“I had to kill myself to write this story” by joe aaron
I’m haunted by demons. Actually, I’m not sure if they’re demons, or ghosts, or whatever, because I’m not an expert in the paranormal, but they seem to frequent my house quite a bit.
I’m not kidding.
I’m renting this really old house with a couple of other guys; this house is ancient, it is wide, and it really is a piece of shit. We live out in the sticks, and snakes fall out of the ceiling. Apparently the ceiling tiles in the hallway aren’t stable enough to hold up a snake after he’s eaten a couple of the small mice that live inside our walls.
This house was obviously built by a madman. All of the doors open in exactly the opposite way that we expect them to. For example, my bedroom door is in the corner of my room. While the door, when open, should be naturally standing parallel, flushed against the back wall, it actually opens up into the middle of my room, bouncing off of the dresser next to the door. What kind of sick architect designs a house with the hinges on the wrong side of the doorway?
The grandfather of my current landlord built this house. He passed on his genetic insanity to his offspring; my landlord has strongly cautioned us that we don’t go down into the basement. Not that we have a choice; the door is bolted shut from the other side. I wouldn’t want to open it, anyway. Not that it would just piss me off, since it doesn’t open in the way a rational person would expect it to, but because I am absolutely positive that it is deep within this basement, buried under the rotting wood, that skeletal remains of dozens of murdered children fester. The ones that haunt us.
Yesterday, I noticed their playful mischief. We have a large rusty candelabra standing in the hallway (the one where snakes fall through the ceiling). Every candle has been burned down to a different length, and, for an aesthetic décor, carefully arranged from tallest to shortest. I vividly remember looking at the candles as I passed them on my way to the kitchen, and nothing was amiss. Yet, on my immediate return, every candle had been moved from its original placement and shuffled into a chaotic order—it now resembles the lower jaw of some carnivorous beast, the candles its teeth, each with their own story; some broken off by the bones of some unwilling prey, others simply ground down and grated by the upper incisors.
I’m looking for a new place to live.
“This is bullshit,” Gary dropped the first draft on the floor by his feet. “We don’t even have a fucking candle-holding things.”
“I don’t like it,” he swiveled around in his computer chair to face his monitor.
“I don’t like stories written in first person,” he stated matter-of-factly, going back to looking over the porn he just downloaded. “It’s the tell-tale sign of an amateur writer.”
“Are you serious? Man, I was attempting to write a semi-autobiographical piece. It’s about me; it’s about my life.”
Gary turned his head, looking out of the corner of his eye, “That’s kind of vain, isn’t it?”
“The point is: I have to use the first person.”
“No, you don’t,” Gary turned back around to his porn.
Joe leaned back on the couch in Gary’s room, staring hard into the back of Gary’s head. He wiped at his perpetual five oclock shadow and then buried his face into his hands. After struggling for an hour on his description of how his bedroom door opened, he now felt a tremendous urge to go back into his room and hold down the backspace key on his keyboard.
“Thanks for your support, man,” Joe muttered through his palms.
Gary abruptly spun around, “Joe, what the hell? What are you looking for?”
Joe picked up his head and slightly shrugged, “I dunno…”
Gary’s earnest face seemed borderline hostile as he leaned forward in the computer chair, “If you want support, go buy a fucking bra. If you want some honest criticism, then I can give it to you. I’m not going to blow sugar and candy canes up your ass, man.”
“I don’t want you to blow sugar—”
“Then what’s the problem?” Gary leaned back into his chair again. He reached over to his computer desk and grabbed a bag of potato chips. Salt and vinegar.
“I don’t really have a problem, I just wanted feedback.”
“What’s your story about?” Gary muffled through a mouthful of chips.
“Well, I haven’t really decided yet. That’s the thing. God, you know., this story is killing me,” Joe sighed. “It really is killing me. I’d like to write about something that happened to me personally, I guess. I was thinking about writing about the war, or breaking up with my ex-fiancée. Or about falling away from my religion…”
“Joe,” Gary shook his head. “Don’t write about yourself.”
Joe’s face fell to the floor, “I just want to write something that’ll get noticed—something that might hint at the fact that I might…I don’t know…live on through my writing. I guess I could settle for writing something that doesn’t suck, at least….”
Gary swiveled back around in his chair, “Well, if this is supposed to be fiction writing class, why don’t you write some fiction?” Gary stuffed another handful of chips into his mouth, staring in wonder as a beautiful woman sexually pleased three men simultaneously.
“Nice of you to join us,” Joe’s professor grinned up at him as he came though the open classroom door. He was late for class again. A little out of breath, he just sat back in a nearby desk and took a well-deserved sip from his bottle of diet soda. It was going to be a rough day.
He had to join a group of two other students and share the second draft of his story with them. Even though he didn’t necessarily like the students he got stuck with, it was too late to complain now. Besides, if he was going to get some harsh criticism on his story, he’d rather get it from these two imbeciles, since he wouldn’t take their opinions too seriously. Still, he was a little anxious over reading through his story aloud.
I’m hopeless, he thought, twisting the cap back onto his diet soda. He felt like a dried up sponge, parched of any creative juices. He just knew that in the long run, his story was going to be a complete and utter failure. His story had no structure, no plot. It was filled with too many boring anecdotes, too many clichéd metaphors.
“You wouldn’t know a good idea if it hit you in the face,” the male in his group defended his short story, turning up his nose.
“I just don’t like how you portray women in your story,” the woman retorted. “When it comes to feminism, you don’t know shit from apple butter. You can’t tell your ass from a hole in the ground.”
Joe looking back over the passage they were arguing over.
“Jennifer,” Rick whispered. “Let’s go into the house, into our bedroom, and have the most passionate night of sexual intimacy that you could ever image.”
“Not tonight, Rick,” Jennifer pouted. “I have a headached.”
“What’s your head got to do with it?” Rick protested. “Fine, we’ll skip the oral sex and just casually fuck each other.”
“Okay,” Jennifer completely surrendered, since she was such a horny slut.
Joe cleared his throat, “I think you meant ‘imagine’ when you wrote ‘image’ in your story.”
His peer irritably gasped, almost like a cough. He followed up his odd guttural noise by rolling his eyes, “Well, excuse me for living, Grammar Boy.”
When it was Joe’s turn to read his story aloud, the two of them listened to it patiently, and seemed to laugh at a few of the more humorous lines, but Joe questioned their sincerity. No one spoke for a few moments after Joe concluded his story.
The girl didn’t look up, “I guess I like it. It just seems a little…boring.”
“Well,” she inhaled deeply. “Nothing happens. Was this supposed to be a ghost story?”
“You’re the protagonist, right?” the guy hesitated to say anything.
“That’s kind of vain, isn’t it? Look, dude. I don’t think any of this works at all. You’re mostly just writing…about writing the story,” the guy laughed. “Where’s the story in that?”
Joe suddenly had a very strong desire to run his finger through his thinning hair, but he didn’t want to remove his baseball hat to do so; he didn’t want to show the class he was thinning. Instead, he closed his eyes and massaged them through his eyelids with a finger and thumb. “Okay,” he opened his eyes. “Here it is: I don’t feel very significant. I’m a very insecure person, and I felt that if I wrote a story about my life, maybe it would help me to somehow identify with myself. Make myself significant.”
“Well, you’re not, really,” the guy snorted. “I don’t mean to be a dick, but…well, look here: do you know your great-great-great-grandfather?”
“Personally?” Joe leaned back in his desk. “No, I, uh—”
“Of course you don’t,” the guy threw his hands up in the air and held them there, as if he were expecting someone to throw him something heavy. “You don’t know your great-great-great-grandfather for the same reason I don’t know my great-great-great-grandfather: they’re both a little dead. They might have been very intelligent men with a lot of admirable qualities, or they might have been serial sodomites that dressed up like clowns. But, they’re long dead. No one ever gets remembered.”
“Well, what about Shakespeare?” Joe stammered. “Everybody remembers him. There’s that picture of him where he’s wearing that gay collar with the frill on it, you know?”
“But we don’t really know him,” the guy squinted his eyes, as if he were uncovering a top-secret government conspiracy.
The girl cut in, “Well, like I said, your story was okay, but nothing happens. You know, you’ve only written five pages; you have to write a few more pages to make the minimum requirement anyway. You should try to write something more entertaining; like, make your landlord a serial killer, and he dumps his victims in your basement, or something.”
“Just start over,” the guy grumbled. “Don’t write a story about writing a story.”
“You’re writing a story about writing a story?” the instructor was standing directly behind Joe’s desk.
Joe awkwardly turned back to look at her. She was a thin woman with thinner glasses. She was energetic and lively, vaguely reminding him of a mystical sprite. She spoke quickly, in a frenzy of words, articulating each one with supplemental hand motions. In fact, it seemed that her primary language was speaking through her hands, while English was more of a second language she eventually acquired in a later stage of her life.
“Um,” Joe said. “I was kind of writing about me, and stuff.”
“That’s not a good idea at all,” his professor shook her head. “That’s like writing a poem about poetry. It never works. Never ever, ever.”
“I think I can make it work,” Joe whimpered. “I think if I just keep an honest, objective point of view, the story will work. In fact, I think this would make a good scene, maybe.”
“Absolutely not,” his professor shook her head. “If you write me into your story, I’m just going to flat-out fail you for it.”
“—And if you’re the protagonist,” the guy chimed in, “why the hell are you writing in third person?”
I decided that maybe no one really gets me.
It felt too awkward to write a story about a Rick or a Jennifer. I didn’t know enough to write a story about a man dying of AIDS, a woman contemplating having an abortion, or a couple of parents coping with the loss of their only child. I’ve never experienced anything like any of that.
However, I’m an expert when it comes to myself. No one else knows me like I know me. To hell with Gary. To hell with my classmates and my instructor. I’m going to write my story the way I want to write it: an honest, objective perspective of how I truly am as a person.
And I can write in any point of view that seems appropriate at the time. Fuck the institutionalized traditions.
Joe wrote the words on his laptop computer and leaned back, satisfied. He walked out into the hallway, past the candelabra, and into the kitchen. He grabbed a bottle of water and walked out the front door, to find some inspiration in nature.
It was dusk, and the woods were already alive with the chirpings of nocturnal insects, calling out to other nocturnal insects (hopefully of the same species) in hopes of reproducing. For some of those lustful arthropods of the male gender, the louder he chirped, the better his chance of attracting a female. For others, perhaps it was the frequency—maybe the pitch. Instinct told them how to achieve their life’s purpose.
Joe walked through the woods to the nearby golf course, less than a quarter of a mile from his house. Reclining on the green, he could admire the beauty of the stars at they began to shine through the moonlit sky. He would start to count the stars before the sun completely vanished, until there were too many in the sky for him to even possibly care to identify.
A raindrop fell on Joe’s forehead, and he scowled at one of the purplish clouds overhead. He got to his feet. He noticed an abandoned golf club lying in the middle of the green; he picked it up for good luck. The rain pittered and pattered about him as he calmly made his way back across the green, examining his metal rod.
Thunder rolled. Thunder rumbled.
Joe looked up at the sky as it lit up. Whitish-blue. He heard a loud snap, and lost all sense of balance. His knees buckled. His entire body was vibrating. Chest pain—it felt like a strong palm was pushing down on his chest. Electricity surged through his body. His limbs twitched in a painful euphoria.
And then, silence, only the whispered beat of his heart. He was dumbfounded. Dumbfounded. Dumbfounded. Dumbfounded.
Again: another loud snap, and his vision filled with a bright whitish-blue color once more. His body began to vibrate at an audible frequency. It was a humming. Yes, a humming. He could control it.
Joe stood up, floated up into the air. He lifted himself into the treetops and looked around. Dumbfounded. Dumbfounded. He looked back down to the green where his body was twitching. A whitish-blue rope, like an elastic cord made of pure energy, was connecting him to his body. Dumbfounded. Dumbfounded.
Who are you?
Joe looked around for a bit, expanding his mind, before he eventually locked himself back within the carnal shell of his physical body. He picked up the golf club—a trophy of sorts, like how Phineas Gage carried around the tampering iron that shot through his head—and then he walked back into the woods, whistling in the dark. He felt lighter than usual. He felt great.
I feel lighter than usual. I feel great.
I was just outside. I was struck by lightning. Twice. I should have bought a lottery ticket today. Hot damn.
I left my body after the second time. Our plane of physical existence has its own standard wavelength, but when my soul began to vibrate at a high frequency—an all encompassing humming—I could throw my soul out of my body, and explore dimensions in the Great Beyond. I found myself out. I understood everything there was to know just an hour ago—but now, back in the flesh, I can’t really piece it together, or make much sense of it in a three dimensional world.
I was beyond space, outside of time. I saw God; in fact, I saw Him completely naked. We were both a little shocked and slightly embarrassed, catching Him off-guard and all, but nonetheless, we pretty much pretended the entire event never even happened, and had a rather long chat about politics, religion, and music over crackers and cheese. At some point, I realized that He was a major asshole, with some serious egomaniacal issues, but I’m not a certified psychoanalyst, so my opinion doesn’t hold much water.
I think that He may have just been a projection of my own mind—a reflection of myself, perhaps? I can’t truly remember what my conclusion was, but if it really was God, then He was one self-absorbed bastard.
Anyway, to get back on track, the reason I’m writing all this down is to clear my head. I need to try to comprehend my capabilities. It’s an incredible feat: I can actually travel through time! I hummed at certain frequencies to fall back into different decades of the past, and I came to understand a great deal about the evolution of our cultured society; it was a shockingly repulsive knowledge. In addition, I could hum at higher frequencies to lean forward into the future. I didn’t go too far; it didn’t seem right.
Okay. Well, I know it’s not terribly important, but I’m going to go make a hell of a lot of money right now.
Joe stood away, behind the roulette table, and watched as gambler after gambler whittled away their wealth on whimsical bets of blind intuition. None of them would ever truly come out ahead, unless they had an advantage over the house. Of course, the countless cameras persistently scan each and every player, making it somewhat difficult for even the most cunning cardsharp to get away with cheating. Yet, there are things that surveillance simply cannot see.
Joe slowed his breathing, putting himself into a relaxed state of mind. Gradually, the jingles of nearby slot machines and screams of excitement faded into the back of his mind—a silent ambience. He was breathing a golden glitter of stars—countless stars—and he felt his feet begin to numb. The numbness moved up his legs into his abdomen, up his spine and down through his arms, and finally back up his spine, to his brain. He felt his soul vibrate at the correct frequency, and he moved forward…
Seizing the whitish-blue cord, Joe snapped back into his body, a thin layer of sweat on his forehead. He approached the table and cashed in his life savings. Trembling, he placed as much as he could on every possible winning combination for a black thirteen. The straight-up bet, the split bets, the trio bets, the line bet, the column bet, the 2nd dozen bet, the odd bet, the black bet.
The croupier, a weathered middle-aged woman, eyed Joe suspiciously, smiled, and wished him luck. Spinning the Roulette wheel one way, she spun the ball inside of it in the opposite direction. The steady, audible friction of the ball’s revolutions caused all the gamblers to cease their wagering and watch in nervous anticipation. Joe closed his eyes and breathed.
“No more bets!” the croupier cried as the ball began to dance on top of the wheel, pirouetting from number to number, from color to color, until it finally fell into place.
As the onlookers cheered for him, patting him on the back, Joe didn’t even bother to open his eyes, smiling at his inward fortune.
“Un-fucking-believable!” Gary screamed.
Joe merely sat back, letting Gary count the digits of his online savings account, proving that he was a multi-millionaire.
“You mean to tell me,” Gary crumbled to the floor, sitting up with his legs beneath him, “that you are a fucking…psychic?”
“Yeah,” Joe nodded. “I guess that’s what you’d call it.”
“Like Miss Cleo and shit,” Gary looked away.
“Well, I think the numbers show that I’m not faking it,” Joe laughed.
“Joe,” Gary whispered, his eyes moistening, “how do I go, man? Can you tell me that? How do I go?”
Joe paused, “Gary, I didn’t even go forward enough to see how I’d turn out.”
“I don’t know. It didn’t seem right. I think if I knew that there wouldn’t be a point in trying for anything anymore. Ignorance and repression make life much easier…”
“I still want to know,” Gary pleaded.
“Alright,” Joe stood up from his computer chair. “Give me a minute.”
Joe threw himself onto his bed. His breathing slowed, his body numbed. Soon, his soul was humming into the wavelength of the future. His immaterial body flickered, unseen, into a prison, with row after row of small, caged alcoves, housing convicts.
Joe’s mind was flooded by a telepathic transmission, a collection of contemplations from the criminals that surrounded the immediate area, filtered down to only the thoughts that related to Gary. Gary was a killer, serving a life sentence for murder, burying his victims in the basement beneath his house. He turned himself in, after going completely insane, convinced that the ghosts of his victims haunted him.
Joe quickly flew through nearby walls, searching for him, glancing at each of the sleeping men’s faces, and abruptly stopped—there he was.
Gary was quite a few years older, with wild, unkempt hair. His eyes were red; he had been crying. But now, his eyes shone with a fierce determination, if somewhat sad. He pulled the sheet off of his small cot and looped it around a rafter on his ceiling. Trembling, he stood on his toilet and tied it securely around the rafter, and then tied the other end around his neck.
Joe could sense Gary’s emotional burden bursting out, the adrenaline in his blood igniting, as he feverishly kicked his toilet off of the floor, and awkwardly fell; he kept kicking, and clawing at his neck. Soon enough, Gary’s soul peeled away from his body, and his ghostly visage scowled at Joe, mouthing the word, “Don’t you do it, you vainglorious bastard.”
And then, Gary’s soul disintegrated into nothingness.
Joe shook violently, and wailed loud enough to shatter the glass of the dirty mirror above the sink. As the glass fell through Joe’s intangible soul, Joe turned around and seized the whitish-blue cord that connected him to his own physical body. He tugged at it, but to no avail—he didn’t snap back into his body. Again, and still nothing.
What the hell is going on?
Joe allowed his humming to tune to another wavelength—his present—and he would find his mortal shell and simply climb back into it. The trauma of discovering the hard truth about his best friend’s character must have temporarily severed the tie that he had to his temporal existence.
Joe came through his bedroom ceiling, but his body was no longer in a deep trance, reclining on his bed. It was standing. It was speaking to Gary, “You die in your sleep, well beyond your years, in the home of one of your many children.”
Gary nodded, “Thanks, Joe.”
“That’s not me!” Joe screamed from within his soul. He seized his whitish-blue cord again, and tugged as hard as he could, and the other end snapped back at him like a worn rubber band. It was worthless now.
Joe could only watch as Gary eventually stood up and walked out of his room. Joe’s body walked behind Gary, closing the door after him, and then turned back and looked directly at the hovering soul in the middle of the bedroom.
“Your spirit will fade with time,” it stated in an eerie monotone. “You have no host body to anchor your existence.”
Joe stared at it in shock. It took him a moment to register the fact that his body could actually see him, and that it was addressing him. “What are you?”
“We are Legion,” it replied, “for we are many.”
Somewhere behind his body’s eyes, deep within the pupil, Joe could make out a swirling mass of colored wisps of smoke—an orgy of demonic spirits. They possessed his body in his absence.
“You,” Joe fearfully stammered, “took my body. It is mine. It is my body, and I demand that you give it back to me!”
“Never,” it laughed in a multitude of voices, all mockingly taunting him. “We were waiting for someone like you to come along, after our previous host was buried alive beneath this house by his grandchildren.”
I knew I couldn’t travel into the past and reclaim my body before Legion had taken it—the laws of the spiritual realm prohibited such an action. I could only climb back in my flesh within my temporal, fleeting present.
But Legion was right: I could feel myself fading. Would my soul disintegrate into nothingness, in the same way that Gary’s scornful spirit dissolved? This is a fate that I did not wish—I would rage against the dying of my light.
In a maniacal fury, I flew into the hallway of the house and swiped at the candelabra there with all of my focused energies. It toppled over, several of the candles breaking in half, snapping out of their sconces and rolling along the hallway until they skipped into a wall, deadening their retreat.
If the legion of demons had been powerful enough in the past to physically change the arrangement of the candlesticks, and even to climb inside of my emptied body, then to what extent could I use my own unique abilities, before my strength and presence fade away?
He sat in his room, downloading more porn, unaware of my spiritual presence. His pants were unbuckled and his hand was buried inside of his jeans, massaging his crotch. There would be less blood in his brain; his willpower was compromised.
I seized his mind with all my strength, forcing myself into his head. To Gary, it must have felt like the beginning of another migraine headache at first, but as Gary increasingly felt light-headed, it was too late for him to fight me off. I dislodged his spirit and possessed his body.
I could not see him, but I felt him pummel at my soul from outside. “Gary,” I hissed, “it’s Joe. Listen, I need to borrow your body—my own body has been possessed by the demons that have been haunting our home. Stay nearby; I’m hoping this wont take long.”
Gary was shorter than I was, but his body was stronger and quicker. I could quickly overpower my mortal body with his raw physical strength. It took me a while to become familiar enough with Gary’s locomotion and degrees of flexibility, but when I felt adequately prepared, I opened his bedroom door and stared out into the hallway.
There, my old body was already waiting for me. It smirked in such a way that startled me, with such a grotesque expression I wasn’t even aware that I could do behind my own face. I realized that it could sense my soul inside Gary’s body.
“Give me back my body,” I spoke through Gary’s voice.
“Never,” Legion dropped his smirk, his eyes narrowing.
I reached forward on the ground and deftly lifted the candelabra in my hands, using it as a trident, pointing the numerous branches of empty sconces at my old body. “Give me back my body,” I coarsely sputtered. “It is either mine or no one else’s.”
Legion began to chant nonsense, infuriating me, “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other. Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”
Again, I felt Gary’s spirit repeatedly bludgeoning me, as if I had been holding his head underwater and he was quickly running out of air. I tightened my grip around the candelabra until my knuckles whitened and I leaped forward at my old body, impaling it upon the candlestick.
Blood ran down along the candelabra and over my hands, seemingly scorching them with an unnatural heat. I dropped the candelabra out of my hands, my lifeless body skewered at the end of it. I fell to the floor, completely exhausted.
I could hear Legion faintly laughing in the air, and then it was gone.
I felt Gary’s continual swats become stronger and stronger until I was ripped out of his body. Disoriented, I stayed in a relative orbit about my corpse for what seemed like hours.
Gary immediately threw up when he came to. He stared at my remains in a sick fascination, horrified at its sight, and terribly confused. He must have blacked out during the entire encounter. Fearing the consequences of the law, he scooped up my body and forced himself into the basement beneath our house, and buried my carcass under the rotting wood. He wouldn’t find out until his court case, but a few feet under my body were the skeletal remains of the last host possessed by Legion, our landlord’s grandfather.
I floated back up to my bedroom, and here I am now—typing out the rest of the story on my keyboard with that little spiritual strength I have left. I’m not sure if I accomplished what I intended to do when I began this assignment. Surely my soul will fade with time, and my story will be forgotten. At least I have a decent title.
I wish that I had a little more time to