OAK

She was broken with shame in a way that was irreparable.

Wandering into the woodlands over the moors near home, she found a gigantic Oak tree set deep in the Earth, surrounded by thick moss that hadn’t felt human touch for a long time. The air was thick and heavy with the scent of it, and her bare feet sank and left imprints in the soft green. She clawed her way through, ripping huge clomps away, upsetting the life underneath; worms and beetles flew as she clawed deeper, her fingernails filled with dirt that felt strangely warm for such a cold place. She didn’t want to feel anything anymore.

The Earth grew warmer and seemed to pull itself apart to let her in, almost as if it knew she felt such profound loss that it didn’t want to make this harder. She found a root that uncoiled slightly, and put her hand through it, feeling it tighten around her wrist but not so it hurt. The Earth opened a little more, sinking and rising softly as it breathed. She closed her eyes and slowly one by one, heavier roots reached out and coiled around her arms, around her body and finally around her thighs. She didn’t have to dig anymore, the Oak pulled her down into the warm soil, and closed around her like she was back in the womb.

The Earth above her settled again, worms and beetles as they were, the moss unbroken and untrodden.

Her eyes were the first to go. Tiny shoots from the roots that coiled around her wound themselves through her flesh. Her hair twisted into the ground, and held her head in place as the Oak took her. Two sharp branches shot through her eyes, piercing them until they found their way through her ears. Blood trickled from the jellied mess that used to be her eyes, and she screamed soundlessly as her mouth filled with soil.

Hundreds of barbarous shoots bore through her skin and into her bones, her entire body burning with pain. It had changed much in the last week, she was paler then usual, her frame felt weaker, merely something for her skin to hang from which felt heavy and oversized. She had been reduced to a barely breathing husk. The shoots settled into her body and left intricate twine on the surface of her skin.

The roots pulled huge armfuls of mossy Earth to pack her deeply into the ground, and wrapped themselves around her like a Mother would for a sick child.

The Oak drank her slowly, draining the life from her organs, the blood from her veins and the life from her skin. It took her heart next, gnarled and ruined as it was, hollowing it out before filling its shell with a viscous sap. One by one, it changed the configuration of her organs into a myriad of vines, moss, and worts, her skin replaced with a canvas of soft bark that would release spores as she ripened. Her hair twisted and coiled into hundreds of thin vines tipped with tiny red flowers that would burn to the touch.

The verdant moss and Oak grew slowly richer as they fed on her; she stayed buried there down in the warm Earth, nourishing it until she was dead to the world.

Whatever surfaced later wouldn’t come for a very long time.

THE NIGHTMARE SEQUENCE

NB: This is actually a set of recurring dreams experienced over the last ten years. 

FIRST SEQUENCE (PURGATORY)

The first sequence unfolds in a mist veiled field at dusk. The field is endless, I can’t see the gates clearly but I know they’re there. This place isn’t meant to be breached unless it opens itself up to you. Huge swirls of crows circle above, some tiny, some gigantic like dragons. The giants are heavily scarred and disfigured in ways that tell whispered tales about battles ripped open across time. Jagged and grotesque beaks cracked with gaping holes, some lost entirely and perhaps buried in the eye-socket of a particularly vicious opponent. Colossal wingspans that cause tremors when beat at full strength, torn and frayed but no less terrifying or effective. Barbarously keen talons buried on the end of gargantuan metatarsals decorated with wounds, old and new. The ones without the means to feed themselves are waited on by the smaller male birds, bringing the elders pieces of carrion as they roar across the field demanding to be satiated. They are not left to die, rather they are revered as titans. The tiny ones know they will find the same fate after millennia of shepherding lives over the edge as they rend them apart in battle to feed the elders.

The first time I saw that grisly picture through the mists, as impossible as it might seem, I felt like I’d been standing there forever. I thought I’d see myself torn apart as an offering for a giant, but that’s not what happens. Not even close. The mountainous one eyed behemoth that sits amongst the rest tilts her head at me as if to tell me to begin. She is the biggest one of them all, sage and ageless like she was there before the beginning of time. She doesn’t move. She doesn’t need to. Even the lower ranking elders do things for her, shredding prime carrion with their talons to make it easier for her to swallow. She is not defenceless, but she is a Queen. Queens do not tend to themselves.

Hundreds of tiny females flit around her feathers, picking away that which ought not to be there. One of her feathers alone would span the entire wing of the largest elder. She is a titan amongst titans, undefeatable, but will eventually crumble away to dust after her existence spans several aeons and she grows tired. When she fades, a brutal war will tear the female elders apart to determine who will replace her. She is nameless, the gravity of her presence infinitely more powerful than any name she could be given.  

Males are underlings here, regardless of their size they bow to the Matriarchs. Any dissent amongst the male ranks is met with ferocity, usually resulting in the offending male being feasted upon by the females. The Queen watches me intently when I appear, the roaring of the others dying down to silence before the slaughter begins. The mist sits thickly in the air, yet I can see through it perfectly. They’re all motionless, glassy corvid eyes watching my every move.   

I’m wearing layers of heavy black woollen robes with a hood that obscures most of my face, yet I can see clearly. My feet are swathed with the same wool over leather. The wool feels like I’m wearing lead, but I can move freely as if I’m wearing a paper robe. My physical strength seems fathomless here, yet I’m aware under normal circumstances I would buckle under the weight of the robes alone. Tattered trails of wool drag over the earth, collecting soil and the dampness from the air.

A platoon of heavily armed men appear through the mist, headed in my direction. They’re all clad in protective riot gear so I can’t see their faces, not that it matters, they’ll all be ripped to shreds soon. They don’t seem to acknowledge the crows, even the titans. I wonder if they can see them, or if they’re only for me to look upon. They loom closer, and I lift the impossible weapon I’m armed with. It’s impossible because I know I wouldn’t be able to carry it, let alone fire it in the waking world. It’s a freehand Gatling, and it feels like I’m carrying a kitten. It’s blemished and dented in places, but it’s fully loaded and primed for use. As the men edge closer with their rifles, I raise it and brace myself for the onslaught, but they don’t even get the chance, they don’t STAND a chance.  

I’m positioned in the very centre of the field, standing at the shattered and splintered door of a flat roofed dilapidated four storey building. It’s burned out with glassless window frames, and crumbling stone. Any shards of glass that remain are tinted with blood from the previous manifestation of this sequence. The men are closing in on me, and I start to fire the Gatling I know I wouldn’t be able to handle. A handful of them manage to return fire, but tiny male crows swoop down and catch the bullets and crush them to dust. I mow the men down like paper dolls, watching their flesh and bone pulverised in detail. Red mist sprays through the air as my bullets tear into them, shreds of flesh and riot gear flying around in a flurry of violence and diving crows. Their agony reaches a crescendo of deafening levels, the roar of the elders blasting a crushing bassline as if they’re wholly entertained by this frenzied display.  

The combination of screaming and roaring reaches supernova, creating an earth shattering shock-wave, blasting me into the building. I can’t hear a thing, everything is in slow motion as I blink and try to regain my composure. Another shock-wave cracks through, speeding everything up as I’m thrown against a wall, but I don’t feel any pain. I pick myself up and focus. I feel a syrupy warmth seeping through my robes, and realise I’m standing in around two feet of blood, the air thick with the scent of copper.

The interior is as grim as the outside. The walls are cracked and crumbling, painted crimson and trickling with decaying mould. The building shakes with aftershocks of the earlier blasts, leaving pockets of dust floating to settle wherever it wants, but I don’t lose my footing. Annihilated pieces of furniture float atop the blood, with once beautiful paintings splintered and torn, hanging askew. What remains of oxblood leather furniture is tipped over, ragged and utterly destroyed by fire and projectiles. It’s a fucking mess, but much worse waits in each room beyond.

I can hear the men screaming in agony as I wade through their blood. They’re crunched over and huddled in various states of fucked up. Mangled flesh torn open by jagged and splintered bones, glistening with blood amongst cartilage and shredded muscle. Organs spilling out over what’s left of their bodies, splayed and tattered beyond all repair, almost as if they’d already been put through an organ grinder. Partially bulging and dangling eyes stare at me, some blankly, some filled with pain, their contorted faces wanting it to end because as much as they should be dead, they are not. A murder of crows at various sizes filter in, cawing in a fevered attack to start eating them alive. Several men are dragged back into the field by the horde, only for a few of the titans to carry them off in their talons before dropping them from a great height. That’s how it ends for the lucky ones. For the rest, they are ripped and picked apart in a feeding frenzy.

Another flash puts me back out in the field, and all I can do is watch the ruthless onslaught before the Queen tilts her head at me once again. The elders roar across the field louder than ever before, and the ground fractures beneath me in reverberation. My legs fail me, and I fall endlessly into cracked earth.    

SECOND SEQUENCE (LIMBO)
My descent through cracked earth reaches its climax; I’m in the same field and building structure, except everything is serene, intact, and brilliant white. It’s in perfect condition; everything inside it is white, even the pictures are squares and rectangles of white in white frames. The windows are open and framed with softly billowing curtains that flow through the floors as I move through them. I foolishly thought this was a place of safety during my first visit here, a place of benign intent.

I’m dressed once again in layers of shrouded wool, except that this too is white, I’m not carrying a Gatling, and nothing is frayed or torn anywhere. I am aware of pain throughout my body, the same kind of pain you get when you’ve hit the gym too hard, and everything hurts the next day. I try to shrug it off, and assume it’s due to the weight of my shroud.

I drift around endlessly, climbing seemingly unending staircases and eventually wandering into whichever room sits at the top, but once I enter, each door closes behind me and melts into the wall. The pain in my body climbs slowly, leaving me breathless and clutching at the rails. Whilst I was strong and invulnerable in the previous sequence, I am sluggish and I can’t ever go back the way I came. I can only move forward, wandering through corridors that go on forever, and climbing staircases that make me think my legs will fall beneath me before I hit the last step, only for me to find myself at the next door. I become increasingly fatigued and a heavy ache reaches around my body, building in intensity the further I walk.

I get little respite in each room once the doors melt away. Some rooms are larger than others. When I’m afforded one the size of a ballroom, I know I can slip down to the floor and catch my breath as the surroundings shift and slide around me. The walls move inward, the items inside with me pushed ever closer, gradually robbing me of any space. It’s a slow process, and in a ballroom sized area I can have a few hours of rest. When the door behind me melts away, I see a new one open at the opposite end, the room around me closing and pushing me closer to it with every shift. When I am pushed out into another corridor, I am physically unable to keep from walking, even if my body feels like it’s on fire and heavy like lead. I sometimes wonder what would happen if my bones were to break, or I were to collapse, but I’ve never found out because I can’t stop, even though it’s exceptionally painful.

When I feel at my most exhausted, and the pain levels are excruciating, that is when the rooms are so small that I can reach out and touch each wall without needing to move. There is no blood, there are no screams of agony, there are no roaring crows, and there is no brutality; there is only silence, even as the building moves. Even without the savage landscape of the previous sequence, that does not make this limbo any less terrifying. I don’t know how long I am in there, and I have never been able to find my way down to the entrance. I am caught in a white web, almost like a toy at someone, or something else’s behest. I don’t know who or what that is, I’ve never seen anything to address my suspicions, but then this is limbo in every sense of the word. It is not meant for me to know. I exist here for a time, that’s all. I never know how I end up escaping this place, I simply blink and find myself in the next sequence.

THIRD SEQUENCE (APOCATASTASIS)

Blink.

I’m in an old airport, the kind you find in small cities with decor from the seventies that’s never been updated. Normally bright white displays holding flight information with rotating letters and digits have yellowed over time, clacking noisily as they revolve. Staff are present, but they’re not sentient; they have bodies but their faces are entirely blank and gaze at you as if they actually had eyes to see you at all. They’re dressed in the same era clothing as the airport projects, old seventies gear complete with appropriate hairstyles and accessories, draped over their blank faces. Their staring is continuous, it’s gone from casual gazing to halting their work with blatant ogling.

We don’t belong here. We’re all wearing modern clothing. By we, I mean the twenty children surrounding me. The faceless tilt their heads to one side as if they’re oddly curious, slowly edging closer as if we are some manner of freak-show.

The children range in ages from three to twelve years old. They’re all trying to cling to me, terrified and unsure of what’s going on. I’m dressed in plain clothes, there are no shrouded cloaks or firearms, and there are no crows or a mysterious building. I’m trying to touch the children in a reassuring manner to let them know that things are going to be okay, but it’s hard to give a part of yourself to twenty children all at once.

Two faceless security guards approach us, although they are unarmed. They don’t speak, but motion towards a tunnel hammered out in a wall, as if recently punched through by construction workers. They funnel us down a dark corridor lined with steaming pipes, and the kind of dim orange-yellow lights you find in bomb shelters. We are escorted to an old giant cargo plane that has been battered by weather with years of overuse. It looks like it might collapse at any moment, and yet their blank faces and body language insist we climb aboard. The children are crying now and I’m doing my best to keep them calm, but you know how it goes when a huddle of children get scared; it’s contagious. I start singing to them softly to try and set them at ease, but it only works for a little while before their cries escalate again. We all get situated, but because we are all individually strapped in, they start to scream loudly because they can’t touch me for comfort. I try and unbuckle my safety belt, but it won’t budge. I look down to see what I can do, but the metal is clamped shut and fuses completely before my eyes. The children claw at their own belts, but it’s futile; we are all trapped. The older ones appear terrified into silence, as if they know there’s nothing they can do. The babies are shrieking, and although I try to sing to them again, it is drowned out and nobody can hear me.

I feel the plane rumble into movement, loud, heavy, and rattling. I am amazed as we actually take off and make it off the ground, the pandaemonium not letting up for a second as we lift. I can hardly hear the children over the deep rumbling of the plane’s engines, but I can see every single one of their contorted faces, fighting to break free of the restraints albeit ineffectively. A vicious storm brews ominously through the skies. It’s so dark, and regular flashes of lightning show me that we are flying over a body of water as I crane my head around to look through the scratched window beside me. I might not be able to undo my restraints, but I have a little wiggle room. We navigate the storm with major turbulence, some of the babies passed out and exhausted from screaming for so long. The older ones are still wide awake and staring into nothing, their eyes glassy and faces streaked red and blotchy with tears. I wave my arms to try and shift their attention, but it’s like they don’t even see me. All I can hear is the shaking rumble of the gargantuan engines struggling through the storm, rippling through the entire plane. I keep trying to get them to focus on me, but it’s not working. The storm intensifies as we are hit by lightning, and we begin to plummet down into the angry body of water.

I watch their faces. It starts with the older ones. They close their eyes, and I am forced to see them sealing shut. Their noses seem to ripple and refocus, the shape still there but their nostrils are not. The last thing to go are their mouths. They simply close, and their lips fuse and disappear. I can’t see their ears, but I can only imagine they’re similarly blocked. All evidence of facial features begin to fade and flatten out, leaving blank canvases with nothing behind them. My hands fly up to my own face, expecting to meet the same fate, but I remain entirely intact. All I can do is watch them sit perfectly still, silent and upright like mannequins as we drop faster and faster.

There is nothing I can do, we’re going down into the water and I begin to fade out. I feel the impact crack through us, rending the plane apart like it was wet cardboard. I see metal bend and rip itself apart in slow motion, the body rupturing as it is torn into several parts, spiralling down into the dark. The seats holding what used to be the children seem to remain in place, nothing touching them at all. The door to the cockpit opens and I see one of the faceless nod at me before I black out.   

What seems like moments later, I wake up in the midst of the wreckage, except it’s filled with soft sunlight filtering in through broken windows. The water is calm, and I’m bobbing up and down in it along with plane debris, and the occasional flash of a beacon that went off as soon as we hit the water.

It’s warm and reassuring, except I’m the only one there. All the children have gone, and I don’t know where they are. It’s just me floating around the wreckage in the sun.

I wake from the sequence soon after that point, breathless and disorientated. My mind feels murky and heavy, and I’m hopelessly lost.

Text Me When You’re Dead

The first message came through at 00:42. I wasn’t one of those people who put their phone on silent or vibrate only at night. I was so accustomed to the various chimes and notifications that I could sleep through the majority of them. Most of the time folks used stuff like Signal or Telegram to reach me, or that fucking awful Facebook messenger with the annoying games and complete lack of privacy. Nobody really used SMS aside from my mother, and so when the default SMS notification shrieked off around an hour after I fell asleep, it cut straight through and startled me. I’d assumed the worst through bleary eyed panic, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes with one hand whilst unlocking the phone with the other.

 

It wasn’t my mother.

 

There was no number attached to the message, and it simply read “I NEED HELP PLEASE RESPOND.”

 

I was confused, but fired off a “WHO IS THIS?” in return. Before I’d even had chance to blink, another message pinged through. Rather than explain each message, you can see the conversation for yourself:

 

HER: IT’S DARK AND I DON’T KNOW WHERE I AM. I NEED HELP PLEASE. I’M PREGNANT.

ME: WHO ARE YOU?

HER: I DON’T KNOW WHERE I AM AND YOUR NUMBER IS THE ONLY ONE IN THIS PHONE.

ME: WHO ARE YOU? WHO’S PHONE?

HER: HELP ME!

 

Given the way that people scam and extort people via the internet and smart-phones now, my mind SCREAMED at me to ignore the situation as someone fucking about, turn my phone off and go back to sleep, but I didn’t, because that would make for a shit story, and you’re not here for a shit story.

 

ME: CAN YOU MOVE?

HER: YES I CAN MOVE BUT I CAN’T SEE ANYTHING.

ME: I CAN’T HELP YOU UNLESS I KNOW WHERE YOU ARE. HOW DO I KNOW THIS ISN’T A STUNT BY SOME TWISTED PRICK WITH AN OFFENSIVE WEAPON?

 

No I wasn’t fucking stupid, of course I called the police, for all the good that did. When I mentioned weird text messages asking for help from a hidden number after midnight? Block and ignore was all they gave me. How the fuck do you block a hidden number? They told me if they really needed help they’d have called the cops themselves. Fuck the police. I guess they were having a worse than usual night, but still, fuck the police.

 

It continued.

 

HER:  HELLO ARE YOU STILL THERE?

ME: YES I’M STILL HERE. I CALLED THE POLICE.

HER: IT’S TOO LATE FOR THAT. THEY WON’T HELP YOU.

ME: YOU’RE THE ONE WHO NEEDS HELP HERE NOT ME. FEEL AROUND, FIND A LIGHT SWITCH, ANYTHING?

HER: IT’S SO COLD. I CAN’T FEEL MY FEET.

ME: STICK WITH ME, FIND A WALL AND START FEELING AROUND FOR A LIGHT SOURCE.

 

I stumbled around in the dark to pull clothes on like some madwoman, as if I was actually prepared to go out looking for this person. It wasn’t my finest moment, fuck I wish I hadn’t.

 

HER: I FOUND A SWITCH BUT IT’S ONLY A TINY LIGHT IN THE CORNER OF THE ROOM AND THERE IS A BROKEN WINDOW, AND EVERYTHING IS BRICK WALLS AND COLD CONCRETE.

ME: IS THERE A DOOR?

HER: YES BUT IT’S LOCKED. I TRIED IT.

ME: LOOK OUT THE BROKEN WINDOW AND TELL ME WHAT YOU CAN SEE.

HER: IT’S TOO DARK TO SEE MUCH AND THE LIGHT IN THE ROOM IS MAKING IT HARD TO FOCUS BEYOND THE GLASS. I’M TURNING IT OFF FOR A SECOND. IT’S SO COLD AND EVERYTHING IS DEAD SILENT.

 

Curiosity killed the cat, right?

 

ME: I NEED YOU TO LOOK FOR LIGHTS. CAN YOU CALL ME?

HER: NO

ME: WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER I COULD CALL YOU?

HER: YOU CAN’T CALL ME.

ME: WHY?

HER: HE MIGHT HEAR US.

ME: HE?

HER: YES. HE’S NOT FAR.

ME: HAS HE HURT YOU?

HER: NOT YET.

ME: OKAY. LOOK OUT OF THE WINDOW. TELL ME IF YOU CAN SEE ANY LIGHTS, STREET LIGHTS, ANYTHING. WHAT SHOULD I CALL YOU?

 

She responded all too quickly for someone who should have spent a few minutes looking for any lights that might tell me where she was.

 

HER: I THINK I CAN SEE A CLOCK TOWER LIGHT. TWO STREET LIGHTS NEXT TO IT.

ME: IS THE WINDOW BIG ENOUGH TO CLIMB OUT OF IF YOU BROKE IT SOME MORE?

HER: NO. REMEMBER I’M PREGNANT I DON’T WANT TO RISK MY BABY.

ME: TURN THE LIGHT BACK ON AND TELL ME WHAT’S IN THE ROOM. I WANT TO KNOW IF THERE’S ANY WAY YOU CAN BREAK THE DOOR OPEN. I’M GETTING IN MY CAR NOW.

HER: PLEASE HURRY.

 

I was fairly certain she could see the clock tower light in the town square, surrounded by four shorter lights, seeing only two from her position. I could drive out to the clock tower without any problem, I mean the area was well lit and if I could find out where she was from there, maybe I could get the police to listen to me this time. As it turned out, she WAS local and yeah, I’m the idiot who went out in the small hours of the morning on her own with a half charged phone and a couple of maglites, but that’s because the police weren’t going to do a damned thing, and I wasn’t about to leave someone to freeze to death overnight when they needed help. It took me ten minutes to drive to the town square. I used voice to text to respond to her so she knew I was still there.

 

ME: I’M IN THE CAR. I KNOW YOU CAN SEE THE CLOCK TOWER, SO I’M GOING TO DRIVE THERE AND THEN SEE IF I CAN FIND YOU ON FOOT.

HER: PLEASE HURRY I CAN’T FEEL MY LEGS. IT’S SO COLD. THE LIGHT IS DIMMING, AND I’M SO TIRED.

ME: I’M COMING. HOLD ON.

 

You’re not supposed to park in the square, hell you’re not supposed to drive anywhere close to it, but this was a scenario I wasn’t fucking about with. I launched the car onto the cobbles and screeched to a halt by the lamp-posts. Everything was silent save for the occasional screech of an owl from the town’s edge. I stupidly lost my footing on the wet cobbles from the untied laces on my boots, managing to land flat on the palms of my hands saving myself from broken teeth, but felt that horrible jarring sensation ricochet through my body with the impact. The heels of my hands were grazed with tiny pricks of oozing blood, but they weren’t that bad.

 

HER: HURRY. I CAN’T FEEL MY LEGS. I’M SO COLD.

ME: I NEED YOU TO LOOK OUT OF THE WINDOW AGAIN.

HER: I’M STRUGGLING

ME: I’M GOING TO PUT MY LOADING LIGHTS ON AND I WANT YOU TO TELL ME IF YOU CAN SEE THEM FLASHING FROM THE WINDOW. I NEED TO KNOW WHICH DIRECTION YOU’RE IN.

 

I knew there were a couple of fields in either direction on the edges of town. If she was in a building in one of those, I could easily find her and get help. Sure my car lights might piss off some of the townsfolk, but if anyone came out to complain it would be extra sets of hands right? If only.

 

No fucker came out.

 

I let my lights flash in pulse, and I texted her again.

 

ME: CAN YOU SEE THE FLASHING?

HER: I THINK SO.

ME: WHICH DIRECTION ARE YOU SEEING THIS FROM?

HER: I’M LOOKING OUT OF MY WINDOW AND THE CLOCK TOWER IS TO MY LEFT. PLEASE HURRY.

 

Her left. My right.

 

ME: I THINK YOU’RE IN ONE OF THE FIELDS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN.

HER: PLEASE GET HERE SOON, I CAN’T STAND UP FOR MUCH LONGER, IT’S SO COLD. I CAN’T FEEL MY FACE NOW. PLEASE..

ME: I’M COMING.

 

I kept some emergency gear in my car, so I yanked open the boot and pulled out my tool box and the axe I kept underneath it. Yes I kept a fucking axe in the boot of my car, sometimes a knife isn’t going to cut it, not that the axe really cut it this time. I didn’t drag the entire toolbox with me, it was heavy as fuck but it had stuff inside it that I could use to get past a locked door if needs be, so I took some of that stuff with me. I might have been an idiot who went out on her own like that, but I was a moderately prepared idiot.

 

ME: TRY TO KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN, I’M CARRYING MAGLITES AND THEY’RE BRIGHT. YOU SHOULD SEE ME COMING THE CLOSER TO YOU I GET OVER THE FIELD.

HER: DON’T HAVE MUCH TIME

 

My ankle screamed at me with every step, pain shooting up my leg to my knee as I limped as fast I could go over the road, and towards the stile at the field gates. As my memory served me correctly, one of the fields had a small brick shed at the far end, and the other had a metal box enclosure. She mentioned seeing bricks earlier on, but I couldn’t recall which building was in which field, I was tired and in pain, and it was COLD, wind biting, hair whipping in your face kind of cold. I stopped for a moment to text her again, expecting to hear her call out or something, but there was nothing.

 

ME: ARE YOU STILL WITH ME

 

Nothing.

 

ME: CAN YOU SHOUT SOMETHING TO ME SO I CAN HEAR YOU.

 

Nothing.

 

My immediate worry was that she’d passed out and that she was in danger of not waking up again, so I crammed the phone in my pocket and moved as fast my burning ankle would let me, the pain ripping further and further up my leg to my hips to make me think I’d done something worse than twist it. I remember my hands being so cold that it made it hard to keep hold of the axe and my other gear, but I had to keep going, and I did until I saw a flash of red brick through the beam of my biggest maglite, and an open metal door.

 

The door was open. She said it was locked, she said she couldn’t open it. Where was she? Other questions flew around in my head, ones she’d never answered even when prompted. That was when a thick rancid stench pricked at my nostrils, making me fall back and retch violently. I grabbed the door-frame to steady myself, clamping my sleeve over my mouth and nose with my other hand, my larger maglite clattering to the floor in the process. The beam shone into the corner, where a maggot riddled decomposing bloated corpse was sprawled on its side. I lost my stomach then, heaving gobs of bile all over my boots until all that came was dry rasping and sobbing. I stooped to grab the maglite, edging closer to look at the corpse’s face, mangled and puffed up beyond recognition. Its head was almost completely severed from the neck, the spine visibly cut in a clean fashion. There were no hands or feet on the corpse, only burned stumps where they used to sit. One of its eyes was missing, the other one puffed up and swollen like the rest of its body. I couldn’t look away, it was putrid and foul, but I couldn’t look away. Getting in closer despite being overwhelmed by the stink, I could see its lips were gone, and its mouth was a mass of toothless rotting pulp.

 

When you’re clawing around for your phone in your pocket and can’t quite grasp it, you start to panic and THEN you start breathing heavily, but that rotting pile in the corner made me feel so physically ill that I couldn’t concentrate. All I could do was retch and claw, needing to breathe but not being able to because of the stench. I changed tack and looked for the light switch but the bulb was long since blown. I was shaking horribly, turning around on myself, pointing with my maglite wildly until something else caught my eye. I’d finally been able to get a hold on my OWN phone, but there was another one right there on the floor.

 

I tried to slide MY phone back in my pocket, but it didn’t connect and it tumbled to the floor, the screen cracking despite the supposedly protective case. Shining the light on the second phone, showed me it was identical to mine down to the same high gloss black case. The screen was cracked in the same way, and I turned it over to find the N7 logo in the centre. God, my head was REELING, everything was swimming with confusion, fear and revulsion. Of course I bloody tried to switch it on, why wouldn’t I? It was dead, OBVIOUSLY it was dead, why would it still work now? I wasn’t thinking straight remember? NOTHING about me was calm OR composed.

 

I groped around for my newly cracked phone, pressing the home button to try and bring it to life, but the screen only lit up and wouldn’t respond. I wished I still had my old fucking Blackberry with an ACTUAL keyboard so I might have stood a chance, but I didn’t because fuck my love of tech and a need for a touch-screen smart-phone. Even after turning back outside into the cold air, the rot still hung around me. I’d dropped all my gear outside the door before going in, which really wasn’t very clever in hindsight. I remember the way the damp ground felt when it seeped through the fabric of my cargo pants as I sank to my knees. I was doubled over, sobbing and not caring about the searing pain in my ankle.

 

It was cold, So fucking COLD.

 

I was so consumed with grief and fear that I didn’t hear him coming. The field was soft and damp you see, even despite the chilled air. He was slow and careful with the way he moved,  and naturally I didn’t hear him over the sound of my own wailing. If you’ve ever wondered what it might take to separate someone’s head from their spine, it would be as simple as a modified bolt cutter to the back of the neck. I think that’s how he did it anyway. He cut the life out of me, and left me to rot in the corner of that building in the field, with the cracked window and the locked metal door.

 

I’ve been watching myself decompose slowly over the last week or so. It’s weird seeing your own body bloat and change over time. Sometimes my touch-screen lights up and even lets me send texts, but only to one person. I’ve been reaching out for help, but all that happens is I watch myself come to find what’s left of me and the baby inside me. I have to watch as he brutalises me all over again. The way he cut my hands and feet from my body and took them away, and seared the stumps. The way he bit the lips from my face and spat them into a bag. The way he used pliers on my teeth to wrench them out one at a time, bagging them along with my lips, and the way he took one of my eyes, and swallowed it whole.  

 

Maybe eventually someone else will find me here, and do something with my bones. I didn’t realise I was pregnant until I died. I wonder if he knew. I wonder how long it took for that life to fade away inside me after I died.

 

It’s so cold. I can’t feel my face. I can’t feel anything, I can only text with my missing fingers and broken phone, and watch.  

v

Remember

What it felt like

When you clawed out my light

And held me under

Until I  d r o w n e d

Over and over

Before you let go and

Fed me to the wolves

Who set fire to my bones

R e m e m b e r. 

WAKE UP

I was perfectly capable of waking up, it’s just I didn’t want to. I was laid there in a hospital bed listening to them all suffer and really enjoyed it. The best thing about all of it, was that I was somehow able to plant horrible little ideas in their heads, to play them off against one another. Fucked if I know how it worked, but I milked it for all it was worth.

Here’s the backstory; I was hospitalised after – ironically – being hit with a piece of masonry whilst on my way to the hospital to find out if I was a viable option to donate a kidney to my biological father.  Sounds like the kind of thing family does, right? Not in my case. This is where it gets complicated.

My ‘father’ left us when I was merely two years old, and my brother a baby. He’d been having an affair with another woman behind my mother’s back, and he decided not only to leave, but to have absolutely nothing to do with us from then on. The next time I saw him was at my grandfather’s funeral when I was twenty-one years old. He stood there a little ways in front of us with his wife, and two other kids. Yep, two more kids that he loved and doted on, whilst we and my mother grew up in poverty because he didn’t want to pay his way, or even acknowledge us.  He never once looked at us the whole time we were there, it was like we didn’t exist. My glare must have burned into the back of his head the entire time, but he didn’t feel it. God I wished he’d felt it, I wanted him to know how much pain we all felt.

He was also a cop. Apparently he could ‘compartmentalise’, according to my mother, as in compartmentalise us all away.  There he was, an upstanding pillar of the community, a cop, nice house, two kids and a loving wife. Shame about the ones he left behind. His parents, despite their son being a completely absent father wanted very much to be part of our lives. It was very strange growing up seeing them, knowing their son was our father, with him not wanting anything to do with us. We never talked about him with them, it was one of those unspoken rules. Our grandparents doted on us regardless, and gave us many wonderful childhood memories despite his absence.

They had both since passed, which is why I didn’t feel bad about doing what I did.

When I was twenty-five years old, fed up of not knowing why our father didn’t want to talk to us, I tracked down his address and wrote him a letter. I simply asked him if he would be kind enough to talk to me because I felt like I should at least know why he didn’t want to be part of our lives. I put my email address and mobile phone number in the letter so it made it easier for him to respond; I wanted to give him every opportunity to do this. A few days later, I got a one line email stating that I should go away because ‘they’ didn’t think interaction at this point was wise. I assumed he meant his family, so I sat there, jarred and feeling like I’d been hit with a twenty pound lump hammer to the gut.

How do you honestly tell your first born child to go away? Why would you do that? Why would you leave in the first place, go off and create a whole new family, disposing of the first one you made like it was worthless? I knew then I’d never get the answers to those questions, and knowing he didn’t want to maintain any kind of dialogue, I kept my dignity and left well alone.

…right up until the point where I got an email fifteen years later asking me for help. It didn’t come from him. It was from his wife. The email was lengthy and filled with obsequious fawning, like I was suddenly their only hope.

“I know I have no right to ask this of you, but your father is very sick and if he doesn’t get a viable kidney, he’s going to die.”

That was the sentence that stood out from all the grovelling. Between offers of money, which I know they had plenty of, transplant waiting lists, a chance to be welcomed into his life, How much he regretted not being a presence in our lives sooner; you get the gist. It couldn’t be any more cliché in terms of begging if it tried.

I sat on it for a few days. My mind refused to stand still, even for a moment. When you’ve spent most of your life wondering where someone important in your life was, and everything about that situation, knowing that there was a chance to find answers to all your questions was quite intoxicating.

“Please, please write back. Here is my phone number. He is too sick to write.”

Too sick to write, or too ashamed? That was quite harsh of me, I know. When someone is sick and on their deathbed, writing is possibly the last thing on their mind, but I felt like I had the right to be a complete and utter shit at this juncture. There’s a little more to this backstory too, and I’m sorry if this is boring you, but it’s essential that you know why I started messing with their heads before I got my retribution.

Before my grandmother passed, I started to get worried about how I’d find out WHEN she passed. Growing older and moving away meant it was hard to get to see her, and outside of phone calls and sending gifts and reminders of affection, our relationship slowed down a bit. I will readily admit that when I did see her, walking into her home and seeing photos of my father, his other kids and subsequent grandkids was HARD, especially when there were no photos of my brother or I in sight. Not even one. I don’t know if that was her choice or not, but because she was a dutiful housewife and obviously loyal to her son, I suppose it put her in a difficult position. I never once asked her about it, the idea made me feel sick. I’m sure folks might think, oh for fuck’s sake, just fucking ASK HER – but when this stuff messes with your head, you’re not always able to do simple things like that. You carry a lot of guilt, and a desire not to cause anyone any upset. It’s true, I’ve only ever heard my grandmother cry twice in my life, and that was the day my grandfather passed, and the day of his funeral as she fell against my father in grief.

I would never want to be the cause of that, because despite her terrible son, I loved her dearly.

So back to why I was worried about her passing. See, my ‘father’ aside from abandoning us, was actually a pretty shitty person. He was homophobic for one, petty, and had to have better things than everyone else otherwise tantrums would ensue. I learned these things from my mother as she told me various stories after I pressed her a little. She also never once tried to poison me against him, she didn’t raise these things unless I specifically asked her about them, and I did because curiosity got the best of me.  Aside from his having to appear better than everyone else, being employed in a position of power as a cop, his bigotry in its various forms, he stole something small but significant away from us.

The names my mother wanted to give us were both vetoed by my father on account of them sounding too ‘gay.’ Yay homophobia, you’re a fucking shit-ball, dad.  We were given different names that met with his approval, and I didn’t find this out until I was much older. Thing is, I really liked the name my mother had picked for me originally, and I decided to take it back a couple of years ago. That’s not all there is to it however, because of COURSE it isn’t.

When my father had his two new kids, he did something really, really fucking petty.  When folks say to you, ‘why you gotta be so extra?’, my father somehow managed to blow that out of the water and into the middle of the fucking street. His third born son, of whom I’ve never met was given the name my little brother was supposed to have. His new daughter? Her middle name was the name my mother wanted for me. I’m deliberately not using their names because it’s not actually their fault their doting father is a horrible person. My mother was trimming my hair at the time when she told me about this, and I remember that cold anger creeping over my skin, to hiss hotly through my veins afterward. I say again, WHO THE FUCK DOES THAT?

I know I’m drawing this out, and again I’m sorry. It’s complicated and painful and I don’t want to leave anything out. You might be wondering how this all ties in with the passing of my grandmother. Well you see, since my father is such a shit, he is EXACTLY the kind of person who wouldn’t let us know if our grandmother had died. He’s the kind of person who would just put an obituary in the paper, and let us find out that way. He really is THAT awful. I didn’t want that to be the way we found out, the idea of that just made me feel so fucking sick. AGAIN, I could have spoken to my grandmother directly, but you don’t know how much this destroyed me mentally. It left me unable to think clearly or make rational decisions because of the heartbreak and emotion I felt over it, plus, who the fuck goes and asks their grandparent about letting us know when they die? It’s not the easiest conversation to have, and I couldn’t bring myself to do it, so I as per fucking usual, didn’t say a thing.

Fast forward to Christmas eve and me being a little bit drunk. Not overly drunk, just enough to make my head a bit floaty and perhaps give me some courage. I did that really stupid thing where you look someone up on Facebook which is NEVER A GOOD IDEA. I looked for my half-brother. I knew what he looked like from photos at my grandmother’s, and he wasn’t hard to find given that the family name on my father’s side isn’t common, in fact it’s quite rare. In my mildly drunk state, I wrote him a short note telling him who I was and also that I hoped to be able to talk to him at some point. Since my name was different now, I had to explain myself and my presence in his inbox first. I hit send, and hoped that maybe even a simple acknowledgement would come through just to let me know he understood me. The ‘read’ notification appeared onscreen, so I know he saw it.

He didn’t respond. I waited days. I gave it weeks, and realised that again, I wasn’t going to get the response I wanted. I get it, someone appears on Facebook saying they’re your older sister, wanting to strike up a dialogue and it must seem huge and weird. But to not say anything at all? My heart broke again, because why wouldn’t it? I realised that I was never going to get any kind of response from them, not now, not ever. I didn’t have the guts to try and contact my half-sister, because I knew my heart couldn’t take another rejection. I gave up.

My grandmother lived a very private life, she never talked about who her friends were, and we didn’t know much about her side of the family outside of my father and his other children. The day of her passing came, and to our relief, we received a phone call from someone who we’d never spoken to before, and they weren’t family. The message was simply that they’d been asked to deliver the news, and that they were sorry for our loss.

I couldn’t tell you how my mother and brother felt, but I felt numb for a while. The last person from that side of the family who cared, of whom I actively cared about, had gone. Of course I’d spent time with her before she went, I made the effort despite how walking into her home made me feel, and how listening to her talk about the nice things her other grandkids had, made me feel. How they got to go to university, had a good upbringing, stable family relationships and children of their own. Sitting there listening to that when your own life experiences have been so different, and filled with trauma is a really hard thing to swallow, but I did it because she was still my grandmother.

Numb. No feelings, no outward emotion, no expectations, nothing.  Then, we got a funeral notification. I was going to be standing with my brother and my mother in the same area as my father and his other family again. The idea of that absolutely slayed me internally. It didn’t take long for it to manifest externally either, I would cry almost constantly, not sobbing or wailing or the like, but just silent tears slipping down my face night and day, leaving my eyes red and puffy and my skin sore to the touch. I couldn’t stop them, so I didn’t even try. I ended up dehydrated and existed on water because I really didn’t feel like eating anything.

The day of the funeral came and we stood back from the others, tucked away like we always had been from everyone else. I gazed at him again, wanting that same blazing glare to fire out of me and into his skull, but it didn’t come. It was just tremendous sadness, defeat and resignation at the futility of it all. She was gone, and so any link to them was probably going to be gone forever, at least it was until I got the email.

“Please, please write back. Here is my phone number. He is too sick to write.”

That line crept around my mind constantly, not letting me sleep, eat, concentrate, or much of anything else. That evening, coupled with a bottle of red wine and a pizza the size of the Millennium Falcon, I penned a response that was as clinical as I could make it. I didn’t want to show any emotion at all, I didn’t want her to feel like I had anything left inside me for him. I asked about the nature of his illness and she came back almost instantly, almost like she’d been staring at her screen for me to answer. It was again, filled with the same banal appeals that even the coldest person would have winced at. He was down to one kidney, polycystic kidney disease having robbed him of one, and now finally ravaging the other.

horrible chuckle escaped my lips when she told me neither she, or her children were viable matches for him. He was on a waiting list, but his time was running out. Was I a terrible person for laughing? Perhaps. It came from a very dark place. It tasted delicious in my mind, the irony now that my father needed ME, or perhaps my brother for help was exciting. I was an even bigger shit for saying I’d mention it to them to see if they wanted to help, but I had absolutely no intention. I mean why the fuck should I?

I think the masonry landing on the crux of my shoulder and neck was my instant karma for being so cold about it all, but perhaps not. I mean don’t get me wrong, it fucking HURT, but the power I had to mess with them, was something else. It was completely and utterly worth it. That trauma I mentioned in comparison to his second set of children’s lives? I planted that in his head, every last bit of it. The internal revulsion I felt at my first recollected memory being of him, and not something else.  Listening to other kids in the playground laugh at me because I got free school meals because I didn’t have a daddy anymore. Further humiliation because none of them wanted to play with me, and I’d spend break-time walking around the school grounds alone, every. Single. Day. Horrendous bullying all the way through school because I was quiet and bookish, and further bullying when I went insane at the age of fifteen because of a string of abuses from my step-father.  Yeah there was another father figure in my life, but he wasn’t a good one. I really wasn’t doing very well in terms of father figures.

It didn’t end there though. I showed him details of the abuses I’d suffered from boyfriends, how they turned me into a hate-filled cynic, and how I wished I’d had someone positive to compare men to, but further realising he probably wasn’t the best person to compare anyone to with his disgusting attitude. I showed him how my brother and I hated one another for a while, engineered by my step-father and kept under wraps from my mother because he was a sly bastard who knew how to manipulate. I showed him how one evening, he walked into the room where my mother was sitting with us, and how he said plainly in front of us that my mother had to make a choice, move to a place in the country with him and abandon us whilst we were teenagers, or they would divorce.

Were we about to be abandoned by our other biological parent? Fortunately not. My mother, despite also being horribly manipulated by my step-father would never have abandoned us, and we didn’t have to survive alone. I showed him that, I showed him what it was like to stand by your kids, even when everything was going to shit. I made sure he felt the same sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach that we did. The way cold fear washed over us until we couldn’t breathe. I showed him how prior to this, we were forbidden by our step-father to sit with he and our mother during the evening, and instead were hidden away in a TV room out of sight because who wants to raise someone else’s children? I showed him how my brother went off the rails and turned to drugs to deal with the trauma. I showed him how I retreated further and further into myself until I lost sight of myself entirely. The victim of repeated bullying, physical and psychological abuse, sexual abuse, suicidal state, and my eventual complete loss of identity. I made sure he saw my face the evening his email came through with his basic premise for me to go away inside it. I drove that sense of abandonment so deep inside him that he went downhill so fast that even the doctors couldn’t explain it. After I felt he was hanging on by the tiniest sliver of a thread, I started messing with their heads too.

I started with his wife, my voice dripping poison into her mind around the clock with no reprieve.

“You knew he had children, YOUNG children, one was just a baby, why would you involve yourself with someone knowing they were just babies? Do you look at your own children and wonder how it would feel if someone came and did that to you? When you were with him, did you even spare us a moment’s thought? What did it FEEL like when you discovered your two angels were unable help him? Did the bottom fall out of your world?  My mother was and continues to be way more beautiful than you will EVER be, you revolting dried up HAG.”

I tapped away like that inside her head, savouring the taste of her despair, letting it roll around my tongue slowly. I felt it creep around my entire body, making me feel stronger with each stab to her mind.

The beauty of it was that I would hear her own mind fighting to block me out, but she was failing. I wouldn’t stop–couldn’t stop, I was relentless. She and her two now adult children were in my hospital room, watching me like a hawk just in case I died. I even heard her ask about the kidney assuming it was viable if I died, or maybe even if they could remove it whilst I was in this coma? That was when I knew she wasn’t even remotely genuine with any of her previous fawning. She was legitimately asking if they could just take a kidney from me to give to him. I laughed inside my own head, knowing that’s not how things work.  She even offered them money, and staff just walked away from her with a look of disgust.

I hadn’t even consented to being tested to see if I was a match, never mind saying I’d be happy to be a donor. I was absolutely willing to be a donor for someone, but my desires for him were quite different. I also knew that if I succumbed to my injuries, my organs would go to those at the top of the waiting lists, and not my father.  He wasn’t at the top of the list, which is why they needed me.

That thought alone made it all the more exhilarating.  If that was my last action before death, denying him something he needed? I would have been okay with that. This is the kind of loathing that festers inside you over the years when it’s left unanswered. It grows inside you like a cancer, it gets bigger and eats you up leaving you with nothing but hatred and a desire for revenge. Perhaps the parts of me that were enjoying this were my father’s parts of me, his pettiness and desire to one up people and be in a position of power. Maybe I wasn’t so different from him at all.

I corrected myself because I realised this was not my usual form of behaviour. I wasn’t like him, I simply had an ingrained need to destroy him, and why shouldn’t I?  When she and her precious angels weren’t splitting their time between me and our father, my own mother and brother sat there, fraught as you would imagine them to be. I could get inside their heads too, but I didn’t give them anything but love. The doctors told them I was getting stronger, it was just a matter of time before I woke up, that we just had to be patient. Yes I know, it was shit of me not to wake up for them, but I WAS going to wake up eventually, and I was going to see this through. I planted a seed in my mother’s mind to at least allow staff to test my blood to see if I was a compatible donor for my father, because if it meant I wasn’t then I could be left alone to recover, and hopefully never have to deal with the others ever again.

If you thought I wasn’t hoping to be a match, you’d be wrong. Of COURSE I was hoping to be a match, how else do you think this would be so satisfying? I mean sure, I could be completely unsuitable, and then gone on my merry way in the knowledge that I’d caused a fair amount of upset but I was greedy. I WANTED MORE, this was addictive.

“She’s a compatible donor.”

FUCKING YES. That was exactly what I said in my head, complete with imagined jumping up and down on the spot like a horrible goblin. My father’s time was running out, they didn’t think he’d make it past a week, and he would need to be operated on as soon as possible, otherwise he might not survive regardless.

That night saw his wife and children pacing around like caged animals. Pleas of, “can’t you give her something to wake up so we can ASK her?!” came from their camp, whereas my mother went into rabidly defensive mode and told them to back the fuck off or else the imminent death of my father wouldn’t be the only thing to worry about.

“You think you get to decide what’s going on here? You and he have already crucified our lives as it is, and if you think I’m going to let you so much as breathe near my daughter, I will END YOU RIGHT HERE.”

You don’t really fuck with my mother now. It’s a bad idea. She banned them from my room and told staff to keep them the hell away from me no matter what happened to my father. He was incredibly frail, and that night I had my last round of ‘fun’ with them before I decided to open my eyes.  It was my half-brother’s turn.

“I wrote to you on Christmas eve, and you ignored me, I know you saw what I wrote. Why did you do that? Now that you see me, laid up and asleep the only option for our father, how do you feel? Do you care about what happens to me as a person, surrounding the kidney you hope I will give? Or will you be like your father and disappear?”

I pressed harder, really needling the soft underbelly of his fears, feeling the guilt flow out of him and into my core.

“He’s probably going to die, you know that right? And he was close, so close to getting a viable kidney but I haven’t woken up yet. I’m in the same building, but you’re not allowed in anymore. So close but so far. You should have answered me. You should have.”

I let those thousands of little paper-cuts slice into his sanity, so many of them all at once that I could feel his ego deflating and bleeding out into my own. It tasted so good. He was silently crying, completely unable to see and he felt sick and disgusted. He stood up, and went to leave the room, his own mother asking him where he was going.

“I can’t look at him anymore.” He spat.  “I can’t be here knowing we’re asking one of the people he fucking abandoned for help, knowing he discarded them like trash. I can’t. Even if she doesn’t wake up, even If he dies, what right did we have?”

I didn’t relent. I wanted him to see what our lives were like. I showed him everything I’d forced into my father’s head, including my brother’s trauma, and my self-loathing at having my first memory be my father. I made sure he knew the names they were given were stolen from us.  I made sure he watched my mother not eat, just so my brother and I could. I showed him his own father refusing to pay towards our survival, and I showed him his own mother hissing at him to have nothing to do with us. I wasn’t about to stop being cruel now.

He collapsed against the wall outside his father’s room. I left him there, knowing I’d shown him all he needed to see. He felt the same disgust for his father as I did. Maybe I wouldn’t have had a better life with him in it, maybe things would still have been traumatic. How would I know for sure? That’s the thing; not knowing is worse.

I crept into my half-sister’s head, softly. She was also a cop now, and I’d never tried to reach her before. I don’t know if she’d have ignored me because I didn’t give her the opportunity to try, but I knew that she was either her mother or father’s daughter, and neither one of them were good people. I didn’t play on her fears. I didn’t demolish her like I did the others. I simply showed her that my father was a deeply corrupt cop who was anything but a pillar of the community. I showed her this in the hope that she wouldn’t go the same way. I buried a shoot of loathing in her mind for her mother, making her move as far away from her as she could without leaving the room.  I didn’t need to give her that same loathing for our father, because it was already forming.

She shot her mother the same look of revulsion her brother had done moments before. The expression on her face when she looked down at our withering father was tear-filled and appalled.

“He told her to GO AWAY. She reached out to him, and he told her to go away. My BROTHER ignored her. Both of us come from a relationship that tore down THEIR lives and you had the gall to ask one of those broken lives for help? What the fuck is wrong with you? ”

She didn’t leave the room. Instead she stood at the window as far away from both of them as she could, and called her husband asking him to come and collect her. She left twenty minutes later, with a parting shot of, “I’m going to make sure my children are raised with better morals than either of you. You disgust me.”

Yes, I was gleeful. I’m sure some folks might say I surpassed any moral right to be this vicious, but I didn’t care, and I wanted them to know what real, LASTING emotional pain felt like. I heard her scream at her brother who was still outside the room in a mess of tears, “you fucking IGNORED HER, just like our father.”

Just like that, they were gone. The sense of satisfaction I got from that tasted better than anything else I’d squeezed from all of them combined. I relished it, feeling it wash over me like the first food someone might taste after being starved. It was GLORIOUS.

Aaaaand then I woke up.

It was the small hours of the morning, my mother there holding my hand. I moaned lightly and squeezed it, letting her know there was strength in me. Opening my eyes was weird, even though it was dark, it still hurt a little. I asked for water, and took a straw-full before she went to press the button for the nurse, but I grabbed her hand to stop. My grip was unexpectedly firm and she gasped. It didn’t hurt her, she just thought I’d be weaker than I was. The truth is, I’d never felt more alive. My shoulder and neck didn’t hurt one iota. I didn’t feel sick, no pain anywhere whatsoever. It was like I’d been reborn. She tried to keep me in bed, but I wasn’t having any of it. I pulled myself up, ripped out the various needles and equipment from my body, and stood up, my feet prickling against the cold floor.

“Call my brother.” I said, calmly.

I opened the door, a flood of light searing into my eyes and looks of astonishment coming from the staff as if they were amazed I was awake, never mind standing up and looking completely fine. Covering my eyes, I walked confidently down to my father’s room, and opened the door. I didn’t knock, of course I didn’t fucking knock. The look on his wife’s face was priceless. He was completely out of it, hadn’t been awake for days.

I held up a finger to my lips to motion for her to be quiet, because she was about to say something I really, really didn’t want to hear. I couldn’t cope with any more of her sucking up. Had I gotten my way, I’d have ripped her tongue clean out of her mouth.

“He can have a kidney.”

Then I turned around and left, walking back to my room to be faced with a doctor and a couple of nurses, and a still very confused but incredibly relieved mother. I told them the same thing, that he could have a kidney. This was met with “well we will need to see if you’re fit to operate on…” But I told them I was fairly sure I’d be more than up to it. I was right of course, after tests, prodding, and the like, I could be shuttled down to an operating theatre the following morning.

My brother protested of course, but I told him to back off and let me do this. He was pig-headed at times, but both he and my mother knew better than to try and talk me out of anything. There’s no reason to go into detail about the procedure itself, because it was entirely flawless and one of my kidneys was inside my father as fast as was humanly able.

People will often tell you that the right thing to do, is to forgive. It’s even encouraged nowadays, as if you’re a lesser person for not doing so, but FUCK THAT. Fuck that all the way into the sun. You don’t have to forgive anyone. If they wronged you, your upset and anger is valid, and you take that and you use it to keep yourself alive. Hold that grudge. Hold onto it so that it gives you purpose.

A week later, I was home. I was under the watchful eye of my mother, and my brother was visiting regularly to make sure I was doing okay despite his incredulity that I’d actually done this. I didn’t speak to my father’s wife aside from saying he could have the kidney, and I refused all contact from my half-brother and sister. I was waiting for something to happen, and it took approximately two weeks before that thing did indeed happen.

When trauma and poison builds up inside of you, so much so that it saturates every molecule inside you, dictates your actions and drives you, it means that at some point, it has to go somewhere. My body, every part of it was sodden with this pernicious hatred, and I was going through life in absolute agony on a daily basis. Some doctors will tell you that psychological trauma has a physical effect on the body, and it does. I took all of that pain, all of that trauma and I channelled it into that one lifesaving organ that my father needed so badly.  The doctors initially thought his body was rejecting it, that perhaps they’d made a mistake and my kidney wasn’t as viable as they’d thought, but it wasn’t anything as simple as that. I’d deliberately poisoned him.

I learned this from an email via my half-brother after I’d actually decided to answer their bleating. I wasn’t specifically asked to visit, but I went all the same. I practically dared them in my head to stop me from seeing my father, but I didn’t have to worry as none of them had the strength to deny me anything.

I stood there over him, watching him shrink away, rotting from the inside out. He couldn’t speak, and his eyes were barely open but he could see me. His heart rate started to rise at the sight of me and his wife tried to summon a nurse, but again as with my mother, I grabbed her arm to stop her, and I squeezed hard enough to leave her breathless.

“Nobody fucking press anything.” I snarled in a manner that made everyone freeze.

His skin was a horrible blueish grey, pallid and translucent. I could see the network of veins close to the surface, blackening like they were slowly dying. His breathing was wheezy and laboured, his lips cracked like he’d never had water in his life. Clumps of hair were falling out, the musculature of his body atrophying at an alarming rate. If you’ve ever wondered what a living zombie looked like, this would be it. The blueness of his eyes had faded to a dead grey, and the whites were yellowed and lined with red. He reeked of death. If you work as a healthcare professional and you know what cancerous wounds smell like, they had nothing on him. The moment you walked onto the ward, you could TASTE how disgusting he was.

A doctor came in, the entire room shifting to look him, everyone except me. I didn’t break the gaze I had on my father’s face for a second. I could hear the doctor telling his wife and children that it wasn’t a rejection in a typical sense, because they’d never seen anything like this before. I could tell my father was listening to the doctor, but I refused to let him break my hold over him. A small smile danced around my lips, visible only to him.

I leaned in, closer to his face, right next to his stinking, putrefying ear and whispered, “they SEE you now.”

It was then, even in his utterly destroyed state, that he must have realised I’d engineered this. This was my revenge, my beautiful, glorious revenge. His back arched in a hideously grotesque manner, and the machines shrieked as his body went into cardiac arrest. Everyone was pushed out of the room as the crash carts were brought in. They worked on him for thirty minutes, all the while I stood soundlessly watching through the gap in the door they hadn’t closed properly. His wife and her angels were clutched together in a huddle of shame and despair, waiting the longest thirty minutes of their lives for something positive to happen, but it never came.

The lead doctor pronounced him dead at 15:04PM on the date of my fortieth birthday. I could hear the wailing and screaming all the way down the corridor as the song to my exit. I didn’t look back at them, why would I want to do that?

I’m glad I never subscribed to that bullshit about how revenge won’t make you feel better. I’m not in pain anymore. I’m physically and mentally at my absolute BEST, and I feel fucking fantastic.

SNAILS II

Part one.

My brother went missing two months ago. I got a phone call from the hospital to tell me to come because he was in bad shape, but when I got there, he was gone. Nobody would tell me anything. I was heavied out of the hospital by security, and I have been trying to find him ever since. I’m sorry if any of this is disjointed, but I’m trying to make it as clear as I can until I get the footage cleaned up and online.

A woman came to our apartment and knocked relentlessly until I answered, handing me a small package with a scrawled note. She wouldn’t say who she was, refused to answer anything, and just ran away. Obviously fucking confused, I opened the thing. My sense of relief when I realised it was footage from Brooks’ phone was brief because it holds some seriously fucked up shit. I promise I’m going to upload the audio and video to streaming sites, but I’ve transcribed it just in case it gets taken down.

“I don’t know how long I have left, so I’m getting this out as fast as I am able so you know what happens if you can’t get the treatment you need. I’m not a wealthy person, I live hand to mouth and so there was no way I was ever going to be that fortunate.  Sorry, I’m probably not being clear. I used one of those shady Russian skincare products posing as high quality stuff from Korea.”

He goes on to describe his surroundings:

“I’m currently in a filthy room that looks like it’s been hollowed out of concrete, kind of like a makeshift underground shelter maybe?  What I’m seeing is gory as fuck, I’m terrified. Sorry for the audio quality, I hope it’s usable. I don’t have a signal at all. There’s a lot of screaming going on and other inhuman noises as the rest of the ‘people’ around me go through the metamorphosis into what I can only describe as…fuck I don’t know HOW to describe it. Ohgod there’s a girl next to me and she’s pretty far along and her EYES JUST PUSHED OUT OF THEIR SOCKETS AND ARE DANGLING THERE STILL ATTACHED TO HER OPTIC NERVES FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK SHE WON’T STOP SCREAMING”

“JesusSHITTINGFUCK I’m going to be si-”

He pukes at this point, he couldn’t even finish his sentence. When he talks again he’s sobbing and panicking, with more retching:

“Sorry, I just…ugh..my name is Brooks Marin, and I’m from Camden City, New Jersey, twenty-eight years old, if you find what’s left of me, tell my brother Ben, please find him.  I am, or wasa guy into skincare because fucking puberty ruined me with acne, and honestly I’ll try anything to rid myself of it. I heard snail slime has ‘magical’ properties that can calm the angriest of skin down, but because I’m broke and couldn’t afford decent stuff, I had to go with that I could find. I’d heard about the mask disaster on the Internet I mean who hasn’t but FUCK, but I didn’t use a mask, it was MOISTURISER. I was using the stuff twice a day for a MONTH, and sure my acne fucked off but then this…this horrible peeling and green brownish skin started surfacing, and the pain in my head was unbearable. The pain didn’t hit me until the skin on my face fell off in strips of bloody mess. It started as surface peeling like sunburn, and then it just got worse until it started to tear and fall off. Ohgod it hurts so much..”

He talks about what happened in hospital:

“When I gurgled for help into my phone before passing out, I remember blurred lights and medics trying to talk to me but I was in so much pain I couldn’t respond. Outside of this concrete shit-bunker, I don’t know where I am right now. They moved me somewhere before my brother could even get to me, and it’s so COLD. We have to be underground ’cause where would somewhere like this be above ground?  There’s maybe two working lights in here, kind of like street lights after dark, but that’s it.”

THEY WOULDN’T LET ME SEE HIM OR TELL ME WHERE HE WAS.

“My face is wrapped up in gauze and it’s sore as fuck and it itches and I’m taking it off because I can’t breathe and I-”

He can barely talk out of fright, it’s more sobbing and whimpering noises breaking into sobs and his screaming, fuck, his screaming.

“WHATEVER WAS LEFT OF MY FACE JUST CAME OFF WITH THE GAUZE OH MY GOD SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME…noNO please don’t hurt me please no NO NO-”

There’s another man in the audio, his tone utterly venomous yelling at him in Russian to shut the fuck up; there’s a lot of scuffling and then I have to listen as he brutally knocks my baby brother out. I am fucking ruined knowing this might be the last he saw of life. He later managed to take some video footage but it’s not very long because he wanted to preserve the battery on his phone.

“I don’t want to drain the battery too much, but I wanted you to see this – I can feel pressure building behind my eyes. My hair is rapidly falling out, my scalp pulsing slowly as if something is growing under my skin. The light in here is really shitty so I don’t know what you can see, but here, let me show you the others if you can see them, maybe someone can enhance this somehow? I’m so scared and asking for help gets you beaten, we’re all trapped and so fucked. I’m sorry for the sobbing but I’m so fucking scared, it’s hard to breathe and I don’t want to die.”

He switches back to audio, still terribly distressed as am I right now, I can’t believe this is real.

“I’m completely bald now. My scalp ruptured in several places and started coming off in chunks like my face did, but it’s weird and it doesn’t hurt and I don’t know why. Holding flaps of my own skin in my now discolouring hands is so fucked up, and the blood is almost jelly like. I can’t do video again but I’m taking selfies for you to look at, so you can see the fucking mess I’m in. I felt around my eyes and they’re already protruding more than they should be. My mollusc like skin is producing slime so they’re not drying out but fuck they are painful and sore. I don’t understand why they hurt and my scalp doesn’t, and I still have lips but they feel like fat chunks of slimy rubber. Ohgod..I just..”

There’s a bit of movement and muffled moaning here because he’s losing his teeth. The selfies he’s taken are brutal and grisly, but I have to look at them. We ALL need to look at them.

“Two of my teeth just fell out! My mouth is full of blood ohfuck fuck fuck fuck fuck don’t scream don’t scream don’t scream don’t scream..”

This is a little later after a break in the audio and he’s speaking so FAST it’s almost hard to understand him:

“My mouth is full of thickening blood and slime and every time I spit it out it comes back and my teeth are pushing out of my gums slowly and it feels like needles being forced through, and my hands, my FINGERS are shrinking and my nails are going black and…I just touched one and it slid off my finger..Oh my god. The girl who’s eyes flew out, she’s…she’s rubbing the rest of her skin against the concrete and it’s sloughing off with that jelly like blood, and the smell is… I can’t describe it. I know I said I wouldn’t video again but I have to for this you NEED to SEE IT!”

This footage is disgusting but I’ll do my best to describe it. It shows two previously unseen giant snail-like creatures, hideously deformed and oozing across the concrete to feed on the remnants of her skin. They have what remains of arms and legs but they are different sizes, shrinking into the body. Pulsing humps are growing on their backs, which presumably develop into shells later on maybe? The newly moulted female spits out the last of her bloodied teeth, falling forward onto her underbelly, her head and neck raised. She lets out a gurgled cry, and moves slowly over to the dim corner with the other giants.

I haven’t been able to find anyone trustworthy who can enhance this, if you think you can help me with that, PLEASE talk to me. I need help with this, I’m not very technologically minded. He goes back to audio again and then this:

“JESUS FUCKING CHRIST.”

The next recording doesn’t come up for over twelve hours. The last one was just him saying those three words and a lot of gut-wrenching sobbing. Do you have any idea what it’s like to listen to family go through the most horrific time of their life, scared and far away, crying for you and not being able to do anything about it? DO YOU?

What he describes next is unfathomable.  His speech is slurring but please, please listen:

“A…ohjesus.  If this is what we look like when we change I don’t want to be like this, I can’t be like this nononononono- it’s ghastly. It has to be at least six feet tall, its skin is dripping with blackened slime and chunks of dead human flesh, glistening under the orange light; its bloated gargantuan body rippling along the ground, as fat as it is tall. Its shell, is…transparent. I can see twisted and mangled organs in there, and pieces of human flesh, ohgod I can see body parts as if it feeds on..waitwait THERE’S AN ENTIRE PERSON IN THERE AND THEY’RE STILL ALIVE. It looks like they’re melting as if someone threw caustic soda all over them, their skin is red and bubbling and they’re trying to fight their way out but they’re clearly too weak fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!”

He vomits again but I really don’t know what he would have left in him.

“I think we feed on human flesh when we change, not just the skin but everything. Is that why we’re here? Are we food for those who have already mutated? Are we here to see if we survive the metamorphosis without being consumed? Oh my god there’s another one and it’s bigger, how can it be bigger pleaseno no no..”

He witnesses something truly hideous and it’s almost unintelligible but I’ll do my best to describe it because I’ve listened to it enough to figure out what he’s saying between the keening and retching. The two behemoth molluscs with their disgusting bloated forms appear to face off, one opening its mouth to let out a horrible kind of roaring, that blackened slime flying out of its mouth and into the face of the other. The smaller creature roars back and goes for the neck of the larger, clamping onto it somehow even though snails don’t have teeth right? It then sounds like the bigger one starts to thrash around, hurling the smaller one to smash it against the concrete like it was nothing. Their huge pulsating bodies writhe around one another until the larger one mounts the shell of the other and uses its underbelly to envelop and crush it, a mess of half digested organs and black slime spilling out onto the floor.  The now dying monster twitches and shudders to a repulsive death.

The alpha roars down at the fresh kill, slowly starting to gulp huge mouthfuls of flesh and decaying matter into its cavernous gullet, with revolting noises like a fat hog. It seems they have no issues with cannibalising themselves. One of the not-quite-fully-developed creatures from the corner slimes its way out, looking down at the mess on the floor. It turns away gradually towards the opposite wall, and starts to smash its own head off the cold concrete. It moans and gurgles until its gored head droops sideways, dripping black jelly having committed suicide.

DOES THIS MEAN THEY REMEMBER WHO THEY WERE?

His next words are desolate:

“My hands are sliming up, I don’t know how much longer I will be able to record because I won’t be able to use my phone because of the slime and everything hurts so much and I’m literally falling apart. So fucking tired I can’t…”

There is this sickening sound as one of his eyes finally pops out, and he can’t help but scream. I could hear those screams turn into bloodcurdling hoarse begging as I assume one of the heavily armed Russians stalks in and does something cruelly repulsive, because his voice turns to this slurred, broken, drooling version of his former self:

“He fed my eye to the others, he laughed and stomped on my hands, nails flying off everywhere. Don’t think I have many teeth left now, my other eye is going to come loose soon. Have writhed out of my clothes, won’t be needing them now. Skin is falling off me..”

The next part was the worst for me to hear because it’s just him coughing, retching, HOWLING in pain and begging me to come and find him, and I COULDN’T GET TO HIM AND I FUCKING TRIED. I TRIED.

“Tongue fell out…other eye dangling now..ohgodnononodon’t, no getawayfromme no NONOnoooo”

I think the alpha got close because I could hear the same slurping and hog-like groaning, but this time it sounded like it was in pain, like it hurt to do whatever it did.  Did it eat my brother, or is he still alive in that godforsaken state? I can’t believe this happened over a fucking MOISTURISER HOW THE FUCK DOES THIS EVEN HAPPEN, HOW?!

I’m sorry, I keep losing my fucking mind because I don’t know if he’s alive or not, and in what disposition, if he is. There was a letter with his phone. It wasn’t signed. The English is broken, but it’s not hard to understand. It reads:

“I am not like others here, I found his fone in his clothes and wanted to get word out. I not want to hurt people, am ashamed. Sorry. I travel far to bring this, please find brother. Sorry again. Tell everyone, no secrets.”

Whatever my brother is now, if he’s still alive? He’s not human. I need to put the footage online but it’s so dark and you know that people who are involved in this will just say it’s fake and will try and sweep it away. Maybe if I talk to the people who were lucky enough to get the right treatment, they’ll believe me, right?  My brother might be a giant-human eating-cannibalising fucking snail. Do they remember who they were? I mean, if he is still alive would he even remember me? The one that committed suicide makes me think they remember, and holyshittingfuck just WHY?

I called off work the last couple of days, sleeping isn’t happening ever again, and the idea of food makes me heave. It’s just after 03:00AM and the security door on the apartment block just slammed, and HARD. This building is flimsy as fuck and I can hear multiple people clomping their way up the stairs, with muffled male voices. They’re almost at my door and I think they’re here for me because why the fuck would they be in the building at this hour if they weren’t?

They’re pounding on the door now, and not even trying to be nice about it. They’re yelling at me in what I can only assume is Russian, and…ohfuckME they just shot someone. One of my neighbours I’m guessing because of course you’d open the fucking door if you heard this level of noise in your building, or maybe you wouldn’t? I don’t fucking know! There’s shrieking from other neighbours now, and they’re still braying on my door, I don’t think it will take much more because it’s so fucking flimsy.  They’re starting to punch through now, I don’t think I have long left before they get to me.

I’ve uploaded the unprocessed footage to Google Drive, and have sent the details to another person who I’m not going to name, because after seeing what I’ve seen, I KNEW this would happen. Look out for it online, and if you find it, please, please replicate it. Don’t let them censor it. Those gigantic snails aren’t the cute little things you see outside on leaves.