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Thursday, July 19, 2012

For Your Consideration, Beau Johnson

    Is this the one? I don’t know. I hope so, but hold no allusions either way. It would be nice, sure, especially after everything that’s been rejected. If not, no matter. I will always try, as this is who I am. So, to begin I will present to you what I will not do, or strive not to do. Both will be hard, as you have nailed me on many occasions. To recap:

1) I will not over-write.

2) I will not underwrite, which has led you to “scan” my previous works in an attempt to get to the “guts” of the piece.

3) I will not send you a story which feels more like an introduction opposed to the flash fiction I thought it to be.

4) There will be no erotica/romance.

5) Correlated or not, never will a child be harmed in a sick or twisted way.

6) As ever, I will strive to ensure you never again lose interest in work created by me.

    With that said, I believe we should begin. I will start by placing us in the woods. The moon is full when we arrive and our protagonist, Ben, has just run out of fuel. His motivations will be pure, if not generic---how the majority of us want to be seen. The attributes I give are stand-up, affable, making him an all-around nice guy. He would not suffer fools, however, much like his creator. His girlfriend, Rachel, will prove something altogether different---at this very moment struggling to contain her fear. Same as the gas tank, her resolve has been slowly depleting as the miles wore on. From the backseat come wisecracks---these are from Jeff. Jeff is Ben’s best friend and resembles a young Tim Robbins. As the story goes on, Jeff will come to represent the humour I will try to interject from time to time. This does not always work in my favour, but sometimes I find that the character demands it. Last is Bethany, who, as the others, is in her twenties, and is sitting beside Jeff. She has long brown hair and is stronger than Rachel, but only in show. Inside she is freaking out and still can’t believe she had somehow let Jeff talk her into going to his Grandparent’s cottage for the weekend, especially now, after the curious thing with the gas. Who does that?, she thinks, but realizes the point is moot; that done is done.

    The cottage is our setting, even though we never get there. Instead, as Ben and Jeff begin walking the x number of miles back to the gas station they should have stopped at, the girls are taken by the two antagonists I’ve invented. I was thinking cliché, and then playing off the cliché, but settled with placing them on top of one another. Is that too cliché? Anyway, there will be no archetype; no Jason or Freddy, no Michael or Pinhead. Our Big Bad will be brothers with names like Daryl and Steve. Daryl is bigger than Steve, but Steve is the crazy of the piece, his left eye askew. Both are dirty, scruffy, with gums that bleed whenever they start to speak.

    Ben and Jeff return with the gas, surmise there was a struggle and for a moment I have the insane thought to have Jeff, my comedic relief, lift his head and wail to the night sky as he righteously shakes his fist. I think better of it a moment later and hope you think the same. Cheesy, right? Riding the line which could very well pull you from the story? I wipe imaginary sweat from my brow.

     Trail found, I explain how Ben once had an Uncle who taught him to track; the reason he and Jeff find the girls as easily as they do. I try not to hit you over the head with this; try to show as opposed to tell. It never quite works, but I feel I am improving.

    Naked and bloodied, the girls are a mess, strung up by the wrist in the oversized shack (a shack I come close to describing for far too long, obsessing about the smell and unmitigated squalor we find ourselves in---a point where I have to acknowledge I am my own worst enemy; that less will always, always be more) which has become their prison. Each is weeping, shivering---their slender wrists in protest of the weight they were never meant to bear. Save the weeping, all is quiet, too quiet, and as Ben is contemplating the giant oven taking up the far wall of the place, he is hit from behind. There are grunts, many, and then saliva. Waking, he understands that someone has spit in his face as he lay upon the ground and that something rancid is still in his mouth. He spits, spits again, and feels as though he must run---to just somehow rid himself of the taste.

    Madness, he thinks, I am going fucking mad!

    He can do nothing, of course, as he too is now chained. Beside him the girls whimper, blood running down their arms and necks and thighs. From my chair I wonder if now is the right time to introduce a flashback, to show you how much Ben truly cared for Rachel---this I feel I must attempt so near the end you come to feel much more inclined towards Ben as he over and over again strokes what is left of his lover’s head.

    I begin to think, soon envisioning them in senior year, this becoming where they met. Together since, I tell you of Rachel’s cancer scare (breast, benign, allowing her to keep the flesh she coveted most) and how Ben had never left her side during it; that Ben’s father had beat him as a child and that he had never fully worked it through until Rachel became part of his life. They loved each other, I tell you, their love more special than any couple I have ever written about. Does this help you connect? My characterizations something you now feel? If not, okay, because I can always try again. If yes, good, but it doesn’t really matter, as there is still Jeff to consider. He is my clown, yes, but really he is at the heart of it all; a prince with a story to crack the most cynical of hearts. Unfortunately, we are never given access to the inner workings of this character, as the brothers Grimm get to him first and present his head sans his body to the girl’s and Ben’s unbelieving eyes.

    Jeff’s head on a stick, Daryl and his “extra-crazy” brother Steve leave on an errand for some reason or another. In truth it is because I need them to, this when I manufacture/facilitate my protagonist’s escape. Remember the Uncle I had mentioned, the one who trained Ben to track? This is where he re-enters the picture; where I tell you how it’s possible to teach a boy to pick any lock the world might hold. My MacGyver free, he frees the girls. Dressing in what tatters remained, they slowly leave the over-sized shack, Ben ominously realizing something has become very wrong with Bethany; that a part of her mind has snapped and died away. This will come back to haunt them in the end, Ben especially.

    Ben pulls the girls, ushers them along through bushes and thickets, through trees and upon the mud path. The path is now mud because it has begun to rain. Pelted, our three survivors strive to see through the big fat drops screaming from the sky. Too late, Ben hears laughter and is again hit from behind. Before losing consciousness he hears two more things. One is the women screaming as though they were on fire. The other is a chainsaw.

    Later, (time passing because I need it to) Ben awakes to the sound of music. Old music, as in the stuff his Grandmother would have listened to. The rain has stopped---no more tap-tap-tapping upon the sheet metal roof. Lifting his head, Ben realizes he is now pinned beneath something, and then that the something is what remains of Jeff. He tries not to scream and does a pretty good job. However, a noise escapes him, and then he thinks that the noise is not new; that he has been doing it for quite some time.

    Suddenly there is a scream, and the scream is not afraid. It is primal, animalistic. Ben looks up; sees Bethany with a machete which is very far from clean. She is swinging, chopping, shrieking and swearing. Slowly he sees ropes of blood arc into the air; more and more. Like paint it searches to inspire and dry. I think of cinematography here, in hopes that one day a story of mine could come to the screen. This does not always happen, but it is there within me nonetheless.

   She takes her rapist’s head, chops until it rolls. Done, Bethany continues, does his arms and legs and then focuses her fury on the crazy fuck’s junk. She becomes silent as she does this, her eyes unblinking and wide. Suddenly Ben is aware he is unaware of Rachel’s whereabouts. With considerable effort he stands, now mindful he has been tethered to what remains of Jeff by rusted chicken wire. Calling Bethany to him, she frees him, but the woman does it with the blankest of eyes, the shallowest of breath. Where’s Rachel? He demands. But all Bethany can do is point the machete towards the open metal door. Outside, the night is dark, a beast, but the moon remains full. Twenty feet away he sees two bodies on the ground and instantly thinks the worst. She is gone, he knows, even before he lifts her broken head. Tears in his eyes, he cries, wails, and then looks to the cabin in search of Bethany. It was him and her now, both of them the only survivors to what he knew to be the stuff of nightmares. I pause here, wondering if I have done enough. Have I, I think? Or is something more inventive required? It is as this image comes to mind that I think of breaking the fourth wall; that I should have Ben address you himself and ask you how I’m doing. Once more I think better of it, recognizing my same old shit for what it is---my insecurities and the like; that I cannot help but second guess myself. The crisis over, I re-apply my armour, but secretly hope you come to like what’s left.

     From his angle he sees her…sees she is struggling at hauling a propane tank across the very bloody floor. It is one of many which had littered the shack like baubles from a giant. Thinking barbeque, Ben begins to rise, suddenly realizing what that look in Bethany’s eyes has been all along. Stepping forward, she turns her head and looks at Ben and then the distance between them and the door. It is a chasm, he thinks, and he’ll be damned if he lets her fall---they are friends, after all, and all which remains of what had been before. He runs, runs hard, but she closes the door before he arrives. The latches lock, the bolts slide, and Ben is left to feel as though he is beside himself---can only pound and shout in vain.

    He does this for a time and then moves to a window. Stunned, he watches her place another propane tank up and into the over-sized oven the brothers Grimm must have cooked their victims in. I never state this, not outright, and I may have to during a re-write. Full, Bethany gets in the oven herself and then closes the door. She is shaking, he sees, but her eyes remain blank, catatonic, but was there a smile? Ben wails on the barred window, wails into the night, and then he is blown back, shunted from oblivion, fire and wood upon him and game. The noise is awful, splitting the night like the word of God. Does Ben survive? Well then, that’s the question, no? Could there be a sequel---another brother to avenge the two? Does what I’ve done here merit as such? But that, I guess, has always been up to you.

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