TROUBLE AT HOME

Day 1

“I found this…odd book today. Kept in the, er, religious/mysticism section of my library. Was on the prowl for something out of the ordinary, and it definitely would appear that I got my wish. Heh. Seemed pretty interesting. I decided to check it out. Take it home with me, y’know? Lady who works the front desk looked at me skeptically when her eyes caught it. Only book I’ve seen her act that way towards. She was also strangely silent towards me. Didn’t bid me the usual farewell or anything. No pleasant chit-chat. Oh well.”

Day 2

“Started thumbing through that new book. Title’s…indecipherable. Written in an alphabet I clearly can’t read. Doesn’t look like any language I’ve ever heard of. Not even Arabic. Anyway, flipped through it to gauge it. Pages are filled with whatever writing this is. Can’t read it worth a damn. Lots of interesting illustrations, though. Creatures that don’t exist, hell, can’t exist. Really detailed depictions, too. Same with some of these monuments, buildings, locations. Holy shit. Whoever penned this thing had a wild imagination. I mean, none of these settings are possible or real, surely. But goddamn…they’re so vivid. So intricately penned. I also saw…what I guess were instructions? I assume that’s what they were. Next to and placed between what looked like really…really demented rituals and sacrifices. Good god, I hope no one ever tried any of that shit.”

Day 3

“Couldn’t…couldn’t stop thinking about that book. Didn’t sleep too great last night. Got maybe…maybe 3 hours in total, I would say? Every time I closed my eyes, I had these…really fucked up scenes just flash in my brain. Violent, gory. Kept jumping right out of bed, not sure where I was. As a result, I was out of it at work. And my mind would not stop wandering back to that…that stuff I saw in my dream. Fuck…it felt so real. Every time I tried to shove it down or forget about it, or the contents of that book, it only intensified. My boss and coworkers looked at me weird. Must’ve appeared I was having a breakdown of some kind. Now…I’m at home. Pacing back and forth. God, for some reason…I feel like I’m being watched. Something’s right behind my back, I know there is. But every time I turn, nothing is fucking there. I swear…I swear I hear very faint cackling. I have to concentrate to hear it. But it’s there. It’s fucking there…”

Day 4

“Haven’t slept all night. Couldn’t even if I wanted to. My hands are shaking. I don’t know if it’s from the gashes in my arms or the amount of pure fucking fear. Haven’t done much in the apartment. Certainly not touched the book. Just kinda…sit down and think. Occasionally have a loud outburst. Scream. Shout. Not even anything coherent. Lights went out at some point. All the power did. It’s so dark…I’m so scared. My eyes keep focusing on that bloodied knife. For whatever reason, I feel compelled to jam it right into my jugular vein. But I fear what comes after I depart life is much worse than the torments currently troubling me. Visions of snarling, gurgling, retching…things. Beings. Shit, I don’t even know how to describe them. Just aching for my flesh. Oh god…please…I’m not the praying type. Yet…I can’t help but hope. Have a little faith. Doubt it’d do me any good, though. I know there is no god here. Tried to call friends. Family. Anyone. Didn’t work…didn’t work at all. I’m alone.”

Day 5

“Heishereheishereheishereheishereheishere…demandssacrificedemandssacrificedemandssacrifice…oh god, the pain. Arms…hurt…painted sigils on…walls. What he wanted. What he needs…heneedsheneedsheneedsheneedsmybloodmybloodmybloodmybloodmyblood…wants to taste. Smells my…fear. The cackling…the cackling. I can hear it. Cannot see him. But the pharaoh. Oh, the howling…it’s…it’s terrible. Stop…make it stop. He will not stop. Hewillnotstophewillnotstophewillnotstophewillnostop. Oh the blood…it tastes sweet. I see why he wants…needs…must offer myself. Pick up the knife. The knife…through the knife, he shall taste the flesh and the blood. Yes…”

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HAMMER OF DOUBT

“They’d never suspect him for what he did.

How could they?

Who really would’ve guessed it was him, of all people? Of all the shitbags out there, it was him? It just don’t make no sense, don’t it?

Naw, clean cut fella like ‘im ovah there? Couldn’t have done in it. Shit, if you would’ve told me, I wouldn’t have believed ya. Part of me still don’t really believe it myself.

Except…I do.

Ya see, it ain’t never the…obvious choice, that does all this crazy sort of insanity, hackin up young girls, and chokin em, and molestin em…naw, that’d be too simple. The raggedy bum, the smelly hippie, the long-haired kid with a scowl…ha, you simple ass fool. The usual suspects ain’t the ones stashin body parts in the basement, having strange, deviant rituals with whatever’s left behind. Oh, you’d want it to be that convenient, wouldn’t ya?

Well, truth of the matter is…it’s the one ya least expect. Good lookin fella with that charming grin that makes all the ladies swoon. Smart as a whip, could go to any goddamn college he wanted. Has a good record with the law, and his parents don’t suspect a fuckin thing about him. Just destined to be another all-American shinin star. Another pride of the family.

Oh, I can see it. And I can believe it.

Keep tellin yourself that them eyes don’t hide sadism and pure iciness behind em, when you see another one of them types cross your paths.”

NOW I’M LEAVING IT ALL BEHIND

Charred black, removed of all color when flame is set to it. So easily is its composition just…entirely undone, all by this simple act. Light up a dancing blaze, so hypnotic in its swaying, and cause it to meet with the fragile thing whose arrogance we have fostered since time immemorial. Then…poof. Reduced to being nothing but smoldering ash.

Undone is all of its charm. Its magic spell is broken, it would seem. Suddenly, we are reminded of the impermanence, the delicateness, the…frail grasp it has on our minds.

First we scream.

Then we’re in shock.

Lastly…we cheer.

PANIC SETS IN (AS I ENVISION THE ABYSS I’VE CREPT IN)

It’s something humanity has conditioned itself into believing for aeons.

That we are all alone, in this universe, which was concocted solely for us to inhabit, by forces that are simultaneously all-encompassing and extremely personal. Able to be grasped by the frail human mind and be touched, communicated with, whilst occupying a vast, unknowable territory far beyond our existence.

Perhaps to make our chance appearance on Earth seem more important than it truly was. Blow out of proportion what was likely one of the many dice-rolls of the perpetual chaos that is the cosmos. Give us that sense of grandiose pride that told us, “we, in fact, do matter”. Mankind seems to be the only terrestrial being who has a pathological obsession with what their existence means, why it means that, where it comes from, and who could’ve caused it. As far as anyone is aware, no other creature seems to be too concerned with these matters. Maybe that’s for the best. They seem freer and happier as a result.

What does one do when they’re confronted with the fact that…maybe we are not alone, when it comes to…out there? How is an individual supposed to react in the presence of unknown factors which reveal to us that the yawning abyss, the endless depths of incalculable infinity, the gaping maw of that which we don’t know, cannot ever know, and, most controversially, shouldn’t know…we are, indeed, in the presence of something else?

Apparently, all you can do is grip the knuckles of one’s steering wheel and slam one’s foot to the gas pedal, in pure shock, absolute terror, eyes gazing at everything you did not know. Teeth clenched as the…the…thing…appeared to be actively pursuing you.

But before that, you notice the peculiar shape in the sky. So bizarre, so otherworldly, so out of place is it…that all you can do is try to block out its existence from one’s mind, in a desperate attempt to say, “that wasn’t there”. But it was. That was no dream. And it knows that you know it was there.

Suddenly, you’re not where you were before. It looks similar. Not the same, but similar. However, details are off. The scenery you were used to driving past in your car for countless months was now foreign, alien, in ways that it shouldn’t have been, for it had not changed ever since you’d come to know it.

Your heart had never pounded this hard before, and probably never since you saw that mobile, dark mass of what-the-fuck-is-that coasting over the field, hovering idly atop what you had always known to be an empty patch of desolate grass and dirt. No doubt a harsh reminder that you and your bipedal kin were not masters of reality, and did not know all, did not perceive all, did not experience or even come close to understanding all.

In those moments, aeons of belief are shattered like fine china, reduced to little else but past comforts.

PASS THE SHOVEL

Oh, it’s hungry.

So, so…hungry…

More, more…

Never…satisfied…

It suffers from the type of hunger which never goes away. A ceaseless, agonizing, relentless, unbearable hunger that can never, ever be satiated, no matter much is shoveled into its bottomless gullet. Each hour, of each day, it roars with a horrific roar that demands an unbearable amount of material be fed to it. Sacrificed, if you will. Those who do not meet its demands are…well, never heard from again. Perhaps they became outlaws, plotting to wage war against it, hiding either in plain sight or on the outskirts beyond the reach of the monster. Maybe…maybe they just…disappeared.

Forever.

What does it hunger for? Any and all things. The soil, the water, the minerals, the air, the sky itself. And it shits out distorted, warped, twisted, mangled versions of these things. Water as black as the air it breathes out from its lungs once it has begun digesting soil and what was contained in the soil, or the rock, obscuring the blue shield of our home in the process. Does the hunger cease? Don’t be silly. The hunger…never…ceases. Even if those who work for the damned thing wanted the hunger to cease, the accursed beast would still compel them to provide nutrients, sustenance. Its influence is all-consuming, ever-expanding, never-ending. Beckoning all whoever come into contact with it to serve its tyrannical interests with a demented, insane sort of selflessness. For it considers service towards its sickening ends to be virtuous. To be one of its subjects, is to be duty-bound to it…for life. A blood pact is made with it once you join up with it. You can never leave…ever.

You think it stops there, don’t you? You think that’s the end of the line?

Oh…oh you poor thing.

We’ve only just begun.

Subjects become the prey. Whoever greases the machine, is eventually bound to become swallowed by it. Churned up and crushed, grinded into bits of meat for it to enjoy, and, maybe, make something new out of it. After all, it’s always on the cutting edge. Innovation. Progress. Always inventing. Just don’t question where all this comes from. Don’t think about it. Blind yourself to the pools of blood on your hands, my dear. Forget about the maddening screams of the wailing ghosts of all the dead that float all around and grab at your ankles from below the ground. Anyway, if it doesn’t steal your flesh, then…then it’ll just steal your soul instead. If it can’t make you dead on the outside, it’ll make you dead inside. Young, old, it does not matter. Upper, lower, you become a slave to it all the same. Fucker or breeder (because those are the only two distinctions it makes between its subjects; those who fuck, and those who breed…those who make, and those who deliver), the hammer pounds upon you all the same. The gears whir their cackling, maddening whir whether you like it or not. No consent required om your end. It’d be silly to think it ever needed it…

Not to mention, all of the…victims, subjected to its insatiable whims. Packed in dozens deep. Cramped into conditions so squalid and miserable, that it makes those of the subjects seem like paradise. Never seeing the sun. Never seeing the sky. But, wait, the sun is blocked out by thick clouds of hateful, acrid smoke, and the sky is now tinged with a dingy, decrepit, dull color that makes one’s nose bleed and eyes burn. Whole families. Fathers conditioned to force themselves on what could’ve been mates, lovers, all for the sake of creating children who will later be turned into meals for the subjects, who know not where all of this comes from, and how it got onto their plates. Cut up, beaten, burned, tortured, flogged, raped…eaten. And those who partake in all this, well…they are the dead flesh walking. Zombies that talk and breathe. Their hearts stopped beating long ago…and the blood is now in their veins. Frosty, like fresh snow during a blizzard. The pupils of their eyes disappearing as they brutalize the victims in ways that are simply too tragic to describe. And…and those with roots…who come from the ground…just slaughtered en masse. Gotten rid of. Later repurposed, stoically and precisely, with chilling precision, into…into…well, useless things that will eventually be gotten rid of immediately. Their lives worth about minutes, perhaps even seconds, of attention, at most. Deprived of lives, of a chance to exist. Trampled underfoot by the marching of the iron heel. So rhythmic, so perfect…so, so disturbing…

The world becomes warped to how it desires existence itself to be. All shall be constructed as a large, concrete rectangle. This shall be the template of the future. Built upon the holy shape of the square, with constantly observed innards kept up with by frightened, starving, weary wastrels who see no other alternative to this den of putridity and nastiness. All hail the grid, all hail the foreman and the cameras he employs to make sure you keep his god alive (it is a god, it is a god, and we must kill the god…but how can we kill the god; is it even able to be killed…can we?). But the god doesn’t need us, does it? Even without our help, it’ll never be a broken god. It won’t allow itself to fall into disrepair, allow itself to go unmaintained and lose its power. See, the god is slowly gaining more and more of a foothold, and soon, the god will be here to stay. It won’t need us, or anything made of flesh, bone, blood, chlorophyll, wood, or leaves anymore. Not to keep it going. Feast? Oh, it shall definitely still feast. But it’ll invent new ways of making sure it survives, and thrives. Becoming autonomous in the process. A free machine. An unbound deity of nightmarish proportions.

Escape? Is that an option? Maybe now. Here and now, potentially. Hopefully (gah, hope, such a funny…funny thing…heh…). While it’s not entirely too late. But the window is closing, fast. Evade, outwit, distract. Get out while you still can. Or fight, fight however possible. No matter how small, no matter how fruitless. Buck against it, swing your fist, scream at it, damage it. Just do it, in whichever way you come across or think about, even. You will weaken the grip it has on you, loosen the mental and maybe even physical chains that bind you. Refuse, resist. Nothing will change, but freedom, liberation, will start to become known to you. Do what thou wilt, because that is the opposite of its law. Not its law. Never was. Do what it wills, yes.

This…

Ah, this…

It’s all thanks to you.

What? This is what you wanted…right?

Pay your dues to the devil you have created.

Yes, penance is not cheap…is it?

Can you hear it groaning for more? Aching for more? More, more it needs…

Wants…more…

Give it more…

Everything…even you, yes, you…

Now…

Do your duty…

Be good…be…

Good…

I NEED REMINDERS OF THE LOVE I HAVE

Cold, dark, soulless, murky…the room reeks of death, decay, and deviance. Your eyes dart around the room worriedly, crammed into a steel prison, that threatens to squeeze the very life out of you. Choke you. Suffocate you. Every time you move, you’re reminded of the hell you’re stuck in. Day by day, night by night (though you can’t even tell which it is anymore, and it wouldn’t matter), your hope diminishes. And so do the hope of those who are trapped here as well. There’s no escape.

You pray for death, for an end to the horror and agony. But…you’ve seen what death looks like. The screams haunt you to your core. The stench of torched, rotting, maimed flesh. Of spattered blood and harsh, heartless cackles. Seeing corpses of your potential brothers and sisters carted off into dumpster bins. Your skin flayed and beaten upon cold, steel tables, gutted with cold, steel tools. Occasionally you get glimpses of the terrifying malice in the eyes in your captors. How they show you nothing but pure hate. It haunts your dreams. You’re next. Soon.

If there is a God, then surely he cares nothing for you. He wanted you here, and others like you here as well. To suffer needlessly. To be mercilessly slaughtered and viciously cut up.

The entrance to this hall of nightmares begins to give away, after many jingles of the door knob, which is finally smashed open.

Oh no…

Usually close up by now. Have they decided to up the amount of torture to 24 hours? Round the clock? Sleeping in shifts so it can never end? Shall there be no more reprieve?

Everything only becomes more grave when a slew of bipedal scourges come walking in. But…they seem different. Not dressed in lab coats and masks and other such articles of clothing that have now come to signify only death. Instead, they come in wearing all black. Faces obscured. Dressed in outfits that look much less formal, much less menacing. But the most striking thing…is their eyes. Their eyes show no malice or contempt. A desire for your end, for your life to cease, and drag the process out as much as possible, seems to be strangely absent. It’s a different emotion. One of…compassion. Care. Love…

Is there hope after all?

Hurriedly, they break out devices, tools, that are made to sever the locks on the cages that keep you enslaved and always on edge. And with gentle, warm, non-threatening hands…they embrace. Whispering words of words of reassurance. All of your kin, everyone in there, are also freed from this terrible, terrible den of misery and suffering. They, too, receive the same treatment.

All of you are rushed out of the building, carefully yet quickly, with these mysterious strangers whispering to each other about what sounds like further plans. Plans of finding you and everyone else a home. A better home. A good home. One not of pain, but of affection. One where you are all adored, rather than despised. Where cruelty does not exist. It all seems so surreal, like a dream. Is this really happening?

Yes, it really is.

For the first time, you feel something so…unfamiliar. Something you thought yourself never capable of experiencing.

Hope.

VOODOO PEOPLE

A spirit pervades me, one which does not reflect my appearance. Not in the slightest. Yet, nevertheless, I feel compelled to heed its call. But the consequences of doing so would put my safety at risk. Perhaps lead me to punishments most dire from those who despise how free I truly am.

O’, the feelings that I harbor and suppress…

The whims I wish to indulge in…

Sage-like spirit, how I miss your calls, that I have long since ignored and silenced, for my false sense of security, and false sense of freedom and pride (which eluded me anyhow, and only served to deepen the chasm of misery that grows into my heart, wedging it apart). Please, won’t you come back, to keep me company? I know you are there, even if you are weak and defeated, but still simultaneously so strong and resilient and forgiving. How I hurt for you…

Body and essence both feel a strong urge to play in this realm, this space of unadulterated freedom and absolute liberation, with this wondrous slice of Being supplanted in me, that beckons me to frolic in a space beyond my preconceived notions, and the limitations of my ideals and beliefs.

Yet, it’s all so fearsome and terrifying. This spits in the face of everything I’ve known to be true and real. Declares, with a cackle and a grin, that it is fake, that it is stupid, and that it deserves to be relentlessly mocked and opposed.

However, even now, I am always more than a little excited by its prospects.

Calls sound out from inside, craving that which is of a more “delicate” nature. Passionate, romantic, emotional, mysterious, chaotic, wild, rambunctious…it is what my soul wants and needs. My spirit seeks that which is “tougher”, enamored with the stoic, the orderly, the disciplined, the stubborn and steadfast, the aloof and somewhat. Ringing out loudly in my ears, these wants and needs are wont to do. I, my real I, not some outwardly ordained I/Self, imposed from geists that are neither accept nor am friendly towards, I seek to be both and neither, everything and nothing. Outside of the two way street, while also inhabiting both lanes. Simultaneously negate and affirm infinity and zero, in both directions. The possibilities are truly endless, for I k ow that I was born freed from the prison that wishes to constrict the many who revel in their slavery. But…sadly, I am denied it. All of this. Told to not even think about it. “No, I forbid it!”, the stern voice decrees with a menacing glare and a vicious sneer. Outside forces do not wish for me to revel in my true self. So I must lock away who I really am. Doomed to revolt against that which Nature gifted me with, what it wanted me to regard as a blessing, not as a curse. Maybe even hate it, try to kill it. Choke it and strangle it. And why? Because…I don’t know why. The world wishes it to be so, and I feel obligated to grant it its wish. All because that which I possess, apparently bars me from experiencing this other side. Yet, it isn’t an “other side”, is it? That implies it was unknown to me. A mystery. Separated from my being. Outside of who I was. But it wasn’t. Even now, as I seek desperately to escape it, it’s still there. My tortured soul cries out in anguish for me to listen, to hear it out, to love it and embrace it.

I howl in pain. Aching fills me. Existence becomes a trap, a mechanism of torture, a nightmarish fluke that I cannot seem to be free of, even in death. O’, the pain, the agony, how it fills my veins and bones. Sometimes, it becomes so great, my lungs cannot pump air, and I find myself without breath. All I can think when my gaze falls upon my own Self, is how much I wish I simply were not.

Torn apart, in both body and soul, I seem to be. Many say this is my destiny, how my path is slated to come to a conclusion. But is that really the case? Or is this merely the result of being deemed such a threat, that even those who claim to stand by me will turn their backs and celebrate my demise? If all of this were gone, would I still feel the same way? If I weren’t under attack constantly, and being told to shove it, to close myself up or face a noose, would I still be wanting to walk into my own grave, and lay myself down?

Doubt it.

O’, what I wish I was…and am too afraid to be.

SHOULD I ACCEPT THIS OUT OF SHYNESS

The uniformity. It’s maddening. It’s all one can see for miles upon miles. Rectangular cuts that form rectangular shapes. Followed by rectangular cuts that form rectangular shapes. Straight, geometrically precise lines, and nothing else. Perfectly rigid, exceedingly…proper. Mathematically, it’s all so delightfully accurate. But your mind…your mind craves something else. Makes your very soul nauseous and sick. You’re afraid to look anywhere. Everywhere is just that stoic, stern, impersonal regimentation.

Goodness, it all sends a shiver down your spine. Your blood turns into ice in your veins, goosebumps forming along your arms. Eyes darting nervously in all directions. Palms moistened by sweat. Is no one else seeing this? The corridors upon corridors of clinical exactness. All blurring together. Which street is that? What building did you pass? You can’t tell. It all runs together in your vision. All so cut and dry, cut and dry. Did humans even make this?

Looming ever so large, everything around serves to remind you of your infinitesimal existence. The utter insignificance of you. To the people around you, and even to yourself. Swallowed into a kind of…void. A black hole, where any sort of light is ruthlessly drawn in and torn apart, before being gulped down, like a gluttonous man chewing ravenously on steak. Brutalist, so vulgarly brutalist. Possessed with a kind of haunting cleanliness. Yet, it’s all so dirty. Christ, what is that awful smell? It reeks of rot and decay. Perhaps it is humanity’s soul, trapped and dying in this maze of square paths and a hate for all that once was.

Desolation and despair seems to be the order of the day. It teems with human life, yet if it weren’t for that, it’d be a concrete desert. A jungle without an ecosystem. Uninhabited. Inanimate. The very construction of this place seems antithetical to life itself. Quite in opposition to fostering the flourishing of any life. One could argue, indeed, that it does, given the plethora of humans locked within its grid, its four walls, which we never seem quite free from, but while it may breed more of the killers, it also kills the killers themselves. Mortality rates through the roof for infants. Gunshots aimed at either the heads of others or their own heads. Starvation and dehydration. Let it be known, this is a giant factory of death, a concentration camp.

The deeper you go into it, the more you immerse yourself in its levels, the more nightmarish it becomes. Possessed by some sort of devilish character that no one else will admit to. Rotten, you shall become. Dirtier and dirtier, the foul stench clinging to you like the jaws of a wolf to a lone bison. Its taint spreads like wildfire, or a virus, and burrows deep into the depths of anyone brought into its fray. Poisoning them, wrecking their insides. Gnawing away at their innards, scooping out whatever sense of life they might’ve had. A vampire, draining the life of everyone in its vicinity, in order to feed itself. And it is always, always hungry, ravenous, gluttonous, in its endless appetite. Most of them unaware that the venom has seeped in, poisoned their veins.

Emotion? You dare speak or think of emotion here? Nay, you shake your head in dismay. There is none. You can see it in the faces of the passerbys. Blank expressions, with hollow eyes and exposed lines. Reanimated by the false stimuli that the is constantly pumped into their bodies and minds. Jolted by electrifying impulses, to bring about a rush of serotonin and dopamine. Force a smile, even though they’re all empty inside. Whatever they feel, isn’t real.

It can all be boiled down to simple chemical reactions. That’s it. Jolts of the flesh and mind, when reacting to something it’s been trained to salivate at. Pursuing the lotus, whatever form it takes. Wealth, wealth, the sacred cow of our age. Always reminded of it at every turn.

Let it be known, this is not wealth.

The monster knows this.

All the faces blur together. Who is who? What is their name? Don’t know, and you don’t even really care. You see so many of them. Your ability to feel for them dwindles into nothing. Especially since whenever they acknowledge your existence, it’s always a pale imitation of some kind of feeling. It disgusts you, how much you talk like them. Look like them. Feel like them. Act like them. But you haven’t a choice. Well, you do. A slow death, or a quick one.

Complaints arise that people are lost. The morale and the psychological condition of all those around are falling by the wayside. The loss of customs and traditions. The decay of various manufactured values and needs and wants. Descending into the pits of Hell. Various people are scapegoated. For good reason, since there are quite a few to blame. But they’re symptoms of the bigger problem, naturally. Yet, no one wants to address the underlying issue.

Watched, watched all the time. Watchers everywhere. Eyes on every street corner. No privacy, none. Private space? What private space? You’re not safe. Subconsciously, you know you aren’t. It panics you sometimes. Drives you into anxious fits and tumultuous slumbers. Unable to sleep, tossing and turning as everything seems to be closing in on you. Where does it stop? Where does it end? How long can it go on?

It’s enough to make you scream in agony and fear.

Peace and quiet. That’s all you want. Peace and quiet. But you don’t get it. There’s ceaseless noise. An unending stream of loud, invasive volumes. Every piece of wretched machinery belches pure hate out of its throat. Constantly interrupting your train of thought. What were you even thinking about? Oh, nothing. It’s not important. The blueprint for Auschwitz and Dachau said it wasn’t, so, you shrug your shoulders in a dejected manner, shake your head, sighing heavily.

As a result, rest never truly comes. You wondered if you’ve ever really slept. Or been awake, for that matter. Just drifting, floating in the empty void. Are you even real? Is any of this even real? Silly question. Of course it isn’t. It’s all a bad joke. A terrible ruse. Some devious prank played by some foolish men in bygone times.

You want to give in to all the methods that make you want to forget.

But you don’t want to lose yourself.

On the other hand, what is your “self?”?

Could you even know?

Do you even want to?

So, you crave rest. Naturally. You crave the absence of noise. But, ironically, the absence of noise affords you no relief, either, does it? You’ve been conditioned to find a strange comfort in the constant churning of the always present hallways you find yourself stuck within. In the absence of it, you grow anxious. Antsy. Disturbed. In a certain sense, you associate it with death. Insomnia takes you either way.

On the other hand, who’s to say you aren’t already dead? Were you ever really alive?

Your body moves along like a machine, but inside, you’re aware that something is deeply wrong with the very soul you possess.

Packed like sardines in a can. Best way to describe this situation, isn’t it? How utterly trapped you are, being pressed upon by all sides, thanks to the ever-increasing mass. It terrifies you. Frightens you. Surrounded by strangers as sick and loathsome as yourself. Can’t breathe. You feel as if you might choke. Always the lingering sensation of some invisible hand pressing against your throat, squeezing and gripping, crushing your windpipe. And you see shadows that aren’t really there. Yet, who’s to say they aren’t? There’s always a pale look about you. A nervous gleam in your eyes. An ache in your chest that sometimes cripples you.

It’s all a powder keg. Waiting to blow. Sooner or later, it’s going to shatter into pieces. A glass house, trembling as the breezes of time swiftly blow by.

You wonder…

VESSEL DESERTED

Broken sobs left his lips as the pangs of hunger grew stronger and stronger.

Whatever was left of his humanity…

It was hardly due for a longer stay.

The departure of his former essence was clinging to that heart of his, yet, as his mind became further and further shattered by the realization of the awful truth, his soul became twisted and corrupt, heart as black as the coal used to keep campfires burning.

Cold, bitter, frosty tears, ravaging his face as the harsh winds blew past him, carrying off the spirits of the restless dead that lay all around him, butchered, massacred, by his own hands. Stained with chunks of human remains. Ligaments, tissue, bone…coating his body like paint. Choked wails leaving his throat as he felt the most forbidden of meals, what was left of it, dribbled down his teeth, jaw, and chin.

Eyes sunken into deep within the dark recesses of his sockets, he surveyed what was left of his now dead compatriots. Body parts strewn about like grotesque party streamers. Splattered, smattered, all over the surrounding trees.

The snowy surroundings caused his tall, gaunt, deathly pale figure to tremble and shiver, quaking from the severe lack of warmth. His body had long since crossed the point of recoverability, and now in the territory of permanent emaciation, skin riddled with scars, looking less and less human by the second, he became more and more akin to a hairy, unkempt, bestial nightmare. A demon. A devil.

No return.

Solace? Gone, dashed away like those he himself, with his long, claw-adorned fingers, dashed away. Dashed away their lives. Their chances at perhaps seeing a way out of this frigid, icy hell. He would surely never be afforded such a luxury. This was his domain now. His realm.

Eerie, ghostly, milky white orbs, buried within the former man’s skull, suddenly went blank. Having lost any and all semblance of personhood. Now…now they were just predatory ocular organs, staring forward, always, searching eternally for the next forbidden meal.

In the next town over, a pained, ghastly roar could be heard. One that shook the residents to their very cores. The last utterance of a man…before a monster took over. For good.

UNSEEN WORLD

Doe-eyed prey, swimming in a sea of sharks, fangs abound, clearly unwanted guests. What’s to stop anyone? There’s no justice out here. It’s the wild west. But even those people had a certain sense of honor. Not these, no. They’re animals, look at them. Zombies, reduced to only carnal instincts. I bet they salivate as we walk by.

Don’t look at them, maybe they won’t look at you. Don’t acknowledge them. They might not acknowledge you.

It’s not by choice, no. We certainly wouldn’t have picked this route. But you have to do what you have to do. Seniority means you’re the last line of defense. Especially when the ones who really can make an actual difference aren’t there.

Scribbles underneath bridges, indecipherable words and drawings from madmen with poison in their veins and broken thoughts in their minds. What brought them here? I don’t know. I don’t care. Best to keep walking. All you’ll be met with is slurs. First confused. Then angry.

Once you get to the gas stations and liquor stores, they swarm like flies. Cluster like hornets. Poke the nest. See what happens. I wouldn’t be here if I did, nor would my sister.

Cars on stands on the side of the road, windows barred or boarded up, broken glass, the stench of regrets too numerous to even be cared about, the appearance of the word “decay”. It’s not an ideal place for the youth to grow up. Not to me. But beggars can’t be choosers, and I hold no malice for being put here. I owe it much, as much as I resent it.

Growing up, I’d hear of a place called Hell, in holy books. A place where the wretched are sent, and the worst of the worst congregate, doomed to rot there, drowning in the cesspool of their own failures. They said it was somewhere else. I’d disagree. I can point out to you where Hell was. I saw it when some freak without teeth looked in my direction. When some degenerate hobbled into view, breaking out of a drugged stupor. I experienced Hell when we crossed the street early, and when we quickened our pace a bit, and my heart would pound like a rogue jackhammer on stubborn cement.

I’m not going to Hell. I already went. I have no desire to go back.

Three miles. Three measly miles. And then, after 8 hours, you do it again. Reverse. Back home.

The parents can’t help you. They’d like to. But duty calls. But come straight home. Wouldn’t want to worry them any more than this already does. The wrath of a desperate father, frustrated by his shortcomings, and an incompetent mother, and two unruly children, well, I’d hate to see that.

You get used to it after a while. An unconscious man lying in the streets, an empty bottle lying next to him. A woman offering herself up to any and all takers. A gathering of strange characters, conversing about potentially violent hijinks.

Avoid saying “hello” to anyone. No one’s friendly here. Strangers aren’t to be trusted. Eye contact will lead to lethal consequences, I think. Just keep walking, sis.

Rinse, wash, repeat. It becomes second nature. And you start to blend in after a while. It becomes robotic.

The shock wears off.

But don’t get comfortable.