Free Story: The Nowhere By Kevin Strange

The Nowhere and many other exciting stories are available NOW in Kevin Strange’s newest collection, All The Toxic Waste From My Heart on Amazon Kindle and in paperback here


The Nowhere

by Kevin Strange

I set traps. That’s my job. Since The Nowhere appeared. The Nowhere is where they’re from. The giants. The monsters made up of smaller monsters. The titan beings from another dimension, or between dimensions, or several dimensions nested within an even smaller dimension, depending on which scientist you ask. It seems like I’m always after another scientist. They’re the hot commodity in Fuckland. That’s what I call the world since it happened. That’s what we non-science types call the place the monsters live.

The guys in charge now want to find a way to close it off, to end the nightmare. To start us over again like the reset button on a video game. Me? I just set traps. I just hunt people for money—well, money doesn’t actually exist no more, but people trade things. They trade things people like me need in exchange for doin’ things people like them can’t—like find their loved ones in the sea of shit that used to be cities, towns, communities, and neighborhoods. Now everything’s all bashed to shit by big monsters sometimes shaped like big people, sometimes shaped like things that make your brain go bananas, like light switches flipping on and off or babies screaming (there ain’t many babies around no more, so that’s not something you hear a lot out here in Fuckland).

The guys in charge pay the best, so that’s who I usually work for. And right now, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pretty god damn desperate for some work; my last job didn’t quite pan out. Found the girl the parents were looking for. Damn hard job. Had to give up some good quality canned goods and the last of my cartons of cigarettes to get good info on the spot she was stayin’ at—seems the goons selling her ass to horny geeked-out weirdos were paying my usual rats better than I did, but I got her.

My trap was good, that time. Sent a rat bastard in on account of looking to maybe rent her for a good time and all that. I didn’t tell the rat that I had put a pipe bomb in his jacket right before he walked on in. I make good bombs. Real loud and lots of damage—that’s what you need when it’s twenty goons and one of you.

Messy job. Didn’t get all the goons with that first bomb. Got my hands dirty and lost a knife in a weirdo’s eye socket that I couldn’t get out, but she was there, hiding in a back room all whacked out and fucked stupid.

Wish I could say the same for her parents when I got her back home. One of those things had appeared from—yeah, from outta Nowhere, you got it. The Nowhere things stomped shit up pretty good, including my clients’ house. They didn’t get out in time, and no, there wasn’t much left in the rubble for me to salvage. The girl was pretty upset and made me take her back to the goony weirdo’s fuckhouse so she could trick again and shoot up on Nowhere smack, as some folks are wont to do in Fuckland.

Nowhere smack is the ectoplasmic ooze left behind every time one of the big ass things crosses over, or under, or whatever happens when something switches sides from Nowhere to Fuckland.

That job left me desperate, and I’m not too proud to admit that taking up a big ol’ nose full of that squirmy slime and blasting off outta my own brain for a bit didn’t sound like such a bad idea. But what I don’t tell nobody—why I do this nonsense in the first place—is that I’ve got a lady and a kid to feed. That’s right, I’ve got a little family stowed away someplace safe, and don’t even think about asking me where they are ’cause I’d as soon kill ya as tell ya.

So that’s really why I took the job the guys in charge offered me. If it wasn’t for ol’ Carla and little Joey back at my spot, I’d have told them to fuck themselves right proper for the thing they asked me to do next.

The guys in charge aren’t government and they aren’t military. They’re just some bozos who happen to not be dead yet, and decided to get together and run shit from behind a few tons of barricades that do a decent job keeping the Nowhere things out.

Usually when I approach the ten story structure—built out of cars, fallen over buildings, trees, and just about anything they can get their hands on and weld or strap or slop together with concrete—there are guards waiting at a pair of turret-mounted towers on the north wall that have to wave me in through the gigantic drawbridge made of junk that keeps the weirdos and the Nowhere things out.

Today, neither guard stood watch, and that drawbridge, well it was layin’ wide open for any bozo or freaked-out weirdo to mosey on through. But like I been saying, I was desperate, needed the money, and I wasn’t about to let something foolish like that get in the way of me feeding my family.

Why there weren’t no guards up front was apparent when I got into the compound. Right up front where any whacked-out weirdo could seem ’em, the whole mess of guys in charge were gathered around the body of a Nowhere thing—one of the ones that looks like a big person, with two arms and two legs and a sort of head—strapped down with a bunch of jet-sized magnets all vibrating, keeping it from switching sides back to Nowhere. Well, that thing was pissed and screaming up a storm from all its parts.

Nowhere things are like big vacuums, sucking up all the living things around there from Fuckland to Nowhere ’til they’re massive five or six story tall things all made up of the smaller things. The smaller things don’t seem to be able to get free of the larger mass, but that don’t stop ’em from writhing around, biting, snapping, clawing or sucking, depending on what they have for mouths. They get at each other, or anything gets too close to the bigger thing. It’s all a pretty hard pill to swallow, and I seen more than one good man take a bullet to the brain after getting around one too many Nowhere things.

I found my contact pretty quickly, standing around back. Bill the Gills is what they called him, on account of him being a big fat guy. His fatty under-chin—jowls I guess—were all foldy and flappy and looked like fish gills. He didn’t take to the name any, but people ain’t exactly worried about each other’s feelings in Fuckland when they got giant monsters made of little monsters flashing in and out of existence, smashing and killing and eating and fucking everybody they love.

Bill says, he says, “Mark-Paul!”

That’s my name. Use both of ’em when you talk to me or you ain’t gonna be sayin’ much after that.

“Mark-Paul! Just the man I was hoping I’d see today! We did it, pal!” he says. Bill the Gills is always getting too excited, I tell him. I tell him he’s gonna blow a gasket and stroke out before he ever finds a way to close up the gates or portals or whatever the Nowhere things use to come and go.

“What’d you do, Bill?” I says, sensing I was about to make some good money.

“We found a way in!”

Bill babbled at me about the science and the theory and all the junk that goes in one ear and out the other. All I wanted to know was why he was happy to see me.

“Because, Mark-Paul,” Bill says, grinning. “We’re gonna put you in there! We’re gonna send you to Nowhere!”

And that was that. Few hours later and it’s just a few of us standing around. The guys in charge are still going on and on about how much of a game changer it is in the fight against the Nowhere things. That’s when they drag this guy out all tied up and freaking out something fierce.

I give Bill a look. He comes over and leans in all quiet, “I didn’t say it was a pretty way in.”

Ok.

They’ve got this guy’s hands tied behind his back and they yank him up on this pulley they’ve got built over the body of the Nowhere thing. Now he’s really going on loud enough to beat the band.

They get him all hung in place, and I got a pretty good idea of what’s gonna happen next. I take off my cowboy hat and try to pull myself as far into my trench coat as I can, ’cause shit’s about to get ugly and messy.

Yeah, you got it. They cut the poor sap’s throat with a big ole scythe that looks like it came straight outta the cornfield, all taped up on a long pole so they could slice him without having to climb up onto the Nowhere thing themselves.

His blood comes out thick and fast on account of how freaked he is, and me, being the softy I am, wish they’d at least hopped him up on geek juice before they put him to the knife like that.

Bill sees how squeamish I get. He says, “It’s gotta be this way. I wish it didn’t, but the blood doesn’t work unless it’s got fear in it. It’s the fear that opens the way.”

‘Bout that time, the sap died and hung there limp as a two-foot shit as the last of his life’s blood spilled out onto the chest of the Nowhere thing. That caused the smaller things to get up to their own screaming and hollering, thrashing about, fighting each other until they were bleeding, too. They kept on fighting the more they bled, and the more they bled the more they fought, ’til the Nowhere thing’s chest started looking like some kind of a feeding frenzy, splashing the sap’s blood and the smaller things’ blood all over the place.

That’s when the guys in charge started moving really fast, shouting at each other, pumping these hoses with chemicals into the sloshing goop in the Nowhere thing’s chest, and turning nobs and pressing buttons on the magnet machine’s controls.

Pretty soon the soupy mess starts churning all in the same direction, creating some kind of a bloody, chemically whirlpool right there inside the Nowhere thing’s body.

“It’s time, Mark-Paul,” Bill says. He says, “You know what to do. See you on the other side.” I hoisted up the heavy, coffin-shaped bag that he provided me with onto my back, then I climbed up the Nowhere thing’s leg. I ran up to the whirlpool and I dove right in is what I did, ’cause god damnit I needed the money to feed my family, and I ain’t the kind of guy who lets those I love starve.

Oceans of time. I panic. I can’t breathe. Red everywhere. I swallow it in, suck it up through my nose and smell the fear on it. I thrash and I kick and I swim against teeth and claws. I get tangled up in guts and brush up against squishy things I can’t identify. I feel myself slip away and go weak. Then nothing.

Then I wake up. Darkness. Warm, thick liquid covers everything but my mouth and nose. It smells like rot—like meat left out so long, not even the dogs want a swing at it. I strike out and feel some give. I swing again through the warm muck, and I hear a grunt. I feel the world around me shift and I see a tiny sliver of light break into the darkness.

That’s my life line.

I punch again and again until things start to separate, to groan, to fight back. I claw and bite at what feels like flesh above me until it squirms away in protest, and then I can see again.

A low, purple sky drips. A smog thick enough to choke hangs in the air like poison. I pull free of the muck and climb out, dragging the coffin-shaped bag behind me.

Bodies.

Human bodies and not-human things, all pushed together form the ground, all floating atop the ectoplasmic Nowhere smack. Everything’s covered in a layer of red gore, like looking through an infrared spectrum. Titan monoliths soar above to dizzying heights, and by god, they’re made of bodies, too. I squint up at that horrible purple sky, and dammit if it ain’t made of bodies as well.

This weird landscape stretches on and on. Even through the smog, I see the bloody ground and the dripping sky for miles in all directions, like a vast ocean. Only the towering monoliths jutting up toward the purple sky bodies break up the unsettling flatness.

I’m Nowhere.

The coffin-shaped bag thumps, reminding me of why I’m in this terrible place. I’ve got to find my target. I have to set my trap.

That’s when the mountainous structure closest to me moves.

Then and there I realize all those monoliths are Nowhere things. Hundreds of them, all standing around like statues, like big ol’ dominoes. The one near me takes off walking forward like it’s got some place to be in a hurry, and then BAM!

Just like that, the Nowhere thing is gone, and a tidal wave of Nowhere muck crashes down all around me. I’m careful not to get any in my mouth while I wipe that nasty shit off me, ’cause I ain’t no junkie like that, and I ain’t about to start being one, no matter how bad my nerves are jittering from being here.

All around me the ground starts to shift and move. I look down, and those things all connected together making the ground are straining to lift up off each other to get at the Nowhere muck. People-things and animal-things and god-knows-6what kind of things all groping at the muck, shoveling it into their mouths, gulping it down like it’s the last meal they’re ever gonna eat. They get all excited the more of it they eat, ’til those things are a-moaning and groaning loud as hell. I stagger backward to keep on solid ground as the whole mess of ’em around me go to town on that Nowhere smack.

I start to walk away as the muck oozes its way toward me, waking up the ground, when I feel a tug at the coffin-shaped bag. I look down and—I shit you not—those things are trying to slurp the muck off the damn bag! So I kick them things off and make a bee-line away from that group.

I only make it a few yards when another thunderclap tries to blow my ears out and that Nowhere thing comes popping right back into existence a ways down the way; only now, it’s got a mess of people and rubble (looks like whats left of a building) in its two sets of arms.

I make sure I’m not anywhere near the Nowhere smack that splatters all over the ground around it, and watch as the damn thing just tosses the bodies of the people and what’s left of the building right into a big puddle of the stuff. ‘Course they’re scared shitless, flailing about, trying to get up off the ground and run away, but the same thing happens with the ground as happened to me, only now, there’s enough of ’em that they can get a hold of these people, and they start dragging ’em down on the ground, and, hand to the bible, those reddish things start stuffing the smack into the normal people’s mouths ’til they go all limp and silly.

After a minute or two, every damn person in that muck was turning a dark shade of red and linking up arms and legs and teeth and other parts I ain’t gonna mention ’til they was all settled in and part of that damn ground. Every last one of ’em. The ground made room for ’em, rippling out like a big ol’ rock had just been dropped in a pond. That ripple extended out, growing bigger and taller, until way down in the distance, another monolith erupted from the ground, making a new Nowhere thing.

Assimilation.

Nowhere’s taking all the people from our place—and from the looks of it, all types of other places mankind ain’t never seen before—and turning ’em all into…

Nothing.

I figure I’ve wasted about as much time as I oughta playing nature-watch in the Nowhere. So I take off in the opposite direction of all that nonsense and look for my target.

It doesn’t take long to find the big sumbitch. Bill the Gills told me I’d know him when I saw him, and he was goddamn right about that, no doubt.

Only thing Bill didn’t say was just how… awful the thing would look.

I seen my fair share of these things in my line of work. Most folks just try to hunker down and wait for food drops from the guys in charge, so they don’t see a lot of what goes on ’til it’s one of those things right up knockin’ on their very own door step. That’s why they go sorta crazy when they see ’em for the first time.

Me? I’ve seen em all. Big ones, little ones, fat ones, ones made of a bunch of dogs, ones made of fish and octopuses even. Don’t shock me none no more.

‘Til I saw the big sumbitch.

Big as a mountain. I lean way back just to squint up through the smog to see what passed as his head. He must be made up entirely of things not from our world, ’cause whatever’s seething and rippling like waves that make up his skin ain’t nothing I’ve ever laid eyes on.

I feel my eyes start to twitch and go wonky as those ripples and undulations started getting in my head, whispering things to me. Horrible things.

Then the coffin-shaped bag thumps again, breaking my concentration. Now’s the time to set my trap. I run out in front of the sumbitch, making sure he can see me—which ain’t hard, considering the tens of thousands of eyes the size of truck tires staring at me like a big ol’ juicy steak.

Some traps are complex and require a lot of planning and thinkin’ about various scenarios and choices the target might make. Some take days or even weeks to set and spring. But not this trap.

This time, I’m the trap, and the big sumbitch takes the bait right away. He turns to face me, his whole gargantuan form rippling and waving, trying to get that trance going again.

I get down messing with the coffin-shaped bag to keep my concentration. I open it up and, yeah, you mighta guessed it already, there’s a real coffin in there. I use the special key Bill the Gills gave me and get the two locks off it. The lid bursts open. The fella inside screams and gasps for breath. He tries to scramble out, but the hooks and chains and chemical tubes all buried in him make it hard for him to move without pain.

I guess I should feel sorry for the poor chap. He probably didn’t do nothin’ wrong. If he did, he didn’t do it to me. But Bill pays me damn good and pays me on time, so I do what he paid me to do.

I pull the bazooka-looking thing out from next to the coffin and I grab the fella by the hair, drag him out and sling him over my shoulder. He doesn’t fight much. The hook under his chin and through his mouth is giving him quite a fit. He’s more worried about that hook than what I’m doing, which is probably best for him.

The poor guy’s spitting up blood, begging for his momma while I set the crosshairs on the big sumbitch’s chest, doing my best to keep my wits about me as all those eyes wiggle and squirm, singing me silent songs.

I’m just about to do what those whispering voices in my brain tell me to do and turn the bazooka thing on myself, when the guy tries to make a break for it, almost ripping his jaw off in the process.

Well, that’s about all I need to get my mind back inside my own head. I pull the trigger and WOOSH!

Off goes the poor doomed fucker. SPLAT!

I was kind of hoping the impact would kill him, but all it seemed to do was get him more riled up, even though his limbs was dangling at angles that’d get a gymnast some gold medals.

It’s the fear that opens the way. That’s what Bill the Gills told me. I say a silent prayer for the sap and press the button on the Bazooka thing.

Boom!

The chains rip him apart, tearing a hole in the chest of the big sumbitch, sending a plume of blood into the air that comes raining down on me like a spring shower.

Same as happened before, the smaller things get going at the blood and chemical concoction and each other until its chest is spinning in an unholy vortex.

‘Cept what happens next ain’t what me and Bill the Gills talked about. Bill told me once I got the way open in the chest of the biggest, meanest-looking Nowhere thing in the Nowhere, they’d send in their weapons and their troops and they’d turn Nowhere inside out ’til there wasn’t no Nowhere left.

What happens is, more people than I ever seen in one place in all my life starts spilling out of that hole into the Nowhere, building piles and piles of bodies spilling down all over the ground ’til I see more normal people layin’ around than I do those assimilated into the Nowhere.

Mark-Paul, where is our little girl?”

Where is our daughter? You promised you’d bring her to us!”

I’m so distracted by what’s happening in front of me, I forget to watch my back. I hear the voices and spin around, but damned if there ain’t one of them Nowhere things right up on me! Sticking out of the leg of the thing, right in my face, is those two parents from my last job that went missing—only now, they don’t look like people. They’re just red limbs and faces all stretched out of shape so ugly I barely recognize them in there linked to other people and shapes forming that Nowhere thing’s leg.

Before I can get away, they reach for me, getting a hold of my trench coat, pulling me into their arms, squeezing me tight enough to push all the air out of my lungs. The little bit of air I can get in smells like flaming garbage. I choke and feel my gorge pushing up to my throat.

But I ain’t out of the game yet. No sir. A couple of turnt Nowhere parts ain’t doing me in.

I reach up to my wrist and press a button on the metal band I wear on my arm. Three curved blades pop out of my forearm, shredding my trench coat sleeve to pieces—them blades is courtesy of the guys in charge, they set me up with titanium reinforced steel bionic arms in exchange for finding a team of scientists thought lost forever. I press another button and my whole forearm starts spinning, making short work of the dad’s arms, letting me at least catch a few breaths while I deal with mom.

She’s hissin’ and cussin’ at me, so I jam my spinning blades right in her mouth, getting me pretty much clear of the parents. But now there’s all kinds of Nowhere muck and gore flying around, and I done told you enough to know that it sets off the other things linked up to what’s left of the parents and gets ’em all riled up. Soon I’ve got hands and teeth and pincers and antennae coming at me from all directions, and my blades are just makin’ things worse.

I lose my damn cowboy hat as I feel myself sinking deeper into the Nowhere thing’s leg, but it ain’t like one of those vortexes on account of I ain’t got no scared in me. No fear in my blood as the suckers start chompin’ down on my fleshy parts.

The damn Nowhere thing I’m stuck in starts moving again, and I see those piles and piles of human bodies coming through the chest of the big sumbitch haven’t slowed down a bit—in fact, they were spewing outta that hole faster than ever. There were tens, hundreds of thousands of bodies stacking so high, the Nowhere thing I’m attached to has to climb up ’em, and

BAM!

The damn thing shifts and we’re back in Fuckland. I’m so deep in the thing’s leg now I can’t keep the muck and the gore outta my mouth. I’m swallowin’ it down now as the Nowhere thing trudges through a street that looks awfully familiar.

We’re walkin’ past the big wall. The guys in charge ain’t nowhere to be seen, though. That’s when I see the Nowhere thing I went through strapped down where he was before. Right where I jumped into his chest. Only now the whole damn fortress starts to crumble and fold in on itself, all building that Nowhere thing up bigger and bigger, with a dozen arms made of cars and concrete and people, ’til there ain’t no fortress and there ain’t no guys in charge. Ain’t no Bill the Gills.

The whole damn fortress gets up lookin’ sort of like a centipede and crawls away. My vision starts to go red, and the Nowhere thing I’m attached to changes direction. I feel my hands curl around other hands. I feel my feet wrap around other feet.

The Nowhere thing is walking. He’s walking right up toward my secret place, when it finally hits me:

I never set no trap for the big sumbitch. I wasn’t talkin’ to the real Bill the Gills. There weren’t no more guys in charge.

They set the trap for me, little Joey. I was the bait, though. I was right about that part.

Yeah, Joey, I’m talkin’ to you. Who’d you think I was talkin’ to? Myself?

I’m full over now, Joey. Just a part of the Nowhere. And the Nowhere’s a part of me.

It’s got my memories now, see? It knows where I stashed you and Mommy.

The Nowhere, it’s comin’ for ya little Joey. It’s got me talkin’ to you in your dreams so’s you’re plenty scared when we get there. And we’ll be there soon, little buddy. Before you wake up.

We’re gonna use you and Mommy and everybody else in Fuckland to open more big portals like the one inside the big sumbitch. We’re gonna use you as the trap.

We’re gonna suck this planet dry, little Joey. Like we’re wont to do. Like we done for a million years.

‘Til there ain’t nothin’ but Nowhere.

She Was Only A Clown- Chapter 1

SHE WAS ONLY A CLOWN is a special serialized novella presented in weekly installments every Saturday through Halloween. 


Chapter 1

Elwood pulled the mask over his head. Now he was Skitzo Cyko the killer clown. The mask was ugly and mean looking. It had tufts of gray hair poking out from random spots as if he’d yanked the rest from his scalp in some fit of hysteria or psychotic breakdown. The face had deep wrinkles and twisted into a grin that sat too wide and too long to be human. Inside the mouth, two rows of blackened, broken fangs jutted this way and that, forming a hideous maw.

Elwood’s clothing was baggy and torn. It was caked with dirt and grime. A clown suit that had once been bright and colorful, now stained, ripped and ruined.

He wore large rubber hands that ended in long purple talons and big purple shoes to match.

As Sktizo Cyko, he trudged along the dirt road that connected his property to the main highway just outside of Hopp’s Hollow Illinois. Moaning loudly, Skitzo held up a cardboard sign that read “The End Is Near! They’re All Laughing At You!”

He lived in the boonies in a tiny town called Medora, but so did a lot of other people. All along Service Road K, pickup trucks full of rednecks and sports cars full of teenagers who went to high school with Elwood traveled to and from the laughably small town square, or commuted back and forth to Hopp’s for work.

Elwood was trying to scare them.

He’d read about the scary clown epidemic sweeping the country on the Internet. He’d seen pictures of spooky clowns standing in the woods, waving slowly at children as they hurried past. He’d decided he wanted to be one of those spooky clowns.

Skitzo stayed just off the road, shuffling through the underbrush that hugged up against a dense woods to the south of Service Road K, but close enough to the road that cars and trucks that passed by would see him. All he had to do was wait.

That’s when he heard the first scream.

Growing up, Elwood was different from everyone else. He kept to himself all through grade school, which was fine. But it was once he’d graduated to middle school that the bad shit had started to happen.

He’d be sitting alone at lunch reading a horror comic book he’d gotten from his uncle Jeff, when a group of redneck kids would come over and knock the comic out of his hands. They’d inevitably mock him, humiliate him and beat him up for what had happened. Elwood tried not to let the other kids bother him when they called him retarded. Called him a murderer. But deep down, he knew they were right.

Uncle Jeff had been his lifeline. His window into the world of the weird. Uncle Jeff introduced him to ultra violent horror movies like Evil Dead 2 and Dead Alive. He’d played cool records for him from bands like The Misfits and Iron Maiden. Uncle Jeff always made Elwood feel like being weird was cool. That watching Nascar and drinking beer while listening to crappy country music was totally lame, even though everyone in his little town did it, including Elwood’s parents.

Jeff was Elwood’s father’s brother and even though he was in his twenties, he lived with Elwood’s family in their big farm house in Medora. Jeff lived there because his kid lived there with him.

Jeff’s girlfriend Tracey had been hit by a train one night when the pair had been messed up on pills, walking along the train tracks while their son, Jacob, was at Tracey’s parents’ house for the night.

Blaming Jeff, Tracey’s parents had disowned him and since his own parents–Elwood’s grandparents–were already dead, Elwood’s father had no choice but to let Jeff and Jacob stay with them.

Jeff’s parents had him late in life, while Elwood’s parents had him early, at just seventeen, so Jeff was just as close to Elwood’s age as he was to his father’s age going in the other direction.

That created a unique bond between Elwood and Jeff. A bond that served as an anchor for Elwood. Kept him sane. Kept him rooted in the real world when all he truly wanted to do was float off into his own imaginary world where people weren’t cruel and mean and full of hatred.

That was, until the night Jeff asked Elwood to watch Jacob while he scored some more pills.

It was only supposed to be for a few hours, but Jeff got fucked up and passed out at his dealer’s house, leaving Elwood and Jacob together all night.

The farm house was huge, with a full, finished basement complete with a bedroom, living room, bathroom and kitchen. The first floor contained another kitchen, bathroom and three bedrooms, dining room and living room, and Elwood’s grandparents had added a full second floor with three more bedrooms and a bath.

Elwood occupied the basement all by himself, which served his parents just fine. They’d acted like he didn’t exist since he was old enough to feed and bathe himself.

That’s where he and Jake were hanging out when it happened.

Jake was three. All blonde hair and big blue eyes. He looked just like Jeff. The two even wore matching Spiderman shirts sometimes.

Elwood had left Jake in front of the TV in the basement living room while he went upstairs to take out the trash.

When he came back down, Jake was in full seizure.

Later, at the hospital, it was determined that Jake had gotten up from in front of the TV and wandered into the bathroom where he’d found a loose thermometer laying on the sink. Elwood had been sick the previous week, and had left the thermometer out due to sheer laziness.

Jake sat back down in front of his show and started chewing on the mercury-filled glass vial. Within moments of it bursting in his mouth, he’d suffered irreversible brain damage.

Jake wore a helmet to keep him from hurting himself as he screamed and bashed his head off the wall eighteen hours a day, every day for the rest of his childhood.

Jeff never once spoke to Elwood about the incident, seeming to blame himself for blacking out on pills and not being home to look after his own son.

But there was a look in his eyes when he spoke to Elwood–and he only spoke to Elwood when it was absolutely necessary–a look that contained all the fury of heaven and hell. A look that said, “I wish you’d swallowed mercury instead of my sweet, beautiful, innocent son.”

And then one day, Elwood came home from school and found Uncle Jeff hanging from the rafters in the barn.

That’s when the kids at school had really started taunting him. Jeff may have never blamed Elwood for Jake’s accident, but the rednecks at school had no problem doing it for him. Then, after Jeff’s suicide, they’d blamed him for that, too.

The accident and subsequent death of his uncle had caused him to withdraw even further. Only speaking to his parents or his teachers when he had to. He sometimes went days on end without speaking to another human being.

As he got older and the Internet became a part of every day life, he was able to sink even further into isolation.

When he was 17, he’d dropped out of high school and moved out into the same barn Uncle Jeff had hung himself in, converting it into a kind of loft.

These days he only ventured inside his parents’ house to eat and to shower, which he did rather infrequently since going into that house meant listening to Jake’s screaming. The constant THUMP, THUMP, THUMP of his head against the walls upstairs.

After seeing the clown hysteria on the Internet, Elwood had taken the Hopp’s County quarter bus into Hopp’s Hollow and visited Baxter’s Party Supply store to buy the clown mask, gloves, shoes and outfit.

He’d stood in the barn loft many nights distressing the fabric of the clown suit and re-painting the mask to appear even more sinister than it already did.

He’d wear the full costume, just staring, perfecting his evil clown presence. He’d come up with his name and even given the evil clown demon a back story as a tortured soul who’d clawed his way out of hell, on the run from Satan himself, trying to suck enough souls to grow powerful enough to defeat the devil in combat.

He’d never admit it to himself, but he imagined the soul in question was that of his dead uncle Jeff.

He couldn’t place exactly what had drawn him to the clown hysteria in the first place. There was just something… right about striking primal fear into the hearts of those around him who had judged him so harshly, so mercilessly all his life.

Elwood smiled at the thought of causing one of the rednecks he’d gone to school with even a moment of fright when they saw him shambling through the underbrush.

Tonight was just supposed to be a dry run. A practice walk to see how many people he could scare as he limped along the road.

When he heard the scream, he was startled enough to flinch and spin around, forgetting the Skitzo Cyko persona altogether.

He’d flinched because it wasn’t a scream of fear. It was a scream of anger.

Hey! Motherfucker!”

Elwood recognized that voice.

Shit,” he said under his breath. He only then looked up for the first time. He’d been so into character he hadn’t noticed how far he’d walked down Service Road K.

Across the street was Mark Nelson’s house. And sure enough, that was Mark Nelson standing on the porch yelling at him.

Elwood turned around and started walking back the way he’d come, but it was too late. “You think you’re funny? You think that’s cute, bitch? Scaring people dressed up as a gay ass clown!”

Mark was stomping through his yard now. He’d be across the street and on top of Elwood in seconds. There was no way Elwood could get away from him in his big awkward clown shoes. He’d either have to take them off and try to run all the way back home or confront Mark head on.

He chose the latter.

***

Be back here next Saturday, September 16th, for chapter 2! 

Free Story: An Otherwise Ordinary Kind Of Life

“An Otherwise Ordinary Kind Of Life” and many other exciting stories are available NOW in Kevin Strange’s short fiction collection, Murder Stories for your Brain Piece on Amazon Kindle and in paperback here


An Otherwise Ordinary kind of Life

So one time, I woke up in a cell completely naked, chained to a dirty, piss soaked wall. I couldn’t remember how I got there. I was totally like, freaking out until this guy in a leather coat blew the hinges off the door and chopped the chain in half with these crazy blades that were attached to his forearms.

He explained to me that I was a secret agent, that I’d been drugged and interrogated by the enemy and then left in here for dead. He was a secret agent, too. And fucking sexy. He was muscular and had a shaved head and tattoos. I guess he thought I was sexy too, ‘cause he kept looking at my naked tits, even though I was doing my best to cover them up.

I guess I’m sexy. I think I’m kinda short and I’m a fuckin’ Ginger. All these freckles and pale skin—I don’t see how dudes think I’m hot. I guess it’s the fact that I’ve got C cup tits even though I’m only five-one. Dudes dig little chicks with big tits.

When he grabbed me to pull me up off the filthy floor, he reached around just a little too far and copped a feel. I didn’t mind. I liked the way his big hands felt on me. We didn’t have time to do anything about it, though. Before I could even offer to blow him for rescuing me, a pair of Slime Lords burst into the room. They were big nasty looking things, all green, but transparent, with tons of weird bubbles or pustules constantly popping and moving around. They were basically just gigantic lumps with enormous drippy mouths and eyes big as dinner plates.

My hero tried to fight them, but they got a hold of him pretty easy. They swallowed him whole, one on each side, chomping him in half in the middle. It was awful ‘cause you could still see him in there, thrashing around while their slime stomachs dissolved him alive, absorbing him into themselves.

The last thing I remember is falling on my ass in a puddle of my own piss as the Slime Lords descended on me.

Another time, and this one was really fucked up, I woke up as a man. I’d never done that before. I was a dude, I had a cock and everything. How would I know what a cock feels like, you know? But I didn’t let that stop me from jacking off the moment I spotted the big ole thing.

It was fuckin’ huge, man! I mean, I was packing some meat! The head was this gnarly purple thing and there were fat blue veins all over it. I had a god damn thick black bush too! I must have came in like 30 seconds, all over my own stomach. I mean, I know what cum on my stomach feels like, but god damn!

That one was intense. Maybe the most real one I’ve ever had. Shit was going fine, I started jacking off again, thinking about trying to find some skanky hoe to fuck, when those gigantic red worm things shot up from under my bed and dragged me into whatever pit they’d crawled out of. They looked like earthworms but each of those segmented parts was covered in a red plate. Some kind of armor, I guess. Their mouths opened like six different ways with all these nasty feelers and claws inside there. My naked ass and huge cock didn’t stand a fuckin’ chance. They were on me like stink at a shit convention. And damn man, all I wanted to do was jack off! But no, instead here I am playing chew toy for monsters from the center of the earth. One of them even bit my dick off! How fucked up is that? Sometimes I think this shit is really starting to fuck up my brain. Fry it and shit. Bad news . . .

Oh! I remember waking up this one time as a hot alien vigilante leading an invasion on the Earth Protection Forces. I was at the controls of my space ship, dodging missiles and shit from jet fighters just steady blowing planes outta the sky. My second in command was this huge, hulking robot dude named Kanny. Believe it or not, whoever built Kanny gave him a cock. It was kinda weird the first time I fucked him, but if I just imagined it was a metal dildo, I was able to relax and take the whole damn ten inches or whatever ridiculous length he was. That fucking robot made me cum more than any dude ever did, believe that.

We had infiltrated the enemy base with several other ships in our invading force, and having a good time of it, too. We must have shot twenty or thirty of those little planes out of the sky before the other ships we’d come down with got hit by anti-aircraft missiles from the ground.

We got hit, too. Kanny ended up getting blown in half when an errant missile actually got through our defensive fire and blew the whole side of our ship off. Ground fire was exploding in the sky all around us as I did my best to steer the flaming ship over the main EPF offensive base.

I said fuck it and crashed that motherfucker right into the front of their commander’s building. I still remember the whites of his eyes when I nosedived right into his office. His screams were my only solace as I lay with Kanny’s decimated corpse pinning me to the floor in a heap of my own mangled flesh, burning alive. Yeah, that one wasn’t very cool, now that I think about it.

Let me tell you about one more, and this one is the most fucked up of them all, hands down.

I wake up and, I shit you not, I am this huuuuuuge fucking monster. I look down and I can see a city beneath me. I must have been a hundred stories tall. My arms were this crazy mass of ropes or fuckin’ tendrils all wrapped tightly together to form appendages, but I could move each one of them—and there were thousands—independently of one another. I had all kinds of eyes on my ginormous head. Each one of them could see in a different light spectrum, which was kinda cool ‘cause I could see the heat signatures off the rockets that the army was shooting at me. Not only that, but some of my eyes could see in kind of a, I don’t remember what my science teacher called it in high school, quantum entanglement or some shit? I don’t know, anyway it let me see exactly what the trajectory of the missiles were. Kinda cool right?

So, I’m steady fuckin’ shit up. Stomping on buildings, kicking over tanks and murdering soldiers by the hundreds with one sweep of this bad ass tail I had going on. Just giving the army hell, when all of a sudden they wheel out this dude in nothing but a towel. He’s got his arms and legs hooked into some kind of a machine. This scientist schmuck flips a switch and, blamo! The motherfucker grows as tall as me!

Then he runs at me and I’m like, waving these thousand tentacles in his face, looking at him with all these different eyeballs, but really I can’t take my regular-seeing eyes off his package. He’s a hundred stories tall so this fucking cock he’s got has to be what? I don’t even know! BIG! So we’re fighting, boom boom, smash, crack! You know, the usual. Beating the snot out of each other and whatnot, when he starts getting the best of me.

I don’t know if it was like, super testosterone or whatever that they shot into him to make him so big, but all of a sudden, he’s got this boner that is seriously fucking me up. I can’t concentrate on trying to kill him, you know? So he gets me in this headlock or something and I can feel his King fuckin’ Kong dong grinding against me, and it ends up going in!

If it was my pussy, or my asshole, I couldn’t fuckin’ tell you. I was a fucking giant monster. Is there even a difference between monster assholes and monster pussies? Regardless, this big ass dude just starts straight fuckin’ me right there hovering over this city. He’s got me bent over and he’s just plowing me, grunting like a fucking animal. The whole time the army dudes are fucking shouting orders at him through their amplifiers, all types of pissed off at the dude.

So what ends up happening? He pulls out of my monster butt-pussy and fucking cums all over the army! Kills the whole lot of them with gigantic spunk! Can you fucking believe that? Tell me I’m not the most fucked up chick you’ve ever met.

***

The doctor leaned back in his chair, chewing on the end of his pencil. “Well, uh . . . Ms. Knowles is it?”

The young woman continued to twirl her red hair. “Yeah. Penny Knowles. Aren’t you supposed to like, know this shit already? You are my fucking doctor, after all.”

“Yes well,” the doctor said, sitting up straight in his chair, jotting something down on his notepad. His hair looked too full for his age. He was at least 50. His temples were stark gray but the top of his head was thick with black hair without a trace of thinning. Penny wondered if he was wearing a wig. She could probably find out if she decided to fuck him, but she shooed that thought away with a quickness. She was here to get help, not to fuck.

“The surging popularity of Virtua-Life has created quite the interesting influx of patients to my office in the past few months. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’m starting to lose track of who’s who.”

“Great,” Penny said, rolling her eyes, continuing to smack her gum. “Listen Doctor Dorian, how much are you charging my moms to listen to me ramble on about this bullshit and you aren’t even listening?”

“Oh, I was listening. I’m particularly interested in the overarching theme of sexual promiscuity in your virtual fantasies. Tell me, are you sexually promiscuous in your personal life? Your real life?”

“No fuckin’ way!” Penny said, a look of disgust crossing her face. She sat up straight and crossed her legs, as though Doctor Dorian’s suggestion was some type of unwanted sexual advance. Then just as fast, she relaxed a little bit, letting her freckle-marked shoulders sag. “At least I don’t think so. Truth is Doc, that’s why my moms sent me here. I’ve done so much Brain Smack lately I can’t even tell what’s real anymore, you know what I’m saying?”

“Brain Smack?” Doctor Dorian said, puzzled.

“Yeah you know,” Penny said, annoyed. “The virtual reality shit. That’s what we call it.” She made sarcastic quotations with her fingers. “On the streets.”

“Interesting,” Doctor Dorian said, scribbling more notes in his pad. “So what you’re saying is, you’re beginning to confuse reality with your simulated adventures?”

“Yeah man, it’s like. When I first did the shit, I could really control what scenarios I put myself into. Like those whacked out stories I just told you about. But lately, I don’t know Doc, it’s like the Brain Smack has control. Sometimes when I plug in, it’s just as real as you and me sitting here right now.”

Penny leaned forward. “Like, I’m not sure if this is really happening right now.” She sat back. “Fucked up shit, Doc. Ain’t nothin’ you wanna fuck with. Brain Smack. I’m tellin’ you right here right now, I’m done with the shit.”

“How many times would you say you’ve plugged into the machines, Penny?”

“Fuck I don’t know, Doc. Maybe a hundred, maybe two hundred, I really don’t even know anymore. It got so my moms was finding me on the bedroom floor with blood pourin’ outta my nose I’d be inside so long. That shit, Doc, it’s fuckin’ addicting.”

Doctor Dorian continued to scribble notes, seemingly much more attentive than when Jenny had been relegating him with tales of virtual adventure. “And in your personal life, you say you’re not sexually active. What about drugs? Other than Virtua-Life?”

“Nah man, my moms taught me never to touch that shit. That’s how my dad went, you know? Heroin. Died in my moms’ arms when I was a baby. Fuck that shit, I don’t even smoke cigarettes.”

“So you’d say you live an otherwise ordinary kind of life?”

“Yeah Doc, can you help me? I don’t even like to go to sleep anymore, man. Dreams are too weird. What if I’m still inside and I go to sleep and dream? What the fuck is that? Where the fuck am I, you know, in my head, the real me, my consciousness or whatever, where the fuck is it if I’m inside a dream inside a simulation you know? I’m freakin’ myself out just thinkin’ about it.”

“So you’re experiencing paranoia and anxiety due to prolonged use of Virtua-Life.” Doctor Dorian tapped his pencil against his lips, thinking. “Well, Penny, the good news is, you’re not the first person I’ve seen with these symptoms. With enough time away from the program, your paranoia and anxiety will decrease and you will return to a more normal state of consciousness. Although I must say, and I mean no disrespect by this, but . . . my other patients who have experienced such a dramatic overload of Virtua-Life have been… how do I say it? More affluent members of society. Even the street price for illegal Virtua-Boxes sold by the black market drug cartels are too much for someone . . . like you to afford. Each box is only good for two or three simulations before the memory burns up. Again, no disrespect but, how are you paying for all those boxes?”

Penny shot to her feet. “That’s none of your fuckin’ business, Doc! My moms spent a lot of cash for me to come here and all you got to say is ‘don’t do the shit anymore?’ No shit I ain’t gonna do the shit anymore. But how’s that gonna stop me from waking up in the middle of the night, half naked standing down at the laundromat with homeless dudes trying to pick me up? Or the headaches? Or what about when I’m in the middle of a sentence, and I’ll just snap into one of the characters from the game? Huh? Just quit doin’ it! Fuck you, Doc! Are you gonna help me or not?”

Doctor Dorian just stared at her for the longest time. Long enough that she got uncomfortable and sat back down, resuming her compulsive hair twirling.

“I’m afraid I’m not allowed to diagnose mental health issues, nor prescribe medicine, Penny.”

“What?! Then what the fuck am I doin’ here?!?”

“Calm down, now, calm down. I am technically a certified medical practitioner. But I can only advise actual doctors to prescribe you medicine. The problem is, I don’t think you or your mother can quite afford a real human doctor. So quitting cold turkey is really your only option.”

“Human—what? What the fuck are you talking about? Human Doctor?”

“Well, Penny,” Doctor Dorian said, calmly. “I guess you’ve been plugged in for so long, you haven’t heard about the new technological advances scientists have made these last several months. You see, they’ve perfected hard light virtual reality.”

“Hard light?” Penny said, totally clueless.

“Instead of transmitting your consciousness into a virtual program, now we’re able to transfer our minds into hard light replicas of humans right here in the real world. It’s really all the rage now, I’m surprised you haven’t heard about it. I’m not really a doctor, I’m just playing a doctor inside Virtua-Life, but out here, with you, in real life. Get it?” Doctor Dorian said, smiling. “I’m 100% board certified, though. I downloaded the accelerated course manual when I applied for the job.” A tiny flicker passed through his body, knocking him out of focus for just an instant, proving what he was saying was absolute truth.

“No!” Penny said, breathing in shallow breaths. “I’m still inside. God damn it, this isn’t real!”

“I assure you, Penny. It’s very real. You’re wide awake, I promise you,” Doctor Dorian said, standing up, facing the huge picture window behind his desk. Closing his eyes, he sucked in a deep breath. “Fantastic, too! Even though I know I’m just some guy sitting next to a Virtua-Life box in some dimly lit apartment or a business woman on her lunch break, it feels exactly like real life!”

Turning around, Doctor Dorian let out a high-pitched squeal when he saw that Penny had drawn a gun on him.

“You’re right, Doc. It does feel like real life. The only problem is, the scientists still haven’t figured out how to keep your real life memories intact. You don’t know who you are on the outside.”

“W-what are you talking about?”

“I had to come in here pretending to be a patient to be totally sure you were a legit hologram. It’s getting harder and harder to tell every day.”

“Who are you?” Doctor Dorian said, fear causing his voice to warble comically. “What do you want with me?”

Penny shoved him aside and plopped down in his chair, putting her feet up on his desk, but continued to aim the gun at his head. “You know what’s funny, Doc?”

Doctor Dorian stood mouth agape, unable to answer as he saw Penny’s petite form flicker, just as his had done a moment before. “That’s right. I’m hard light, too.” She giggled, then smiling wide like a maniac, said, “I don’t know who the hell I am either! I’m just making extra cash by killing motherfuckers like you!”

“Y-you can’t kill me, I’m not even really here.” That concept seemed to have just dawned on him, as his composure relaxed, and he smiled. “I’m not here, and I don’t know who I am, so how the hell would you know? This is just silly. You’re wasting my time. Get out of my office, I have work to do.”

Penny fired the gun, hitting the doctor in the thigh, sending him to the floor, screaming. Weird, pixelated squares poured out from a wound that squirmed and shifted, as if trying to figure out exactly where to stay on Doctor Dorian’s leg.

“You must not be up on your science and technology either, Doc. Shit moves so fast now, you know? Every hard light hologram has a tracking device set into their bodies that only Virtua-Life has access to for ‘safety purposes.’ Yeah right. We hacked that shit so fast, their security team should be drawn and quartered.”

Penny kicked the doctor over onto his stomach. “We know exactly who you are . . . Penny.”

Doctor Dorian’s eyes grew wide. “What the fuck are you talking about?” he said through clenched teeth, fighting off pain that shouldn’t be there. “I don’t understand!”

Penny dropped a knee to his gut, causing him to scream out in pain. She put the gun to his head. “You stole all those boxes, Penny. Stole them from us! Do you know how much that cost us?” She shoved the gun hard against his gray temple. “DO YOU?”

Doctor Dorian just whimpered on the floor, totally befuddled.

Penny rolled her eyes and sat back on her haunches. “They sent me in here looking like you to see if you had any recollection at all of your real life identity. Some Hard Lighters recognize things in their real life as déjà vu or past life memories, or whatever. They figured, if you saw your own goddamn self talk to yourself about your Virtua-Life memories, you’d either figure out why I was here or be totally clueless.” She laughed again. “Guess we know which one it turned out to be!”

“Please!” Doctor Dorian begged. “Please don’t do this!”

“Oh, I’m gonna fucking kill you. Just like any other scumbag who steals from the Black Jumbo Cartel. It’s just more fun when you actually know why.”

Doctor Dorian was losing pixels fast. They had already begun to drain from other parts of his leg, leaving out-of-focus spots all across his pant legs which lacked color. He was in and out of consciousness as he mumbled, “H-how can you kill a hologram?”

Penny smiled. “Future technology shit, man,” she said, pointing at her gun. “These bullets contain some kind of nano-quantum robots that travel through the same wireless signals that project your consciousness into your hologram. They fuckin’ snuff you out from this side, man! They sever the connection! Leave you a fuckin’ veggie sittin’ at home plugged into your box, shittin’ all over yourself! Wild, huh?”

“But I’m not at home.”

Doctor Dorian’s eyes shot open, clear and focused. He flipped Penny’s tiny form off his with ease, snatching the gun from her hand at the same time.

She landed hard on her neck, then flopped onto her back, stunned. “What the fuuuuuck??!”

Pressing a button on his neck, Doctor Dorian shimmered, then his entire form pixelated and fell to the floor like Tetris pieces, revealing Penny’s true body below. She walked up to the imposter Penny and pointed the gun at her head.

“Hard Light suits. Latest tech. They just launched the prototype this week. I stole the first one.” She smiled as the other Penny screamed.

“When your bosses, those crooked fucking scumbags I ripped off find your body. If there’s anything left inside your brain, I want you to tell them something for me. I want you to tell them to suck my dick.”

Then she pulled the trigger, obliterating her doppelganger’s head, causing the hologram to shatter like glass. Each of the myriad of pieces wiggled and squirmed on the floor until they melted into a metallic puddle that smelled like burning dog hair.

Penny dropped the gun and walked out of the small office, entering an otherwise ordinary bright sunny day with a smile on her face.

An old woman who stood at a bus stop as Penny passed by noticed a slight flicker in the young woman’s form.

Mumbling under her breath she said, “Fuckin’ holograms.”

***

To read the rest of the stories in the Murder Stories for your Brain Piece collection, click here to buy it on amazon Kindle or paperback now! And be sure to check back next month for another FREE short story, only from KevinTheStrange.com!