a very short story by Joshua Brown
references to sexual violence and gore
I broke my brain. Six thousand years of brain evolution and I was smashing my head violently against an oak table. Twenty seven years of education, experiences, and insights bludgeoned over and over, a self-flagellation with mystical religious intent. No blood came out. I was just as wooden as the table.
In the attic of the house were three boxes containing a history of all the records the Taxation Army demanded. Page after page detailed transactions between consenting adults proving the amount the Taxation Army was legally allowed to tear from my fingers. But that wasn't why I was slamming my head into the dead tree in my parent's dining room.
Instead I was taped to the ceiling. I was wearing a three button suit and a tie, my white shirt was stained on the collar, deeply stained from sweat. My tie was brown with gray elephants marching in neat rows. I had just woken up from a deep sleep in which my dreams of broken pipes gushing water and deep betrayal terrified me into wake. Jarred into the present I now felt the uncomfortable tug of the adhesive on my hairs and skin.
The floor was completely bare. It was a weathered vinyl and it was very dim. I wiggled my fingers and the pins began to rush as my arm had nearly completely fell asleep from the uncomfortable position it had been placed. I cried out a questioning "Hello?" Somewhere outside of my peripheral I heard a shuffle on a wooden floor and several clacking steps. The sound of a door I could not see opening and then to my surprise a…
Well I don't really know how to describe it. It basically was a wheel. But it was flesh, it was maybe four feet tall, it was spoked with no circumference and it had a eyebrowless eye in basically what I'll call a palm, though it only barely resembled a hand. The outer portions of the spokes resembled camel hooves in that they were split and had flat surfaces, though there was no claw and no fur anywhere.
It was only four feet tall or so and I was nearly eight feet off the ground, I could not imagine that this peculiar creature had solely done this to me. The creature pivoted and stared cooly at me for several minutes. Every minute felt longer because my breathing continued to increase speed as I contemplated everything and anything that could have been meant by what clearly was a dream. But I wasn't waking up.
The creature rolled back out of my peripheral and I heard the door open and shut again. The steps faded away and I began to wriggle my fingers in search of some way to free myself from this sticky aerial prison.
I couldn't see behind me but the tape arrangement made me suppose that the ceiling was an open ceiling in which a cross beam was exposed allowing the tape to be wrapped inwards rather than out. The main problem being the adhesive was strong enough and wrapped around my forehead as well as my body preventing me from adjusting more than what I was guessing was one inch.
The door opening had flooded in some ambient light for the short time it had remained ajar. It had remained ajar and definitely not closed behind itself. A bizarre moment I dwelt on for several minutes before discarding as relatively unimportant.
A moth flitted across my line of sight headed towards some gentle resting place. My breathing continued to be labored. Every time I took a break from working out some solution with my fingers, the sleep flooded back making them unbearably heavy.
My eyeball fell out. It dropped to the floor with a strange thud. The vinyl gave it a soft bounce but it rolled only an inch or two with a wooden thrust. I stared in disbelief. What the hell was going on and why was it not a dream because dreaming was the only way this made sense.
Suddenly my mind suggested lucid dreaming. Of course, if it was a dream I could just burn the tape or float through the tape or add more tape. Godammit. Of course I added more tape, right over my remaining eye. Now it was pitch black. Great use of your lucid dreaming, bozo.
The monster returned, I could hear it's movement just as the first time. The door opened. A pause. The darkness betrayed me because I felt a sharp hit to my stomach. I screamed in pain. A second then a third hit. The third hit my bottom rib actually. Then a fourth grazed my sleeping hand. Stop! I screamed.
Suddenly I heard another set of clacking steps coming towards us.
Lucid dream, lucid dream, lucid dream I tried to manifest it again but nothing worked. I braced for another blow but it never came. The two monsters (I assumed it was two anyways) continued to silently do whatever they were doing for some time. I wriggled my fingers for some relief.
Another set of clacks rang out, but these sounded familiar, maybe even human. The lack of any voice was no comfort though. I felt a slight sting on my forehead and cried out as it quickly sliced my bands but also my skin. My face had to be bleeding from that. The tape was ripped from my eyes, well at least one eye, and I adjusted to the dusky light for a moment, then I realized the figure below was still cutting.
I braced to fall. And fall I did. My body hit the ground and I barely stopped the fall with my heavy hands preventing me from braking any amount of damage to my head. It stung for a moment and my body groaned for movement. For a few seconds I lay there stunned. My head faced towards my emancipated eye and away from the strange creatures who had buffetted me.
Once my hands found some release from their blood heavy state, I adjusted myself to sit and twisted sidewards to see my knife wielding friend, hopefully human. He was not. Or maybe she. It was a naked bipedal creature with no toes, no face, no neck and some kind of mitten like hands. There were no genitals but a butt clearly cleft and facing very much in my direction.
The butted creature was grasping a broken piece of colored glass in one of it's mitten-like hands. I reached up and felt my gash, I looked at my hand and no blood remained, instead a large splinter stuck out from my middle finger. Reminded I quickly reached for my other eye to prevent it from whatever demise these monsters may have planned for either of us (my eye or me.)
If they were afraid of me they didn't show it in any mildly human way. The two Wheel-eyes kept shifting from one hoof to the other in a rocking fashion and the Butt-thing stood perfectly still, grossly lacking any indication of knees. I spoke again "Um… What the hell is going on here?" The Wheel-eyes stopped shifting and the Butt-thing immediately turned around, revealing a second cleft nearly identical on the other side, and quickly exited the now apparent door.
I heard more Wheel-eyes now shuffle about and then into the room where we stayed in a bit of a stare off. I pinched myself. I screamed. I leaned backwards. They continued to stare and I continued to apparently not dream. There was now five Wheeleyes in the room with me.
I looked back at my adhesive prison on the ceiling. There was no cross beam, instead it was a simple vining plant. Physics clearly didn't matter much in this anti-dream. Simple gray duct tape left hanging where once I had been entrapped on some type of monster vine. The vine came in from a open window on the same wall as the door that all these wildly baffling creatures had been utilizing.
Wheeleye's 1 and 2 adjusted to look at the other three that had entered. Clearly no one was taking charge of the situation except apparently to thrust me through with their dull fleshed foot weapons. I started to stand. My head hit the ceiling. And it kept going. Apparently I was now nine feet tall. My head had gone right through the ceiling but instead of stopping I had just fully extended into a standing position and now I was looking at a 2 by 6.
Strangely there was no dust, instead the ceiling my head had penetrated began to melt onto my shoulders. All of this didn't scare me instead I found myself bored at the incredible novelty of every aspect of my experience. Everything was too new. I just wanted some basic normalcy.
I stood for a moment frustrated at my own boredom and immediately one of the Wheeleyes struck me in the thigh. I reached down and batted it away. It was too far down so when I bent over to try to smack it, instead I smacked my head on the 2 by 6 board I had just been looking at. The crack of wood on wood surprised me though nothing else was surprising at this point. Reminded, I patted the pocket I had placed my eye in to reassure myself it was still there. It was.
Unsure of how the Wheeleyes had struck me on the high ceilings or even on my thigh nearly a foot above their circumference, I leaned and squatted my way to the door, hoping to just walk away from this entire ordeal. But there was no door knob and when I pushed on the door it didn't even creak as if it could open. Instead I glanced back at the Wheeleyes and they all stared at me. I waddled in my uncomfortable stance to the window a few feet to the right and tilted my head over to estimate my chance of escape.
Unlikely, my shoulders were nearly 3 inches wider than the width and the window was shallow, maybe 48 inches tall. I would have to dolphin out and that sounded extremely idiotic. Fuck. I shuffled around, defeated and sat on the floor directly by the vine window. I leaned back against the wall and my body sliced through and I fell dramatically outside through the wall, my skin feeling the melting substance as I lost balance to the ground outside.
Clearly my suit was not tailored for me because it was the most uncomfortable run I have ever performed. My thighs gripped at the fabric and my ankles peeked out at every non-together action my legs took. My shoulders had no mobility and my neck tugged at the sweaty collar with every breath I took.
But I kept running. And you can bet your bottom dollar I didn't look back. About a quarter of a mile from the strange melting house I started screaming for help. There were houses everywhere. But no cars. Actually there were no driveways either. Or paths to the front doors of the houses. Not a single one. Every house, though diverse in design and color, singularly had no evidence of entry.
I started coughing violently. Desperate to escape the strange melting house I tried to keep running despite the fit and began to trip ultimately falling. My forearms took the brunt of the fall onto the asphalt. I coughed a few moments on my knees and then hugged my stinging forearm. Blood dripped from my ripped suit. Of course I was wearing a short sleeve under the ill-fitting suit. Of course.
I stood back up and began to limp run away again still nursing my wound. It was mostly just my right arm. God, it stung. Suddenly I recognized my childhood house. I was nearly a mile from the melting house and I looked back instinctively, I breathed deeply in relief that no strange monsters had followed me at least none that revealed themeselves in this strange drivewayless neighborhood. Which now that I was thinking again, there was no driveway at my childhood house either.
I walked up over the flower garden past where the concrete walkway used to be and up to the front door. I opened the screen door to knock and a voice from inside called out "Come on in" unsolicited. I walked in timidly but relieved to be out of the clear.
A golden retriever that looked exactly like my deceased dog pranced around the corner. "Welcome home" it spoke with human like mouth movements. I retraced my steps walking backwards towards the front door to escape. The screen door was locked. I turned around and tried to fumble with the lock mechanism that I was very familiar with but it was jammed.
Then I noticed the Butt-thing walking up through the flower garden. I slammed the inner door and turned the deadbolt. The dog started barking and I screamed "Fuck you." Immediately the dog keeled over and started bleeding profusely out of his ass. My mind was now completely overwhelmed. The familiarity, the literalness, the absence of absurdity in this sanctuary.
I stepped over the dead dogs raped body into the dining room. Nothing else to do but finish this absurd dream with a violent thud. But one wasn't enough to wake myself, so I continued. Head smash after head smash to wake myself from this dream.
The doorbell rang.
Through the melting door, in walked the soldiers of the Taxation Army. Behind the two soldiers, through the now melted door, the Butt-thing entered. Then, of course, all five wheel-eyes. I banged my head harder.
The soldiers grabbed my tender arm and pinned it behind my back, cuffing me. The Butt-thing carried out the poor sin-manifested golden retriever and the Wheeleyes kicked me in the calves repeatedly. By this time I was so angry I couldn't see so I still am unaware of how they kicked with their weird sub-two-foot-radius legs. Guess I'll never know, the soldiers took both my eyes to pay my debt.
My parents never called.