Friday, April 26, 2013
I originally pulled this short story from my site to later save for The Journal of Endless Nightmares, but I honestly think that I am going to only keep it here, for free, for everyone. So to my new friends and old, I give to you:
Call Now to Receive Death as a Special Offer
Inside the air-conditioning blasted at my sweaty exterior. I could feel my already tight shirt sticking awkwardly snug to my body’s unnatural folds. Poor lighting dimly illuminated the normally spacious hallway, and I quickly noticed that outside of my work, three rows of office chairs await outside the buildings west stairwell. To the other side of High Speed Marketing’s glass door was a stack of desks, stretching the length of the hall. A familiar ding chimed as two men emerged from an opened elevator. Both wore the same uniform: blue work jeans overlapping worn boots, and a white moving shirt that read “All Around Movers—Big or small, we’ll take em’ all”.
“I bet we can fit all those chairs in that there elevator, and both walk up,” decided the taller of the two.
“Sounds good,” replied the other.
They both moved with a solid hustle, and before I knew it, I was staring at an elevator crammed with rolling office chairs. The taller one reached in and punched their floor button, and once the door was closed, they disappeared up the steps. As I walked into open view of the second elevator, I noticed an out of place couple: An older gentleman in a musty, brown suit was standing next to an elderly woman. A ghastly white night dress swayed over the hunched, empty shell that outlined her body, and her chin was pinned to her chest. The man placed a boney hand on the woman’s shoulder, and she looked to his pale face. Together, they turned towards me.
“Look, its Matty… such a nice boy… you couldn’t even tell,” she groaned in a distant, watered-logged pitch.
I paused mid-step, unsure what to say or do. Their gaze pierced; digging first into my quaking bones, then into my subconscious. The elevator door began to shut, and the brief paralysis that caressed my senses fled, leaving me once again in control. Who was that, and why was I frightened? I realized that my back was too close to the wall, so I stepped forward. I closed my eyes and draw in a deep breath. I slowly let the air pass down my nostrils, and between my lips. Within a matter of seconds I was beginning for feel calm. I entered the front door to High Speed Marketing.
An unfamiliar sight greeted my eyes as I passed into the threshold of work: emptiness. The maroon walls to either side of me once catered to random pictures of employees, products, and company literature now held nothing but dust. At the front desk, stacks of papers and files covered every inch of surface. Hearing a fast whirring from behind the receptionist area, I curiously crept onward. Coming forward, I quietly leaned over a stack of documents to find Cheryl, our office assistant, shoving papers down the ripping slit of the office shredder. I clear my throat to grab her attention in-between cycles, startling her as a result. Her complexion was pale and distant.
“My goodness Matt, you scared me. I have been at this for almost thirty minutes now and I must’ve spaced it,”
“Ouch, that sounds awful. What’s going on anyways?”
She opened a draw and pulls out a white envelope with my name on it. I knew this was my check, but it felt heavier as I grabbed it from her outstretched hand. Before I could ask, she spoke without even looking up.
“Pete wants to see you on the sales floor before you go, he… he will tell you all about it,” her face was painted with remorse. I sensed something was off.
“Sure, on the sales floor you say?” I paused, hoping that she would just answer the question so I could pry a little deeper, but she wouldn’t. “Thanks… see you later Cheryl,”
“Yeah… sure thing Matt, best of luck,” she ended the last part as if she was never going to see me again. And with that, she was back to her shredding, and I, was back to wondering.
Pete was found in the far corner of the sales floor instructing a team of workers on how to dismantle the first of many work stations. Operating a cordless drill, Pete removed the last screw from an unseen restraining bracket, collapsing the front dividing wall. With the barrier removed, he was able to see my advance. He placed the power tool in one of the grunts hands and points to all of the cubicles, then upstairs. Pete motioned to me with a sleeveless, waving hand. I smile, and nod. He points to the direction of his corner officer, and I understood exactly what he meant: it was time to talk.
“Everything will be fine,” I wheezed the words through pressed lips. My heart skips a beat as my breathing quickened.
The wall that was adjacent to Pete’s office was entitled “All stars and leaders”. Tapped to a hanging cork board were several printouts of employee statistics. On a week-to-week basis the top five agents would be broken down into various categories. For the last three years, the main focus had been on our number on vitamin: Neutrexium, a cure-all marketed towards senior citizens. Aches and pains? Then you need Neutrexium. Can’t sleep? Sounds like Neutrexium will help. My name was still on a majority of the tacked screen-shots, and seeing it now, I realized that I might be losing these bonuses.
Pete Butler’s corner office was now reset to factory settings. His desk—depersonalized to the last paper clip, sat in the very same uninviting position as always. Two chairs remained: Pete’s—pristine leather, stitched to a grandiose, rolling body—and the other—a small, stationary plastic chair, supported by a thin, metal frame. I sat in the child’s seat and felt especially uncomfortable when my stomach and upper legs began to settle in the mold, and I could hear the plastic moan.
“Hey Matthew, thanks for giving me a second of your time,” Pete shut the door behind him, and made for his seat.
“Pete, what is goi—
“Matthew we are downsizing, substantially. I’ll cut right to it,” he opened the top draw to the lone desk, retrieved a blue folder, and passed it to me.
“No need to worry about your position here with us, Matt, because you will still be on the team. You—without a doubt—are still my number one sales agent. Along with the other supervisors, managers, and other key personnel, were going to be it,” he stopped, and checked his watch. I could see that Pete was all business.
“Well that’s great, but what for now, what is with al—
“We will be moving up to the third floor to occupy a much smaller space. Most of the supervisor responsibility and duties are to be determined within the following weeks. So for tonight, Matthew, all I ask is just for you to man the phone,” he shrugged his shoulders to show his frustration. For once, Pete was no longer in control.
“Will I be by myself?”
“It will be an easy night. If you receive more than two calls an hour, you should feel surprised. You’re the last one left on nights, Matt: last one to ever pick up the phone for HSM… after tonight, take the weekend off, come in on Monday… well, everything is in the folder,” he finished by rubbing his short, gelled hair. I noticed that this was not only rehearsed, but something he was dreading. The sales floor was his baby, and ever was his sightless gaze upon its empty seats a hard scene to witness.
“No problem Pete,” I left it short to keep from being cut off for a third time, and also, to put him at ease. Those two words; “no problem”, would ensure that conversations between him and I were to the point; and our working relationship, pleasant. I could see that his once strained, brooding visage was swept away by a content smile.
“Thanks Matt… I knew I could count on you. Once your shift starts, read those final instructions. Just bring in the key on Monday, and I will make sure the building owner gets it,” He rose from his seat, and rushed for the sales floor. As he passed me, he gives me an at-a-boy on my upper back in the form of a grateful pat.
“But wait, why are we down—
“Everything is in the folder, Matt. Just make sure you’re killing it tonight: finish strong,” his voice echoed from behind him, and I knew it was time to leave.
I saw that Cheryl was away from her shredding duties as I passed through the lobby. The closest stack of files revealed a lamented folder entitled:
A product of High Speed Marketing and Providence Labs LLC.
Case Studies 2007-2010.
Why would our best seller, Neutrexium, need any studies? We sold to hundreds of thousands in those first three years of existence, and in that time, minimal complaints. Hearing a door click to my rear I realized that Cheryl was only in the bathroom. I made for the door, abandoning my curiousness of the soon-to-be destroyed file.
Outside, the dry heat lashed at my fading climate controlled bubble. My eyes focused quickly on this warm, cloudless September mid-morning, and I now saw why I was able to park so close. The parking lot lay deserted, absent of any of my co-workers. I made sure to gingerly step down the few steps from the building to the sidewalk. My ankle was swollen from an afternoon
As I made it to the curb I noticed a woman sitting at the bus station on the opposite side of the road. I hobbled closer and closer, and the woman became clearer and clearer. Her protuberant body sat slouched in the middle of the bench. Air tubes passed from her crumbled nose to a green stripped oxygen tank that was in arms reach. Her wheezing was close to inaudible at first; but now, I could hear a congested rasp retching from her lungs. I keep my vision forward as I stepped up off the street and into invisible smog of acrid waste that hovered around the sickly woman. My stomach rolled, winching from the stench as I passed through the cloud of stink. I lunged forward, pushing my body through a man made path that led through a chest high shrubby wall, and into the parking lot.
“Matthew, why didn’t you tell me it was going to hurt so bad in the end,” an icy, hoarse voice gargled from my rear.
“I want you to feel my pain, Matthew. I would like to try on your lungs; but I could settle for spilling your entrails,” the crazed woman’s cough was drowned by putrid fluids that sloshed in her throat.
Fear twisted my stomach in a heated vice, and my bowels began to feel micro-waved. My cone of vision was limited, and I could see that there was no one else around. We were alone. My legs quivered as I started to slowly turn about, and once I could see to my direct rear, I could only stare in disbelief: the deranged woman had vanished.
“What the hell is going on?” I whispered aloud in a dry mutter.
My heart began to produce a mild, uncomfortable flutter that made my body shudder with a cold, nervous sweat..
My keys were already in my trembling hand as I fumbled for the lock. I opened the door, and squeezed my body in between the steering wheel and driver’s seat. Having a second to myself, I realized that I knew neither the repugnant women, nor the decrepit couple from the elevator. Who were these people, and how did they know me? I only wished to extirpate them from my memory. I left the business park, rehearsing sleeping strategies that I learned on my first meeting with her, wishing that I could sleep this morning away.
* * *
After completing the right turn into the front parking lot of work, I released my sweaty grip from the wheel momentarily to wipe the excessive moisture onto my khakis. My palms felt coarse on my thighs. I veered into the first possible spot and shut off my lights. The digital clock pulsed five of midnight as I exited my vehicle.
I took my first tender step across the road, and a stale breeze of arid summer fumes warmed my face quicker than I would’ve wanted it. My brow was sweating profusely, and I soaked the upper sleeve of my shirt in an attempt to pad it dry. I was standing in the spotlight of a street lamp, and I could already see pit stains developing in this humid, choking air. I reviewed Pete’s instructions one more.
It should be close to dead this evening. Jesse will be waiting for you, so be on time. He is also flying solo. Get all of this done before six:
1. Reports every hour.
2. Power down the manager’s station.
3. Shut off the lights in every room.
4. Turn off the power in the utility closet after the queue is cleared, which shouldn’t be a problem.
5. Take any trash with you on your way out.
6. Hit the alarm, lock the door, and see you on Monday.
Thanks a bunch,
Going over the list again before I walked in sent a feeling of ease travel through my body. I used my key badge to unlock the front door, and as soon as my foot touched the inside hallway, the motion light kicked on, reflecting its luminance down the corridor’s glossy floor. I limped by the closed elevator doors rather quickly. I was relieved to make it pass without a scare, and I walked into work.
I made sure to lock the door behind of me, thinking Jesse would get the hint and lock me in. Passing Cheryl’s desk, I noticed the men’s room door emanated a slit of light from the bottom. I made for the sales floor feeling relieved that Jesse was still in the building.
A row of cubicles that sat across from Pete’s office and the manager’s desk was all that remained. Each station was still equipped with a computer, keyboard, mouse, and phone. A tacked up emergency light was flashing above the manager’s station, meaning there was a call waiting. Jesse was nowhere in sight.
I charged to the middle computer, signed on, and grabbed a headset. I ignored a tri-folded stack of white papers with my name on it; instead, I was honed in on doing my job. I looked at the monitor and saw that the caller had been waiting over sixteen minutes for Neutrexium. I cleared my throat, blew out a short breathe, and answered the call.
“Thanks for holding for the Neutrexium order center. My name is Matthew; may I have your first name please?”
“Oh Matty, you know me. How could you forget—the pills you sold me, you said it would cure me. You stole my money, and my life. I will cut what’s mine from your heart, Matty,” a gruff voice echoed through a static filled line. I was frozen from terror, and I could only sit and listen.
“Remember? You said it was going to lower my cholesterol, clear up the plaque and free radicals that clogged my arteries. Oh it cleared it up all right—and a week later, my heart exploded. Now Matty, I want to saw the heart from your very chest,” the voice seemed calm as he explained his gruesome intent.
For a second my body regained control, and I was able to end the call. I threw my headset to the keyboard and pushed off from my desk in my rolling chair. I quickly hopped up, and doing so I twisted my ankle, sending a throbbing jolt of pain around my left foot. I gasped in agony. The crank caller was too much of a coincidence; he reminded me of the old people that I saw earlier, and that was something I had hoped to forget.
Once more I looked to the telephone program on my computer screen, and the phone lines were empty. I felt rattled. Wishing to steer my attention away from the punk who called and my ankle, I grabbed the papers, and rolled over a shorter chair from the station closest to me. I eased my backside down onto the chair, lifted my ankle off the ground, and opened the papers. At the top was scribbled my name in Jesse’s hurried penmanship. It read:
I was going to send this to you via e-mail, but I don’t want anyone to know you read this. Who knows who could be watching. It’s about Neutrexium. It’s bad, Matt. This will explain everything—why HSM is downsizing, why only a handful people are staying on, and why so many got sick. Matt, best of luck buddy. Just… don’t stay on. Who knows who else Providence Labs has hurt in the past. Things are getting weird, and I have to take off. Take care.
He was always the type to start conspiracy theories, and this time, it seemed he might’ve been correct. After Jesse’s personalized note, the next four pages were crammed with legal jargon, reference numbers, and pictures. Two sentences on the first page were highlighted in faint, yellow marker. The first read, “Mitochondria in one of six patients reacted negatively to active ingredient Silitrexium, key component in Neutrexium…” and the second, “Fifty percent of patients experienced enlargement in vital organs…” I turned the page and was staring at a picture of healthy, human lungs. They were of a non-smoker; clean and pink. The next page was an indescribable mess of human tissue: labeled subject number thirty-three, a deformed pair of purple, raw lungs sat split open on a silver medical table. The marks from the implosion of tissue showed that each lung tore in several places. It reminded me of a sloppy cleaning of an oversized duck breast.
I flipped over to the last page and saw that it was neatly arranged in lawyer speak. Jesse had once again guided my eyes to what he wanted me to know, and as I panned down the page, a phone began to ring. It was coming from the vacant corner station by Pete’s office. Chilly wisps of air solidified into rough ice in my throat, and I swallowed hard. The phone rang again. Standing up, I prayed that Jesse had sat in the corner, and forgot to log off. I stood, placing most of my weight on my right foot so I could peek at the main computer screen. Seeing that I was the only one signed into our phone system, I was haunted to hear a call coming through on an unused line.
Eyeing around the corner, I pushed off on my healthy foot, rolling towards the ringing. I looked at the call screen on the phone: Neutrexium. I reluctantly reached for the phone, and expected to hear another crank caller. After reading most of what Jesse left for me, I could already make reason to today’s events: news leaked out, people learned of it, and retaliated against the public figure—High Speed Marketing.
“Thanks for calling the Neutrexium order line; my name is Matthew, and is that going to be a debit or credit card this morning?” I immediately closed the customer before a word was spoken from their end, hoping they would just hang up.
“Matty, I already gave you that information, remember? I just wanted you to read the last part your delicious friend Jesse left about how we died… Could you, Matty?” begged a sinister, phantom voice over the air.
I could feel the blood drain from my tense face, leaving my mouth opened with numbing fear. Trembling hands rifled through the pages, and with tunneling vision, I found the implied paragraph. “Providence Labs LLC, parent company to High Speed Marketing, sold Neutrexium to exactly Two hundred and seventy four thousand, six hundred and twenty-one customers over a three year span. As concluded in the studies over the past four months, seventy-nine patients have been declared dead by results of a negative Neutrexium interaction, and thousands more are suffering with harmful, potentially fatal symptoms...” this ended the final footnote to Jesse’s evidence.
“But of course, you didn’t know, Matty. You only promised me that breathing would become easier, and that my lungs would feel ten years younger. How much did you make off of me before my lungs erupted in my chest, Matty? Was it worth it? I hope so, because I am going to tear your lungs from your rib cage and fix myself up real nice,” the voice ended in a cruel laugh.
This time, I knew it wasn’t a crank caller. I slowly placed the receiver down in the jack, and softly clicked the phone off. As soon as I stood, an eruption of deafening rings thundered from the sales floor. My heart began to ache, and my left arm felt tense. I began a slow breathing routine, hoping that my heart-rate would slow, and the tightness in my arm would dissipate. After a few cycles of in and out breathing, there was no change. Warm perspiration oozed from every pore in my body and I felt light-headed. I held the top of the cubicles, supporting my weight as I walked my hands, pulling my body along. Forcing my heavy head to peer around the corner of the last work station, I realized that I was not alone. Standing at the manager’s desk, a bloated, ethereal man was talking on a cordless head set. His hair was balding, and his skin was the color of rotten peaches. He smiled on the phone, and spoke.
“You know, that’s a great question. Let me ask Matty, he of all people should know. Hey Matty-boy! The customer on the line wants to know if she can slice out your liver and wear it around for awhile?”
Sanity and reasoning fled from my conscience. I back peddled, turning to escape for the front door. In my mind I saw this is as a horrible hallucination; conjured from my stress and negative emotions. My ankle was flaring in excruciating pain and my chest began to feel suffocated. I leaned to the wall, dragging my body along its surface while I clutched my left arm with my rigid, right hand. Breathing was becoming labored and my nerves were shot. The bathroom door was within grasps reach, and I busted through to regain what little composure remained.
I heaved forward and gripped the sides of the nearest sink. My hands nearly slipped as I pushed my body erect. The cold water blasted from the sink as I turned on the cold water faucet. Cupping the chilled water, I submerged my face into my bowl shaped hands, panting heavily as water spewed from my mouth. My inner core was spiked with an anxiety surge that I have never felt. I scanned my memory of every tool that I acquired from the doctor’s in-home lessons, but my efforts splattered against a brick wall in my thoughts.
With water dripping from my face, I pivoted my body against the wall, leaning on the sink to take pressure off of my now swollen ankle. My eyes remained clenched shut as I struggled to turn my breathing from a frantic dissonance to a soothing rhythm. I opened my eyes with mild ease, letting my pupils adjust to the brightness of the room. Once the blurriness cleared from my now acclimated vision, I was able to see clearly in front of me. The door to the middle stall was ajar with a splattered scene that was channeled from my darkest nightmares: blood was sprayed on the floor, ceiling, and insides of the enclosed toilets. I felt an unwelcomed force guide my sore legs to the murderous scene that awaited me. I reached out, pushed open the door, and collapsed to the floor as a grotesque sight greeted my tortured eyes.
Plastered across every surface of the stall were the remains of Jesse’s mortal corpse. His work clothes—black pants and a blue, short sleeved polo—were strewn amongst the clumps of mushy organ matter. Pink shards of bone stuck to the floor by his ripped loafers, and clumps of mutilated scalp and strings of brains hung from the toilets water tank. The very air was stolen from me. I was able to roll my hip to its side and stand up to make a bolt for the door. I attempted to run, and again fell off balance; slumping face first as I tumbled through the swinging door. I attempted to push my body up to a sitting position, but a violent crash from behind shot my elbow from under me, forcing me to the ground. I careened my head, and saw a one legged man piloting a motorized hover round. His stump was fresh and dripping with navy-blue fluids that fell on my shoulder. He dipped his hallow face down to me, and spat warm, post mortem mucus into my ear.
“When they are done with your innards, I am going to cut off your leg and sow it back on to mine. I mean, Matty, you were the one who told me the plaque in my arteries would melt away. You at least owe me this, boy,” snarled the ghoulish amputee.
I attempted to yell for help, but my voice was cut short from a cold vice that was wrenching every last speck of life from my heart. Putting pressure on my good foot, I pivoted my bottom around, and scooted towards Pete’s office. I would slide my butt back a few feet, and more walking corpses would emerge from the start of the aisle. The ghost in the wheel chair was replaced by a shambling man who was pointing at my privates with his cane. He chuckled in a low, hellish tone.
My back slammed into the wall behind. I reached up, and was able to open Pete’s unlocked door, and I fell through to the carpet. A business man in a black suit was sitting on the edge of Pete’s desk, leering down at me as I gasped breathlessly. An evil smirk appeared across his twisted face, and his bottomless eyes arrested my soul.
“Matty, what am I going to do with you? No sales yet tonight… this is a problem. I think it’s time to… terminate your life. I believe there are some fine folks who want to say “hello” Matty,” he pointed to the front of the office.
Tilting my head up I saw to my horror that every human face from the deceased, elderly mob had slid from their bones and massed into a bloody clump of decaying skin below them. A demonic profile of crimson, leathery flesh surrounded a wide, putrid maw which replaced their once normal faces. I could only stare as they swarmed on top of me. The two that fell on top clawed at my button up dress-shirt, tearing it from my sore, bulbous stomach. Another fiend that seemed to have been much younger in life shoved past the first two. As his boney, sharp hands tore through my fat and into my small intestine, I could only wish that this was a dream, and that I would awaken before my guts were eviscerated.
John Potts John Potts at 3:21 PM
Sunday, February 24, 2013
This is the fifth morning here. I have written less and less, realizing that when I awake, what I logged the day before has vanished. This journal is a taunting little puke sitting on a perch that is just out of reach, reminding me that it gets even worse: my memory is still void of any knowledge of who I am or my past. This is no dream… I live the day here, imprisoned in this wretched, forsaken pit, alone with this journal. What I am writing with is a crude, bumpy black pen that is attached on a crimson ribbon to the worn binding of the aged leather journal.
A bucket sits every morning waiting in the corner. Inside is what I am given each day for food: moldy bread, aged fruit, and a large, earthen jug of filmy water that has a metallic taste. I have no other amenities besides that wooden, copper rimmed bucket. I never see how the bucket comes and goes, but it is there, as I left it the night before. On the first full day, I used it as a toilet three or four times before I feel asleep. I learned after that restless night that whoever tends to me never cleans the bucket. Now I only use it as a seat.
I still have not seen anyone from above… I still have not heard any other noises besides my own… I still have no fucking idea about… anything.
My back is against the bright, warm spot of sun that casts upon the rock walls of the cell. It must be getting close to dark. The shadows are beginning to creep up my toes, engulfing the warmth from the days light. The headaches have been constant all day, but they are worse when I think about sleeping, and even more so when I lay down. For someone reason, I feel like I must have more than what my body needs for rest. That reminds me…
These nightmares could attribute to why I am not sleeping. The one I had last night…
John Potts John Potts at 8:28 AM
Friday, February 15, 2013
Some fine pictures created by die hard fans of our favorite T.V. show -- The Walking Dead:
If protecting your son with one hand in a zombie apocalypse isn't bad enough, try enduring with live Thriller renditions on a daily basis. The odds continue to stack against the Grimes boys.
This is amazing. No words can truly describe the skill and detail put into this.
Is this the end of Rick Grimes? The three zombies in front seem to be part of a rough gang of misunderstood, compassionate roamers who only wish to fit in with the rest of the herd.
I first thought Six String Samurai when I saw this. She looks like a Native American anime character. The headband, braids of hair, and shirt just give me that feel. Pretty bad-ass though, good job!
Another Darryl portrait. I wonder if it is from the same artist... When I look into the eyes, I feel like my mind is being controlled by Vigo the Carpathian's redneck cousin.Ghostbusters II reference for you kiddos who might not remember.
Hats off to the artists! Truly good stuff, and enjoy the links below. All are in order to the pictures. Make sure to give due credit to them. I just love TWD, and apparently by looking at this, Norman Reedus.
John Potts John Potts at 12:10 PM