Damned Words 10
Misery rolled with the dogs in the shadows of Tompkin’s shed.
On August 25th, 1968, Mike Callahan hung himself from a cross-beam in the ceiling. The wood was old and riddled with rot but it held his weight well enough.
On July 13th, 1985, Sarah Paulson was stabbed in the neck while tending to the potted bulbs on the windowsill. She died instantly. The bulbs never sprouted.
1989, fire. 1997, rape.
In 2001, the Tompkins moved in. The shed became a doghouse. Two-year old Muttley howled perpetually. Three coats of paint couldn’t hide the stains seeping through the skirting board.
Don’t open it! Leave it shut! You must not let them in. I know you’re tired. You spent years building this place; this hideout; this inner sanctum. Yes, although you can’t see them, your victims are in here too. They coax you to open it; to reveal yourself to the real world. It would be so easy, so relieving, to turn the knob and walk out. No more hiding or pretending. But then what? What will you be out there? Condemned. In here, you rule; you are god. That’s right, step back and let’s go find us a new victim.
Home, Never Sweet, Home
Standing in this place again, after all these years, makes my scars tingle. I swear I can still taste the fear, the spilled blood, the unnatural appetites. Just by looking around, you can see that it was a house of torment; that the structure itself acquiesced to the display of wicked sins. And yet, despite the hatred I bear for my family and this past, I’ve always felt the need to return—a subconscious compulsion to revisit and relive. So, I’ve come back and brought with me this nice trembling family to whom I will gladly pass on the tradition.
In prison I walked the only halls I could – those of my mind. Once luxurious, they now sit in rot and degradation. Twenty years ago this palace was filled with vivid splendor. But memory without input is like a sail without wind – damned to stagnation.
I created this entire place, with the exception of a troublesome door in the darkest recess. No longer able to resist, I open it. A loathsome horde escapes and fills me with their cries of lunacy. The open door shows my cell, its inhabitant raving. My hoarse cackle echos that of the imprisoned maniac.
The force shredded the meat from her bones, flesh flaying like curls of thin paper. She felt herself as a trembling skeleton, the frame that once held her image, her story. Then that too disintegrated in the searing heat. You need to be on the brink to make a choice like that, to challenge the very fabric of the universe, to bend time to your will. The portal opens, a swirling whirlpool of unstable energy, threatening to fold in on itself and disappear. Time at her fingertips and no time to hesitate. She approached the blinding light, she stepped through.
One lousy layer of wood is all that separates me from what waits on the other side. Yet, I have fared better than the rest of the town. I am still alive.
I tried warning them, but they laughed at me the way they always did. When they came, it was too late. I should have just fucking gone and not worried about them. I did try. The fault is theirs.
I walk to the door, open it, and embrace the Dark. They are out there, shadows begetting shadows. No more waiting. I am ready.
I am one of them…
Dusty are those memories: HORSE, the gas scooter we built, the telegraph system…
What is it that two tom-boys saw in that old shack? We imagined a spark could give us a glimpse into history. You held the wire while I hosed the area. You vanished with the last of the sparks; I kept the ashes.
Every year, I go back to find me and see you. I get one question – you always evade the Edison one. This year something is different instead of you answering a question about another century you’re holding a sparking wire and that same dripping hose.
Cowering in the corner, I muffle the ceaseless pounding upon my psyche with useless hands that cover my ears. The thunderous clamor from the other side continues night into day, day into night. I watch the walls quiver with each new assault upon my senses; the crack in the floor creeps closer and closer with each quake of the jam. Cold and alone, this huddling in dank misery seems endless. I crawl forward; the battering stills in pregnant pause. I reach for the key in the old lock; listen to its bare click as it disengages. The door swings open…
The world is different now, so fucking different. At first, things seemed random; pockets of disease spreading slightly before being contained, angry mobs destroying their own communities, financial crises. We were too arrogant to see the bigger picture, a picture that didn’t include more than two-thirds of the planet’s population. And now, I’m the one-third of my family still alive. I know what atrocities wait beyond that door because I’ve survived the horrors on this side of that same door. I step over the severed heads and gnashing jaws of my wife and son as I reach for the handle.
Joseph A. Pinto
The chandelier hung here once; your eyes caught in its crystal, cast into a thousand shards, yet I could not see who you were. It is gone now. So are the tools that spurred us, tore all down. I have kept to my menial task of rebuilding; oh, the drudgery of my clumsy fingers through dust clotted hours of toil. Our palace razed, I recall the promise you once glimpsed through these slatted boards. I hold fast to that vision. Our walls crumbled; this foundation strong. You are part of it now. Each pass of my trowel layers your smile.
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