One Blue Sock
One blue sock. That's all I have to remember him by. That's all that she left behind when she stole my baby boy. She took him and everything we'd bought for him with her, and loaded up the moving van with it all. The court told me that it was her right as a parent. They also told me that I had none. They said I wasn't safe for him, that I was too unstable.
At least my brakes work. She couldn't say the same.
That was the name of the fake art installation from which I stole my name. It was simply a plaque on a stake in the ground next to a fire hydrant with googly eyes glued to it. I thought the name was rather wonderful, and so I co-opted it as my pseudonym.
Charles was a sinner, not a saint. Did that mean he was a bad person? He tried to do good - he tried to be good - but sometimes his thoughts were so dark, so violent. Ever since he was a young adult he’d been in and out of therapy as he could afford it, with most of his sessions focusing on his abusive father. They’d given him a myriad of medications, ranging from helpful to placebic, and he could never afford to stay on any of them on his own; certainly not without being provided samples by his doctors. On his income, it often came down to rent or doctors; food or medication. And the thoughts weren’t constant, nor were they usually that bad. They were intrusive and he could usually brush them off, but when they were bad, they were horrible. They became forceful, and loud inside his mind, filling up his skull with their demands. They told him to hurt people, people he didn’t like; sometimes even people he did like.
Throughout the years he’d had many relationships, both romantic and not, that had failed quite spectacularly. Despite his thoughts and his male role models, he’d never gotten physical. He just always pushed people away, most of the time before they’d even gotten to know him well enough to determine it was worth trying to stick around. His own family didn’t invite him to the holidays anymore. He was unnaturally and unapproachably large, and he’d stopped trying to make human contact long ago. Most people tended to simply avoid him and his cloud.
John had approached him one day inside a local grocery store. Charles was picking up more soup so he’d have dinner for the week when he heard someone behind him ask him if he knew where something was. He couldn’t remember the something, all he could remember was being unreasonably angry that some stranger was talking to him. He was oftentimes unreasonably angry though and had learned to cope with it through his therapies. When he turned around and confronted the stranger, informing him that he did not, in fact, work there, he was met with an unusually sincere and heartfelt apology. The man told him that since he was wearing a red polo, he had thought Charles was an employee. It was Charles’ first time into this particular store, and he told the man as much, before telling him he thought he’d seen some of whatever the man was looking for down one of the other aisles. The man thanked him and backed his cart out, walking off to find… whatever it was he was looking for in the first place.
“You handled that really well.”
This time Charles was startled by another voice behind him, one much closer. When he turned around he saw John. He was standing not two feet away wearing a red polo almost identical to Charles’, but with the addition of a tan vest and a walkie-talkie. Usually, when people got that close to him it made him terribly uncomfortable, but for some reason, he felt okay. Charles mumbled something about it not being anything special and made to move his cart when John put his hand on it. He explained that they had really good meat and produce sections at the other end of the store.
Confused, Charles’ eloquent response amounted to a heartily verbose-
“Well, I noticed that your cart is full of mostly frozen meals and canned soup,” said John. “I figured that maybe you hadn’t seen the meat and produce sections yet, this being your first time here and all.”
Still confused and now slightly embarrassed, Charles admitted that he didn’t know how to cook. He could feel himself getting stressed. Could feel the urges coming on.
He made to excuse himself when John said something surprising.
“Well then maybe I could cook for you. I get off early Saturday and I don’t live too far from here.”
Charles was dumbfounded by John’s forwardness. He’d been approached by people before, but never in such a public place, and certainly never so bluntly or so quickly into a meeting. He felt like a gazelle being stared down by a lion with the way John was looking at him; with eyes so blue and bright, and a half-smile on his lips as if he could tell he was looking at his next meal. Taken aback by the abrupt shift in the conversation, all of his urges had disappeared. His response was once again lengthy and wordy - a fresh take on his earlier “what”.
“I said I can cook you dinner. At my place. Saturday. If you’re not busy, that is.”
Charles confirmed in the negative, and John produced pen and paper from his vest.
“Perfect! Here’s my number. Text me and I’ll let you know a time and my address.”
Charles took the slip of paper from him, and nodded, still in a slight state of shock. John said some goodbye that he barely heard and turned away to get back to his work. By the time Charles had regained his senses, he was gone. Slightly embarrassed, he walked to the registers, paid for his cart, and left - quickly.
When he got home he put away his groceries, a simple process that didn’t take nearly long enough. When he was done he sat down on his couch and pulled out the slip of paper John had given him. It was inexplicably heavy in his hand as if the ink was made pure of lead. He stared at it for what felt like hours, reading the name and number over and over again while past relationships played out in his head. Was he ready to let another person into his life? His last relationship had ended in flames - she said he was too much work, too distant, too angry all the time - and he wasn’t sure that he’d changed all that much. He’d gotten on a new medication that seemed to be helping his thoughts, but was it enough?
With a certain mental shakiness, he pulled his phone out of his pocket. He was going to give it a shot; the worst that could happen had already happened to him before. He texted a short hello to the number, explaining who it was. Within minutes he got a response; just a time and place, nothing more. It felt like such a formal and detached way to go about this, almost businesslike in nature. No “hello”, no “how are you?”. Just an exchange of information. Charles was actually a little relieved, as he wasn’t the best at small talk. His hulking form and constant look of perturbance generally kept people away, leaving him with few chances for conversational improvement.
From there he went about his day, which consisted mostly of tidying up and watching tv, reading a few articles on his phone as he sat there; the news or a sitcom acting as white noise in the background. Around the beginning of the end of the Sun’s trek through the sky, his phone went off. It was John. He apologized for his earlier abruptness, explaining that he’d been busy at work but he was off now. Charles wasn’t entirely sure what to do. He knew he had to reply, of course, but he wasn’t sure what to say. Every time he went to text back he saw that predatory look in John’s eyes, and his fingers fumbled. He wasn’t used to feeling smaller than someone, and it wasn’t really a feeling that he liked. It made him wonder if perhaps he should just ghost John and never go back to the store - just absolve himself of the whole situation and everyone in it.
No, that was stupid. That was cowardice, and he’d done it too many times before. This time was going to be different - John was going to be different. So with resolved fingers, he typed out a message telling John that it was okay and that he understood being busy at work. He worked mostly as a bouncer, and sometimes as security at events, so he very rarely got to check his phone while he was working. He’d taken so long to reply that he was a little nervous hitting send. In fact, he’d taken so long that it was time for him to get ready for work. As he was putting on what he lovingly referred to as his “uniform” John messaged him back, asking where he worked. He told him that he bounced at a few clubs, but tonight he was working a new one, a club downtown called Bears. It was a gay club, and he’d been recommended to them because much of its clientele were examples of its namesake; his size and strength made him perfect for dealing with any unruly brutes that might think they were hot stuff. John said he’d never been there and that he’d have to try it out sometime, and that was the last message he got before he grabbed his keys and headed out the door.
When he arrived for his shift the club was just starting to get going. He skipped the line and told the doorman his name and that he was here to work. He gave Charles a nod, and after confirming what Charles had said over his radio, let him in. Once inside Charles went to the bar, where the bartender informed him of where to go to get his own radio and meet the boss. Charles thanked him and headed to the back. After introducing himself to a few more people he was outfitted with an in-ear radio and told that he would be watching the dance floor. Being that the club was a two-story operation and impressively large for its facade, they briefed him on the building's layout, exit points, and procedures. He took about five minutes or so and committed the information to memory before walking back into the heart of the club. He made his way to the dance floor, settled himself into a high corner, and began his long night of people watching.
Charles was good at his job, very good, and he was proud of that. He was usually able to de-escalate situations without having to resort to force, but when force was the only way he was a ringer. He’d not lost a fight since high school, and over the years he’d developed a penchant for simple incapacitation over brutal victory. It had served him well in his chosen profession, earning him many a job - clubs didn’t really like employees beating up their patrons no matter how rowdy they got, it just wasn’t a good look. So when he got a call over his radio that someone was harassing a patron at the bar and refusing to leave, he was ready to do whatever it took to resolve the situation.
When he got to the bar it was painfully obvious who he’d been called to remove. The man was quite large and clearly plastered, his loud exclamations were slurred and his step was staggered, and it looked like he was trying to grab someone sitting at the bar. Charles walked up to a few feet behind him and shouted over the music to get the man's attention. The man turned around and Charles saw in his eyes that he knew who Charles was and why he was there. Charles told him that he needed to leave.
“Ahm not leavin’ unless this li’l cutie comes wit’ me.”
It was only now that Charles saw who the man was harassing - John. They locked eyes, and for a moment Charles was stunned. At that moment the man said something that Charles didn’t comprehend, and reached over and grabbed John by the ass with a smile on his face. Before he realized what he was doing, Charles clocked the man square across the jaw. The man fell across the bar and grabbed one of the fixed stools to keep himself off the floor.
The man got up, the punch seeming to have sobered him up quite a bit.
The man swung at Charles with a strong right, but it was slow and wide. Charles caught it and sent his own right sailing straight into the man's chest.
As the air left his lungs the man stumbled backward, gasping. Charles stepped in and grabbed him by the shirt, pulling him closer.
Charles took the man by the back of his neck and arm and began to forcefully guide him towards the nearest exit.
Charles saw other bouncers coming towards him and radioed that he had it under control. He dragged the man through the club and outside into the alley, where he threw the man to the ground. As the man picked himself up Charles told him not to come back and turned around to go back into the building.
“Whatever. That little fucking faggot isn’t worth it anyway.”
He turned back around and before the man could say anything else Charles buried his foot in his stomach.
The man rolled over on the ground and vomited, but Charles wasn’t done.
Charles walked over to the man who was now groaning and apologizing. He put up his hand and asked Charles to stop, but his fist barreled through the weak defense and collided once again with the man’s face. Charles picked the man up and began beating him senselessly, striking him over and over. Nothing existed but the two of them, nothing mattered but hurting this man; killing this man.
Suddenly Charles returned to himself, snapping back to reality. He looked down at the man, bloody and quite limp in his hand. He’d messed him up pretty bad - he’d fucked up. The man probably needed medical attention.
Charles dropped the man and pulled out his phone, having just the contact for this situation. It was one of his oldest acquaintances, a man by the name of Robert. He was an EMT for a living; the best in the city. He'd done several tours in the middle east as a medic and knew how to stitch up just about anything better than just about anyone. They'd known each other for years, but more important than their history was the fact that Robert owed Charles a couple of professional favors. Charles pulled up his contact card and waited while the phone rang.
“What do you want?” Robert’s voice cut in.
“Can’t I just be calling to say hello to an old friend?”
“What do you want Charles?”
“I need your help. I messed someone up pretty bad again.”
“Where are you?”
“Bears. In the alley out back.”
“I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
“Make it fifteen,” Robert said before the line cut out.
With that Charles gave the man one final glance, before heading back into the club. He made his way back to the bar, hoping that he hadn’t spent too much time outside. No one had called asking where he was, but that wasn’t what he was worried about. He saw John still there, and without a word, he grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the restrooms. Once there he pushed John into the handicap stall and locked it behind them, but when he turned around John was nowhere to be seen. He was startled by the unbuckling of his belt and looked down to see John on his knees.
“Oh Charles you’re my hero,” John exclaimed overenthusiastically, “how ever can I repay you?”
John said the last bit with upturned eyes, and before Charles could say anything his pants were around his knees and his member was on John’s cheek. He tried to say something, to tell John that he’d only wanted to talk to him, but all the words were sucked back into his lungs when John swallowed his half-erect dick. Charles was a proportionate man, so the ease with which John was taking him showed skill and practice. Charles was stunned and somewhat helpless as John continued his ministrations, and before long he felt a swelling in his groin. He tried to tell John, but it was like he knew, and with one final push John shoved his lips down to the base of Charles’ cock. With John’s nose buried in his loins, Charles let out a disproportionately fragile gasp as he came directly into John’s throat. John simply stayed there, swallowing every drop. Once Charles was spent, John pulled himself off with a gasp. Charles’ knees gave out, as the strength in his legs simply vanished, and he couldn’t register whatever it was that John was saying. All he caught before John walked out of the stall was-
“See you Saturday.”
Charles was dazed for a few moments, but he quickly regained his wits when he heard the thumping music of the nightclub grow louder before being muffled back to bass once more. In a hurry, he scrambled to pull up his pants and get off the floor. When he finally made it out of the stall there was no one in the bathroom. He rushed out to try and catch John, but he was nowhere to be found.
“Charles, where the fuck are you? Everything okay?” A voice said over his earpiece.
He remembered now that he was still working; he’d just had sex with a near-stranger on the clock.
“I’m fine, just had to use the restroom,” he said into his mic. He’d never been so mortified, aroused, and confused at the same time. He'd only ever had sex in public a handful of times when he was younger, and never with someone, he'd not even been on a date with. At least, not the public part.
"Well hurry up. I'm not paying you to shit."
"Got it," he replied.
The rest of the night passed by in an uneventful blur, the near physical embodiment of white noise. By the time he got off, it was late night and early morning. By the time he got home it was even earlier morning, and later night. As he got ready for bed he couldn't help but think about John, no matter how hard he tried not to - which honestly wasn't very hard at all. John had already begun worming his way into Charles’ mind. Charles was perplexed by John; he was both afraid of him and intrigued by him. He’d never met someone so forward, so sure of themselves in every action, so confident that everything they did was right. It was like he could see the future and knew what course of action to take to get what he wanted. And he wanted Charles, and now Charles wanted him. It was with cautious optimism that Charles went to sleep that night, daydreaming turned to night dreaming to dreaming of the day Saturday.
The week passed without incident. Robert informed him that the man in the alley made it home safely, and Bears invited him back. But with every day that passed, he became more and more nervous, his anxiety growing like weeds in his psyche. Every time he cut down one thought another one popped up in its place. Despite his battle against the dandelions of his mind, he became more excited with each day. As Saturday breached the horizon he was having trouble sleeping; tossing and turning in the night. His dreams kept taking him back to that night, to that bathroom stall.
Finally, it was the night - it was time. Charles wasn’t even sure how he should dress, so he made himself up in his most casually nice livery - simple jeans and a sweater. He made his way by foot to John’s apartment, as they both lived close to the store where they’d met. How Charles had never seen that store before that day he hadn’t a clue, and maybe someday he’d come to regret ever having found it at all.
But today was not that day.
Charles walked down a poorly lit hallway, some of the lights having thoughtlessly burned out without bothering to replace themselves. The carpeting may have been dirty, but in the dim light, it was hard to tell. The building was obviously old from the outside, and Charles could now see that the inside was not much better. But the place did have a certain aesthetic to it, peeling paint and all. It felt almost like a movie set, but then again most of the city felt that way to Charles. He was from a smaller town down south; one that didn’t really agree with his lifestyle. So he moved north, to somewhere bigger and more accepting. To him, the entire city was like living in a movie. It was all so intriguing - the sets, the props, the characters. The buildings, the traffic, the people.
People like John.
He’d only had two interactions with him, and already he was hooked. Normally he’d be running for the hills; he didn’t like the way John made him feel powerless, he didn’t like getting sexual so quickly with someone - he didn’t even typically like dark hair. But John possessed some sort of magnetism; animalistic and spiritual. Charles was drawn to him in a way that he hadn’t been before, and it honestly terrified him. But the way that John made him feel was exhilarating like he was the most desirable thing in the world.
Before too long he arrived at John’s apartment. He stood outside the little red door for a moment, thinking about how this was his last chance to run, then knocked heavily on the door. Heavy, police-like knocks were all he could manage with hands as big as his. Shortly after the third handfall, the door swung open. John was standing there, looking cute as the buttons on his tight little shirt. And his tight little pants. It looked like he had a tight little everything. That was no good. Charles had a bad feeling about this.
“Well look who decided to show up!” John said. “You ready for a real date?”
Charles was somehow caught off guard by the subtle reference to their encounter the other night. He managed a chuckle and answered in the affirmative. John invited him inside, and as he crossed over the threshold a smell he hadn’t smelled in a long time entered his nostrils - the smell of a home-cooked meal. He could smell meat, a very different meat from his bare microwaved chicken breasts from which he got most of his protein. This meat had flavor, spices, substance. It smelled heavenly.
“I made us steak and potatoes,” said John. “I hope you like it. I get a killer discount so I get to go all out. New York strips and the potatoes are loaded.”
Charles took off his coat and made his way further into John’s apartment. It was a stark contrast to the hallways. Everything seemed to be nicely, if scarcely, appointed, and the brick walls and arches gave the place an immense amount of character. Most of the furniture seemed to be of some sort of farmyard-industrial style - a lot of wood and a lot of metal.
“Come, come,” said John. “Sit down and let me get you some food. A big guy like you must be starving.”
John ushered Charles into his dining area and sat him down at a large wooden slab of a table. It had place settings on either side of it, and soon John brought out the food. The steaks looked and smelled heavenly, and John wasn’t kidding when he said that the potatoes were loaded - they had butter, sour cream, cheese, chives, and underneath it all was brisket. Charles had never had a meal like this outside of a restaurant, or maybe ever if he thought about it hard enough.
John sat down across from him and beckoned Charles to eat. He did so, gladly. The steak was tender and a little chewy, pink in the middle, but with seared lines on the outside. Charles wondered how John had managed it without a grill.
“So, how do you like it?” John asked. “I tried for a medium. I didn’t know how you wanted it so I tried to play it safe.”
“It’s delicious,” said Charles.
“Good. I’m glad you like it.”
The rest of the meal consisted of a pattern. John would say or ask something, and Charles would muster some short reply. Before long John asked -
“You’re not much for conversation, are you?”
Charles nearly choked on his next bite; he’d been found out. He coughed and apologized for his lack of gusto in their communication thus far.
“It’s okay,” said John. “I can think of more interesting things to do than talk anyway.”
In the blink of an eye, John was underneath the table. Charles managed to stammer out a ‘what are you doing’ before he felt John undo his zipper.
“You know exactly what I’m doing,” said John as he pulled Charles’s dick from his underwear. “All you have to do is say stop, and I will, but judging from this guy here I don’t think you want me to.”
Indeed, Charles could feel himself growing in John’s hands. He didn’t want him to stop. After just several short seconds of stroking, Charles was completely hard.
“God, you’re big. Don’t stop eating,” John commanded. “I want to make this a meal you won’t forget.”
Charles was in shock. He’d never done something like this before, never been told what to do like this, but he did what he was told. He cut off another piece of his steak, and as he put the meat in his mouth he felt something warm and wet envelope the head of his penis. It was amazing. As he ate John continued sucking and stroking him, and as he continued eating the initial shock faded. It was replaced with a sense of power - this made him feel bigger and stronger than any amount of time in the gym, more than winning any fight. Being serviced like this, made him feel like a king.
He felt the head of his cock hit the back of John’s throat, and John began jerking the rest of him fervently into his mouth. Charles couldn’t hold out for long with this kind of filthy sensation, couldn’t help from filling up John’s mouth - just like he wanted.
After Charles was spent, he pushed his chair back and allowed John up off the floor.
He wiped the spit and cum from John’s chin.
“Man you really don’t hold back do you?” said John. “I like that.”
Charles said that he liked him. He’d never had a first date like that before.
“Oh, it’s not over yet stud. You’ve seen what I can do, now it’s time to see what you can do.”
Charles followed John with his eyes as he sauntered to the bedroom, his girly hips swaying as he did so. Once he reached the bedroom door he turned around and winked at Charles before heading inside. At this point Charles simply couldn’t contain himself and followed John’s lead, heading to the bedroom himself. What followed was graphic, nearly violent, and entirely heavenly. Charles had never had sex like what he had that night, never met someone with so much sexual energy.
Finally, in the wee hours of the morn, Charles was allowed his rest. He slumped over in the bed and slept like the dead. Later that day - not much later - he awoke to the smell of bacon. With a titanic groan and a stretch he pried himself from the bed, and made his way, naked, into the kitchen. John was standing in front of the stove wearing nothing but an apron. His hair was wet, and when Charles came up behind him he could smell the lavender in it. He wrapped his arms around John, engulfing his body in the embrace.
“Hey there stud,” said John. “Did I wake you?”
Charles told him that he hadn’t. That it had been the smell of the bacon. No one had cooked him breakfast in a long time.
“So it’s my meat you’re after! I would’ve thought you got plenty of it last night.”
“Well your timing is perfect,” John said. “The eggs are done, and if this bacon goes any longer it’ll be burnt beyond recognition. I was going to bring it to you in bed, but since you’re up we can just have it at the table.”
The breakfast was good, the bacon being not nearly as bad as John had made it out to be, and they had pleasant conversation over their coffee. Soon John had to go to work, though, and they said their goodbyes.
As Charles descended in the elevator he thought back to last night. He’d never had anything quite so passionate before - not even with partners he’d had for a while. There was something… special, about John; something unique. He liked it, a lot.
The following days passed in something of a blur, melting together in one long chain of messages between himself and John. Soon they had a date out in public, and from there, things really took off. They began a whirlwind of a courtship, full of excitement, new experiences, and sex. It didn’t take long for Charles to start falling for John, and after a month or so they were expressing their love for each other as passionately verbally as they did physically. It was a very special time in Charles’ life - the best time he’d ever had.
As the leaves of the trees began to transition from shades of green to their beautiful Fall hues, their relationship was thriving, and they decided that they would move in together. Well into Winter, and they were happy together, with nothing but a few minor squabbles. Until one day, a ghost of their past reared its ugly head and reached its poisonous tendrils into their life.
Charles was in the kitchen loading his new medicine into his pill organizer when a knock came from the front door. When he answered, the man said his full name, half questioning and half factual. Charles confirmed that he was indeed the person they were looking for, and the man introduced himself. He was a lawyer, representing the man he had left in the alleyway of Bears. Charles was being sued. The lawyer handed him a folder, saying that if the criteria in the folder were not met, then they would be taking him to court for assault with a deadly weapon, and he would be facing serious jail time. The choice was his.
Charles was dumbfounded. He had completely forgotten about the incident in question. As the lawyer turned to leave, Charles asked on what grounds was he being sued. The man simply said, “it’s all in the folder,” and walked away.
Charles couldn’t bring himself to open the folder and read its contents. It weighed a hundred pounds in his hands, so he set it down on the table and stared at it. He couldn’t look away from it, his mind racing at what this meant for him, and for John; what it meant for them. What it meant for his job, for his relationship, for his place in society. Every single worst-case scenario came to mind and floated about inside his head. They bounced off each other and produced terrible offspring in the form of further thought. This was how John found him when he came home hours later; overwhelmed and motionless, staring at a folder on the table.
John said his name a few times and then shook him gently, and Charles came back to reality somewhat violently. The transition from being trapped inside his own skull to being aware of the world around him was like being ripped out of a cave through a waterfall. The simple roar of his thoughts became a cacophony of reality. He was disoriented, to say the least.
John asked him what was wrong, and with a weary tone, Charles told him everything. He told him about the beating, the lawsuit, the threat of jail. John was shocked. He’d no idea of what Charles had done that night. John opened the folder and began to read it aloud. With every word Charles’ spirits sank further; what they were demanding was akin to his life. There was no way he could come up with what they wanted. Defeated, he told John that he was sorry, that he didn’t mean for this to happen. John was less than understanding - he was furious. How could Charles do something like this? How could he hurt someone like that, for any reason? And then to try and cover it up? The physical effects of Charles’ punishment were listed out in the form of hospital bills, physical therapy receipts, thousands of dollars in medicine. The psychological effects were less obvious, but included in the total were months of counseling sessions and even a visit to rehab courtesy of an addiction to pain killers. On paper, Charles had nearly ruined this man’s life - now it was time to pay.
Charles tried to explain himself, but John wouldn’t listen. John said he was a criminal for what he did to that man - that he was a monster. Charles felt as though someone had stabbed him through the heart. His chest tightened and his mind began to fill with anguish. His body was hot, and his muscles were spasming with nervous tension. He continued to plead with John, to try to tell him that it was a one-time thing; that it was for him. That simply made John angrier, and Charles could see the disgust in his eyes. John told him that they were through, that what they had was over - that’s when Charles snapped.
Charles began begging John to stay, screaming as he’d lost control of the volume of his voice. He cried tears of pain as he moved closer to John, and as the tears came his vision left him, blurred by the salty solution of great emotion. John backed away, telling Charles that he was frightening him, that he wanted to leave. Charles had him cornered in their kitchen, and was wailing sentiments of love and loss at an ever-increasing pitch. John grabbed a knife from the block and told Charles in a shaky voice that he didn’t want to hurt him. But Charles couldn’t hear him. His senses were dead to the world, the only thing he could feel, see, or hear was his own sadness.
Suddenly John swung the knife at him, cutting his forearm deeply. Charles howled in pain, and in an instant, his cries of agony and anguish turned into a roar of anger. He punched blindly and knocked John to the ground. The knife fell out of his hand as he hit the ground, and quickly Charles was upon him, his body and mind full of blind rage. He was no longer in control of his faculties as he reached down and grabbed John by the throat, he was being piloted by his emotions, by his fury. He lifted John into the air by his neck, and with both hands began to squeeze. John kicked and scratched furiously, but it only served to fuel the fires within Charles. He didn’t even feel John’s windpipe collapse beneath his thumbs, never noticed the color of John’s face changing as blood pooled within it. John’s frenzied attempts at freedom lost their vigor as his eyes began bulging from their sockets and the world darkened around him. Charles was still squeezing, harder and harder, his massive hands nearly completely encompassing John’s neck. The violence within him swelled in a roiling fire that swallowed his entire being, and though John stopped moving he continued his crushing ministrations. He shook John’s limp form as he cried out with passion and pure unadulterated emotion. He was so absorbed in his anger that he didn’t even hear the police break down the door. He didn’t hear them as they shouted at him to put John down. He didn’t even hear the gun go off.
He was torn from his fury by a pain in his back that rivaled the pain in his soul. In an instant, he was once again aware of himself, of what he was doing. He dropped John to the ground and stumbled backward. Another shot rang out, and he fell to the floor. As his life began to slowly fade from his body, he looked at John, gazed upon the beautiful man that he had ruined. As the darkness closed in and his organs began to fail, his last thought was of their first meeting in the store, of John’s smiling face. He held onto that image as the last of his soul left him, and carried it into the never-ending darkness.
It was a beautiful autumn morning. The leaves were falling lazily from their branches, their warm tones contrasting with the crisp air. As they littered the ground around us I reached for a doughnut.
“Charles,” said my companion, John. “Do you think about the past much? The things that were?”
I took a bite from my doughy delight and thought for a moment about his question. It was phrased strangely to me. Being focused on the things that were, and not the way they were. Like longing for an old car that you used to own, while simultaneously ignoring all of the problems that caused you to sell it in the first place.
“I suppose I don’t,” I said. “I think that I prefer to look to what’s to come, rather than worry about what already has.”
John grabbed a chocolate frosted and contemplated my answer. It was obviously not what he was expecting. Perhaps he was thrown by the switch-up - asking about one thing and receiving an answer about something different.
“So you really don’t dwell? You don’t commiserate, none of that?” He asked.
“I suppose I dwell sometimes,” I said. “But I try not to; I try to move on quickly. It’s just futile to me to lust after something that’s already come and gone. If I want something back I try to focus on what I can do to get it back. The steps I can take to bring my desires to fruition.”
“Huh,” he grunted out between bites.
“I wonder what today’s future holds for us,” I said as I reached for another doughnut. “I hope it’s as nice as breakfast.”
(Not) For the Children
“What the fuck did you just say to me?” his father bellowed. “What did you just say, you stupid bitch?”
His mother tried to answer, but her words were beaten down by the back of his hand. As she hit the floor, he was upon her, yanking her up by her beautiful hair as she howled in pain.
“You don’t ever talk back to me! I’m the best fucking thing you’ve got, and you know it! Without me you wouldn’t even have this shithole: you’d be out on the goddamn streets! Don’t you ever…”
His father’s shouting grew ever louder as he struck her over and over and over; her cries pleading for help, desperately trying to touch the ears of anyone who could listen. His callous fists desecrated her delicate body, reducing her to a quivering, sobbing pile of flesh and bone without value in this civilized world.
Outside his muscles seized, his joints ossified, and he was frozen on the fire escape. The wind cut his eyes as he was forced to watch while his father destroyed his mother. Her cries became weaker and more infrequent—eventually they ceased altogether, and he stared, eyes bulging and mouth agape as his father dropped her lifeless form in the doorway.
Suddenly, his father’s body tensed; through a predatory sixth sense, the beast felt the presence of prey. He straightened and turned slowly. Their eyes locked, and his visage twisted with a monstrous rage as he began a slow march towards the window.
“What the fuck are you doing out of your room, Charles?” his father roared. His face continued its unholy contortions as it pulled colors from the walls and sucked light from the lamps. “Who the fuck told you that you could leave your room? Huh? ANSWER ME WHEN I’M TALKING TO YOU!”
His father’s voice deepened and warped into a demonic squeal that grate on his very soul. The ants were shrieking beneath his skin, consuming him from the inside while the scarabs made their way up his body, tilling his flesh with their steely limbs. He shut his eyes and ears as he tried desperately to end it. His heart pounded and left a vacuum in his tightening chest as he fell to his knees. His blood roared deafeningly, and his father’s Luciferic snarls grew in intensity. They filled his head and battled within its confines, each growing louder and louder and louder and louder until he felt his skull split apart by their feudal volume—
The noises cut off with a jarring abruptness, and his eyes snapped open as he collapsed on all fours, his fingers woven through the metal grate in a white-knuckled grip as he frantically sucked in the oxygen his father had deprived him of moments prior. His condition was deteriorating; the memories were becoming too real – becoming far too real. He didn’t have much time. He forced himself to his feet and collected the gas cans with trembling hands. He had to keep moving, no more detours, no more windows.
Learn What You Write
You can write about anything, with the proper research. Of course writing what you know is easier, but it shouldn't limit you in your writing. Branch out, read, learn. If you don't know something, you should look it up rather than omitting it. If you want to be a better writer, then you should better yourself.
To lose love would break me. If I could no longer love for all eternity, if my feelings for my wife and child were reduced to a simple liking, I would absolutely crumble. I would live my life forever and alone if only it meant I could love my family, dead and gone though they might be.
My colleague Charles had been acting strangely ever since our trip to the Congo. We’d been there for a week, trekking out to explore previously unexplored ruins of lost African tribes, when he suddenly fell deathly ill. We were in a group of five in the depths of the jungle, camping in a small village of indigenous people, with no one that understood English but the guide. In the morning before we were meant to set out and explore the ruins, he complained of a slight headache. He took some ibuprofen, but within the hour it had turned into a blinding migraine, and while our medic Danielle was looking him over he suddenly lost consciousness. We took him into his tent and laid him down, and even though he soon began to sweat he wasn’t running a fever. Danielle opened his eyes to check his pupils and they were in a state of incredibly rapid movement, appearing to be two ivory spheres within their sockets. His breathing was labored, and nothing we did would wake him. Desperate, we asked our guide, a young native man, if he’d ever seen anything like this before. He said that once, over a decade ago, his father had told him of a man that had come in the mid-eighties to explore these same ruins. He and his team had been about to head into the ruins when suddenly he fell ill and lost consciousness, the same as our friend had. Nothing could wake him, and despite the villagers' offers and attempts to help, the man's security detail wouldn’t let anyone but the doctor anywhere near him, and he passed away by nightfall.
Suddenly we heard shouting outside the tent, but before I could get up to investigate, Jackson fell backward through the entrance at spearpoint. I could now see the people of the village gathered outside the tent, many of them holding spears or knives, and a few of them with the village's only guns. They’d taken us hostage. Some of them were shouting things at us, and our guide told us that they were telling us that they would not lose another chosen one. Before I could ask him what they meant by “chosen one” the villagers began to part. From between them emerged the village nganga, dressed in his most mystical livery, bones adorning every inch of his neck and waist, with pouches of what were presumably magical powders hanging across his chest. He held such presence as he walked towards us. When he got into the tent he looked at Charles and smiled, and began lowly chanting something in a language that it seemed even our guide didn’t understand. As he grew closer to Charles his chanting grew louder, and suddenly Charles’ eyes opened, still just ivory orbs. The nganga continued chanting, took one of his pouches, and began throwing a white powder over Charles’ body. Charles started to convulse, and Danielle began crying out to the nganga to stop, but a villager cracked her across the face with the butt of a rifle. She fell to the ground, bleeding from where she had been struck. I rushed to her and helped her up, trying my best to stop the bleeding. The strange thing was, though, that I didn’t think the nganga should stop. Everywhere that the powder touched seemed to be held down, as though it was weighted. The more powder that was spread across him the less he seemed to move, and once the nganga ran out he pulled a waterskin from his hip and poured its contents over Charles’s face, and Charles’ pupils returned to his eyes and he began to scream. The nganga screamed back at him in the strange language as Charles’ chest heaved and his limbs tightly flailed about, and the nganga began pelting him with more powders. Charles’s back arched, and his hands were balled into white-knuckled fists as he strained against the magic of the nganga's powders, his muscles barely contained beneath his skin, his vascularity simply astonishing. Suddenly he went silent, eyes closing as he fell to the cot and his head slumped to the side. The nganga lowered his volume back to a whisper, still throwing his powders over Charles until he ran out of those, too. Once he was spent and satisfied, he walked out of the tent, and he was followed closely by the villagers, their guns pointed at us as they backed out of the entrance.
We immediately checked on Charles. His breathing was returning to normal, and after a few moments, he woke up. He was delirious, but he seemed to be mostly alright. Once he regained his senses we told him what had happened, and he agreed that we needed to leave as soon as possible. After we cleaned him off and patched up Danielle’s wound we hurriedly packed up everything in the tent, and once we felt an appropriate amount of time had passed we peeked from between the flaps of the tent's entrance. We weren't prepared for the stillness that awaited us. The village was completely deserted, devoid of even its admittedly small animal population. The silence was deafening compared to how lively it had been earlier. We packed up the other two tents as quickly as possible and left the village with as much haste as we could muster.
I wish I had stayed.
When we got back to civilization we all breathed a sigh of relief. It had taken us days, but thankfully we hadn’t run into any trouble with any militia or even animals. It was far quieter than our journey out to the ruins had been; almost as if everything was avoiding us. During our return Charles had seemed unusually chipper, and overly energetic; like a child playing in the forest. He was interested in every, single, little, thing. His curiosity kept us out there for at least an extra day, much to the annoyance of the rest of us. We all just wanted to get home. I also noticed while we were out there that he didn’t seem to sleep. I caught him lying awake, talking to himself in the middle of the night - every night. He spoke in a language I couldn’t understand, but it sounded like the language that the nganga had been speaking. When I asked him about it he acted as if he had no idea what I was talking about, but seemed visibly distressed. I decided not to press him any further about it but continued to wonder where he’d learned it. He was a linguist by profession, and he did pick up languages with ease compared to most of the people I’d met, but he had been unconscious for the whole event - hadn’t he?
We all had separate rooms for our short stay in Kinshasa, and I was finally able to sleep through the night. When we boarded the plane home Charles was looking rather pale. I asked him if he felt alright, and with a strained smile on his face, he told me that he’d never felt better. I expressed concern that he was behaving rather strangely, but he wouldn’t listen. He brushed me off and told me I was being ridiculous. He said that he’d had a near-death experience and that it had given him a new view of life; a more curious and appreciative one. I accepted his explanation, being that it was sound and reasonable, and we spent the rest of the flight discussing our findings from the trip. Aside from his appearance, he did seem to be alright.
After we landed in the states we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways - Charles and I were the only ones that worked at the same university. So we boarded yet another plane and made our way home, trekking across the air with a furious speed so that we might get home in time to start compiling the data we’d accumulated on our trip. Unfortunately by the time we got to the university, it was in the vein of evening and I was tired as all get out. I said goodnight to my colleague and drove myself home. I slept with a slight unease, waking up several times unable to recall what I had been dreaming of moments prior. Each time I awoke, I had a feeling of dread. When I arrived the next morning Charles was already - or, rather, still - there, nose to the grindstone. He seemed perfectly fine, the only thing giving him away was his bloodshot eyes. I asked him how his work was going, and he didn’t respond. So I asked him again, this time a little louder, fearing he hadn’t heard me over the furious clacking of his typing, but to no avail. I escalated the volume with which I said his name several times, but I got no response until I reached him and put my hand on his shoulder. Though I hadn’t snuck up on him in the slightest he jolted in his seat and looked at me with terror in his eyes. I asked him if he was alright, and told him that I’d called his name several times. He just gave me a blank stare, and then suddenly something clicked behind his eyes. He began animatedly telling me about our work, about everything he’d gotten done last night. I asked him if he wanted to rest, but he declined - he said he had to get back to his work, that it was too important to stop. I asked to see what he’d accomplished. Delighted, he backed away from his screen and motioned me down to look. The screen was full of strange characters and patterns I didn’t understand. I think they were words; they were written in a strange alphabet that I wasn’t familiar with in the slightest. I asked him what it all meant, and he began spewing all sorts of linguistic terms and phrases, from promising diacritics to phonemes and allophones. From what I could understand it was the language that the nganga had been speaking. I asked him how he could know their alphabet and spellings and such; again I was met with a linguistics wall that was simply too tall for me to scale.
Though confused, I was satisfied. Charles had always been one to throw himself into his work, even if this time it seemed a bit excessive. I told him that I was going to my office and that I would see him later. And I did. In the same spot. Wearing the same clothes. Day after day. Staring at his computer screen, seemingly taking no breaks for food or even to use the restroom. I tried to get him to leave, to go do anything else, but all of my efforts were met with hostility. He was upset that I would even suggest leaving his work. A week went past, and he was getting thinner, his nails growing faster than they should, his hair losing its volume. I wasn’t the only one who noticed, but anyone who expressed concern was brushed off for his precious work. He would tell them that he was getting close, that he’d almost figured it out, but he wouldn’t tell anyone what “it” was.
One night I was leaving my office when I heard a scream from down the hall. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard; it was the sound of pain blended with pure terror. I rushed to see what it was - it seemed to have come from Charles’ office - and when I arrived I was met with a sight so horrific that I froze in disbelief, unable to process what I was seeing. Terry, one of the lab assistants, was on the floor, her torso torn open and her entrails strewn about. Something had ripped out her throat and gouged out her eyes - blood was everywhere, crimson pools surrounding her body. I stood, rooted in place like a statue, in a complete state of shock for what felt like hours, when I suddenly heard a voice.
It sounded like Charles, but with some sort of harsh sound wall behind it; a steady and monotone shrieking in the underlying tones of every word. I slowly turned my head and there he was. His complexion was positively pallid, drained of all blood, and devoid of melanin. His limbs were long and slender, and his fingers were elongated and sharp, his nails seeming to have disappeared into their tips entirely. Bare and barren was his body, holding no defining sexual characteristics. His mouth was wide, far too wide, and full of sharp, needle-like teeth. He was covered in fresh blood, his mouth and hands especially scarlet. He was horrifying, but before I could say or do anything he spoke again.
“I’ve done it, John. I’ve figured it all out.”
It took me a moment to process his words, but when I had I asked him what he was talking about; what had he figured out.
“The secrets, John. I’ve discovered the secrets. I know how the world was made, and I know how it ends. I know my part in it all - and I know your part too, John. Come here and let me show it to you.”
He began moving towards me slowly, dragging his feet in a death march, and finally, my fight-or-flight instincts kicked in. I broke my statuesque form and ran. He didn’t move any faster, and I could hear his feet slowly dragging across the floor. As I ran the sounds of his feet got quieter and quieter until they disappeared completely. Suddenly the lights above me started to flicker, and as I dashed to the exit they began popping and bursting, raining down sparks and covering me in glass and progressing darkness. I slammed my body into the double doors leading outside, but they didn’t budge. The impact jarred my senses, and it took me a moment to recollect them. Once I had, I tried furiously to open the doors, but to no avail. As I wondered what to do I heard him - distant, but distinct. His voice wafted to my ears carried by a breeze that didn’t disturb the now stale air.
“There’s no escaping your fate, John. This is the beginning of the end, and your time is now. Just give in John; accept it. There is more waiting for you on the other side. Let me show it to you.”
Terrified, I dove into the nearest lecture hall. My eyes darted back and forth, looking for a hiding space. Eventually, they settled on the AV room in the back. Running to it as quickly as possible, I locked myself inside and hid beneath the desk in the back of the room. I was damn near hyperventilating, terrified beyond all imaginings. Then I heard it, the dragging. Softly at first, muffled by the walls between us, but somehow still clear in its sound. It grew louder, and the louder it grew the slower my breathing became, until without warning the dragging stopped.
“You cannot hide from me, John. I can see where you’ve been, and I can see where you’re going to be. You cannot escape.”
Suddenly there was a great crashing sound. I couldn’t see anything, but it sounded like an ax being slammed into the door; then it came again, and again.
“Here I am John. I’ve found you.”
This time his words were perfectly clear as if he’d put his head through the door. I heard a click of the door unlocking and in desperation, I shoved the desk against the door. It was useless though; he simply cut the door down the rest of the way and tore into the wooden desk. His fingers stabbing and ripping through the wood with ease - it was the sound I had heard before, how he’d gotten in in the first place. He made quick work of both the door and the desk as I cowered in the corner, pissing myself in fear. I’d never felt this way before, never felt so completely and utterly hopeless and helpless to my fate. Slowly did he make his way into the room, climbing over the remains of the desk like some sort of animal. He swiveled his head towards me and smiled, his overly wide mouth full of its carnivorous serrated teeth.
“There you are, John. Get ready, I have so much to show you.”
With that, I screamed, and with a quickness he’d not shown previously he raced toward me. Within seconds he was upon me, towering over me with his bloody, lanky form. He thrust his hands to either side of my head and gripped it tightly before slowly shoving the tips of his thumbs into the corners of my eyes. I screamed and squirmed and thrashed, but no matter how I moved I could not break his grip. The pain was unbearable as he slowly popped my eyes from their sockets, the room spinning in multiple directions before he cut the chords that attached them to me and they fell from my face. Suddenly he dropped me, blind and bloody to the floor, and before I could try to clamber away I felt the knives of his hands pierce my stomach. It hurt, all of it hurt so badly. I could feel him twisting his fingers about, moving his hand further up into my torso. I began to feel cold - numb even. The pain was excruciating, but as his fingers crept between my lungs and around my heart it began to fade, the numbness creeping in, taking its place. I could no longer scream; I simply gurgled as his grip on my heart became tighter and my body became colder. As his grip became vice-like around my organ, my ruined and empty sockets saw something - something in the distance; it looked like fire.
Unfortunately for me, it was not the last thing I would ever see.
“Just hold that happy thought, Peter…”
I could barely hold back my tears as I cocked the hammer back on my gun. My son, Peter, sat in front of me. He was looking out at the ocean, watching the waves crash over the sand from the log he sat on. The sky was a beautiful mix of golds and peaches and oranges - a perfect sunset. A perfect memory.
He hummed to himself; some theme song from a show that he liked. He’d been watching a lot of shows lately. Ever since the diagnosis, I’d given him unfettered access to the television, even put one in his room when he couldn’t walk so easily anymore. The doctors had told me that would happen. They said that movement would become difficult and painful. And it did. Eventually I had to carry him to and from the bathroom and feed him in bed because any journey would bring him to tears.
He continued to hum as I brought the gun level with the back of his head. He’d always wanted to go to the beach, begging me every summer. But I’d never made it much of a priority, thinking we’d always have next year. But when the doctors told me how quickly he would deteriorate, I realized that I was out of time. There wasn’t going to be a next year, they said. So even though it was fall, I booked us a trip right away.
Hmmhmmhmm. Hmmhmmhmm. Hmmhmmhmm.
I began to apply pressure to the trigger, my finger unable to pull it in one swift motion.
I hesitated. “Yes Peter?”
“Thanks for taking me to the beach.”
Tears welled in the corner of my eyes. “No problem Kiddo.”
It became even harder to squeeze the trigger. Memories of our life before his illness raced through my mind. The gun shook in my hand as I began to lose my resolve.
“I love you, Daddy.”
The tears finally spilled out onto my cheeks, running down my face like salty rivers.
“I love you too, buddy. Just hold that happy thought, Peter…”
With that, I managed to apply the last of the pressure necessary to end his pain for good.
Underneath the Honeysuckle
This is my favorite poem I've ever written, and the first thing that I wrote that made me feel like I might be good at this:
Underneath the honeysuckle
Our bodies tangle and entwine.
Our breaths come ragged and our knees buckle,
And I taste your lips as you taste mine.
Summer’s sweat rolls down our skin
As we tussle in the dirt,
And our passions burn akin
As you press through your shirt.
I feel myself grow at your touch,
And I feel your growing need
To tear away our clothes, as such,
And slake this thirst to breed.
I trace your form with my mouth
As I pull down your jeans,
And I move my ministrations south
To treat you like a queen.
As I trail my tongue down your hips
Your breaths come ragged, and your knees buckle.
And at last, I taste your lips
Underneath the honeysuckle.