by Sean M. Thompson
Cort woke up on the floor and didn’t remember why.
His head ached like he’d had a night of heavy drinking. He yawned, and went to sit on his couch, then stopped. Blinked, just to make sure he was really awake, and seeing everything correctly. His confusion was a subtle stirring in his mind, a tiny motorized toy clinking of its own accord. He must have been really drunk, like really, really sloshed. His couch was moved to a different corner of the room, and he’d rearranged his TV to where the couch used to be.
Cort went to the kitchen, and grabbed a plastic cup from the cabinet. He didn’t even remember what day it was. Opening the fridge, he went to grab the gallon of orange juice, and froze.
He could have sworn he’d left the juice on the bottom right hand side of the refrigerator. Only, now, it rested behind the milk on the left hand side, and further, he’d thought he’d left the milk on the right side.
Then again, if he’d been drinking hard enough, and got blackout drunk as he suspected he had, Cort could have done all manner of strange things. He remembered one time in college when he’d woken from a night of partying to find a gallon of milk in the microwave, and a burrito on a plate in the trash.
Besides, his best friend was missing. He had every right to drink.
Something was trying to claw its way back into his thoughts. Cort retraced his steps, to the night before. He’d been doing something. Someone had called for some reason…
He fished his cell phone out from his pocket, and checked the call log. Janet had called last night around nine, and yes, that was right, she’d said she wanted to come over and have him cook on Friday night, okay, so he’d talked to Janet, and then he’d gone to…hm. He’d hung up, and what had he decided to do?
It alarmed him that it was so hard to remember the events that had occurred mere hours before. Had he hit his head? Maybe he had a concussion. He should really Google the symptoms of –
In a flood it all came back. The flashing red screen, and the fire scalding him inside like old wood with faulty wiring. His loss of control: the way his body spasmed and shook, and finally, passing out.
Only, then, why was all his stuff rearranged? Had he been walking around after he passed out?
Maybe I was in a blackout, just not from drinking. Fuck, this is bad, this is really fucking bad. I need to call a shrink, or my dad, or –
A calm voice spoke in his head. No need to freak out, I just saw a flashing red screen, and I fell and bumped my head. I must have a concussion, and maybe I should go to the hospital.
Only, the voice – ostensibly his inner monologue – something seemed off about it. It didn’t feel the same as thinking your own thoughts, it felt like someone transmitted into his head, but – but that’s crazy, Cort. You just hit your head, and you’re confused, that’s all this is. The whole “Demon” thing is just blown out of proportion. It’s getting to you.
“Yeah, that’s right, i just hit my head,” he said aloud, though he wasn’t sure why. “I’ll go Google what the symptoms of a concussion are, visit one of those walk-in places to make sure I’m okay, and then everything’ll be right as rain.” Right as rain, repeated his inner voice.
“Everything will be cool,” he said, and he felt a weight lift off his chest. Very cool. Cool as a cucumber.
He remembered it was Friday, that he’d seen that on his phone when he’d gone to check his call log. Janet would be coming over later, and he needed to figure out what to make for dinner.
Do swordfish with a nice white wine. “I don’t know how to cook swordfish.”
Sure you do, remember? You have that recipe you bookmarked on your laptop.
“Oh…right. But walk-in first.”
He definitely felt really off. So he hustled, grabbed his jacket, his keys, and googled where the nearest clinic was.
“Well, good news. It’s not a concussion.”
Cort hated the doctor. He had the most nasally voice he’d ever heard, and the bastard was so very smug.
Follow him to the parking lot and punch him in the face, he thought, and then corrected himself with Whoa, no, that’s way too much. Why would I even think that? No, I’ll just get out of here, and give him a bad Yelp review.
“I’d say if you feel funny in the head you should talk to a shrink. Physically, you’re fine.”
Sanctimonious prick, Cort thought.
“Thanks for all your help, you piece of shit.”
Oh my God! What the fuck am I saying?!?!
“I’m going to go,” he said. “Thanks for all your help.”
He left the office and did the paperwork at the front desk as quickly as he could. The receptionist gave him a funny look, to which he half smiled, then rushed out.
Snow drifted from the sky, soft as a lover’s touch. The clinic was only a ten minute walk from his apartment, and the sun’s setting cast a warm pink glow to the crystalline white-and-grey of the city around him. Buildings and storefronts crowded the landscape in this part of the city. Sometimes it seemed like those big towers were staring down at him, but in a matronly way, when the holiday lights sparkled off of the rows of windows looking down.
He loved Boston in winter, in this time before New Year’s. Two months later, when grey slush covered every dirty curb, he would be really sick of it. But this time, the first few snowfalls, he couldn’t think of anything prettier – the lights and the decorations for the coming holidays dancing over everything, lighting the stone and glass and metal, refracting and shining as bright as constellations.
The people around him laughed, ran for late appointments, hugged. One guy in a Bruin’s winter hat with a yellow pom pom on top cried into a paper bag of booze. A fat woman in sweatpants with cats on them loudly argued with someone on her cell phone. By her expression, Cort wasn’t even sure if there was someone on the other end of the line.
There was a man, who looked to be a few years younger than him, who made eye contact with Cort. He wore a navy peacoat, and had rimless glasses, which reflected the lights around. The man never broke his gaze with Cort. He didn’t so much as blink. Unnerved, Cort continued down the street. He checked over his shoulder, and saw the stranger kept pace.
The man followed Cort for a few more blocks, then turned down a side street. Relieved, Cort walked on, until he came to a supermarket.
Inside the grocery store, he traveled down the aisles until he located the seafood department. He picked out a nice cut of swordfish, and the made his way to the alcohol, and found a decent bottle of white. A father with his child in a cart passed, the small brown haired boy locking eyes with Cort, and, lifting his small index finger to his lips, indicated “Shhhh.”
Cort blinked, and the boy stared at him, and he wasn’t sure if what had just happened had really happened.
He made his way to the 12 items or less line. In the checkout, the person in front of him – a large woman around his age with curly red hair – turned around and smiled at him, exposing teeth which looked alarmingly sharp. He smiled back, a little tentatively, glad things were finally normalling out, when the woman leaned in and whispered in his ear.
“All creatures scream when the abyss claws its way out of them. Six upon six upon six blood soaked orgies, smearing human filth on the congregation of scalded flesh. The revelry dance to the tune of psychotic melodies and miasmas of terrified spirits trapped in a vortex, drunk down fast as hate-flavored whisky. We’ll skin them alive, and tan and wear the pelts when the world is bathed in fire and these buildings crumble to the ground. Won’t you take me to funkytown, Cort? We can do it in the alley next to this place, and you can degrade me under the light of a decrepit moon, and the clerk can watch. After you shower me in your swimmers, we’ll kill him, and drink his fucking blood.”
Cort stepped back. “Excuse me?” he began, eyes wide.
“I said ‘have a nice day’,” she replied, smiling, but there was still a glint in her eye which he didn’t trust.
She paid for her items, and exited the store, and when the clerk asked him how he was doing, he honestly didn’t know how to respond.
He exited the market – only when he got back to the street, and darkness began to surround him, the scene seemed to have changed. He looked about, and realized with mounting anxiety that every single person stared at him, faces locked in his direction, eyes unblinking. None of the pedestrians moved, but merely stood still, eyeing him like hungry jackals. He started to walk, feeling their eyes upon him, not sure if he was losing his mind, or if perhaps he had some kind of neurological problem from when he’d fallen the night before.
The people in front of him turned, and began to walk backwards, staring at him, and one woman licked her lips, and a man in turn grabbed his crotch, giving it a tug through his jeans. Cort’s heart hammered in his chest, and his mouth was dry, as he quickened his pace, every face he saw staring at him with lustful eyes, but whether they planned to fuck him, kill him, or eat him, he didn’t know. It was all too much, and he ran, ran as fast as he could to the closest alley, and ran in, as his vision went to black.
He came to with his fists soaked in blood, and an older man underneath him, whose face was a mass of bruises and pulp.
“Please…just t-take my wallet…” the man groaned out.
“What – ”
“Please d-don’t hit…please don’t hit me anymore…”
“I don’t – I – when did I start hitting you?” Cort stammered out.
“Please…” was all the man said, and he threw his wallet from his coat with a grunt.
Just take it, you deserve it, he thought, immediately followed by no, this is a dude in his fifties, I’m just going to get the fuck out of here before I get arrested!
He ran out of the alley, away from the man he’d presumably beaten bloody, towards his apartment, darkness all around, cold as a meat locker, his breath puffing out in ragged, guilt stricken rasps.
The man walked the streets outside Faneuil Hall. He really did love the lights, and how the people around him reacted to them, with so much longing in their eyes, as they entered stores, obsessed with buying the perfect gift or new item of clothing, or toy for themselves.
Young or old, it didn’t matter – each contained the same avarice, more or less.
The Holiday season really was one of the best times of the year for his kind. So much greed, and it was so easy to get someone thinking of what they truly “deserved”.
A heavily muscled man in a backwards baseball hat bumped into him.
“Watch where you’re going, dickhead!” the man barked at him.
“Twenty three,” he replied.
“What the fuck did you just say?” the man in the backwards hat asked.
“That’s how many surgeries you’re going to need to be able to walk again,” he replied.
“You wanna go, you fuckin’ queer?” the backwards hat man said.
“No, but you do. You’re a closeted homosexual. You’re overly aggressive due to a desire to shove cocks in your asshole and mouth, but you’re afraid your father and friends would not approve of your love of dick, so instead you pick fights with people and engage in all the classic signs of self-loathing transference. It doesn’t have to be like that, though, Terrence. You can become a regular cum-dumpster, and engage in the most depraved of male orgies, if you’d only just agree to do something for me.”
“What?” the man in the backwards hat said, and this was the fun part. When he saw their eyes glaze over.
Sheesh, he’d barely had to do anything with this fellow. It was really too easy.
The man leaned in and whispered to Terrence, and the muscle-bound man walked off. The man smiled as he took in the rest of the scene – all the hungry people, so full of fear, and hate, and precious, precious longing. The man would use these things to his advantage, and really, he’d already started the process all those months ago. Now all he had to do was enjoy himself, and wait for the real fun to begin.
He smiled as he heard the car tires screech, and the pedestrians scream as he made his way to the end of the street, and rounded the corner.
To be continued
January 13th, 2017.
Note: this was posted a day late through the editor’s forgetfulness and poor Wi-Fi. We should be back on track next month.