Seems like that whenever you start a new project, you initially have unlimited enthusiasm for it. I thought I was going to burn through writing this story in two months, but here we are, in March, and I'm still pecking away at it. It's fun, though. I've tried tackling a genre piece in an unconventional manner, and we'll see by the end whether or not I'm successful. Here are parts one, two, three, and four.
Coming out of work, I see Jody in the parking lot. I run up to her a little too fast, and she screams when I touch her shoulder.
“Jesus, Harry, it's you,” she says, placing a hand on her heart. “I thought I was being attacked.”
“You want to get something to eat?” I ask, smiling. The office has felt like a prison all day long, and I'm eager to escape, to do something, anything.
“Where at?” she asks.
“Let's just go to the Bear. They do have decent burgers. I'm craving a burger right now. I could eat ten pounds of meat.”
“That much, huh?” say Jody. “Don't you have to get home to your wife and kids?”
“They're Debra's kids, not mine,” I say.
“You sound like my boyfriend. It's hard to get him to do anything for my kids.”
“He sounds like a winner,” I say. “Come on. I'm starving.”
She hops in my car, and we drive to the Bear. The place is deserted as usual, but we grab a booth this time instead of sitting at the bar. We both order burgers (I order two) and beers. Jody smells wonderful beneath her perfume, the under-odor a musky, wet fragrance that has me salivating. I've noticed that I'm tasting smells more and more, finding hidden information in them, wonderful, brilliant data that I just know, like I'm psychic. For instance, I can tell that Debra is on the verge of menstruating. Jody here, is not.
“You look like you want to eat me, Harry,” says Jody.
“I am really hunger,” I admit.
“For more than a burger?” she asks, smiling.
“Definitely,” I say. We lock eyes, staring intently at each other, sending telepathic signals through the air waves. I'm all id right now, pure, hungry, driven solely by desires. The bartender dumps the food on our table like a graceless baboon and takes off without asking us anything. I stare at his back as he returns to the bar, contemplating saying something, or perhaps getting up and ramming his head into the floor until it bursts like a grapefruit.
“That fucking asshole,” says Jody. “I know his uncle. He's in the Ku Klux Klan. Thew a brick in my yard one time with meeting info taped on it.”
“One horse towns only have one saloon,” I say. “They have their prejudices as well.”
“I'm sick of this place.” She paws at her burger, lifting the bun, inspecting the condiments.
“What are you looking for?” I ask.
“Spit. Urine. Semen.”
“Jesus, I wouldn't have suggested this place if I knew he'd spit on the burgers.”
“I don't know. I wouldn't put it past him,” she says. My nostrils percolate, sipping the air, focusing on our burgers. Cigarettes. Ash. Dirty hands. All held together by phlegm. I grab Jody's burger from her hands before she takes a bite and go up to the bar.
“You spit on our burgers,” I tell the bartender.
“What the hell you saying?” he says, looking up from polishing a glass.
“There is phlegm mixed in with our condiments. Unless you have a big loogie jar sitting on the shelf next to the ketchup, you spit on our food.”
“I'd never do any such thing,” he says, his upper lip curling upward, revealing yellow, cigarette-stained teeth.
“I want our money back,” I say.
“Why don't you get the fuck out of here, nigger,” he says. My right arm shoots out, grabbing him by the neck and pulling him out from behind the bar in one quick movement. My left fist comes down, connecting with his ugly, hillbilly teeth, bouncing the back of his head off of the floor. His eyes flutter; blood seeps from his mouth, I can taste its heavy iron scent. Jody's next to me now, looking down at the bartender lying catatonic.
“Let's get the fuck out of here,” she says, grabbing my arm.
“He spit on our burgers,” I explain, my hands holding his shirt collar.
“He's a dickwad, Harry, but you don't want to be here when the cops come.”
“Who's calling the cops?” I ask, looking around. She pulls me to my feet, and I give up, my anger vanishing as suddenly as it came. Reality sets in, circular, a world revolving around a dying star. There is a catatonic man lying on the floor. You put him in that state. We go out the door, run to my car, and take off. We drive toward the horizon, a setting sun eclipsed by Kentucky hills, spilling its purple light as though wounded. I look at Jody, and she looks at me. There's a fever in her eyes, the same one boiling beneath my skin. She points at the road, and I just keep driving. We pass acres of barren fields, plowed, devastated earth. Jody's hand crosses the space between us and unzips my pants. What are you going to get the girls for Christmas? I think suddenly. Now there's bitterness in my mouth, but I ignore it, I surrender to what I want to do, and I pull over on the side of the road and take Jody to the backseat, and we fuck like animals; she bites my lip, and I turn her around and thrust at her backside like a dog, tongue lolling from my mouth, the fever rising, boiling over, dripping from my jaws. She screams, and I scream, our hands weaving together, our breath fogging the windows, a little death in my mouth, in between my teeth, her torso writhing beneath me, and I come and she comes, and I roll out of her and fall against the back of the seats, a dried out husk, a dead, soiled thing.
Debra is waiting when I come home. Her relief is palpable; she embraces me, sobbing. I'm confused and angry, but I don't push her away.
“Oh my god, Harry, why didn't you call me?” she asks. “You were supposed to be home four hours ago!”
“I'm sorry. Phone died. I couldn't find my charger,” I say.
“You know there's a manic out there killing people. I managed to keep Chastity home thankfully. You don't know how hard that was.” She wrinkles her nose, bending her head back. “Is that perfume?”
“A cologne,” I say, stepping away from her, heading to the bathroom. “Excuse me, honey, I really have to pee.” The girls are sitting on the couch, staring at small screens. Rufus follows me into the bathroom, wagging his tail. I can tell he's been in the trash. I wash my face and hands, but the scent of Jody won't come off, so I take a shower. The fever hasn't left me, the heat cooking my insides, the manic energy, the crazed libido. My head feels like a steaming swamp. The cut on my hand has not healed; hair grows from it, thick, greasy strands. Maybe I should go to the doctor, I think. Tell him my symptoms. Take a pill that will return everything to normal. Debra comes in and starts to say something, but I rush out of the shower, tear her clothes off, and pull her in with me. I push her up against the glass, pressing myself inside, licking her neck, nipping her ears. I am a mindless thing, a phallus that walks and salivates, a cartoon wolf chasing rushing shirts. She says nothing but small utterances, my plaything, my vapid husk of a wife. Chauvinist beast, devourer of women. What good are words when you can just fuck? Debra screams the same way Jody did; they blend together, breasts, buttocks, vaginae. The end result is an anagram of flesh.
Later, my wife sleeps soundlessly in our bed as I stand naked by the windows, basking in the moonlight. Rufus sits next to me, staring as I do. He and I have grown closer, and I see more in him than I do some people. He licks his foot and scratches his ear, grunting, snorting. Up in the sky the moon is cratered and littered with canals, a dead planet carved from our own. I am transfixed by it; I feel like forming a religion and making sacrifices, building caves out of sticks and bones. All my life I have been a quiet man, a good citizen, the antithesis of my father. Now I want to climb out the window and rove, looking for violence, for liquor, for gambling, for pussy. Rufus whines, sensing my desire. “They've straight-jacked me,” I tell him. “I've let them do it.” I wonder if I killed that bartender. I find that I don't care.
“Let's look at the notebook,” I say suddenly. Rufus cocks his head, his brown eyes searching. I tear myself away from the window and retrieve Hutch's journal from my safe and take it into the kitchen, where I read it by dim light. The illegible scrawl has vanished, replaced by intricate handwriting composed of curves and bleeding spirals. The words form vivid images in my eyes like the scattered tatters of a dream, and I find myself whispering to myself, unsure of what I am saying, unable to stop.
We ask it what we are made for; it tells us,
Painting the altar with the blood of men,
Its words falling from the darkness
Like heavy stone upon their heads.
What will they give? we ask.
It takes their flesh and stretches their skins,
Making an idol of their bones,
Feasting on their hearts
As though its hunger can ever be sated.
We have our answer, watching the shadows dance,
Hearing it rumble in the depths,
Smelling smoke and feeling fire.
Our features change and we leave our families behind,
We go into the forest, wearing the heads of wolves,
A churning sea in our bellies,
The taste of iron in our mouths,
Our fingers long and lean,
Our teeth stony daggers yearning for flesh,
Our past behind us, buried in the cave,
Proffered bones for it to lick and clean.
You have done what I have done,
And what others have done before us.
There is no shame in eating the heart of another.