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Authors: Nathaniel Woodland

Blue Stew (Second Edition) (6 page)

BOOK: Blue Stew (Second Edition)
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Walter shrugged. The adrenaline had started to fade while futzing around in Nigel’s house, and, as with all substance abusers, his normal state of being was not a happy or satisfactory one. He had seized this chance to reinvigorate the night with, honestly, some sense of entitlement: in an odd way, it had become
his
night when the mutilated man had rear-ended his van.

Officer Corey’s car bounced and the tires spun as he powered them up Doris’s steep, twisting, dirt driveway. He had to navigate widening erosions along both sides of the driveway cut out by high, fast, frothy brown water.

The cruiser came to a skidding, muddy halt next to Doris’s blue station wagon.

Officer Corey disembarked with a gruff, “Stay here.”

Walter waited until Officer Corey had started up the steps to the front porch, and then he clicked open his door.

Officer Corey banged on the door, “Doris Hanes?”

He opened the door.

A voice neither he nor Walter recognized, a man’s voice, came from somewhere in the house, “Come on in. She’s here.” His words were misshapen by a faint lisp that was oddly childish and disarming.

Officer Corey kept to the entrance’s threshold.

“Sir, this is Officer Corey. I was nearby and I heard gunfire from the direction of this house.”

“Yep, that was the lady who lives here,” agreed the voice of the unknown man. Walter, still seated, now placed the lisp: the man sounded like he’d just had braces put in; like he was speaking through excess saliva. “I don’t know what she’s doing. Shouldn’t take more than
one
shotgun blast to kill herself, should it?”

 “
What?
” Officer Corey put a finger to the strap holstering his gun and put a foot into the house. Walter jumped out of the car and started after him.

“Oh!
Oh
,” said the man, excitement turning to disappointment in quick succession. He was not far away; a room or two from the entrance. “
I
know what. She was shooting the shotgun to get
your
attention. Too bad . . .
too bad
. . .
too bad
. . .”

“Sir, you are
not
making sense,” Officer Corey, pulling out his gun, moved all the way inside. Walter, right behind, caught the screen door before it whipped shut.

“That’s funny, because, tonight,
everything
makes sense.”

Something about how the man emphasized the word “everything” gave Walter goose bumps. He had never heard the word spoken with such pure certainty.


What
makes sense?” asked Officer Corey. He was moving carefully over the wood floor of a darkened living room. He was so intent on the voice that he didn’t notice Walter, shadowing him only a couple steps behind.

A room up ahead was lit, and the unknown voice seemed to come from that direction when he spoke again.

“Mister Corey, some truths have to be
experienced
to be understood.”

It was just after the man had finished saying this that Officer Corey came to the open doorway of the one lit room. He gasped—a slow, shuddering gasp—and fumbled and raised his gun.

“What are you
doing
?” Officer Corey’s voice had been taken from him, hallowed out to nothing more than a heavy hiss.

Walter, keeping deeper in the living room, out of the light, now made it far enough around to see into the lit room for himself.

He didn’t scream, not this time, but all feeling fled his body, and he cupped his gaping mouth with both hands.

The room was a kitchen, and at the far end of the kitchen there was a closed door, and in front of the door there was a man, slumped to the floor, sitting in a pool of mud, water, and blood.

The man looked as though he had just dived through a wood-chipper, yet was profoundly happy about it. Every inch of his exposed flesh was horrifically gouged, including his lips, which, in spite of the maiming, were twisted into an uneven, fleshy grin.

No, it wasn’t
braces
causing the man to spit and slur his words . . . it was the blood leaking in through a deformed mouth.

Isolated from that night’s prior events, Walter might’ve guessed that the man
had
just come through a wood-chipper, if not for two things: one, that he was grasping a short, blood-stained knife, and two, that he was using this knife to carefully detach the fingertips on his idle hand.

He worked the knife a little, and then it clapped to the floor, and the end of his middle-finger tumbled into a nearby clump of mud, next to three others. A noise that reminded Walter sickeningly of a sexual climax escaped the man’s mouth, and then he looked up, “What am I
doing
? I am cutting myself
loose
from this delusion . . . this
prison
.
I
am
savoring
my journey to the true freedom, however, unlike some of the others . . .”

“You did
this
to others?” croaked Officer Corey, the gun in his hands trembling visibly.

The disfigured man appeared confused for a moment—if any expression really
could
be discerned from his red and pink striped face.

“I . . . I have to tell you, it has taken more willpower than I ever knew I had to make it all the way here. It would’ve been so
easy
—so
wonderful
—to just stick the knife in a
little
deeper,” now, to illustrate, the man slid the knife into his forearm. “But I wanted to
share
my enlightenment.”

Walter thought about the bloodied man in the Jeep far below. So much for the idea that he had done that to himself:
here
was their psycho-killer.

“I found the old lady living here. I wanted to show her something
special
,” he frowned, and fresh slits opened up along his eyebrows. “But, when she saw me, she wouldn’t listen at all, just screamed and screamed, and locked herself in this basement behind me.”

“Is she alive?” whispered Officer Corey.

“Yes, I assume.
Poor girl
. . .”

Officer Corey stepped into the kitchen, still pointing his gun.

“Okay. Set down the knife and move away from the door.”

The mutilated man seemed to have just now noticed the gun . . . and he noticed it in the manner of a greedy child spotting a bag of candy.

He didn’t drop the knife. He set half of a hand on the floor and began to hoist himself up, fighting to maintain balance as his body convulsed involuntarily.

“Drop the knife!” commanded Officer Corey.

The man staggered upright, cradling the knife to his chest like a mother would a newborn baby. All the hundreds of slices in the man’s skin seemed to open a little wider as he stretched to his full height. Blood oozed from all over his body. It was a ghastly sight, seeing him standing there; it was surreal that anyone could remain alive looking as he did.

“Do you . . . do you want to do it?” asked the man, his voice quieting in awe.

“Do
what?
Put down your knife!”

“Do you want to . . . send a bullet through my brain?”

Triggered by the man’s revolting speech impediment, a sudden image of a shy, adolescent boy with a mouthful of shining metal flashed through Walter’s numb mind.


No
. . . but . . .” Officer Corey tripped over his own tongue, “but, just put down the knife
right now
. . .”

The grotesque man began to breathe heavily . . .
lustily
.

“I don’t think I can hold it any longer. I . . . I can’t control myself.” He raised his knife.

“Put the
down
the god-damned
knife!

“It will be
beautiful
.” He poked his temple with the sharp point, snarling triumphantly, “
tear open the machine that keeps the lies
!”


What are you—
?”

“It’s
coming
now . . . I will be
free
.”

His knees were trembling. The puddle of blood at his feet was wide and getting wider. And so was the delirious smile on his mangled face.


Stop it
,” said Officer Corey. It was a helpless, ineffective command at this point. He was mentally broken.

“You’re not going to shoot?”


No
.”

“That’s okay.” He extended the knife out in front of him, clutching it with a hand and a half.

Officer Corey stared at the knife, silent, horrified.

Walter, behind him, did the same.

The shredded man was fixated on the tip of the knife. His eyes had glazed over completely. It was a look that
should
be reserved for a man brought to the brink of ecstasy by a beautiful woman, but, evidently, it wasn’t.

He brought the knife towards his face, blinked, and then jammed it through his eye socket, up into his brain.

His dead body splashed on the red floor.

Chapter 4 – Hanging and Banging

 

 

W
alter’s friends thought he was insane when he maintained that he
still
meant to go into work the next morning. They reminded him that he himself had detailed how Doris Hanes had been completely manic when retrieved—unharmed—from her basement, and had to be taken in by the police, and that Officer Corey had implied that she would require extensive psychiatric help to recover from the encounter. Walter shrugged that off while cleverly hammering at a half-truth about wanting to regain a sense of normalcy.

It
had
been an unspeakably nightmarish night, one that he
did
want to run far away from as soon as possible, and so to some extent what he told his friends was true. However, Walter could not deny his fixation with one key element of the night, even as it brought about a muddy contradiction of emotions. That night, in Walter’s shallow eyes, the world had never appeared so
sharp
. It had never seemed so deeply contrasted. It had never been a place so open to unlimited potential, positive
or
negative. As it was accurately stated earlier: Walter had never felt so
alive
—not in a long time. And he wanted to hold onto that element of the night, somehow.

Walter worked at a hardware- and farm-supply store that, over the past decade, had begun to double as a general convenience store. Its name did not yet reflect this shift: Kall’s Tractor Supply.

Walter’s job title there, if he had one, might well have been Heavy Lifter. That’s what he did: he loaded customer’s cars and trucks with animal feed, wood chips, lumber, and so forth. He also operated a small forklift, unloading and arranging crates of anything and everything from eighteen-wheelers. It was the former aspect of his job that had Walter eager to go into work that day—specifically, interacting with the townsfolk.

Sutherland was a small town, and as with any small town, small news is big news. Similarly, big news is like a sudden earthquake: it shudders outwards from the epicenter, and no one within its range can hope to avoid it. Walter didn’t know if it would be from the local police, or their wives, or the volunteer first responders, or their wives, or whoever—word of last night would be out by the break of dawn, and by noon, and a torrent of excited phone calls later, half the town would know that something shocking had happened.

The locals whose vehicles he loaded tended to be particularly well connected, and Walter expected that most of them were going to have heard of his involvement. He also guessed that they wouldn’t be able to help themselves and that they would have him relive it all throughout the day. That was the thought that appealed to Walter, on some unclear level.

BOOK: Blue Stew (Second Edition)
8.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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