Category Archives: Short Story

PSA New Album and book of Poetry

Odds and Ends” by Sounder Plains can be found on all music streaming and downloading sites.

“Is the Ecstacy Worth the Fallout?” by Thomas Wilson (who is Sounder Plains real name) is available on the Amazon Kindle Libray. 

Follow this the Sounder Plains WordPress Blog for random poems and maybe a music share now and then. You can also bookmark the Official Sounder Plains website which will feature a plethora of extra work posted on it. 

Also, please support ALL independent art! Please visit the website of the artist who did the artwork for my official releases. James Blackledge, thank you!

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An Eternity Apart

It wasn’t as bad as you may think it could be. That one thing that every sane person is afraid of: dying. Of course, the lead up to your actual death could be very painful. Some people wilt away on medication for years, while some just get a surprise bullet to the head. I had a severe heart attack, which was no joyride, but it gave me time to have that all-important “life flash before your eyes” moment. I saw my childhood and my parents caring for me. I saw my music teacher showing me how to play the bassoon. I saw my 21st birthday party and all those people who somehow left my life after college.
Most importantly, I saw Maria. She was the love of my life, and from the moment we met to the moment she died nothing seemed to be wrong with the world. We never paid attention to the news, we only saw comedies in the theatres, we made love almost every night, our two children grew up to be successful and happy, and the last thing she heard in this world was “I love you” coming from my tear-soaked lips. Maria. I could still feel her hand in mine. Even after all those years, I could still feel her.
The moment came. My eyes closed and there was a sudden rush. Darkness intertwined with light shot past me. My whole being became free of my earthly weight. I was disoriented but I had no stomach to purge from. All of a sudden, I was seemingly back in my body, standing up straight and staring at a man sitting at a desk with a large book in front of him
Holy shit, it’s real!?
“Yes, it is real Andrew,” the man at the desk said, “and thoughts are the same as speaking around here so you mine as well just speak your mind.”
I was calm when he opened up the book.
“So it seems like you are one of the few who found their ‘soul mate’ during their time on Earth, a woman named Maria. That’s wonderful, how was that for you?”
I smiled widely. “It was the happiest fifteen years of my life.”
The man (or whatever he was) smiled as he listened to my response. “That’s just wonderful Andrew, simply wonderful.” He looked back down at the book and started to read. “What happened after she passed?” He raised his pointer finger sharpily. “And might I remind you, lying is a useless skill here.”
That calm flew away. “I mourned, sir. My life fell apart. She was my everything. I lost my way without her.”
“What about your kids…Stephen and Angela? How did they react after Maria passed?”
Words started to become harder to come by. “Well…their mother died, how do you think they took it?”
“OK, lets cut the bullshit Andrew. You are aware I am an all-knowing being, am I correct? You wouldn’t even be in front of me if you handled your shit after your woman left your world. So tell me: what happened?”
I was taken aback, but I realized I couldn’t move. He is hearing all of this anyway, why not just tell him. “I gave them to their mother’s sister. I was in no shape to take care of a five year old boy and a seven year old girl, and she wasn’t fertile so she was more than happy to take them. I felt like they deserved more than me. I have gotten back in contact with them, and they are living happy and successful lives. Stephen is a teacher and Angela is a lawyer.”
“Mhmm,” the man gestured. He was now writing in the book. “So you know where you are, right?”
“Purgatory?” I said, hoping I would be wrong but also silently hoping I was right.

“DING DING DING DING! Correct. And I know you haven’t been in a church since the day you were married, but do you remember what purpose Purgatory serves?”
“It’s where the lost souls go to prove their worthiness to go to heaven or hell?”
“Good Andrew, you’re on the right track.” He closed the book and looked right at me. “There is no hell. I know, this is sort of a shocker to most souls, but the big man would never forgive himself if he banished people to a fiery pit for all of eternity. But, regardless of that, there must be punishment for souls that are tarnished.” He moved from behind the desk and slowly walked up to me. “Your soul is tarnished, Andrew. Quite so. You know Maria would never want you to abandon your kids at such a young age. Did you even know Angela has HIV, which she contracted from her 32nd sexual partner out of, currently, 70? She infected 21 people after that, both male and female. She puts on a show for you, Andrew. She secretly hates you for leaving her and, in her words, ‘fucking up her life.’”
“How could I know that? How come she never said anything?” I would normally think these things but the gravity of the situation made me articulate them in my speech.
“And Stephen? When he was 16 he got a 14 year old girl pregnant. In order to cover up the pregnancy, he pushed her down the stairs so she would have a miscarriage. Something he saw in a movie during his years of zero-parental-guidance. Unfortunately, she broke her neck and died while he panicked, delaying the call to 911 while he decided what to do. He has not had a sexual partner since then and currently watches child pornography when he is not teaching 8th grade English.”
“Stop it! Why are you telling me this!” I started to cry, and for a moment I forgot I died and couldn’t help my children anymore.
“Maria wants you to know.” I looked at him through my swelling tears. “You and her were soul mates, there is no doubt about that. It says so in that big book over there, and two soul mates finding each other is really, really rare. When two souls who are meant to be together are actually together, they normally leave a path of beauty and wonder in the wake of their life. The world is always a better place when they leave than when they came. But you two…that has been the opposite. She has been haunted by what she’s been seeing up here, that’s for sure.”
“Maria is here? Can I please see her? Oh my God, she’s all I’ve ever wanted!”
“You still had Maria when she died. You had two of them actually, and you let them go. Not only did you break the bond of father to children, but also between two souls. Though you have felt anguish and pain after Maria passed, you never bothered to keep the fire of your love burning. Just because someone dies doesn’t mean they’re gone, that’s simply ridiculous logic!”
“What are you saying?”
“I am saying, you and Maria are no longer ‘soul mates’. I know, it’s confusing, but things work oddly between heaven and earth. That part of the book has been edited, citing your acts as the reason for the change from ‘soul mate’ to ‘intimate acquaintance’”
Whatever heart I had left disappeared. “So I can never see her again? And I damned my children to horrible lives after I left them? Is that what you’re fucking saying to me you fucking cocksucker?” His anger was articulated behind the waterworks of a tormented soul.
“Yes. And do not become aggressive with me. I am simply but a messenger. A lot of souls think that we secretly control them from up here. That would defeat the whole purpose of life. You see that book over there? New pages are written every second that passes with real people taking control of their real lives. We don’t write anything in there, you do. You have no one to blame but yourself for this. I wish I could say I’m sorry, but I’m really not.”
Anger, hatred, blame, guilt, sorrow. A flood of emotions funnelled through me. I looked at the man, whose face truly showed no remorse. He must do this all the time.
“Where do I go now?”
He smiled, as if thinking finally this motherfucker is leaving me. He gestured towards two doors at the far end of the room. “Honestly, we like to say door number 1 is Heaven and door number 2 is Purgatory, but really no matter what door you go through you’ll end up in the right spot.”
“Thank you…I guess.” I turned around, defeated. I wouldn’t be getting prodded in the ass with pitchforks for all of eternity, but I wouldn’t be dancing with Maria in a sea of rose petals either. It didn’t really matter what was behind that door, because if Maria was not there it would be a hell for me. And my children? How can I go about my afterlife knowing all of that? Maria is heartbroken but can’t wait to get them back in her arms. To protect them from me. Our tie was broken, and there was nothing I could do about it but hope that purgatory had some sort of silver-lining redemption.

To The Extent That It’s Absurd

I left my apartment in North Jersey at around 7:15 AM on an unusually chilly August day. My pilgrimage would take me west, which was beneficial traffic-wise since everybody was going east into the mecca of western society: New York City.

NYC bores me. As a 27 year old man who has taken countless expeditions into the city for the past ten years, I can wholeheartedly say I have seen everything the city offers. I’ve walked through Harlem at 2 AM drunk off my ass with a group of fellow white-boys. I have examined every single sector of Times Square. I have been to the beach in Staten Island. I watched as the Twin Towers fell. I’ve won a huge stuffed bear in Coney Island. I have been to warehouse raves in Brooklyn. I have seen every band I have ever wanted to see at the various venues NYC houses. I’ve stood on the floor where Ali won his second fight against Joe Frazier. I’ve played guitar in the subway. I’ve bought a homeless man breakfast. I’ve had a picnic with a beautiful woman in Central Park. I saw a man get shot in Chinatown. I’ve stood on a long line for free Friday admission at the MOMA. I’ve gotten drunk at McSorley’s Old Ale House with strangers. I’ve seen Operas at the MET. I’ve bought cheap Broadway tickets at the TKTS booth. I stood on the street corner where Sal Paradise said goodbye to Dean Moriarty. I’ve done everything in between as well.

I’ve done all these things and now I am bored with it. So for the past year I have been bumming around with some people in the more exciting towns of New Jersey, mainly Hoboken and Jersey City, but those places are really just suburbs of NYC.

Sorry, I digress. I’m now on I-80 West in Pennsylvania. I’m on a mission to see what else is out there in America. I have never been on a plane and have only left the tri-state area once to go to Washington DC. Other than that, I’ve never been more than 20 miles out of New Jersey. My first stop will be Cleveland, Ohio. I have not done any research about the city, but I do know that I have a hotel room booked for one night and a wallet full of cash to help me make it through the night.

What was the catalyst of this taking off and journeying to a random city? And why am I not going with any like minded individuals? Well, maybe part of it has to do with my Holden Caulfield Syndrome: I have that unbearable weight of things being phony or not worth my time. It’s not that I’m egotistical, it’s just that I desire a certain taste for life. As Benjamin Gibbard put it: “I want life in every word to the extent that it’s absurd.” If I am doing the same fucking shit every day, I will lose my fucking mind. I serve tables because it gives me the flexibility in my life to go out and do crazy shit. I can also jump between jobs no problem and make comparable money between them. Some people like to know they have that regular paycheck, but not me. I guess it all figures into my general personality of not giving a fuck and trusting the winds to sail me to the right places.

So I got my shifts covered for the next two weeks by college students who need that extra bread before they go off to school and then took another two weeks off after that. I have plenty of money in the bank and a reliable car to adventure in. I’ll hit the road and see what happens. After Cleveland, I’ll decide on another destination. Maybe Chicago, maybe Denver, fuck maybe even Los Angeles. For now, I eagerly raced across the interstate.

I get to the hotel in Cleveland at 3:23 PM. So far this city has not impressed me. It looks like Newark, NJ except a tiny bit cleaner. The people don’t have an accent and they look the same as the ones in NJ. No matter, I’ll take the the streets and find out where the life is.

I walk down Euclid Ave and then turn to make my way towards the stadium. There is a bar called Goodfellers across the street, and since it is empty I decide to go in. In my experience, bartenders are the tour guides to any city. I would fucking know, I’ve given countless people the low down on the towns I’ve worked in. This bartender, his name was Johnson, told me that if I wanted to experience the nightlife I need to first go to the new casino that recently opened up and then make my way to West 6th Street, which is where some cool nightclubs and bars were. The two of us talked and drank beer for a little while, and then I left him a hefty tip, thanking him as I shook his hand, as gentlemen do.

The casino was fucking pathetic. As a Jersey boy who has been to Atlantic City numerous times, it just did not impress. So after a walk around the premise and a few Captain and Cokes, I leave the place. I head to West 6th Street and hit up the first bar I see, which was named “Nauti Mermaid”. A promising name if I’ve ever heard any. There was a man playing island music and the bar had a special on Corona’s. Not too exciting as it turned out. I moved north to the Metro Bar and Grille. By this time, I was feeling quite tipsy and got into a deep conversation with a man about getting rich by buying patents off of scientist’s chemical creations and selling them to the appropriate buyers. Or some shit like that. I checked my watch 45 mins after I got there and told the man I had to leave, but I gave him my card and told him to call me about all this crazy business shit he was talking about, knowing he would not.

I walk north on the street and see a long line at the Velvet Dog, which seems to be the top place to party. I fucking hate lines. I see some people get their ID’s checked at a door closer to me, so I say fuck it and go into that bar. I walk upstairs and order a drink. There are not too many people around, but everyone I walk by looks at me. In my hazed mind I thought, damn I must be looking fucking fine tonight. Of course, that was not the case.

I go out on the patio on the second floor and smoke a cigarette. I hear a man talk about how he is from Brooklyn, so I get in the middle of the conversation and tell him I’m from Jersey but have spent a shit ton of time in the city. His name was Marcus, and we immediately start talking about the wonders of the city and how shitty this place is in comparison. For a second I slightly miss home. Then a man grabs my shoulder, turns me around and says this: “What the fuck do you think you’re doing in here white boy?”

In my alcohol disabled mind I failed to realize that I was the only white person in this club. Every person was African American, or Black, or however it’s acceptable to describe skin color. Now that I thought about it, a lot of the women and men had tattoos that looked like the gang tattoos I would see in Newark. Does Cleveland have a shit ton of crime in this neighborhood? Am I being racist for these thoughts? I started to wish I did my research before wandering around and getting drunk.

Before I could say a word Marcus pushes me aside and gets into this man’s face. “Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to nigga? That’s Jersey over there, he’s a straight up mothafucka and if you got a problem with him you gotta fuck with me first.” I now realized Marcus had a backpack on, which was slightly odd for someone who was out at a bar at night.

The guy who threatened me looked at his boys, and they all shook their heads as if it ain’t worth it. “Aight, this white boy gets a pass this one time, but only for a little while. I never let my hospitality last for very long. You got that little nigga?”

Marcus feels the part of his face where his goatee was with a sly grin. Shit, this guy is gonna go apeshit. I realized the two men who were currently squaring off were blocking the only exit. Great. “Who the fuck did you call ‘little nigga’? I know you ain’t talkin to me cause I’m the realest mothafucka in this place. I was on three tours of Iraq, mothafucka. I’ve killed more people than you can probably count. Call me little nigga one more time and I’ll fucking add you to the list.” He said this calmer than it reads, though the overtones of badass were still glaringly evident.

I was suddenly quite sober. I can’t believe this was all unfolding because a drunk white guy like myself didn’t realize he was in a seemingly all-black bar. There was a measurable silence between the two men as they squared off. The man decided to walk away, leaving Marcus victorious. He turns around and comes up to me with a smile. “You see that? That’s how you get shit done Jersey. Sorry if I got in your way, but niggas are more likely to listen to niggas you know what I’m sayin?”

“Marcus, thank you.” I shook his hand not like a white boy would. “We should probably leave now, but I’ll buy you a drink at some other place.”

“Leave? You want to look like a bitch in front of these niggas?” He started getting slightly hostile towards me, and I was not about to have that.

“You’re right man, I’m just a little drunk. What you want, I’ll go in and get it.”

He told me he wanted whatever I was having, so I went inside and got two Captain and Cokes. People still stared at me like I was an alien, but I kicked into my ‘not giving a fuck’ mode. We smoked another cigarette outside and bullshitted about his tours of Iraq. He was an infantryman during the bloodiest years of the war. He saw many of his friends die, but probably killed many more of other peoples’ friends. I told him about my buddies who have been on tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, and by the end of that we decided to go to the next place together.

I know it may seem nuts to decide to hang out with a guy that got so crazy so quickly, but it also didn’t seem like a bad idea to have a tough dude by my side to help me get out of the likely trouble I’d get myself into. Plus, being part of a dynamic duo sounded like a good fucking time.

The rest of the places we went to I could not recall the names of. Some were clubs, some were bars, but they were all pretty cool. Being drunk coupled with the excitement of being in a new city really got me excited. At the third place we went to Marcus came up to me and told me we had to go.

“Why? We just got here.”

“Man, these fucking people are fucking racist. They want to search my bag and I ain’t about to let any motherfucker fuck with my boxing gloves.” I realized I forgot to ask what was in his backpack, but this seemed like a reasonable excuse, at this drunken time of my night, to be pissed off at the security.

“Alright man, you got any more ideas of where to go?”

“Yea dog, don’t worry about it. This next place is gonna be fucking poppin.”

And he was right. This club looked like a warehouse converted into a club. It was much more off the beaten path, we had to get a taxi there, and it was right by the water. I immediately finagled my way out of Marcus’ presence and got onto the dance floor where I started to dance with a beautiful punk-rock chick. We started talking and then she asked if I wanted to go smoke a cigarette, which we did in a stairwell in the corner of the club. We bullshitted for a few minutes, and I was excited at the possibility of spending the rest of my night with a cool chick in a cool club instead of a crazy war veteran. Alas, Marcus came down the stairwell and told me we had to leave.

“Dude, what the fuck is it this time?” I was not happy that he was going to get me kicked out of another place.

“These fucking people are racist, they say I stole a drink from the bar. I fucking paid for that drink, those motherfuckers.”

“What? Are you serious dude? Can’t you talk to the guy?”

“Nah bro, I fucking cursed out that bitch. We gotta go now.” I looked over his shoulder and a security guard was approaching us.

“Dude, can’t I just catch up with you in a little bit?”

Marcus looked appalled. “You gonna do me like that Jersey? I see how it is you racist prick. After I get your back at that place you gonna do me dirty like this. You are just a fucking white boy.”

I felt guilty. He did help me out, and it wasn’t like this punk-rock chick was going to be my wife. But then again, she could have been. Who knows? But the ethical thing to do, my drunk mind decided, was to go with Marcus. We left the place cursing off the guards. I took out two cigarettes and handed one to Marcus, and we walked up to some people smoking and asked them where else there was to go around here.

“Well, that place down the street is open late. Usually after this place and when every other place closes a bunch of people go there to end the night. It’s real nice, has a patio on the water.”

Me and Marcus shake our heads and smile at each other. “You see Jersey, fuck this place, lets go over there. Everything always works out.”

Not so much.

We get to the place down the road and it is essentially empty. There wasn’t even a person at the door checking ID’s. We went up to the bar and got two beers then ventured to the patio. It was a very nice place, and the employees and clientele seemed to be all of Eastern European descent. Marcus stuck up a conversation with a girl at one table while I sat down with three polish guys at another table. We had cordial conversation for twenty or so minutes until a security guard came up to me.

“I’m sorry sir, but you’re going to have to leave.”

I was shocked and confused. All I had done was get a beer and talk to a few people. “Excuse me, but what did I do.”

“It doesn’t matter, you need to leave now.” Marcus comes over and is about to say something but the security guard interrupts him, “you need to leave too. Right now.”

“What the fuck you mean we have to leave, we haven’t done shit. Are you fucking crazy?” Marcus asks the guard. Suddenly, that guard grapples Marcus and begins to drag him out, and before I realized it I was being dragged out as well by another guard. They throw us on the asphalt of the street.

“Get the fuck out of here now.” One of the guards tells us. This time, I was the one to fight back.

“What the fuck is your problem? What did I do to get thrown out, just fucking give me some sort of reason?” I yell at the guard.

“It doesn’t matter, just get the fuck out of here,” he replies.

“This is bullshit, I’m fucking going back in there,” I proclaim rebelliously. The man stops me, and I see three more guards waiting in the doorway.

“Don’t do this. Get out of here.”

“No. Fuck you you commie bitch. Tell me why we got kicked out. Just fucking tell me, there has to be a fucking reason.”

The guard hesitates. Another guard comes up from behind the other and says, “the reason why is we don’t let in people like him,” pointing at Marcus, “and we sure as hell don’t let in fucking shitheads that hang with people like him.”

I couldn’t believe it. I got kicked out of a bar for hanging out with a black man. I turned around to Marcus and he was fuming. Surprisingly, he had not chimed in on the argument and showed no sign of starting. I turn back to the guards and say, “fuck you you racist pricks,” and gave them the finger. I go up to Marcus and tell him we should get out of here and we shouldn’t waste our times with these racist assholes.

Marcus was standing still, staring at the guards. An overwhelming sense of doom overshadowed me and I moved away from Marcus and started to slowly walk away. One guard calls over to him, “what are you gonna do you little bitch? Just get the fuck out of here before you get hurt or worse.”

I could see Marcus was starting to sweat. “Worse? I’ll fucking show you worse.” He swung his backpack around, opened it up quickly, and pulled out a gun all in about a half second. Then he screamed, “fuck you!”

He shot the first guard in the head, the second one in the back, and got the two in the doorway in the shoulders, all with four shots. He went up to the guard who made it clear he didn’t want black people in the bar and shot him three more times as he laid on the ground. People who were making their way towards the bar started to flee. I could hear screaming. I found myself crouching in the street. “Come on Jersey, lets get the fuck out of here!” He picks me up by the shoulder and I start to run with him. We make our way to a dark alleyway under a bridge and I stop in my tracks. Marcus turns around and says, “lets move Jersey! The cops are gonna be here any minute!”

I didn’t know what to do. I’m now an accomplice to at least two murders, and I was seen by people running away with the gunman. “Dude. I can’t come with you. You just murdered those people. Why the fuck would you do that!? It’s just a fucking bar! What the fuck is your problem!?”

“Why would I do that?” He paused, getting closer to me. “Because I don’t disrespect like that! They came at me and I came back, it’s the way of the streets nigga, it’s the way of war nigga! And if you don’t wanna see time you better come with me.”

“No,” I said defiantly. “You just murdered people, I had nothing to do with that. Go away you fucking psycho, I won’t tell them anything.” My eyes started to swell as Marcus started to make strides towards me. “Just go…”

Marcus came up to me and pointed the smoking end of the gun at my head. “Nigga, I don’t think you heard me. I said let’s go, and you’re not moving.” He said this in a frighteningly calm manner. I was sweating profusely and noticeably shaking. “You’re really this big a bitch, Jersey? Let’s go or I’ll let a gunshot tell the cops where you are.”

The next five seconds seemed to stretch for hours. If I didn’t go, he would most certainly kill me. I did not want to die in Cleveland, or die at all for that fact. If I went with him I would eventually be found by the cops and charged with accomplice to murder. They would say something like, “if you were innocent why didn’t you stay?” I wanted to live, but I couldn’t go with him. I just couldn’t.

“I’m not coming.”

Marcus laughed and let the gun fall to his side. “You got some balls, Jersey.” Then he shot me in the right shoulder. The impact of the bullet threw me back onto the asphalt. All I felt was hot liquid as I put my left hand over the wound. I looked up and saw the bridge above me, there were red and blue lights bouncing off of it’s surface. We couldn’t have been a block or two from the bar Marcus murdered those guards at. I could hear his footsteps fade off into the distance. I was breathing heavily and twitching slowly on the ground, reeling from the increasing pain. I dared not to get up, and I was hoping someone would come to my rescue before enough of my thinned, alcohol-rich blood escaped my body. What a nice fucking vacation. I don’t think I’ll need the rest of the four weeks, this may be enough to make me run home and stay in my bed for double that time. If I survive, that is.

The cops found me pretty quickly, and soon after an ambulance got me and took me to a hospital. The patched me up and put me in a bed. The bullet went through my shoulder and I would get further work done tomorrow. They gave me a strong painkiller and I drifted off into a sleep clouded with dreams.

I saw myself as I was not twenty four hours ago, restless with the excitement of my pending adventure. Then the drive to Cleveland, my speakers adding my taste in music to the natural harmony of the world. The alcohol and stumbling. The yelling, the dancing, the fighting, the standoffs. The blood. An apparition came up to me as I was crouching from the shooting, time frozen still in my dreamless state. “You wanted to push things to the extreme. Your absurd desire to fill the pages of your life with intrigue and excitement has resulted in…” their hand revealing the crying faces of the deads’ parents, children, and friends. “You do not understand the extent of your actions. You are a spoke in the wheel as all others are, and you have committed a crime against the harmony of the world.” The apparition disappeared and the dead guards rose. Their eyes flowed with tears and flooded the streets as they walked towards me. “Remember our faces.” I crouched there stricken with fear as the dead guards marched endlessly seeking vengeance.

I woke up hours later with the sun in my eyes. I tried to move but pain shot up in my arm and shoulder. I tried to grab it but my left hand was stopped by the handcuffs which chained me to the bed. I was hoping this was a new dream, but it wasn’t. I lay motionless as I let a wave of grief, guilt, and regret envelope my entire being. I didn’t know if I would be charged with anything, and it really didn’t matter at this point. I was a reason that those men got killed. If I just let it go and walked away maybe they would still be alive. But no, my dumb drunken ass had to go and get in their face, filling in for Marcus.

I thought of my dream and the first tears of the day began to well up. Those dead guards will be marching towards me till the day I die, every night during every sleep. I am certain of this.

The Broken Past

I couldn’t leave the house without what was in the safe. “Fuck. Shit. Fuck.” In times of desperation and uncertainty, all I can utter are curses. I slipped in the woman’s blood and steadied myself on the banister of the stairs. I don’t know why people like wood flooring, I’ve always been a rug man. What happens when the winter comes and the floor is cold as ice? Then again, these people seemed to be rich enough to properly heat their house to avoid such annoyances. No worries, they didn’t have to worry about it anymore.

I took a left at the end of the hallway and went to the husband’s office. There was a painting that was hanging behind the man’s chair. If the fucking safe is behind that painting I’m going to flip out. The work of art that hid the safe was incredibly detailed, showing the countrysides of beautiful hills as well as the bustling activity of a small town. I didn’t know if it was Impressionistic or Post-Impressionistic or whatever, but I did study it for a few seconds before I tore it off the wall. For those few seconds, I forgot I just killed a man and his wife.

Though that was never the intention. I never wanted to kill anybody. These things just happen. It’s the way the game is played and I didn’t make the rules.

The picture was heavy as shit and took all of my wavering strength to take it off the wall. Once it was unhinged I dropped it to the floor carelessly. Sure enough, there was a fucking safe behind it. Anyone who is that cliche deserves to fucking die. I dug into my pocket, going around my pack of cigarettes and lighter, to find a little piece of paper with three numbers on it. I turned the dial ever so gently and pulled the lever. It unlatched and the door swung open. “Haha! Fuck yes!” I curse in times of joy as well.

I unload the cash that was hiding in the safe and run out the front door. I got a glimpse of the wife’s wide open dead eyes as I left through the front door. They reminded me of a woman I once knew, but I couldn’t remember her name. A slight pang of guilt and shame invaded my being, but that would soon be gone.

As I ran down the front lawn of the house I could hear sirens coming down the street. This was no surprise, as gunshots and screams of terror usually stir up the interests of the police. I got in the front seat and zoomed off, turning down side streets I remembered from my childhood. I got onto the interstate and sped to the city. I started to sweat and itch as I got closer and closer. Fuck meeting Dave first, I need a fucking fix.

I turned off two exits before I was supposed to and made my way to North 6th street. I texted Sebastian with one eye on the road to tell him I would be there in a few minutes. I got the two lettered approval in response. I parked right in front of this particular crack house, and checked three times to make sure the doors were locked. I walked up to the stoop and there was a large man sitting there waiting to let people in. I showed him the text message Sebastian sent me that approved my arrival, which was always a random set of two letters that the man in the stoop knew as an approval. A secret code between doorman and bossman. I heard one time a fiend showed the doorman the wrong set of letters (I think the fucking idiot used ‘OK’ for fucks sake) and the fiend was punished with a gunshot to the head. The body lay in the street till two in the afternoon the next day, and the police ignored the house next to the body. This fucking city is fucked, that’s for sure.

I go up the stairs, ignoring the fiends hunched over a candle in the living room, and make my way to Sebastian’s ‘office’. I opened the door and there he was, a hispanic with nicely tailored facial hair and clean clothes on. “Scott, how are you doing? You look like shit, yes?” he said in a calm not-giving-a-fuck tone.

“Yeah bro, can I get a hundred spot? Also a fifty of H for later so I can fucking sleep.” I fidgeted in my usual I’m-about-to-get-high fashion.

Sebastian changed his posture, leaning back in his chair and looking directly in my eyes. “You’re telling me you got 150 for dope?” He half smiled. “You know I don’t do no loan shit, right?”

I had no choice but to smile and take out the cash I rolled up for the purchase. “I don’t do no loan shit either.”

Sebastian smiled as it landed in his lap. “Where the fuck did you get this kind of bread? No offense, but you’re just a lowlife on the cusp of becoming a full-blown fiend. Who’d you roll over for this? Some rich guy on the train?” Nobody who would be holding even a small amount like 150 would be riding the train, which are dubbed ‘Death Rides’ in this city which seems to be standing in for the lowest rung of hell.

“I did some work.” I wiped my nose for no reason, truly fiending for that high. “C’mon man, give me some shit so I can get on with my night.”

Sebastian got up from his chair and walked towards me. This is something he has never done before, so I inched back as he got closer. He stared at me with his sober eyes, sizing me up from top to bottom. He stopped scanning when he got to the cuff of my jacket. “What the fuck is that?” he inquired coldly with his finger pointing. I looked down and there was blood on my jacket. “Who the fuck did you kill? And I hope to Christ you got more than 150 you fucking piece of shit.”

I was scared and almost sober, not a good combination. “Yo, can you just…get me what I asked for? I got the money right here, just take it and I’ll leave.”

Sebastian quickly pulled a handgun from behind his back. “Go get me the rest of my money.”

Fuck.

I put up my hands, dropping the cash I brought in. “C’mon man, ain’t no need for that. Put that shit away.”

Sebastian picked up his cell and called a number. “Hey, J.R., roll that motherfuckers car and find the loot he’s stashin in there.” I imagined that loaf of a doorman knocking out the window of my shitty car, the only possession I really had left.

“C’mon man, I ain’t got nothin like you got. Please, let me go.”

“I’m gonna let your sorry ass go, just as soon as I get what’s mine.”

The doorman came up with my paper bag filled with money. I was told there was going to be five grand in that safe, but I didn’t bother counting it and I definitely dropped some as I was fleeing. Sebastian opened the bag up, smiled, and sat back down.

“Sir, can you please get our guest a hundred of our finest rock and fifty of our finest H.” The doorman walked over to the drawer and threw two bags at me. “There you go you fucking scumbag, now get the fuck out of here.”

I ran down the stairs and bolted through the door. Luckily, no window was smashed in my car and the only thing missing was the bag of money. I start the engine and start rolling, heading to the local WalMart parking lot to smoke some rock. Crying. Laughter. Ecstasy. After I’m real fucking buzzed, I then start to drive towards the meeting spot with David but remembered I lost the money. Fuck. I turn around and head back to the parking lot. I think I could sleep now. I prepare the heroin and inject it into my right arm, finding the perfect whole to let this magic juice flow into. Images of mutilation and screams of horror flash before my eyes. I feel faint emotions of rage and violence. Disturbed, I turn on the radio and start to zone out.

“Hello Scott. I am outside the house of where a gruesome murder unfolded just hours ago. A husband and wife, identified as thirty-two year olds Justin and Sarah Gunther, were brutally disfigured with a knife and then shot in the throats. A safe in the house was robbed, and there was over one thousand dollars found on the front lawn of the house.”

Gunther…

“Authorities have told us that they have plenty of evidence to find out who did this and an arrest should be made soon.”

Justin and Sarah Gunther…

“Back to you Scott.”

I knew those people. Justin Gunther stole my wife Sarah away from me. Me and Sarah had a child five years ago. A boy. He died…I forget how.

No worries, it was all behind me. I started to doze off, letting my head fall as my consciousness fell into sleep. I saw blue and red colors bounce off the clouds as I closed my eyes. How pretty.

 

The Man Jumped

This was written from a writing prompt found on reddit, which was “And so the man jumped…”

And so the man jumped, blocking the numerous calls for reason that fell upon his ears. Nothing mattered besides that cool, blue water that rippled below. The horrors that wait were predictable and more easily acceptable than the horrors that plagued this man’s daily life.  The days filled with a cacophony of bullshit, lost dreams and endless nights. Tears would sometimes flow down his cheeks in the darkness, when that familiar wave of regret grasped control of his mind. “She stopped loving me because I couldn’t stop fucking things up. They disowned me because I changed into something less than zero. I gave up because no one would stand by my side.”

This man did not lead a completely lonely life; he had those surface-level acquaintances that would help him pass time at a bar or while smoking a cigarette at work. These people certainly helped move his life forward at a less excruciating pace, but the pain was still there. Booze and drugs could only do so much to quell the storm, and in those desperate nights to forget he would binge like Bukowski. Have you ever chugged a handle of whiskey while tears rolled down your flushed cheeks? Have you ever had problems snorting drugs off of glass because tears clumped up the powder? Have you ever broke a bottle and held it to your wrist because it was the last thing you had control of? Life or death; that ultimate choice that Shakespeare turned into a cliched expression.

What was wrong with choosing death? The people who say that life is beautiful and you shouldn’t waste your ‘one shot in this world’ are cowards. They refuse to accept that the other side may be better than this side. Your body will be gone, but your consciousness may live on (if those fairy tales I heard in church as a child were at least semi-true). If you die and everything goes to black, who gives a fuck? One day everyone is going to end up there anyway, so why not have some control over your destiny and decide how your death unfolds.

So this man decided to jump off a very tall bridge that connected the city that never went to bed to a land that was the stark opposite. It was 4 AM when he made it to the middle of the bridge, which is universally regarded as the “hour of regret.” He took a handful of pills that the doctor gave him to calm his nerves, and he opened up a bottle of very expensive whiskey. Mine as well go out with the good shit, right? He stepped up on the railing and steadied himself on a cable. He looked at the water and then at the bottle. Death waits down there, but he couldn’t let himself die in his current state. The drugs haven’t kicked in and he was still haunted by his mind which was working overtime to show him images that made his soul cry. His eyes started to water. He took a long swig as a man started to scream from a stopped car behind him. The man paid no mind to the other’s words.

As the man continued his quest to finish the bottle of whiskey, more people gathered around behind him. These people were trying to rationalize his decision, but what the fuck do they know? Not one of those people behind him were anybody he knew, so their words meant nothing. He decided to have fun with this and turned around to the crowd and asked them to bring him the woman who broke his will to live all those years ago. Bring her here so she can make a case for survival.

When she arrived she was in her pajamas and tears seemed to be swelling in her eyes. When she saw the man those tears started to fall. What had he become? Nothing more than a warped shell of the man he once was. She said his name and he almost lost his grip on the cable that stabilized him. She told him she was sorry for how it ended, but this is not the way to deal with it. The future holds so much hope and blah blah blah. He downed the last drops of the whiskey and threw the bottle over the bridge. The crowd gasped. She came closer to him and pleaded for him to step down and come talk to her. She hadn’t seen him in five years and had no idea what had happened, but she said she would help him through it.

The man laughed a laugh that would haunt the woman for the rest of her days. “What the fuck do you know? You broke me, and the last thing I want is your help. You’re the devil as far as I’m concerned. You were the catalyst for everything that happened! The pills, the booze, the drugs, the tears. THIS. Don’t you ever forget that you hold the blame, and no other.”

And so the man jumped. The last thing he saw was her hand outstretched towards him, tears flowing freely from her eyes. Good, fuck her. She ruined his life and now maybe he ruined hers. As he fell he smiled. Maybe she would be standing where he once stood, but she would not be able to call the man who was responsible for her downfall. She would be crying out to empty stars, distraught with the havoc she had inadvertently created. Isn’t that a metaphor for the tapestry of life? Who knows what happens when another injects dissonance into the spectrum of life. Consequences rippling through the world like the waves of the ocean. If life were a symphony, it would certainly be atonal.

The man who jumped, he began floating down the Hudson, slowly being torn apart for fish food…and that was ok. Finally he had a purpose in this fucked up weird as shit world.