We ran a contest in the forums a bit ago called the “BD Write-Off”, organized by Count Dragula to put our members writing skills to the test. The task was simple, write a short story of at least 500 words building from the following opening scenario “You awake to a blinding white light. Your body lunges upward in an awkward stagger, as a sharp pain wrenches through your lower back. You reach behind only to find…”. Read on for the winning entry…
Winning entry by ArchVile99
I awake to a blinding white light. My body lunges forward in an awkward, agonizing lurch, as a sharp pain wrenches its way into my lower back. I try to reach behind me only to find that my arms cannot move, as I am shackled to a hospital gurney. But this does not feel like a hospital. There is no state of the art monitoring equipment. There are no disinfectants. There are no med students studying alongside top surgeons to hone their craft. There are no sexy nurses in white skirts cheerily greeting me in the morning. In between my muffled suffering cries I can smell not rubber and air freshener, but a cumulative concoction of mold, sweat and blood. A concoction for which I will surely continue to supply more ingredients.
The pain tears through me again, biting into my very being. Long and dull shears are slicing the skin along my spine, splitting the flesh and tendon like pork gristle. The pain is incapable of mercy, it does not reason. They gave me a few shots earlier, but the purpose of those shots is unclear. There was no anesthetic. There was no pain killer. The only things numb in this room are the motives and morals of the people working on me.
I am numb too. Not physically, not yet. But definitely everywhere else.
* * * * *
My name is Kyle. Kyle Rivers. Let me try to explain how I got here, although I’m still not one hundred percent sure I even know. I can only rely on what the “Doctors” tell me, and I have never considered them very reliable. Doctors have an agenda, just like everyone else. They are just whores for the latest product of the drug companies, everyone knows that.
I lived in New Orleans. You know, before… all of this. I had an apartment just outside of the Quarter on Le Monde Ave. It was a small studio with one window on the 3rd floor of a tattered building built in 1919. The floors creaked and the water smelled bad and there were bugs. Old Mr. Whittaker would constantly stomp on the floor from his 4th floor apartment, shaking the walls in mine. Mainly because Mr. Whittaker heard noises from my apartment that were in his head. The landlady, Mrs. Dubois, was always yelling at me about the thug kids that lived on the ground floor. She’d yell to anyone who would listen and unfortunately to my audible comprehension, I was too nice to ignore her. I worked as a janitor at St. Louis Cathedral. The job was easy, but paid poorly. I would sweep here and mop there, all the while staying away from the staff. I collected my checks on Fridays and I didn’t talk to anyone. Not because I didn’t want to. Some of the priests were alright, but I was not much for talking at work. I kept headphones on to keep out the noise of the organ sermon recordings.
Lately, I have had trouble sleeping, and I’ve been having the most catastrophic headaches. The ones that make you want to throw up and make your vision all spotty. The kind of headaches that make you simply melt into the pain and accept it. The migraines keep me up sometimes, but there are strange dreams too. My friend Billy said I should go to the doctor, but I hate doctors, and I angrily told him no. I figured it would get better on its own like most illnesses and ailments in life seem to, but it never did. The nightmares were not getting any better either.
The first dream was by far the weirdest. I was somewhere in a city at night. The area was adorned with run-down homes and littered empty lots lined with garbage. It looked like parts of the Ninth Ward, where the homes are still in pieces and the ignored and forgotten land is slowly growing into a grey and green jungle. It seems the people have grown the same way. I was in an alley full of moss and wood debris and I saw a man enter the alley, running. Another man rounded the corner after him and started closing in. I already wanted to wake up, but couldn’t.
The second man was clearly much faster, much bigger, and he caught the first man with ease. He had a fistgful of shirt and refused to let go as the first man fell, so they both hit the ground in a rolling pile of dust and muck that reminded me of the Tasmanian Devil cartoons.
The attacker got up quickly and I could see he had a knife. Before I could even move or scream at them, the victim was pinned under one of the attackers massive feet. He plunged the knife right into the side of the smaller man’s head, next to the ear. The dream was so vivid, I could hear the sh-okk sound that the blade made as the guy’s skull split and puffed out bloody air in a fine mist. The killer then moved his foot up on the victims neck, and yanked the knife out, only to drive it right back down again.
Each time the knife was pulled from the victim’s head, it bent upward slightly before releasing the blade back to the killer, and each time he viciously shoved it back down into the damaged skull. He kept doing it, joyously and gracefully. Blood spatter was flying not in controlled arcs, but like small and fine lava erupting from the increasing hole in the head. Once the skull was pulverized, the noise changed.
The noise changed, but the killer did not, and he kept going. He stabbed the dead man at least fifty times, until the blade was just hitting something that would resemble a filleted piece of a combination pork / red meat. He finally stops, and I wake up with the first of the headaches.
The headache was so bad that I did not go to work that day. I just stayed in bed, chomping down aspirin, trying to die instead of deal with the pain. I put a pillow over my face and just laid there for hours. My stomach was in twisted, wretched knots of hunger yet there was no way I could have eaten anything. I fought desperately to fall back to sleep, hoping to coma my way through the rest of the pain. Sleep would not come. Nothing but more violent shots of pain through my skull would come, no matter what I tried to do.
Until my doorbell rang.
It was just Billy, who surely knew I was not at work. Billy worked at St. Louis Cathedral too, but he worked on my days off. Since his apartment was in my building, (right below me in fact) he surely saw that my car had not moved. Oh, yeah… Billy.
Billy is my best friend of 13 years. Billy Fusco. We met at a night job working as cab drivers and have been working the same places ever since. He was married a long time ago, but divorced because of his wife’s penchant for male students at LSU. After the divorce was final, Billy lost the house and custody of his 3 year old daughter…who died 6 days later in a car accident. Ever since, Billy has had nothing to do with women. He is so terrified of loving and losing again, he prefers to keep it close. Solitude most of the time, or he is with me.
Me, on the other hand…I just enjoy his company. Billy is a great among greats; the type of friend that comes along in one out of every ten lifetimes. We never did much really, mostly just hang together in my apartment or his and watch movies or get hammered and play cards. One thing was for certain, though…when Billy and I got together, there was steak.
Billy had been a chef for 3 years before he got married, and he could grill a steak with his eyes closed. Now, these steaks weren’t just good by any means. I’m talking the kind of steak that is perfectly off-pink with a charred layer of meat crust surrounding it. Steak so tasty and sweet that the juices almost feel cold. Spices layered in a linoleum-like crust across the top, intersected with the perfect charcoal black grill marks. All Billy or I needed (he showed me how to cook the same way) were good cuts of meat and a really hot gas grill. The day of the first headache, Billy came over, beer and food in hand. I answered the door, staggering like something from a Romero film, and he shouted right at me… “Get to work you lazy asshole! ” and threw the twelve pack into my gut like a big football full of beer.
We talked for a few minutes, me basically explaining that I wasn’t in the mood for company, but Billy insisted that he’d be quiet, he’d grill up a couple of Strips, and everything would be okay. I argued, but arguing with Billy was futile. He was just so damned persistent that you lost. No matter what I said, Billy always won. I repeated myself, but he just instructed me to sit down, drink a beer or two and be ready to eat in a half hour.
I did exactly that. I obeyed and it worked. By the time the next hour had come on, Billy and I were half-tanked, full of read meat, and challenging the laurels of a bra vs. bikini top debate. Laughing and yelling until Mr. Whittaker stomped himself to sleep. God forbid he actually heard real noise.
That was how the time we spent together was. Billy and I, eating, drinking and bullshitting over some TV or a game. For whatever reason, that was all he or I really needed in life. If we weren’t alone, we were keeping each other out of trouble. Billy was calming if, a bit off. He still kept himself and I occupied, providing a stable existence for us both.
Anyway, I think I went four or five days before my next headache. During that week, I had two more dreams.
The first one wasn’t that bad. I was at work, overnight, when the priests got into an argument. One of them throws a fit and knocks over a huge candelabra, (it wasn’t there in real life.) starting a fire. Once the fire burned though, it caught drapes and curtains really quick, and a third of St. Louis cathedral was engulfed in flames in seconds. Benches and rugs were set ablaze, while the angry Fathers rolled around in the flames, burning alive like barbequed penguins. In this dream, the odor of their burning hair and skin was not a smell, I could taste it. The whole thing started to get really extreme but mercifully, it was over quickly.
The second one on day five was a trip. I saw the man from the very first dream following a woman down the street, keeping a safe distance so she could not hear. His intentions were bad, right from the start. It was early morning, still dark but getting more blue as rays of sun were drifting around the globe into the gulf. She appeared fit and athletic but there would be no contest physically. She had to turn down a stairwell at her apartment, and the killer caught her on the fourth step with a brick to the back of her head. The impact threw her against the wall after a sound like a baseball being thrown against a gym floor, crushing half of her skull. Her eyes rolled back in her head and she began to fall when his hand shot out like a striking viper and clamped itself onto her throat. She at first appeared to be limply struggling to escape, but as I looked closer, I remember she was already brain dead from the brick. Her flailing was as involuntary as a seizure. Just a mindless body behaving as a fish out of water. After the fish got its skull caved in.
That morning, I woke up to another knock at my door, except this time it was not Billy. I jumped out of bed at the strange, violent knock. It was loud, deliberately so. I moved out into the hallway, shirtless and yelled “Who is it? ” at the door. The next words I heard change my story for the worse.
“Louisiana State Police, Mr. Rivers. The FBI has some questions for you. ”
* * * * *
None of it made any sense whatsoever. The police would not listen to me and the reporters were everywhere, but what had I done? I heard them saying things, screaming things as the cops took me away in cuffs, covered with two bulletproof vests.
One woman shouted “cannibal! ” That was what got my attention first. Cannibal? It was at that exact moment I knew they had the wrong man. I mean, I would have killed Mr. Whittaker maybe if I had the chance and could get away with it. I hated him more than was healthy for me, and he was the only person I would ever think about killing. But cannibal? I figured once we got to the station, this thing would all be sorted out and the police would let me go home. Maybe I could even get a free cup of coffee. At the station, things got worse. I kept pleading for a phone call, and I finally got to make one but Billy was not home. I was so furious, I needed him to come to the station and help hash this out with everyone. He’d tell them all I wasn’t the one they were looking for. Hell, if I wasn’t working, I was with Billy and my grill. They kept the cuffs on me and locked me in a small room with a big window on one side. There were two cameras, and I remember the chair was cold. I was only in there for a short time before two cops in suits came in. I tried to talk, but they just started firing all these weird questions at me, like “Who are they? ” and “Where did you cut them up? ” We sat there, doing this dance for over an hour. I was tired and hungry, and the cops or agents or whoever that came in and out to talk to me were getting increasingly angrier and more profane by the minute. They were still talking about me killing someone. Or, was it more than one someone? I honestly don’t remember. The conversations with the Police and the FBI are all kind of a blur, especially on that first night. But I remember bits and pieces. I remember they said that I killed a man outside of Old Number One cemetery, near the place where my first crazy nightmare would have been. They also said I killed a woman and took her back to my apartment to cook her up and eat her, but I screwed up and left her purse in the street. They said I burned down some tiny, run down church in the Ward. They asked me who the others were probably more than they asked anything else. The FBI insisted they found the remains of 6 people in my apartment. That was when I started yelling. What the hell were they talking about? Where could I have hid the bones of six people? Besides, Billy never would have been cool with me keeping bodies in my apartment!? Billy was a neat freak, he never would have allowed it. I kept telling them that I was with Billy all the time, there was no way I could have done these things, and if they would just let me call him again, surely he could sort this mess out with them. It was then that they told me that Billy was not real. The fucking cops said I had an imaginary friend. They said Billy was not real and I had killed six people and ate them up after cooking them on a grill. At that time I just got quiet. I shook my head and told them they’d see soon enough, and I stopped talking. They kept asking questions, but I went on a speech strike, I guess. They asked more about me killing other people during Jazz Fest, and other inquiries about me eating people. It was so ridiculous to me, that I had a hard time keeping it cool. Silence was the only thing stopping me from a physical meltdown. I wasn’t being held for theft here, the FBI thinks I eat people! Absurd!! I was not talking to anyone until Billy could come vouch for me and I could go home. Problem was, Billy never came.
I don’t know what occurred next or in what order after that, because everything happened really fast. I kind of shut down and blacked out like a drunken frat boy for awhile. After the trial and sentencing I didn’t go to prison. I ended up here, in this evil hospital. Everything just happened so fast! I ended up with some lawyer that never even spoke to me, and just yammered on during court about some useless shit. Something about me “never surviving general population” and the need for “medicine to try and understand a mind like his. ” Sounded like compliments, but I certainly didn’t feel like I was part of anything good. In the “hospital, ” they keep me in a dark cell with no windows and a small television that gets 3 channels. I am not released to eat, my food is pushed under a slot in the door to me. I am kept doped up, as to not allow me to have any “violent outbursts” like the one in the courtroom that didn’t happen. I get one hour of exercise a day, just like prison. But its when the doctors come that is becomes more like a hospital. Sort of. They whisk me away every few days for more of their tests. I have been laid in tanks of water for hours, strapped in some kind of bathtub-gurney. I have been given massive amounts of tranquilizers and received ECT. Lots of it. I have had my eyelids held open in front of strobe lights, have had my feet dunked in ice water every five minutes for 3 days to deprive me of sleep, and have been subject to total isolation. It was not until recently that they began to cut on me.
* * * * * *
So here I am now, on this table in this eroded, venomous ward ready to die. I am numb with pain and sheer loss of any desire to live. I just can’t understand how this could all happen to me. I didn’t do those things they said I did. I spent my life as a poor guy in Louisiana with one friend and one real pleasure in life. I was a simple, harmless man who barely mattered much more than the bugs in my apartment on the scale of things. Why me?
God, I wish Billy was here.