It was raining in the decrepit tenements of nowhere. The staccato tap of raindrops on a rusted tin roof permeated the air, already saturated with a blatant sense of wrong. A candle flickered, casting occasional light on the unholy darkness, momentarily revealing a figure ensconced within it...a face, devoid of emotion, eyes hinting at an eerie malevolence, revealing zilch.
Marty was back...Marty, his pal, his teacher, his lover; Marty, who he hadn’t seen since his childhood days. It felt so damn good, after all these years.
‘Where ya bin, Mart?’
‘Bin around, kid...bin around...’
Images buried long ago flickered into view. Memories long forgotten came back...Marty...He had been eight years old. He had a new dad. At last, a person he could count on; a person who he could call his friend, even if he did smell funny at times. Sure, Marty was there all the time. But he was scared of him, plenty scared. He was afraid Marty might hurt him. Mama had told him so, and he believed mama. He loved mama more than anything else in the whole world. And mama seemed to fall down quite a lot after she met dad. Maybe love did this to you.
‘Come here, weirdo...’
‘Leave him alone’
‘You stay out of this, bitch!’
‘No, you can’t do this to him’
‘Screw you, you can’t tell me what I can or can’t do’
‘Get out of my house. Out, out, out!!!’
He had run away then. Mama wasn’t falling down, it was a lie. Dad smelled worse than ever now. He ran into the kitchen, and there was Marty. He turned away, afraid to look into those eyes, afraid of the leer that seemed to be on his face perpetually, teeth glinting in the light. He found his gaze being slowly riveted towards Marty. They were face to face. Amazingly, there was concern in those eyes. The wicked grimace seemed to be an understanding smile. At that moment, he fell in love. Marty was there. He would take care of him, as long as he was alive. He felt safer than he had ever felt before. He smiled back – he, who had, until that moment, never expressed any sort of emotion. For those few moments, he was beautiful.
‘Your dad again, huh?’
‘I’m sorry, dog’
The silence had been shattered by screams of agony; and then, more silence. They had rushed into the room. She lay on the floor, bleeding, motionless, at his feet. Dad was taking a huge swig from a bottle. The smell...he turned towards her. His eyes said it all. Marty had stepped in. Mom would have died had it not been for Marty. He watched as Marty took care of business. Then, weak, he had rushed to his mom. She was unconscious.
‘Is she dead?’
‘No, she’s breathing...barely’
‘I can feel a pulse’
He had laid her on the sofa and called an ambulance. ‘She’s gonna be ok, son’ the doctors said, and he believed them. Doctors wouldn’t lie, they healed people. He went back home to get her something to eat. There was a lot of blood. He had cleaned up and then left.
Mom had been in the hospital for a week. When they got back home, Marty was nowhere to be seen. He had asked his mom about him. She said Marty had gone away to live with his family.
‘Will he be back, mom?’
‘No, I don’t think he will’
‘He’s happier living with his family’
He had gone up to his room and wept, not eating until it became painful. But it didn’t bring Marty back...
1984. Graduation day was around the corner. He was top of his class, as usual. He was walking towards his class, ignoring the outstretched legs in the hallway, ignoring the sneers and the mock-acting. This was nothing new. It happened every day of his miserable school life. ‘Vomit’ entered the classroom to loud, unconcealed imitations of someone puking. The teacher wasn’t in the class as yet; they wouldn’t dare do that while she was around. The hatred in the air was so thick it was like walking through tar. But he was used to it.
That was Brad, the most popular guy in college; but not because anybody liked him. Like isn’t a term you’d associate with a feeling towards a guy who was 6’4”, 290 pounds, and let you know it.
‘We got somethin’ to settle, man...c’mon guys...’escort’ vomit over here to the bathroom where we can get some privacy’
‘Stop it, Brad! I’m warning you...’
That was Helen, the most popular girl in college, the love of his life. She hadn’t looked twice at him before the day she first told Brad to leave him alone. He had smiled and thanked her. At that moment, they fell in love. He because he hadn’t imagined anyone would do such a thing; her because she had never seen anyone as beautiful as him, when he smiled.
He saw Marty again, in a bargain basement. Marty looked as though he had been through it all. He paid the bill. Together, they went back to what was left of his old home.
He and Helen were to be married the next day. He decided to drop by Helen’s place after work. He climbed up the stairs to her apartment. He took out his key and stopped.
‘Babe, you don’t want him, you want a real man.’
‘You’re drunk, Brad’
‘I’ve loved you ever since I first saw you. You know that’
‘This conversation is over, Brad. Now get out of my apartment before I call the police’
‘You bitch! If I can’t have you, I’ll make sure no one can’
He crashed through the door, too disoriented with rage. There she lay, bleeding, motionless. Brad was standing over her, barely, eyes glazed over. His knuckles hit solid bone just as Brad was about to turn around. He collapsed in a heap, with only the rise and fall of his chest to show he was alive, just about. He took him back to his house – to Marty. It was late when he got there. He dragged Brad’s body out of the car and took him to the kitchen. Some water would wake him...he kicked him in the face.
Brad woke up to blood filling his windpipe. Coughing and sputtering, he sat up, spraying blood all over the kitchen floor. He looked around him; he was in some sort of condemned building, looked like. He sat there, surrounded by detritus, trying to figure out where the hell he was, when he heard someone coming. He turned towards the footsteps and froze. It was him – he hadn’t even bothered to remember his name – and he had a kitchen knife in his hand, gleaming in the moonlight that filtered in through the rusted tin roof. He was talking to it, calling it Marty.
‘There he is, Marty...just as I said. You’ll take care of him, Marty? Sure, you go ahead and do that. You took care of dad, didn’t you? He never came back again. I didn’t thank you for that, Marty. Mom could’ve died if you weren’t there. I love you Marty. I’m glad I found you again. Now you can be my best man tomorrow, Marty. Isn’t that great?’
Brad was scared, shit scared, more so after hearing this bizarre dialogue. He was still talking to the knife; it was too low for him to hear. But his eyes said it all, glittering maliciously in the light of the candle. He was insane, and insane and a kitchen knife didn’t mix well – hell they didn’t mix at all. He had to get away, but he couldn’t. That knock on the head had seen to that. He did the only thing he could do...he prayed. He prayed that it wouldn’t be too painful. He prayed that he’d die quickly. One look at him told him otherwise. At that point he would have sold his soul to the devil to be somewhere else. Fool, the devil was already there, and he was in no mood to grant wishes.
He felt a white hot stab of pain in his back. Tears stung his eyes. He made to wipe them off, but he couldn’t move his hands. It had begun...he found his hands and feet being tied up.
‘Whatcha gonna do, Marty?’
His clothes were torn off him. Lightning flashed above. He could make out the faint patter of the first raindrops on the roof. A cold wind rattled through the building, making him conscious of his nudity.
The blade cut his ankle first, tearing through flesh and vein. ‘Marty’ was soaked in his blood. There was no pain then, amazingly. Nobody was there to hear the screams anyway. He would bleed to death in this anechoic shithole.
‘I wanna see the bone, Marty. I’ve never seen one before’
Then the pain struck him. He screamed like he had never screamed before, the blade cutting through tendons, exposing his ankle,. The veins on his neck were straining to break through his skin.
‘Can a knife scratch bone, Marty? ’
The screams turned into muted moans of sheer agony. The bone was wrenched out of its socket with a dull popping sound. Awareness struck him when the blade got to his knee. It was shoved in behind his kneecap, where it got stuck. It wouldn’t budge. Brad felt the knife being kicked out of his knee. He was beyond pain at that point. The moans kept growing in intensity. He could do nothing else. Then all was black.
It was done with. ’So that’s what a spleen looks like...EW...’ He stared down at Brad’s severed head, mouth twisted in a rictus of pain. Marty was sticking out of an eye-socket. He pulled him out; it barely required any effort. It was raining hard. The precipitation was a sort of baptism, cleansing Brad’s sins. God was with him. The blood, mixed with the rain water was starting to flow out through the doorway. Marty had blood all over him. He wiped him on Brad’s clothes. He performed the last rites. The candle had burned out long ago. The door was closed, slammed by the wind. He opened it and stepped out. He was smiling as he closed the door.
’C’mon, Marty, let’s go to your new home...’