Existential Prose: A Train’s Journey by Boris Glikman

Woman and man walk on train tracks

I live in a train. I have food, warmth, a place to sleep.

I feel certain that I am its sole occupant, for if there were anyone else on it I would know by now, as I have lived in this train my entire life.

Where it is heading to, I can not tell. On occasions, it stops entirely or even begins to move backwards, but I can never get off for all the exits are hermetically sealed.

In earlier times, I cherished the hope that the train contains something that would help me escape it, this unwieldy metal hulk, and separate my existence from its course. I searched exhaustively for a button that would throw open all the doors simultaneously or a lever that will allow me to prise open a window. Yet I dared not to go through every carriage and compartment, partly out of fear that I would find nothing of use and that thereby all of my hopes would be terminally dashed.

I can only perceive the outside world as it appears through the windows of the train. I know not how veracious my perceptions are, for it may well be that the windows are made of distorting glass. I often wonder what it would be like to experience life directly.

Occasionally, I see other trains go nearby and catch a glimpse of their solitary dwellers. My train might run parallel to theirs for a short distance but then the tracks diverge and I never see them again. There may be time enough to wave or shout out a few quick words but the words get mangled by the noise of wheels on the tracks.

Once, and oh, how the memory of that event heartens me still, my train travelled close to another with a young woman occupant for a considerable period of time, maybe as long as two minutes. I put my palms upon the window and spread my fingers and the girl did the same in her carriage. Our hands were perfectly aligned, and despite the glass between us, I was sure that I could feel her body warmth.

I can not jettison my dream that I will see her again, that our trains will run side by side forever and we will never be apart. In every train that I see, I continue to search out for her sublime features, yet at the same time I am wracked by doubts as to how I appeared to her, whether the windows of her train distorted her vision of me.

Does my train have a driver? Is there any purpose to its voyage? Is it moving of its own volition and choosing its own way through the land or has its journey been pre-planned by some unknown hand? Is there a Master Scheduler who has organised the timetables and the routes of every train? Shall I direct my prayers to him to allow me to see that girl again? These are the questions; the answers to which I am still searching.

With time, I grow to accept having one’s existence tied up with the train. The desire to leave the train now appears to be no less preposterous and unnatural than the idea of a foetus trying to make its way through the world, a walking miscarriage. Existence outside would be so precarious and haphazard, without protection from the elements and other vagaries of fate. The train gives me solid cover, carries me forward, brings certainty to my life.

There may be things in the unexplored compartments that would make my journey more meaningful and fulfilling, things that would allow me to grow as a person. For all I know, treasures and tools, placed there especially for me, might be waiting for my discovery.

But lulled by the rhythm of the train upon the tracks, I remain seated in my seat for hours, days, weeks, years on end. I look out of the window and watch the world go by, not moving, indeed afraid to move, so accustomed have I become to seeing things from this vantage point. In my deluded periods, I imagine that I can influence the train’s course and destination just by wishing for it hard enough.

Lately, I’ve been seeing vaguely familiar landscapes. Is the train taking me to the place whence it commenced its voyage and will my journey then be over? Will there be someone waiting for me when the train pulls into its last station, someone that knows where and when my train will make its final stop? Perhaps it will be the Master Scheduler himself and he will then explain to me the purpose of my voyage and why my journey took this particular route.

I live in a train. Although I have food, warmth, a place to sleep, sometimes a feeling comes over me that I have nothing at all, but I quickly push it away.

 

A TRAIN’S JOURNEY: Further Interpretations and Ideas by Boris Glikmantrain tracks to heaven

  • It’s true that the most obvious interpretation of this story is that it is about isolation and alienation from society. However, there is another possible interpretation of this story, namely that this is an extended allegory about physical existence, the train being a metaphor for the body and being stuck in it, the windows of the train (which are possibly made of distorting glass) being the unreliable senses that are the only way we can perceive the outside world, the unexplored compartments that might hold the tools needed for liberation are the unexplored areas of the mind and the journey itself as an allegory for life, not knowing if it has been pre-planned. etc.
  • So, this story actually works as an allegory on several levels, for not only is it an allegory about isolation, but it’s also an allegory about the deep philosophical problems of solipsism, the unreliability of our senses, of how we could ever be sure if there’s anything out there and it’s not our mind that’s making it all up, predestination, free will, the meaning of life, of whether there is a God who has pre-planned our lives, etc.
  • Train as a symbol of destiny that carries us forward, despite ourselves and over which we have no control, no control over its direction, the route it takes, whether its route has already been pre-determined and we are helpless to change it, its destination point, when it comes to a stop or how fast it moves.
  • One is destined to be forever alone, for we all just pass each other momentarily in our own trains and then continue along our divergent train tracks. The most you can hope for is a fleeting connection with another being. We cannot connect with anyone; everything and everyone just passes us by and we are unable to make any meaningful or long-term connections with anyone. People and things just pass us by in our lives, you can’t/don’t have any control over them and they are never seen again. Life just passes you by, you can’t stop or control it. Each and every day we are closer to reaching the terminus, the terminal/final station of the train.
  • “In my deluded periods, I imagine that I can influence the train’s course and destination just by wishing for it hard enough.” – an allegory for trying to affect, control and influence one’s destiny/life through praying, by wishing for it hard enough. Not by doing anything, but just by desiring it hard enough, deluding oneself that one can change one’s life/destiny just by wishing for it or praying for it hard enough.
  • “But lulled by the rhythm of the train upon the tracks, I remain seated in my seat for hours, days, weeks, years on end.”  – symbolises the acceptance and resignation that comes with age, just weariness and loss of desire to change anything or change one’s life.
  • “I look out of the window and watch the world go by, not moving, indeed afraid to move, so accustomed have I become to seeing things from this vantage point.” – being afraid of change and so not changing our lives or our perspectives because we have become so used to particular lifestyles and we take comfort and security from that stability and consistency and so are loathe and afraid to change it in any way, even if the life we have chosen leaves a lot to be desired, is not ideal or is actually harming us in some way.
  • The glass between the man and the woman represents the social conventions, the pride and the ego, the prejudices, the unfounded fears, the preconceived ideas and the pre-judgements, the non-caring and selfishness, the rush of life and all the other things that stop people from establishing meaningful, friendly, loving connections with one another. The fact that the glass is transparent (so that the woman and the man can clearly see each other), invisible and impenetrable only accentuates further the parallel to real life in which invisible barriers prevent people from making real, authentic connections with one another.
  • The empty train that the protagonist lives in can symbolise the emptiness of our lives, whether physical emptiness, i.e. isolation from others, or emotional/inner vacuum/emptiness. As the train can be a symbol of the body/mind as described above, its emptiness can clearly represent the emotional/mental/innert vacuum of our lives.

 

People walking on train tracksA TRAIN’S JOURNEY: Interpretations from Other Readers

“One other interpretation of A Train’s Journey could be that the narrator just died but doesn’t know it yet, as in the movies “Ghost” and “The Sixth Sense” and “The Lovely Bones.” So he lives between two worlds, life and death, and he crosses another train where there is a woman living in the same two worlds.”

“I read the Train story, and though I found it beautifully written, it left me with a feeling of great sadness and loneliness (probably the feeling you intended to convey). I feel that the existential philosophy conveyed by that story is one of futility and impotence in the face of an incomprehensible universe, over which we have no power and against which we are totally helpless.”

“My interpretation of the story is a long metaphor about life.  Why are we here? What sense is there to be here? What’s the purpose of our life on this earth? On the Universe? We are born knowing nothing and we will die knowing nothing. We are born owing nothing and we will die the same way. Even in the middle of millions of people, we are alone in our own self but we can sometimes connect with another human being, even if it is for a very short time.”

A Train’s Journey is such a great story. I catch the train regularly for work now, and always catch myself thinking of it as a metaphor for life’s journey and the choices we make.”

“Intriguing but sad as I feel this is a lost soul from an aborted fetus.”

“I believe, at one time or another, we have all felt like the train in this story, trapped in the vacuum, we call our lives.”

“Feeling like you’re different from others and trapped inside your own world in your head. Thinking you are the only one to feel this way and to be in this situation and on the very rare occasion meeting someone who is possibly just the same. But this ‘someone’ usually just comes and goes because they are following their own path, their own journey, in their own train.”

“Train tracks represent your path in life. Tracks can change, take turns and lead you to things you never experienced before. But if you’re not in control of the train, if you’re only a passenger, then your life is not in your hands. You can choose to let this train take you on a random journey or take your life in your own hands and lead the train. Stop the train when you need to. Change the tracks when you have an option to do so and take the path you believe is right at any point in time. The other carriages may also be full of other passengers in this story. But I don’t think so. I think it’s your own train. It’s your own personal journey through life. You are the only one who can take the conductor’s seat or choose to remain a passenger.”

“A Train’s Journey is surely a journey through life, highlighting the way we’re all inclined to become fixed in respect of direction and speed of travel, and the way in which we ultimately all find ourselves alone. At the same time, it drew attention to the dubious ‘reliability’ of our sensory information about the world through which we pass. I felt (as I often do with your stories) that there was a touch of the Aesop in it, though the comparison with Kafka is no less fair.”

“One aspect of the train journey I liked is that lately he feels like he is seeing vaguely familiar landscapes. That is a lot like life, like the first time you see cruelty or love, it seems so shocking, and then, as you get older, you see it again and again, it has an air of familiarity about it, still distasteful (for cruelty) or encouraging (for love) but some of the shock value has leached away. It does make you wonder if you’ve seen it all, but I guess the traveller on your train often feels like he hasn’t quite seen anything properly.”

“The story’s opening and closing paragraphs start with a simple sentence, ‘I live in a train.’ Food and shelter are mentioned next in both paragraphs – the basics. But there’s more to human life, of course. The following paragraphs explore the existential questions of our journey through life, from longing to escape the train from its predestined course, its conformity, to reach higher grounds with our dreams fulfilled to connecting meaningfully with other people and finding answers not only to the purpose of life but also to the existence of God and afterlife.

With maturity comes acceptance of conformity although the wish is still there to change the train’s course. The last two sentences leave me with a sense of sadness, but then, I need to push that feeling away too.”

‘I live in a train. Although I have food, warmth, a place to sleep, sometimes a feeling comes over me that I have nothing at all, but I quickly push it away.’

 

The Shadow of the Great Nebula of Orion by Boris Glikman

Orion NebulaOne day, the nebula in the constellation of Orion, already the brightest nebula in the night sky, started to shine even more intensely, emitting a piercing blue-green light. Its luminosity was now so brilliant that it cast shadows during the daylight hours too, something that had always been the sole prerogative of the Sun.

This caused great excitement, for never before had such a bright celestial body been observed in the day sky. Everybody rushed outside to see this new heavenly wonder and to gawk at their double shadows, the old familiar one and the new one created by the Orion nebula.

It was then that the world was hit by a very unpleasant surprise, for there was something quite peculiar about the shadows cast by the nebula. Instead of being mute, inert outlines of a person’s physical form, they revealed the shadow of a person’s character. Everyone’s inner anxieties, delusions and insecurities were now exposed for all to see.

No one could be found who did not possess a nebula shadow. Even newborns had a shadow accompanying them, thus, coincidentally, vindicating some psychological theories and theological dogmas, while demolishing others.

Naturally, the consequences of this new phenomenon were immense in their scope. Many lives were wrecked, relationships destroyed and careers ruined, as a person’s innermost complexes were revealed to their spouses, family, friends, work colleagues and complete strangers. The very structure of society was threatened, for its smooth running depended so much upon one’s true feelings and nature being suppressed and hidden, even from oneself.

The world was in a dilemma on how to cope with this situation. It certainly couldn’t dim or extinguish the nebula’s brightness. It could try to adapt to a nocturnal existence, when the shadows would be less distinct, but surely that was too radical a solution. Yet who could risk the shame and the burden of walking around with all their flaws showing?

Inevitably, cults arose that chose to embrace this new state of affairs. For them the Orion nebula was The Bearer of Truth, The Great Enlightener of Mankind. Just as the Sun brought outer illumination, so the Orion nebula was deemed to bring inner illumination to the world. The adherents of these sects took pride in letting others see their most intimate neuroses, and experienced catharsis in coming face to face with their fears and insecurities for the very first time. Having accepted their shadows, they felt more fulfilled and whole than they ever did before.

And then, just as suddenly as it flared up, the Orion nebula dimmed to its usual luminosity. It didn’t take long for people to re-adjust to having only one shadow again. Relationships and careers wrecked by the Orion nebula were quickly rebuilt and almost everyone resumed living their old lives, maintaining total silence about that awkward period when their failings were exposed, the way a faux pas is ignored in polite company.

The Pen of Plenty (or A Portrait of an Artist as the Entire Universe) by Boris Glikman


The Pen of PlentyPart I

“Take this Boris, may it serve you well!”, a booming voice commanded, as a hand, holding a shining writing implement, extended towards me.

I was all of thirteen years old when the Hand from Above bestowed the Pen of Plenty upon me.

” You shall be my voice! I shall speak through you with this pen. You shall be a conduit to that Other Reality, the one inhabited by Eternal Truths, Infinite Beauty and Ineffable Questions. From this pen will spring forth an inexhaustible flow of Magic, you will not be able to help begetting works of perfection, each one more perfect than the one before it.

There is a price to pay. You will not be able to feel, smile, laugh, love, pursue ordinary human activities. You will only be able to write, writing alone shall be your existence.

You shall move solely in the Infinite, Eternal, Universal sphere. You will capture and portray through your writings every permutation, manifestation and aspect of life, yet you shall remain cut off from mankind.

This pen shall be the bathyscaphe with which you will descend to the lowest abysses, and it shall be the alpenstock with which you will ascend to the highest heights not yet scaled by mankind. The world will ostracize, scorn, misunderstand, persecute, laugh at you and it will cherish, adore, worship, celebrate you. But you will stay numb, unmoved by both love and loathing.

You will not know how to be young, yet you will not grow old and will stay a man-child, for, by not partaking in the outer world, you shall be free of its deleterious effects.

You will give life to an infinity of uniquely bizarre, wondrous realities, yet you yourself will be a mere metaphor, an empty shell of a shadow, never being able to feel real, concrete. The worlds you engender will be suffused with sensation and meaning, while your own outer reality will be bare, senseless and pedestrian by comparison.

This pen shall be the flame that will illuminate truths as yet invisible, you will help others find their identity, will bring clarity and enlightenment to humanity, will reveal the underlying, inner structure of existence, yet you will be forever lost, confused, at odds with yourself and the world, drifting aimlessly through existence, a jellyfish in the ocean of life.

This pen shall speak with a thousand voices, educing hysterical laughter, uncontrollable tears, twisting minds into Moebius strips, creating transcendental beauty that will stop others dead in their tracks, dumbfounded with awe, even if they have had just a fleeting contact with it, but you will be blind and deaf to its powers and will stay frozen inside. You will feel no pride or pleasure in your creations, for you will know that you are merely a conduit.

But even though this is a Pen of Creative Cornucopia, one day it shall run out and will write no more. Consequently, writing will be the hardest and most terrifying task of your existence, for you will be forever insecure, not knowing when you no longer will be able to create any more. Yet, before that time comes, you shall be flooded with a ceaseless deluge that will demand every instant of your life and your very sanity.

Once you take this pen, it can never be un-taken, you can never disown it or rid yourself of it.”

The voice stopped. I waited a while for it to resume, but it remained silent. Then, with childish, reckless eagerness, I extended my hand upwards, to meet the hand reaching down from above, caring not at all about the consequences.

                                                     Part II

The Writer sits in his room, writing at his desk. He has access to the deepest secrets and mysteries of the Universe, but the question that the whole world, from the tiniest and simplest organism upwards, seems to know the answer to, he can not solve: ” Why live?”

The Writer is torn apart by two contradictory thoughts that occupy his mind simultaneously and seem equally valid. He is certain that he is blind to a fundamental truth that the rest of the world is in possession of, for how else can one explain the whole world choosing life over death and existing with a purpose, something that he is not capable of. Yet he also knows that he is in possession of a fundamental truth that the rest of the world is blind to, for if it was privy to this truth, it would not be able to live in certainty.

The Writer is triply trapped by his room, his mind and his pen. Occasionally, overcome by curiosity and longing, he steals a brief, wistful glimpse, through the window, of the world outside that is teeming and pulsating with life in all of its infinite variations, life that he can never be a part of and whose simple pleasures he could never enjoy or grasp the meaning of. Other times he catches sight of a sliver of the sky that is visible to him from his sitting position. But he immediately feels guilty for neglecting his sacred task and hurriedly resumes scribbling, letter after letter, word after word, sentence after sentence, in his notebooks of madness.

Life passes him by, and then death passes him by too. He has no time for life and he has no time for death either. Neither life nor death can arouse his interest or get their hands on him, and just as he has forgotten all about time, so time has forgotten all about him. In any case, the Writer can not die, for the pen is still working and so he must keep on writing, for his commitment to his pen is greater than his commitment to life and death.

Years, centuries, millennia, billions of years elapse. The Sun expands into a red giant and then collapses into a white dwarf. The stars are torn apart by the forces of the Universe’s expansion, and the protons themselves rot into pieces. Cosmos begins to wind down, all of its energy having dissipated and turned into useless forms. Then the fabric of space-time dissolves.

Still, the Writer remains writing at his desk, which is now floating in vacuum, separate from time and space. Now and then he sneaks looks at the outside world, even though nothing remains there but pure nothingness.

And then, for the very first time, something leads the Writer to take a close look at the pen he was gifted with. He examines it carefully and notices the faded blue letters forming the words MADE IN CHINA etched on its side. Distant memories come flooding back to him, memories of his mother buying pens at the local supermarket, for the start of the new school year; memories of the bare walls of the bathroom that distorted the acoustics, and how he liked to speak to himself there and listen to his boy voice transforming into the stentorian voice of a man. He remembers standing in the bathroom and hearing a million voices calling out his name, then turning around and seeing all of humanity in the mirror looking back at him, as his left hand passed the pen to his right hand.

The Writer now realises that he is the Creator. Having had encompassed the Universe with his mind, the Writer expands to encompass the Universe with his body, so that the Universe and the Writer become one and the same, identical entities, coinciding precisely with one another.

With quiet satisfaction the Writer slowly puts the pen down and that is how the Universe

( and this story) ends, not with a bang or a whimper, but with a .

Note

 1) In Australian English, “.” is known as “full stop” rather than as “period”. 

 

The Caterpilion by Boris Glikman

The CaterpilionThere once was a Caterpillar who was thoroughly sick of always being stuck near the bottom of the food chain. All the other animals –  birds, moles, lizards, frogs and spiders – would hunger for his soft, succulent sausage-like body, licking their lips avidly in anticipation of a delicious meal. Even the tiny ants posed a mortal danger to his life.

The only option open to the Caterpillar was to mimic some inedible object like, for example, a bird dropping, but that would be such an ignominious existence. Not only would he have to remain motionless all day long, but, most humiliating of all, he would be forced to alter his appearance to resemble a piece of dung. Surely, that was a price too high to pay for staying alive, for nothing could be lower than looking exactly like the end product of the digestive process.

One day, full of anxiety and fear as usual, lest he be seen and eaten, the Caterpillar was furtively drinking from a puddle on the forest floor. In the reflection cast by the clear and still water, he noticed, for the first time, that his head was covered by a thick mane of yellow hair. It was then that the Caterpillar was struck by the happiest, most brilliant insight of his life – he realised that, given his looks, he could impersonate a lion! The advantages of such a mimicry would be numerous: amongst other things, not only would he be on the very top of the food chain, afraid of no other animal, but, even more importantly, he would be simply gorgeous.

All the insects scoffed at the Caterpillar, saying how ridiculous his plan was, but the Caterpillar just ignored them and, enclosing himself in a cocoon, proceeded confidently with the metamorphosis.

A certain time had passed and the silly Caterpillar with his crazy dream was almost forgotten about, until early one morning, there was a terrific thunderclap of noise that reverberated right across the woods. The cocoon that held the Caterpillar burst open and out of it emerged a perfect specimen of a flawlessly proportioned, at-the-top-of-his-strength, full-sized lion.

The insects were petrified as to what the Caterpillar-Lion might do to them in revenge for their previous jeers, but he haughtily disregarded them, for, after all, he now was the king of the jungle that wouldn’t even deign to notice such measly bugs.

Proudly, the Caterpilion descended from the tree and began to stride majestically, as befitting his new station in life, roaring at the top of his lungs and showing off his muscular, lithe torso and luxuriant mane.

No other animal dared approach him, of course, and the Caterpilion was very pleased with himself, feeling the kind of deep, pure contentment that only those who had tasted the very dregs of life and found a way to clamber out of the abyss could ever feel. Ahead, a whole new existence shimmered in all of its glory and the Caterpilion was eager to find other lions with which he would live out the rest of his days in joy, happiness and freedom.

And so, when he saw a pride resting lazily in the midday sun, he rushed blithely towards it, eager to make friends with those he now saw as his compatriots, being completely unaware that lions are territorial animals who are viciously protective of their domain. The incensed pride could not believe that a mature lion would be so recklessly stupid as to completely ignore the markings that they assiduously used to bound their dominion, and enter carefree into their land. They promptly tore him into little pieces and that was the end of the Caterpilion and his happy, new life.

Boris Glikman is a writer, poet and philosopher from Melbourne, Australia.

He says: “Writing for me is a spiritual activity of the highest degree. Writing gives me the conduit to a world that is unreachable by any other means, a world that is populated by Eternal Truths, Ineffable Questions and Infinite Beauty. It is my hope that these stories of mine will allow the reader to also catch a glimpse of this universe.”

Boris welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at bozlich@yahoo.com.au

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bozlich/
Twitter: @bozlich
Previously published at http://omtimes.com/2013/07/the-caterpilion/

The (Virtually) Real Life by Boris Glikman

The (Virtually) Real Life by Boris GlikmanI recall that day well. My friends and I were checking out an abandoned, run-down mansion on the outskirts of town and that’s when we noticed that strange, inexplicable things were beginning to happen… 

Every time we open a door to some room to take another look at it, the room and the things in it have changed and look completely different. The more adventurous amongst us explore the building more thoroughly, only to discover that it has an impossibly paradoxical structure. One girl gets spooked out and, in her hurry to get out of the house, jumps through the ground floor window. A moment later we hear a shriek of horror and bewilderment coming from the top floor – her senses refuse to accept that she ended up there and not on the overgrown lawn in the front yard.

Then someone screams out, “Don’t you see what is happening! None of this is real! This is all Virtual Reality! Someone is running this game and we are its involuntary, unwitting participants. So we can do anything; break all of society’s taboos, take any risks, shoot one another, because it is all a counterfeit, simulated world.”

At once I devise a way of putting this remarkable claim to the test. I speed off in my car and start driving along train tracks that ascend to a great height before ending abruptly in mid-air. My car goes for a graceful flight through the sky, spinning and turning, soaring up on the warm air currents, then gradually descending, rising again higher and higher, then stopping and hovering in mid-air.

Finally, I get tired of flying and crash-land on top of a high-rise building. ‘I wonder if I have sustained any injuries,’ I think to myself. ‘If this really is a virtual world, then I should be just fine!’

It occurs to me that if in fact my life has been virtual reality all along, then that would certainly explain a lot of things. I always thought this world and my life in it never made any sense – things were just too absurd and incoherent. Horrible, unthinkably terrifying events like massacres, famine, persecutions, injustices which would never happen in the real world kept occurring, time after time after time.

Now I could see why certain things kept getting lost and disappearing in my life, why my life never worked out right, why something always got in its way and ruined its forward progress. Now I could comprehend why I could never fit in anywhere and always felt at odds with the whole world, for this wasn’t an authentic environment, but rather an artifice of someone else’s mind; a degenerate, corrupt copy of the real reality.

No, this wasn’t the universe that the Absolute Being had created, according to His flawlessly sublime and ideal specifications, but rather a miscreation of some devious, impious, immoral human being. And so it contained within its make-up all the faults, deficiencies and imperfections that every human construction possesses, as well as being coloured by the particularly nasty character of the cad running this simulation.

It was also obvious that this contemptible creature held, for some reason or another, an intensely bitter grudge against me in particular. He obviously meted out the worst of his cruel tricks on me, judging by how my life has been just one senseless absurdity after another.

‘What kind of a person am I, really, outside of this sham construction? What is my life actually like in the real world? Who is the wise guy that created this diabolical game? What’s he got against me? Wait till I find my way out of this virtual world and get my hands on him! I’ll make him pay for all he has done to my life!’

And just then, an even more devastating thought strikes me: ‘What if I am the evil genius who created and is operating this game? What if it is I who has inflicted all of this misery, pain, suffering onto myself and the whole world? But why would I do that? Why would I torment myself so?’

The Day The Internet Died by Boris Glikman

Andy 7

Image by Andy Paciorek

It was widely known that Internet had been ailing for some time. Its poor health had made it rather slipshod in the execution of its duties. Some people had to endure days of frustration until an online connection was established, while for others the connection kept going on and off every second, like a flickering light globe.

For a while Internet hovered in a half-dead condition, with one foot in the grave, and mankind held its breath, fearing Internet would continue to deteriorate and then give up the ghost altogether.

And then the day came when Internet breathed its last and nobody could believe their ill fortune. It was hard to grasp that Internet no longer dwelled in the world, and that the burden of living would never again be lightened with the ever-present alternative of escaping into an online existence. No one would be privileged any more with the luxury of having two worlds to live in.

The most eminent computer technicians of the land were assigned the task of performing the autopsy. Their unanimous conclusion was that the Internet died of virtual causes. What nobody had suspected was that the Internet possessed a finite life span. Everyone had always assumed it would be around forever, yet it too carried within itself the lethal seeds of eternal offline-ness.

The next most pressing issue was the burial. Issues never considered before needed to be addressed urgently, for the sight of lifeless Internet lying prostrate on the ground was too heartbreaking for the world to take. Where should the funeral ceremony be held? In which language or computer code should the memorial service be conducted? Who should give the eulogy? Where to entomb it?

The matter of whom to invite to the service proved to be the most intractable issue of all. A certain number of tickets were reserved for those most deeply affected by Internet’s death – online pornography addicts, social misfits, ingrained introverts, Twitter-obsessed celebrities, Nigerian scammers and long-term residents in Second Life’s virtual world. Otherwise, it was nearly impossible to determine who was genuinely grief-stricken and who only wanted to attend the ceremony so as to be a part of this historic occasion.

Eventually, all of these matters were resolved, although not to everyone’s satisfaction, and the world gave Internet the sending off it deserved. Straight after the funeral, the world went into a shutdown, mourning Internet’s passing and remembering wistfully how it could answer any question; satisfy all emotional, mental and bodily needs; thrill the mind and the senses; provide instantaneous information, entertainment, relaxation and titillation; and even cure loneliness. Tragically, given the magnitude and depth of the loss, some could not bear to continue living in a world without Internet and logged out permanently from this world.

Once the unbridled, hysterical wave of grief finally subsided, people sobered up and gradually realised how the Internet had debased and disfigured their lives.

They recalled with horror and consternation the way Internet enabled people to dawdle their lives away in the endless morass of net world, leaving vital tasks undone and crucial issues unresolved; how googling had supplanted the wisdom that comes with age, experience, learning and, with instantaneous information always at one’s fingertips, the value of knowledge was lost; the way online reality became the only world and real reality was jilted and forgotten, just like the plain sister of a gorgeous girl; how Internet robbed life of its multifarious richness and beauty and reduced the world to a small, rectangular screen; the way online reality became a prison in which humanity willingly immured itself and then threw away the key.

Mankind recognised how fundamentally Internet had altered the nature of social relations and the nature of one’s relationship with oneself. Invented to facilitate communication and for bringing the world together, the Internet instead became the perfect tool for dissimulation, distorting the truth and separating oneself from the world, thus allowing people to not only misrepresent their true thoughts and feelings, but to falsify their entire lives and the very essence of their being, to themselves as well as to others.

People discovered that fingers were not just for typing and shifting mouses but had other uses too; that out of their torsos extended a pair of lower limbs which could be used for perambulating across the spatial dimension; that Evolution had equipped their bodies with tools perfect for conveying thoughts and feelings; that their faces possessed well-developed muscles which could be employed to signal emotions such as (amongst many others) surprise, annoyance, happiness, and frustration. Consequently, successful communication could be achieved without intermediary electronic devices. Most startling of all was the revelation that other people were not identical to their icons – flat and forever stuck in the same pose with the same smile on their faces – rather they were three dimensional beings, moving about and changing their facial expressions.

Having friends and partners in the physical world meant that you were free from the precariousness, uncertainty and unreliability of online friendships and relationships, and no longer subject to the capricious actions and decisions of your web pals, to whom, after all, you were just an ethereal, abstract entity that could easily be deleted permanently from their life with just a click of a mouse. Consequently, the constant threat of online friends and lovers inexplicably ceasing all contact and disappearing forever was gone for good.

“Back to Reality” tutorials proved to be very popular and helpful, covering such topics as  “Learning How to Single-Task”; “Becoming Acquainted with the Sun and the Sky”, and “How to Survive in a World that Cannot be Photoshopped”.

Life slowly regained its meaning as mankind clambered, one small step at a time, out of the online abyss it had dug for itself. Without the Internet, no one had to grapple any more with the problem of how to balance one’s life between the two worlds. Time started to flow more slowly; instant gratification was no longer craved; contemplation and patience revealed their true worth. It was now clearly seen that online reality provided only fleeting pseudo-meaning; that emotions felt in the web world were only ephemeral ersatz feelings; and that real self-esteem came not from social media popularity, but from within.

Each human being now experienced life directly, rather than through the distorting, diminishing and vicarious lens of a computer screen; facing the good and not so-good things in their lives without escaping into the net world and evading the reality of their existence; and being true to their inner selves, instead of hiding behind their icons and online identities. Only then was it realised how inextricably Internet had woven its fateful thread into every aspect of man’s existence and how much had been gained the day Internet died.

The Substitute Sun by Boris Glikman

The Substitute Sun by Boris Glikman

Image by Agnieszka

The world awoke one bright morning to find that the Sun was gone, replaced by a circular cardboard cut-out. The cut-out was roughly coloured in by a yellow pencil, with some of the colouring straying beyond the circumference of the disc and staining the blueness of the sky. Short cardboard rays were coming out of the rim and there was a smiley face sketched inside the circle. It looked just like a child’s drawing of the Sun.

After mankind had recovered from the shock of losing their beloved star, plans were made to locate it and put it back in its rightful place. Great rewards were offered to anyone who could provide information as to its whereabouts. Police forces allocated their best men to try and pinpoint who was likely to commit such an act.  Pressure was put on crime organisations to reveal if this was their doing and if so, how much they wanted for the Sun’s safe release. Clairvoyants were called upon to use their abilities to intuit where it might be held against its will.

Despite these exhaustive efforts, the Sun remained missing, although people still clung to the hope that it would be found alive.

With time’s passing, the pain of losing the Sun became less acute. The world slowly grew accustomed to the substitute and even began to appreciate its benefits. People understood how lucky they were that this impostor gave out the same amount of warmth and illumination as the original star. The physicists were pleased that the replacement exerted an identical gravitational force, so that Earth’s orbit remained unchanged; the workers were content that the stand-in did not increase their hours of labour, and the farmers were thankful that the cardboard disc provided an equivalent quantity of light to nourish their crops.

Eventually, it was seen as quite appropriate to have a bogus sun, given that so much else was phony in society: fake tans; fake smiles; fabricated, unnatural foods; artificial noses on artificial faces; living simulated lives on the computer. Many believed that the substitute was put in the sky as a sign of the divine approval of the world’s false ways. Consequently, it was concluded that unauthenticity is the true nature of man.

Centuries passed and there was nobody left on Earth who had experienced the glory of the original Sun. The crudely coloured cardboard circle with its cardboard rays and smiley face was now the only sun that the world had ever known. Lovers swooned under the warm beauty of its radiance; composers wrote symphonies dedicated to the perfection of its proportions; poets extolled the rich vibrancy of its colour in their sonnets and religious worshippers thanked their Maker for gifting the Earth with such a miracle of nature.

America In The Sky (In Memoriam) by Boris Glikman

Amerika in the Sky image by Rosa Seeyah

Image by Rosa Seeyah

Once again, I thank Australian author Boris Glikman for sharing this epic short, quirky, science fiction story with my readers!

America In The Sky (In Memoriam)

I recall  that day starting off ordinarily enough; there I was playing in the open field not that far from home, the sky azure with hardly a cloud blighting its face.

I was alone as usual, for my mother didn’t let me play with the other kids. I never really wanted to play with them anyway. I always knew I was different, I could see things that they could not and understood matters that they had no inkling of.

This disparity between my physical and mental development did cause me problems; there was always the inner conflict between the body’s desire to be a child, carefree and frivolous, and the mind’s desire to think deep thoughts, explore complexities and subtleties of the world, create abstruse theories.

That day the body scored a victory for there I was playing in the open field…

The lay of the land is so perfectly flat I can see unencumbered all the way to the horizon.

As the day proceeds, the heavens rotate slowly on their axis. Towards mid-morning something very odd catches my eye on the eastern horizon. It is something that I have never seen in the sky before but there it is before me, arising slowly from beneath the edge of the earth.

By some process, the continent of North America has become attached to the celestial sphere at the place where land and heavens meet and is slowly getting unravelled from the crust of the Earth.

America is now being carried along by the turning of the heavens. I can clearly see its unmistakable shape and the features of the land: the whiteness of Alaska, the mighty rivers, the mountain chains, the major cities, the wheat fields, the pine forests, the Mojave Desert.

At first, while the continent is still at a shallow angle in the sky, the North American people seem to be enjoying their unique experience, smiling, laughing, some even waving to me down below.

As the heavens continue their inexorable turning and the continent slowly approaches the celestial zenith, the fun and the mirth turns to panic and despair.

At midday the continent reaches the highest point in the sky, hanging precisely upside down and the Sun is eclipsed. Some rays are still able to sneak around the frayed edges of the landmass, but the diffracted beams are of a different hue to natural sunlight and create an eerily muted illumination.

The view from down below looks like a disturbed anthill on a gigantic scale, with millions of Americ-ants scurrying frantically in random directions, trying to save their colony from some uncouth hooligan poking at it with a stick. If not for the desperate gravity of the situation, it would be almost comical to observe the way that they are trying to cope with the catastrophe that has befallen them.

The people are now in their most precarious position, desperately trying to grab anything that is firmly rooted in the ground, to blades of grass, to soil itself. Even when they completely lose all grip on land, still they attempt to find some protuberance in the fabric of the sky that they can hold onto, to give themselves just one more instant of life.

Some of the people hold hands as they fall, others are kissing and hugging, while others still are engaged in more intimate activities. I look away, not wishing to intrude upon the privacy of their last significant moments together.

As the continent remains in the apex of the sky, buildings’ foundations start to loosen, roots of plants are no longer able to cling to the soil; the once mighty rivers empty their banks in cataclysmic downpour of unprecedented proportions.

After all the signs of civilisation and life – buildings, forests, houses – disappear, the ground itself begins to give way and disintegrate. The earth slowly loses its compactness and adhesiveness, dripping down in small spurts at first and then in great lumps. Here and there, the liquid magma substratum is peeking through the locations where the entire continental crust fallen off.

As the whole continent continues to break up, a colossal downpour of bodies, concrete, trees, mud, water, cars, houses, rock, soil all mixed up together into a terrible blend, threatens to engulf the world below and destroy our lives too.

Thankfully, some clouds appear and block these scenes of suffering and chaos, but then they quickly disperse and again I am unable to look away.

But what right do I have to look, God-like, upon the numberless agonies? Who am I, a small boy, to watch scenes of suffering so terrifying that even Death itself turns its bony face away in fright?

After an interminable span of time, the continent begins to move away from the zenith.  The Sun re-appears in the sky, whole and wholesome, able to shine again. For a moment it seems to me that the sky is empty and blue, with its innocence intact, just the way it appeared early this morning. But morning happened a million irreparable lives ago, in that innocent era when things like this could not be envisaged.

A fortunate few have managed to somehow survive the nearly total destruction of the landscape of North America and they are approaching the horizon and security of the ground again. Thank goodness they now will be able to land safely and be lauded as heroes.

Alas, my hopes are proven to be woefully inaccurate. For when this ill-fated continent reaches the horizon again, it collides sharply with the unyielding ground that is already there. Two continents attempt to occupy the same location at the same time and one of them has to lose out.

Northern Canada and Alaska are the first to go. Bit by bit they are torn apart as the stationary earth refuses to shift and stands firm its ground and those remaining alive, that I thought would be the lucky survivors, are crushed to dust.  A horrible grinding noise is created that resounds across the span of the land, like a million fingernails scraping together across an inconceivably large blackboard.

I cannot help but rush to their aid, to try to save at least some lives. Suddenly I halt as I remember that the horizon is an illusory point in the distance that keeps receding further and further as you walk towards it and so I would never be able to reach the doomed ones.

By now, more than half the continent has been ground into fine powder as the merciless process continues without ceasing. The major metropolises of the United States, the founts of so much knowledge, art, music and creative energy are being pulverised into nothingness.

Icy pieces of Alaska intermingle with the glassy shards of New York City and with bits of tinsel of Los Angeles. Would it ever be possible to reconstruct America from these clouds of dust?  Civilisations, cities, entire countries have been rebuilt from ruins before, but this is annihilation on a thoroughly unmitigated scale, from which there’s surely no coming back.

“Well, there goes the New World. ” I think wistfully.  “ No longer will we have America in our lives. It is all gone in the cruelest fashion, right before my very eyes.  And yet, its ashes and dust will settle all over the world, infusing every cell of the remaining planet.  Forever more, it will provide fertilisation for the world to go on growing and progressing the way America once did and we will be able to say proudly that we now all have a little bit of America in our very souls.”

Many years have now passed since the day we lost America.

The world gasped, the world cried, the world mourned, and then it went on living. For a long time afterwards, all our activities down on earth seemed insignificant and frivolous by comparison with what transpired up above.

Ships were forbidden from approaching the ugly scar that lay across what was once the New World. However, that didn’t stop the morbid sightseers from making their way there to gawk at what became known as Ground Absolute Zero or taking chartered flights over what was once a mighty country, bustling with life.

Every time that I look up, I see it all again: the chaos, the panic, the destruction, America writhing in its death throes, a thousand lives being cut short with each passing minute.

In the end, however, what I have written is only a crude and clumsy depiction. Words that I have used to convey what I saw and felt that day are now impotent, bloodless beings that have lost their vital life-force together with America. And so I will speak no more, except in that most authentic and most profound language of all – absolute silence.

 

The Day Death Died by Boris Glikman

The Day Death Died image by Andy Paciorek

Image by Andy Paciorek

It’s time for another quirky short story from Australian author Boris Glikman. Death is a topic that has been on my mind a lot over the last couple of years as I’ve lost so many people I’ve known and loved so this concept is particularly thought-provoking for me. Enjoy!

THE DAY DEATH DIED

It was widely known that Death had been ill for some time. Its poor health made it rather slipshod in the execution of its duties. Whole generations were being taken away in the flower of their youth, while other people were living for an extraordinarily long time, over 400 years in certain cases.

For a while Death hovered in a half-alive condition, with one foot in the grave, and mankind held its breath, fearing that it would rally and make a complete recovery.

And then the day came when Death breathed its last and nobody could believe their good fortune. It was hard to grasp that Death no longer dwelled in the world, and that one’s life would never again be burdened with the ever-present spectre of extinction hovering nearby. No one would have to grapple any more with the problem of incorporating one’s own demise into their lives.

The most eminent pathologists of the land were assigned the task of performing autopsy on Death. Their unanimous conclusion was that it died of natural causes. What nobody had suspected was that Death possessed a finite life span. Everyone always assumed that it would live forever, yet it too carried within itself the lethal seeds of mortality.

The next most pressing issue on the agenda was the burial of Death. Issues that never have been considered before needed to be addressed urgently, for the world wanted to be sure that Death really was dead and would not rise again. Where should the funeral ceremony be held? According to which religion’s rites should the memorial service be conducted? Who should give the eulogy? Where to entomb it?

The matter of whom to invite for the service proved to be the most intractable issue of all. It was nearly impossible to determine who was genuinely grief-stricken by Death’s passing and who only wanted to attend the ceremony so as to be a part of a historic occasion.

Eventually, all of these matters were resolved, although not to everyone’s satisfaction, and the world gave Death the sending off that it deserved. Straight after the funeral, the world kicked up its heels and started to celebrate.

After the wave of joy at being liberated from its tyrannical rule had abated, people sobered up and started to remember the ways that Death had helped out in the past.

They recalled with fondness Death’s unique ability to resolve every inextricable problem of existence; its unmatched faculty of erasing all pain, shame and misery; how it provided an honourable solution to hopeless situations and readily offered its helping hand to anyone that would ask for it; the way that it brought equality to the world and granted everlasting rest to the weary.

Religions could no longer survive without Death, for their appeal and authority derived from the promise of ideal existence in the next world. New religions arose which prophesied that one day mortality would return to Earth and that the virtuous would be rewarded with Eternal Death.

Mankind recognised how fundamentally it depended upon Death’s existence for the maintenance of social order and peaceful international relations. Given that capital punishment and armed conflicts ceased holding any threat to a person’s life, nothing stood in the way of lawlessness and immorality in human affairs, and countries went to war on the slightest pretext.

Life soon lost its meaning, for Death had been needed to provide the contrast that distinguished being from non-being. Without it, existence seemed tedious, no longer worth enduring.

Each human being was forced to find the strength to face a baffling future in which the saving grace of demise was no longer present. Only then was it realised how Death had woven its fateful thread into every aspect of man’s existence and how much had been irremediably lost the day Death died.

The First Kill by Darcia Helle

Quiet Fury by Darcia Helle

NOTE: This story contains graphic images and extreme violence. Reader discretion is advised.

The First Kill is a short story from Darcia Helle’s collection Quiet Fury: An Anthology of Suspense

About This Story: 

Sean Riley is a minor character in my two Michael Sykora novels – No Justice and Beyond Salvation. The First Kill gives Sean the chance to step into the spotlight as the main character. The plot here has no connection to any specific plots in the full-length books.

***

The first kill was the hardest. His father staring with those dark narrow eyes that had incited fear for so many years. Even as the life seeped out of him, those eyes were full of scorn.

“You killed my mother,” Sean had said.

His father spat a mouthful of blood. A front tooth dangled, barely hanging on. “She was a whore.”

No remorse as death closed in on him.

A lifetime of pain. Hours of revenge. And it came to this. Nothing. Sean felt nothing.

A lot of years had passed since then. Sean McCarthy became Sean Riley. He reinvented himself. Went to college. But the past wouldn’t leave him.

Now he looked at the man across from him. Not his father’s eyes but enough like them to cause his stomach to tighten. Life bled from the man slowly, because that had been the request. Make him suffer.

Dave Billings, the dying man, appeared ordinary to those who knew him. Middle aged, thinning hair, wire-rimmed glasses. Unmarried, quiet, respectful. Billings worked as an accountant, volunteered his time as a soccer coach for young beginners. That’s when it all started to go horribly wrong.

“How many?” Sean asked.

Billings shook his head. “Please…”

“We’re beyond begging. How many?”

“I’ll do anything.”

“That’s the problem, isn’t it? You’ll do anything. No territory too creepy for you to wander into.”

“I…”

Billings yanked at the restraints. His wrists chafed against the zip ties, the effort futile. Thirty minutes ago, Sean had crept into the house where Billings lived alone. Sean had dragged Billings from his bed and had his wrists and ankles secured before the man had managed to blink the sleep from his eyes.

“How many kids?” Sean asked. “Don’t make me ask you again.”

“You don’t understand.”

Sean stuffed the rag in Billings’ mouth. “You’re right. I don’t.”

Fingers broke easily. One. Two. Three. They hung at odd angles, while Billings screamed against the gag. Sean sighed. He sat on the kitchen chair opposite Billings and waited for the thrashing to stop.

Hit man. Assassin. Hired gun. Those words had all been used to describe him. He was a killer, plain and simple. That didn’t bother him, the killing part, anyway. His father had taught him how to kill and how to detach. He’d seen his first snuff film when he was three.

Billings finally slumped back against the chair. Sean reached forward and pulled the gag from Billings’ mouth. “You’ll answer my questions now. You see, I don’t care how much I have to hurt you to get the answers. Understand?”

Billings nodded. Tears and snot ran down his face. Sean said, “How many?”

“Can I explain? Please?”

The gag filled Billings’ mouth before he could flinch. Another finger snapped. “Next time,” Sean said. “I’ll cut it off.”

He crossed the room and picked up the small backpack he’d brought. Back in the chair, he opened it and gave Billings a glimpse of the contents. Pliers, knives, a small torch. Billings’ eyes bulged.

Sean took the rag from Billings’ mouth, said, “How many?”

“Five.” Billings’ voice trembled. “But it’s not like you think! Let me explain!”

“You molested five boys. Five. Innocent. Children.”

“I didn’t molest them! I just… it was just touching. That’s all!”

Sean stuffed the rag back in Billing’s mouth. When he’d started out in this career, he hadn’t cared about the why. He never asked. He was hired to kill someone, so he did it. He was damn good at killing and even better at not caring. Watching his father murder his mother had done that to him.

Then he’d met Michael Sykora. A client who wanted his fiancé’s murderer found. Tortured. Destroyed. Sykora had been looking for justice in a world that rarely gave any. And he wanted to see it happen. That was a request Sean never granted. No one ever watched him work. Nor did he take photos. Killing wasn’t a spectator sport. But something about Michael Sykora had made him say yes.

Sean had found the scum who’d murdered Sykora’s fiancé. Then Sykora had taken one look at the man and something snapped. Ten minutes later, Roger Dossing’s bloody body lay in a heap on the concrete floor of his garage. Sykora had beaten him to death, while Sean looked on.

Turned out, Michael Sykora was damn good at killing, as well. Only he cared. He had to know why. Losing his fiancé to a repeat rapist-turned-murderer changed the person Sykora had been. He got a taste for justice, vigilante justice some would call it, but justice nevertheless. He set out on his own crusade to right the wrongs, rid the world of the bottom-dwelling scum. And somewhere along the way, Sean had joined him.

He turned his attention back to Billings. The man was squirming in his chair. Five children had their worlds turned upside down by this man. Five children whose lives would never be the same.

“Just touching?” Sean said softly. “That’s how you justify what you do when you look in the mirror every day?”

Billings shook his head furiously. Desperate to speak, his muffled pleas got lost in the gag. Sean removed the pliers from his backpack. “Do you know how sensitive that spot beneath your nails is? Have you ever had one tear too far down?”

Billings’ eyes nearly popped from his head. His body shook violently and he toppled over, chair and all. Sean reached down and righted both the chair and Billings. Five minutes and five fingernails later, Billings lay in a heap on the floor. His body convulsed, as tears streamed down his face. His nose drained snot and he fought for breath around the gag.

Sean searched through the kitchen cabinets, found a glass and filled it with cold water. He drank it slowly, watching Billings struggle for air. When he’d finished his water, he carefully washed the glass and put it back. Then he yanked Billings up and sat him back on the chair. He pulled the wet rag from Billing’s mouth and the pedophile gulped at the air.

“That was a fingernail for each child you molested,” Sean said. “We have a problem, though. Your fingernails will grow back. But the kids are damaged forever. You think that’s fair?”

“I’ll give you anything you want,” Billings stammered. “Please. Anything. You want money? I’ve got ten grand saved. You can have it! Please, just stop!”

“Tell me about Bobby Lawrence.”

Billings sucked in a breath. His eyes darted around the room, seeking escape. “Tell you what? Bobby is a good kid. I coached him on this year’s team.”

“Coached him or molested him?”

“I…”

“Do not lie to me.”

“I touched him! Okay! Is that what you want to hear?”

“How many times?”

“What?”

“How. Many. Times.”

“I… I don’t know!”

Bobby Lawrence’s father had hired Sean to take care of Billings. How Lawrence knew for sure that Billings had been the one to molest his son was something Sean didn’t know. He didn’t need those kinds of details. He did, however, look into Billings before agreeing to do the job. Last week, he’d broken into Billings’ house while the guy had been at soccer practice with a group of four-year-olds.

He’d emptied Billings’ hard drive onto a small flash and given it to Michael Sykora. His client was now his partner and the guy was a genius with computers.

Sean hated the machines but pedophiles consistently loved them. They hid and encrypted their files, thinking that would somehow save them. Michael took no time in finding the hidden photos. Hundreds of them. Images that Sean would never get out of his head.

“You don’t know how many times you molested Bobby Lawrence?” Sean asked.

“I only touched him!”

“And took photos.”

Billings gulped air. “I…”

“Don’t.” Sean glanced at the digital clock over the stove. Almost four a.m. He needed to end this soon, get out before the neighborhood woke up. “I don’t want to hear your excuses, Billings. I don’t think Bobby or his father want to hear them, either. However, Mr. Lawrence would like to know a few things. His main concern is whether you put his son’s naked photos on the Internet.”

“The Internet?”

“Spare me the innocent act. I have no patience for that. You share photos with other twisted men who get off on little boys. We both know that. You post them on a website where you all go to get off. Did you do that with Bobby’s photos?”

Billings slumped, defeated. “No.”

“If you lie to me, it will be much worse than a few missing fingernails.”

“I didn’t!”

“Why not?”

“I… I hadn’t wanted to share him, yet.”

“I see.”

Sean got up, paced across the room. His skin crawled. Being around Billings made him feel dirty and he desperately wanted a shower.

“I love Bobby!” Billings blurted.

Sean groaned. “No. Don’t do that.” He walked back to his chair, sat down. “Mr. Lawrence would also like to know if you made Bobby do anything to you.”

Billings’ Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. Sweat seeped through his t-shirt, dripped down from his scalp.

“I asked you a question,” Sean said. “Don’t make me ask again.”

“He wanted to. I didn’t make him do anything!”

“Bobby wanted to touch you?”

“Yes! He wanted to please me.”

Sean’s stomach lurched. That was it. The things Lawrence needed to know for his own sanity. Sean could erase Billings from the world and end both of their suffering.

He had the knife in his hand. A five-inch blade, brand new, serrated for extra pain. Before Billings saw it coming, Sean buried the blade deep into his flabby gut. Billings sucked in a ragged breath, gasped, begged with his eyes.

Blood seeped from the wound. Sean stuffed the gag in Billings’ mouth, then twisted the handle. The blade shredded organs. Billings whimpered into the gag.

Lawrence had wanted the death to be slow. The man would be happy if this went on for hours. Days, even. But the suffering wouldn’t change what Bobby Lawrence had gone through. Nothing erased that.

Sean sat in his chair and watched the life seep from Billings’ eyes. He flashed back all those years ago to his first kill. His father’s eyes, so much like Billings’. Both scum who preyed on children, shaping the adults they would later become.

 ###

Darcia Helle lives in a fictional world with a husband who is sometimes real. Their house is ruled by spoiled dogs and cats and the occasional dust bunny.

Suspense, random blood splatter and mismatched socks consume Darcia’s days. She writes because the characters trespassing through her mind leave her no alternative. Only then are the voices free to haunt someone else’s mind.

Join Darcia in her fictional world: http://www.QuietFuryBooks.com

The characters await you.

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