Although I can no longer taste the pleasant chalkiness on the roof of my mouth, nor feel the faint twinge of distant extremities, this is the serious nod of a heroin junkie: an instantaneous and confounding euphoria, an incrementally slow fade to black. My craving for oblivion somewhat satisfied.
I watch the acolyte sleep, sweating and rough snoring he stirs. I hope to meet him in his dreams and confront the witch.
My name was Doctor Gunjan Sur, now I am simply the man in the corner.
It is snow globe winter now, and though I cannot feel the bone deep chill as the wind screams off of the frozen lake in stinging eye and paper cut flesh, I remember pain.
Was there a funeral? Kind words? With no one to speak and no one to hear, mine is the only epitaph I have ever known.
My faith was in thermodynamics, sound waves, black holes, magnetism, and better living through chemistry. I have played God and I have been the devil on more than one shoulder, but I do not believe in Heaven, nor Hell.
Unpleasantville is a jar of flies.
In life there was nothing so fine as driving without destination, exploring the twisted ways of America done up on a couple of Seroquel caps; classic rock and open road. I would shut down my life and go, become disappeared. Did I come to this dark place by dozens of random choices, or along one long road?
I am now truly disappeared, trapped under ice and rotting leaves, dumped unceremoniously in a drained motel pool. There is a vague sensation of my brain being eating by squirming bugs. As I feel small violations upon my rotting corpse, my consciousness drifts about town, flickering like a dying light bulb. The townsfolk are vague shadows even in light. I semi-exist only within the limits of Unpleasantville; a song on a loop, an earworm bouncing in the brain of this mad town, persistent and perhaps eventually maddening. I find myself at the priest's bedside again and again, by will or by fate. And there are others here, shades seen through a mirror darkly as it were, trapped as I am, probably with their own stories to tell.
Though theoretically incorporeal, there is a... draining, a slow bleed of myself drawn swirling and serpentine toward The Monolith.
It dominates the very centre of town.
A graven image.
A door ajar.
I passed the city limits in a pleasant opioid daze, and Unpleasantville was postcard beautiful. Summer was on the knife's edge of Autumn: the sun shone bright, the wind a cool caress. With picturesque trees and mom-and-pop storefronts out of the 1950's it was a universe away from the schizophrenia of LA. It was quite pleasant. And also quite strange. There was a man selling hot dogs dressed as Santa Claus. A very tall woman walked a pig on a long retractable leash. A fat priest gesticulated to a small crowd of cartoon animals.
My happy thoughts drained away as The Monolith appeared over a rise, a leviathan from dark waters. It stood a pitch black colossus, Easter Island grim and foreboding; a black hole, an eye, a dark idol. The townspeople walked to and fro in the town square as if it were a mere Ben Franklin statue.
My mind and vision were clouded by black insects as I drove past, sweat coated and choking on bile. The black mass leered at me in the rearview mirror, then disappeared as I went 'round a bend in the road.
By the time I found a motel it seemed nothing but a drug induced flash of nightmare, but there was a slight tug in the back of my brain, perhaps the flowering of a small tumour.
A fellow of the deeply rednecked persuasion slowly checked me out, then even more slowly checked me in, cash only. The room was dim and squalid, threadbare and seedy.
I sat on the tightly tucked motel bed, opened my trusty medical bag and got to work getting seriously oblivious. Things get hazy after that, and have remained so to this day.
But I remember cooling out by the pool watching the fireflies, a forgotten cigarette just beginning to burn the flesh between my fingers. The lawn chair was rusted and frayed, my ass sagging halfway to the ground. A fetid stench wafted from the drained pool, a chill wind cut me raw. To me it was the French Riviera.
When they emerged from the dark I think I even laughed to see such a parade. They set upon me from the woods behind the motel, animals lurching astride on two legs: men in nightmarish masks made of wood and bone, I now believe. There was a wolf, then a pig, a gazelle... it was like the story of The Wonderful Musician, a Grimm favourite of mine.
Followers of the fat priest, defective children of The Monolith, an unspeakable congregation. The masked faces leaned in close, leering and covered in mud, smelling of rot. They fell upon me with knives or teeth. I think I screamed to be such a meal.
I am losing myself again, flickering. Instead of craving it I now fear oblivion.
I am unfinished business. An undigested meal.
The priest awakens suddenly, coated in sweat and eyes wide. Have I touched his dreams? He sits up sharply and stares into the corner of his room. He sees only a coat rack with hung robe, the uncanny shadow of an autumn stark tree, limbs stretched monstrously along the wall, a hat for a head.
I will become his tumour, because for a brief moment I believe he sees me too; not a tree, a coat rack, a hat, but the man in the corner.
Our eyes lock, and for an instant I am the priest. I know the love of a dark God.
I am nodding out again, as a congregation would bow their heads.
Dave Mercel’s published works include “Demon Afternoon” and “Little Cockroach God Little Cockroach Country”. He lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada possibly going slowly insane reading short stories over and over again.