At the Mountains of Man-Ass Part VI: Tonight We Die But Tomorrow… Still Dead.

This is the final part in a series. You can read the previous entries here.

Author’s note: When I began this series, it was with a few things in mind. First, to rewrite a story that, to me, was flawed but worthy. An attempt to improve the story so it wasn’t just a product of a dark period in my life. Second, to also improve as a writer. Choosing to serialize the rewrite proved to be a rewarding experience and allowed me to better focus on story as it developed. It was a challenge that I fully embraced as I pushed myself to dive deeper into the waters of my imagination and catch the bigger fish (thank you, David Lynch). Finally, I did this to prove to myself that I could commit to my writing. I’ve always been a writer, creating has always been in me, but sometimes I never finish what I start. No focus, anxiety, life gets in the way, excuses. I wanted to prove to myself that this can be done and that I can continue well beyond this. And I will.

A last few words to the people here: Thank you for reading this series if you did; hope you got some enjoyment out of a story about a broken young man and his corpse friend. But to the others here who are also creators: Keep at it. Continue to create, post, and share. This is an exercise in your craft; don’t be concerned if people aren’t reading, viewing, whatever. I look at this place as a collective of people with ideas and stories to share. Don’t be discouraged. Anyway, I’ll shut up now. Here’s the story.

 

Harold’s house shrunk the in the rear-view as we drove away. Looking out ahead, it was nothing but darkness. Stars burned holes in the black parchment of the sky. The ride was quiet. No radio. No conversation. Just the hum of the engine and the crunching of wilderness beneath the tires. Glancing over at Lindon, he sat sullenly in the passenger seat. Everything was in focus for him now. He was just gazing out the window. Past the glass. Beyond the woods. He could see all the way home and the threat that loomed. The danger that was waiting. Everything was way more real than it felt like it had been. One minute you’re a corpse. Another minute you’re a living corpse. Then you have to face the man who killed you because he found your sister and wants to draw you out and finish the job properly. You know, that old trope. I kept a steady speed, no need to get caught by the cops, but the roads I was taking, that wouldn’t be a concern. I was only interested in getting to Penny quickly and without delay. 

When we arrived at the house, it was… I’m not sure what time it was. I hadn’t paid attention. There was moonlight and the stars merely glistened now. We were well past twilight. We were still parked in the driveway when I sighed and nudged Lindon. “You ready?” 

“No. Doesn’t mean I still won’t go in there.” 

“You might die. I might die.” 

“Yeah. I’m ready to die. Again. Are you prepared for any of that?” 

“No. Doesn’t mean I still won’t go in there. You ready?” 

Lindon had not once broken his concentration on the window. Never turned his head, never slouched in his seat. I don’t think he even blinked, then again, I’m not even sure he has to blink. He’s dead. What need does he have to keep his eyeballs moist? I’m not sure now was the time to ponder such things, but then again, will I ever get the opportunity again? Now that we were at his home, that it was within not only sight but arms reach, he stopped his watch. Turning to me, eye to eye, he spoke. “Fuck. Yeah.” 

We exited the car and made our way to the front door. On instinct, Lindon turned the knob and it opened. It was unlocked. Why wouldn’t it be? After all, we were invited. Whoever was here, they were waiting. They were ready. Inside the house it was dark, but not unlit. We could see at the top of the stairs, there was a light on somewhere. Just strong enough to signal but dim enough to still keep us from seeing our way. Each step up the stairs creaked with stress and dread. The air was chill but there was a lingering humidity. A muskiness. Like something ancient and full of stories. A library. A church. A mortuary. Death was primed to happen tonight. I’d like to see that it won’t involve me or my friends. 

Once at the top, we saw that the light was coming from the living room, and in there was a figure cloaked in the darkness sitting on a chair. “Welcome! Glad you made it. I knew you would because, well, you had to.” There was a slimy charm that oozed from his words as he spoke. Lindon was standing still and even though there was barely any light and I stood behind him, I could sense that he was gripped by fear and familiarity. This was the voice of the man who savaged him, tore his flesh from his body, and stole his life. “Well, look. I don’t want to waste time. Come on. Have a seat. We’ll sort all of this out.” 

“I don’t know what there is to sort out. Other than where’s Penny.” 

“Ah. To the point! I like that. I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m smiling.” 

“Hard to tell with you in the dark. Maybe that’s what you like. Not wanting to face us. Rather cowardly.” 

“And here I thought it was to craft an aura of mystique and horror. Oh well. Please. Sit down. Let’s chat.” 

I gave Lindon a pat on the back to let him know I was still with him. He walked ahead of me to the living room and took a seat on the couch and I took the spot beside him. Being closer now to the figure, I could see his shape better. Still shrouded in shadows, but the outline was there. Human. A man, likely. There was a soft glow to his skin, almost violet in color. I wasn’t sure if it was from the dim light that rested softly in the room or by some other means, but it was disarming. I felt a shiver come over me. “We’ll chat but first let us know Penny is okay. No, wait. Show us she’s okay.” 

There was a chuckle coming from the man in the shadows. “Oh, well, yes. Okay. Penny. She’s important to both of you. Well, she’s okay. I can’t actually show you where she is but rest assured that she’s physically okay. She is alive, if that’s what you want to know. Unharmed.” 

“Is she in the house?” 

“Yes, I suppose so.” 

“What does that mean? Either she’s here or she isn’t. This isn’t some damn Schrödinger’s cat situation.” 

“Maybe not, maybe so. Look, we’re dealing with a situation in which a man I murdered is back from the dead, so for me to suggest that someone is either in existence or non-existence should not be off the table. Let’s lay all the cards out on the table. There’s something going on that is greater than you, your friend, even me. Something of a grander purpose, a grander design.” 

“What are you talking about?” I was curious, but also cautious. A part of me wanted to collapse his lungs and fold him up like origami, but a more Zen part of me insisted that I should indulge him. Maybe he’d do the whole “villain reveals his entire evil plan” thing and we could catch him when his guard is down. Maybe he’d let something slip, something critical to his plan and we could disrupt it. So, I held back all urges to do harm unto him and went with it. I gave a nod to Lindon to let him know to be at ease. “I mean, we don’t know, so… inform us.” 

“Hmm… I’m glad you’re willing to listen to reason. I’d like to take the opportunity to offer you a drink, some tea perhaps but, this isn’t my house and I don’t know where anything is! HA!” He slapped his knee and laughed maniacally. Everything about this made me think I was in a David Lynch film. “Uh, so… where to begin.” 

“How about just letting us know with absolute certainty that Penny is okay.” 

“One thing: beware absolutes. They’re not real and if you see one, it is most definitely an error that may prove fatal. But… since you asked nicely and are humoring me with altruistic purpose, I can share this much: Penny exists right now in a state of suspended reality. She is trapped in a prison in which the angles of this reality are so compounded, she is invisible to your eye, but if you look out the corner of your eye, you might be able to catch a glimpse of her. She’s okay. She’s not harmed. Scared, yes. In shock, most likely. And probably very dizzy because you’re floating but there’s also the sensation of hurtling through space at incredible speeds. It’s like when you’ve reached the peak of a roller coaster and you’re barreling down the track and your gut just shoots up into your chest. It’s quite exhilarating. Refreshing. Like a post shower mint.” 

“Post shower mint?” 

“What? You’ve never had one? I recommend it. Not now, of course. But come to think of it, I’m not sure if you will even have the chance when my job here is done. Oh well, you’re really missing out on the greatest treat one could give themselves.” We all could sense that the conversation was beginning to come off the rails so we sat quietly for a moment, hoping for a mental reset before resuming. Lindon let out a light cough, I adjusted my position, and the figure in the dark was still, issuing no movement or breath at all. As though he was not real and was just a figment of our frightened imaginations. That if we went to poke him, he’d turn out to be a vacuum with a nifty hat on but because the room is dark, it looked like a sinister man. A sinister vacuum-man. “Anyway, you’re in a hurry, I can sense it. Let me just tell you a little about myself. I am a big fan of the Elder Gods. I made communion with them a while back and have pledged myself to them. I am actually seeking to summon Addu, for he will immolate the Heavens and the skies will fall as ash to the earth, rendering it bitter and therefor barren. This will incite mass panic, chaos, riot, revolution… people in their desperation will turn to those who offer not only safety, but immortality via symbolism and iconography. I will position myself to be adjacent to that power so I may influence policy and bring suffering unto the world, especially those who dare thumb their noses at it. The opposition will be forcefully removed from this plane of existence and banished to an exile realm where they scream eternally as they forever die without end.” 

He said these things as though he was interviewing for a job; the words dripped with enthusiasm and a false sincerity. A delusional merriment. Like children at Disney World. “Are you serious?” 

“Not at all. But I had you going for a minute, huh? No, for real though, I am just your run of the mill fun killer with dark overtures and an affinity for the occult. I do have plans, but they are not of the megalomaniacal conceit. Rather, I’m looking to build an entire army of undead soldiers – that’s where Harold comes in – and use them to enslave this earth and exterminate those who refuse to join me in celebration of the Eternal Dark Lords.” 

Another moment of silence and I felt my eyes cross in befuddled frustration. “Okay, are you actually being serious this time?” 

“This time? Yes.” 

“Okay. And why do you want to assemble a zombie army to destroy this planet in the name of gods from elsewhere?” 

“For fun! I’m bored with this life, this world. It’s so… restricting. The rules, laws, societal expectations, the constant calls to wear pants, the looks you get when you scream at babies and spit at red pandas! I just want to punish this world for making me feel like I don’t belong. For making me feel like I’m wrong for who I am and that I have to give up my rights for others who wouldn’t even thank me for the damn privilege.” 

Oh my god. One of these types. I was actually surprised that he didn’t start going off on women for not rewarding him with sex anytime he held the damn door open. I felt like I also shouldn’t ask him his opinion on Star Wars. “You know, I get not being understood. And I get the lack of validation and having to conform. Forcing yourself into a neat little box with handy descriptors about who you are and what you are about. The sense that you’re not actually doing anything because you want to but because it is what other people expect you to do. You lose a sense of self. Your autonomy. You feel like your purpose in life wasn’t self-discovered but handed to you. And you do it. Not because you want to but because it is convenient. More convenient than admitting you don’t know what you’re doing or where you’re going and you don’t want to start over from the beginning because then you’re left behind. There’s a specific timeframe in which to get this all done but if you ask for more time, it’ll count against you. You’ll get penalized for it and you’ll never be able to pay it back. So you’re stuck and it weighs on you, drags you down and it hurts. You see everyone else move ahead and you’re still in a starting position, questioning if you did things the right way. You compare yourself to others, to your peers, to everyone else who seems to be five steps ahead of you and you haven’t even started step one.” 

The figure in the dark spoke up to interject something. “Uh, yeah, okay, but, uh…” 

“Shut up! I’m figuring shit out here! You do what’s expected of you because that’s how it has been determined for you and everyone else by generations before, you do it and then you realize it isn’t what you want. Nothing about this suit fits because it wasn’t tailored to fit you, it was off the rack. It was cut and stitched together from a template. It’s uncomfortable. Stifling. You feel wrong. You question it all, and then your insecurities take over. The thoughts never stop, they keep coming. You’re up at night because you can’t sleep and you’re watching nothing but infomercials selling bad real estate advice or vacuums or radioactive cookware. You’re watching this and asking ‘What is my life?’ And you look over at the person next to you, the person you love, who loves you, and you begin to question how true is that love. Will they think less of you because you’re not living up to your potential? How strong is their love, their patience? You worry that you’re holding them back and so those insecurities, they manifest into self-destructive behaviors. You pick away at the surface of the relationship, finding a weakness, a vulnerability. Once you find it, you exploit the ever-loving fuck out of it until you’ve hit the bone and then that is when you pour in the poison. The most acidic and toxic poison you’ve got because you want that shit to corrode the structure; make it easier to break it and watch it collapse in on itself. But the funny thing is that while both of you will walk away damaged, you are far more damaged than ever before. And now you’re left thinking not just if it was worth it but if you will ever recover. Will I ever heal? Will I be whole again?” I didn’t realize it but when I finished speaking my piece, I was standing up. My fists were clenched tightly until my fingernails had dug into my palms and the joints in my fingers were stiff. I was sweating slightly and my mouth was dry. I had been speaking at a frantic pace as to keep up with the mania of my thoughts. “I’m… I’m sorry. I guess I still have a lot of things to work out.” 

“I’d say you do. Please, take a seat. Yeesh. Try not to further embarrass yourself. Putz.” 

“Listen,” Lindon broke his own silence. “What is it that you want? Really. Because part of your plan involves undead servants. That points towards one thing: a resurrection serum. Who has such a thing? Harold West. Who knows Harold? We do. But exactly how do we fit in?” 

“I am so glad you finally asked. It was a brilliant idea on my part. You don’t know me, but I know who you are. Both of you. I knew Harold from his college days. In fact, I was there with him in a lot of the same courses. I don’t think we were the same major, but ideologically, we were quite similar.” He clicked his tongue; it was a sickeningly dry pop. 

“So that’s it, isn’t it? You knew Harold, you both were introduced to the dark sciences, you saw how he became consumed by the drive to reanimate dead tissue, and you saw how it could help you in meeting your own terrifying goals. You saw how you could exploit it. You knew he had perfected his serum.” 

“Bingo, my friend. Bing-fucking-oh. The only problem was that before I could ever draw Harold closer to me, he fled. Went into hiding. But I had a plan. I had plenty of plans. A series of fail-safes incase shit ever went sideways. I knew where I could find his family. His friends. The ones he cared about. The ones he kept close in his heart even if he didn’t keep them in arm’s reach. I knew where to strike. Like you said; I knew where to exploit the vulnerability and once I struck bone, inject the poison.” 

“And by that, you murdered his best friend in the most savage way possible. As means to draw him out of hiding.” 

“Yes. And it didn’t work, but, aha, my fail-safes. I bring Lindon back from the dead. This leads to contacting Harold, and from there, steps closer to the serum.” 

“Except, Lindon came to me.” 

“Fail-safes. No one knew where Harold was hiding but everyone had his number. I just needed enough things to happen to facilitate some sort of contact, direct or indirect at first.” 

“Wait… you killed me and then brought me back? If you were able to bring me back to life without the serum, why not do so with the other dead? I mean, why kill me at all? You could have done this so much simpler.” 

“It’s… not that simple.” There was a pause of hesitation from the figure in the dark. A sigh that indicated he really didn’t want to explain much more but sensed that it was probably best he did. “Okay, killing Lindon was meant to get to Harold. Harold didn’t show up. So, I went to the next plan: resurrect Lindon with an incantation. Now, yes, logically, I could just use the incantation en masse to create my undead army, but two flaws. One: look at Lindon; he’s perfectly human in concept if not appearance or function. That is far more autonomy than I require. I need the undead to be submissive to me. To be servants. To not question. This is a benefit of the serum. It practically lobotomizes the subject when injected. Two: the actual ritual in which the resurrection incantation is performed is fucking exhausting and draining. It takes so much out of me! I mean, when it is over, I’m as spent as if I’d been in some sort of sex marathon. I need to drink way more water than I’d like to in that situation. No, far easier to just construct an apparatus that can produce and stream the serum. 

“And that’s where we’re at: you called Harold in desperation and he injected Lindon with the serum to revive him more than I could with the spell. Right now, the serum flows through his veins, mixing with his blood like chemistry… He will be my incubator. From him I will draw the serum, more potent than before, and fuel my bodies. It’s perfect.” 

“Yes. Almost perfect,” I interjected. 

“What… what do you mean?” 

I stifled a chuckle as best I could. “Well, think about it. You said the serum lobotomizes the subject, rendering them submissive and dim.” 

“Yeeees. Where are you going with this?” 

“Take a look at Lindon. He’s completely the opposite. He’s fully logical and autonomous.” 

“Probably still a lingering effect from my configuration, nothing else. What’s your point?” 

“My point is that I know something you don’t know. Harold didn’t give Lindon the real serum. He gave him a placebo.” 

“A placebo?” 

“Wait,” Lindon took a hold of my arm in shock. “You mean to tell me that I was pumped full of a painful goo and locked inside a torture tube for no reason whatsoever? And in the end, I’m still just a living dead guy stuck in a state of constant decay?” 

I sighed heavily, looking down at my feet. I felt my heart sink and a lump form in my throat. I took hold of Lindon’s cold leathery hand and said “Yes, my friend. You are still as undead as you were before we went to see Harold.” 

“I’m shockingly okay with that.” 

“Really?” 

“Yeah. Think about it. I’m dead. You can’t really come back from that and expect everything to be fine. What? They’re gonna give me my old job back? Just let a corpse talk about science? And the paperwork I’d have to file with what, social security and all that? Fuck that noise. Leave me to die. I’m prepared. Done it once before.” 

Hearing Lindon say this filled me with not only surprise but also relief, just lightly tinged with sorrow. Here was my friend, back from the dead, who upon hearing the bad news is more than willing to accept it and resign himself to his fate. I admired that. So few times had I ever been as willing to confront let alone just accept what was laid out before me in my life. The decisions I’d made that brought me to this point in time and the hardships. It seemed so easy for him but maybe because it was. His situation had all the finality to it that it would ever have. Mine was full of delicate weights and counter-balances that required the gentlest touches so as not to upset anything, to not drastically alter the plotted course. It touched me in a way that I never thought I could be, reaching down deep inside of me, pass the bile and putrid rotting tar of my soul. “Lindon, I’m sorry that I never got to say goodbye to you. I know that’s an absurd concept, but I’m not sorry for you; I’m sorry for myself. I’m sorry that I let my life spiral out of control the way it did. Everything was affected by my descent into complacent self-loathing. I was blind to the comfort that is contact with friends.” 

“Never mind that. You were going through something you did not need to go through alone but don’t think that means I could still be here. The two situations are not related. Things for you have been difficult but know that you will get through them because you’re stronger than you believe. Yes, everything with your relationship with Lorraine went to shit but it is not the end. Learn from this. You have it in you to make everything better only if you want to. And Cy, I know that you do. Don’t fuck it up just because you feel sorry for yourself. There are so many things outside of your control. My death was one of them. Don’t distract yourself from the real problems with those kinds of matters. Focus on you, what you can control and fix those things.” Yet again, Lindon’s words surprised me, but then again, his insight into my problems were fascinating and pretty accurate. I hadn’t just been burying myself away since the night Lorraine broke up with me; I had been doing it well before then. I had been struggling to cope with these emotions that battled within me for dominion over my construct of self; my mind and being. They were difficult words but I needed to hear them. 

Lindon stretched out his arms, inviting me in for a hug and I gladly accepted. Feeling his embrace brought me a renewed sense of calm, as the tension and anxiety in me broke away. The weight of my crushing despair was beginning to melt away. My spine felt stronger and I felt I could sit upright once more. “Yeah, that did the trick. Thank you, friend.” 

“Hey, excuse me. I’m happy about this breakthrough therapy session, but hey! Guy with supernatural powers hellbent on destroying your world and creating an army of undead super soldiers! Don’t forget about me! I will not be ignored!” 

“Hey! Hey! Fuck you! Having a moment here! Just… chill, buddy.” 

“Buddy?” 

“Yeah. Look..” I buried my head in my hands and then ran them down my face, the same way one does when they’re both exhausted and frustrated with something. I was feeling a slight emotional high like my body had tapped my energy reserves for a quick boost. “Okay, you’re going to destroy the planet with your bullshit but… you lost! Lindon isn’t filled with the real serum, I just told you that! He’s full of fake goo! He’s gonna die! Again! You’re out of aces! Just fold and go! Leave!” 

“Fold? I think not. I’m riding this river all the way to the end. Even if your friend here hasn’t been treated with Harold’s serum, I have other ways of getting my hands on it. None that I’ll tell you about because that would be pointless and a terrible decision on my part. But, I can do at least one nice thing for you. I will release your friend Penny from her prison.”  

The figure in the dark snapped his fingers and right between Lindon and me, Penny appeared, standing on the couch. She was in shock and barely moved. Just her eyes blinking repeatedly. “What… what happened? Where am I? What’s going on? What is going on? Cy? What are you doing here? What’s going on, Cy? Cy? What’s happening? Lindon?! You’re supposed to be dead! What’s going on, Lindon? What is going on? Cy? Lindon? What’s going on?” 

“Penny… if I told you, would you even believe it?” 

“Good point. Just don’t tell me anything. I’m still trying to figure out if my brain is in my head or not.” 

“Good luck with that. Anyway, mysterious fellow: thank you for giving us Penny back. Now, whatever you’re going to do, just go away and do it in the trunk of a car falling off a cliff.” 

“I don’t think you quite grasp the reality of the situation: You are going to die. You and your friends. I’m not going anywhere without your death having been made sacrosanct. I cannot emphasize the enormity of that enough. But since all you care to do is crack jokes at my expense and belittle the seriousness of everything, then I must resort to exposing my true nature to you. The one that had been growing in me since I was a child. Now, you will witness the true extent of my Becoming and what power it wields.” 

“Dude… you need to channel this shit into writing or something. This obsession, this anger… it isn’t healthy. Get a hobby. Go jack off, relieve some pressure, some tension.” 

“Hmm… funny.” The figure in the dark rose from the chair. As he stood up, he appeared to grow longer in the dark, nearly touching the ceiling. That was when I noticed that he was floating. He remained cloaked in black and to the floor extended a coil of black tendrils. They were oily and shimmered in the dark, like a puddle in the moonlight. His purple hue began to pulsate and I noticed that what skin was exposed began to crack and break, the sound off eggshells peeling away from the egg after it has been hardboiled. The flakes sloughed off and fell to the floor and when they hit, there was a caustic hiss, as those his skin was acidic. All the air in room chilled and it got darker. He was siphoning all the energy, consuming it through the ether. He was powering himself. “Impressed?” 

“I… not really.” 

“You mean to tell me that a man who is not really all that human, glowing in a body of purple flame, floating in the air, an Eldritch maniac of the night, is not impressive to you?” 

“I mean… I enjoy a lot of horror, so this isn’t all that unfamiliar to me. Now, the fact that I’m seeing this in person, in real life? That’s pretty cool, but other than that? Meh.” 

The glowing figure glowed brighter. I sensed that this meant he was infuriated. He was like a living mood ring. He growled and brought his arms up to his chest. “Now… I will make you see. You will see what I have… Become!” With a snap movement he threw forward his arms in the direction of Lindon. From his fingertips shot jagged violet bolts that struck Lindon about his body. It was quick, instantaneous. Lindon shot upright and then collapsed back into his seated position on the couch. He gave no movement, said no words. “Lindon? Lindon?! What did you do?!” 

“I… cured him. He said it himself. He was prepared to die. Again. I just accelerated the process and did it with mercy.” 

Lindon’s body was sitting back in the couch. He looked relaxed, at peace, but that still didn’t take away the pain that was brewing inside of me. I just witnessed the death of my friend and it was absent of flourish or meaning. It was mechanical, almost matter of fact, like flipping on a light switch in a dark room or closing the lid on the toilet before you flush because yes, you should. Poop particles! They get in your toothbrush. That’s just wrong. Just as wrong as it was that Lindon was coldly murdered once more in his life. In life, you should only have just one death, one life to give. That’s how it’s supposed to go but not for Lindon. He was such an extraordinary individual that he came back from the dead just to do it all over but this time in a fashion that was so dull and banal that it was of most average proportions. Not a bang, but not even a measly whimper. Quite pathetic and I was not content to let his death be so. Penny was cradling herself, unsure of how to respond to anything going on around her. I stood up, calmly, slowly. I stood to face the glowing figure. I scowled as forcefully as I could. So many emotions warred within me that I’m quite certain I looked less menacing and more like I had to really had to pee. I probably did, I wasn’t concerned with that. I pointed a finger at Lindon’s new corpseness and spat out “You killed my best friend. Again. I am getting sick of that! It’s ridiculous! What the fuck is up with you? What’s your play?” 

“Boy… chaos is my play. It is my realm. I call upon ADDU! And his word is KAKODAMMU! I will blacken the skies and let them fall as ash to the land, turning this earth bitter.” 

“You’ve been saying that! Fuck you! Fuck this! This is not how it is going to go down! Fuck your bullshit! I’m fucking done! You’ve fucking broke me, man! I’m fucking… just fucked! I’m exhausted! I’m fucking unnerved! My girlfriend breaks up with me because I’m an insecure piece of shit who has been forcing distance between because of the aforementioned insecurity. My best friend died, twice, at your hands! Once viciously and the other time with little… lightning bolts of cosmic fuckery! I’m just out of fucking anything! I’m tapped out! I’m fucking done! Fuck this!” I was manic and sputtering between each word, each breath, every “fuck” I uttered. I raised my arms to my head and mussed up my hair, hoping it might shake loose an idea, no matter how awful it might be. It would be something I could do. And then an idea did come to me. An absolutely brilliant idea did slip out my cranium and splattered itself right there on the floor, killing it. So with the good idea dead, I made sure have my hands out ready for the next idea so as to catch it. And I did. And it was even better than the first. “Alright… I know what I need to do. I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to take this corpse and chuck it right at you!” 

“I’m sorry… you’re going to what?” 

“I’m going to chuck this corpse.” 

“Chuck this corpse?” He was very confused by my words and the intent in them. He glanced about the room, perhaps looking for others to share in his befuddled reaction to my declaration. “You’re going to chuck a corpse at me?” 

“Right at you.” 

Penny was babbling but managed to blurt out between sobs, “Cy… what? What are you doing?” 

“I am going to take this fucking corpse and chuck at this fucking fuck! I’m going to chuck this fucking corpse right at the great glowing phallus!” 

“Your plan is to chuck a fucking corpse?” 

“I’m going to chuck a fucking corpse.” 

“Chuck a fucking corpse?” 

“Right at this dip-fuck.” 

Penny took a deep breath to calm herself, exhaled and shook her head slightly, nodding the thoughts into place in her head. “I’m sorry… one more time. You’re going to do what?” 

All of this disbelief at my plan was making me very pissed. I thought I had been clear, but maybe that’s a problem of mine: no one really gets me and thinks I’m just being crazy. Not this time. “I am going to take this fucking corpse…! And chuck it… right at that worthless fucking piece of fucking agony!” 

The glowing figure was becoming impatient with me and snarled “Enough! This has worn my patience so thin, I’ve been practically rubbed raw!” 

“Shut up! I’m chucking this fucking corpse at you and I’m going to kill you with it! You are going to be killed by the twice-baked corpse of my dead friend! It is going to be poetic fucking corpse justice!” 

“Are you feeling okay? Would you like to lie down before I immolate your world?” 

CORPSE JUSTICE!” I let these words ring out into the air. I birthed them into the world with a mighty yawp, a delirious battle cry of a fractured mind. The voices of deranged angels would sing these words on high, as I would score my retribution with good old-fashioned corpse chucking. 

Reaching behind me, I went to grab Lindon’s body and pulled him from the couch. I must have summoned the strength of twenty men in my state of madness, for I lift his body with the ease of picking up a grape. I turned myself around and hoisted him firmly against my chest. I adjusted my stance and decided the proper form would be to spin round and treat this like shot-put. As I spun around, trying to not think about how dizzy I felt, I concentrated on where my anger was coming from, where it rested within me. Everything in my brain was clouded by vengeance. It obscured my inner sight, distorted my thoughts, and brought only confusion. I couldn’t make sense of what I saw, what I felt. I decided perhaps it would be best to just let go. Why hang on to this curse of an albatross that I had been carrying with me? The pain, the hurt, the loss, the wrath, the loathing. I didn’t want any of it anymore. So I decided to just let it go at the same moment I let go of Lindon’s corpse. 

I watched him separate from me, fly out of my arms and sail towards the glowing figure limply. Time slowed down and the seconds crawled along a snail’s pace. I kept my eyes on Lindon, hurtling herky-jerky to the figure and I swear to god, to all that is real in this world, he smiled. As though he was never dead at all this time. He smiled and then his body collided with the figure and it was glorious. That bastard lit up majestic as his body absorbed Lindon’s, spewing forth light beams in the same way when Patrick Swayze would phase through solid objects in Ghost. Then his body’s glow began to pulsate quicker than before. The violet hue began to blink frantically like Christmas lights on the fritz. Then more light poured out of him, followed by rapturous booms, like bombs rattling off in the room. The house shook from the force. There was a sudden gust of wind from the center of the room. It was strong and swift, blowing me and Penny towards the other end of the upstairs and right against the wall. Knocked down and stunned, I tried to look ahead towards where the figure was merging with Lindon and saw nothing but the brightest of lights. It was blinding and so I shielded my eyes and crawled towards Penny and cowered over her. I had a feeling that something bad was primed to happen. 

There isn’t much I can say to best capture the intensity of the moment. I feel like it’s something lost in translation. I could describe it but it would fail the reality of the experience. Because there was indeed an explosion, but it wasn’t like any you could imagine. It was of warm energy that bathed us in a blinding neon. A wave of warmth from the blast washed over us. There was the crackle of electricity, claps of thunder, and the pained screams of those cast into eternal agony. It was Armageddon packed into a 700 square-foot space. The pressure that built in the room swelled in our ears and it felt like we were underwater and my chest was full of panic and fright. My bones bent and I felt every blood cell pop in my veins. I could feel Penny shaking, which let me know she was still alive. I was still alive. Somehow, I did believe we would survive this but all the thoughts that flooded my mind were of all the pain and aching I had been through and the suffering I caused others. If anything, I was less than optimistic about my sense of self if not all too focused on my probable demise. 

The temperature quickly rose and sweat coated our flesh. I felt my grip on Penny loosen and my arms lift away. My stomach dropped much like it does when going down on a roller coaster. It was then I realized that I was floating – we were floating. It felt so gentle to be so light, so weightless. This is what must feel like to be an astronaut, bobbing about in space. I opened my eyes and looked about the room. The light was no longer as bright but still strong in color. There were tendrils of smoke swirling about the room, slashing and tearing away at the fabric of reality. Sparks of light shot about randomly and the figure was no longer human in form but to the shape of an opaque cylinder, around which everything orbited. Each rotation around the cylinder revealed nothing to me as to the fate of Lindon or the purple man. I felt weary and faint as we continued to float round and round. 

 

My head was heavy. It felt as though someone drilled a hole into my skull and filled it with mercury. As I moved, I could feel the liquid metal slosh about from side to side, shifting weight. My thoughts were lost in a fog, like a bad hangover. I was on the floor. I felt sore down to bone. It didn’t hit me right away but I knew that I wasn’t floating. The air felt normal. Everything felt sort of normal. I looked the room over and saw nothing. Everything looked normal. Penny was beside me, crumpled into a compact pile. I nudged her with my foot. She moaned and I was relieved that she was at least alive. I did my best to stand up but couldn’t quite adjust my balance. After a few tries, I did so successfully but not without pain. Every part of me was stiff and I was stretching out. “Oh god! That hurts. So sore. So sore. Penny? You okay?” 

Penny rolled over and propped herself on all fours, aiming to stand up right but then a gurgling sound rumbled from her. She vomited. A lot. Between gulps, she managed to get words out and tried her best to form sentences with whatever mental acuity she could muster. “Cy. What happened? Why am I in the dining room? Why am I puking? Was Lindon here? So many things! Soooo many.” 

“Well, uh… Penny. You’re drunk. You drank like five… gallons of Long Island iced teas. You’ve been grieving, as have I and maybe it wasn’t best that we grieved together. We grieved wrong. I’m sorry.” 

“But… Lindon. Purple. Floating. Warm purple glow. Purple!” 

“Yeah, I think that’s the booze talking. You’re likely to forget all of this by morning because, well, your head is gonna be full of hangover pain. Come on. I’ll help you to bed.” I held out my hand and she took hold of it. I pulled her up and helped her to her room and had her lay down on her stomach in her bed. I brought over a trash can for her to vomit in through the night and found a bottle of aspirin to leave on her nightstand. “Cy… what happened? Really.” 

“I don’t know. We got really drunk and watched some bizarre television. That’s all I can remember. I was pretty tired. I’m still tired now but I’m gonna clean up the vomit and go home.” 

“Okay.” Penny closed her eyes and fell asleep. I think she was too exhausted to call me out on my gaslighting because I think she knew it was better to just swallow the lie and live with it rather than face the truth. 

I cleaned up the vomit and tried to straighten up the furniture best as I could but nothing looked out of place. You really couldn’t tell that some freaky supernatural shit happened. No one was going to walk in here and say “Oh, looks like you threw a dead body into glowing man and created a rift in time and space, forming a void through which cosmic horror seeped into our reality. That’s really hard to wash out.” No, it looked acceptable and I left it at that. Giving the room a good once over before leaving, I noticed something reflective on the floor. Going in closer, what I thought might have been a piece of glass turned out to be a stone, but there was something different about this stone from any other stone. From what I could tell, the surface of the stone illuminated every color, conceivable and inconceivable, in a vibrant array like ripples along the surface of a lake. I picked it up. It was warm to the touch but never getting hotter and never cooling off. I closed my hand around it and brought it to my cheek. I could sense that Lindon was in this stone. Content with this belief, I wept silently for a moment, then pocketed the stone and made my way out to my car. I thought it best not to bother Penny with this because she had been through enough and my lunacy should not be thrust upon anyone at this time. I let it be and went home. 

 

Enough time had passed and I heard from Penny. She chose not to recall too much of that night, instead opting to live the lie, because the more you say it, the more you believe it and then it is real. Just like Fox News. But she was well and they had been engaged in a lawsuit with both the hospital and the funeral home for misplacing Lindon’s body. It was never recovered. The phrase “sex death cult” kept popping up in the conversation, but that might have been in my head and what she really said was “it was not their fault,” which makes more sense but still not enough sense. Who was it that was dodging fault and why? I assured her that her and her mother would no doubt win the suit but to not expect much because this is America and fuck you if lost a corpse. There’s people to marginalize and abuse. We left it at that and made plans to hang out in the future, ones that did not involve alcohol, at least for a while. She asked how I was doing and I said better, but that too was a lie. I didn’t tell her that I was planning to meet Lorraine that day, but all I said was that I was mulling some thoughts in my head and figuring out my priorities. She applauded my effort at self-improvement and said it would be slow but for the best. I concurred and ended the conversation. 

 

Lorraine was waiting for me at a local coffee shop. She was already seated at a table, enjoying a cup of coffee. That was her. She loved coffee. I didn’t care for it much, if at all. I’d have maybe three cups a year, but lately I had developed a taste for it. Which is kind of ironic because in all the time I was with Lorraine, she could not get me to drink coffee but now that we’re no longer together, I crave it. “Hey, thanks for seeing me.” 

“Sure, Cy.” The scorn in her voice was gone. If anything, it was replaced with a soft apathy. A warm indifference. 

“I was thinking… what if I had never destroyed the world and everything?” 

“I don’t follow.” 

“What if… what if I had been better to fix myself? What if I was well enough that I didn’t have these problems? What if I hadn’t taken everything I had with you for granted? What if I hadn’t hurt you?” 

Lorraine took a sip of her coffee and sighed, all without looking down or breaking eye contact with me. “Cy… it doesn’t matter. You did destroy things. You didn’t fix yourself. You’re not well, but that’s not the point of why we broke up. We broke up because it was so very routine. You took it as normal, not as strange or worrisome. That was the problem: you pretty much ignored everything that should have been a warning sign. And I did, too. I was blinded by my love for you that maybe you’d recognize it. But it was all the time and I just stopped wondering when you’d get the clue and began wondering if you actually enjoyed the misery.” 

“I want to say that I didn’t realize but I know that probably doesn’t help me.” 

“No. It doesn’t. Cy… you aren’t hopeless, okay? There’s no lost cause in you. I’m just tired of being your crutch. I need to be alone or something. I don’t know. All I know is that I have nothing more left in me to put into a relationship in general or one with you. I’m sorry.” 

“It doesn’t hurt. It’s okay. I get it. I mean, not fully, but… someone told me recently to let go of the pain. I think they’re right and I think you’re right, too. I loved to hang onto the misery because at certain times, it was all I could feel and it was good to feel something, anything, even if it was negative and pushed me closer to self-destruction. I’m sorry I hurt you in the process of hurting myself. I’m sorry I was so insecure and ignorant of my problems that I allowed them to become inconsolable and that it was borderline emotional abuse.” 

“It’s okay. I think that’s fine. I mean, that you’re saying that you’re learning, but I just worry that you’re only saying that for my benefit. Don’t do it for me, Cy. If you do, then it isn’t genuine. You need to know I don’t want to be with you. I can’t. So don’t do anything thinking that it’ll bring me back. Do it because you’re doing it for you. For you to feel better. So that you can live with yourself.” 

I let her words burrow their way into my brain. I sat in thought for a good minute or two before responding. I wanted to make sure that not only did I comprehend what she was saying but that I could say something that communicated as much without sounding like I hadn’t grasped a damn thing. “For sure.” Nailed it. 

“I think you have a lot to work on and a long way to go but I hope you do well, Cy.” She smiled slyly and reached out her hand to mine, giving them a firm clasp. It was like heaven to feel her skin against mine again and all these memories came rushing back to me like a swarm of bees. My heart pounded and I brought my free hand to my mouth. I fought hard the urge to breakdown right there, knowing if I did, it could undo everything I had said and would render any future effort to fix myself pointless. I had to accept that this would be the absolute last time I ever interacted with Lorraine. The absolute last time I would lay eyes on her, touch her in anyway, hear her voice, smell her, sense her… This was it. “I… I uh, always thought being with you was incredible because you challenged me to be a better person. Because the things I wanted to do were to prove to you I could do them. To show you what I could do because you were there.” 

“And now you have to prove to yourself you can do it. And you have to want to do it for you, not for me or for anyone else. For you, Cy.” 

“Yeah.” I held her hand for a minute longer before I let it go. She didn’t pull it back immediately. I think she was fighting back her own urges and impulses, too, but I don’t want to think too much about that. We sat there at the shop until she finished her coffee, not talking at all. No more words were spoken but we just looked at each other. Once she finished, she left. I stayed back, ordered myself a cup and drank it alone, looking out the window. I watched Lorraine walk away into the distance, past my line of sight. She turned a corner and vanished. I never did hear from her again. A couple of years later, I heard through the grapevine she had married. It stung to hear, but then someone let slip that the guy she married looked a lot like me, so who really won in the end? 

 

A week after meeting with Lorraine, I took a drive out to the woods in search of Harold. I had attempted to get a hold of him by phone but my efforts had proven fruitless. Luckily, I still had his location in my phone, so I decided to just go to him unannounced. When my map application had informed me I reached my destination, I didn’t believe. I called it a filthy liar because wherever I was it was a dead end and there was no house. Nothing. Just an endless sprawl of trees in the middle of the forest. The road was cluttered with wooded debris and there was no sign that this spot had ever been inhabited by anything other than trees and possibly cultists. I was confused. I felt disillusioned. Was Harold ever here? Were the events from a few weeks ago even real? The only thing that proves to me that yes, they were real, is the stone I keep with me in my pocket. I pulled it out. Still warm. Still refreshingly warm. 

This stone I carry with me to remind me that there was a time that things damn near ended. That oblivion was only a stone’s throw away but was averted for whatever reason, by whatever cosmic balance there is that cocoons us from entropic chaos. This stone was a souvenir, but I now felt like it was becoming as much a curse as it was a token. I made a resolution right there: I would leave the stone in the woods. I’m likely to never return here and while it may feel weird to just abandon what remains of my best friend, I don’t need a stone or any object to remind me of him. His memories live in me, as much as that sounds like a line from a bad romance film, it was true. The stone was becoming a crutch and I would never really move on if I kept it with me wherever I went. With a smile on my face and pride in my heart, I gleefully tossed the stone in the direction of where Harold’s house once stood. If it were ever real at all.