The room Henry sat in was empty except for his chair and the plastic log just in front of him and the thing in the jar on top of it. He was only a few feet away from the jar as if they were holding council. In a way they were. The thing talked clearly and distinctly, wobbling slightly with each word, and though the voice, the same amalgamated voice of nowhere, seemed to be in his head as much as anywhere else, it also seemed to emanate from a small, quivering indention on top of the thing. It seemed to flex and swell with the rhythm of the chaotic tale it told, the slight watery lisp flickering off a small peice of flanged flesh on the lip of the indention. Henry hadn't noticed this part of the thing before. It talked and looked at him through the cyst-like bulge on it's side and held him in place with an unseen hand more like a force of gravity than a physical appendage.
The thing fidgeted, the rooms tubular light twinkling like starpoints off it's wet "flesh." Smoke curled out from the indention, now flecked with semi-congealed spots of blood, in a thin, wispy rivulet that curled and collected in the top of the jar. It looked more like a bullet hole now. It seemed to be burnt and torn now rather than merely a deviation in body.
Henry tried to scream but nothing came out. All the muscles in his face and his throat tensed up. His throat even became sore and he could feel the hot air of his raging breath, but there was no sound.
I'm scared, the thing said, but not in its voice but Henry's voice.
Let me go.
The words were fast and full of the fright Henry felt boiling inside his own gut.
Let me go.
I don't like this.
Who are you?
They tumbled from every direction. The thing continued to wobble and flex it's bullet hole mouth, now oozing some sort of bloody sewage making the words increasingly watery and jumbled.
Henry tried to stand, tried to launch himself out of the crouch he was held in, but he couldn't get up. He seemed to be attached to invisible rubber cords. He would get about a foot in the air and be pulled right back into position. He tried over and over, the same voiceless scream peeling over the swelling flesh of his throat.
The thing in the jar was covered in blood. It's words no more than sloshing, gagging coughs of sound that sent the bloody slime spattering across the glass of the jar in water-rimmed dots.
Henry writhed against his formless bonds, spitting and puking soundlessly at the thing in front of him. He lurched at it, pulled back and berated by a new slew of soggy code. He kicked and punched, but couldn't make any contact.
The jar was filling with the bloody goop. The words it belched forth became muddled and bubbles of dark water rose up to the surface. Finally, full of blood and quaking against the suffocating strain of the thing inside, the jar shattered sending a torrent of blood and bile out across the floor of the room. Henry was buried and drowned. He choked against the blood, and thrashed to free himself. He could hear screaming, but not his own. Out of the dark stew came fists bludgeoning his ribs, his head, his arms.
Next thing his new he was running and it was night.
In other circumstances, the scene would have been very peaceful - perhaps even awe-inspiring. The divot of back yards rippled out to it’s wooded boundaries, and under the whitewash blanket of moonlight, looked as if it could be an excited ocean just as much as it was a plane of mud and asphalt. The sky was clear, and though there would have been more had the lady moon been hiding in the shadows, there was an abundant scattering of diamond stars. Gentle wind. A remaining heat from the day. The quiet buzz of insects and the city. It was Henry’s favorite kind of spring night.
But this wasn’t Henry’s favorite night. Not by far. His ears still rang from the screams. His skin still stung from the fists. The fear and adrenaline that carried him across Grover Masters’ yard and still through the long plot of woods beyond it and then across the parking lot was still sizzling in his chest. The acid settling in his muscles turned them into painful knots. The lea of this small rise in the land was a gift, because he wouldn’t have been able to run much longer.
The gravely, demonic voice of his pursuer was like a menacing hand pushing him through the whipping, bashing labyrinth of uncut grass. Fresh images of bloody violence pulled him along the dark woods, and the cadence of his hot, searing breath drowned out the voice so that the simple need for distance was enough to carry him another quarter mile across the lot until he finally dropped down into the small gully in which he now lay.
The inherent serenity of the stars stretched out above him made him drowsy; lulled him away from his trouble. The adrenaline started to fade. His muscles ached, were nearly useless gobs of putty, having carried him more than two miles in a few minutes of desperate self-preservation. He would have slipped into unconsciousness had he not been suddenly taken by the thought that the man after him might just jump over the lip of this little ditch and do unto him the horrible things that he had been promising.
Henry sat up right in a flash that made his arms and legs protest and his bruised face cry. The pain and pressure sang in his ears, but he tried to push past the oscillating chorus, out, beyond the pain, across the fresh dewed asphalt and into the woods which, from this distance, looked like an inky mass held in by a line of newly greening trees. He tried to fix on any strange noise, a thrashing or a sweeping, something that would tell him if his pursuer was still pursuing. The world was a black cacophony of strange noise. Every dry leaf was a deafening storm riding the wind. Every twig and gust was torturous timbre lurking in the omnipresent shadow waiting for a chance to pounce on it’s trembling prey.
Henry lay flat over the cleft of the small ditch looking into the pitch depth of the distant tree line. The moon, cutting the ebon night with its silver effulgence, did strange things to his eyes. What he was absolutely sure was solid mass of trees and grass and ground seemed to waver and ripple as if an unstable water, as if he was not looking over the land but it’s reflection in a flowing river. He rubbed the heel of his trembling hand over his eyes and opened them wide. There was still the watery slack, but one thing was for sure, was quite discernible among the strange churning. Someone had just come out of the woods.
It was him. It had to be. At first it was just a black drop escaping the inky mass into the puddle of moonlight and earth. Henry relaxed for a split second in the refuge of the form’s infinite alternatives. It could have been anything that had the ability to move or be moved. As it worked closer and free from the undergrowth, it’s drift and mien gave away what camouflage the shimmering nightcloak may have afforded it. It was him. It had to be.
Henry’s heart pounded. His chest tightened as he became aware of his pain all over again. He sank back a bit behind the cleft of the ditch just enough so he could keep a worried, horrified eye on the dark mass slowly making it’s way across the field. His right hand tensed its grip on the gun.
Though it was a struggle there in the ditch, night crowding around him in cool air of fear, the rage pouring from his hand, warming the wooden grip of the eight-shot revolver, Henry still remembered the man’s strong hands. As his attention stayed on the inky dot wavering in the ever-present dim, there was still in his mind, sort of encompassing the whole of his periphery, those deep brown eyes. They sparkled in the non-light of dreams as a saddened, almost feminine composure contorted an otherwise stern mug. And slipping out, almost as if from some source other than those thick, pink lips, were the highs and lows and angelic timbre that cradled the ethereal Henry in his sleep.
His eyes shot open, open wide, and fresh tears filled them so that the world faded into a watery blur and his chest tightened so that he thought it would burst. The fear sizzled in his chest like it had never left - like he was still there in the living room. The terrified screams of his mother still echoed off the splattered walls, and the rage that he had limited to a shaking feel of gunhilt rushed over his entire body. In the range of a few seconds, the hot intoxication of his ire dissolved his compassion.
His eyes followed the dark dot. It seemed to pitch back and forth. It seemed to be carried on an electric current, on undeniable fate, toward Henry through the darkness. Henry saw his hand raise up, the barrel of the gun no more than a shadow in a world of shadows outlined in the sliver lining of moonlight. In his mind the gun fired and in his mind the black dot dropped. There was no blood. There was no screaming in agony or gory memories in puddles. There was just the oddly muffled crack of an exploding bullet and the silent tumble of the dim blotch down in the field. It was just that easy. It would be just that easy. It will be just that easy.
Henry was brought out of his thoughts by a very scary sound. It was a human sound. He saw the dot falter and drop to the ground and a second later, the grunt and curse that accompanied it. The man was old, he knew that, and wondered how long he would follow. Maybe the man would give up. Maybe it wouldn’t come down to bullets and blood.
But was that weakness? Henry’s weakness? His mother was dead and dead by the hands of this man following him now. Whenever he saw his mother’s face, it would be superimposed over the gory, silent corpse she had become. He would never be able to forget. The sight would never leave him. And with that persistent nightmare would be the heaving, snarling mug of this man of murder, this monster of blood and knives ripping the swollen gut to shreds - annihilating the womb from which Henry came. Was that not deserving of justice? Did not some measure of consequence need be exacted? Henry felt it in his gut. It was a nauseous, swirling feeling like bad food or keeping silent when words begged to be spoken. This was his mother, and her murderer was there in front of him, and the gun in his hand, and the bullets loaded, and the seething, boiling desire for revenge ever-present, pervading his body and setting this bright night on fire. It just took one pull of the trigger, one spark within a gram of powder and that that has taken shall be taken itself.
He saw the man almost upon him. He was so close Henry could see the moon glinting off his eyes. The fear solidified in his chest. The confusion permeated, and before he knew it, he was on his feet. The man stopped where he was and looked up to his target. There was the sudden fear of being bested and he was sure pain would follow, but Henry hesitated. The boy just stood there staring at the man, the gun loose in his right hand. His shooting hand.
The look of fear drained from the man’s face. He could see this boy wasn’t going to do anything. He could see it in his hesitation. He could see it in his shaking legs and his pale face. He took a few more steps, and though the boy tensed up, he made no move to raise the gun.
Henry watched himself shoot the man and the man falling. He saw himself dropping the gun and the man charging. He saw himself pleading and killing and crying and running all within a few seconds. One thing for sure, he thought it would now be impossible to shoot the man.
The man stepped even closer; making his way up to the slight cleft that lined the shallow ditch that laid Henry’s short cover. Henry could not see a man walking, but a beast crouched over his bleeding, crying mother. He saw an instrument of pain and death. He saw an end to his life. The man was coming closer and Henry, more out of a need to stop his movement than to really install any sort of fear, raised the gun with a quick, obviously desperate jolt.
It worked. The man stopped. That bested look came back. He even put his hands up as if he was being robbed.
I’m the one that was robbed, Henry thought. I’m the one who no longer has a mother. I am the one full of sadness and fear. I am the one effected. I am the one who has to live. I…
He was stopped short because the man smiled again. He stepped up to Henry’s position, mere inches away and smiled that devilish smile.
This man has a mother, Henry thought. His man has a father. This man has a child. This man has a family. This man breathes and laughs and cries and is confused. Who will miss him? Who will be sad and angry and filled with fear once he is gone?
The man stepped even closer. He was testing the boy. He walked so that the barrel of the gun pressed against his chest. At first, his bravado was robbed when Henry, though slow and with a struggle, cocked back the revolver’s hammer, but the boy hesitated once again and the man smiled.
Henry hated that smile. The man had long teeth stained yellow, and Henry could see red traces of his mother’s blood in spaces between. All this time, running through the woods, plodding across the field, this man had the taste of her blood in his mouth. He was a beast, Henry thought. A beast with a mother… a father… a son…
The tightening of the gun’s grip and the look of new resolve brought the man tense again. This was the moment. Either the boy was going to shoot, or he would hesitate. If he shot, so be it. If he hesitated, he would strike, take the gun away and be done with this string, this loose end.
The boy hesitated. There was that moment that necessitated murder, and the young boy let it pass. The man smiled. It was time. But the boy opened his mouth. He whispered.
“Fuck you, dad.”
A door slammed.
Henry woke up from the dream, and the sudden awakening left a crushing pain in his chest. He sat up quick thinking someone had come into his room. Outside it was still as rainy and dreary and empty. He fell back against the mattress and tried to catch his breath. He had no idea what day it was or what time, or how long he had been in bed. The drugged numb feeling still persisted, but less, and he actually felt like he might get out of bed. Instead he turned over. The jar was there on the end table and he stared into it's murky slough trying to remember the dream. He decided he didn't want to stay in bed anymore. He emerged from the room slowly, cautiously as if to break the quiet would have been rude. All the lights were off in the house and weak, grey dampness pervaded everywhere.
In the kitchen he pulled a couple of pieces of white bread out of the wrapped loaf on the counter and stuck them in the toaster and pressed the lever. The bread lowered into the chrome box with an agonizing squall of the springs that threatened to shatter the walls, it was so loud. He watched the lengths of coil turn a fiery orange through the slots and relished their warmth. Thats when he noticed the muffled chatter of the television in the back bedroom. Quieter than usual. He was hit with the sudden urge to go back there and talk to his mother but there was the chance Briar was back there too, and he just as soon not be around his father. Instead he opened the refrigerator and rifled around the meager contents until he found the blue and white jar of mayonnaise. He stuck the jar in the crook of his arm and continued looking until he found the sticky tub of strawberry preserves on the door and took it out and closed the door with his knee. Use to, whenever he came into the kitchen and started foraging for food, she would come out to him. She would ask him if she could make something for him, ask him how he was, just anything to be close to him, but not anymore. He flung the drawer open deliberately to make the silverware jangle and crash and he needlessly fumbled around to extract a butter knife he could have easily plucked out silently. He wanted her to come to him like she used to. He wanted to say he was sorry and hug her. He savored the loud clack of the toast popping out of the machine and he was sure to mix the mayonnaise thoroughly so that plenty of the tinks of metal meeting glass could be heard. He slathered on a thin layer of mayonnaise and then repeated the process with the preserves with a generous layer going onto the toast. He even ate slowly hoping the soggy crunch of each bite might entice her to come out of her room.
Then he heard laughing coming from the bedroom and he couldn't tell if it was the television or if both of them were in there laughing at him and a thought came to him that hurt something awful just as soon as he thought it. He needed them. It seemed to him all these years that the whole arrangement - mother/son/father/family - was just the way things were. He had always felt like there wasn't any choice in the matter, but just then, as he chomped purposefully at his toast and tried to discern just who it was laughing back there out of sight, he saw that that wasn't the case at all. His daddy was here to raise the son. He obviously didn't want to be there involved in all this, but he was because that was his responsibility. Just like it was his mother's responsibility to keep him in house and clothes. She didn't seem to want to be there either. He had a sudden flash of memory. She came home from the store and was putting away the groceries and they were yelling and next thing he new, a pound of hamburger comes flying at his head and she just turned and went back to her room. There weren't any hugs anymore. There was television and beer and cigarettes. They were there because they had to be. It was their responsibility. He on the other hand was there because he needed to be to live. Where could he go? How could he possibly get money for food or a place to stay? It came crashing down upon him that he was totally dependent on these two people and he hung around their necks like a yolk. He couldn't live without them.
The walls were suddenly right up against him and there was a nausea like a bubbling tar in his gut. The laughing got louder from beyond. There was a swimming in his head and his eyes couldn't focus and he knew there was something else going on. He had to get out of the house. He had to get out and never come back. He couldn't face this. He wanted to run, to be shot out of there like a bullet and keep on going until he burned up like a meteor. He didn't want to be dead, exactly, but sure didn't want to be Henry Fucking Pupp for a while. The rain and the television and all those thoughts in his head, they threatened to shake him apart.
By the time he talked himself into actually getting out of there all this chaos in his head had been boiled down to breathing and action. He threw open the sliding glass door and using the handle as a pendulum, swung himself out into the rain and slammed it closed. The rain pounded against his body. His chest heaved and water sprayed from his mouth as he sucked in the rain and forced it back out again. He was frozen to that spot just outside the house for a moment, but then he got the courage for that first step and was off like a spark. He barreled though the gate and tromped in long, thunderous strides through the mud and clover colliding with the rain. When he got to the back fence he vaulted it with one hand and one of the clipped tines sunk in deep and pulled out a chunk of flesh as he landed on the other side and pulled away. He darted off through the underbrush, lengths of greenbriar and dead twigs ripping at his legs. He didn't feel a thing. There was only the flash of greenery passing him by and his breath, a thunderous, razor-edged torrent plunging in and out of his lungs. The solid collision of foot and earth. He ran until he saw a tree directly in front of him and he couldn't even muster the thought of how to dodge it, so he slowed and ran right into it bracing the impact with his hands. The pain of the underbrush cutting at his legs came back, but he paid it no mind. The pain in his lungs from his breath and all that water sucking in and out settled into a burrowing heat and he turned his back to the tree and slid down into the mud.
He wouldn't let his eyes focus on anything. He didn't want to know where he was. He didn't want to be anywhere. He closed his eyes and lowered his hands and let his fingers weave through the sticks and leaves and push little trenches in the mud. His breath slowed and he sipped at the rain that ran down his face and pooled along the creases of his lips. The rain sounded like a whisper. A raging, hollering, end-of-the-world whisper, but there was something under that. He could hear a dog barking and the swishing wave of cars on the boulevard, but there was something under even that. It was a whisper under the rage, not so full of fright. It was a whisper under the rain and whelps and wind, something that wasn't supposed to be heard but fell upon his ears anyway.
Where are you?
It was the voice, neither man or woman, distorted and churning in the wind and Henry couldn't make it out at first. He thought he had imagined it, that it was just the wind and the rain.
Where are you?
He pulled his hands out of the mud and clapped them over his ears. The voice sounded like his mother calling for him.
"Leave me alone," he cried, but even with his ears covered he heard it again.
Where are you?
It was close like his own voice. In his ear like a thought. It wasn't fighting through the rain. He turned quick, ready to scramble away from whatever it was behind him, but there was only the tree, and the trees beyond. And the rain.
Where are you?
He pushed off from the tree toward the house. His bare feet slid side to side in the mud, the rain blinding him now. The trees and leaves and undergrowth blotted into a shifting mix of greens and browns and he wiped at his face to try to see. The fear was sharp in his skin, his breath short and quick as if this thing was right on top of him and would reach out to grab him at any moment.
Before he knew it he was at the back fence and he was too tired and scared to jump over it again. He stopped himself by grabbing the top rail of the fence and he dropped his head trying to catch his breath. The voice came again. This time it was right over him as if it was hovering there in mid-air. He flung himself around and threw out his fists to tear the thing apart but he whiffed through air.
"WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU!" he screamed into the wind and rain.
Again the voice came just behind him, all around him. He turned and climbed clumsily over the fence and took four long, pounding steps toward the shed and slid under like a runner sliding into base. The rocks and bits of broken glass cut into his leg and some unseen edge carved a gash into the meat of his forearm. He scooted himself back under the shed into the divot the old bitch had dug out for her pups. He tried to hold it in, but the sobbing and the tears came and the air was hard to suck down.
Where are you?
He pulled up two handfuls of dirt and screamed some unintelligible yowl. He kicked and twisted in the dirt. He threw his handfuls out into the rain and punched the floor of the shed. The voice was right on top of him, almost right inside him. He thrashed around flinging mud and blood, banging into the floorboards of the shed until he didn't have anymore left in him. He settled down in the mud and cried silently, spitting his dusty tears up into the small space between him and the floor.
Where are you?
"I ain fuckin nowhere," Henry whispered.
The words sort of hung in the air like they had a body. They were a wall of sound that neither boy nor strange form could ignore. Henry stopped breathing. He twisted his body up from the bed to look around, though he knew, somehow, exactly where the words had come from. The sharp sting of fright lit his body. He stared at the jar wanting to reach out to it, to shake it, to somehow disprove the thought like it wasn't there. He decided, instead that it was best not to get close enough to touch. He closed his eyes and ran through a list of reasons to explain what was happening. The drugs. He was tired. He-
"I got me a haint," he said out loud and his eyes shot open as if he had stumbled upon the obvious answer.
There was no way what he knew was true could be. This thing was not talking to him. It wasn't in his head. It wasn't talking to him like a thought. A ghost. It had to be. Henry sat up in his bed. The mud had started to dry, and he could feel it cracking and pulling at his skin. It pulled at the tear in his forearm and he winced from the pain.
My name is -
"Haints ain got no name!"
Henry stood up with a thrust. Dried mud tumbled and slid from the wet underneath. He felt the need to arm himself. All he could see was the pocket knife, but it was settled next to the glass jar on his desk. He dared not get that close.
Why are you angry?
Henry threw his hands to his ears, and a fresh run of blood oozed from the gash in his arm. This time the voice wasn't just in his head. It came from somewhere. Just ahead of him. There was no denying it. The thing in the jar was most definitely talking to him. His arms dropped down to his side. There was a silence so consuming he could hear the drops of blood hitting the carpeted floor. The now-slight hiss of the dwindling rain outside. The Price-Is-Right cutting through the walls from his mother's bedroom.
"Yr talkin," he said. His face had gone slack with disbelief.
Of course I am.
"Yr a lump o'goddamn nothin, is what y'are. Y'ain nothin but a scabby ol thing I fished outta th'fuckin creek."
"A nothin'. Some dead thing."
Henry dropped back down to the bed.
"This ain right," Henry said shaking his head.
"Just be quiet."
"I said be quiet," Henry shouted and slapped his hands back up to his ears. There was a new shot of pain down his arm. His head hurt something awful, and a sickening black was balling up in his stomach.
"I'm gonna get cleaned up," he said to himself. "I'm just tired. I been upset."
He stood on unsteady legs and limped out of the room.
Henry hadn't noticed his room to be noisy, but once he stepped through the doorway and into the small hallway, a thick, abrupt quiet took up. It swarmed around him in the ringing in his ears. The air was stuffy. The television in his mother's room came back. He was sure it had been off then just came back on. She was listening. He felt hopeful for just a second until he looked down at his hands and saw the caked mud under swirls of dried blood. He sure as hell didn't want her seeing him like that, and if she had been listening, hearing him talking to what she would (with every right) assume to be nothing, well, he didn't feel like he was in the right state of mind to try to explain that.
He slipped into the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror that hung over the sink. He could see his face and shoulders. He stared at the thick smears of mud on his face. There were even a few clots of purplish blood around his eyes where he had wiped them. There were brush scrapes coming up from his chest, and even a couple of pink strokes laid lightly across his cheeks. There was a deep bruise on his left shoulder just at the deep pit between the muscle that ran down from his neck and the hard, thin ridge of his collar bone. He had no idea how that one got there. Then he saw his eyes. They were a moldy green color with a dark black ring around the iris and a hint of yellow that shown through here and there but not especially. The whites were bloodshot and would have been a not-so-healthy pearl had they not been. He stared at them and they stared back. They didn't say a thing. He couldn't read anything from them. He knew people liked to say that the eyes were the window to the soul, but Henry couldn't see a thing. Never could. Was he soulless? He could see his mother in his nose; his father in his long eye lashes, knobby chin, and wrinkled, angry brow. His mother told him he had his grandfather's ears. But the eyes were dead. They just looked. They stared out at the world, took a bit of it in, and then just kept on staring. His eyes weren't a window to his soul, he thought. They were just cameras snapping away mechanically, and those mechanics weren't really up to par.
These thoughts lingered in Henry's mind as he stared down his dirty face, but they couldn't last long. As if they were sand in the gears of his mind, such self-deprecating just ground everything to a halt. The only thing those kinds of thoughts could lead to was a complete shutdown.
Looking at himself seemed to sap all feeling beyond the discomfort and nuisance of "going crazy." He would have to explain. People would think things. There are repercussions to being wacko. You get locked up for hearing voices of dead things. He jumped back and forth between caring and not, feeling crazy and just not giving a shit. In the end, he decided he didn't care. Whether that was true or not, at least it got him out from in front of that mirror and into the shower.
Henry could feel the dried mud clinging to him as the hot water of the shower ran over him. It dropped off of him in unwilling chunks. He watched as the muck soaked up the water and dissolved into brown, swirling eddies before slipping down the drain. A few stubborn chunks lodged themselves in the drain holes, but eventually took in the water and slipped away. The water ran across the gash in his arm and sent a new, fiery wave of pain. He winced and tried to take his arm out of the water. With tight lips and a scrunched brow, Henry gave in and set to cleaning out the cut. Soon enough, Henry was wary of the pain. It seemed like every inch of his body had some kind of cut or scrape or bruise. His mind itself felt like a big lump of bruised flesh. He knew he was somewhere between crazy and dead. He felt he had no one to love him and he was hearing voices from dead, rotten things. He thought of the cemetery. Would they start talking to him too? How many dead things were there in this world? Would all of those things start talking to him too? As the hot water spat out over his body, Henry closed his eyes and wanted nothing more than to fall back into the black that hid behind those lids. All he could see was a world of ghosts. He was crowded in from that darkness of blood and flesh by a universe of corpses all calling out to him. He was marked. He smelled of the begging dead. Their cries hung on him, wrung out from him in a bright, shining aura - the light at the end of the tunnel. Marked by death, no one would talk to him. No one would care for him. He could see it in their eyes. They couldn't place it. They didn't know exactly what it was, but for some reason, they knew they needed to stay away from him. Avoid that boy at all costs. He could see them all falling back. They were running from him. He could see his mother retreating farther and farther back. The house gained rooms it never had. They appeared out of nowhere, like a reflection reflected again in a mirror, an infinite hall of rooms, and she ran further and further back to get away from him.
The water had run cold. His tears were dried up. There was only the throbbing silence centered on his head, radiating from his hot, swollen eyes. There was nothing to say, to himself or to another. Words wouldn't have come anyway. They had all flooded out in a spasm of pain and tears. His voice just didn't work.
Henry peeled himself out of the bathtub and noticed he was trembling. He had no idea how long he had been there in the bathroom. Long enough for the cuts to start scabbing over. He padded them dry with a dirty towel then proceeded to dry off all over. He knew he was scared, but not quite sure what it was he was scared of. He moved as if it was something embodied, as if he was a vessel and the thing lie asleep inside him. He moved slowly and quietly so as not to wake it up. It was a beast, a monster that had attacked him and now lay dormant. So he had to move easy, quietly. He couldn't wake it up.
Slowly, he wrapped a stiff, dirty towel around his tender body. His skin felt raw. He felt the bristling of every little hair. He could hear something deep in his ears. Not so much a ringing but the sound of rushing water through walls. It filled in the gaps of every other sound. His feet squeaking on the floor. The creak of floorboards. His hands bracing his body against the wall, the sink. His head was so busy with the world, he barely noticed himself making small, frantic circles around the tiny room. It occurred to him then, realizing what he was doing, that he should leave the room, but it was something like breeching the final frontier. A bit terrifying. He put his head to the door. He heard the rushing sound, and nothing besides it. Maybe the faint hum of the refrigerator's compressor. No voices. Where would he go? The thought never entered his mind. There was only to get out. He left the rest up to....