It’s Halloween, a time when we pause in our Godless lives to pay tribute to Saint Allens, the patron saint of childhood diabetes.
Have a nasty little piece of fiction from my past to keep you warm. It was originally published in Scary Food, a horror fiction cookbook put out in the dim, distant past by now-defunct Aussie publisher Agog Press.
Here it is, regurgitated for your pleasure. It’s all you’re getting: I’ve eaten all the candy.
, Rabbit, Run
So they picked him up, the broken-shelled, loose-limbed motherfucker, lying unconscious in a pool of his own piss. Didn’t matter where they found him, was all the same to them and hedidn’t care. He was only one anonymous, ruined face amongst thousands, millions, drunk and stinking in alleyways and shop doorways, every one a fugitive from some demon roaming the corridors of their own minds, lying under bridges and daring the night to come eat them up and see if anybody cares. Besides, he’d long since given up running. Couldn’t even remember why he’d started, memory ruined by knife points and alcohol, bouncer’s boots and junkie product, a hard man gone soft, dedicated to the act of fucking himself up, real hard man, real iron-muscled motherfucker, kill himself down dead long before whomever or whatever reached him and did the job their way. Choose the manner of your own death like a man, even if it’s a death of piss and vomit, gin blossoms and teeth on the tarmac in front of your face. Took time and effort, but he got there, more backs stabbed than a politician, he’d done it, oh boy, done it but good.
They found him, though, dumped him in the back of a white truck and drove him away towards the lights of redemption. He was so wiped he didn’t even recognise them, couldn’t tell anybody where they came from or where he was going, no fight left in him and if they hadn’t found him it would have been some other monsters and fuck it, he was ready for them, finally, ready to lie between their teeth and play like meat. But they knew better. They smiled and tied him down and pumped his veins full of clear, clear liquid amnesia, called his name and played games with his screams as they drove slowly through the darkened streets, all the better to pass the time until the building drew them all in and he landed face down on a gurney through door after door banging the top of his head until the scalp bled. The scalpels made no sound as they cut him open, the drugs washed his blood and his marrow and his thoughts, and when they came to shave him here, there, and down below he didn’t even flinch at the sight of their faces, white and hairless and smelling of wine turned vinegar. And the sheets were soft, and the saline was tangy against his arteries, and if he couldn’t keep the food down for more than an hour before spewing it splash and splatter into the nearest corner nobody complained, so he puked all the harder just to watch them bend down to clean it.
He slept when they told him to and ate when they told him to and wanked when they told him to, filling pots and buckets and forms and days, and somewhere deep down where the knives had missed and the scars circled round it like a ribcage, protecting, nurturing, hiding, a spark remembered itself: you can’t tell me what to do. You don’t own me. You’re not my…
Fuck it. You’re not my anything.
So he held the pills under his tongue and spat them into pot plants, crept along corridors at night smelling spirits and cleanliness, let his hair grow back and found a comb, cleaned his teeth by himself God Damn You!, ignored the outstretched hands and turned his back on the help and picked up the fork and took the spill-proof top from the cup and when they came for him one morning with the gurney and the bag of clear liquid with the tube hanging off it like a limp-dicked pensioner he said No. No more. I’m gone. I’m checking out. And they smiled and asked him if he was sure and he told them yes, fuck you, let me go. I want to go.
That’s when they took him down to the offices with the soft carpet underfoot and pastel paintings and soft piped music and smiling lipsticked mouths saying yes, hello, we’re soglad. And a suit, in his size, washed and clean and smelling so good like a thousand fucks in teenager’s beds and a wallet filled with cash in the pocket and one final form with his name in neat black letters and the standard paragraph about release and welcome to the world and just sign here, here and here, please sir, no motherfucker you but a man, a real man, welcome back old friend just sign here.
They helped him dress and placed the jacket over his shoulders and shook his hand, all in a line saying well done, good luck out there and he strode, not shuffled anymore, damn well strode to the front door and they held it open for him, sir and sir and sir and he turned for one last look and there they were, all lined up and not for a moment did their smiles slip or the love and affection in their gazes die but in each hand a scalpel, in each smile the taste for blood and every one of them a face he remembered, every one of them long teeth enemies fright in the night under the bed terror, every one of them a punch to his heart.
Good luck, they said, and
We’re so happy, they said, and
See you again soon, they said, and
then, at last, to him,
really to him
as the muscles in his legs spasmed and sent him to the cold concrete outside, ass on the ground and limbs splayed wide, the single street light bright against the gloom showing the first piss stain already damp dark wet against his trousers, one last thing before they started counting: