Fine. Fine. Here it is. Part one of what I owe you. This is the debt; now you must collect. You will collect it into your eyes and heart, and there it shall burn. Like some kind of spiritual gonorrhea.
I was originally going to write you one, I dunno, 3,000 word story or something, but the way this is shaping up, I expect it to run about 5k. Thing is, I’m kind of in the middle of writing this kooky “novel” thing right now, and as it stands I want to keep up momentum on that project. The new plan is to break this up into segments. Four or five of them, I expect. Look for one “chapter” a week.
So, here you go. Comments welcome. Unless they’re mean. I’m fragile, after all.
Something squeaks in the darkness.
Seven sets of eyes stare at him. Glowing green. Jostling. Shifting. His babies. A tower of eyes stacked atop each other — two atop of two atop of two, and so on. Teetering this way and that.
Another squeak. This one from the top of the tower.
He reaches out to steady them, but the tower grows—more eyes, more little shapes in the darkness—and starts to really sway, listing not-so-gently left, then right, then back again.
He tries to stop it, but he can’t—his eight-year-0ld hands are too small, too uncertain, and the fuzzy margins will not be contained in his slippery grip.
It isn’t long before the tower falls.
Then: A sound like furry golfballs hitting the table one at a top: foomp, foomp, foomp.
For a while? Nothing. No movement. No eyes. Nary a squeak. But soon the darkness shifts: little paws patter on the floor. To his left, a squeak. Not cute. Not at all. No, this squeak containd a sinister edge, a maleficent glee. Green eyes blink, then close and are lost to the blackness.
Another evil squeak, this time to his right.
More little feet and paws pattering. Here. Over there. Behind him. In front of him.
The darkness moves all at once, now, rising up in a mighty tide of tumbling shadow, and before he knows what’s happening, he’s swallowed beneath it: fuzzy feet, tickly whiskers, and oh, the teeth, the biting nibbling teeth. Fresh blood runs fast.
The boy screams, but it is lost beneath the rising cacophony of hamster squeaks.
Codpiece lurched upright, drawing in a mighty gasp.
He smelled ash. Burned hair. Seared plastic.
Somewhere, a memory flitted in and out of the canyons of his mind—reaching for them, they swiftly evaded him. He remembered fire and not much more. Then again, his brain wasn’t so good most days.
His hair—black, oily as the raven’s wing—laid plastered against a forehead so thick and so wide one could easily advertise upon it. With meaty, callused fingers he wiped the hair from his head and out of his eyes and regarded his surroundings.
The first ooze of orange light crossed a charred windowsill: morning warped through recently-melted glass. Above him, a mobile of sooty unicorns drifted gently, each orbiting the others. Against the far wall sat a pink dresser, now half-gray with smoke stains. The ash marks continued up to the ceiling, where little stick-um-up glow-in-the-dark stars were half-burned and peeling off like scabs or swatches of ruined skin.
He about pissed his black leather trousers when a little hand fell on his prodigious bicep, right above the tattoo of a helmeted velociraptor riding side-saddle atop a tyrannosaurus rex (a flesh-bound memory of his first battle and his first taste of victory, one of a hundred such markings across his broad, lumpy body).
He raised a fist, ready to crush whatever goblin or hell-gnome had deigned to befoul his heroic man-skin with its monstrous touch, but—
Instead, he found himself fist-to-face with a little girl.
In bright yellow footy pajamas, no less—pajamas smeared with greasy ash.
The little girl’s cheeks, framed by pigtails, were smudgy, too.
“Mommy’s sleeping,” she said. “Daddy, too.”
Codpiece blinked. Children freaked him out. Those tiny hands. Sticky with jam. Big eyes, too. Like they could see inside your soul. He grunted.
“Are you my friend now?”
“Shoo. Get outta here. Little bug.” He waved her off.
“This is my room. Do you like my bed? I like it ‘cause it smells like strawberries.”
He wasn’t going to smell it, but fuck it, he had to know. He picked up a pillow and took a deep inhale. At first, all he got was a noseful of burned smell, of ash and char, but then, beyond that, a little odorous thread of strawberry tickled his nose hairs.
“It does,” he acknowledged. “Huh.”
The girl giggled. “You’re big.”
“Goddamn right I’m big. I’m built like a brick shithouse.” He scrunched up his face and thought hard about it, so hard he was afraid he might pass out. “Actually, I’m built like a humongous brick shithouse. Like one made for the Jolly Green Giant, where each individual brick is itself a smaller brick shithouse. No, you know what? I’m built like whatever brick shithouse God uses. Or the Devil. Maybe they have to share it. I dunno. That’s not my problem. I’m an impartial shithouse.”
“You’re not supposed to say that word.”
“Ess.” He didn’t understand, so she whispered it:
He shrugged. “Whatever, kid.”
She frowned, which ticked him off even more. Like he needed some little pig-tailed asshole playing moral police with him. Kids were so stupid. Stupider than him. Stupid kids.
“Didn’t your Daddy ever tell you not to say bad words?”
“I didn’t have a father,” Codpiece said. His gut tightened. “A mother, either.”
“So who were your parents?”
“I was born from the loins of the cosmos. Crapped out from two stars colliding. I’m the child of a supernova. It’s in all the storybooks.”
“That sounds silly. You’re making that up.”
“I’m not.” He pouted. Felt stung. Though he had to admit, it did sound kind of retarded. Still, what did this little fuckhead know? He grabbed her under her armpits and lifted her out of the way, then stood up, dusted himself off. He found his denim jacket (the one with the black leather fringe under the arms) hanging over one of the bedposts.
The little girl hopped off the bed and started kicking something with her foot. Tap, tap, tap. “My name’s Peggy. What’s this thing? It looks like a gun.”
Codpiece reached down and snatched it away. She made a frowny-face.
“It is a gun,” he said, snorting. “It’s a gun that shoots guitars.”
“Why would you want to shoot a guitar? I like guitars. But not tubas.”
“You don’t—it doesn’t—you don’t get it. You’re a little dummy is what you are. It doesn’t shoot guitars like that. It uses guitars as its bullets. Little guitars. Razor-honed. Chop a dude’s head off lickety-split. Rock chord as it does it.” He grabbed the pump action in his beefy paw and jacked a guitar-shell into the breach with a clackety-chak and a strummed rockabilly twang.
“You’re a little dummy,” she said, a pouty challenge.
“No, I’m a big dummy. I don’t know why I’m having this conversation with you.”
She stuck out her tongue. “You’re a big ess-house. I’m going to wake up Mommy and Daddy.”
“You do that, and I’ll kick them both into the moon. With my boots. And that will crack the moon in half and then the tides will get all fucked up and the only way the Apocalypse will be forestalled is if I arm wrestle Poseidon for the right to command the tides. Chew on that.”
Peggy hopped up on the bed, crossed her arms, and turned away. Lip thrust out.
“Whatever,” Codpiece said, dismissing her. “This place is Boresville, Population Me and some little…” He gesticulated at her with his sausage fingers. “Whatever you are.”
He slung his weapon—the Bender Stratoblaster—over his shoulder and strode forth from the room and into the hallway. Here the walls were deeply blackened, reminding him of a fish left too long on the grill. Crispy wallpaper peeled. His stomach growled. Looked good enough to eat.
Codpiece walked by an open doorway, then stopped, walked back.
A queen-sized bed sat in the middle of the room. Black like a briquette.
His hunger fled fast. Replaced with a sour milk feeling in his bowels.
The two bodies on it were burned beyond humanity—they looked a little like vultures or beetles cooked real crispy.
(“I’m going to wake up Mommy and Daddy.”)
It all came back to him.
To be continued!