Under the basement

I learned not to drink with Ambien one night. I woke up in Gresham with a broken arm. Cozy. Fucked, I know.

I’d say there are twelve steps down to the basement, but I only take three to get there. I take the back door.

The rest, I contest, are too steep.

“I am Ian. I am Ian. I am Iam,” I keep sayin’.

I escaped to the basement. Rock bottom. I wasn’t buying any anymore.

Only what I had left over. The older stuff. That honey bourbon, from when… 

With Penny, When I was making it.

But when it’s over it’s over..

Good, good

Good, good

Good will never be enough, Simon.

Good, good.

I was looking at our fingertips, Simon. Do know what I saw?

You will

Peter

Imagine the talent needed to sew the raw wet face of a man onto the sleeve of a leather jacket, with one good hand.

I woke up from a lucid dream where my goddamn inner child was stolen, mostly, and came up on a fit of ‘sick fuck’.

An hour later, I met the crew on the bow with their captain On my sleeve. The face of him anyway, illuminated strikingly by the full moonlight.

We sailed in my direction thereafter. Two days after that night, I fed them the first mate, Smee. Sniveling cock. I almost ate a piece on principle, to vomit him up in the sea.

Two nights before land, we’d come into shark waters. A crewman called out, “drain the prison!”

I knew what he meant, and stepped to the stern with him.

“Your body is a prison, friend.” I said it and took his filth caked dreads in my left hand cut out his throat with a k-bar. My father’s. He used it for fishing, after Afganistan. Into the water he splashed and drained.

The Sharks lapped our wake like guppies. Humans are such a treat. And the crew ate well. Happy virulent sheep.

We made land as I said. Molten maddened land.

A man that called himself Golden swore he’d steal a Cutter from the blood stained docks of Carcass, the name we’ve come to know this island by. His grand premise was to scrape the coast for children. There were a hundred to every grown woman or man. Legions like crabs in the beach at dawn. All renounced of allegiance to humanity and God. Children. I was one when the first end came. Before the earth compounded it.

Like I said. It’s no Tortuga, and it ain’t no Caribbean.

The first local I met at the dock was a boy. Twelve, maybe thirteen. He stared at me, searching for some words.

I stepped to him, beside Golden, and asked him, “Do you see anything on this man to make him golden?” 

The boy, wide eyed, gave me a fairly discernible nod, and I buried my newly fashioned hook into the baby soft crown of his head and cracked away the crust of skull when I withdrew it and enjoyed watching him stumble like a drunk, unaware of the fact he was dead.

“Take the value, kid,” I said.

The kid followed me thereafter .

Go back to sleep

Go back to sleep 

Go back to sleep 

Go back to sleep

Go back to sleep 

Go back to sleep

Go back to sleep

Go back to sleep

Sleep

Sleep

Sleep

The Island

I’m immersed in elation. 

That tingling warmth that radiates and fills you to the point of fullness and spills over, bathing you you in hope like melodies under the Spanish sun. I’m swimming in that sensation, waking from a daydream. Like waking from a nightmare, so far removed it’s formless, like seeing into shadows with eyes bathed in light.

The air is sweet and voluptuous. The grass beneath my feet, lush. The cool breeze sifts through my hair, rustling my Adidas shorts and rippling over my Jersey. Coolly and consistent.

The sun filters through lush canopies beneath canopies, but not diffused. Rather illuminating the soft verdant glow that emanates from each leaf that reaches out like rich green heart shaped blades.

The hush of the forest calms me, all but my heart that aches, strangely vacant. I feel the air on my skin and catch the scent of soil nuanced with a shade of complex decay.

I’m fine, save the emerging sparks of trepidation. I’m alone, and while this forest is lush and seems to speak to me, I’m alone. I feel it at my core. A part of me, missing, calling out for me, perhaps.

I have no hunger pains. Two days, it’s been. The sun has set twice, and even in night, the forest’s rustles whispered lullabies as their luminescence dimmed with my eyes, and arose as I awoke, like the bright eyes of hello from an old friend.

I recollect it must have been more than a week that I’ve been here. For the most part, I feel like I’ve been here in this paradise for ages. Forever. There’s also that chill, that hole I feel inside me. A singularity swelling, swallowing everything, all but the better part of me resisting.

It’s crippling. I feel my chest like a hell cave of lacerations and fiery hot rot disguised as black ice.

Another seven days. The nights are sometimes unbearable. But sometimes, I can feel the ocean chopping beneath the vines and leaves where I lay, and nerves are still.

At night now, come the dreams. Night terrors. Visions from this dead world I’ve somehow escaped in these dreams I’ve been having.

I realize, in this purgatory, that I’m a boy, alone in paradise, a kind of heaven maybe. And we call out to one another, but neither can hear.

A voice, like a thought, spoke to me. Me, a goddamn scavenger in this buckled world.

“You feel this world, James. You belong here. James, you’ve brought it. These canopies and sunsets are your dreams. Why won’t you allow yourself what people wasted lifetimes to earn and steal? You feel the vibrations healing you with their light? They can do so much more, if you’ll just let go. Come to me, James.”

My hand shivered and fluxed. I pulled it inward, like a child in danger. Sparks of knifing pain came and went, came and went.

In my fist, I dread to look at it anymore. Like some disfigured portrait of my soul, made of a kind of flesh, in the former shape of a fist, trapped in steel. In this fist, that last shred of my inner light, that link between this paradise, where I, Thirteen and bright, am so vividly alive again.

That link between us that affects us both. For me, it is intoxicating, this elated fantasy and satiated sense of fullness and desire, intertwined in unbearable incinerating pain, weaving like a vine up the veins of my arm.

It kills us both. But not yet. Some kinds of death dissolve your body, some dissolve your energy, and some still swallow you, dissolving you whole.

In my semi lucidity I tell her, the voice in my dream, “how do I know you? Why?”

She kissed me somehow, somewhere between dimensions, I’m standing with her, chest against my chest, weightlessly suspended. Her eyes filled me up.

And then she was gone

A light, aggressive rapping at the door awoke me.

The light of the great volcano burned brilliant in the black horizon. We were home. Some call it Tortuga now, some still call it the Caribbean island. I call it temporary, like the rest of this life.

I close my eyes and breathe deeply, into my core. The scent of ash and sulfur and the sea fill my lungs, and there is a peace.

We made land. I killed a slaver before I stepped off the planks. It’s damn good to be back.

Wendy

I was seasoned with pain as you would a cast iron skillet in the flames of grease and fury.

My ship slipped slow and stealthful, great black sail like an abyss. A storm of slaughter followed, driving me. I, I lead the cruelest men, famished murderous villains, often to glorious destruction.

But before this, I was alone. A single sail Catboat. It too was a new acquisition.

The Med was over fed with obliterated ocean liners, dead in the sea, adrift, enhabited only by the dead and the ghoulish survivors that surfeited on the the only remaining meat, human. Best fresh over an open flame.  

But the taste of a human…

A wise man would die before choosing that fate. I still remember the first time. I’ll never forget. When the world fell, we all learned a lot about ourselves. About our own survival. I wish I could say I remember the last, but I’ve thought a bit about my updated five-year-plan, and gruesome ultra violence seems to be a mainstay. So at this point, I’m not ruling anything out.

To stay away from the sick, we, the wise, took to the seas in boats, and stole better boats, without the guilt to recompense. Men were cold, women were terrifying, once death was on everyone’s shoulders. My first boat sailed with me alone. Then I met Wendy. I rescued her from her two brothers, at sea. That’s an ugly story. The kind I’m sure you long to hear.

Before I rescued her, she rescued me. To be clear, I wasn’t much help in the matter. Wendy. For her I have an affinity. So fucking clever.

They’d been pulled out of the bay, sail torn down, trust fund children. A college lacrosse team, stranded in Italy, brutally, no doubt. It got ugly on land. At some point they took to the sea, not far from port. But her brothers had killed everyone on the ship, systematically. That’s another story.

And once they had finished them all, more than a year of this reign, making land and luring the healthy on ship for transport to safety, they shed all their weights of humanity. They were absolved of blood ties and set their eyes on Wendy.

I fought vengefully by sword and hammer and chain and brute strength. I impaled the first, the youngest, on the torn hand rail of the bow.

The stench of rotting meat, fermenting in the heat of the Pacific in July, belched up from the Hull of the sloop.
The second, the eldest by several years, the skin on his face decaying by some flesh eating virus from the meat they’d been subsisting on. Decaying from the lacerations across his face and the infection from his eye that was held shut by a silver hoop Thant held his eyelids shut like a safety pin on a diaper.

And all that shit was building up in his brain, losing his mind in the agony. He was ravenous and stark raving insane.

She hid in the captains quarter with the flair gun, the bodies of her friends, the first and last to die, at all stages of decay.

This is also where she discovered the spare radio. Also where I discovered her. Wendy. 

And John had followed me. Followed the creaks of the ship. He came from behind like a cold blooded predator, and thrust his knife into my back.

I fell, and Wendy threw over me the fire blanked she hid under.

She aimed like her father taught her, and fired her flair into his rotting eye, which burst into a shadow of sparks from his eye socket, thrusting the silver ring into his brain.

The shatter of sparks ignited the methane in the room, from rotting corpses, and held the silver blanket tightly over our heads as the room burst into one brilliant blue ball of flame, like a wraith lashing through from some galactic kind of hell.

And I took her with me, safe. We sailed around the radioactive Sea of Japan. Where you’d only hunt if insane.

And then we were found.
By the lost boys. Not boys at all, but the smallest, most sadistic men that remained of this cursed world.
Men so sinewy they wore the fresh flesh of their kills and stalk their prey bringing night terrors to life.
There is a saying.

When you see you first Lost Boy, you’ve seen your last day.

Wendy hid for a while, But no one hides for ever. 

As it turned out, they were slavers with a while lot of hype. There were two dwarves in a small crew of malnourished men. They were cruel, and only kept me alive out of curiosity, and a likely bounty.

I never saw Wendy again until this very moment, but not to get ahead.

If you remember, before I was Hook, I was James, a slave on a boat that mutinied.

pius

I pity the person that lives a life without troubles.

Filthy distant pity.

I wear scars of war and worry

Mostly wear from worry 

The man in the belt

So, anyway. I roll up to the scene. All the lights are out. Electricity. All of it. One dark, ruinous night, silent, all but the sea God howling its horrifying howl.

And the young couple. A Lance Corporal. He was. And the adjunct high school dream girl/drop out. Sweet strawberry blonde in dark washed jeans, appropriately snug. That was her. Danni. 

I sat there in the back of the squad car,  not so cozy in the hard shell seat, for a few minutes while the Private sorted it all out and got the go ahead to pull me out. Once you’re on the scene, you’re basically a tool in a box.

As the on scene investigation developed, the MPs chattered about it. 

She had a nasty habit of sleeping with other boys. He had a habit of getting violently quiet. Neither was conducive to their marriage. 

Oh marriage! Antiquated contract. That’s what we ought to say. We’ve gotten to such a point of confidence and respect for one another in this relationship that I feel can only be properly tested by tying it down with a legally binding contract, to complicate and ultimately extinguish any flame of passion we’ve cultured. Aka, let’s get hitched.”

We don’t say that though. We actually sell this shit proposal with alcohol and optimism, Oreo sandwiching it in between dinner and adventure, with our entire egos on the line.

These kids had the right idea. This guy, Philip Briggs, Philly, LCpl if you’re nasty, gave it to her cut and dry. Here’s the facts, Danni. That was her name. This is how I imagine it went.

They dated on and off throughout high school. She had a self confidence deficit due to a shunt of a step dad. He always reminded her of the old drunk cut. So sure of himself, despite nicotine stained teeth and a wire and bone physique. He knew he would be a Marine long before she knew him. 

A man with trajectory. A man in motion, with aspirations, inspiring. A devoted man. Skilled, lethal and restrained. She wanted a weapon to adore her.

But she didn’t want Philly. Only a man of that metal.

But he left for boot, and others to college, and others to a barrage of jobs. And others still into the drugs they all knew. And she was alone, telemarketing for Pizza Hut, working graves, on a friend’s cat pissed couch, passed out through afternoons in a marijuanna fugue.

When he called, he knew nothing. She was the strawberry blonde he dreamt of for three months of hell, and first girl he thought of when he discovered how much easier life could be in the Marine Corps for the next four years, if he were just married. 

It wouldn’t be permenant. Just a certificate. She could be anyone. She just had to be present.

He made the proposal over the phone. She cried. He flew home two weeks later for recruiting assistance, and flew back in a month, a married man. Boom.

They were together for a year before he blew out his shoulder, and subsequently, his career.

As he waited on light duty for several months, he began to drink. Heavily. No more were there weeks spent in the field in tactical exercise. No more were the nights with her lover, filthy and passionate in her marital bed.

No more thrill, or escape. No more relief of coming home to a beautiful wife he adored. Always home, with tension like static electricity arcing between them as from a Tesla coil.

And the arguments and belittlement. “You’re always here.” “You’re always drinking.” “Then get a job.” “Limp dick.” “Fat bitch”.

Love is an inconvenience, and a burden. I love you, was the one declaration he swore never to tell her. She made him. He promised. It seemed fair. They’d had their time to find love at school, but with each other it was never there.

This was a marriage purely of convenience. They always get complicated.

That night he told her, “it came through. The board approved my discharge.”

“I’m not going back to Fresno, Briggs.”

“We don’t have to for long.” 

“You’re still not listening. I don’t want to go back, Briggs.” Danni said, stressing every syllable, punching his name with disdain.

“Why do you call me that?”

“Your name?”

“You know what I mean. That’s all…it’s messed up.”

“Why,” she goaded.

“Cause you’re my wife.”

“I’m not ‘YOUR’ anything.” Her stone washed denim hip drove her point with contempt. “Remember? This whole thing, this ‘marriage’? It’s a fucking joke. I’m not leaving, so you wanna leave? Go. Go!”

“They’re kicking me out, Danni! I don’t have a choice. Medical discharge means…”

“Don’t yell at me cause you’re a broke dick. It’s not my fucking fault.” Danni said, almost gently, were it not for pursed lips and snake eyes.

They tread water in an inimitable silence, neither looking directly at the other.

“Then where?”

“No.”

“Anywhere. We can literally go…”

“I don’t fucking want to!”

“We never really even had a chance.”

“I’m seeing someone.”

… Outside their kitchen window, facing their yard sale table and chairs, the sound of a tree limb crushing a car like an oak fist filtered through the boards outside and the dissectable silence.

“I love you,” he said

“No. There is no fucking way you just said that!” Danni was genuinely stirred. “No fucking way.”

“I love you Danielle. I’m not good at it, but everything’s fucked up. But it’s over now and we can go and actually have a shot at this. You know, happiness.” He raced through it all, every being necessary, any one being key to incite her epiphany that she needed him. “I can’t do this without you. You’re all I –“

CRACK! Was the sound she struck when smacked him hard across the square of his cheek.

He was startled but he took it. Even a little relieved, really. She stared at him violently in the eye, reeled back to take more, then paused.

“Do you know why I started fucking David in the first place? Because you can never get it up. I’m naked, spread eagle, and you’re standing there with this little limp Wiener and that sad mangy mutt face with big brown eyes. I don’t even get why you’re still trying. You couldn’t even satisfy me, rock hard. You’re just fuck stupid.”

She was swept. He reached out like a wraith and took a hold of her face.

His hand was an iron mask across her face, his fingertips like talons drove themselves deep into her hair, her flesh, her bone, her brain, her future. He held the face of her, and just squeezed, as if to keep exactly and perfectly still, with a thick desire to crush it. His palm across her mouth, and all of this all of a sudden. 

In that flash of a second, he grabbed her, and then she realized it was happening again. She swung aimlessly.

Held her head like a basketball in his fist, and snatched her throat like a monkey bar.

She gave immediately into it, devoting every thing to it. For hours the winds outside were consistent, till suddenly they grew pissed, insistent. The walls shook.

He let his hand loose and lifted it away, and let her see all the pain in his eyes. And just held her throat like an axe. And then let go, stalking her with his eyes like a wounded cat.

She came close to him. Close enough to not touch but feel every pulse of sexual tension.

He pushed his jock into her abdomen, drawing her closer, angrier, faster heartbeat. His cock swelled against her body. 

“Oh, Philly. Why won’t you come in me anymore?” She asked, cradling it with her hand.

She unzipped them and slid down and took him in her hands on her knees. And watched him as his cock shrunk to nothing, despite all her efforts.

Nothing was broken by the shivering and howling, tearing apart that house by the hurricane that wailed and raged everywhere outside.

Not until, she on her knees, his sleepy cock in her hands, everything electric suddenly dies, and the lights and distractions vanished. His sleepy cock in her hands. An insulting disappointment.

She stood and left, into the fury, slamming the door shut behind her.

She went next door to the other house in the duplex. A friend. She stayed there for the next several hours as the storm got bad and worse, by candlelight with cheep box wine. She forget about Briggs completely.

For two hours he sat at the dining room table by the boarded up window that shuddered and shivered, pants fully buckled.

“It’s over. That’s everything,” he said to himself. 

He imagined himself, on the plane. He sees that he’s alone and his heart begins to amp pace, and then remembers everything that she’s said, and he remembers she intentionally tried to hurt him. He couldn’t live with her and couldn’t live without her.

I went to the wall closet at the opposite end of the room. It was in the small corridor that split to the bedroom on the left side and the bathroom on the right.

He took the khaki belt from his service uniform, ran it over the hanger rod and slipped the other end through the rings.

He made a noose of his belt in the coat closet, I mean to say.

But the coat rod barely stood at five feet.

He took a bitter decimated breath, hatefully looped the belt around his neck and dropped to his knees, but was just short. He hanged to death with his knees two inches from the new carpet.

But before that, the door swung open, right out of Danni’s grasp. 

She came back lit, ready to start some shit, looking for her toothbrush and panties and a perfectly good explanation for her actions. 

But across the room, just beyond the couch and the lamp and coffee table, Philly dangled by his throat, hanging with a belt around his neck. He was no longer human, but a life, struggling desperately to stay in this world, clawing and swinging, as the belt grew tighter like a choker, until his body tensed to plank, and the chunky snap meant his neck broke.

He fell limp like a garbage sack tied to a branch.

Danni watch the whole thing in the doorway.

She called an hour later and lied, saying she found him dead.

I wasn’t used for a solid hour, until they needed to move him. He was white, skin like toothpaste, no shirt on. His face hung grey.

I shot him in the closet, though they’d already cut him down, but the imagines half for the job, and half for me. This was an original experience. I was child minded.

Then they laid him out on the Walmart rug. Turned his head to me, and opened his eyes. 

“We need some shots of his facial features.” They then pried open his dead mouth to reveal his purple swollen tongue.

His clay eyes stared back at me, seeing me through dimensions, knowing me. Threatening my soul.

I woke up late for formation the next day and couldn’t explain away what I’d seen that night.

I still see a man hanging by a belt in my closet. He’s always there. I’ve come to learn how not to see him.

“Gives new meaning to skeletons in your closet, doesn’t it?” Adaline spoke with a wry grin. “What’s the deeper meaning here? Beyond your nerve racking PTSD nightmares.”

“It’s… Well -“

“Tell me you love me.”

“What, though?”

“Just tell me. You know you mean it.”

“I do. I love you.”

“See.”

“But it’s not like that. Or… I don’t want to take anything or -“

“You love me. I love you too. And I agree. It’s not like that. But you know that and I know that and now, because we aren’t idiots, that will never happen to us.” She and I high five, and mean it. 

The rest of that night vanishes. Every time I think of it.