“I’ve been waiting.”
It was watching me then, as it ran its tongue over its teeth patiently.
It followed me around where ever I went, staring at me, never looking away, never flinching, never blinking. I would look ahead but out of the corner of my eye I could see it smiling. It was silent and it never moved but it was always there. I could run for miles and still there it stood, in the edge of my vision, mocking me with its crescent moon smile. It never left me. A hideous beast…
…a guilty conscience.
Only I could see its miraculously ugly self, the crimson blood running down its skinless face in such thick streams that the liquid almost appeared black, casting a dark veil on its lipless grin. Thin strings of flesh were the only things holding its mutilated jaws together, allowing me to peak inside its cheeks and see the pulsating purple worms that resembled the tongue of one who might’ve tried to eat a handful of glass. (I could imagine the sound of glass crunching, piercing one’s gums as they bit down, slicing through the tender red sensory muscle, the gamey taste of blood exploding into their mouth like the ink cloud of a squid) The beast had no nose, but a gaping hole, and its eyes were large black balls bulging out of their deep sockets. It stared. Its body, though a blur on the fringes of my range of sight, appeared to be as horrifying. Crawling with slimy decomposers that one might also find in a rotting tree, slipping up and around through its ribs and slurping at its intestines. Yes, it was silent but the smell it carried with itself, the smell of rotten eggs, spoke loud enough. A chilling dull heart beat thumped slowly in the back of my mind and on occasion it would whisper dark secrets in my ear and, only sometimes late at night, I could feel its cold fingers running up my spine.
It was a guilty conscience.
No, it was the guilty conscience of Timothy Cruse.
I met the beast in a hospital bed. You see, we humans spend our lives attempting to forget our sins, to leave them behind. Few of us get the pleasure of a fresh start, a start without the burden of bad decisions on our shoulders. I was one of the lucky few. At the age of sixteen I was in a horrible car accident where I lost my memory, and with it, all knowledge of prior sinfulness.
The first thing I remembered was waking up and seeing the beast at the foot of my hospital bed. I soiled myself. The creature stared at me. Its round black eyes seemed to suck me in, it knew me, it knew me better than I knew myself. As I stared into its bottomless-pit eyes, I wondered whether there was anything there or if it was just simply pure nothingness where its eyes should be, a hole in our world, two dark heartless voids. The smell of piss slowly filled the room. I can recall it opening its mouth and then hearing its voice whisper in my ears.
A little while later my folks came in with the nurse. My mother’s face was red from crying and my father’s was emotionless. The nurse explained to me, before they had come in what had happened, I had driven out into an intersection and been hit by an eighteen-wheeler. The nurse informed me that my sister, in the passenger seat, didn’t make it. She had been my parent’s little angel. I didn’t even remember her.
My parents didn’t hug me. My dad told me to clean myself up as he switched his gaze from the damp spot in the baby blue sheets to the nurse. He said I was embarrassing him. I looked away from my parents and back to the beast, it was gone, and then with a yelp I noticed it staring at me out of the corner of my eye. My parents turned to look at me, their eyelids drooping, lips still lines, and chins set – they gave me a look of immense dislike. My dad told me there was nothing there. My mom cried and left the room. The thing simply smiled.
We moved to a bigger city, a place called Leeville.
I was lucky. I had forgotten everything. I got to have a brand new start.
Timothy Cruse was in all of my classes. I would sit in class watching him from the back of the room. He would stare at the pretty girls, having to squint through his chubby cheeks and bushy low eyebrows. He was morbidly obese. He was the kind of fat that made me sick to my stomach. An abomination of the human race. And his mind and fickle thoughts matched the horrible ugliness of his appearance. We humans don’t expect our thoughts to be heard by others but the beast told me everything, whispering his thoughts in my ears. I knew all Timothy thought, each sick fragment of his imagination.
In math, he would imagine himself and Sarah Bakely having sex on the teacher’s desk.
In science, he day dreamed that the teacher made him stay after class and, when the room was clear, she unzipped his pants.
In social studies, he watched Rachel Skamp bend over, in a very short-against-dress-code-skirt, to pick up her pencil and locked the image of her clean white panties in his head.
In history, he saw himself getting head from Lucy Jefferson.
Timothy Cruse disgusted me. He was a sex-crazed lunatic, a fat freak of nature, and almost as hideous as his conscience that whispered his secrets in my ear. Everyday of school I had to listen to his sins, I had to hear his thoughts and what he had done in the night while I was away. The creature was obsessed with him and the more it whispered in my ear, the further I got from the world.
I was hated. I was the annoying hair stuck on ones tongue that’s impossible to get off. I was awkward, I couldn’t keep a conversation, and every time I tried to communicate with my peers the beast would whisper into my ear, “Timothy Cruse thought of her last night as he…” There was a story for everyone I spoke too, even the boys. And as the guilty conscience of Timothy Cruse ruined my life, I began to despise Tim. Every ounce of my body hated him. He was disgusting, he was immoral, and he was responsible for ruining my second chance at life.
Tim’s thoughts worsened. Instead of simply observing Sarah Bakely in class and day dreaming, he began to feel impulses. When she walked past his desk, he suddenly wanted to grab her. When he saw her in the hall on his way to the bathroom one day, he felt the urge to rap one hand firmly around her mouth and to drag her struggling and quite developed body into the boy’s bathroom. When he saw her in a Wal-Mart looking at different bras, he barely refrained from measuring her bra size personally. The perverted pig bastard was getting worse.
The bloodied creature, its skin permanently burnt from its body would sit on my bed at night and watch me. Whispering Tim’s secrets in my ear as I slept and haunting my mind with horrible nightmares. I could feel its slimy tongue tickling my spine, its burnt and shriveled fingers gently messaging my shoulders as it weaved Tim’s sins into my dreams.
I lived in a collection of day dreams, never sleeping and never waking. As I listened to the creature’s secrets and shuffled through my second life, I began to realize what must be done.
I had to kill Timothy Cruse.
A one-hundred-fifty-car freight train barreling down the train tracks that walled the back of the high school’s parking lot after school tooted its horn three times at three-thirty as it passed, emitting a low roar of impending doom. Kids could be seen climbing up the mound of gravel the train tracks sat on and hastily leaping across them seconds before the three-thirty train flew by.
In the United States of America, every hour and a half, someone’s car gets trampled by these mechanical demons.
Timothy Cruse walked home every day. He headed over the train tracks and shuffled slowly down town, weaving this way and that, through the alleys created by lawyer’s offices and cafes, and then crossed the old town bridge that stood above the rapids of the LeevilleRiver. Tim had been late to leave the school one afternoon, due to making up a history test, and therefor had only five minutes get over the tracks before the three-thirty train arrived. Walking with his head down, peering over his bulbous belly at the old parking lot pavement beneath his worn sneakers, Tim headed home. Speedwalking. He hooked his thumbs around his backpack straps to keep it from bouncing up and down as he zoomed by.
When he finally reached the gravel mound that led up to the train tracks, he looked up. Above him, climbing up the hill, was Sarah Bakely in a white dress. Tim froze. The warm wind fluttered by and licked at the edges of her small gown, a gown that stopped quite a few inches above the knee. The breeze lifted her dress up just enough for Tim to see her tight…black…thong…(Reminding him of something but the beast left that out) he got the whole full moon, and couldn’t contain a yelp of pleasure…the sick pig.
“He’s imagining his hands sliding up her luscious thighs and-”
The creature whispered in my ears, his sulfuric breath stinging my nostrils.
Sarah shrieked and ran up onto the tracks pulling her dress down. She disappeared over the mound of gravel. Tim froze for a second and then suddenly something clicked in his mind. He sprinted up the hill churning gravel out from beneath his sneakers, faster than he thought he could run, and stopped at the top. Sarah stood frantically shaking her leg; her foot was stuck in the train tracks.
The train roared, less than a minute away.
“Help!” she cried.
Timothy ran forward onto the tracks and tried to yank her shoe free. No success there. He tried to untie her shoe. His fat fingers clumsily danced around the overly tight knot and he knew he didn’t have enough time.
The train honked again, this time it lasted longer.
Tim looked up.
An average freight train with about one-hundred-fifty cars and traveling about fifty miles an hour will take almost a mile and a half to stop. Many train conductors don’t even apply the breaks, knowing how useless it is, they simply pray and sound the horn.
“He sees the train slam into them and imagines Sarah being yanked from her foot, ripping the flesh off her ankle and leaving the bloody remnants of bone and shoe beneath the train.”
“What are you waiting for?” she demanded.
All instincts to save Sarah suddenly fled Timothy. When she spoke, it hadn’t been a desperate scream for help, it hadn’t been an honest question. It was a hands on her hips, eyelids fluttering, eyebrows arching, lips snarling, statement.
“What,” pause, “are you,” pause, “waiting for.”
Anger flooded his thick skull and his chubby hands slowly slid up from her shoe laces, easily running over her smooth shaven legs. He soon felt the soft fabric of the undergarment beneath his fingers. Sweat rolled off his brow and fell on the train track stones beneath. He was too lost to hear Sarah’s shrieks, to busy to notice the train’s useless honking. He was somewhere he’d never been before, so close to his day dreams, so close-
His groin suddenly exploded in pain as the girl used her free foot to deliver a kick between his legs hitting him squarely in the testicles. With a yelp of pain, Tim rolled backwards off the track, clutching his genitalia. Tim heard a final honk echoed by a scream as he tumbled down the gravel hill. He finally hit the old pavement of the school parking lot, where he was surrounded by a group of students.
He was regarded as a hero.
The conductor claimed to have seen Tim try and save the girl.
Only I and the late Sarah Bakely knew the truth.
After the incident at the train tracks, he started to change his ways. Lucy Jefferson would walk by him in the hallway and I would feel the creature’s cold breath flowing into my ears, like an icy breeze in an Alaskan cave, and then Tim would quickly avert his gaze and the breath would disappear and the beast would back up. He was improving himself. It seemed that everyday that passed, my bloody companion would be a little farther away, hiding in the very furthest fringes of my vision. It’s strange that I felt a pang of despair. Timothy was becoming a good person, the creature that haunted me seemed to be leaving now, and I…where was I in all of this?
All hope wasn’t lost. Timothy couldn’t burry the evil that was himself behind kind actions. He was a bad person and that’s all he would ever be. The ghastly voice still whispered into my ear every time he saw Rachel Skamp, its cold tongue lapping at the edges of my ear as it told me its secrets. He could ignore Mrs. Smith the science teacher and Lucy Jefferson the school whore, but he couldn’t keep his mind pure when he saw Rachel Skamp and her ivory panties.
“He sees himself undressing her while she sleeps.”
“He sees himself as the teacher when she asks for extra credit.”
“He sees himself pinning her to the ground in a lonely dark corner.”
And as Tim noticed that Rachel walked the same way home he did after cheer leading practice, the creature was back to stay, so close that his breath froze the hairs on the back of my neck. Tim was back to his normal, pig bastard, self.
Tim began to stop at the bakery that stood in front of the old town bridge. He’d skip through the alley merrily and then wait in the bakery, with almost a dozen donuts, until Rachel walked by. As he waited he’d cram the soft breaded pastries into his mouth, smearing chocolate icing all over his lips. Sometimes he’d dully watch the river through the window.
The river was a frothing war of water against riptides, swirling this way and that as it sprinted down stream. The river was a violent beast. Every afternoon Tim would follow Rachel over the bridge, keeping his distance, and he’d drop his trash in the river. The swirling rapids snatched the empty bag or chocolate sprinkled box and yanked it down beneath the water. No one would ever see it again.
“He sees himself jumping in the piss-warm late spring water and never being seen again.”
Timothy Cruse wanted to commit suicide.
I wasn’t afraid that Tim would kill himself before I could wring his dirty swine neck, not in the least bit. As he was too afraid to make a move on Rachel, he was no doubt too scared to take his own life. Timothy wasn’t brave, wasn’t drastic, and wasn’t the kind of person to do something outrageous. But in his head, he was quite the opposite.
“He sees himself slipping his hand up her skirt.”
“He sees himself carefully unbuttoning her blouse.”
“He sees himself gently clamp a hand around her mouth.”
One rainy afternoon, days after I should’ve killed him, the coward proved me wrong. It was almost summer time, on the edges of spring, and the warm down pour was about to be a massive storm. Although Tim would only later hear about it, a tornado touched ground in Leeville, destroying our high school, uprooting a neighborhood, and pulling two churches apart plank for plank. But that was to occur later, at the moment, he was walking down the alley beside the bakery, holding his rainjacket hood down over his messy never-combed mop of straw-like blonde hair. It was a spectacular surprise for Tim to hear a familiar cry behind him. Rachel was running through the ally too. She wore a white blouse and a short skirt, that slowly scooted up her waist revealing her rain soaked thighs, as she ran up to him, begging him for his rain coat. Timothy couldn’t answer. It was raining and she was wearing a white blouse.
“She’s not wearing a bra.”
The creature told me, licking its bloody rows of teeth, its bulging eyes seeming to pop out even more. I knew something was coming. I wanted to stop it. But there was a part of me that held me back. The same part of a human that causes you to slow down as you drive past a horrible accent. The same part of a human that turns up the volume when the anchorman reports bad news and turns down the volume when the anchorman reports the good. You see, the truth is, we humans are enthralled by our species’ suffering. So I listened to the creature’s haunting voice and watched it unfold before my eyes.
Rachel repeated herself. Timothy didn’t reply. She stopped screaming as she noticed he wasn’t looking at her face and, with a horrified gasp, she reached up and smacked him. Rain fell, soaking Tim’s tennis shoes as he clutched his cheek in surprise. He suddenly remembered Sarah Bakely making fun of him for getting two trays of lunch, he remembered Lucy Jefferson calling him a “fat ass” when he couldn’t get out of his desk one day, and he remembered Rachel Skamp asking her friend for hand sanitizer after he lent her a pencil. He remembered Rachel laughing at his sweat stains in PE. He remembered her laugh as a football player pegged him in the nuts during dodge ball.
Something clicked in Tim’s head, like it had on the train tracks back at school.
“You ungrateful snob!”
Timothy Cruse wanted to kill Rachel Skamp.
Everything that his conscience whispered in my ears, Rachel read in his eyes. She immediately regretted smacking him. Thunder exploded overhead. He grabbed her wrist. She pulled this way and that but his grip was strong. He threw her to the ground and knelt over her, his knees pinning her arms down as he unbuttoned her blouse, hastily tearing a few of the buttons off. Thunder roared again above them, muffling Rachel’s screams.
“He sees her pure white pan-”
I cry out, I don’t want to hear what the beast has to say. I close my eyes and cover my ears but still it whispers. Its voice echoes through my head and I could tell it coveted my torment. The thunder wouldn’t muffle out the whispers of Timothy Cruse’s conscience, the lightning crackled through the skies like God’s angry whip being drawn back as he watched his mortals. I listened and I watched. And finally it was over.
Tim’s beady eyes seemed emotionless now, he walked like a drone, soulless, as if he was somewhere else. Rachel lay in a crumpled heap in the mud, crying.
“Her pure white panties sinking into the mud-”
He was standing over her now, she was shaking, mostly undressed and cold, and crying.
“He’s thinking about saving her body…killing her and then keeping her somewhere to use later.”
He picked up her blouse and panties and slipped them into his pocket. Then he picked her up, the rain falling down in thick globs. Thunder boomed and lightning flashed, the world was a heaping mess.
“He’s thinking about where to hide her…what to do with her.”
He walked out of the alley, the mostly naked girl thrown over his shoulder carelessly. She didn’t struggle, she didn’t scream, she’d long since given up. She didn’t even move.
“He’s wondering if she’s dead.”
No one was looking outside. The streets were empty. The entire city didn’t notice the pig as he walked over towards the bridge that crossed the river. Mud poured into the water, tinting the torrent brownish as rain water added to its fury. In the storm the river was even more dangerous, even more murderous.
“He’s thinking about jumping in. He’s thinking about the trash he throws in that never comes out.”
Rachel was trash to Timothy now. She was an empty box of donuts. Tim had gotten his pleasure and now he was done. There was nothing left for him in her. He leaned over the bridge allowing her to begin to slide off his shoulder and into the- suddenly she came to life. The mostly nude, except for her skirt, torn and pulled up over her belly, girl clutched at his shirt, handing over the edge of the bridge. Tim yelped as he grabbeed the railing, she was heavy, his hands were slipping, the steel bar was lubricated with rain water. She looked into his eyes as he struggled and then suddenly he stopped moving, petrified by her glare. Her eyes were large black orbs, empty voids, like black wholes in space, heartless, soulless, and dead. (Reminding him of something but the beast left that out) She wasn’t really seeing him, it looked like she was looking past him. Her lips, split from when he’d hit her, back before she had given up, slowly parted.
“You fat swine.”
Then she let go.
She tumbled for a second in the air, flipping this way and that like a doll might in the wind, and then hit the water as thunder boomed above. He could see her blonde hair for a while as it floated down stream, but then it suddenly disappeared. No one would ever find Rachel Skamp.
I didn’t sleep that night. The demon wouldn’t let me. It sat criss-crossed on my back, whispering to me over and over, repeating Timothy Cruse’s actions. I covered my head with a pillow, I pulled my blanket up over my face. Still it would whisper into my ears. It scraped my spine with its long talon like fingernails. It tickled my scalp like a swarm of lice. It asked me why I hadn’t killed Tim yet. It asked me why I was waiting. It asked me why I was scared.
The storm hadn’t stopped. Tornado sirens hollered through the night like the ominous three-thirty train’s horn. The storm hadn’t stopped after the rape, after Tim threw her in the river, and I knew it wouldn’t stop. I knew it was waiting for me to kill Timothy Cruse. My head hurt and every minute that passed made it worse. I pulled at my hair, trying to drag my thoughts away from the demon by inflicting pain. Bloody clumps of skin and blond hair were torn from my head with the roots and still the beast whispered.
The creature hadn’t asked me that sense I’d seen it first in the hospital.
“Timothy Cruse must die.”
I was scared.
“You watched as it happened.”
I was scared.
“You didn’t stop it!”
I was scared!
“You did it!”
No, he did!
I think I finally fell asleep.
The two tornadoes that had touched ground had carved a hole in our mighty center of education, canceling schools for a few days until they could find alternative schools to send us to. Yet, for some unknown reason, I felt the urge to drive. So I did.
Trees created a maze through the streets. The storm was still raging, the rain creating a mysterious film over the windshield, allowing me to see only blurs of color before the window wipers would sweep it to the side. Yet as soon as they created a whole the rain returned, filling it back up. It was the kind of fuzzy image you see in the background of dreams. And that’s what it felt like, a dream. The only thing that I really felt was real was the creature in my rearview mirror, smiling in the back seat. It wasn’t fuzzy or blurry. It knew where I was going. I didn’t. We drove past the school. I asked where we were headed but it just smiled. It was twenty minutes past three.
Then I saw Timothy. He was walking in the rain, like a robot. His feet shuffled forward, he seemed to be in the same dreamy state as I.
“Pick him up.”
The demon said, it wasn’t whispering, it was speaking.
I slowed to a stop and leaned over to open the passenger door. I didn’t have to say anything, Tim simply got in the car.
In the distance I saw train tracks, the same tracks that ran by the back of the high school. It was almost three thirty. My mind was cloudy, it was like I was in a thick fog when I tried to think but I began to understand. The beast didn’t have to tell me to stop on the tracks, I just did.
Tim didn’t speak to me. He didn’t look at me, he just looked ahead.
The beast looked at me. That’s what it had said to me the first time I saw it, that’s what it had said last night, “You remember?” I shivered for some reason. My head hurt. The demon continued to smile at me through the mirror, but something about it changed. Slowly hair began to grow out of its skinless head, long blonde hair, covering its face. Clothes began to cover the creature’s pulsating body, hiding the grubs crawling in and out of the tunnels they’d created. A pretty yellow dress, one a young girl might wear to church, ending in poofy tufts around it’s…her knees. Panty hose ran down her legs which now had smooth pale skin instead of the bloodied remains of muscle tissue. I looked back up at her face, the long blonde hair fell to the side and I saw her. I saw her sparkling blue eyes and her unmarked, perfect, pre-teen face. I saw her and I saw my sister and I remembered…
The low roar of impending doom blared through the summer day. It wasn’t a train. It was a semi, frantically trying to warn the two in its path. An average sized pick-up truck is still a dwarf in the eyes of an eighteen wheeler flying through a large intersection, I thought for a split second. That second was total silence, as my sister, blond hair, blue eyes, yellow dress, opened her mouth to scream and the semi driver slammed on the breaks. And then the world exploded: the sound of glass shattering, my sister screaming, breaks screeching, horns honking, and metal twisting and bending like the sound finger nails make when dragged down a chalk bored. In an accident like this, you don’t know where you are or if you’re hurt, you can’t see and you can’t feel anything. All you can do is smell and hear, hear the thump of your heart beat echoing loud in your ears and think. And when it’s all over, when the world calms down, you can only look around and try and digest what you see.
My sister screaming, shards of glass falling out of her mouth, trapped in the truck and the truck on fire. Burning alive and drowning must be the two worst ways to die.
I remembered the car accident. I gasped and looked back into the rear view mirror, the demon was gone and my sister was gone. I turned to my right; Tim had disappeared and in his place sat the demon. It no longer looked like my sister, it was back to its hideously deformed, mutilated body, and…on second thought…it did look like my sister: a burnt glass cut corpse.
“That’s not it. You remember?”
I heard the three-thirty train honk in the distance, I didn’t look to see how far it was…
We sat at the intersection quietly. My palms sweating uncontrollably as I held onto the steering wheal. It was a red light but no cars were flying across the intersection perpendicular to us. I remember hating timed lights. My sister sat next to me, hands folded in her lap, looking out the window. It was awkward.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
She didn’t reply, she didn’t even act as if she had heard.
“Please don’t tell Dad,” I begged looking over at her.
I could see a large semi flying down the street perpendicular to ours; no doubt, his light was now yellow.
“Are you going to tell Dad?” I continued.
Still she was silent.
I grabbed her hair angrily and pulled back, she didn’t even scream. I forcibly turned her head to look at mine. Her eyes were the same dark lifeless balls that Tim had seen in Rachel Skamp’s before she let herself fall into the river. She didn’t answer, she just looked at me…past me…
I hit the gas. Our light was still red. The semi was just seconds from the intersection.
The demon, the creature, the beast, the guilty conscience, they were all false names. She was my sister, sitting next to me, in the passenger seat. The train roared and I could tell it was closer now. I did remember. The windshield wipers broke through the wall of water allowing me to see back again, see everything with vivid colors…
Before the accident, before we had gotten in my truck, what had happened? What had I been asking my sister about? Our parents had been at Grandma’s and we were supposed to meet them, I remembered, my sis and I were about to leave when I walked in her room…I remember now…she was only twelve and she had been wearing a plain black thong. She screamed at me then, get out! Get out you pervert! I didn’t get out…something had clicked in my head…something had clicked in my head like it had on the train tracks with Sarah Bakely and in the alley with Rachel Skamp.
It was a statement, not a question. It had never been a question. It-she had never been asking. “You remember.” I remember. I did remember. I’d never forgotten. I looked in the rear view mirror; I could see the very top of my un-combed straw-like blond hair. My hand, a chubby fat hand, reached up to tilt the rectangle mirror down so I could see myself. I had to check, when you lie to yourself for so long you slowly come to believe your own lies. I looked into the mirror and stared at my own beady black marble eyes, squinting through my plump cheeks and low bushy eyebrows.
Samantha Cruse, Sarah Bakely, and Rachel Skamp.
I had never gotten amnesia. I had never forgotten.
It was watching me then as it ran its tongue over its teeth patiently.
She was the guilty conscience of Timothy Cruse, she was my lie.
The train honked one last time before the split second of silence, so familiar, and then the world erupted into chaos once again. And still the beast smiled.
“I’ve been waiting.”