the park through the main entrance. The venue was large enough that metal detectors were unlikely - I suspected there wouldn’t even be any kind of checkpoint to speak of, just a large, open gate with armed guards on either side. After entering the park, I would work my way up towards the stage on the left side, ultimately coming to a stop about halfway through the field. The concert would be in full swing by this point, so all I would need do is check my surroundings for danger, then draw and fire.

I looked down at my paper with a deep sense of satisfaction I had never felt before. My plan was coming together before my eyes, as if it were not me guiding the pen, but Providence herself. I allowed myself a few tears of joy before rising, grabbing my keys, and heading out the door to a resale shop.

The remaining week passed by in a blur. School resumed as normal on Thursday, and though my hate for my coworkers, job, and students persisted, I felt safe, clean, guarded. I had found my calling, and no amount of bullshit from others could temper it. I remembered how Mark had looked, how he’d sounded, the week before he showed me the way. He was chipper, happy, glad to have found his purpose, just as I felt now. I felt a sense of kinship with him, and it made me happy to think that he had found a way out from under this monstrous cheat, this curse of life. One day I would too. But not yet.

Pam and the others tried to console me, and I let them. I feigned grief, though in truth the only reason I knew any of my students were dead was because I found their chairs empty come Thursday morning. I even managed to cry a little, and that made Pam happy. I knew she’d always wanted to see me break down. On Friday, I joined them in the lounge for lunch, and Pam bowed out of the concert, claiming she just didn’t have it in her now. Maybe she told the truth, maybe she lied. I never thought she cared about her students that much, but what the hell, Mark’s actions seemed to teach us many things. It was all fine by me anyway. If I managed to free some of my coworkers on Saturday, that was fine, but if not, that was fine too. Mark didn’t discriminate, and neither would I.

I woke up positively giddy on Saturday. I had spent most of Friday evening cleaning my pistol and loading rounds into my spare magazines. For a time, I had spent every weekend at the range, and had bought ten magazines to reduce time spent reloading. Lane rentals aren’t free, after all. Now they would finally see good use. I had my breakfast of coffee and cigarette at eleven, and went inside to put on my redeemer’s gear.

I had bought a set of steel-toed boots (one size too big), cargo pants (two sizes too big), and a zip-up hoodie (four sizes too big) at the resale shop, and I slipped into them. The hoodie fit easily over my denim jacket, providing disguise and protection. The pockets of the denim jacket and the cargo pants would serve as magazine carriers, and the pistol fit nicely under the waistband of my usual pants, worn under the cargos. I slid my switchblade into the back right pocket of my cargos, zipped up the hoodie, and was ready to work.

I drove to the park in a daze. My stomach kept coiling and uncoiling, first I was sweating, then I was freezing, then I was sweating again. Adrenaline kept spiking my heart rate as I kept realizing anew exactly what I was about to do. I felt alive, but as I arrived, I began my breathing exercises once more. Appearing panicky or otherwise abnormal would not do.

As I had planned, instead of parking immediately, I drove slow laps around the park, jotting security locations down on my legal pad in my lap. The fence that would serve as my route of egress was guarded, but only by one cop. One I could deal with. I turned off the small road on the left of the park down an alley, and drove just far enough to reach the center of the block. There was a dumpster in the alley, but it left enough space for me to squeeze through. I parked on the opposite side of it, with my front end facing the opposite side of the block. It would be easy to jump in the car’s back seat, strip my disguise, hop back in the driver’s seat, and melt into city traffic.

I left the car and walked, as normally as I could manage, back down the alley towards the park. I felt light and bouncy on my feet, despite the weight of the clothing and weaponry. Soon, I reached the street, and jay-walked across it to the security officer.

I waved, and said, “Excuse me,” getting his attention. He nodded cordially at me. “Could you point me at the entry to the concert? I got a little turned around, I’m not sure which side it’s on.”

“Oh, sure!” he smiled as he spoke. “It’s, uh,” he turned to point, “that w-”

I very literally cut him off by, in one smooth motion, pulling out my switchblade, flicking it open, and jamming it straight into his voice box. He gurgled and sputtered as he tried to grab at my arms, and blood poured out of his wound down his chest and over my hands. His strength failed him as he choked on his blood, and his knees buckled. As he began to slump forward, I pulled the knife back out of his body, and quickly knelt to wipe it on the ground. I glanced around as I did so, but I had no need to worry. No one had noticed. All eyes were on the main concert stage. I dragged his body a few feet away to stash him under a near-by tree, so if anyone happened to drive by, he would look like a vagrant, or a drunk, passed out in the shade. Perfect.

As I walked towards the main entrance, I wiped my hands on the inside of my jacket as best as I could. Only a few flecks of already dried blood remained, not enough to be noticable. I blended into the crowd near the entrance and, as I had guessed, there was no entry checkpoint. Everything was going according to my meticulous plan, and I couldn’t prevent a shiver of pleasure from wracking my body. The park was heavily crowded, and getting around to my planned point-of-attack was slow going, but eventually I arrived.

My heart was racing and my stomach was trying to escape through my throat. I realized suddenly just how fucking unprepared I was to do this. No amount of planning would make this part any easier. I sat on the ground and pulled my knees up to my chest, and practiced my breathing exercises.

Two short breaths. One long breath in. Hold. Hold. One long, slow breath out.

All I could hear was my blood rushing through my skull.



I don’t know how long I spent sitting in the grass, but eventually the sound of my pulse gave way to the sound of the concert, and my nerve returned. I rose slowly to my feet, and turned away from the crowd.

It’s okay.

You can do this.




I pulled my weapon and turned my body, extending my gun-arm fully towards the crowd, then, without hesitation, began to fire. Each shot sent a jolt down my arm, but I was too adrenaline jacked to care. The people closest to me were only six feet away, and I saw in beautiful detail as the bullets ripped through their flesh, tearing apart organ and bone. I watched a young woman, twenty at the most, fall to her knees, gripping her bleeding throat. I watched an older man, probably her lover, collapse instantly to the ground as his head exploded, showering the people around him in meaty chunks of brain and fat. Human after human learned the true nature of life in front of my gun. My weapon clicked, and I pulled the magazine. A teenager wearing a recently-purchased band t-shirt tried to rush me as I reloaded, but he was too slow, and I plugged three rounds into his chest. He fell, gasping, clutching his wounds. I could see the realization that he was dying cross his face. I stepped over him and advanced on the cowering, screaming crowd.

I noticed, only for a brief moment, that the music had not stopped, but the band had fled already. They were only lip-syncing. Fucking posers.

People were ducking and covering their heads as they ran, which didn’t help them, but afforded me a view of the police by the entrance beginning to draw their weapons and run towards me. I swore as I realized I’d only gone through one magazine. This wasn’t enough time, this wasn’t enough people! There were still so many that had to learn! I stood up on my toes and tried to fire over the crowd at the cops, but only succeeded in dumping more rounds into the terrified crowd. Blood sprayed and people fell, but the police kept running at me. I shouted profanity as I reloaded again, and popped the slide on my pistol back into place just as the cops got a clear bead on me. I aimed and fired a spray in their direction, and they both fell, but I was just a little too late. One of them managed to squeeze off a round, and I felt it slam into the right side of my abdomen. In that moment, all my focus drained, and I panicked. I was shot. I was shot. I was fucking shot! Fuck!

I wish I had been braver, but I turned tail and ran. I stuffed my pistol into my pants as I reached the fence, and adrenaline gave me the strength to heave myself over it despite my wound. I gripped my side with one hand and sprinted past the dead cop under the tree and across the street. I slowed to a pained, limping jog as I made my way down the alley, but fortunately I had the presence of mind to look behind for followers. A disheveled looking man was breaching the end of the alley, walking slowly towards me. I think he was homeless.

“Hey!” he called out, in a rasp. “You alright?”

I drew and fired three quick shots into his chest. He dropped immediately. I realized, with a shot of sudden dread, that I had fired too close to my car. This could raise suspicion. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck! I sprinted the rest of the way down the alley to my car, all thoughts of my gunshot wound gone. I yanked open the rear door of my sedan and dove into the back seat. In a panicked frenzy, I ripped and tore at my clothing, desperate to get my disguise off. I felt like an animal, thrashing in its harness on the way to the vet. It felt like it took years for me to remove it all, but if I had to guess, I took maybe three minutes to get all my outerwear off. I stuffed it all under a towel on the floorboards, clambered over the seats, and slumped into the driver’s seat. I turned the key, shifted into gear, and pulled out into traffic.

The whole way home I kept checking my mirrors, terrified of being tailed, but no one had followed me. I had gotten away clean. I had shown a whole crowd the reality of life, that it is suffering, that it is a curse, and I had gotten away with it. My elation was only mildly tempered by my throbbing side. I arrived home, parked in my garage, and went inside to inspect the damage.

I staggered, slowly, to the bathroom. I stood in front of the mirror for a long time, looking at the blood seeping through the hole in my jacket. Perhaps, my fevered mind reasoned, if I did not check the damage, there would be no damage. But irrational fear soon gave way to reason, and I stripped off my jacket and shirt. I looked down at my wound, and was shocked to find the rear edge of the bullet still visible. With shaking fingers and gritted teeth, I pulled the round from my flesh. The bleeding became much, much worse with the round removed, and I swallowed back panic as I grabbed an enormous wad of cotton, soaked it in alcohol, and stuffed it into the hole. The pain was unimaginable. It burned deep, deep within my body, as if I had shoved a red-hot knife within my own torso. But I knew that if it burned, that meant it was keeping me clean. I wrapped gauze around myself, cinching the cotton in place, and settled down in my recliner by the TV. I flicked on the news, and watched with intent gratification as the story of my heroism broke on television. They smeared me as a monster, of course, but heroes are never understood in their own time.