Friday, July 25, 2008

Bring on the Noise, Bring on the Pain

My office is really just a corner that sits outside of the main living room. The kids in the neighborhood have deemed my house “the cool” hangout and as a result, I usually have a crowd traipsing in and out of the area, playing pool in the open game room above me or video games with the volume cranked loud enough to vibrate my teeth or any number of other activities that most would find distracting.

The cacophony doesn’t seem to bother me in the least, in fact, I embrace it and I’ve been doing it so long now that when there is an absence of chaos, I have trouble creating scenes that have any real bite to them. As such, when I find myself in silence, I plug my ipod into the stereo, crank the volume a few notches short of max and let the worlds of my characters spiral out of control.

For the most part, I’m a pantser. When I sit down to write, I have very little idea where my characters will take me or what kind of people they will turn out to be for that matter. I guess you could say, I’m reading the story as I write it.

I’ve only attempted to write a story from an outline once, but it is still unfinished. I love the story idea, don’t get me wrong, but when I wrote the outline, it took away something I never knew I would miss: the anticipation. I already know what will happen in the story and how it ends. I’m no longer reading along as I write, I’m just plugging in the details.

I juggle a day job that requires a fair amount of travel, raising my son, housework, writing, promotion and as much fun as I can squeeze into each and every day. Sometimes I drop a ball or two, but for the most part my hectic lifestyle seems to be just the thing I need to keep the creative juices flowing. I guess I’m just a Cleric of Chaos. I thrive on perpetual motion and welcome the flurry of activities that dominate my waking hours.

Truth be told, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Even if I were to hit the literary lottery and quit my day job with tons of play money, I’m sure I would just find some other activity to take its place. Perhaps I was a shark in my past life and have some deep rooted fear that if I stop moving I will die. Perhaps, I just suffer from adult ADD. Either way, I seem to funnel the pandemonium into my writing.

But enough rambling about my writing environment (or lack there of), it’s time to offer up a bit of writing inspired by anarchy.

The Sweet Release

The pain rouses me. I’m aware of every inch of my body. I search for some part of me that is unharmed. I come up short. I feel cold steel beneath me. I wish its caress would soothe my battered limbs, but it only amplifies the severity of my wounds. The bright lights of the room make the world look pink through my shut lids. I don’t dare open them. Seeing is believing and I desperately don’t want to believe. Reality is overrated.

It hurts to breath. I will myself to take small draws. The flesh of my lips break open as I pull them apart. The moisture is welcome. The pain in my chest lessens. The air rattles when it comes up through my throat, escapes from my mouth. I barely resist the urge to cough. To cough would be disastrous. The pain would be more than my already fragile mind could bear. My lungs are full of something. I don’t dare guess what.

My tongue is swollen; my teeth won’t meet. How many of them are still whole? I feel the jagged edges as they scratch the sides of my tongue. I taste copper at the back of my throat. Fluid pools there, blood, saliva…Lord only knows what else. I don’t dare swallow.

I listen for movement. I can hear nothing but the pound of my heart and the buzz of a fluorescent light. The room is still. Am I alone? I don’t dare hope.

My tiny breaths are coming faster, harder to control. I chance the pain, take a deep gulp, trying to calm myself. The smell of blood and urine assault my nostrils. I gag. My chest threatens to explode from the movement. I just thought I hurt before.

My eyes open. The light burns, blinding me. I resist the urge to slam them shut. I have to see. I need to see. My vision slowly adjusts to the brightness of the room. I’m not sure whether I should be thankful or not. Seeing is believing after all. I let my face fall to the left. I shudder as I study the bizarre looking instruments laid neatly in a row on the table beside my head. I look beyond them to the wall. I focus on the calendar. I know this is important, but I can’t remember why. Ducks rise from a pond, forever frozen in mid-flight for the picture of the month.

It’s October. The first three days bear brown, crusty Xs. Two days are blank. The 6th is marked with a smiley face, drawn in blue Sharpie. The 6th is my birthday…my death day. The end is near. How can I manage to survive for another three days? How has my body lived this long?

I want to sit up, but the leather straps bite into the skin of my chest and thighs. The movement causes me to release the pent up cough. Blood and mucus spray the shiny metal table. I watch as it pools and oozes back towards me. I scream out as the force of the cough clenches the muscles around my broken ribs. The room swims, fades to black.

The pain returns. I’m still here. It wasn’t a nightmare. I lie still; I hold my breath. Maybe he didn’t hear me. I can’t keep the tears from rolling down my face when I hear the footsteps cross the floor above me. A door slams. I flinch with each creak of the stairs. He makes his way to me. His stride is sure, full of purpose. Another door opens. I feel a gust of air when he enters the room. He still has a smile for me.

He whistles to himself while he opens a cabinet over the sink, rummages through a cardboard box on the middle shelf. The tune is familiar, but I can’t quite place it. He pulls out a syringe and a small brown vial. He pushes the needle through the stopper on top. He pulls back on the plunger; the chamber fills with something the color of honey. He flicks the tip of chamber with his free hand and he walks toward me, still whistling.

He takes a long look at me, his gaze traveling from my feet to my eyes. His head moves slightly form side to side in rhythm to the song he whistles. He holds the needle over my face.

“I’m not ready for you yet,” he whispers, placing a hand on my forehead to hold me still as the needle moves closer slowly, deliberately. “I haven’t even finished my dinner. I would think you’d have learned a bit more courtesy by now. It’s rude to inconvenience your host.”
“Don’t do it. Please! I’m sorry.” My voice sounds childish even to me.
“Oh, don’t worry, my dear boy; we’ll have plenty of quality time soon, but for now, you need your rest.”
I struggle to pull away from him. I turn my head, but his voice draws my gaze back to him.
“Save your strength, Ray.” His laugh is a low rumble that seems to originate from deep within his bowels. “You’re gonna need it. I can promise you that much.”

His eyes are bright. He licks his lips in anticipation. It is apparent that he is still enjoying his petty torments. He resumes his song and I watch the needle grow. The plastic chamber looks enormous as it slides to the left of my nose, into my eye socket. I barely feel it; my body has greater pains with which to occupy my mind.
“Pop goes the weasel,” he sings the last verse of his song while he empties the syringe into me.

I knew the song was familiar.

Cold fire builds around the needle in my flesh. I feel it spread, numbing my face, numbing my mind. The darkness grows in my peripheral vision, consuming me, carrying me away. The pain is fading; it’s almost a distant memory.

I dream of the knock on my door, the smiling face that greets me, the little white carrier filled with plastic bottles. He wants to sell me cleaners, offers a demonstration. His face is too charming to deny. He wants to know when my birthday is. Charmed by his smile, I tell him. His hands are like stone on my throat. I feel the coffee table break beneath me, the air leave my chest, my hands fall away from his hair. My eyes water from the fumes as he presses the towel over my nose and mouth. Blessed darkness becomes my new best friend.

“Will you please stop passing out? We have a lot to do today and our birthday is almost over,” his voice fills my mind as he gentle taps my cheek with the back of his hand.
The darkness is gone. Pain rules my world once again. His eyes are as bright as ever.
“It’s already my birthday?” I strain to see the calendar on the wall.
The crusted Xs now cover the smiley face.
“Would I lie to you?” he asks, patting the top of my head.
His smile seems so innocent.

“Wh-wh-why?” I struggle to form the question as I watch him pick up a long thin blade that reflects the light from above as he brings it closer.
“Because this is the day you were born.”
“No.” It is increasingly difficult to concentrate my thoughts on anything but the throbbing of my open wounds. “Why are you doing this?”
“I have to.” He rests his elbows on the table, leaning closer to my face. “This isn’t just your birthday, but mine and the anniversary of my salvation.”
“I don’t understand,” I admit, blinking away his fetid breath as it washes over my lashes.
“Have you already forgotten? Everyday you ask me and everyday I tell you the same thing. Do I really have to tell you again?” He waits for an answer, but I can only nod. “I was killed six years ago today.”
“But you’re not dead.”

“Yes, my Gods have chosen in their infinite wisdom to spare me. They gave me back my life and in return--”
“You give Them mine?” I ventured when he fell silent.
“Bingo! I pay tribute to them once a year, a life for a life.” He winks at me. “It’s only fair, don’t you think?”
“Will they save me?” I hoped against hope.
“No, you’re not worthy. I died doing what I love. I died fighting. I died in Their honor.” He throws his head back, laughs. “You’re a victim. You were born for this and you will die for me. You will die for Them.”

“How did you die?”
“With a blade in my chest and smile on my lips, but then, who wouldn’t smile when they look into the face of their Gods?”

He pushes himself up from my side, drops the blade back onto the tray. I can hear the rattle of steel on steel as he searches for just the right instrument with which to resume his games.

I can barely hear his words, his search. My body is on fire, licking at the last vestiges of my sanity. He has been working on me for years it seems, but I’m still aware enough to know it’s only been days. Bits and pieces of memories flutter in my mind. I shut them out; they’re too much to relive. He has been a busy boy. His laughter is infuriating, intoxicating, all I have to hold onto. I am adrift; the pain is pushing me away. His voice is an anchor drawing me back. I can no longer make out his words, but his meaning is driven home with each puncture of my flesh. I try to detach myself, flee inside my mind. It is futile; there is no escape for me. All I have is my agony and his smile.

Light flashes from something he’s picked up, blinding me. I’m oddly thankful. Shadows swim; purple dots fade. I can just make out his arm, he his holding something above my head, out of my line of sight. His hand moves; I catch my first glimpse of the blade. Its length stretches beyond both my shoulders. It’s as thick as my hand is wide. I see a reflection as it passes over my eyes, a sunken face, vacant stare, lacerations accent my swollen cheeks. My stubble has grown into a patchwork beard, segmented by long gashes. Is that really me? The edge of the blade is even with my chin. He pauses; turns the blade vertical. He rests it on my chin. I can see myself again. It is not a pretty sight. I try to turn away. I can’t. I try to close my eyes. I don’t dare. Resignation trumps all. My breath fogs my reflection, obscuring it, hiding my stare, hiding my shame.

He moves to stand behind me, his smiling face inverted over mine. His left hand is still on the handle. He rests the palm of his other hand on the dull side of the blade. He lifts the blade from my chin, holds it calmly in the air between my chin and chest. He pushes down hard. The blade meets my throat with the weight of a punch and moves on to the table beneath it with a clang.

I hear my body thrash and twitch. I can no longer feel it. My throat throbs; I try to swallow. Is that the ocean I hear? My vision narrows. The room fades. Only his smile remains. The pain is gone. I am free. Happy Birthday to me.

The End


  1. Gulp. That's one hell of a scene, my friend.

    Love the chaos, though!

  2. Whoa... Scary stuff there. Excellent piece.

  3. lol, thanks Cindy. As long as it's chaos without drama I'm as happy as a fish in water. :D

    Thanks, Anny. I tend to lean to the darker side in my writing. :D

  4. No kidding, James. Darker, reader, and a lot more painful than a first kiss huh?

    Very heavy stuff and very good. Are the crusy x's from blood? Not sure why I want to know that but it stands out to me. Great piece and very evident that you know your craft.

  5. Mmm. A helluva a birthday he had, darlin'. What a dark but utterly wonderful read. WOW.

    Anticipation! Yeah, that's the word that a pantser thrives on, I think.

    Excellent (and very scary) post!

  6. Si, mi bellisma, the Xs are indeed from blood.

    lol, thanks, Regina. I thought it only proper to do a panser short story to accompany the reveleation of my chaotic writing environment. :D

  7. That is why I don't like cutting a cake on my birthday...I hate My birthday!

  8. lol, Mona. I used to love my birthday, but the last five or so, have just been another day...

    I'm sure we had better birthdays than the gentleman in the story did.

  9. I knew it!!! I love when you leave us little clues like that!

  10. lol, that's good because I love to leave them. :D


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