Phantom Pain

Every part of my body hurts.

I open my bottle of Percodan and shake three pills out.

Damn. Only three left after these. I wish this stuff would actually take the pain away.

I’ve been frequenting this bar, the Rusty Dagger Pub according to the flashing sign out front, for the last five years. I’d like to say that I don’t know why I keep coming back here. The service is lackluster, the beer is almost room temperature and even the women, although plentiful, are nothing to write home about.

No, the reason I keep coming back here is to fight. The Rusty Dagger Pub has the reputation of being one of the toughest bars in Eastern Canada. At one point during the biker gang war between the Hell Haunts and the Desecrators in the mid-nineties the bar was averaging one murder every two weeks.

I’ve been in a lot of fights and brawls and in that time I guess I’ve built up quite a reputation as someone who can take a beating and walk away from it.

I can’t be killed.

No, let me rephrase that.

The truth is I can be killed, but for some reason I keep coming back.

I’ll get to that in a bit.

I’ve been watching these two bikers for the last hour and there’s no doubt in my mind that they’re talking about me.

The heavier set one seems to be the one who’s going to lead the charge. He’s getting very animated and has that look in his eye. That dark sparkle when someone gets the idea… the urge, to kill another human being. I’ve seen it many times over the years and it has usually been directed at me.

Tonight, I know he’s going to do it.

He’s going to kill me.


“There’s something I have to tell you,” Michael Canning said gulping the remainder of his beer and placing the empty bottle on the sticky table. “Actually, it’s something I have to do.”

He was sitting with his friend Garrett Anderson at their usual spot inside the Rusty Dagger Pub. Michael had just finished his fourth beer of the night while Garrett was nursing his second rum and Coke.

“Do? Do what?” Garrett asked.

“You see that guy in the corner?”

Garrett turned and looked into the corner where Michael was pointing. Through the dim lighting and thick clouds of cigarette smoke, he could make out a lone figure sitting at a table in the far corner of the bar. The man had a shaved head and although he had a large frame, he didn’t seem to be anything special.

“What about him?” Garrett asked.

“His name is Erwin Sterben and he’s been coming here for the last couple of years. I was talking to one of my buddies in the Hell Haunts and apparently that guy in the corner has been on the receiving end of many ass kickings.”


“Not just any regular beat downs,” Michael said leaning in towards Garrett. “I’m talking about four and five guys stomping his head into the pavement. He should’ve died by now yet he always seems to show up back in the bar.” Michael looked over Garrett’s shoulder at Erwin and then back to his friend. “There’s something about that guy that isn’t right.”

“So he has a reputation for being able to take an ass kicking and keep on ticking. Leave it alone, Mike, and enjoy your night.”

The two sat without speaking for a few minutes listening to heavy blues guitar riffs blaring through the bar’s old speakers. Both were dressed in typical black-leather biker attire, with Michael wearing a leather vest that one day he hoped would proudly display the Hell Haunts logo.

“The Hell Haunts want him dead,” Michael said. “And they want me to do it.”

“Why?” Garret asked.

“I don’t know and I don’t care. I want my patch.”


I’ve seen him in the bar many times and usually he’s hanging out with the Hell Haunts biker gang. He’s not a full patched member though, probably just a ‘hang around’ or a prospect. I bet he thinks killing me will elevate him in the Hell Haunts to a full patched member.

Who knows, it might.

It looks like all he needs is the opportunity to get me alone. He won’t use a gun as it will arouse too much attention. I’m guessing he’s carrying a knife of some sort.

I have to piss.

I guess there’s no time like the present to set things in motion.

Let’s see if I’m right.

I’ll walk right by his table on my way to the bathroom. I’m guessing he’ll follow and if walking by isn’t enough, I’ll eyeball him.


“He’s getting up,” Michael said quietly.

“Is he leaving?” Garrett asked.

Michael shook his head but remained quiet as Erwin walked up to their table. Their eyes locked briefly and Erwin brushed him off. Seething, Michael watched as he made his way to the back and into the bathroom.

“That motherfucker,” Michael said. “He has the nerve to eyeball me? Let’s go and end this fucking guy.”

“No,” Garrett said.

“What do you mean ‘no’? I need you to watch the door to make sure no one comes in. Come on, once I’m a full patched member I can put a good word in for you and get you fast tracked to your patch.”

Garrett looked at him. “You mean that?”

“Man, you know when I say something I mean it. Now get the fuck up and follow me.”

Nodding, Garrett stood up and the two men walked towards the back. When they reached the bathroom door, they both looked around the bar to see if anyone was watching.

It wasn’t a busy night with only four other patrons inside. Michael nodded to Garrett and headed inside.

As he stepped through the door, Michael’s heart raced in excitement. Inside, the bathroom was small consisting of two seldom washed urinals and two stalls, one of which was missing a door. A single sink with a rusty drain sat on the wall with a cracked mirror above it.

Michael listened and heard the sound of urine hitting water. He crouched down peering underneath the stalls and saw that Erwin was in the stall with the door still attached. Reaching into his left pant pocket, Michael pulled out a knife and stood just to the side of the stall, waiting for Erwin to come out.

Almost immediately Michael wished he had had another drink to calm his nerves as he fidgeted with the knife.

The toilet flushed and the door opened up.

Michael’s body tensed up and time seemed to slow down as he waited for Erwin to exit the stall. He saw one foot step out and as soon as he saw Erwin’s body, he lunged.

He grabbed Erwin’s face, covering his mouth and began stabbing into his side with the knife. Michael felt Erwin’s hot and panicked breath on his hand trying to yell out. With each stab of the knife, Michael felt more and more powerful.

Killing Erwin for the Hell Haunts was an honor he wanted to remember every second of. He could feel Erwin weakening in his grasp so he slipped behind him.

“Let’s see you live through this, asshole,” Michael whispered in the Erwin’s ear.

With that he tilted Erwin’s head back and cut deep into his neck.

Erwin gurgled and blood gushed out. Michael held him for a few minutes, enjoying the feeling of taking another man’s life until Erwin went limp. The gurgling slowed and then went silent.

Working quickly but carefully, Michael positioned Erwin so that he appeared to be seated on the toilet. After a final look, he closed the stall door and walked over to the sink.

Michael quickly washed his hands and then wrapped the knife in paper towel. He tossed it into the garbage and headed back into the bar to join Garrett.


Gasping for that initial first breath and the shock the body feels when it is revived are terrible. I suppose it could be similar to how the body reacts to a defibrillator with everything being jolted to life again.

My fingers trace where not too long ago my throat had been slit. It kind of itches but the stab wounds on my side still sting.

How long has it been since that fucker killed me?

According to my watch it’s only been ten minutes.

You see, I can be killed and believe me it sucks every time.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve died; how many times I seen the light, reached out to accept its embrace only to be pulled back into this fucking existence so that I may die again.

I have felt the pain that the body goes through as each internal organ shuts down. I have felt my heart stop more times than I want to remember. My body has been stabbed, crushed, and shot many times yet somehow it always heals itself.

Not completely though.

The pain remains.

Phantom pain I think they call it.

Reaching into my jacket pocket, I pull out a small bottle of Percodan and pop the remaining three pills into my mouth. In an effort to deal with pain I’ve tried many drugs and as a result I’ve become addicted to painkillers. The shitty part is I have yet to find one that completely dulls the pain.

A year ago I shot myself in the head and I came back.

I can’t even kill myself.

I’ve been called a freak and a vampire. Hell, there have been times I’ve even been called a zombie. The thing is though I don’t really know what I am.

One of the worst things, besides the pain and resurrection of course, is the fact that I don’t really know who I am anymore. I just can’t remember. My long term memories have faded with each death.

I don’t even remember my parents. I know I had them but that memory, that part of my life, seems to be gone.

I stand up and take a few unsteady steps towards the bathroom door. Opening it a crack, I peer out and see that those two guys are still here. The one who stabbed me seems to be celebrating.

I think I’ll go join them for a drink.

And like the many before who tried to kill me, I’ll return the favor.

~ Jon Olson

© Copyright 2014 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved.

12 thoughts on “Phantom Pain

  1. This is great! The story starts innocuously enough but I was very quickly intrigued by what exactly was happening, and the real strength here is the attention to Erwin’s characterisation. We’re not reading about a generic bar fight, nor is the emphasis simply that Erwin cannot die; we have the implications of his deathlessness on his character – the phantom pain of each regeneration, the fading memories, the loss of identity, replaced by a dependency on pain pills… You’ve succeeded in portraying a soul at its most Damned, Jon, which is of course the mission statement. Loved it.


  2. I second what Thomas said. A Damned fine story! The way the story developed was great, but my favorite part of the story was what you didn’t write – you eluded to it expertly.

    I could see, in my minds eye, Michael’s horrified expression as Erwin steps up to their table and sits down, knowing that he bit off more than he could chew.

    Bitchin’ story!


  3. Super story, Jon! I delve into many tales of my own where the light waits, but for a myriad of reasons, the recently departed does not choose to embrace it. Your story puts a mean twist on that: the Light shoves a poor soul back, not into Hell, but something even worse. Your Limbo world is Damned Horrifying! Tres cool!



  4. Welcome to the Damned, Jon!! A perfect story with which to introduce yourself to readers! Your story has a certain element of grit about it that I really enjoy; what’s more, I could feel your character’s ‘pain’ welling. It also transferred into me! Loved it! Damned good stuff 🙂


  5. Thanks a lot guys! Glad you guys found Erwin’s torment entertaining! It was a lot of fun to write and I’m really happy with the way it turned out!

    Since I’m having a beer right now (Moosehead) I’d like to raise my bottle and propose a toast:
    “Thanks for the incredible amount of support on my inaugural post and for making the ‘Fresh Meat’ feel welcome. Here’s to some Damned good times ahead! Cheers!”


  6. Great tale, Jon! I really enjoyed the changing perspective on this one, it offers the full story where one point of view would be limited. Erwin’s death and revival was a lot of fun! Welcome to the Damned, Jon! Cheers!


  7. Hey Jon! Welcome to the Damned!! This is a great story… nothing like being an immortal that gets killed regularly to toughen a guy up. Nice way to sink your teeth in! And don’t be fooled by Susan’s comment – you may be Canadian, but we won’t tolerate polite around here!! lol

    Welcome to the jungle, Fresh Meat! 😉


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