The Storm Within — Part One

“Thanks, Mark. We are reporting outside a possible murder-suicide on Perry Lane. An anonymous disturbance call was made for the residence behind us,” Karen Blane pivots only her body to the veil of lazy snowfall that wept over the crime scene inside the two story home, “at approximately 7:03 this evening. That was roughly three hours past.”

The producer back at WPLQ was ready for that disgusted tone and scowl from Karen. He couldn’t blame her malcontent and would remind her of that again when he next saw her. “Do it,” he ordered to his technician. Prior video footage replaced the live feed while Karen reported.

“Emergency services stated that—and please mind that these are not exact quotes; these are what police have given out for us to use at this time—stated that shouting occurred in the home sometime before seven. Shortly after, the sounds of gunfire came from within, and that is when the call was made.”

Officers divided the road with their cruisers. Flashing sirens twisted through snowfall and ominous twilight. WPLQ followed suit with national weather authorities and advised residents in nearby counties that a nor’easter was projected to hit early Thursday; it never did more than accumulate a few inches. This empty threat dwindled as dusk progressed to night and a policeman managed to establish a perimeter of yellow tape between road sign and trees in the sporadic gusts.

“When police arrived—which was well over an hour after the call was made—they entered the home to find multiple bodies. The suspect was inside and from what Police Chief Sandborn had stated, waited to ambush the officers.”  

The scene transitioned once more to the blistered face of Police Chief Sandborn, who is a large sort of man; conditioned from tenure in the line of public duty. His gruff tone and appearance was surprisingly cooperative. He never once flinched in offense at Karen when she shoved her microphone into his face after every question.

“Right now, all I can say is that the suspect engaged an officer and luckily none of our guys we’re injured.”

“How many bodies involved?”

“We count four at this moment.”

Police Chief Sandborn grimaced and Karen capitalized.

“What do you mean by that?”

“A full press conference will explain all the details and facts once we know more. I will say no more out of respect to the family and to the integrity of this investigation.”

“Can you explain why it took officers and yourself hours to arrive at the scene?”

This was a question the producer wanted answered just as bad as she, but not like this. He knew Karen’s tenacity was clouded by her welcomed anger of the delayed urgency by emergency services. Police Chief Sandborn noticed it, too.

“Our resources were allocated for the storm. That is all, thank you.”

“Do you think that a timely response to this call could have changed the outcome? Could have saved lives”

Police Chief Sandborn entertained Karen for a moment before he exited the view of the camera.

“That’s the problem with a murder-suicide; no one left to tell the real story. Thank you, no further questions.”

“The real story told this evening,” Karen was back on camera in that same side-profile stance. Her producer knew she received his texts as her flushed face shied away. “Is that four lives were lost tonight and a police officer was shot inside this home. Now, we can see medical examiners leaving the home and wait—what is that?”

The camera focused on the doorway to a crime scene investigator bent at the waist. Audible dry heaves came across the boom and into production. Karen gasped when the investigator stood upright.

“Do you want me to jump back to Mark?”

“No,” said the producer. “Let’s see how this plays out.”

“I am not one-hundred percent certain, but there appears to be a large splatter of blood on that investigators white suite. The information given early by police did not explain into any specifics to the incident, yet it appears that it was gruesome, none the less. We will be reporting live for as long as needed.”

Karen let the live footage continue to the ambiance of the crime scene. Stretchers emerged from the crime scene, bodies were transferred to awaiting ambulances, and every emergency official worked to the slow cadence of the storm.

“Let Mark know what Karen said is true,” said the producer. “She’ll stay there all night if she has to.”

Continue….

©  Copyright John Potts Jr 2016 – 2017


 

Afterthoughts….

It’s snowing outside my window right now. It is beautiful, too. This Nor’Easter is a real one that I am experiencing, unlike the “Empty Threat” in this story.

My home is in a valley and our snowfalls can be unforgiving. I suspect to receive over a foot of accumulation. Not too shabby, bub.

I like a good snowfall. I like going out while the blizzard is roaring to enjoy what I am witnessing. It is a gorgeous spectacle to experience. I’ll usually do my shoveling two or three times in a blizzard. I have certain paths to make for the oilman and certain walkways to maintain for ease-of-access; my plow guy can’t do it all. He does more than what he is paid—that’s for sure.  

What I enjoy most is the serenity involved. There is calmness in manual mechanics that are often taken for granted. I feel the same way about stacking wood. It’s… hard to explain unless you’ve actually done it before. I don’t mean going through the motions, either. There is purpose behind this—there is more to turning a mound of split logs into cords, or moving snow from one pile to another. We do it to be warm and to stay safe and to live.

And that means something.

I wrote this story for a reason. Yup, I did.

That reason being is that I am using media or news segments in a couple of short stories I am working on to hopefully get myself published. I guess I can say that I wanted some practice with incorporating that element of a journalism on the front lines.

That’s it. Nothing really meaningful with this one.  

Now….

Let’s finish catching up on my last owed after thought. This one also had purpose.

The Afternoon Shower portrays a routine I would go through when I was drinking the booze—The hooch, swills, liquors, beers and bags of wine. I’d usually wake before noon. I tended to work second shift and stayed up until I passed out from drinking or exhaustion. Or both. When I cleaned up I would still feel far from new. My innards had hurt from binge drinking and my poor eating habits and my body just felt nasty.

I don’t think I shed my skin like Kyle did. I sometimes showered still drunk, so maybe. But it felt like layers of myself were being ripped away from the waters and partially liquefied into fatty, booze-saturated goop that eventually washed down the drain. Those parts of myself could have been the important ones, too. I never knew or really cared. All that mattered was sobering up, staying somewhat clean, and getting ready to drink more.

Sometimes I’d even go a day or two without a shower. I can honestly say that; not proud, either, but I can and I will because it helps to remember. I can accept that I was that bad and I try to utilize those real experiences in helping me stay sober. I have to embrace my downfalls to continue my progression as a father and husband. Thankfully, I can do it in a story. This way I can let the details flow and the picture shine as to what it felt like for me.

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year.

My resolution? I am so glad you didn’t ask!

I just want to do better at any chance I can with everything I do.

Have some inspirational shit to carry you into 2017.

Happy New Years,

John Potts Jr

Nothing Personal

Carey squeezed the handle of the spray nozzle, blasting wet flakes of romaine from the chef knife. He watched the lettuce float away on a stream of frothy water disappear to the catch below the whirring dish machine. He placed the knife on the flat dish rack, right next to the green cutting board.

“Green is for produce, and produce only,” he mused aloud. “Ain’t that something.”

His boots squished on the rubber mat and he thought of the young man who worked the dishwasher. How long could he stand here and do this for? My back is sore after five minutes. Did he ever get a break? He chuckled at this. He sure did, didn’t he? And I gave it to him. Carey never did catch his name nor did he thank him for taking the time to explain how to run everything else in the kitchen. I ought to send his family a proper condolence for raising such a fine boy. He did what was asked, even under duress.

He visualized the range crammed with stockpots and pans that simmered and stewed above raging fires. Must be where they made those sauces. Damn those were good. And over here must been for the Grilled Chicken Parmesan. That was Carey’s favorite. The center rails of the mini char are white and something crackled underneath the flash guards. Heat radiated from the line’s collective equipment like a blacksmith’s overworked forge. It was too intense and Carey’s bowels shuddered with mild discomfort. That smell is something bad. Foul wisps of smoke waltzed from the seasoned surface of the sleek flat top to the silenced hoods above. Must’ve used that for the pub menu.

It never made sense to Carey why Perlino’s offered casual fare. Marty Parsons told him once that management capitalized on demographic availability. College town and all, makes sense. But it could have been so much more.

He had dined here week after week for the past four years and never once seen the kitchen, let alone work in one. Boiling oils from the fryer lashed out like an aggravated well of acid, splashing Carey’s forearm. He acknowledges the splatter and ignores the pain. Can’t be worse than what I already have. He spits into the fryer and the oil rages with a low growl, spraying over his offered arms.

“If I can’t have any of this, no one will.”

Carey admires the sheen of glossy flesh bubbling to a blistered red like a boiled lobster. That’d be quite the way to go, huh? Deep fried like chicken.

The bodies lay just as he left them, partially naked and staged mid coitus on the floor of dry storage. In some existence I imagine these two could’ve been a match, he thought. A woman he only knew as Rebecca was older and mildly attractive even in post-life. Carey’s fingers traced the scratches on his face. Tough as nails, that one. Rebecca’s corpse sprawled atop the young dishwasher’s, who was tall and surprisingly well-endowed below. Kid could’ve been a porn star if he had any muscle. Boy that neck sure did snap easy, huh?

Good thing they’re already dead and won’t need to suffer.

“Even if they do figure this all out, I don’t think they’d charge me, seeing as I have stage four stomach cancer,” he stood tall in the pantry doorway with his hands behind the small of his back. “It’s nothing personal and all. It’s just… well, I don’t want you in the afterlife with no negative thoughts, so I’ll stop with that. I know you were good people and if what they say about Heaven is true, well, I’d hate to sully that experience for you two, cause I reckon you’d be the types to pass them gates. Who knows? Maybe will be seeing each other real soon. Either way, you take care now. Goodbye.”

His fingertips tapped along the shiny metal table that was opposite the cooks line. Expo side: Where everything comes together. He pictured Marty Parsons sliding down the length of this table in his whites to inspect every single dish that was presented. He must’ve garnished right here. That man is magic and I wish him the best. Sweat poured from his drained body and plagued guts cried in agony. Carey braced himself to let the flare pass. Is it time? The digital clock showed that it was. He grabbed his trophies from the dish machine and stuck them in his backpack still wet. Maybe the smell of detergent will linger in the bag. I’ll have to ditch that later, just in case. With his supper in hand, Carey turned for one final visual, searing it into his memories like a hunk of meta, browned to perfection.

If I can’t eat here anymore, then no one will.

The propane tank rolled towards the line and Carey closed Perlino’s backdoor behind him. He had more than enough time to drive up the hill and get himself situated with his meal before the show started. The salad crunched in his mouth as the explosions began and he thought of his father and what he taught Carey when he was young—younger maybe than the dishwasher who was now reduced to ashes and teeth.

“A farewell is a gesture meant with finality where a goodbye was something that could be forgiven, if needed. I hope you’re right, Pa.”

©  Copyright John Potts Jr 2016 – 2017


Red sauce is my new enemy. Along with greasy foods. Pizza and Spaghetti with Meatballs is a synergistic terror that melts my innards.

I recently spent two days recovering from a meal of Lasagna at my in-law’s house. I suspected the outcomes to be dire at first bite. My father in-law makes it mean. Sausage crisp and cheese overflowing. My wife and I we’re reassured at the time that it would be light on the sauce. It was.

Two days, though. I spent this time catching up with some horror movies and playing with my daughter a lot. She is eight months and a real treat. Her smile almost made the pain fade. 

My doctor has thrown out terms like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), possible Ulcer, and even Gastritis, since I get bloated easily and find myself in a burping and/or farting fit after certain meals.

Disgusting, I know.

I do find it frustrating that I can’t enjoy a slab of Pizza without having to eat a roll of antacids. I have had to change my diet in the last six months as a way to manage the workings of my gut. Things like coffee and soda are now out of the window, replaced by tea and seltzer water; the latter of the two is absolutely horrible, just so we’re clear. I eat red meat once a week; if that. Greek Yogurt, fruits, raw or cooked veggies, and rice cakes have taken over the role of traditional munchies in my life.

I miss you, potato chips.

Where am I going with all of this?

I don’t know. I just write what comes to mind. I am as indecisive and spontaneous as they come.

Maybe my stomach is damaged by years of drinking? I did—and this was at my lowest—drink close to a fifth (750ml) of hard liquor a day. It was cheap stuff, too. Rot gut, as some older people I know would say. I always leaned towards whiskey. That and a dark chaser–like Coke, Moxie, or Pepsi. Yes, I said Moxie. It is a stout soda that instantly killed the straight haul off the bottle. I never really mixed (unless it was beer and liquor). I drank to get drunk, not to enjoy the pleasantries surrounding a social atmosphere.

I think there is part inside of me that still lingers from my drinking days. That envious, miserable, spiteful bit that wants to take away what he can’t have. I usually shut that fucker up by taking those silly thoughts and spinning them into a story like this. I’d never burn down an Italian Eatery (unless they deserve it… hah! I jest.) or lash out at others who eat only Marinara Sauce and Fried Cheese for breakfast. But I am human. I get jealous. My stomach is—in some respect—weak, and I miss the days that I could eat a Calzone without the fear of taking the next week off to recover.

If you’re ever alarmed that I staring with hateful eyes while you’re eating Stromboli, know that I am not mad at you. I am just having a difficult time processing the fact that my stomach ain’t what it use to be.

There really is no lesson learned or moral from that afterthought. Like I said earlier: I am indecisive and spontaneous.

Let’s do one more of those! This time, with some meaning.

Running With Prideor rather, Run with Pride—was a motto used at a former employer, a facility that that once housed violent individuals who either had severe brain injuries, outrageous personality disorders, or were high on the Autism spectrum. I worked as Direct Care with the residents who did have the occasional (or daily) outburst of ultra-violent acts. I won’t be descriptive, so I’ll just say that I was only hit with a shovel once and was lucky to have poop thrown at me but never land on me.

The facility itself is on a mountain side between three lengths of apple orchards that overlooked lakes and streams and rivers. It was beautiful throughout every season. Sadly, that was the extent of aesthetic value. The buildings themselves were old and neglected. Repairs were at a must-need basis only. Morale was overall, poor. Staff at all levels became sour. Employees either slacked on duties, outright quit, or verbally expressed malcontent without much care of who would be listening.

The residents knew the company was closing. Some found elation with this fact, while others, feared. Aggressive behaviors were common. And so was the motto.

“Just make sure you run with pride. It is easier to do that then it is to restrain someone,” one of the managers would say.

His name is Mark. Good man. Honest and thoughtful. One of the very few who actually cared for the clients and staff development. If you have ever worked in that field, then you know exactly who they are. Me? I had my days when I cared and my days when the money (which was really good) was all I thought of.

But I always tried to remember that motto. The grounds of the facility itself are immense. Running was all I did some days. I worked overtime as much as I could and would go in early to be a designated staff to crisis situations before my actual shift started. I would run and defuse this situation just so I could await another call over the radio.

A monotonous necessity.

I picture Hell (if it truly exists) as such a place. The runner in this story finds torment with a monotony that reminds him of how he ended up there. I thought of my job in this light. I ran with pride so I could go back with head held high, proclaiming that the right thing was done.

But was the right thing done?

Most of the time, absolutely.

One night I saw a client destroy a vehicle. It was a company van and the insurance probably covered the damages done. I bet there was ten staff observing a grown man—who was capable and somewhat higher-function—pick up giant rocks and smash out every single window in this van. Then he proceeded to the side mirrors, headlights, and tail lights. Once those were finished, he simply turned to us all and stated,

“Well that was fun. I am ready for my meds now.”

What does that individual learn from this? What do we—the observers—learn from this? What insanity brought us all to not ignore our supervisors judgement and bring him down to the ground?

“Technically, there is room for a lawsuit here if we go hands-on. Can’t risk it,” was the answer given.

Baffling. In the end, no one was hurt, but what if? What if that client spun around and launched those watermelon-sized rocks at a nearby observer? That’s the risk that the Direct Care industry takes, but does it have to come to questioning a potential lawsuit over a possible concern of bodily safety?

Baffling.

Maybe the van should have just ran with pride. That’s what it gets for being a machine, I guess. 

Happy Holidays,

John Potts Jr

Going For Seconds

 

Amy failed to gain the attention of the man who ambled towards the buffet tables. It wasn’t entirely her fault, either. Deft attention from her attempts to be heard and while the man traipsed onward with gluttonous lust. She could tell he heard her. His eyes, black specks under folds of cheeks, darted to her and then forward and Amy knew that glance, that stride proceeded by an annoying smile that gnawed her patience. It wasn’t from lack of trying; or at least that is what she will tell her manager when this customer—a gargantuan who was both bulbous and menacing with size and speed—went for seconds without even finishing his first plate.

“Excuse me, sir,” she said again with a voice that trembled with annoyance. “You’ll have to pay extra for not finishing your first plate.”

He grunted something and Amy guessed it was a disregard to Putnam’s Pit and Smoke policy.

“Sir, please,” she tried once more. “Can you stop for a moment?”

The threshold separating dining room from serving station was breached and all Amy could do was trail behind as the man continued to ignore her requests. How she hated the lack of recognition. The blood raised within her like raising magma ready to lurch from an active volcano. Her forefinger twirled with a yanking motion at strands of hair that escaped her ponytail. She wanted to scream.

Then, she stopped.

Oh no she thought with sudden fear Bill looks pissed today. Acknowledgment sunk in at the imminent verbal lashing she would receive as her boss motioned with a short wave that beckoned in frustration.  Her steps looped between children clamoring towards the dessert bar and their parents’ cacophony of concerns; don’t take too much and you’ll rot your teeth sung from behind. She stepped behind the server’s station and to Bill Putnam’s presence.

“Amy, what the hell is going on? Why are you touching your hair on the floor?” His gruff tone was merciless. “Your customers are asking for you—do I need to serve them, or can you do the job?”

“I am sorry Bill, but I saw this man,” she turned and pointed to her customer who tonged ribs high atop his plate, “leave his plate of brisket and sides barely touched. I tried explaining the rules to him but he just ignored me. It wasn’t from lack of effort, trust me. I’ll get right back to my section.”

His furled brow relaxed and clenched teeth broke into a reassuring smile, easing Amy’s palpable nerves that tensed her core like full-body restraints. Bill’s touch was honest with appreciation and he squeezed Amy’s shoulder, looking down at her sapphire eyes.

“Thank you,” he said. “You always follow the rules and for that I want you to give those customers a free dessert round on the house. I’ll take it from her, Amy. You did good.”

Amy did as he said. She scurried away with her diligence rewarded and Bill approached the man. He pushed his wiry frame upwards, standing tall but still meager compared to the troublesome lunch guest.

“Sir,” said Bill. “I don’t take kindly to those ignoring my servers. I may just have to ask you to square the bill and leave.”

The man gave Bill Putnam the same recognition as he did with Amy.

“Did you hear me, sir? I don’t want any trouble.”

“I heard ‘ya, but know there is no need to throw around empty threats,” said the man with a low, nonchalant twang. “I haven’t even found what I like yet.”

Chubby hands brought hot ribs to the man’s slobbering mouth and his lips smacked, spewing grease and bits of meat over the sneeze guard. A couple dawdled away while their mutters of disgust lingered.

“I’ll have none of that, sir. Best you leave now.”

The man dumped the remainder of his plate to the floor and grabbed handfuls of boned-in chicken breasts. Bill attempted to intervene and was slapped with a quick, sticky palm across the face that sent him straight to the carpeted floor. Silence seized the buffet section and crept into the dining area like frozen twilight.

“Someone call the cops on this psycho,” Bill ordered to whoever would listen while standing to his feet. “Goddamn asshole just assaulted me.”

A lackluster toss sent the pan of sauced fowl aside and Bill felt himself shrink at the sight before him. The man began to grow. It was a subtle shift underneath stretched polo and blue cargo shorts followed by a sound like someone churning butter with horrendous pulls and pushes of the plunger. He grabbed a half-pan that overflowed with charred steaks and angled the metallic tip of the corner to his mouth, jerking and jerking forward as crisp bovine fell into his mouth.

Then he dropped the pan in his mouth. Bill Putnam cowered to the crunch as the man transformed into an abhorrent creature.

“Not bad,” said the monster. “Now let’s have some of this.”

Clothes shredded and sucked in, disappearing within grotesque flaps of skin scoured pink. The features of a human—arms, legs, head, shoulders, and belly—massed in obese standards that defied all mortal logic; nightmares would surely falter to portray the abomination witnessed today. Putnam’s Pit and Smoke erupted into a dissonance of screams and those that could flee, tried. Resistance was met by otherworldly shackles as the creature’s form sprouted lengths of demonic flesh that arrested all within.

First to go was Bill Putnam. He was chewed up and spat out like a cut of overcooked meat.

It didn’t matter who fell next, as every patron of Putnam’s Pit and Smoke perished. Lumps of gnarled half-eaten remains littered about the restaurant in bloody piles that gushed and oozed bodily remnants.

And the man vanished, still hungry for more.

© Copyright John Potts Jr 2016 – 2017


Some afterthoughts….

I often put much on my plate.  It is wasteful, as my attention span can only handle so much at any one point. I have started a number of projects in the past and have either grown tired of them or became bored within a short amount of time. The one constant between both of these situations is my daily struggle to finish a task before I start a new one. 

ADHD can be a cruel mistress sometimes. 

I feel like the man at the buffet. I sample something, enjoy the flavors, and move on to the next tasty dish without much thought of my stomach’s capacity. I just eat and eat and eat to never finish any of the meals that I begin. The man ate a small portion just to satisfy the curiosity of what it actually tastes like. 

That is me, sometimes. I’ll come to an idea that I want to put down into words. The idea will excite me; at first, they’re always like this to me. Then my fervor and lust for the process takes hold until the periphery of my goal is shadowed. I tune in on only the idea. 

But something happens along the way. Something terrible and shambling. Unspeakable, even. 

I get Distracted Again

In a previous story I wrote about a test subject that deals with distractions to a point–

Oh!

I am going to drop some spoilers here, so be warned. Go read it if you haven’t. I’ll fill in a few lines of text so that I can give the reader time to backtrack. I’ll take this time to see how everyone is.

And how is everyone? 

If you respond with ‘Good!’, then I know you’re a liar, as your exclamation was misdirected from the monstrosity emerging from the shadows of your room. It is formless and towers over the canopy frame of your great-grandmother’s bed that was gifted to you from family long seen. The thing shuffles with a pace–

–we’re going back to the afterthought now–

that consumes his body and he expires within the maze that is his room. The walls of this maze are no taller than his waist and provided Subject 32 a scope of it’s entirety. The stations within–or Variables–that he faced are ones that I know very well.

Any electronic with shit flying around on the screen gets me every time. 

And so does that snowbank outside my window. Man that is high. 

And so does that noise I hear downstairs in my house. Is it the washer? Or the dryer? No, I folded the clothes and there is no more laundry. 

It’s the stove! I wonder if the cookies are done. 

I think I am having leftovers for dinner. 

….

Electronics are my big culprits, but as you can see, anything and everything distracts me. Maybe it’s my generation (probably) or my lack of self-control (this would also make sense) that mixes with my ADHD, but I find myself easily distracted. It’s hard to manage, and often my frail thoughts are shattered from a crippling strike.

I sometimes feel like Subject 32. I’ve always ate and taken care of my well-being, but I sometimes lose interest in the daily motion that is life.

I want to specify, as that last sentence is absolutely grim and brings about a number of red-flags. I am speaking of activities of living and interacting with others. That stuff. Now put the phone down–no need to exaggerate things here. 

I also picture myself as the scientists, looking in and observing the repeat trends made. I know what I can do to alter the outcomes and all I can ever do is improve ever so slightly. And you know what, that is just fine. All I can ask of myself is that I make progress once and awhile. Subject 32 is that part of me that never wanted to continue forward and actually try. He is that part of me that accepted that things can’t change and that he should embrace–no, settle–with the now without making that effort. That’s the part of me that gives me nightmares. 

And I live with him every day; through thick, thin, and those frigid places between.

John Potts Jr

Watch and Learn

Bill is a creator.

He and a certain generation call memes, micro blogs, podcasts and nonsensical snippets modern forms of expression; new age art, if you must. The idea to target the wants of instant validation that caters short attention spans brought upon a thirst worse than a recovering alcoholic’s temptations to delve into the digital world that millennials thrive on. Like most ideas, it appeared fantastic on paper and he’s an observational learner, after all. Bill thought he’d make a name for himself by now and the spark of inspirational flames would ignite his muse like an unstoppable chimney fire fed by a trickle of jet fuel.

But Bill has failed to produce substantial work, and his wife is right there to remind him whenever she can.

“Are you going to just sit there all night?”

Sally stood in the doorway of Bill’s office with her head cocked to the side and teeth sucking with an insufferable tsk-tsk. Her eyes pierced between his monitors and cut like a jagged edge, merciless and deep with a sawing gnaw.

“Actually, no,” Bill said. “Not tonight. I think I broke onto something and I need to go out and reference my progress.”

“Like what, getting a job? It’ll be better than having you in that damn chair staring at those stupid screens night after night.”

“I need you to trust me, Sally.”

“That’s what you say every day. Does our landlord understand this? Or the electric company? We’re almost out of money for food!

Her tenacity is ferocious, much like a starved Pitbull that has latched on to what could be a scrap of a meal. She strides the short distance from door to desk and around to Bill’s chair with a stride hastened by fury.

“Unbelievable. I am such a fool to think you’ll ever change,” Sally sighed with an annoyed moan at the video playing on the monitor. “Is this loser going to grant you the skills to pay rent or write anything beyond tasteless one liners that only a brainless-stoner population understands?”

“You’ll see soon enough, dear,” Bill powers down his computer, grabs a beige folder off his desk and leans in to kiss Sally on the check. “I promised to take care of us, right?”

Insults trail Bill as he descends the staircase and lash with verbal claws as he enters the kitchen. Slamming doors and nonessential stomps call to him as he pockets his keys. Her shadow echoes from the second-floor window, threatening her last words with desperate gestures that sway back and forth with anger.

“You wouldn’t dare to leave me after I show you what I can do.”

He references the directions in the beige folder one last time before driving off into the night.

 

*                                             *                                             *

This is it Bill thinks to himself as he conceals his Malibu in the darkness beyond the gated drive’s entrance. He reaches back to retrieve his duffle bag and locks the car.

Just like in the videos. I’ll have to remember to thank him for making this easy.

Bill hoists himself up and over the stone wall, slipping with ease between rusted metal spikes and he dropped his bag below. He follows, landing with a crouch and pauses so that his eyes adjust. The layout is known and Bill hesitates not, sprinting the distance without attracting attention like a lion’s burst through the tall Savanah, inches from the unsuspected. His momentum carries shoulder into the wooden basement door and it thrusts inwards with a crack.

He blends with the darkness and is ready to pounce.

“What the hell was that sound?” a voice said. “Is someone in here? Hello?”

Ceiling lights flick alive. Footfalls advance and the owner of the mansion struts without caution to his surroundings. The door is noticed and the man diverts his attention to his cellphone.

Bill seizes his moment and slips behind the man.

“It is so nice to finally meet you,” he says.

The homeowner drops the phone and Bill devours his prey with a tight choke, bringing them both to the ground until consciousness flees.

And Bill gets to work.

 

                                       *                                             *                                             *

Frigid water splashes the man’s head, jolting him awake with a gasp and he attempts to sit.

“What is this?”

His head shifts with frantic pivots and eyes scan the coarse rope restraining naked limbs and torso to the table.

Bill turns and smiles.

“I just want to say that I really love your videos. I also liked how you filmed everything in and around your home. Man… this is a really nice recording room. I’ll have to take notes when I construct mine,” Bill torches the wick and glides like a stalking phantom to the man’s side. “Thank you for making this easy on me. I wouldn’t have been able to get in if you didn’t record some of your content outside.”

What do you want? I have money, cars, drugs—I can get you whatever you want. Tell me, please. I won’t call the cops, I swear—just tell me what you want.”

“Oh, you’ll be giving me what I want soon enough.”

The ornate knife is revealed from within Bill’s ebony robe; blade darker than blood and handle bleached bone. Bill sets it atop the man’s stomach and returns to the far table where the rest of his tools await.

“You and I have something in common: we’re both observational learns and I thought to have absorbed everything that your videos and podcasts taught about being successful with content creation. My wife, Sally, reminded me day after day—week after week—that I was wasting my time. Would you ever guess that she was right?”

Deep sobs and pleas of forgiveness answer Bill as he returns with tomb and chalice.

“Well, she was. But to find out I was just… I was just doing it wrong. I never knew this until I linked up with an occultist group. I thought it was a load of mumbo-jumbo—you know, the whole sell your soul and worship the dark eternal lords for amazing powers, blah-blah-blah. But it’s all true. I watched, and I learned. When I witnessed my first human sacrifice and saw that the results were more real than anything your videos could teach, well, I was impressed and knew that I had to come over and try it out for myself.”

Those sobs transform into an abhorrent cry that summons the immediate release of the man’s bodily fluids. Bill hushes consolingly like a parent’s reassurance that nightmares are far from real; it’s alright little one, go back to sleep. Tomb opens, chalice ready and the blade sinks into the man’s chest and Bill looks down with unflinching care before the incantation begins.

“I meant when I said that I liked your videos and rest assured that I will put your abilities to good use with my own content,” he cleared his throat. “Boy I can’t wait for Sally to see what I create next.”

© Copyright John Potts Jr 2016 – 2017. All rights reserved.


Here, have an after thought….

I am certainly an ‘Observational Learner’.

I can also say that I have never sacrificed anyone or anything (yet) for personal gain. 

And you know what, I do enjoy the cultural variable I have that allows me to sit and watch someone do something better than I can. Is it awkward or weird? Maybe. Depends on the context and topic.

Let’s take Video Games for example. I spend time everyday watching streamers play games that I know I can be better at. It’s easy to watch. It’s easy to learn. I am not a streamer or pro gamer (but holy shit would that be an awesome gig), and I have been playing games for almost 30 years now. So watching someone play a video game on Twitch is good-old-fashioned-educational-viewing. I can see games that I have never played, revel in a console throwback, or brush up my skills at games I currently enjoy. 

I make this next statement as a joke, but know that there are many truths within:

Reddit, Youtube, Google, Wikipedia: The greatest educators of our era. 

Wrong! Obviously, come on now. 

But think of the things you can learn. Think of the knowledge obtained by watching someone do something with actions, images, and words. Wanna learn another language? Shit, just hop online! Want to cook like a boss? I am sure there is a video for that. 

There really is no way to Watch and Learn for immediate success. Maybe there is an occultist out there that can prove me wrong–and if so, I want to see this so I can tweak this story with accurate details–but all in all, hard work and persistence pays off much sooner than sitting and watching. 

Bill believes with sound conviction (as I once did in my drinking years) that you can and will become successful by watching someone do something better. He realizes that he ‘was doing it wrong’ after meeting some Satanist. And hey, it works out for him in the end.Sally too, even though she had reservations to his constant watching and learning. 

Whatever floats your boat, Bill. Happy wife, happy life, right? 

Right Bill?!

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed. And if not, buzz off and read something else.

I scoff at your scoffing. 

Best,

John Potts Jr.

P.S.: I am probably going to add an after thought after each posting from now on. Look soon for my “back logs” of these thoughts for previously published stories. I am probably just going to release a full entry that hits them all, then going forward, repeat the same process as seen here. 

The Afternoon Shower

It was his shower, and he wanted it just so.

The governor switch was disabled long ago and the shower head custom built for Kyle’s needs. A sharp sputter hissed as water began to surge like a high-pressured nozzle of a restaurant dishwasher; fast and efficient, ready to disinfect. He used the back of his hand to test the water and exclaimed with satisfactory anguish.

“Perfect.”

His backhand sizzled with sudden boils when he tested the water. This was what he needed.

Kyle tugs and tugs the saturated shirt over his head; it’s resilience is as if it was soaked from a warm downpour. His knee braced the vanity’s side so that he doesn’t topple over. The groan comes from within, deep and sorrowful as he pulls it free from neck and arms and it drops to the floor with a plop. Socks come next. Kyle needs to sit on the toilet seat to yank them off his moist skin and the gushy layers beneath. Six nails this time… must be a new record he thinks with cynicism.

Clean as you go is Kyle’s motto and he repeats those words with a sing-song cadence as he stuffs the cheap attire into a fresh trash bag. But he isn’t done and saves the pants for last. Mother taught him the trick of buying baggy and loose so he could step right out without leaving much of a mess and Father extended that knowledge with a hint to lay a section of poly down for easy cleanup. Kyle bundles the plastic together with his gooey sweats, folding it over from corner-to-corner until it resembled a truffle wrapper.

He hid the evidence under the sink and stepped in to what he needed so.

Teeth clamp down on his tongue, hard. His fist slammed against the shower’s sleek wall and he screams from his chest to his nose, breathing as if he was passing a kidney stone the size of an apple seed. A concerned voice asked from outside the door if he was alright and Kyle responds yes, yes I am.

I hope she doesn’t come in he thinks I really like this one and I pray that she just stays put.

Torment recedes as human skin slips down his true form. What first felt like thousands of tiny sharp fingers pinching and pulling at his body is now reduced to a bearable sensation, mild sunburn at best. The final wet clumps of flesh hit the shower floor and the water rises fast. He knows the drain has clogged and soon the scalding water will dissolve it all away like a bad dream bound to come around a week from now.

Some folks have mirrors in their bathrooms and Kyle has one, too. His hangs on the caddy underneath the shower head. He gazes into it with fierce admiration. Scaled and complete, absent of the costume he wears to conform and the wish of being accepted is washed away as the transformation begins. This is what he needed and he laments that it will soon be covered up again as the facade rushes from head to toe.

But something stalled and it wasn’t the process; the mirror reveals that his new layers of skin emerged as always and it was something new. That feeling of doomed inevitability sunk in, deep and relentless. Time slowed to a creeping saunter, mocking Kyle as the faint click reminded him that he forgot to lock the door.

“I’m in here,” he yells.

I know was the response and Kyle panics. Will she be the first? He asks himself. Mom and dad said I would have to kill someday to stay secret and I don’t want to—no, I don’t want to be like that.

“I’ll be out in a few minutes,”

“I can’t wait for you that long, baby.”

The outline of his girlfriend beyond the curtain is shadowed and lustful. He sees her strip down to panties and Kyle swallowed sorrow.

“Can you give me some damn privacy? Jesus-H-Christ.”

She ignored him and continues to advance. A slender hand pulls back the curtain and Kyle yards it from her.

I won’t be like them, even if it means I’ll be forever alone.

“I can’t look at your fat body. Why do you think we always have the lights off, huh? Just get out before I become sick.”

It worked. She pushes Kyle through the curtain, catching him off guard and he slips on the oily residue, falling straight to his rear.

“You’re a fucking asshole, you little-dicked fucker.”

She takes a few swipes at him before storming out of the bathroom and Kyle’s life. He turned the water off to listen. Her footsteps are thunder throughout the house and Kyle feels the weight of sadness settle in. He shuddered as the front door slammed and sobbed to the sounds of her screeching tires. A fool’s whispers suggested that he should try to make amends when she comes back for her belongings but Kyle listens only to the voices of horrid logic.

“Bag up her stuff and leave it outside. Lock the doors and close the blinds. Is that what you two want?”

“It’s only what we need of you, son,” they would say, and for Kyle, that would have to be enough.

© Copyright John Potts Jr 2016 – 2017. All rights reserved.

Distracted Again

An hour lapsed since Subject 32 roused from underneath heavy blankets. His hunched body was on still on the bed, bent downwards with eyes glued to the pale blue light of his phone.

“I don’t have the data in front of me but I think this is the furthest any subject has made it,” said one of the scientists looking on from the adjacent observation room.

Behind the two-way mirror was Subject 32’s living area, a space larger than the average studio apartment with spotless walls and a high ceiling and crowded lighting. At the closest corner is an open bathroom; disused and clean. Positioned across the tiled floor is a simple maze, constructed in short wooden walls and tables with the Variables. In the far corner was the mattress; queen sized and saturated with incontinence.

Subject 32 tried to stand, but his focus remained arrested by his phone, causing him to fall back to his bed.

“Seventy-three minutes, third attempt to rise. Variable A is still in hand.”

The scientists concurred and scribbled the data onto their clipboards.

Moans gurgled from deep within Subject 32 as he rolled and rocked his body to the edge of the bed. Visible distress struck his hollow, unshaven face as he struggles with the notion of parting with his phone. “I need to eat… then I should clean up,” he said as he raised from the bed in a slow arch as if his wobbly legs awoken from a decade of atropine and neglect.

“Seventy-six minutes, fourth attempt, Variable A not in hand.”

He pivots towards the two-way mirror and it is plain to see that Subject 32 is wasting away. A cotton shirt hung over his frail body. Limbs once rich with muscle mass are nothing more than weak bones and his brown hair is chunky with grease like a griddle’s troth after a dinner rush. One of the scientists pointed out that he wears the same stained underwear since last week. Feet shuffle down the maze and the waist-high walls give Subject 32 a birds-eye gander of its simplicity; if he was looking, he’d see it. His goal awaits in the center as it always has. Cold breakfast that is easy for his dying body to swallow and digest.

Subject 32 stopped at the first intersection of the maze. Forward leads to a dead end that consists of a gaming system and television and on the right, one step closer to his goal.

“Just a few rounds… I have time.”

The remote called to Subject 32 and he answered. The faded red power button pushed in and the inputs switch over. He ignored the gaming chair altogether and brings the wireless gaming controller to his stomach.

“Eighty minutes, distraction at Variable B.”

Time slipped beyond the reaches while Subject 32 played his game. He blinks every now and then, bringing little moisture to his bloodshot eyes. A scientist marks the time when he wets himself with dark urine the color of sweet tea. It trickled down his bare legs and created a puddle around his socks. His arms tire from the weight of the controller and it slips to the floor below. Subject 32 looks down, noticing that it landed in his pee.

“I really should drink some water…. That’s right—I was going to eat and clean up,” says Subject 32.

“Two hours, eleven minutes. Leaving variable B, continuing through the maze.”

The scientists updated their data and Subject 32 carried on towards his unreachable goal.

Three options are presented at the next intersection. To his front is a computer and a leather office chair, while on his left is a path leading to the shower. The path on the right wraps around the back of the room and to it’s center.

Subject says, “Almost there.”

But he doesn’t move.

“Two hours, thirteen minutes. Debating at Intersection Two.”

His voice is an exhausted scratch that comes across as aggravated static over the speakers of the observation room.

“The computer can wait. I need to eat and take care of myself.”

Subject 32 chooses and the scientists note the progress.

“Two hours, fifteen minutes. Second distraction at Variable C.”

He pulled the chair away from the desk and stumbled into it. The impact caused him to lurch forward with a dry cough resembling a death rattle inside an itchy throat. Subject 32 regained composure and began to roll himself towards the desk; he needed both hands and heels to reach it. Hands adjusted over the keyboard and mouse and the monitor of the comes to life.

Subject 32 forced himself upright when he finished to return remembering why he needed to divert from here.

“Four hours, thirty-six minutes. Leaving Variable C, continuing through the maze.”

He guides himself along the walls of the maze, supporting his feeble body, dragging himself closer and closer. Subject 32 is now propped against the corner of the last intersection.

“A little rest… before I pass out from exhaustion,” said Subject 32.

Variable E consists of a massive flat screen that is mounted to the wall and a leather recliner soaked like a dirty dish rag from weeks of monotonous filth beckoned to him. His final burst of energy was utilized to pull the wooden handle up and the footrest pops outwards. Subject 32 fished around inside the chair for the remote and once found, he hits that faded button to turn on his death viewing.

The screen portrayed a slideshow of what he was and who he is supposed to be. A final motivator before meant to instill inspiration faded away as they note the time Subject 32 expired in that recliner.

The scientists note the time Subject 32 expired in the recliner.

“Distracted again, right before the end.”

They nod, and leave the observation room.

© Copyright John Potts Jr 2016 – 2017. All rights reserved.