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The Queen of Dead Hearts – A Story By Jonathan Wood
The following contains scenes and sexual references that some may find offensive.
“Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven”
Milton – Paradise Lost.
I watch him from across the other side of the bar. He brings her here a lot. The hotel bar has a swanky restaurant attached to it and they serve gourmet food here. The smell of cooking meat turns my stomach. I know why too and it really shouldn’t bother me anymore. Not after all this time. It has been ages. Literally. But, it still does and the smell reminds me of the screams. Screams from a long time ago.
Watching the couple from a distance, I observe. I take everything in. Every little detail, making mental notes. I hear them both from thirty feet away as if I myself were sitting right there at their table. I mimic her reactions subtly, to his jokes, his attention and how she acts when he pushes back her hair and runs his fingers lightly down the side of her face. Those doe-eyes she pulls that I know I can do so much better than her. She’s a platinum blonde- from a bottle, pretty but manufactured. She has cosmetic enhancements on her lips and cheekbones. She eats her food gingerly and I can see anxiety bleeding from her eyes at every mouthful she chews, conservatively. Calorie counting, already worrying about the hell she’ll have to go through at the gym tomorrow to work off the food. She’s already panicking about looking sexy in the lingerie he’s bought her to wear for the weekend and looking good when he rips off her panties with his teeth on an extravagant hotel bed and forces his tongue in between her legs. Everything must be tight and nothing must sag.
I’ve watched them fucking many times.
From the ceiling.
I’ve been following him for a month now. Monitoring, observing, plotting my course. Some might call it stalking. I think I like that better. He works for an investment bank in the city. I’ve watched him walking into his office building early in the mornings wearing expensive tailored suits from a car park where he leaves an expensive silver sports car that gleams majestically in the early morning sunlight. That car will soon be mine. He will soon be mine.
They leave the restaurant hand-in-hand and I wait a while before following them. He’s taking her to her home, it’s Wednesday. Tonight, I will make my move. I know everything I need to know now and it’s finally time. I never have understood how I know this. It’s just a feeling I get. Down there in my lower abdomen. A dull buzz that begins like an itch until it’s sending pulse waves throughout my body that stretch out into my arms and fingertips like electricity. The thought of what will happen tonight and in the coming days, weeks, months, possibly years is enough to make me wet in my underwear, already.
Earlier, as I watched the manufactured doe-eyed blonde discreetly remove one of her Jimmy Choo pumps (that he had gifted her) under the table and start rubbing her stockinged toes up and down his leg, a guy at the bar approached me and offered to buy me a drink. He probably thought I was easy game, me being a single female sitting at the bar looking like a lonely, jilted lover. If I focused hard enough, I could have read his thoughts, but his look disinterested me, immediately. His clothes were creased, like he hadn’t changed them for days and his hair was greasy and unkempt. It’s distinctive and I know instantly when I smell if the male is the type I want. This was not a man of means and besides, he did not give off that signature scent I look for. This man smelled of tobacco and grime. I could even smell the dried urine on his boxers and I couldn’t but help turn up my nose at him in disgust. He was not pleased and called me a “stuck up cunt” when I curtly declined his invitation and he shuffled off again, his ego bruised and rejected. If only he knew why my sense of smell is so acute.
For my own amusement I considered breathing on him anyway and releasing just a little of my pheromone, just for the hell of it. To watch what happens. What always happens. But I don’t.
As I get up to leave, I almost miss the fact that there is a long mirror behind the bar. Mirrors can be a problem and I always need to focus extra hard to make sure my reflection does not return my true form. I’ve had to learn this discipline over the ages and it’s not easy. For a fleeting moment as I stand up, one of my pointed ears is visible in my reflection and I have to concentrate to make it disappear. Luckily, the lights were low in the bar and nobody noticed the quick flash of a monster in the mirror giving way to the cover of a petite brunette with long raven shiny hair and bright red lipstick.
Later, I watch – unbeknown to them, as he fucks her on the bed, hard and from behind, grabbing and pulling at her hair and slapping her rump with his palm so hard that it leaves her flesh red and bruised. I’m not sure she likes it like that, but she goes with it anyway, until the slaps of their bodies crashing against each other intensify in frenzy and he cries out and ejaculates inside her, his body jerking in spasm from the orgasm. She fakes hers. I can smell that she doesn’t cum too. They lie naked after, their bodies glistening in sweat and reeking so badly of seminal fluids that I can barely breathe. Then he dresses again and leaves. She kisses him goodbye at the door and I watch as she returns to the bedroom and takes off her makeup in front of the mirror on the chest by her bed with cotton pads. Part of me wants to descend now and let her see me in the mirror – just to see her face. But I spare her that. The waves of energy humming and pulsating throughout my body are making it tough to focus on staying hidden now and it’s a relief when she finally turns out the light and returns to the bed.
Staying hidden has exhausted me. Others of my kind can do it better than me and for much longer. They showed me how to master it, so that I can be right there in a room like a chameleon and nobody can see. We call it blending. Only cats seem to sense us. I guess it’s the smell. Although I have an affection for these creatures, I’ve had to kill one or two over the ages.
I descend upon her when she’s sleeping. It makes consummation easier. How this works is not for you to know, but I promise you she will feel no pain. I bear her no ill will but she has something I need. When it’s done, she will be no more and only I will remain. I will wear her clothes and expensive high heels, her perfume, even her face – like a mask. And I will live in her house for as long as I want and live as her for a while. And nobody will know. Least of all him.
She manages a scream before I slap one of my taloned hands over her mouth to stifle it and I do what I have to do. But her scream echoes in my head and shifts me back through time, down through the ages to memories I can never forget. Memories from another life hundreds of years ago that haunt my ravaged soul and will for as long as I roam this earth.
To the men that came for me on black horses one hot summer, their beards and eyebrows thick, their eyes beady and cruel. The men who took me from my village.
They said I conspired with the old woman that lived in the woods who damned the pigs in my village and cursed the well that made all those who drank from it grow sick and die. But I swear I didn’t. I just helped her bless the well with the herbs she had made to drive out the devil. They snatched us both kicking and screaming and locked us in a dark cellar for many days with the rats and flies. Men came and did terrible things to me, over and over again and nobody heard my screams. And then a terrifying tall man with a long beard, narrow eyes and a hat blacker than the night itself came and told me in a soft voice that if I confessed my sins to him and before God, he could make it all stop. That there was salvation for those who repent. But I must confess.
And so, I confessed.
The night before they burned us both, the old woman whispered to me in the cellar in a language I didn’t understand. She placed her palm on my forehead and whispered for many hours. I felt heat on my face that made me feel dizzy and sleepy, and gave me butterflies in my tummy that stretched down to in between my legs and made them quiver. The old woman then smiled and told me to hush and be calm. That death was not the end and I would wake, once again and be truly free. She told me I’d be a Queen of Hearts and one day I’d know what that meant . Then together, we held hands as we waited for the sun to come up and we watched it bleed under the gap of the cellar door.
They burned the old woman first at the stake and made me watch along with the villagers who yelled insults and threw stones at us. One sharp stone hit me in the head and I felt blood trickle down into my eye. I tried to block out the screams of the old woman as she was set ablaze, but I couldn’t. Then, they burned me. But, I felt no pain when the flames began to lick at my feet and move upwards on my body, only the same tingling from the night before when the old woman touched my forehead and whispered her words in a foreign tongue.
When I awoke from a long darkness, I hung upside down, high-up in a dark cave that smelled of damp and dung. I stayed in the cave for many nights, feeling out the changes in my body. My new body. My memories were intact, but I was different. My senses were acute and alive in ways I just can’t explain. And when I left that cave I could fly. My wings unfolded majestically and naturally in the moonlight and to take flight was instinctive. Once, I saw my own reflection in a still pond in twilight and I realized what I now was.
The years that followed ran into decades, then centuries. And I never aged, grew old, nor died. I watched wars, famine and plague, industrial revolutions and pain and suffering unfold around the globe, moving from place to place like a nomadic specter. I watched horses and carts become automobiles and aeroplanes. I watched swords and bows become guns, automatic weapons and bombs. And I lived many secret lives. Through the ages, I encountered others, like me, who showed me how to take on human form, how to blend, and how to consume. To use my abilities to make money, gain power, seduce men and satisfy my rampant carnal desires and blood lust that became just too powerful to resist.
I’ve consumed countless women since I was reborn. I even fucked some of them before I consumed them. I’ve fucked countless powerful men, too. I’ve fucked the leaders of men for my own amusement and even had my hand in some world events. Whispering my poison in their ears and releasing my pheromone that they breathe in. I make them crazy before they slowly give me everything, all the while hiding under the cover and mask of the female; their female whom I have consumed and replaced.
Tomorrow, he will collect me and take me to dinner. I’ll ride in that fancy sports car and I’ll slip my hand inside his pants as he drives us to an expensive restaurant. I’ll watch the soft flesh on my new fingers and painted red nails go to work. He’ll notice small things as I adjust to my new body and perfect how she should be. But, everything will be just fine. He’ll be curious why I suddenly want to fuck five days every day in frenzy and why he’s so exhausted afterwards and drained. Why he can’t stop thinking about me. He’ll remark how I seem different, but he won’t know why. He’ll propose soon after and we’ll be married. Then what is his, will become mine. I’ll wear Luis Vuitton and Prada and I’ll fly first class. I’ll do it all.
I’ll stay a while-until the money runs dry and I grow bored of the sex and he begins to fall apart. Then I will leave and look for another. I’ll make him crazy – just like I did the others and when he finally realizes something is wrong, it will be too late. Nobody cares about the rants of a broke, crazy person anyway.
When he’s sleeping and comatose from the sex, I’ll slip out into the night for a while and revel in my true form. I’ll extend my wings and find somewhere high, dark and damp to hang and I’ll return before he awakes to pleasure him in the morning and kiss him goodbye with puckered red lips as he leaves. He’ll ask me if everything is ok and I’ll smile, pause and say I’m fine.
Sometimes, I wake early in the mornings. I’m still scared of the rising sun and watching it bleed through the blinds and under the gaps in doorways fills me with terror. It reminds me of the screams and burning fires. As time moves on I gain no deeper knowledge of myself and think only of my ever-increasing, rampant carnal desires for blood lust and material things.
She whispered to me that one day I would be a Queen of Hearts. I am indeed a Queen of Hearts. But death and destruction is my Kingdom and shall be for however long I reign in this place under cover of these masks.
I am the Queen of Dead Hearts and the Queen of Hearts that seek to die.
WHEN YOU COME BACK – A Story by Jonathan Wood
WHEN YOU COME BACK – A Story by Jonathan Wood
It came in the fall. I don’t remember exactly when. Time is now a blurred haze that no longer makes any sense to me. A tapestry of fragmentations with no agency nor chronology. Not that can be relied upon, anyway. That’s what trauma does. It bends, distorts, fractures and breaks everything it touches.
It arrived out of nowhere on an uneasy day last autumn on the farm when the winds were growing colder and blowing in from the North. Limping onto our land and into our lives from places unknown, its coat matted and oily, its paws too big for its body and a strange elongated snout which gave it an ugly, disproportional demeanour. But it was the eyes – most of all that was the most discerning thing about it. The way they stared at you was not at all reminiscent.. of a dog. It was clearly a mongrel, and it looked like there were about four different types of breed inside this poor, wretched hound, all battling for dominance.
It was injured, and had a wound on its rear hind leg, near its hip which caused it to limp. A hole, which at first I thought was a result of being hit by a car, or something sharp. But later, we came to the conclusion it was probably a gunshot wound. Dried blood matted around the sore looking wound, making its black coat oily and shiny. Somebody, somewhere had shot this decrepit animal.
My wife, Emma had been tending to the chickens on the other side of the house and she came running from the pen when I called out to her, just as the dog limped into our front yard, snorting and heaving, struggling to get its breath and walk. It looked exhausted and just slumped down in a pathetic heap in front of both of us giving out an almost human sounding groan as its legs gave way underneath it. I simply stood, staring gormlessly at this animal for a brief moment in the cold wind, unable to place what it was that made me feel so uneasy. I had grown up around dogs, they had always been in my family. I loved dogs. Why did I feel so weird about this one?
‘For the love of God, Richard, move out of the way’ said Emma, in irritation as she took point, pushed past me and slowly approached the dog. I told her to be careful. Although the animal was not displaying any aggression, it was hurt and hurt animals that feel vulnerable can lash out if you go near them. We had no idea who this dog belonged to, (if anyone) nor of its temperament. And that horrible, unnatural snout concealed; undoubtedly- a set of sharp teeth. Teeth most likely dirty and infected with god knows what.
The dog seemed to settle a little as Emma approached, like it sensed her energy as non-threatening and it opened its mouth and began panting, pinning back its short, sharp-looking ears.
‘Emma, please be careful’ I said again, ‘don’t go near the wound’. I was worried the dog was going to bite, but soon it became clear the dog had no issue with Emma. That could not be said of me, however. As I approached closer, the dog turned towards me and stared directly at me, the whites of its eyes gleaming in the failing light. I watched the pupils dilate and I thought I heard a dull chuff in its throat just short of a growl, which was enough to make me stop in my tracks and not venture any closer. That seemed to appease the dog who looked back to Emma and returned almost immediately to a calm, submissive state.
Eventually, the dog allowed Emma to stroke its head and it responded to her voice, pinning its ears back in absolute submission. It was as if the dog was somehow charmed by her and the kindness exhibited in her voice. I tried again slowly to move a few steps closer. Immediately, the dog reacted with the same stare and growl until I stopped and backed off. The dog’s aggression felt odd. It was measured, controlled. And something in the dog’s eyes had a sense of familiarity that invoked in me a deja vu.
‘You’d best stay back’ said Emma, never moving her eyes away from the gaze of the dog. This filthy hound had only been on our land for five minutes, and already I hated it. I felt..threatened by its presence.
Emma eventually moved the dog to the barn on the other side of the house. She set up a bed for it in the hay, tended to its wound and checked on it several times per day over the next week. The dog never moved from the barn and Emma later remarked how the wound did not seem to show any sign of healing and that the skin remained inflamed no matter how many times it was bathed and dressed, and that a vile smelling, pus-like discharge oozed from it, which indicated an infection.
I wasn’t happy about Emma spending so much time around this dog. I wanted the thing off our land and out of our lives. I asked around discreetly in the village when I was there for my usual visit to collect fuel and supplies, a few days later. Nobody knew anything about a black mongrel dog with a gunshot wound to its rear leg. Or if they did, they were not saying. I suggested to Emma that we take the dog to a vet and if nobody claimed it, that we try to arrange to take it to a shelter, or that the dog be euthanized. If it had an infection, without antibiotics or professional treatment, it was sure to die anyway.
Emma wouldn’t hear of either proposal. We argued for days about it. But it was more than that. Soon, she started spending more and more time out in the barn with the dog. At first, I figured it was because she was angry and wanted solitude, away from me. We’d rowed about it and I’d swore, even kicking over one of the kitchen table chairs in temper at Emma’s stubborn refusal to budge about this fucking dog. She swore back – told me to “fuck off” and said terrible things I cannot speak of. I said terrible things back.
I decided to let it lie for a while, secretly praying that the dog would fall sick and die of its own accord, then this problem would take care of itself and we could go back to our lives.
Emma’s mood reminded me of darker days past. The days, weeks and months we barely talked, or made love, or behaved like man and wife. And that is hard when you are only two and the only thing you have is each other in a remote place. This was the previous time our farm was consumed by the dark and cold winds that blew in from the North. Times long ago we no longer and cannot speak of.
As the days turned into weeks, Emma became obsessed with the dog. Her work on the farm fell away completely, leaving everything to me and I couldn’t cope on my own. The chickens were the first to get sick. It started with one, then two, then four, then eight. Their feathers became ragged and oily, then their skins began to break out in some kind of rash, causing their feathers to fall out completely. They stopped eating and began to die. Each morning in darkness and howling wind, I’d go out there and find another one dead, and they had ulcerated, angry-looking wounds on their bodies. Very much like the one on the dog.
I tried to talk to Emma, but she was now virtually living in the barn with the dog and refused to come out. Because the dog got agitated when I got too close, I was now resigned to talking to her from the outside. She would talk to me briefly through the wooden slats of the barn. She did not look well, her skin pale and translucent, and she had dark circles around her eyes. I felt like the barn was now a prison cell, the slats may as well have been iron bars separating me from my wife, with the dog as some kind of psuedo jailor, watching my every move.
I pleaded with Emma to come out – I told her I was sorry for losing my temper and for the terrible things I’d said. She said she was sorry too, but needed to care for the dog. One night, in darkness and howling wind, when I went out to the barn to tell her that all the chickens were dead, I saw the oil light swinging from the ceiling of the barn in the draught and as I approached, momentarily saw Emma talking to the dog, my vision obscured by the slats and poor light. Only she was not talking like you would talk to an animal. It was like a conversation, and..I heard another voice, not Emma’s. As if another person was in the barn with them. As I drew nearer, for a fleeting moment the oil lamp above swayed and cast dim light over the dog.
I could have sworn I saw the facial features of a human on the beast, and not that of a dog. The face had a familiarity too, that I could not place. But the lamp quickly swung away again and when the light returned to it once more, what I saw in the shadows was just the face of the filthy black dog.
Emma listened quietly through the wooden slats of the barn when I gave her the news about the chickens. She did not seem to care. She looked sick now too, her skin now had a rash and had broken out in red sores all over her face, neck and arms. She looked terrible. I begged her again to come out of the barn. There was some kind of terrible sickness loose on our farm. And it had all started with that fucking dog.
Emma told me not to worry, that she was fine and would be fine. She didn’t look fine. She looked far from fine. I held her dry fingers through the wooden slats of the barn that separated me from my wife, under the watchful eye of the dog. That night, as the wind howled outside our farmhouse, I checked my face, neck and body for signs of the rash and the sickness that had gripped our farm. I found nothing.
Emma died the following day. That morning, I took matters into my own hands, and in howling wind and darkness, kicked open the door to the barn holding a loaded 12 gauge, the gun I kept locked away for foxes and vermin that had plagued our farm over the years. The dog went berserk, barking and snarling at me, foam and froth spewing from its dirty mouth. But it was too weak to come at me, and strangely, it seemed to be aware of the gun.
I scooped Emma up who was now too sick to resist and I carried her back to the farmhouse. She felt like a bag of bones in my arms. I covered her with a blanket and tried to give her some water. Her face was covered with sores and her blonde hair had now gone brittle and dry. Before she passed, she regained consciousness and put her hand to my face. I asked her why? And she said I’d understand. She cried, and then I cried. Trespasses from long ago were forgiven.
Late that afternoon, in howling wind and darkness I buried my wife Emma on the hill about a quarter of a mile from the farm, according to her wishes. And her grave had another next to it. That of our long dead child, Ruby. Only there seemed to be something wrong with her grave. It did not look the same as it should. The same as I remember. I had not been up here in a long time, and the secret Emma and I buried here long ago was the sorrow we could no longer speak of. Even accidents carry intolerable burdens.
That night my grief turned to rage. As I spilled through the front door of the barn, the dog must have sensed my wrath and had managed to drag itself from the hay where it had laid for weeks to the very back of the barn, where it was to make its last stand. In the climax of the face-off, the dog stopped snarling and we locked eyes and shared something between us. A moment. The dog looked calm and closed its eyes.
I didn’t hear the blast, but the barn lit up like a firecracker, the force ripping splinters through the back door and the recoil of the shotgun surged through my chest in a painful wave. Just before the dog’s breath gave out in the dimness of the swaying oil lamp above, I witnessed its body begin to morph in front of my very eyes. The shoulders and head began to distort, change and mould, like clay. Only it was not clay. It was skin. Human skin. Then I saw a head forming, then shoulders and hands – tiny hands. For a brief moment, I saw Ruby, looking at me, her dainty hands and milky skin as beautiful as I remember them to be. Then I was looking at Emma, only Emma from times long past, before the accident that took the warmth out of her smile and the light from her eyes. I fell to my knees next to her, exhausted and distraught, my hand holding hers. Before she closed her eyes and slept, she raised her head and whispered lightly in my ear.
I burned the remains of the dog the following day and watched from a distance as the smoke coils spired high into the sky from the bonfire. The wind seemed to ease and the darkness lifted from the farm in the following days and weeks. I wanted to leave, but couldn’t. The secrets and the sickness here are in my custody. The farm is my burden now and I must wait.
I knew it would come back when the winds changed and started blowing in colder again from the North. Just as she’d said it would. It came limping onto our land just as before, its coat matted and oily, from places unknown and it carried an injury. A wound to its rear leg. When it got closer and fell down in exhaustion in the front yard, I saw the wound looked like a gunshot.
I heard Emma’s whispered words repeat in my head: ‘when it comes back, heal the dog and she’ll come back‘
I prepared the barn, repaired the doors and set up camp next to the dog in the hay. Soon after, my face and hands began to itch and hurt and I grew tired. But I won’t leave the dog. In the long hours of darkness and cold we listen together to the howling wind outside. We share thoughts and communion.
Soon, the dog will tell me what I must do.
The end of this summer saw a crazy few months and the swell of another overseas move finally pass, leaving me more time to finally turn my attention back to writing.
I’m continuing with revisions to my novella The Locked Room and have also begun working on another short story collection book which has the working title “Dysfunctional“. It will be a selection of horror, weird and a few sci-fi tales, one of which I intend to showcase for free via a downloadable link or free PDF for Kindle and Digital E-readers. This tale is titled Unconditional Love and is my first attempt at the sci-fi genre
I’ve been obsessed with AI, Robots and the impact of the technology on humankind lately, which beckons – and perhaps a lot sooner than we might think. Unconditional Love is my tribute to that and imagining a near future world dealing with climate change implications, socio-economic collapse in an increasing automated technological environment and how the introduction of synthetic humanoids would impact upon that.
I’ve also started drawing and sketching again after almost a year off. I will post some of my sketches here as they reach completion and those that follow my Instagram can see them there too.
That’s it for now. Thanks for stopping by my blog- and as ever, thanks to those reading and supporting my work.
Updates and Anecdotes From Inside The Matrix.
The last year has in many ways for me resembled something that could be described as a tale from within the Matrix. In August 2021 I made the decision to return back “home” to the UK, where I was born and lived until 2010, when I moved to Sweden.
Almost twelve years away hit me unexpectedly hard and I found the UK to be a very different country from the one I left in 2010. I too, had changed and found myself unable to settle and rather like a foreigner in my own country in many ways. Apparently, this is a common occurence for ex-pats who have made their nests elsewhere – After a period of time, you move on and become accustomed to your new home overseas, and your homeland leaves you behind, too. I began to miss my adopted home of Sweden.
Given I had ties to Sweden professionally still and had continued to work remotely for a Swedish employer, coupled with the fact that I am a Swedish citizen too and have dual nationality, it made sense to return back to Sweden to live, at least for the short to mid term, And in May of this year, that’s exactly what I did.
Last year, I completed writing a novella titled The Locked Room which I then submitted to my Editor who sharpened her carving knives and went to work on it. The changes and re-writes have been extensive and I decided to just take my time with this, follow the advice of a well established and brutally honest editing professional – and boy am I glad to have hired her!
This novella has been the bane of my life for the last two years and whilst I have dabbled and done a few pieces of flash fiction and also written a few short stories for another short story collection project I’m working on, I’ve never felt entirely comfortable with the finished project of the The Locked Room, and it’s why I’ve held back in releasing it. It is to be the first release of my publishing label Strange Days Press and I want to be happy with the final end product. It’s almost there and given I have a brilliant editor and very talented artist on board for the cover art duties, I know it’s my responsibility to put out the best product I can -and that is worth taking my time.
Now that I had my little moving experiment, fell flat on my face and corrected the mistake, my plan is to push ahead and finish the projects I have on my desk and get myself back into a routine of writing again regularly, as opposed to the fits and starts of the last year. Settling back in Sweden and having a new home, I hope the feeling of being settled will trickle down into my writing and enable me to be in the frame of mind to focus and be more productive than I have been.
I’ll update this blog in time with progress. I have a website built for my publishing label, and all the ingredients there to make it work. I just need to unlock that final end product of the novella itself, make it the absolute best it can be and then let the wheels turn for everything else.
Flash Fiction Friday….Hitching A Ride
Hitching a Ride
By Jonathan Wood
Brad liked the country roads. The backwater B roads, the ones you could barely see on maps that snaked in between the main highways like wiggly worms and didn’t really take you anywhere. In fact, they took you to nowhere. Nowhere except shit-splat little towns with a few cafes, a gas station and if you were lucky a cheap motel with lumpy beds and poor air-con.
The rain had started early in the evening and was now almost torrential, so Brad turned up the wipers of his utility truck to full, watching them fight a losing battle against the onslaught of rain beating heavily against the windscreen. The wrath of Mother Nature after the humidity of a close and sticky 35c for most of the day.
Brad could barely see thirty metres ahead of the dark deserted road that twisted in and out of the mountain, the truck’s headlights only showing rods of water, illuminated briefly until they disappeared into the darkness and the vague blur of the white line markings on the road. He cursed, knowing if the storm got worse, he would have to stop. Try take shelter somewhere, perhaps find a motel to sleep until the worst was over. Fat chance of finding a motel out here.
The figure appeared out of the shadows, and even at under 30mph, Brad had to swerve to miss it, the dark petite looking silhouette of someone on the roadside, holding out a slim arm with a thumb attached to it’s end. Cursing, Brad corrected the truck and came to a stop just ahead. For a moment the shadow just stood there in the rain behind him, staring at the truck. Brad waved the figure forward and after a moment, it walked slowly towards the truck.
As the figure approached, Brad could see it was a girl, completely soaked through and wearing only a summer dress that was so saturated, it clung to her body like clingfilm. Brad reached across and opened the passenger door, and the girl jumped in without hesitation. Her long brown hair was stuck to her head like glue.
“Jeez” exclaimed Brad, “raining like hell out there, eh?” He reached over to the back seat of the truck and took hold of a blanket, handing it to the girl who took it without a word. Brad noticed she was pretty, maybe early 20‘s, petite and slim. She began to towel herself lightly with the blanket and through her saturated dress stuck to her body, Brad could see her breasts plain as day. She wasn’t wearing a bra. Strangely, she wasn’t shivering. Given how little clothing she wore and how soaked she was, Brad figured she’d be freezing cold.
He started up the truck again and joined the road again slowly in the relentless rain, fighting to see through the sheeting water hitting the windscreen.
“So, what’s your story? What you doing way out here on the roadside?” He asked. This was always his break the ice opener for the various hitchers he had picked up on his travels over the years.
The girl finished drying herself on the blanket and towelled her hair a little on it. She stared back at Brad, like she was considering her reply before offering it. Brad noticed her eyes seemed glazed, and now he could see her better in the dim light of the truck, she seemed to have bad skin. He guessed the small lines and imperfections on her face looked like acne scars.
“My car got a flat” she said. “thought I was going to be stuck out here all night. Luckily you came along”. Brad noticed the strange, almost robotic tone in her voice. It didn’t fit her appearance or frame. Not at all.
“Oh” said Brad. “I didn’t see your car there on the roadside back there. If you want, we can go back and I can see about changing that tyre for you? I have tools in the back”
“There’s no air in the spare tyre either” she replied, curtly.
“Can you just drop me off at the next town?” she asked, “whatever it’s called”. I can find a motel there for the night and get my car picked up tomorrow”
Brad knew this area. The next town was Crickside, about twenty kilometres up ahead. But it had no motel.
“Sure. I can get you there” He said.
“Thank you” she replied.
Brad watched the girl sneakily from the corner of his eye for the next few moments as they drove in silence, only the rain hitting the windshield offering any sound. He watched her like he watched the others. The other helpless girls he’d hoovered up on various backwater b roads all over the country. Strays befallen to bad luck, car trouble and whatever other chain of events had led them to being on a dark deserted road in the middle of nowhere until a white truck showed up to offer them salvation. A white truck with a predator driving it.
This girl was perfect prey. Small, defenseless and no match for Brad’s size. He’d overpower her in thirty seconds. In a moment, he’d pull out the switchblade he had hidden down by his seat. Then she’d freeze in terror, and beg. Like the others did. Then she’d be still and let him do what he wanted. She wouldn’t resist. Like the others.
The truck rounded a tight bend and opened out onto a straight section. Brad knew this area. He knew it well. There would be nobody out here. Nobody to see. He slowed the truck to a stop and pulled onto the shoulder of the road, into the darkness. Where he liked to be.
The girl looked up immediately, her face concerned.
“Why are we stopping?” she asked, flatly
In a move he’d mastered over the years, Brad quickly grabbed the switchblade, flicking it open mid-air and held it towards her throat. He waited for the reaction. The terror. The submission. She stared at the knife.
“Ok, honey” He said. “You’re gonna take off that dress now. And you’re gonna make me happy. You understand?”
But she did not react like she should. Like all the others did. She was still. Calm, even. Her chest and breathing unmoved. It was all wrong. She looked straight into Brad’s eyes, her glazed expression creepy and sinister. Brad suddenly wondered if she was strung out on some drug or something.
“Please don’t do this” she said quietly. “Please don’t..”.
That was more like it. The rush of power returning back to him. Soon she’d start begging. And he liked it when they begged. He smirked back at the girl.
“Oh honey, you should have listened to your Mamma all those years ago. Didn’t she tell you not to get into cars with strangers?”
Brad reached forward to grab at her and with insane speed and strength, the girl snatched his arm holding the knife, twisting it at the wrist until Brad heard a grinding sound and white hot pain shot up into his forearm and shoulder. Then came a sickening crunch and he screamed, the knife falling away as the girl kept twisting. Finally, after what seemed like forever to Brad, she finally let go and he held up his own mangled hand in front of his disbelieving eyes, his fingers and knuckles bent and twisted, pointing in ways they shouldn’t go. Two splinters of bone jutted up through the wrist part of his arm, his flesh like a fishes mouth on either side of the protruded skin. The white hot pain sensation was now becoming red.
The girl began quivering by him as Brad let out blood curdling screams, both in pain and terror. He saw her face moving, the skin throbbing outwards from some kind of pressure underneath. Then he heard hissing and popping sounds, like pressure valves being released. And a strange, musty, salty smell.
The girls face began to open. The lines and imperfections on her skin were not acne scars. They were folds. Folds that covered and hid something.. else. Something underneath.
The girl’s face began to detract, the outer skin just pushing outwards, eyes, nose and mouth just separating to the sound of splitting. It was attached to something. Some kind of muscle tissue, ligament that could somehow stretch and bend. Brad screamed again in horror at what lay underneath, the hidden grotesquery now on full show in the dim light of the truck.
The face of a lizard. Giant, cruel and inhuman eyes, yellow and narrow, that glowed inside the shiny green skin hiding under the premise of a young girl. The mouth moved and Brad saw rows of teeth. They looked like they were smiling.
“And didn’t your Mamma tell you not to pick up hitchhikers?” hissed the Lizard across at him, it’s breath rancid in his face.
Screaming and the pain in his destroyed arm now close to making him pass out, Brad tried desperately to make a final move for his door, but the Lizard was too fast and a scaly hand grabbed him by the throat and began to lift and twist roughly to another grinding and splitting sound.
The last thing Brad saw before his vision faded to black was a shape. A familiar shape. It wore familiar clothes. It wore his clothes. And it sat in his seat.
But it had no head.
Surviving Narcissistic Abuse and the Great Beyond
I have gone a little off-piste here in this blog post, given I normally waffle on about writing and books. But, that’s ok. It’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to…There’s a song in that, somewhere.
Following my own experience with this subject and the Mental Health issues I faced afterwards a few years ago, it’s probably no surprise to anyone reading these words how strongly I feel about it. I have spent the last year advocating for Mental Health causes and awareness, particularly in dealing with Narcissistic Abuse in a relationship and my recovery journey from its effects. I’ve made a lot of good connections in Support Groups, attended a lot of Seminars and learned a great deal. I want to share this because I feel I can do some good. And if this post reaches just one person and helps them to see their way through their own experience, or offer them some hope, then it’s surely worthwhile.
“You’ve been living in a dream world, Neo.”
I’m glad to say I’ve been able to offer some help and guidance, in so far as I can, for many walking wounded who sadly are just a little bit further back down the road from me. Souls right now, who can’t tell up from down, and are living in (give or take) the same purgatory, I was. For these people, they have not yet been unplugged from the Matrix. They’ve stumbled around in desperation through the detritus of YouTube and Google for self-help information, just as I did. They’re looking for answers and guidance, just like I was. Looking for sense. For salvation.
For confirmation.. that they’re. NOT. crazy.
I want to point out at the outset that I am not a Qualified Therapist nor have any formal Academic Qualification in this field. What I am; like many people, is a survivor of a relationship with a Narcissist. Some refer to Narcissists as devils. If you have ever been in a relationship with a Narcissist you may well be nodding in agreement as you read this. To those that haven’t (and I salute you) that may sound operatic and rather grandiose, but the term is not without merit. In that case, my devil came to me with beautiful blonde hair and the bluest of blue eyes. What lay behind those eyes was not beautiful.
Why do I feel this way? Why do I miss someone who treated me like garbage, hurt and humiliated me again and again, repeatedly lied, breached my trust, abused me emotionally and financially and then blamed me for everything at the end?… And of course… the great, quintessential question. Why? Why did they do this to me?
I don’t love them anymore, but neither do I feel relief now they’re gone and out of my life. Why can’t I sleep? Why is my self-esteem, nervous system, energy and self-confidence shattered and affecting my ability to forge new relationships? Why do I suffer brain fog, rumination and flashbacks of it all, even though I don’t want them back and never want to see them again. Why have I reacted so acutely to someone so very bad for me when I have not reacted to previous breakups like this? Why can’t I just fucking move forward with my life? I should be happy they’re gone and people keep telling me I should feel so. Why do I mourn something so toxic that caused me so much pain? Am I turning into a zombie?
Sadly, these are all, all too common reactions to Narcissistic Abuse. Although the variables differ in relationship experiences with Narcissists, there is a common thread that you can pick up on, just as the devastation they leave on their victims has a design or footprint and common trends in how that manifests in survivors.
Narcissism is everywhere. One might say it’s a side effect of Social Media culture, where look at me, please like and validate me and agree with everything I say, and God help you if you don’t has a sinister undertone to it. You could make a case that Social Media gives a platform to Narcissism in some ways.
Narcissists are very much like hard-boiled candy sweets. They come in all different shapes, colours, sizes and guises. They taste differently, they’re full of sugar and calories, but we eat them anyway. They will rot and break your teeth. And that’s if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky, then you’d better buckle up. The Captain just switched on the fasten seatbelt sign…
Hicks: “So, what exactly are we dealing with here?”
Ripley: “Well, I’ll tell you what I know”…
So when we say Narcissist, what exactly does that mean? What are the characteristics of a Narcissist and how do I spot one?
The term Narcissism originates in Greek Mythology, The youthful and handsome Greek God Narcissus rejected the advances of the Nymph Echo. This caused Narcissus to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Narcissism, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a Mental disorder that sits amongst a range of Personality Disorders in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance/entitlement and an almost uncontrollable urge for admiration, attention and validation. Narcissists usually have a footprint, too, they do not just wake up one day and have become Narcissistic. NPD often manifests itself in childhood or teenage years and there are various different triggers for it. They often have a history of troubled, disastrous relationships, both personal and professional in their wake, (that they often go to great lengths to hide from the next source of supply) and a severe lack of empathy for anyone but themselves. They’re highly manipulative, either overtly or covertly, charming, ambitious, driven, entitled and have tempers and prone to sudden and explosive outbursts. They can’t handle criticism in any form leading you to feel like you’re always walking on eggshells around them. They’re ALWAYS right, about everything and NEVER take responsibility for anything. EVER. And they’re totally ruthless.
So, now we’ve got some of the Freud out of the way, what do I look for if I think I might be dealing with a Narcissist and how does that translate to dealing with the aftermath if I become a victim of one?
Most people with experience in this field, notably qualified Psychologists or people with years of experience within this area often refer to the Red Flag System as an essential guide on how to determine if you’re dealing with a Narcissist.
So whilst you can apply the formula already mentioned, you can educate yourself and at least understand what you’re dealing with to a better degree and learn the difference in the types of Narcissism and how that manifests in their behaviour, what good are red flags that start waving before your eyes all over the place if you’re not going to act upon them. Right?
What I’ve found is that most victims of Narcissistic Abuse knew; at least to some degree, and were self-aware, when they were in the middle of it all, that something was just not right. With the other person. With the relationship. With everything. Something nondescript. Something they couldn’t quite put their finger on at the time. This includes my own experience. And most people had no idea they were dealing with a Narcissist at the time they were in a relationship with one. That awakening comes in the aftermath.
This is significant. It’s significant because it holds insight into why you didn’t pull the trigger and act, when Red Flag 2, 3 and 4 started waving wildly in front of your face. Some call it intuition or the inner voice and it speaks to you for a reason. Don’t just ignore it. Forgive yourself now for not listening if you did. Your Intuition will forgive you back.
Turning to recovery, the bad news is that there is no off the shelf treatment for dealing with the after effects of Narcissistic Abuse. Dependent upon the variables of your experience, you most likely will be suffering from a form of Complex PTSD when the relationship ends. This can even take the form of an abrupt discard from the Narcissist which may just be two days after they have referred to you as the “love of their life” too. Or perhaps you just flipped at the end or realized you can’t do this anymore and you’re done. This is extra grief on top of the regular and perfectly normal painful emotions both parties of a relationship ending would experience, where there is no toxicity of Narcissism is involved. You get that too, I’m afraid. Sadly, your brain isn’t yet wired to know the difference. That enlightenment, comes later too.
Okay. It’s going to be a long haul and it’s going to be hard. But it will get better, with work, bravery and patience. I promise you that if you invest in confronting the experience, you will come out of the other side a wiser, stronger person and more empowered than you ever thought you could be. But you will; in all probability, have to go through hell to get there.
The milestones for recovery from Narcissistic Abuse can typically be laid out in the following way:
Grief -Allow yourself to grieve and mourn. Despite the hell you’ve been through and the humiliation you feel when the Narcissist’s mask finally slipped and you discovered who they really are, cut yourself some slack. There will have been some good moments, without question in amongst the chaotic rollercoaster. These are the things the Narcissist relied upon to keep you addicted to them, remember and most Narcissists specialize in manipulation and are accomplished, pathological liars. Remind yourself that the relationship was real to you and you lost something you thought you had. Something you thought was real. Your feelings were genuine. And you were conned.
Coping -In the immediate aftermath, your emotions will be scrambled and you will be feeling a lot of different things, ranging from sadness and total confusion, to self-loathing, absolute rage and despair. And sometimes all at once. You have been effectively brainwashed to believe everything is and was your fault and that the Narcissist is the innocent victim. It’s absolutely crucial you reach out for help and have a support network. Even if it’s just a friend who is prepared to listen and let you cry it out, which all friends worth their salt should do for you. You may have to do the same for them one day. You may need to speak to your GP and discuss if medication in the short-term may help you cope, and get some short-term aids to help you sleep. Regular sleep is a vital component of helping you recover emotionally. You may need to take time away from work or reduce your hours. I would also really recommend that you also consider professional help from a Therapist or Counselor who has knowledge of Narcissistic Abuse symptoms and Treatment techniques. There are some very good references included at the bottom of this post and links to reputable and qualified Clinical Psychologists who offer insight on Narcissistic Abuse, complex PTSD and Recovery guidance.
Education– Learn about Narcissism. You will find it an uncomfortable, maybe even hellish experience and it may bring back a lot of painful memories, but it’s vital to helping you unscramble your emotions and help validate you that you’re not crazy. I guarantee you that thought will be one of the most prominent and most worrying anxieties you will have, right now. “Am I crazy?” There is a wealth of knowledge available from qualified Professionals, including Seminars/Webinars, TED Talks and Vlogs which can help you piece together what is happening to you in the context of your own experience.
Distraction – It’s crucial you try to mitigate rumination and bad thoughts when they first occur, so you have a better chance of stopping them taking hold. So force yourself to take on a new hobby or craft. Exercise at least once per day, even if it’s just a short walk in the open air. Walking also helps your mind heal. Learn to breathe properly again, and breathe slowly. Occupy your mind with other things and don’t spend too much time alone with your own thoughts.
Action -This one is the most important of all. GO NO CONTACT. It’s imperative you break all forms of contact with the Narcissist, even if they come trying to hoover you back in at a later time. NO CONTACT means exactly what it says on the tin. And.. it’s forever. There’s just no way around that. I was lucky in that there were no children involved in my case, so a clean break was easier, but if there are children involved in the relationship, then your contact with the Narcissist should be absolutely minimal, and solely related to the children and nothing else.
Healing – Healing is the final part of the journey and in many respects the stage I’m still currently on. Healing takes time and is a different road for everyone. With time comes perspective. With learning, comes knowledge and a deeper understanding. Not of Narcissism or the perpetrators of it (which is unfathomable) but of yourself. If you can gain insight as to why you made the decisions you did, forgive yourself for your mistakes and promise yourself you will learn from it and never repeat those same mistakes again. This will be a massive gain for you. And crucially, it’s where you find your closure.
The very definition of Stupidity can be best described as repeating the same mistakes and expecting a different result. There’s wisdom in that. You will become wiser, I promise you, if you are brave and confront it all, head on. You will make more mistakes as you go forward in your life. But if you really apply what you’ve learned, you will never expose yourself to another Narcissist in that way, ever again.
What you will also discover, in the many long hours of procrastination, crying, hurting and painful anecdotes you hear and read from others suffering on the same pilgrimage as you, is that despite all their Machiavellian Intricacies and the exotic Pseudo-Psychiatric terminology used to describe their behaviours and analyse them, Narcissists are not devils. They are just sick people. They are empty, vacuous husks with holes where their hearts should be. Holes that can never be filled. Not by you, not by anyone, least themselves. You cannot fix them and you cannot save them. They just don’t understand, care, respect nor even recognize your feelings, needs or boundaries and never will. Even if they wanted to. They will never be able to forge genuinely loving and meaningful relationships of any value with anyone that isn’t either financially beneficial to them or meets their needs of supply in some other way.
You can. And they hate you for it.
So. Stand up straight and take a deep breath.
Step up. Be brave. You’ve got this.
This is ground zero. This is where you start.
Balance Psychologies – YouTube
2020 – Please close the door behind you on your way out.
2020 for me; I suspect for many others too, has resonated like a bad acid trip. What began at the beginning of the year quickly escalated to a global pandemic and the last month has seen a resurgence, and in the wrong direction.
I had big plans for this year, I was planning to leave Sweden and move to New Zealand. Regrettably, that now is on hold until the pandemic madness clears a little and travel again becomes possible. I’m sure we’ll all be glad to see the back of 2020 and we all hope for better times.
Another thing I have had to delay, yet again, is the release of my first novel The Locked Room and this is for a variety of reasons. I am releasing the book through my own publishing label and in order to give the novel the launch and quality of product I want to, I have decided to hold back. I also feel now is not the right time economically for me to be launching a publishing label.
Although this is disappointing, I feel incredibly proud to have finished the book and be actively writing again on new material, given the health problems I have suffered over the last few years. I never thought I would write again, at one point in the not too distant past, so to have finished writing the novel and have a finished product; does on its own, feel like a massive achievement. Even if none of my work ever commercially sees the light of day, it feels incredibly good to be creative again, exploring my imagination and ideas. I also recently took up sketching again, to pass the time during the most banal times of the winter and provide a distraction from the pandemic gloom.
I began sketching superheroes and comic characters as a teenager and felt a sudden urge to start drawing again. I’m still very raw, but think my sketching skills are getting a bit better with each one that I attempt. This one below remains the best I have done to date, I think.
I have also started work on a second, ten short-story collection with the working title Dysfunctional. I have attempted something a little different with this collection, and it will offer a selection of sci-fi, weird and horror tales. I recently completed the fifth short titled Dirty Bunny. Below is a rather striking image I discovered online which helped inspire the story.
On a personal note, those that know me and connect with me via social media know that I feel incredibly passionate about mental health awareness. Although my own story/advocacy on this subject is not directly related to Covid or the pandemic, please take care of your mental wellbeing during these difficult times. It’s absolutely vital you take action if you’re feeling the effects of stress, anxiety or depression.
That’s it for now, and thanks to everyone supporting me and reading my work.
The Gun Guy
The Gun Guy
By Jonathan Wood
I’m a fixer. I’m that guy. I’m the “go-to, can-do” man. The man your friends say they know through a friend of a friend, and I can get you; pretty much, anything.
According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, a fixer is: “someone who is skilled in making things happen, sometimes in a way that is dishonest”. I can’t claim credit for the definition, or it being applied to me. But it was something that the people I was involved with labeled me over the years and the term just stuck. Like much in my life, it happened incidentally.
I drive taxi’s now and have for years. But I was once a different type of driver. I drove for one of the top dogs in London’s East End, once. Took him everywhere. Dropped him off, picked him up and I was never late. Sometimes he’d be with his whores, sometimes with his Business Associates. Tough looking, well-dressed men that were just like him, icy-eyed with soulless stares and bodies carved from wood. Men you don’t ever cross.
Sometimes I dropped off packages, sometimes I picked them up. Sometimes I wiped semen off the back seats of the car at the end of the night or when the sun was coming up in the early hours of the morning. Sometimes I wiped up the blood. After a while, I stopped being scared and stuff like that became my norm. But, it’s how I got started and earned my name. I wasn’t connected, I wasn’t a tough guy and I knew my place in the food chain. But, I began to get to know people. The right people. The people I could tap and squeeze on the side, for the things that other people wanted and were prepared to pay me to get for them. The drug guys doing business with my boss, the weird guys who dealt in other stuff and also the hookers he banged, who got into the car in short skirts and high heels reeking of Chanel, faces caked in makeup with their heads down to hide the fresh bruises and black eyes.
They say when you dance with the devil, the devil doesn’t change. He changes you.
I wasn’t there the night my boss got clipped. I don’t even know the full story, beyond the rumors I heard. It was a conflict with a rival firm based over in North London. Some kind of shared business venture that went wrong. A row developed and there was trouble. I didn’t drive my boss that night to the meet, which at the time seemed out of place and unusual. I always drove him. Everywhere. But not that night. You might say my boss knew and maybe he wanted to keep me out of harm’s way. He was a pitbull but always fair to me. Had I been there with him that night, I’d surely have been clipped too. That’s the way these things go. It’s business, not personal.
So I left London and disappeared up North for a few years. Laid low, kept my head down until things blew over. The London firm didn’t come after me, so fingers crossed, I’m clear. At least for now. When I returned back to London, I decided to drive taxi cabs. I can’t sleep anyway and I like to drive at night. It’s calming. And, if I’m gonna be awake all fucking night, I may as well get paid for it.
Through driving taxi’s I got to know everyone again and plug back into the dark matrix. The people creeping around looking for sex, the students looking for recreational drugs. The creeps looking for other shit that gives me the creeps. But I make no judgments. I just want my cut, and it’s always 10%.
That night was more or less like any other until he got into the car. His name was John Jones, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t who he really was. John Jones sounds far too convenient for a man wanting to buy a gun on the black market. I just called him the “Gun Guy” and like my label, his just stuck, too. At least it did with me. Not many people come to me and ask me to get them guns.
The rain had hammered down all day that day and it continued into the night. I watched the windscreen wipers of the car moving against the glass from my driver’s seat and listened to their rhythmic whine, the relentless rain battering against the screen from outside. Aside from the dashboard glow and gloom of the neon signs of the stores in the now-closed retail car park I sat parked up in, it was just me and the cloak of darkness. The way I like it.
A sudden hand that rapped on the front passenger side window startled me and I caught a glimpse of a face looking in, saturated and squinting in the hard rain to see inside. I unlocked the door and he opened it, quickly getting into the car without hesitation, to take refuge from the rain. He was soaked through.
For a moment, he just sat there, droplets of water running down his face and he made no effort to wipe them away. They collected on the tip of his nose and just gathered there in dewdrops until eventually, they dropped to the floor of the car. He was middle-aged, wore a raincoat, but he looked well-dressed underneath, his raincoat hinting of a suit and tie underneath. But there was something just wrong about him. He didn’t belong here. He didn’t fit at all. And he certainly didn’t fit the voice I had spoken to on the phone a week earlier, who had called inquiring about me getting him a gun. “Something a novice could handle, and something untraceable”, he’d said. He was shaking too. Either in fear or from the cold. Maybe both.
I offered my hand across the middle of the car to break the ice.
“So.. you’re John? I’m Alan”
He shook my hand quickly then withdrew it, his weak handshake leaving my hand damp and cold.
He refused to make eye contact and just stared ahead, his head down. Understandable, I guess. Most of the people who get in my car late at night don’t really want to be there.
“So how does this work?” he said in a low voice, wiping the rainwater from his eyes.
I exhaled slowly. “Well, first you show me the dough. I count it, then I give you a package. You check it, and we say goodbye”
He slowly reaches into his inner coat pocket and takes out a small envelope. He hands it to me gingerly. It’s wrapped in a waterproof bag. Inside is the correct amount of money we agreed on. In cash.
I reach below my seat and take out the packet. Inside it is a Glock 17 handgun. I’m told it’s a good beginner’s gun, reliable and light. Not much recoil, easy to use. But that’s as much as I know. It’s not my business to know either, nor ask questions of my supplier. I get the shit I’m asked to get. And I get paid. That’s all.
“Do you know how to use one of these?” I ask, not really knowing what to say if the answer is no.
The man takes the package from me and tears the top end, splitting the cellophane wrapping inside the outer pouch, and he peers inside. Strangely, he doesn’t take the gun out to examine it. Instead, he stuffs the packet inside his raincoat.
“It comes with bullets?”
“There’s a full clip inside the packet. Don’t you want to check the gun first?”
He doesn’t answer and goes to open the passenger door to exit the car. He turns and looks back at me. For the first time, I see his face and features full-on. Even in the dim light of the car, I see something I don’t often see in my line of work. Something I have become desensitized to, perhaps, even a now, alien emotion. There’s a striking pain leaking out of this man, this ordinary, everyday man. It seeps from his face, his eyes, his very pores. I suddenly get an unpleasant pang of dread in the pit of my stomach. I don’t know what he has planned, but this man is going to be involved in something terrible, and very soon.
And I have helped facilitate it. I’m complicit.
For a moment which seems to last forever, our eyes remain locked on each other, and I think he is going to say something. Then, as though changing his mind, he simply says a short “Thank you, Alan” in a soft, almost resigned tone and exits the car, back into the pouring rain. As he disappears into the night, he turns once and looks back towards me, his silhouette cutting a forlorn and vulnerable shape in the gloom. Like there is some moment of reticence, doubt, or conscience speaking to him and him alone before he steps over a border. A dark line from which he can never return.
Then he is gone, his image dimming and blending until all I can see is sheeting raindrops bashing against the concrete of the car park.
That was two years ago. Although I never did find out what became of the Gun Guy, I remain haunted and affected by his image and I think of him, quite often. I look for clues in the newspapers and media and wonder if whatever precipitated or pushed him to get a gun, happened, or is yet to come. Two years on, I still get the same horrible sense of dread and foreboding when I think about him and his dark silhouette disappearing into the rainy night and I wonder what he was thinking at the very moment he hesitated and turned back.
I never fixed another gun for anyone again.