The apartment smelled like formaldehyde, a smell that soothed Romano as he pushed his legs back into his recliner and stared at the flickering black and white image on his now-antique video set. The old analog signal didn’t pick up television anymore, so he had resorted to playing the same VHS tapes over and over, recordings of news broadcasts of missing people, from adults to children, over the past three decades across the United States.
Romano liked that about the news. He liked that they hadn’t been solved the puzzle yet, that no one had been able to find out who did it. It was a mystery, a sense of unknown mystery surrounding the bodies of girls and boys being dumped somewhere by the same mysterious killer, all completely untouched except for the fact that every single one had been dumped missing every tooth in their body.
The case had been going on for years, and every time a new body was found Romano would record the news and watch it over and over. Until the analog went out. Then, he just imagined how they all would respond.
Pouring himself another glass of bottom shelf whiskey, Romano rose from his recliner and walked over to the tattered rug in the corner. Kicking it aside, he revealed a wooden door in the floor of his tiny one bedroom home. Bending over, his back almost creaking with reluctance as tired muscles stretched beyond their limit, he lifted the door and began climbing down the ladder into the darkness.
Feeling around in the nothing that surrounded him, he reached for the chain dangling to his left to bring light to his damp, dark cavern. As the old incandescent bulb flickered to life, the room filled with a soft yellow light, bringing into view a girl who was maybe eleven or twelve years old, her body strapped to a metal table with a drain beneath her head.
Romano walked over to her side, taking no notice of her rapid breathing and the tears streaking down her cheeks. Grabbing a wooden wedge off the tray beside the girl’s head, Romano carefully slipped it between her teeth, forcing her mouth open. Reaching back to the table, he grabbed a scalpel and a set of pliers. Clasping down on her front tooth, he began to pull, all the while carefully scraping away at the girl’s gums to ensure the tooth retained its perfect shape as it was removed.
She screamed, tried to escape, but the binds were fastened too tight around her to allow any real range of motion except the exasperated pleas of desperation that fell flat on the sound-proofed walls. Then, as he made the final yank and the tooth came free, the girl fell silent, her body giving into the pain and slipping her mind into silence.
Romano worked carefully for almost two hours, until every tooth was removed and placed in a small bowl beside the girl’s head. Looking down at the bowl full of teeth, he felt a calmness come over him. This was where the real art began. Crossing the room to the freezer, he removed a bright red apple and returned to the table. Cutting a slice across its center in the shape of a crude and malicious grin, he carefully began to insert the teeth into the soft innards of the apple.
The work was careful, a true piece of art in the form of an apple, now smiling brightly at the world with a mouth full of perfect, white teeth.
Picking up a mason jar, he filled it with formaldehyde and dropped the apple inside. Walking to the wall, he placed the jar on the fourth shelf down, in a spot marked 62. Stepping back, he marveled at his work. 62 jars, 62 smiling apples, ranging in color from red to green to yellow to everything in-between.
He stared for several minutes, just admiring his work, taking in every creation he had made over the years, from young teeth to old teeth, from perfect smiles to heinous ones. Sighing quietly, he walked back to the ladder and pulled the the chain, sucking the light out of the room before ascending back into his quiet little home.
“I’m sad,” said Stephanie, stepping towards me as she pulled her jacket up around her neck to fight off the biting cold.
“Why’s that?” I asked, holding out my lighter and igniting her cigarette.
“I’m 36 and alone. All my friends are getting married, and I’m not even dating anyone. All I’m doing is sleeping with a 25 year-old who’s not even close to what I’m looking for.”
“And what part of that makes you sad?”
“All of it,” she said, reaching up to wipe her eyes of a tear that, to me, appeared to be non-existent.
“Well, I suppose a better question would be what makes you think you’re so different from everyone else?”
“I just said, all my friends are getting married and I’m still here by myself. So I’m sad.”
“Who isn’t these days?” Continue reading
A young soon-to-be American was walking down the street of his passport country of England. He was heading from Eton Wick to Windsor, a thirty minute walk along side the road. As he walked, he saw in the distance a man on a bicycle. He thought little of it, dropped his head, and continued along his way.
Not long into his walk, the young man looked up again to find himself nearly passing the cyclist. As he approached, he realized the man on the seat of his bike, pedaling extremely slowly, was in his early eighties. The young boy, passing on foot, turned and smiled to the cyclist. He said, a smile still upon his face, “It’s strange, passing a cyclist on foot my friend.”
The old man smiled back, bowing his head slightly. “Young man,” said the cyclist, “life is far too short to spend it hurrying from place to place.”
Story based on true events.
There’s something in the corner of my eye. I feel it staring at me, watching my every move and learning from my every action. He knows where I am and what I’m doing, what I’m thinking and for which reasons. He knows because he’s always there, standing just outside my view, staring deep into my mind and soul with bitterness in his heart. He is my silent judgement, the voice of darkness that argues out reason and hope. He is the devil in the core of my being, always waiting, always prepared to snuff out whatever comes along shining a light into the darkness of my world.
I know he’s there without ever having seen him. I know he smiles when I frown, laughs when I cry. I cannot hear him, or touch him, or smell him. But I can taste him sometimes, a bitterness in the air that engulfs my world when I find something that makes me smile. I can taste him as he sits in the corner of my eye, seeing everything I see, feeling everything I feel.
He will wait in silence as I walk across the room to talk to girl so full of light and happiness that I’ve never met. He’ll wait as I take her number, and call it to invite her out for dinner. He’ll wait as we laugh together, as we tell stories of our past and one day begin talking about our future. He waits as we fall madly in love, as we make love for the first time, as we have sex for the hundredth time. He waits as we rent our first apartment, buy our first home. And then, one day, he starts to whisper silently in my ear.
From the corner of my eye, a devil whispers words I cannot hear. He whispers endlessly, repeating the same sentence over and over, building a fear that burns in my chest hotter than molten rock. He chuckles as I begin to flounder, to make mistakes I cannot seem to stop, all the while continuing to whisper words of silence that push me towards the end. And with every mistake I make, with every word he speaks, he sits in the corner of my eye and watches as the light that burned inside of me slowly begins to fade. Then, he laughs as the fading light that brought me such joy vanishes from this world, leaving me alone and empty and dark. And the man in the corner of my eye stops. He smiles as I frown, revels in the darkness that’s inside me.
There’s something in the corner of my eye, and it lives because I cannot.
If I were asked, I’d say that it must be like buying one of the first televisions ever invented. As the family sat down and gathered around the tiny little screen, they must have been so fascinated by the world trapped within it. There, in the large brown box that held the insignificant screen, danced images of grey from all over the world. The family must have watched in silence as they witnessed something so far away, so distant, so beautiful from the comfort of their own home.
And as they stared into the gateway of the universe, they would have seen things that they had never seen before in their lives; Mountains in distant lands, beaches in tropical locations, the world beneath the sea, the universe beyond the stars. And they would stare in awe, having never before seen such incredible images flashing before them as if they were real. It would become a sensory overload, something so completely fixating that there’s almost no way to escape it. But why would you ever want to escape?
Instead, you would sit back and let the images flash before your eyes, let the pictures capture your mind and soul, pulling you in deeper and deeper until you’re so lost in the unimaginable that you forget what life was like before the tiny box appeared in your home. It becomes a staple part of your life, something you look forward to every day. It makes you happy, shows you the world, and promises to always, always keep you entertained no matter how bad your day has been.
If I were asked to describe the impossible, that is what I’d say; If I were asked to describe what I saw in your eyes.
He opened his eyes.
“Do you know why you’re here?”
He looked around and saw that he was in an endless expanse of darkness. As he focused, he saw a silhouette of a figure miles off in the distance; the glowing outline of a man that looked no larger than a fingernail. “I died, didn’t I?”