Some Kinda Hate

Yep, got another one for ya.   It's short, but most of the story happens after the last period.   You'll see what I mean.   By the way, that after-the-last-period story is really, really nasty.

The title's inspired by the Misfits song, o' course:

As always, here's the table of contents if you want more.

My stuff:
                                                                         SOME KINDA HATE

    "Don't worry about what was in that tranquilizer dart," the man said as Ted drifted into wakefulness.  The light came to him like layers of gauze being peeled away.  His eyes felt fat, his head stuffed with cotton, and the voice was clear but seemed distant, echoing.  "I was very careful.  I did a lot of research on the drug and measured it exactly for your size and weight.  I wanted to be very sure.   Wouldn't want to kill you."

    Ted squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed his head, forcing himself to focus on the man on the other side of the bars.  He knew the face and for a second he couldn't place it but then the memory came rocketing through the tranquilizer fog, blowing it all away in a cold wave of terror.  "Like hell you don't want to kill me.  How could you not want to kill me?"

    The man smiled.  "Hard to believe, isn't it?   But I really don't.  I did, for a long time.  But that was just impulse, and I’m past that.   Now, killing you is the last thing I want to do."

    "Then why did you bring me here?   And what is this place?"   He reached out and pulled at one of the bars.   Solid.

    "It's an old bomb shelter.  Laid in, oh, about the time of the Korean War, I’d guess.  Lots of paranoid people back then.   Nobody remembers it exists.  The man who owned the house died and the thing was buried.  I had to dig to find it.”   He walked back and forth, although the space in front of the bars didn’t leave much room for pacing.  “I've hidden a few solar panels around to keep that light going a few hours a day.  Hooked the water back up, so that toilet and sink are good.  I gave myself  a course in plumbing to make them work.   I learned welding to install those bars.  I did a lot of work for you."   He smiled the kind of smile you get if you bite into a lemon.  "As far as why I brought you here... "  He shrugged.  "Maybe to offer you a chance at redemption."

    "I served my time in prison already."

    "Three years," the man snorted.

    "It was what they gave me."  Ted rubbed his face and squinted in the dimness.  He was hemmed in by cement on three sides, with rebar welded in front of them, quite unnecessarily, and the front was a door made of more rebar.  The space was cramped by a sink and toilet and piled high with boxes, mostly full of pork and beans if the stenciling on the cartons was to be trusted.  The space was smaller than his old cell, barely enough room to lie down.  "From the looks of what you've built here, and the sneer in your voice, I'm guessing you don't think three years was enough."

    The man -- Warren Osgood, Ted remembered, although throughout the trial he'd thought of him as Julie's dad -- sat down in a ratty lawn chair that grated on the concrete as it took his weight, which was considerable.  He'd put on about thirty pounds since Ted had seen him at the trial four years ago, maybe five.  He was still short, still had the mustache, but it was grayer now, as was his hair, and there was less of that.  The half-decade had been unkind to him.  

    He sighed.  "After you went to prison for beating and raping my daughter, it wasn't over for her.  She had problems, my Julie, even before she had the misfortune to run into you.  Those problems were why she went out with guys like you, I guess.  Perhaps due to luck, or maybe just because people of your level of shittiness are fortunately rare, none of the others treated her the way you did."

    The old guilt flowed back into Ted like a blanket lined with lead had dropped onto him.  It had never left, but sometimes he felt its weight more, and, seeing Julie's dad, he felt every ounce.  He'd been drunk when he did what he did to Julie, and he’d been miserable, desperately miserable.  She had been a sad kid, full of need, and he'd given her the worst thing he could have given her.  He hated himself for it, but, he'd had problems of his own.  That, of course, didn't excuse anything, and he didn't even bother bringing any of it up to Julie's dad.  The reasons had always sounded weak even in his own head, and only worse now that he was confronted.  They would only enrage Julie’s dad if he spoke them.   So, he sat and listened.

    Julie's dad rubbed his palms together and gritted his teeth.  Even in the gloom Ted could see him trembling with rage, talking about this.

    "Yeah, Julie had troubles.  She didn't think enough of herself, and I, and her mother, were unsuccessful at making her see herself the way we saw her.  I know you didn't think much of her -- you coudln't've, to do what you did -- but that girl, my Julie, was my world.  You've never loved anyone or anything a tenth as much as I did my little girl.  And I couldn't make her see it."  He cleared his throat, which sounded tight.

    Ted stared down, not wanting to hear any of this but knowing that interrupting would be a bad idea.  So he sat and took it, the way you took punches.

    "What you did was like pushing a rock off the top of a mountain.  Julie never recovered from it.  She lasted seven months after you went to prison, miserable every hour of it.  I don't know if they told you in prison or not, but she posted a goodbye on a blog at three a.m. when she knew no one would see it in time to try stopping her, then she drove into an overpass support at, they estimate, a hundred and forty miles an hour.  Who even knew her car could go that fast?"   He chuckled bitterly, a man who'd lived with this heartbreak so long he couldn't even cry over it anymore.  

    Ted thought of saying "I'm sorry" but knew it would go over worse than a fuck you.  The damn thing was, he was sorry.  He'd been sorry even before he knew about this.  But they were past the place where being sorry does any good, so he just sat, quiet.  A fly crawled along his arm, tickling his tattoo.  There were lots of flies here, slow and fat in the heavy heat.   It should be cold here, underground, but Julie's dad had hooked the solar panels to some heaters, too.  He wanted the place uncomfortable, Ted supposed.  

    "We didn't even get a last look at our little girl, her mother and I.  A hundred and forty meeting reinforced concrete doesn't leave much to look at, even without fire.  And there was fire."  Julie's dad nodded.  "Lots of fire.  Losing a child is bad enough without a closed casket.  Casket, hell, it was an urn.  My sweet little girl, who I taught to ride a bike... who I taught to drive, and don't I wish I'd never done that... a coffee can full of her.  That's what was left at the bottom of the mountain when the rock you pushed reached it."

    He looked down at Ted and smiled the least-smile of a smile Ted had ever seen.  "Turns out it wasn't a rock, though.  It was a domino.  My wife, Sheryl, I guess she lasted, oh, not quite a year.  Then she couldn't take it anymore and I came home and I couldn't wake her up.  Pills.  A hundred and forty miles an hour worth of pills.  At least I got an open casket for my second-best girl."  He laughed, and Ted wished he wouldn't.

    "What happened to me after that doesn't really matter, because I don't care, but I've lost jobs, I drink, I don't sleep worth a fuck.  I got a dog, but it ran away.  Hell, I don’t blame it.  I’d run away from me, too."

    He laughed and it echoed.   Everything here echoed.   

    "So, you've heard my tale of woe.  I'm sure it doesn't really matter a damn to you, but do I have to ask you, in all honesty... would you think three years was fucking ENOUGH?!"

    Ted winced.  Julie's dad was leaning on the bars, smiling that not-a-smile in at him.

    "Probably not," Ted sighed.

    "Well, thank you, Mr. Rapist, for your honesty."   Julie's dad laughed and paced up and down in the dark.  Step-step, turn, step-step, turn.  Ted sat, feeling dread build.   The talking was done, so, now what?

    "So, here are some things you'll need to know, going forward," Julie's dad said, stopping.  "You have water.  You have sanitation.  You have food.  Those boxes around you have enough food to last several years.  You'll get sick of beans, but, you'll live.  What you won't do is get out.  Nobody remembers this place.  Nobody can hear anything.  I've tested all of it.  Led Zeppelin could play a gig down here and nobody in the back yard would know it.  But, yell if you want.  Maybe it’ll help pass the time."  

    Julie's dad took out a key and approached the cage.  He opened the door, stepped in, and locked it again and flung the key off into the dark.  He took padlocks out of his pockets and fitted them into slots on the door, snapping them shut.  Ted stared at him.

    "What the hell are you doing?"  He backed against the boxes, and there was still barely room for him to squeeze in with Julie's dad's bulk.  He thought about fighting him, but it was too late now, they were locked in together.  Besides, the tranquilizer had left him feeling so weak he wouldn't stand a chance.

    "Locking myself in with you," he said.  "Isn't that obvious?"  


    Julie's dad reached under his coat, behind his back, and pulled out a snub-nosed .357 Magnum.

    "What the fuck?" Ted asked.  "What're you..."

    "Relax," Julie's dad grinned.  "I told you I wasn't going to kill you, and I'm not.  I hate you far too much to kill you."

    "Then why the gun?"

    Julie's dad laughed.  They were almost chest-to-chest in the confines of the cage.  The heat was terrible and flies buzzed around them both.  "If I were you," Julie's dad whispered, "I'd eat as much of me as you could, so there'll be less to rot.  It's going to get awful close in here as the months go by and the heat gets bad and the flies get busy."

    Then, while Ted screamed, Julie's dad stuck the gun into his laughing mouth and fired its single bullet.

                                                   THE END


The Screaming Head of Sister Mary Agnes

Yep, another short story.   This one should be enough to get me excommunicated... and I'm not even Catholic.   That'll probably be obvious to any Catholics out there, because I'm sure I got a lot of stuff wrong.  I'm not a church-guy at all and about all I know of "the business" I picked up from The Exorcist, so feel free to correct me... provided we're still on speaking terms when you get to that last line.

This one's a lot shorter than usual, so, there's that.

As always, feedback is great, and if ya want more, here's the table of contents:

My stuff:



    Father Thomas trembled as he examined the severed head in his hands; even through his gloves he could feel the suppleness of the flesh, though surely the feeling of warmth was just a trick of his mind.

    She was perfect.  A genuine incorruptible.  Exactly what they needed.

    "That's really been in there for four centuries?" Stephen said, stepping a little closer for a look.  He'd opened the wall of the convent for them readily enough, but once he'd pried out the bricks he'd backed away, terrified of the idea of relics, much less the actual sight of one.  Stephen had said he was a Catholic, but relics and incorruptibles were a step over the line for all but the most fundamental.

    "Almost," Father Thomas whispered.   "Sister Mary Agnes was decapitated by a Muslim invader in 1632, for refusing to denounce Christ.    Even as her head rolled away it kept mouthing praises to Jesus."   Overwhelmed, Father Thomas gently placed the head on the linen-covered cart they'd brought for it.  The state of the head was miraculous; not only was it dry and undecayed, it smelled faintly of hyacinths.   Father Thomas had been skeptical of the tales of incorruptible saints -- he was cynic enough to know his own church wasn't above the occasional trick to sway the faithful -- but here was proof, taken directly from the vault where it had lain for four hundred years, undisturbed in darkness and silence.  Other than some drying and the slightest shriveling, the head could almost have been placed there last week.

    "And the body?" Stephen asked, crouching for a closer look but still maintaining a distance, though now possibly more out of reverence than repulsion.

    "Cast into flames.  The head would have been, too, but a few of Sister Mary Agnes's sister nuns gathered it up and made away with it.   They were convinced she was a saint, and not just a martyr, for the way the head kept praying even after death.  They hid it in the wall here while the convent was still under construction.  And it's been unseen ever since."   Father Thomas leaned against the wall beside the hole they'd taken it from.   Only the most modern sounding equipment had determined the existence of the cavity.  Until then he'd almost been convinced that the story of the head of Mary Agnes was only a legend.

    And here she was.  He'd been expecting, at best, a mummy, something they'd have to play up a great deal, but this was more than enough proof of incorruptibility.  And incorruptibles were rare.  Even most saints had eventually turned to dust, leaving a relic or two at best, maybe a tooth or finger bone or lock of hair.  You were very lucky if you got something like Saint Bernadette, or the vial of blood of Januarius.

    But here she was.  Mary Agnes.  Eyes closed as though asleep.  Mouth slack, drawn back only slightly over the teeth, greying hair clipped short but lush, clean.  The stump of the neck was dark with blood that had dried to something like black glass.  Tiny flakes of it were caught in the cotton of his gloves.  He wondered if water might make them turn red and flow again.  It certainly seemed possible.  What should have been only dust and bone, flowing and red.  A miracle.

    And they needed one.  Religion, in general, was losing its grip on society.   What was left was becoming increasingly radicalized and hardened, entangled with politics that often contradicted the teachings of Christ and thus unattractive to those who just wanted to live a good life.  The Catholic church, in particular, had just been recovering from the stigma of child molestation, but in recent months another conspiracy had been uncovered, throwing the church into desperation.  He hated to think of the faith in terms of marketing, but in truth, the church was in desperate need of a public relations boost, of rebranding.   Media attention needed to be turned in a more positive direction.

    Sister Mary Agnes was the perfect means to that end.  The story, with its severed head as a centerpiece, was lurid enough to draw headlines all over the world.  And the preserved state of the head was a legitimate miracle that would provoke much discussion.  And canonizing a new saint was always an event, and a female would make the church seem progressive and modern.   Sister Mary Agnes was certainly deserving, with a grisly-yet-inspirational story that few would be able to ignore.

    The word "godsend" gets thrown around so much it's practically used in vain, Father Thomas thought, but that was certainly what this head was.

    He looked at the head, a peaceful sleeper, who might at any moment open her eyes, it seemed.  Even in death, she had a quiet beauty.  She hadn't been a young woman, but you could tell, in younger years, she'd been a thing to see.  Noting the beauty of the head would not hurt.  The world would want to see it and, placed in a proper setting, the gruesome nature of what it was could be minimized.

    Affectionately he stroked the head's hair.  She would be pleased, he thought, to still be serving the church nearly four centuries after martyrdom.

    "Shall I brick it back up?" Stephen asked.

    "No, leave it for the while.  It should be photographed.  News crew will still want to film it."

    He shrugged.  "Okay, I guess so.  It's amazing, how intact it is.  Still gives me the creeps, though, if that's not blasphemous to say."

    Father Thomas laughed.  "No, it's not blasphemous.  And there's no way a severed head, even one of a saint, won't be a little creepy."

    Carefully, he and the Bishops rolled the cart back to their offices.  Now that they knew what they had, a special glass case would have to be prepared.  Later, they'd even have to contact the Pope.

                                                                *       *      *

    The phone rang at just past 3 a.m.   Father Thomas broke away from sleep and fumbled to pick it up.

    It was Frances, his Bishop.  He sounded shaken, could barely find his voice.  "Tom... Tom, it's talking."

    "What's talking?" Father Thomas yawned, trying to force himself awake.

    "The head.  Sister Mary Agnes.  She's... she's screaming, actually."

    Father Thomas wanted to laugh.  Frank had a sense of humor, but this was bizarre for him, and in bad taste.  "What do you mean, she's screaming?"

    "Exactly what I said.  The head is screaming."

    "Now, Frank..."

    "I know, it sounds crazy, it is crazy, but I've seen it."

    Father Thomas sat on the edge of the bed, wondering if he was dreaming.  He must be.  He sighed.  "Okay, I'll play along.  So, what is she screaming?"

    "I can only make out a word here and there.  It's mostly just screaming, no words.  The rest is Latin, an old dialect, I'm not good in it.  Something about rats, betrayal... I really can't make out much.  It's horrific, Tom, I've never heard anything so horrific."

    Father Thomas rubbed his face.  "I'll be down there.  Look up the number for Father Alphonse.  He's an expert in seventeenth-century Latin.  Don't call him yet, though.  I want to see this and make sure it's something real, something worth involving him.  Frank, this is crazy."

    "I'm not arguing otherwise.  But I've seen it!  Heard it.  And I wish I never had."

    Father Thomas sighed.  "I'll be there shortly.  And Frank -- film it in case it stops."

    "We're already doing that.  See you."

    "Yeah."  Father Thomas ended the call and got up and dressed, mechanically, his mind overwhelmed with what he might be about to see.

                                                                      *        *     *

    Father Thomas, for one brief year of his youth, had flirted with a drinking problem.  For the first time since entering the seminary he missed those days.  Irish whiskey, that's what he wanted.  A bottle.  Throw the cap away, he wouldn't need it again, not after what he'd seen.

    It was more miraculous than ever... and less helpful.  It wasn't inspiring, it was frightening.  Terrifying.  The most nightmarish thing he'd ever seen, and now he didn't know what to think about the world.

    He could still hear it, behind the door, far down the hallway.  His hands were trembling, remembering the sight of the head, on a stainless steel laboratory tray, screaming.  The voice was a squeak, mingled with a crow's call, a buzz-saw blade cutting into his mind with its supernatural absurdity.

    He'd made out a few words in Latin, but they made no sense.  Oceans and rivers of rats, rains of rot, scourging, blood, rape, a grand deceit.  Was this a prophecy for the Earth?   The form Armageddon would take?   Dear God, he prayed not.

    He'd given word to summon Father Alphonse, out of everyone he knew the most likely to be able to translate.  Cameras had been mounted to record every moment of the head's screaming in case it stopped.  So far it showed no signs of doing so, however.  To call it distressed was a huge understatement.  The head was frantic.

    Reportedly it had started by moving its lips and mouthing words, and gradually had found its voice, lost for four centuries.  The eyes, too, were open now, startlingly wide, pale silvery gray like the side of a fish.

    It looked anything but holy.

    Bishop Frances joined him in the hallway, his eyes stunned.  He glanced at Father Thomas.  "What are we going to do, Tom?" he asked.

    Father Thomas spread his hands and shrugged.  "I have no idea.  I fear it's something Apocalyptic.  One thing's for certain; we finally have undeniable proof of the divine.  Or perhaps the diabolical.  But something beyond our world.  I've always wanted that, but now that it's come, in this form... it terrifies me."

    "I wonder what to do with the head.  She seems to be suffering.  Driven mad with suffering.  We can't leave her that way."

    Father Thomas rubbed his face.  "I have no idea what to do about any of this.  It's... it's too much.  All I know to do is wait for Father Alphonse.  Maybe he can converse with the thing... with Sister Mary Agnes.  Maybe she can tell us what to do.  I've never seen anything like this.  I'm at a loss."

    "I wish we'd left her in the wall," Bishop Frances said.  "I can't imagine this ends well."

    Father Thomas shook his head.  Surely, it could not.

                                                                    *       *      *

    Father Alphonse had come in on an early flight, and he'd gone into the room with the head of Sister Mary Agnes already pale and shaking.  Now, three hours later, he came out considerably worse.  He scurried down the hallway to Father Thomas's office, refusing to slow down until they couldn't hear the head's screams, which had only grown louder and more frantic as time wore on.

    He dropped into a chair and mopped at his sweat as Father Thomas and Bishop Frances joined him and locked the door, as he requested.

    "Well, could you make sense of what she was saying?"  Father Thomas asked, sitting behind his desk.

    Father Alphonse nodded.  "She has a message for us.  She's seen beyond death and is reporting back."  He wiped his face, gone nearly as white as the handkerchief he used.  Father Thomas waited, displaying more patience than he felt.  The state of Father Alphonse frightened him.  He'd never seen a man so shaken, and Father Alphonse was one of the bravest men he'd ever met, having served as a medic in several wars.   He was anxious to hear what he had to say, but filled with a quivering dread.

    "She... she spoke of people being driven naked through a valley of thorns, burning hot, over hundreds of miles, through poisonous winds that festered their wounds, made them rot and stink and seep.  Pestilential rains of rotting flesh, rotten to liquid slime, formed lakes, and all about were fevers and plagues, bringing miseries tenfold the worst found on Earth.   There are rivers made of vermin instead of water, flowing into a vast ocean of swollen, pustulent  rats, all frantically biting.  People are thrown in and made to swim for the amusement of a bloody smiling king, who is mad.  All around him is the worst, vilest debauchery, perversions, hideous tortures, mass rapes.  Skinless beings are rolled in salt and raped by beasts.  They all starve and there is nothing to eat but each other.  They’re maddened by thirst that’s never quenched.  Blood flows everywhere and the air is constantly sliced by metal-barbed whips.  And over it all the bloody smiling king laughs, laughs at the great trick he's played on mankind, the great betrayal, the monstrous deceit.  He roars with laughter, crazed with the success of his trickery. It's all a trap of torment and sickness with no escape, miseries a thousandfold worse than anything dreamed of on Earth.   The things she described... I can't repeat them all... I felt my mind twisting, souring, just from hearing them.  And she witnessed them all, and came back to warn us all of the trickery, the deceit, the madness and chaos."  He wiped his face again.

    Father Thomas looked at Bishop Frances and back to the trembling Father Alphonse.  "It's horrible, but, at least we're being given warning," he said.  "We can get the word out, and now we have proof.  Thanks to Sister Mary Agnes's miracle, we can conclusively warn mankind that, at all costs, they must avoid the terrors of Hell."

    "Hell?"  Father Alphonse snapped, looking at Father Thomas, his eyes pale and bright with shock.  "Hell?  No, Thomas, not Hell... it's Heaven she's describing!"  

                                                                                  THE   END