William Stevens quickly grew nervous at the sight of the Auditor before him. William was a disheveled man, wearing his Sunday best fresh out of a pile of wrinkled clothes on his bedroom floor. The Auditor dressed in his finest navy-blue shirt & tie with a sharp powder-blue sport coat just to screw with how you’re supposed to feel about him.
“Take a seat, Mr. Stevens,” said the Auditor. “This won’t take long.”
William took his seat in a hard, metal folding chair next to the desk. Looking around, he noticed the office was of perfect, government-approved, symmetrical specification. William had always found symmetry frightening. There’s just something so chilling about anything that can be made to look perfectly reflective from one side to the other. Our world is surely imperfect, so the fact that something could be built this sleek and faceless was quite worrisome.
“Mr. Stevens,” said the Auditor, “I see here that everything appears to be in order. Name, address, occupation, health, etc. All statuses accounted for. All income received and taxes filed.” A wave of relief washed over William. He had known friends to try and pull one over on the Audit system and things were never the same for them after that. For now, it would seem as though he was about to walk away clean.
“There is one final matter though, Mr. Stevens,” said the Auditor. “Your three children.” William’s blood ran cold. Every year since his wife had become pregnant with their third child he had made sure to keep the entire situation off the public record as to not go against the country’s two offspring limit. It has been seven years up to this point and William had done a good job keeping things quiet.
“One of our localized agents spotted three children in Sector Fifty Seven a few months back and we decided to do some voluntary investigating,” said the Auditor, in a low and mellow tone of voice. He pressed the button for an intercom on his desk.
“Bring her in.”
The door slid open like a knife through butter and the secretary brought in a young girl sporadically covered in bandages and slumped into a wheelchair.
“Miriam!” howled William. “What did you do to her? Why is she in that wheelchair? How did you find her? I demand an explanation right now!” William was quickly becoming a man-of-action parody, far from the meek father that walked in several minutes ago. He knew for his daughter’s sake that he had to dial back his anger, for now, or else there might be more trouble than there already seemed to be.
“I don’t exactly have to answer your questions in order, if at all, but I can tell you, Mr. Stevens, that we have ways of finding people; we can assure you that your wife and two other children are safe at home (though will remain asleep for the next 12 hours); but your third daughter isn’t exactly going to get out as easy and I can assure you, Mr. Stevens, that this is all—your—fault.” The Auditor said, as he began to adjust his cufflinks with a smug, nonchalant playfulness.
“She didn’t do anything except be born,” said William. “Exactly!” burst the Auditor, as he popped up from his chair, “and now her punishment is your punishment, Mr. Stevens! You went against our mandate and brought an extra life into this system! That life demands resources that we are unwilling to provide!”
The Auditor began to unbutton and remove his sport coat and hang it on the back of his chair. He then looked down for several seconds, then raised his head back up and began to speak with a raised tone somewhere between friendly and howling mad, but never getting back to either extreme.
“You knew this. You brought the burden upon yourself, your country and now you must repay us with those excess resources in kind,” said the Auditor. “We’re not heartless. We brought your daughter here so you can say goodbye to her one last time before she has to go.”
If William’s blood could run any colder it would have surely frozen him by now. “Where are you taking her?” asked William. “We are going to submit her to the Donor program where she will be harvested for her resources and they will be transplanted into living bodies that could stand to use them,” said the Auditor, “though there’s little you can do about it now. She put up a fight, but we’ve already injected her with anesthetic serum and she’ll be asleep soon enough.”
William sat silent. Everything was happening so fast. All that he had worked so hard to protect was flying out the window and, to the Auditor’s credit, this was all his fault. William proceeded to stand up, look the Auditor square in the eyes, and punch him in his face.
Security swarmed the room and held William down on the ground.
“You think you can control us?!” William yelled. “You honestly think that this ends with me being hauled off and you gutting out my daughter’s organs for your ‘approved’ citizens? This fight has been going on since before you or I were born and it’s going to continue until someone budges.” William began to spit out blood from being knocked to the floor. “You can kill me! You can take my body! Mine’s fully developed! I know you’re still going to take her from me anyway.”
With his head firmly locked against the floor, William could only see a Dutch-angle view of his daughter being wheeled away, never to be seen again. Who knows what horror she will be put through before she is finally unconscious, but at this point William could only hope that moment comes to her sooner rather than later.
“As for you, Mr. Stevens,” said the Auditor, “despite the fact that you might have dislocated my jaw there, you are free to go.” This was the worst news of all.
William knows that there’s nothing he can do to fight back. At least if they had imprisoned him for hitting an Auditor he could feel like there were gears moving somewhere. The fact that he was now being forced back out into the world, having to deal with what just transpired, was true terror. The terror that sometimes life just goes on, even when we don’t want it to.
Spiritually broken and defeated, William let the guards drag him by his shoulders back out from where he came in. There he stood, outside, in plain sight of an unusually sunny day. As he walked down the street and back towards his car he said nothing.
Who knows what happened to William. Maybe he went back to society and planted the seeds of revolution into the foundation of his community. Maybe he went home and immediately killed himself. Maybe, just maybe, he went home and kept living.
As I stare into my own eyes, through the only reflective surface that remains uncovered by dust and debris from a final unruly affair in my lounge, I think it’s finally beginning to hit me.
It’s finally starting to sink in that I might have gotten everything I’ve ever wanted—I’ve gained all of the reward and have lost all of the want.
When the war began I was certain that my men would be able to conquer the Eastern front. For years the thought of finally gaining access to their land was orgasmic.
I don’t mean that lightly. I remember being unsatisfied with any other pleasure short of finally being able to provide my people with the resources they needed.
Rich-soiled land for farming, clean drinking water, electricity.
For too long my people had lived under me in fear; afraid of my power yet flippant about my ability to provide for them.
It goes both ways.
Every time there were riots in the street, I would send my army to quell them. Secretly, I regretted that I had failed those who, ultimately, were mine to provide for.
Is a King without respect still a King?
There was a time, long ago by this point, where I was a noble man. I wanted the best and brought my people such with the purest of intentions to back it up.
The days were full of positive innovation and forward world-building; nights packed with active minds harboring dreams of days to come. Promises cost nothing and were sold by the ton.
By the time you read this I shall be no more. The allure of being the last man standing has truly come to pass and I would rather retire these bones of mine to a grave of eternal solace if it means that I can never allow myself to destroy my own kingdom ever again.
I leave no plan for rebuilding, no direction for you to go from here. I prefer it this way. The land is now ripe with possibility and you should seize this chance to make of it what you can.
Don’t follow in my tracks. Don’t emulate my motives. Don’t even pay mind to my faults.
Don’t win. Survive.
The bar was musty and reeked of piss and bleach. The walls, floor, and stools were coated in a glaze of plastic as red and green lights shined down on top of my head as if it were Christmas. This was hardly a place that most people in the city would expect to find a woman of my stature this late.
It certainly wasn’t the most attractive place to be on a Friday night, but I had been working all day and this was the closest bar to my apartment that didn’t have Trance music blasting out into a three-mile radius.
There were maybe eight people in the entire place. This was a good sign. I needed to clear my head and the less people knocking into me while I tried to accomplish that with alcohol the better.
I took a seat at the bar and ordered the tallest, darkest stout that $6.50 could buy me. As I waited semi-patiently for my beer, my eyes began to scan the room. For what, I don’t know.
My head turned back around to greet my beer when I noticed a new friend sitting next to me. His eyes were soft and bright, beaming out at me like a lighthouse on a foggy evening. His skin was clear with a dusting of five o’clock shadow surrounding his cheeks.
Nice, sure. Though it was going to take more than some pretty eyes and a bristly face to get an outward reaction from me.
I gave him a shot and we got to talking.
Turns out he was actually interesting. We both enjoyed similar authors, TV shows, music. At the very least, it really turned my Friday night around.
I decided to ask him back to my place. I admit, I was feeling very needy that night and could use a good time.
The only problem was if I should tell him about the elephant in the room or not. I figured I would be bold and keep it a secret until it had to come out. I’ve been rejected many times before for holding back, but I was feeling brave.
We both flung open my apartment door, brazenly kissing each other as if it were the end of the world. He threw me onto my hardwood floor and proceeded to unbutton his shirt.
A little rude, sure, but by that point he had a good idea of what I was into.
I began to unhook my bra and disrobe myself. Both of us now on the floor topless as he began to bite my lip and cup my breast with one hand while pulling me close by my back with the other.
We began to prop ourselves into a more comfortable position against the wall. That’s when his hand made its first move down my jeans.
His face turned white as he began to feel something not quite expected. He pulled his hand out as if it had just detected a mouse trap and immediately I was prepared to feel the sting of disappointment that had become all too common for nights such as these.
He was about to call me a liar. That I had somehow deceived him by not telling him every intimate detail about my body. Somehow that had become a social crime of the highest order. He would storm out. I would cry myself to sleep. Then I would hit the reset button on a new day and hope that it wouldn’t happen again.
To my great surprise he just leaned in, kissed me, and gently told me that I didn’t have to fear being judged.
“I’m no dummy,” he said. “I know that not everyone is going to feel the same way about you. But, in the best way possible, I could care less what’s in-between your legs.” He continued, “I want you. All of you.”
We embraced and I proceeded to have the most intimate fun I’ve had in months.
We saw each other a few more times after that night, but factors like work and other commitments ultimately forced my hand in letting things float on their separate ways.
I wasn’t particularly looking for anything long-term anyway.
I also wasn’t seeking to get high off anyone’s pity.
I just want to have a good time with people who are like-minded.
The end-all be-all should not consist of what’s in each of our pants.
That’s not too much to ask for, is it?
The following is part one of the continuing adventures of a man who has fallen into a place out of time and reason. Sometimes in life, you don’t get the correct amount of time needed to think. Sometimes you don’t get the right opportunity to react the way you would hope. This particular man is given neither. We join his adventures this time right at the beginning. Well, the beginning of his long nightmare, anyway.
My mind began spinning, floating in and out of a gray haze. I could feel myself wanting food inside of my system but not needing it to function. Every inch of my body was reverberating as if I were caught in a never-ending injection of anesthetic.
As I started to settle down, I looked up and saw geometric shapes formed in near-perfect symmetry on opposite sides of a road filled with cars and taxis that weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The fog in my body began to clear completely. The shapes turned into skyscrapers so tall there was no way to actually look up and see where they ended.
Then there were the people.
Typically the most-feared yet most-fearful creatures, everyone, if they were “people,” were dressed in their New York best and playing their respective roles of businessperson or tourist etc.
It was their faces that I could not bear to look at.
Every single one of them: eyes as red as the blood that seemed to fall from their mouths. Dark shadows coated random areas of their faces like birthmarks.
Was this some kind of guilt forcing me to look away? Couldn’t be. The fear of looking seemed too real to be the work of my own mind.
The thing was, I was now a stranger in a strange land. I couldn’t just belt out a loud “ECH!” and run away.
Even if their eyes were not directly on me, they were watching me all the same.
I decided to play it cool. Well, as cool as anyone who just happened to have woken up in a haze of shapes and demons could.
I walked into the first building with a clear entrance and proceeded to try and look for a way to get to a higher level.
I needed to see what this world looked like.
The taste of the ground floor did this world no justice. I simply had to know what the entire city was like, if there was a city there at all to look at.
There was just one problem: My credentials.
They didn’t know me, I didn’t know them, and for all I knew my eyes were giant sunbeams compared to the crimson delight-balls floating in the middle of their faces.
I could see several of them standing in the lobby, comparing notes for a meeting, dressed in suits and dress shirts. It was just those faces. Those awful faces that made me judge them so harshly.
Perhaps they were not so bad.
Maybe I was assuming too much.
Though, maybe nothing good ever came from something with red eyes and a bloody mouth.
No. This was definitely trouble.
I proceeded to inhale a large serving of air and walk with stride over to a marble elevator bank.
As I walked over, I wondered if I should go all the way to the top or just near the top. My way of not being too obvious that I’m a cosmic tourist.
Upon hitting the button for an insanely high 105th floor, I felt someone grab my hand.
My blood ran cold as I looked up, only to get a good strong look at a pair of red eyes.
Though, this time, nothing else.
No dark patches on the skin or skin at all. Just eyes.
I heard the elevator bell call for me like a sanctuary and jumped in. Old bug eyes didn’t even attempt to chase me inside.
As the elevator made its way up to the 105th floor I finally had a few moments to clear my head and try to make sense of where I was.
Someone out there really wanted me to live in the moment though, because the next thing I knew the bottom of the elevator was melting right before my eyes.
The wooden panels beneath my feet were like slime, dripping down the hollow shaft of the elevator casing.
I pressed the button to get off on whichever floor I could and ran out just in time.
Before me stood a tall palace door made entirely of black leather.
As I approached the door, I noticed that it too had begun to melt. Though it wasn’t destroying the door any. It was like a silky, cool residue dripping off a façade.
I could only imagine what fresh Hell awaited me behind Door Number One.
My palm pressed against the creamy, slick door; I pushed it open to reveal a cloud of dust enveloping my entire body.
In that moment, paralysis took hold and I was thrown at the mercy of forces I had just realized would not be letting me off so easy on this day.
“Look at them,” Jim thought.
His eyes grew thinner as he began to squint in disapproval while failing to cajole a rapidly expanding inner monologue.
“They think that they can come into my life, day in and day out, and shit all over my business?”
Jim reached under his folding chair and unscrewed the top of his flask before shooting down a quick swig. It was a clichéd gesture, yes, but when you’re as mad as Jim was in this moment, any kind will do. Sometimes all an angry man needs is a clean space in his head to vent, no matter how he decides to wipe it out.
“Why did I ever get into this business?” Jim wondered.
“I used to aspire to be someone,” he said with a long sigh. “This responsibility has become less of a burden and more of an existential nightmare.”
Jim got up from his folding chair, walked over to the mini fridge in his office and pulled out a small bag of cocaine.
“You still love me enough to hurt me in that way I like, don’t you?” Jim asked the bag of cocaine, as if it were going to talk back at any moment.
He began to dump the entire bag onto the table, riddled in coffee stains and lonely semen as it was, shuffling the powder with his index finger into something that resembled lines drawn by a drunk cartographer.
Jim was a portly man. Bald-ing, but not quite there yet. Gruff face, but not a spec of hair on it. If you were to look up ‘Sad Sack’ in a thesaurus you would probably see a picture of poor slovenly Jim.
His mind was now balls-deep in an orgy of powdered lust and escapism. His face, covered in the evidence.
That’s when his assistant, Debbie, opened the door he was too wrapped up in his self-loathing to lock.
Debbie was a lovely young redhead who had gotten the job from an ad off a billboard. Kind, shapely, literate; she was everything Jim wasn’t.
“Sir?” Debbie asked, “One of the smaller ones just bit a bigger one that was sleeping.”
There was a long pause.
The pause was, no doubt, to cover up the fact that Jim was hunched over a table made of balsa wood frantically trying to rub cocaine onto his white work shirt in lieu of it being blasted all over his greasy nose.
Jim seemed to think it had worked, but Debbie knew better. She just didn’t want to get fired. She knew in this line of work you could be shit-canned for a lot worse. If she was going to go down, it certainly was not going to be for pointing out her employer’s shortcomings.
“I’ll deal with it,” Jim said, “but make sure if any of their parents show up early that they wait in the main lobby.”
“Yes, Mr. Hoytt,” said Debbie, as she rolled her eyes and closed the office door.
Jim got up and pressed his head against the wall as if he were about to give up on life completely in the hopes that his spirit would just fly away to somewhere more pleasant.
Still unbelievably out of his mind from his cocaine fix, Jim started to cock the tiniest of smiles as he slowly realized what he should do.
This would be his ultimate masterstroke.
Jim was about to give himself one last shot at infamy, at any cost, while making sure someone, anyone, would never be able to forget him.
“I’ll kill the little bastard,” Jim thought.
It was positively classic. The old fame-by-infamy routine. If Jim had to waste 25 years of his live working in this dead end job then the reward might as well be to end up in the papers while he goes out in a self-destructive blaze of glory.
Jim flung open his door and walked toward the screaming little creature, its arms squirming, completely oblivious to the scene that was about to take place.
Reaching down, Jim grabbed the thing he had called a “demon spawn” so many times before, wrapped it in his arms and walked back into his office.
Then he locked the door.
For an act this admittedly devilish, Jim needed a bit more powdered courage.
He flung open his mini-fridge, though only to find that all of his cocaine had been used up already.
This should have been obvious, really. It had only been ten minutes, tops, since he shot all of it up his goddamn nose.
But who could blame him for the confusion? The man was higher than the International Space Station by this point.
It was at that point when Jim decided he might as well go for broke on the drug front.
In his office closet there was a small stash of cleaning supplies. Jim had never used them to get high before, but why should that stop him now?
Jim grabbed a small canister of something that must have been several years old.
The label on it had deteriorated from age and the outside of the canister was rank with a slick, waxy buildup.
It was just the kind of unidentifiably potent shit Jim had been looking for.
He quickly twisted open the cap and swigged a large gulp of the stuff into his mouth.
Jim began to cough furiously to the point where his body flung back against the wall.
The taste was akin to burning plastic with just a hint of black licorice, as if to give a nice ‘fuck you’ to your throat when the aftertaste hits it on the way down.
Once Jim regained his composure, he began to walk toward the table where he had placed his victim and proceeded to drop his hands into his pants pockets and shuffle them around in search of something that would get the job done nice and quick.
By the time Jim had procured a simple pen-knife the effects of his odd drinking habit had caught up to him.
He looked down on the table only to see an emaciated, charred, and blackened corpse wriggling around and moaning for mercy in some indecipherable language.
The corpse was a fully-grown human, shrunk down to fit on the table, just enough to fill all of Jim’s peripheral vision.
Jim jolted back, hitting the corner of his head against the wall and falling down on his backside as if God himself had just struck him down from the heavens.
Staring up at the table, Jim saw the arm of the smoking corpse begin to grip the edge of the table and prop itself onto its side as the creature turned its head to get a good piercing look at the sad sack man.
“Your head is in the clouds, but your mind is dying,” said the rotting creature, with a charred voice that sounded like its vocal chords had been set on fire long ago.
Jim began to cry nervous tears as he screamed for Debbie to bust through his office door as a sign that this was all just some horrible nightmare.
The door began to shake.
Debbie was trying to get in.
The sad sack man had locked the door and was now too fucked-up to get to unlocking it.
The charred corpse began to rise up from the table, ash falling from its skin like dust.
By this point, Jim was visibly shaking while a small gash on the side of his head began to drip warm blood from his fall.
“Your intentions betray you!” the corpse growled, in that rough voice once again.
The corpse started to reach down, seeming to aim at Jim’s throat, with smoldering ash falling into his lap.
Jim took one last look at the door, shaking as it was, and realized that either Debbie wasn’t able to get in or she wasn’t even there to begin with.
Afraid, alone, and crazy enough to take a life; Jim opted to reach for the pen-knife and kill his demons once and for all.
Jim shook his head back and forth rapidly in a sign of ultimate disbelief and plunged the knife into the side of his neck.
In that instant, the corpse began to evaporate into the air, disappearing completely at the exact moment Jim’s eyes closed for the final time.
Two minutes later, Debbie was finally able to break through the door and began screaming in disbelief.
She knew that, in this moment, she needed to be strong for the rest of them.
Debbie ran over to the table; picked up the baby; ran back into the lobby, closing the door behind her; and alerted the other caretakers to call both an ambulance and all of the parents to come pick up their toddlers.
There had been a grave incident at the Hoytt Family Daycare.
The streets were empty as dusk set on the passing roads of urban decay. City blocks were lined with crumbling apartments and dive bars as far as the eye could see.
Stray garbage whizzed past equally stray animals as the night breeze began to kick-up. An eerie calm permeated the wind like a silent backbone bracing for a hit of something strong.
Suddenly, a lone man opened the door of a local bar and hesitantly walked out into the barren street.
His body quivered as if he had just lost his virginity. Sweat dripping down his brow and running into his trim beard, seeming to weight his entire face down as his head began to slump.
The spotlight of the evening lampposts appeared to be fixated on this anonymous man and him alone.
As the wind halted for but a moment, the leering gaze of the community peeked its head out to witness something that they could feel in their bones was special.
After several minutes of anticipated hesitation, the man began to walk forward.
In the distance, a great silver light could be seen haloing a large metallic wall.
The man proceeded to pivot his walk toward the wall and march on as what seemed like a million rows of eyes suddenly popped up out of the shadows to watch him. His every step attracting more attention than his last.
As he passed a family thrift store, the youngest boy, no more than twelve years old, emerged to walk with the man.
When they both walked by an empty gas station, the elderly owner mustered all his strength and joined the two as they proceeded to get closer to the silver halo blinding the end of their path.
Soon, more people were coming out of the shadows to join them.
Men, women, children, young, old. Everyone seemed to be getting in on the action.
As more people joined the crowd, the faster the first man began to pick up the pace. What was initially a solemn walk down a dirty street had become a veritable fun run spearheaded by some cosmic shepherd who had now mustered the fortitude to stare his community in the face and dared to wonder how the other side lived.
The man started to smile as wide as the light that shown before them. Children began to laugh. People who were once worlds apart in terms of class and race marched together, united by their chosen fate.
Once the group had reached the light at the end, the metallic wall stood before them. It’s center split in two, the opening in the metal shined a light that seemed brighter than the strongest sun.
The same hesitation that gripped the man immediately after he decided to be the first one into the street had returned, tenser than ever.
This was the moment the man had been waiting for.
The plunge had been taken and everyone’s fate sealed by the action that he took. There was no going back now and even if there were, the entire community was at his back to make sure none of them could run away from what would surely be such a crucial moment in their history.
The man began a slow and visibly painful stride into the light.
As his body shifted from one side of the door to the other his flesh began to heat-up while his hair started to curl in on his scalp. The eyes of this daring man now seemed to jolt from their sockets as his mouth grew wide and gaping as he began to feel a chill run through the roots of his teeth.
Just as his body had passed the door completely his screams of pain became audible to everyone within several miles.
People could barely make out his skin turning a dark green color behind the blinding light of the open door.
The last thing the large crowd saw before the man vanished completely was a tiny smile beginning to form where his gaping screams had been only moments prior.
The entire crowd took a collective step back and waited for the door to close.
As if they had all just awoken from some terrible nightmare, they began to shake their heads and disperse back to their dank corners of the city.
Perhaps living in their personal Hell was a more-comfortable fate than feeling the pain of the unknown.
Original piece. “The Demon Implodes At Sundown.”
Original piece. “The Other Side Of The Mountain.”
Nothing says stuck at work on a beautiful Thursday like the Terminator trilogy on DVD from the Dog and Pony Show boys… Which I won during their DAPS Drinking Day Anniversary Party live stream event.
Thanks guys. I’ll be back.
P.S. I also got Kung Fu Panda 2 in the mail today… so many action flicks!
These used to be my movies. Then I got a Blu-Ray player (and discs). But these DVDs are too-awesome to not get use from someone, so I gave them away on DAPS Drinking Day. Enjoy your Arnold!
Also, the lenticular cover on T2 is legitimately frightening.