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Angel in Disguise
Author's note: This story is inspired by the great Stephen King.
“What do you mean?” Paul Blackmore said, hanging his head outside the door of his home, wishing he had never asked in the first place.
“You know what I mean.” said the burly man looking dead at him. These two men find themselves standing face to face, strangely weary of one another. Neither man knows the other but somehow they have a sort of connection. May this connection be spiritual or psychological, it’s undoubtedly there.
“No, I don’t think I do.” Paul said, growing increasingly irritated each and every time he stares into the other man’s black, dead eyes. “Please tell me why you’re here; I actually have a life I must tend to.”
The burly man, later identified as Barry Kissinger, draws a long breath before answering. “You’ve taken something from me, and now you must give it back. I don’t want to hear any of that ‘Finder’s Keeper’s’ bullshit either, what’s mine is mine.”
“Sir, really, I-“Paul is cut off by the sheer force of Barry’s right hand landing violently on the door frame.
“Damn it boy, I know you have it.” His eyes float past Paul’s shoulder and land on a single, solitary book sitting perched atop Paul’s fireplace. Barry’s glance cues Paul to turn around and notice the book.
“What, this book?” Paul asks, as he walks over to the fireplace to fetch it. The book is a first print copy of ‘The Stand’ by Stephen King. “My mother gave this to me on her deathbed. Stephen King was her favorite author and I had always read it when she was away. She knew it reminded me of her, I suppose. ”
“I don’t give a damn about who gave it to you, I just want it back.” shouted Barry.
Paul feels his heart patter as Barry reaches his unkempt hand out to snatch the book.
“Get your f*ing hands away from me,” Paul says as he recoils his grip and shakes his head. “This book is mine! Unless you are my mother, in no way is this yours.”
Barry snarls his mouth and for a moment resembles a kind of fierce lion clawing for his hunt. He has no clue what he’s holding. Rich bastard likes to steal things, eh? Not from me he doesn’t. No, never will he again. Never will…he…
Paul is struck twice, one on the bridge of his crooked nose and the other just above his right temple. Birds scatter across the sky as Paul’s shrill scream is cast across the vast field in which his home is planted.
“Are you f*ing crazy?”Paul screams as he recovers from the blow. The book is strewn through the air and lands squarely between his porch steps and Barry’s sasquatch-like foot. Paul finds himself on his hands and knees, staring up at Barry’s wrinkled face with disgust. Caked with dirt and mud, Barry looked as if he had been trekking for days through the woods just to wind up at Paul’s doorstep.
Barry let out a caveman-esque laugh and brought himself eye-level with Paul, “Aw, boy, would ya’ look at that? Ya’ went and got yourself hit. Not a wise move at all.”Barry’s thick and round belly jiggled with every laugh and holler, and slowly poked out of his messily tucked in shirt. “Now be a good boy and don’t give me any trouble, because here’s what’s gonna happen,” Paul’s eyes darted around Barry’s face and eventually focused on his spit-caked mouth. “I’m gonna turn around and pick up this here book. If you feel like a man and want to fight me over it, well, I guess it’s your funeral.”
Barry, with a sinister grin spread across his face, turned on his heel and grabbed the book from the ground.
“Get back here, you bastard!” shouted Paul. He rose to his feet and started toward the phone placed squarely in his home. “Oh,” said Barry as he turned around to face Paul, “Don’t you think about calling the law, now. I’ll know if you do.” Barry winked at Paul and started his way down Paul’s gravel driveway, heading back to whatever hole he had crawled from. Paul’s brain was racing. Why the hell would he steal a book from someone? Out of all the valuables Paul had in his possession, this redneck hick chose a book. Though Paul considered himself a sort of King book collector, the one book Barry decided to steal had been the one in which he cherished the most. It was his most cherished not only because his mother had given it to him, but it was also, honestly, his favorite. He had always loved the story King had dreamed up and thought it was his best.
“Damn psycho.” Paul whispered to himself. He found he was feeling ashamed for not standing up for himself, but knew Barry was relentless and, frankly, galaxies stronger. The bathroom mirror reflected his beaten up face as he watered his cuts and tended to his most likely broken nose. The eggshell white sink was now painted crimson red due to the abundance of spillage seeping out of his nose. Paul’s first instinct was to phone the police even though psycho man told him not to. How could he possibly know? Wire taps? Did he bug my home? Paul’s house, which he couldn’t stand to call home, couldn’t have been bugged. He would have noticed. Or would he? For the past few weeks he had found himself in a drunken stupor more often than not. Morning after blurry morning, a bottle of Jack Daniel’s finest whiskey had been laid to rest and sent home to Paul’s inevitably blackening liver. He supposes that’s just the reason his wife had left him last spring. His mother and wife had been severed from his life around the same time, one in the spring (mother) and the other in the winter (wife). Diana, his then-lovely wife, kissed the ground on which Paul walked for each and every year they had been married. The two were inseparable. That is, until Paul had one too many beers one afternoon, got fired for disorderly conduct, and took out his rage on her. The image of Paul’s open hand striking Diana across the face raced into his head and was immediately dismissed. He had quite enough to worry about now as he cleaned the blood from the sink with a bit of steel wool.
Paul peeked out of the window that looked out onto his front porch and driveway, eager to find a trace of the psycho known as Barry Kissinger after cleaning his sink. Not one sign of Barry had been left behind aside from Paul’s physical injuries and a strange odor seeping in from the front door. F*er smelled like a skunk. Yes, that’s it, a skunk. A chuckle escaped from Paul’s mouth as he remembered just how bad Barry smelled. One thing was for certain, he definitely didn’t smell like berries. The police had to be notified. Paul knew this; he was just too frightened to confront them after Berry’s threats. He’d go to the police station personally, and then there’d be no way Barry would know he’d talked to the police. He’d do it of course, after he took a shower and finished an 8th of vodka.
“Sweet dear relief, that’s what you are.” he said lovingly to his dear bottle of vodka.
The vodka felt hot and warm against Paul’s strained throat and coated it with a sort of satisfaction. Sip after sip turned into gulp after gulp and eventually Paul found he had one sip left. Sip, not gulp. No matter, the sip was taken as he fished through his cupboard looking for his flask containing a hit of schnapps. He had saved it for an emergency, which is what he considered to be now. Paul’s liver hiccupped with delight and continued to swim in its bitter bath of pure alcohol. Ineptly, he made it to his grimy shower and stripped naked of all clothes. He turned the heat to the max and stepped inside. Such relief it was against his tight skin, hardened from the day’s stress. As Paul closed his eyes to rinse his face off, he could have sworn he saw someone standing just outside his bathroom door. In fact, he would have bet his life savings, which wasn’t much, on it. Startled with fear, Paul jumped. Doing so threw off Paul’s balance and led to him almost falling out of the shower. He counterbalanced himself, however, and continued to shower. Not to say Paul wasn’t scared, he was terrified. He had the police station in mind and knew he was able to seek salvation there. If anyone can help me it’s the police, right? They’ll help me…they’ll hel…
Paul dressed and headed out of the door, starting his way toward the Jeep Patriot which was parked to the side of his home.
“Where ya’ goin’, pal?” asked a disembodied voice from behind the home.
Paul’s heart skipped one, if not two, beats just as the voice spoke out. He knew just who it was.
“Hope you’re not goin’ to them police up that road,” continued the voice. “I’d sure hate for you to go back on your word to me.”
Angered, Paul retorted. “I didn’t give you any word and you know it! You came to my house and started harassing me! If I had any mind whatsoever, I’d take my loaded shotgun that’s lying safely inside and blow your brains out with it because I believe that would be within my legal rights.” Paul pointed to a beaten up, yet still decipherable sign that noted: Private Property, Trespassers Will Be Shot.
“Fair enough,” stated Kissinger. “I’ll be on my way, just remember what I told you. That is, if you’d like to live a bit longer.”
Paul turned to his Patriot and as soon as he knew it, Kissinger had disappeared. He was still going to the police; he couldn’t help but call Kissinger’s bluff. Paul considered a gambling man a living man, and he was intent on living up to his motto. The radio turned on almost immediately upon startup and Paul made his way down the long and twisted driveway which led to an almost empty main road. The small town of Galien, Michigan had not many visitors after the mining incident of 1987 had rendered the roads almost un-drivable. Yet, it was where Paul lived, and he loved it. He had heard from his wife that she had moved to Hubbard Lake, Michigan, a town far north from Galien. He had never been there, but had been meaning to take his boss on a fishing trip up there for years. Paul glided down the interstate, heading swiftly toward town. Many hitchhikers had passed through Paul’s line of vision as he sped down the road. He paid no mind to any of them, as he had a keen opinion of hitchhikers. He had been quoted as calling them, “Wretched swine, beggars of society, and leeches of will.” One hitchhiker, standing in front of a Texaco sign stood out to Paul, however. Paul knew the man and cold decipher his identity through the cake of dirt and grime that littered his face. It was Barry. Kissinger was holding his thumb out, waving it at passers-by, hoping to catch a ride from someone who was insane enough to even consider riding alone with this maniac. Paul swerved his clunky car as Barry seemingly sleepwalked his way into oncoming traffic and was hit head-on by an oncoming truck. A horrid gasp escaped from Paul’s mouth and the stench of cheap liquor crawled its way up his nose. He had just witnessed a death. Part of him was relieved; finally that bastard is off my back. The other part of him was shocked and terrified. He had never seen anything be killed, aside from the myriad of deer he had shot on his last hunting trip in upstate Michigan. As selfish it may have been, Paul let out a sigh of relief, flooding the car with an even more potent scent of booze.
He arrived at the convenience store at quarter to three, a time at which the town was bustling with shoppers eager to grab their goods and continue home. He pulled his Patriot into an empty spot located in the front of the store. The keys were yanked from their hole and shoved into Paul’s pocket as he got out and slammed the door shut. He passed the convenience store in a hurry, eager to reach the police station and recount his happenings.
“Good afternoon, Paul!” roused a friend Paul had met many times as he strolled into town.
“Hey there,” Paul answered. “How’re you doing?”
“Why, good Paul. You seem in a rush, got something important going on?”
“You could say that. Headed to the police station as we speak.” Paul answered quickly.
Paul hurried to the station and wiped his feet off on the welcome rug. The smell of coffee filled the room, a considerate step up from cheap liquor Paul was oh so accustomed to.
“Can I help you, sir?” asked one of the policewomen whom Paul had a sort of fancy for.
“I need the sheriff. Is he in?”
“Just missed him, he’s out getting fresh doughnuts for the team right now.”
Paul chuckled at the convenient stereotype in which a cop was seeking out doughnuts. Of course he was, what’s next, I smell bacon jokes? He wouldn’t be surprised. He stifled his laughter long enough to ask when the sheriff would be back.
“Eh, I’d say…10, 15 minutes?” the policewoman answered.
“Perfect.” Paul retorted.
“You’re more than welcome to take a seat over there by the window and wait, if you’d like.” the policewoman told him.
Paul did so and unfolded a newspaper he had bought while cruising past the convenience store. He had always drifted more toward the comic strips and sports headlines when reading the paper, but had a strange will to read the obituaries this particular afternoon. He flipped the paper over to reveal the state’s latest obituaries. “Poor saps.” he thought. Paul was reminded grimly of the death he had witnessed while passing down the highway and was even more reminded that it was his enemy, Barry Kissinger who had been killed. How the hell did he make it all the way to the highway on foot? Why was he hitchhiking? Was he headed to town just like I was?
Paul’s eyes darted from picture to picture, reading every description and cause of death. He scanned each name and found that he knew none of them. He knew none of them… but one. A strikingly familiar name which struck fear into his heart fell upon his eyes and introduced itself as Barry Kissinger. Above his name was a picture of the man. It was the same man that had appeared at his doorstep abruptly that very morning and the same man who had been killed on the highway some thirty minutes ago. He couldn’t have been featured in the obituaries so quickly. Paul swallowed hard and the sound of door swinging open broke him out of his trance. It was the sheriff and, sure enough, he had a big box full of hot and crispy doughnuts tucked safely under his arm.
“Sheriff, I’m Paul Blackmore, can I have a word with you?” Paul asked as he jumped quickly out of his seat.
“Well, I am quite busy at the moment, son, could you come back later?” asked the sheriff with a smile spread across his face.
“I need to talk to you now, sheriff. It’s a sort of emergency.” Paul told him.
The sheriff pointed his eyebrows down to his toes and nodded accordingly.
“Sure thing, I guess. Follow me.”
Paul followed the sheriff back to his office, which was positioned in the very back of the station, shielded from the bustle of the rest of the station. The sheriff set the box of delicious doughnuts on his desk and opened the lid. He shoved it toward Paul and encouraged him to take one. Paul shrugged the offer off and laid his newspaper on the desk. He pointed the obituaries toward the sheriff and pointed at Barry’s picture.
“See this?” asked Paul. “Do you know this man?”
“Why, yes, I do. That’s old Barry Kissinger. Used to hunt with him and his daddy.” answered the sheriff, with a hint of confusion in his voice.
“I saw him get killed this morning. He was hit by oncoming traffic as I passed down the highway.” Paul informed the sheriff.
“Oh, boy, I’m sorry. Death is never an easy thing to see. However, I don’t think I can help you with that. The psychiatrist down the road can help with th-” said the sheriff.
“No, no. You don’t understand,” interrupted Paul. “This man was at my home this morning and decided to bloody my face. He showed up completely out of the blue and terrorized me!”
The sheriff gave Paul a look that showed he had little, if no interest at all in hearing him yarn.
“Listen, I have work to do,” said the sheriff. “You can come by after hours if you’d like, I’m staying a few hours late tonight.”
Paul knew he couldn’t fight the sheriff over this matter, for he seemed pretty well set in his ways. Paul nodded and turned around to leave the sheriff’s office.
“I’ll be back later. Will 9 be alright?” Paul asked.
“Yes, that’ll be fine. In the meantime, take care of yourself. You look bad.”
Paul escorted himself out of the office and headed out toward the front of the station. He noticed more and more the picture of Barry in the obituaries as he passed by the newspaper readers near the door. It seemed that Barry had grown skinnier in each picture Paul had seen. Though it was the exact same picture each time, Barry looked as if he weighed half the weight he had in the previous picture. Once a solid three hundred pounds, Barry looked now as if he was about two hundred and ten. Paul was no fool, he had noticed. However, he was sensible and did not jump to conclusions. Maybe it was just a hallucination. Like the thing I had seen outside my shower this morning. Yes, that’s the explanation.
The smell of fresh doughnuts had awoken a hunger in the pit of Paul’s alcohol-soaked stomach. The diner was just across the street from the police station and now, since Paul had time to waste, he decided to grab a bite to eat. He promptly crossed that street and slugged his way into the eatery. More and more newspapers depicting the man he had saw get killed that morning had swayed past his eyes. It seemed that everyone in town had a copy of this particular newspaper in their possession.
“One black coffee and some eggs, please.” ordered Paul to the slouching waitress tending to him.
“Sugar or creamer with that?” she asked while gnawing on a piece of winterfresh gum. Paul knew the kind because it was what his wife used to chew.
“I wouldn’t mind a bit of milk with it, if that’s okay.” Paul retorted.
The waitress penned his order and got back to her menial life, taking orders from sluggish men who would do whatever they could to take her home with them. She was nothing special, Paul knew that. He also knew truckers can get quite lonely, so he withheld his judgment. After seeing Barry’s now-skinny face plastered on about 5 more newspapers, his meal had arrived. The waitress set Paul’s hot plate full of steamy eggs on the table in front of him. She then set the coffee down and left the table.
“Excuse me, Miss, the milk?” Paul reminded the waitress.
“Oh yeah, sorry hon. Busy day today.” responded the waitress.
The waitress rushed behind the counter and reached into the fridge, hidden from plain sight. She pulled out a carton of milk that looked as if the milkman had just delivered it this morning. She brought it over to Paul’s table and opened the carton with her freshly painted fingernails. Paul watched her pour the sweet milk into his mug and in doing so he noticed a picture on the side of the carton. It was a ‘missing’ sign, like the ones the distributors send out for children who had gone unfound. This would have been a normality for Paul if he hadn’t seen the picture. It was Barry Kissinger, now looking as if he weighed a mere one hundred pounds. Paul’s heart stopped and he jerked his arm fast enough to knock the coffee off the table. The glass mug shattered on the floor as easily as an eggshell as if it had been dropped from its crate. The waitress stepped back, frightened.
“What the hell?” shouted the waitress.
Paul felt a surge of guilt and terror overcome him as he observed pairs upon pairs of eyes staring holes straight through his soul. Immediately, Paul started apologizing but was hushed by a gang of truckers eager to show their worth to the “beautiful” waitress. Paul’s table was surrounded by these men. Some of them were fat, bearded men and others were skinny, greasy men. Each one was a proud owner of an 18-wheeled clunker parked in the back of the diner, waiting eagerly to be driven across the country. Paul stared up at each of these men and swallowed hard. He was unsure of what to say to them so his smart mouth took over for him.
“Get the hell away from me, this aint between any of you oiled pigs!” Paul shouted.
The men laughed in Paul’s face. The stench of rotten eggs, caked on dirt, vinegar, and sweat seeped out of each man’s mouth and Paul prominently smelled it as each breath slid up his nose. The biggest and stinkiest man stepped forward to present himself to Paul’s frightened face. A wad of green, slimy phlegm was shot out of his wretched mouth and landed violently on Paul’s head. It landed just above the corner of his right eye and Paul could feel it sliding into his eye, dripping down as slow as fresh molasses. Paul quickly wiped it away with the sleeve of his coat and stood up in protest. The man who had shot the phlegm towered Paul. He was easily a good two feet taller than Paul was, and he most likely tripled his weight. The burly man shoved Paul back down into his chair, scattering the hot plate of eggs across the table. The milk carton was sent flying through the air and landed with the picture of Barry Kissinger face-up, staring up at Paul’s face. Paul locked eyes with Kissinger for the thousandth time and looked back up at the burly man’s reddened eyes. Paul was yanked from his seat and thrown over the shoulder of the burly man.
“Help! Somebody! Help, please! You’re just going to let him do this?” screamed Paul. He absolutely could not believe what was happening. Where are they taking me? What did I do wrong? Why am I crying?
Barry Kissinger stands outside the diner, watching Paul be taken off to his imminent death. He listens closely and finds that the truckers are taking Paul to a warehouse on the outskirts of town, which the truckers own. Paul’s screams pierce the ears of bystanders and ring throughout the entire town. He was out of his mind. The bystanders were too, just in a slightly different way. Nobody cared this was happening, in fact, they’re quite entertained. The first spice of excitement after years of grueling boredom is always the sweetest and nobody was about to spoil that if they could help it. Hell, even the police station was silent. As Paul was thrown into the 18-wheeler, the men hopped in the truck and started off toward the saloon. That was the last of Paul Blackmore the town would ever see.
The truck was dark. It was also gloomy and wet. It seemed that these men were hauling some sort of animal across the country, but Paul couldn’t tell what kind. All at once as Paul regained consciousness after being knocked otherwise, he heard the cluck of a chicken. The sound reminded him of the farm he had grown up on as a child. His father was a wealthy farmer who had supplied the town with the freshest tomatoes, strawberries, and any other type of produce the town desired. Unfortunately as a sudden breakout of bird flu swept its way across the country, a portion of it harmed his father’s farm and surrounding areas around it. Not knowing, Paul’s father dished out the tainted produce at the local farmer’s market. He infected a quarter of the town, including his lovely wife. She died shortly after contracting the disease and left her husband and Paul behind. Her death was uniquely painless, physically at least. It took its toll on Paul’s father who had slipped in to a comatose-like state of depression. Paul’s father grew recluse and had taken to spending the entire day locked inside his room, coming out only to put Paul to bed. It was a lonely childhood for Paul, a very lonely one indeed. Paul’s father died shortly after due to a self-inflicted overdose of prescription drugs.
Paul felt his way around the truck and eventually found himself standing tall on his feet. A faint light flickered in the other side of the trailer. It was a short flame that danced amidst the murky air. Paul strained his eyes to further inspect the object and concluded it was a lit match.
“Hello? Wh-who’s over there?” Paul asked. He was quite frightened by the mysterious thing looming in the corner, unknown by all. The flame illuminated a face. It was the face of a man quite familiar to Paul. His father, Ramses Blackmore was standing in the corner. Silence fell even more drastically in the trailer as Paul started to weep. He couldn’t understand how his father had gotten there, and frankly didn’t much care. He rounded toward his father and held out his arms to hug him. His father faded into a shadow as Paul’s arms wrapped around his thick neck. His father was disappearing. More like morphing, if you will. He was morphing into the shape of a completely different person.
“I didn’t want you to be scared,” stated Barry Kissinger from the dark corner of the trailer. “I knew that if you thought it was your father here instead of me, you’d take more kindly.”
“What the hell are you doing here?” Paul shouted. This time he shouted so loud it hurt his lungs. He was weeping uncontrollably and found himself kneeling in a small puddle of tears.
“Listen, Paul. I’m sorry you had to meet me like this. You have to hear me out.”
“You’re a f*ing psycho,” Paul screamed. “You show up to my house this morning and beat me to a bloody pulp and think I’m going to hear you out? You’ve got it all wrong, buddy. This time you’re going to hear me out.”
“I’m not going to take any s*** from you anymo-“
“Have you ever heard of a guardian angel, Paul?” asked Barry. “I’m quite sure you have. In fact, I know you have. Your father used to rejoice when telling you of them after your mother had died. It gave him something to feel good about in his haze of depression. He always knew you were strong, he wasn’t however. You know that.”
Paul gave Barry a confused stare, still weeping into his arm.
“You miss your mother, don’t you, Paul?” asked Barry.
“Yes,” Paul answered. “I miss her so much. I’d give anything to bring her back. Anything in the world!” Paul sobbed. He was utterly distraught. All of the pain he had kept tucked so deeply inside his soul from his terrible childhood was now pouring and seeping out of every hole in his heart. He missed his mother so much.
“What if I told you I could give you your mother back, Paul? Would you like that?”
Paul’s mouth quivered and spit spilled from the openings.
“H-how could you do that? She’s dead and has been gone for years.” said Paul.
“I know, Paul,” stated Barry. “I can do it though. It takes a special contribution from you, however. You must give me the energy to bring her back. You have to fuel me with the power, Paul. Can you do that?”
“Yes, I just want her back!” Paul shouted. “Who the hell wouldn’t? I’ll do most anything for a single solitary minute more with her. I’m just not sure I can trust you. You didn’t leave a very good first impression, you know.”
“Paul, listen to me!” Barry said, growing quite frustrated. “I had to meet you that way. Would you have given me that token if I had simply asked for it? Hell no!”
Paul stood silent, listening intently to Barry’s reason.
“In order to bring your mother back, I must be in possession of a sort of relic of her nature. That’s why I stole it from you.” Barry stated. “In robbing you, I was actually doing you the greatest favor you have ever received.”
Barry smiled. He had Paul right where he wanted him.
“That’s not all I need, however. I’m going to need something else to fulfill the resurrection.” Barry said.
“And what would that be?” asked Paul, still doubting Barry’s worth.
“It’s very menial, what it costs, to resurrect her. No money, no wealth, no physical items!” Barry told him.
“Then what is there to give?” Paul asked.
“Well, nothing too big. I just need a sort of… spiritual energy.” Barry answered. “You do know what I mean don’t you, Paul?”
Paul shook his head. “Not really, Barry. Tell me, I’m growing more interested by the second.” Paul was being painfully sarcastic and it resonated throughout the darkness.
“Souls, Paul, souls! I need them to give me my spiritual power!” Barry said, quite irritated.
“Of course,” Paul told him. “Well, forget it then. You’re not getting my soul. You know, I knew you were a cheat.”
“No, no, no. I don’t want your soul. If I took your soul, how would you be alive to see your mother?” Barry asked. “No, I need someone much larger. I need someone with more to lose.”
For a brief moment, the two connect eyes. They had such a deep connection at that very moment that their souls intertwined into one single soul. Their souls danced together and dove into a pool of wonder never before reached by mankind. The truck drivers had to go. It was their souls that would quench the thirst of Berry Kissinger and give him the power to grant Paul’s ultimate wish.
“The truck drivers,” said Paul. “They’re the ones you need.”
“Right,” agreed Barry. “Listen, I’ll help you as much as I can, but I’m nowhere near as strong as I should be. Those souls are what make me strong.”
Paul was reminded of the many horror movies he had seen that had featured vampires. He knew that vampires feasted on blood and needed to have it to survive. Barry was a sort of vampire to Paul, constantly needing a human element to survive. In the vampire’s case it was blood, in Barry’s it was soul. Barry disappeared as the flame blew out and Paul found himself alone in the darkness of the trailer. Paul guessed he had been in the back of the truck for a solid hour by now, and wondered when this horrific ride would be over. The trailer bounced over many deep potholes and knocked Paul off his feet more times than he could stand. Paul took his post at the far left corner of the trailer and knelt down on his knees. He fell asleep shortly afterward.
Hours had passed by before Paul had been reared awake by the piercing light of the mid-day sun. His eyes had to become adjusted to the light in response to being covered by blackness for an extended period of time. The trailer door was thrown open and crashed against the side of the truck with a loud bang! Two of the five truck drivers hopped in through the opening and rushed to Paul’s body. Paul, who had been secretly awake, pretended his very best to be still sleeping. His eyes opened and closed, each time catching a short glimpse of the men surrounding him. The men kicked Paul’s leg and slapped his red face. Paul did not stir.
“Damn it, someone get me my gun. I know what’ll wake him up.” shouted the abusing man.
A gun flew through the air and landed directly into the grasp of the man. The man chuckled and cocked the pistol. Paul was peeking through the slits of his eyes and saw the gun being raised up to his face.
Bang! A loud gunshot echoed throughout the trailer. Laughter was heard as Paul was scared awake. The bullet landed just above Paul’s left shoulder, puncturing a hole through the truck. A beam of light shone through the hole and illuminated the shooter’s face. The shooter was no older than 20 years old, with the stomach of a 65 year old who had spent his life drinking himself to an alcohol-soaked mess. His teeth were shaded dark brown and dripped with a substance Paul could make out to be chewing tobacco by the distinct odor.
“Where am I?” asked Paul rather insistently.
“Get up.” ordered the shooter. “Get your ass over here.”The gunman pointed to the open door.
Paul’s mind was racing back and forth and he soon found himself getting dizzy. A mixture of stress and confusion makes for a very irritable person, so Paul started yelling, letting his mouth take over like always.
“You shove me in a truck and batter me, yet you think I’m going to obey you?” Paul protested. “That’s not the way things work out, bud.”
A shot is fired into Paul’s right leg. Blood pours out of the open flesh wound and falls to the floor. Paul lets out a cry and bites his bottom lip. His leg starts to spasm and Paul writhes around on the floor, covered with sheer agony. The two men start over to Paul and snatch him up by the coat. He is escorted out of the trailer and thrown to the ground. Dust clouds the air and finds its way into Paul’s bloodshot eyes.
“You better do what I tell ya’ from now on, bud.” spits the shooter. “That is unless you want to get shot again.”
Paul spits up at the man but misses him by a good three feet. Another shot is fired into Paul’s left arm. Again Paul screams and tries to recover from the shot.
“See that, boy? I told ya’.”
Paul writhes in pain as the men carry him into an unknown warehouse standing by itself in a deserted field. You dumb motherfuckers. I swear to God I will get you. You just wait, you’ll see. You’ll see…
A faint light flickers on and off in Paul’s sight. Though his eyes are frosted over with dirt, he can still make out faint shapes. There is a single solitary chair sitting squarely in the middle of the room. Around it are the other three truck drivers who escorted Paul so violently in the truck. With a rush of wind, Paul plants himself firmly into the chair. He is strapped and bound to the chair with a thick piece of rope. A wave of shock overcomes him and he freezes in his position. The truckers crowd around Paul and bury their vision deep into each pore of his body.
“Look at his whiney bastard,” one of the truckers snorts. “He looks like your momma, JD.”
JD, another burly trucker, lunges forward and strikes at the snorter. He misses and falls flat on his face, frowning in disappointment. His better half had gotten the best of him and he knew it.
“Listen,” Paul began. “Whatever the problem is…we can work it out!”
“I have money, valuables, whatever! Please, just let me go.”
The truckers continued to snort and snack on the pieces of dip planted so firmly into the cheek of their mouth. Mandating the kidnap of Paul was necessary, they all agreed on that. They could never let an upcountry bastard make fools of them. No, not in a million years would they be the butt of a person like Paul’s jokes. They thought of Paul as a “city boy”. They called him a wisecracking fool who thought himself better than others because of his wealth when, in fact, Paul was none of those things. Paul was not a rich man. Nor was he, at least in his mind, rude. Facing the facts, and being completely blunt, Paul was an inconsiderate nit who cared for nobody but himself. He was an incompetent drunkard swimming in a pool filled to the brim with cheap liquor. That, he assumed, was why he lived alone.
“What should we do with him, boss?” asked one trucker.
“Yeah, how can we teach him a lesson, boss?” spat one of the other truckers standing beside Paul.
The boss, meaning the biggest and burliest trucker, stepped forward and pointed his eyebrows at a heavy machine sitting in the corner of the empty warehouse.
“That’s how.” he said.
The truckers turned around to examine the machine and saw that it was a sort of torture device. It wasn’t an iron maiden or a water boarding system, however. It looked like some sort of meat grinder machine, but on a much bigger scale. Beside the machine was a rope. It hung there a men were looking at, but only gave himself a case of very minor whiplash. He started to yell and asked firmly to be pointed in the direction of the machine. The truckers heed his plea and kick Paul’s chair backward. It tips over and spills onto the floor, still seating Paul firmly in its hold. The machine looked evil. It looked horrid. Paul starts to cough and spit from the sheer impact of his body slamming onto the cold floor. The machine is in his sight, yet so is the pain. It’s not until one of the truckers step over him and head toward the machine that he chooses which one to focus on.
“What the hell is that thing?” Paul asked.
“Answer me, damn you. What the hell is that?”
One man approaches the machine and hits a large green button. The machine starts to turn on. Slowly, however, like that of a very old engine. It eventually hits its prime and lets out a terrible fork-on-plate racket. The sound pierces Paul’s ears and sends him into a state of complete dizziness. The sound digs its way into Paul’s reddened eardrum and raps on it over and over again until the eardrum cannot take it any longer and ruptures. Pain shoots through Paul’s ear canal and it feels as though, to Paul, that a very large bee had found its way inside and stuck its hot stinger deep inside. This of course was not the case, yet it was the closest thing Paul could compare it to.
“Looks like a meat grinder to me, boy!” one trucker laughed.
The men crowded around Paul and hoisted him up off the ground. The ropes that bound him were severed and thrown across the room. Each man was ordered to grab Paul and guide him over to the machine where he would be strung upside down, hanging from his feet. They do so as Paul struggles to break free from their grip. Paul cries to be let down but the men ignore him like they had from the very start. All at once Paul’s vision diminishes and blackness swells his eyes.
A bright summer day flashes its beautiful array in the center of Paul’s brain. A woman about 37 years old is standing in a field, her hair whipping in the gentle breeze of the wind. She identifies as Paul’s mother and she too had not yet seen the pure darkness of life itself. The sky is pink like that of a newborn baby making its way into the chaotic grips of the earth. No clouds grace the sky, for the sky is clear and natural, much like Paul’s young mind. Paul ages about 14 in this beautiful memory and looks at the world as a land of joy. Such an unlearned mind goes without seeing the blackness of life and paints everything in a colorful and vivid hue. With his legs wrapped around a tall oak tree, Paul views the pink sky upside down. Paul loved to hang from this tree. The tree had been planted in a field behind his home and Paul remembered visiting it when he wanted to play army or have a picnic with the neighbor kids. This day proved to be the last good memory Paul would ever be able to remember. Soon after he had spent that lovely pink day with his mother, she had fallen prey to the dreaded C-word. Totally unexpected was the illness, but people around the town associated it with her smoking habit. Paul was eventually sent to his Grandmother’s house and finished school with high accolades. He lived a good life with his grandma, at least as good a life as one could have being void of a mother. His female connections all eventually drained as he faced his grandmother’s funeral shortly after moving out and leaving his wife two years after. He found himself alone facing the blackness of life and the throes of loneliness.
Barry Kissinger stands in the threshold connecting the barren warehouse with the freedom of the outside air. The air inside the warehouse was an even 87 degrees. Air is not as much of a precious resource when it is contaminated with dust and skin particles. Barry knew this as he sniffed up the dust-filled air and made his way down the dark corridor leading to Paul’s torture. Paul, still blacked out, hangs from his legs upside down as the truckers poke and prod at his limp body. Blood from his lower half had rushed its way up to Paul’s head. The skin on his face had turned a brilliant shade of red, like that of a nicely ripe tomato.
“What now, boss?” asked one of the truckers.
The truckers cast their glances at the burliest trucker who had taken reign as head of the imbeciles.
“I suppose we turn that there machine on now and see that sucker shred!” the head imbecile replied, quite excited by his authority.
The truckers complied and fired up the machine. The machine screeched to life. Slowly but surely, many blades started to spin faster and faster. Rust could be heard being scraped off as the metal machine grunted and grinded. The machine hit its potential just as Paul began to stir. Spit flew from his mouth and a mixture of clotted consonant sounds flew from his throat. He began to writhe and wiggle, trying his best to untie his feet and fall flat on the ground below him. Anything, to him, would be better than falling prey to the truckers’ sick, demented plan. He could not free himself, however. No matter how hard he tried, the knot in the rope would not come undone. The knot was staying just as it was, and Paul internally knew that. He had to keep trying, though. Hell, who wouldn’t? It is, after all, a matter of life and death. Strength will keep you from death if it has the necessary means to do so. If you don’t, fate places its bony hand on your ice cold shoulder. Paul’s strength would not let him loosen the tie around his ankles; therefore fate began to rear its ugly head and breathe its hot breath down the back of Paul’s neck. Paul began to move. The rope connected his feet to a sort of conveyor belt high above his head. Hanging there like a butchered cow hanging sadly on a cold hook, Paul began to move closer and closer to the spinning blades. Paul could feel beads of sweat race down his hot face and swim themselves into his open mouth. So salty they were, yet so refreshing. One takes for granted the sweet processes of everyday life when they’re painting with an exemplary palette. When your palette dwindles down to a mere few colors, you begin to miss your old self. The old self that was irked at the process of sweating. You transform into a basket case unable to experience such a human trait.
In the distance, Barry spots Paul hanging from his ankles. Paul is a mere few feet away from the sharp blades.
“Well, well, well. What do we have here?” shouted Barry.
The truckers spin around, utterly bewildered.
“Looks like you all have quite the fun planned, don’t you?”
“Barry!” shouted the head trucker. “How the hell did you find us?”
Truckers surround Barry, each wanting to greet him.
“I followed y’all here. Long drive, this is.” Barry retorted.
Paul is overwhelmed with relief. A wave of relief, which felt like the sweet breeze of a windy summer day, fell over him as he turned to look at Barry. Barry wasn’t the same anymore, Paul thought. Not in looks, but in mind. There was something peculiarly off with Barry.
“Barry!” screamed Paul. “Get me out of here! Please!”
All eyes are cast on Paul.
“Well, Barry,” said the head trucker. “We could sure use your help. This here is going to be a big mess, care to help us clean it up?”
“What exactly did this man do to you?” asked Barry.
“Never mind that Barry, will you help us or not?”
“Barry! Tell them I mean no harm!” shouted Paul. “I don’t want any trouble!”
Barry stares deep into Paul’s fear-stricken eyes.
“Sure.” Barry retored. “I’ll help.”
Everyone crowds around Paul as the eagerly await the blades to thrash his flesh. Closer and closer Paul moves, exciting the surrounding truckers. Barry is among them.
“Barry, you…you were supposed to help me!” Paul said to Barry.
Barry stares at Paul and raises his hand. The hand finds itself on Barry’s face, clawing at thick flesh. Skin is ripped and blood begins to pour from the wounds. A sharp scream protrudes from Barry’s mouth and echoes throughout the entire warehouse. The truckers turn around and see that Barry is kneeling on the floor, thrashing around and ripping at his flesh. A whole different creature is hidden underneath Barry’s human exterior, one that looks as if it was the spawn of Satan himself. After a couple of minutes, and several truckers’ screams, Barry’s human exterior is torn off and the bigger creature emerges. The creature stands eight feet tall and is made up of zombie-like features. Its eyes are protruding out from its skull and are colored an evil reddish-yellow. The flesh of the creature is melting off, exposing various blackened organs. With teeth as sharp as kitchen knives, the creature captures its first victim and eats its way through the trucker’s stomach. The trucker’s stomach is bitten into as softly as an orange, and squirts various juices colored green and red. The red was obviously the blood, but the green was some sort of bile. The creature rips out the trucker’s intestines which resemble a month’s old spaghetti. All of the main organs that made up the trucker’s anatomy are strewn about the floor, morbidly decorating it with such grace. Three more truckers meet the same demise, one of them having his head ripped from his shoulders. Such a gruesome scene made Paul throw up on the ground in front of him. The stench of decaying organs and fresh vomit was a scent that will last forever in Paul’s mind. The creature finishes off every trucker, with the exception of the leader, the burliest one of them all.
The creature backs the head trucker into a corner beside the machine. Paul is moving closer and closer to the blades.
“How’d you like to get in there?” said the creature in a low-pitched devilish voice. “You’d look beautiful torn apart by those blades, don’t you think?”
“Please,” the trucker cried. “Just let me go, I’ll let him down!”
“I’m not worried about him.” replied the creature. “He’ll be torn apart tonight, if not from you, from me.”
The creature stares deeply into the trucker’s soul and shoves its hand into the trucker’s obese stomach. He reaches his hand up through the abdomen and finds his way up the trucker’s chest, internally. Blood gushes out onto the floor at the creature’s feet and pools around the machine. The creature finds the trucker’s heart and squeezes its hand around it. The heart explodes in the creature’s grip as it squeezes as hard as it can. The hand escapes the trucker’s cadaver and exits with the heart in hand. The heart makes its way up to the creature’s mouth and is violently ingested. The heart squirts in the creature’s mouth like a plump, juicy orange. Even more blood spills out of the trucker’s dead body lying limp on the reddened floor. Paul writhes in sorrow as the creature makes its way over to him.
“Jesus, Barry,” Paul screams. “Stop it! What the hell are you?”
The creature ignores Paul and stands directly in front of him. Unbeknownst to the creature, a rogue trucker is making his way behind him. It was a trucker that the creature had missed, and one that had a gun. The creature slashed the rope that held Paul, and Paul fell hard onto the cold floor. A gunshot is fired into the creature’s back, and green slime oozes out of the hole. The creature turns around to see the startled trucker who had shot him. Within seconds, the trucker is picked up and thrown into the deadly grinder which had almost made a chili out of Paul’s poor body. Blood and organs are chewed up in the machine and spat out into the dirty air. Pieces of flesh fall into Paul’s lap and are immediately brushed away with a necessary gag. The creature faces Paul yet again and grabs him by his neck. Without hesitation, Paul is thrown into the machine and grinded up into tiny pieces. The machine squeaks as it grinds up Paul’s strong bones and spits them out like shards of splintered wood. The creature follows Paul into the machine and is equally grinded up into tiny pieces.
Spinning through a sort of time warp, Paul and Barry are interwoven and connect as one person. They are swirling through what they believe as the “afterlife”. Faster and faster they spin, noticing flashes of past memories they had experienced in their tumulus lives. Their bodies are unraveled and they spin off in separate directions, each on their own way to their own afterworld. Paul blacks out after a couple of seconds. When he wakes up, he’s in a state of pure euphoria. A clear blue sky shines above his head, and shimmering waterfalls surround him. The environment is in slow motion, Paul notices, as he raises his hand to see that he is completely intact. Paul had never looked better, in fact, he looked better now than he had ever looked before. He was a solid fifteen years younger void of any habits or stresses. He notices various butterflies as they fly around his head and observes the glitter-soaked air. Off in the distance, Paul takes notice of a beautiful woman standing underneath a tall tree. It had been the same tree Paul had played upon when he was a kid. The same tree he and his mother had spent countless nights counting stars under. The beautiful woman showed herself to be Margaret Blackmore, Paul’s late mother. She looked the same as she had when Paul would count stars with her. Paul found his way over to her and collapsed into her arms, like he did as a child. They were reunited at last. Paul could not remember what his mother’s touch felt like, but he knew now that is was like that of an angel. Perhaps they were both angels now, condemned to live out their afterlife in the grace of each other’s presence, making up for decades of lost time. One by one, more of Paul’s loved ones wandered their way underneath the tree, greeting Paul with a warm hug. Looking over the shoulder of his Grandmother, with whom he had lived with when his mother had died, Paul glimpsed Barry sitting atop a waterfall, looking intently back at Paul. A wink was given by Barry and then he disappeared. He had kept his promise, Barry had. After all, Paul was reunited with his mother. Barry proved that sometimes you must give something up to gain something in return. In this case, Paul paid the ultimate price to achieve true happiness. Paul lived on with his loved ones, getting the occasional visit from Barry every now and again.