fiction29 Sep 2008 08:45 am

(continued from last week. This week, the warning about language is joined by one for over the top violence, pardon the spoiler if it is one.)

“Stephen, you promised you’d be quiet.” Wounded voice.

I’m starting to hyperventilate.


Oh Jesus, oh Jesus, I’m going over!


“Shut up, you little bastard!” I’ve got him by the shoulders, shaking him violently without any recollection of rising from my seat and covering the fifteen feet between us. “I’m not going to have a fucking panic attack because of you!! Do you hear me, you little bastard?”

A hand blots out the shocked expression of the brat, making contact with my face a nanosecond later and knocking me backwards. I lost my balance and fall in between the front seat and first forward-facing seat on the left side of the bus. I look up and see the slut standing over me, nostrils flared, teeth gritted, her whole face on fire with fury as she screams abuse at me. You can bet your ass that the kid’s father, Real Man that he is, never gets this from his passive little cock receptacle. But who am I, right? I’m just a fucking little wimp who reads books and doesn’t drink because alcohol would screw up the wonderful medication that doesn’t do a fucking thing. I’m just a fucking little wussy who goes around afraid all the time, who can’t even control his own fucking mind, let alone a big-breasted, long-legged slut like her. I mean, how are I place my unworthy hands on Prince Stephen, product of her owner’s loins, noble carrier of his manly genes, which will someday be squirted into another pretty piece of property like herself to produce yet another crop of chest-thumping assholes. Why, I should be taken out and shot for even thinking of touching the little stud, let alone doing it!

Shot. Heck, now why didn’t I think of that before?

The .22 is out of my jacket, aimed at the slut’s head and fired before she even realizes what’s happening. In an instant she blossoms from a no-account piece of Caucasian trash into a properly married Hindu woman: the hole in her forehead is exactly the right size and color. I doubt that the exit would is quite as neat, as most of her brain is now decorating the window and seat behind her. She falls back into said seat and her heads makes a wet squelching noise as it hits said window. Hilariously, she still has that furious, hatefully righteous expression on her face, a death-mask for a trailer-park bitch.

HA! I exult to the Demon. You said I was gonna use the gun on myself, but I didn’t, I didn’t!

I rise to my feet and bring the gun to bear on the brat. He’s still wearing that stunned Something-Is-Happening-Which-I-Have-Not-Decreed look. Ha! Welcome to the Land of Feeling Helpless, kid. Scary fucking place, isn’t it?

“Piss,” I command. “Right now! In your pants! Piss!” No response, though for a second I think I see a tear trickle down his left cheek. Then I notice that the cheek is gray: a speck of his mother’s brain matter.

“Piss, you little bastard! Come on!” Nothing. “What’s the matter? Don’t you want to drain your bladdar anymore?” Still nothing. Maybe he needs some assistance. I’m not really sure where the bladder is located — Getting Beaten Up, not Anatomy, was my best subject in school — so I just aim for his upper pelvis area and fire. Now he does react, screaming (like a GIRL! Ha!) as blood jets out of him like a fucking geyser. (I’ll be damned. It really does smell like copper.) I’m about to fire again when my wrist is seized and pushed towards the ceiling. The driver. His left hand’s got my wrist while his right fist slams into my jaw, probably breaking it before I grab his wrist the same way he’s got mine. He’s pushing against me, I’m pushing against him, and some little corner of my mind is telling me that there’s Something Not Right about this struggle, although I’m not sure just what it is. Right now he’s trying to force my arm down, presumably so he can bang it against a seat back and dislodge the gun. He succeeds only partially, turning my slightly as he jerks my arm down so that it points straight The sudden motion causes my hand to clench, and the gun goes off, taking out the entire front windshield of the bus. (Odd. I thought public transit vehicles were supposed to have shatterproof glass.) The cold night breeze pours in as the driver swivels me once again so my back is turned to this new source of ventilation. Over his shoulder I can see the fat guy in the back trying to stuff his bulk behind one of the seats and failing magnificently. That feeling of there being Something Not Right resurfaces, but I’ve got no time to think about it because I am slowly but surely losing my struggle against the driver. He’s about forty pounds heavier than me and he’s using that to push me backwards towards the front of the bus, although I’ve succeeded thus far in using my legs to block his attempts at kneeing my groin. He jerks my arm down again and this time my wrist really does hit something, loosening my grip on the gun. I’ve still got ahold of it but another knock like that and I probably won’t. The driver, perhaps sensing this, raises my arm so he can smash it down again. But just as my unwilling hand is reaching the apex of this maneuver, the bus hits another pothole, a big one. His grip on my is broken and I fall backward, the gun still in my hand. The driver falls flat on his face — literally — and I can hear the crunching sound of his nose breaking.

In two seconds I’m back on my feet and pointing the gun at the driver, still lying face down on the floor, possibly unconscious. Thank God for that pothole is what I’m thinking as I aim for his head, curl my finger around the trigger…

And freeze.

The pothole.

Something Not Right. Now I realize what it is.

The bus is still moving! The driver must have been too shocked to pull over (or do anything else) until I shot the brat. Then I guess he just leaped to the kid’s defense without thinking. But if he’s on the floor, and the fat guy is hiding (or trying to), and the slut is dead in her seat, and the brat is dying in his, and I’m just standing here in the aisle, then who’s…

The impact feels more like a freight train hitting us at 90 miles an hour than us hitting a tree at 35. The fat guy or the driver might be screaming — fuck, I might be screaming — but the ony sounds reaching my ears are the gnashing crunch of metal and the now-familiar shattering of glass. I’m sailing through the air with the greatest of ease, then landing with no ease at all. Fade to black.

I come to, can’t be more than a minute later. My right shoulder is transmitting pain signals of astonishing intensity to my brain. I’m laying — now sitting — on damp mossy ground about sixty feet in front of the bus, which is canted downward approximately 20 degrees, its left rear wheels still touching the asphalt, the right ones on the gravel shoulder. The road to Martinville is pretty straight but there are two significant turns — one to starboard, the other to port. We’ve gone off the road at the start of the latter. The bus’ headlights are out but for some reason, the interior lights remain on, illuminating some Major Fucking Shit. The driver is dead. No doubt about it. The tree, I think it’s an oak but I’m not sure, was struck by the left side of the bus’ front. I was thrown clear, but the driver hit the tree head-on, and again I’m speaking literally here: the guy is lying right in front of the bus with his skull looking like a smashed pumpkin, except that it’s red, not orange. The brat is dead too. Any chance of Stephen the Future Stallion had of surviving his bullet wound gas been negated by the shardy remnant of the windshield on which his manly little throat is impaled. The slut I can’t see. I guess she must’ve ended up under the dashboard, out of my view, but who gives a fuck? The fat guy, now him I’m worried about. He was scrunching behind a seat when we hit, which means that he’s probably still alive, although currently unconscious over a seat three or four rows ahead of where he was at the point of impact. I really don’t have any beef with him, but a witness is a witness is a witness. I begin feeling around for the gun, crawling on my hands and knees. Except for my unbelievably painful right shoulder and the previously busted jaw, I don’t seem to have suffered much damage. When my doggie-style search of the immediate area turns up nothing, I rise to my feet and begin walking slowly toward the bus, scanning the ground carefully as I go. About twenty feet in front of the vehicle a dim metallic glint catches my eye. I move closer. Yep, it’s the .22. I pick it up, make sure it isn’t damaged, and am just beginning to move toward the bus again when the smell of gasoline stops me. The gas tank must have ruptured. I start to ask myself if this is significant but the question is mooted spectacularly by the huge fucking fireball which erupts with the tiniest little phwytt sound, completely engulfing the front of the bus. I leap backwards and roll on the ground to a spot about fifteen yards from the inferno. The heat is tremendous but don’t want to get too far away, ’cause if the fat guy comes to before the fire reaches him, then I have to be close enough to pick him off if he manages to get out of the bus.

But it turns out that I have nothing to worry about. The Walker County Public Transit Authority must be constructing their vehicles out of hardened cardboard, because the entire bus is ablaze within 90 seconds. Jesus! I’ve seen passengers who didn’t move from the front to the back that quickly! I keep my eyes peeled and ears cocked for indications that the fat guy is awake, but none come. Maybe the crash did kill him; I can’t conceive of somebody burning to death without screaming their fucking heads off, and this fire looks more intense than most. At any rate, I didn’t have to shoot him, which is good. I probably would have felt guilty about that.

I stand up again, return the gun to my jacket, and begin brushing myself off, going over a little mental checklist at the same time. Okay. The stop where I got on the bus is on the western outskirts of the city, in an industrial-park area that’s deserted after 5 PM. (In fact, it was being in such a wide-open area with no people or pay phones around that brought on my anxiety attack in the first place.) Plus, it was nighttime. Check. The stop where I got on is the second-last before the road to Martinville, and no one got on or off the bus at the final stop. Check. My doctor’s appointment ended just after 7 PM., whereupon I strolled fro three hours out to the industrial park, some five miles from the clinic. But Doc doesn’t know that. As far as he or anyone else at the clinic is concerned, I probably hopped the next Martinville bus leaving downtown after seven. Check. And although plenty of people passed me by as I was walking through the city, none of them could possibly know that I was heading for an industrial part so I could practice my coping skills regarding isolation. Bottom line: all of the people who who I was on that bus are dead. Check! Big fucking check with a hard on! Also, the bullets that killed the slut and wounded the brat will be nothing but slag by the time the police recover them, while the one that blew through the windshield into the Great American Night has very little chance of being found. And I have no criminal record (wimps seldom do), no history of violence, so there’s absolutely nothing to make the cops or anybody else think of little ol’ me in connection with tonight’s events.

Checklist completed, I scramble (not scrabble, not scrabble, I hate that fucking word!) up onto the shoulder of the road and begin walking towards Martinville. It’s still more than two miles to the town’s eastern edge, and although the smoke and orange glow of the fire should be visible from most parts of town, it’ll take the Martinville Volunteer Fire Department at least fifteen minutes to gather at the station, don their suits and equipment, man their two old trucks, and get out here. And a few hundred feet from the crash site there’s a path that runs through the woods, goes around the east side of town, and comes out on the north side just two blocks from my apartment.

My heart is beating very fast as I walk towards the place where the path begins, but it’s not the same now. It isn’t fear, or panic, nor stress or anxiety that has the blood thrumming through my veins now, it’s… exhilaration. Well, no. Well… yes. Well — fuck! Okay… yes. Yes, it is exhilaration, but there’s something else, something else behind it, something that I can’t put my finger on. I mean, okay, I survived the crash. Right. And there’s no witnesses to what happened. Right. And the Demon isn’t bugging me. Right. And…

The Demon isn’t bugging me.

I stop. Yeah, that’s right, I stop. I’m halfway between what used to be a bus and what will be my escape. For all I know, a Concerned Citizen from Martinville’s east edge spotted the smoke, immediately hopped in his Volvo to investigate, and could be right around the corner, about to indict me with his headlights. (“That’s right, Your Honor, he was just standing on the side of the road not three hundred feet from the bodies of those poor innocent people he murdered, and it looked like he was chuckling!”) But I stop nonetheless. I stop so I can take in the absolute fucking enormity of those five words.

The Demon isn’t bugging me, isn’t throwing crap at me. In fact, he hasn’t said a goddamn thing since my violent outburst on the bus. This is unbelievable! My OCD started when I was fourteen and since then I haven’t had thirty seconds of mental peace. But now, incredibly, the Demon is silent. The Demon has shut the fuck up. For the first time in seventeen years, the Demon has Shut. The Fuck. Up.

Is this the reason I feel so great? No, not entirely, but it is the reason for the look of amazement that I know I’m wearing as I start walking again, a little faster to make up for lost time. I’m not the least bit anxious even though I’m out in the middle of nowhere by myself with no means of telecommunications, a situation that previously would have had me quaking. I’m about fifty feet from the start of the path when I hear a huge whooshing sound coming from behind me. I turn around and my jaw drops. A positively biblical pillar of fire has shot straight up from the still-blazing bus. What’s causing it I have no idea, I should think the gas tank would’ve gone before now, but the sight of it is eerily beautiful. It reminds me of the trees being napalmed in Apocalypse Now, and naturally this brings to mind Duvall’s famous line about napalm. And folks, that is when a massive fucking grin breaks out on my face, because now I have it.

The reason for my exhilaration.

Tonight, for the first time, It Wasn’t Me.

Tonight, for the first time, It Wasn’t Me who got laid low. Tonight, It Wasn’t Me who got humiliated. Tonight, It Wasn’t Me who had the fear of God put into him by a more powerful person. This time, I was the one doling out the terror, this time I was the more powerful person. This time, I laid them low.

Tonight I wasn’t the gazelle. Tonight I was the fucking panther.

Chuckling again, I resume my progress toward the now-visible gap in the treeline which marks the path’s beginning, and as I get nearer I break into a trot which evolved quickly into an all-out run, for no other reason than that I goddamn well feel like it. I’m no longer worried about John Q. Upstanding in his Volvo; I know now that I’m not going to get caught. Just like I know that I’m never going to have another anxiety attack or panic attack. When I get home, I’m going to flush my Anafranil down the toilet. Wasn’t doing any damn good anyway, and even if it were, I’d no longer need it. The Demon is never going to bother me again. He’s gone. Forever. And yes, I know that the Demon was a mental disorder, a part of my own mind. And yes, I’ve heard about cathartic experiences and self-esteem and all that. But you know, folks, I prefer to think of it this way: tonight, for the first time in our long, seventeen-year acquaintance, the Demon realized that maybe, just maybe, I was a guy he didn’t want to fuck with.

Laughing out loud now, I run into the opening, into freedom, into the rest of my life. I cover my ears so I can listen to my heartbeat, swift and strong. Hearing it used to freak me out. Now it’s a joyful noise.

I love the sound of my heartbeat on a cold Wednesday night.

It sounds like victory.


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