The Night I Died
BANG BANG BANG, Chapter four
by Everett Stillwell
Illustrations by Eric Johnson
So I stand there, and they sit there, and we all look at each other until I can’t take it anymore, so I shoot the man in the wheelchair in the shin, which I guess has no real effect except it gets him talking.
“You found us… I shoulda known it would happen like this,” he says, and I just shake my head.
“You know, I didn’t even know about you dudes until tonight. I heard a rumor that you’ve been trying to have me killed for a while now and I don’t know Jack, but I just wanna know, you bet your ass, I wanna know.”
“It’s true,” the me not in the wheel chair says. I guess he’s the good me, the good triplet, I guess.
“But,” I say, “You could be lying cuz you lie, or at least that’s what I’ve been told.”
He swallows, like there’s something big and sticky in his throat. “It’s true. I lie,” he says.
I shoot him three times in the face and the blood goes everywhere. I’ve got to wipe it out of my eyes with the back of my hand.
I point the gun at the other me.
“You lie too, don’t you?”
“I’m very afraid right now, but then again, I knew this would happen. I know everything. You probably know that.”
“If you know everything, why didn’t you do something about it, you dumb motherfucker? Why are you even hanging out with this other me dude? Oh, right… you can’t do anything, right?”
“Good, I don’t know why, but that makes me feel better. I was told that if I fuck the bad woman triplet thing that we’d become Gods or whatever, and I have no fucking idea what that means, but do you concur, Jack, do you agree with that?”
“And you have no idea how we got here, why we’re all here, what this is about, the meaning or anything?”
“All I know is that fifteen years ago, suddenly there I was, and I knew I was triplet and that there were women triplets and all the rest of it. I found your brother and we decided to work together to try to find you. Your brother raised the money through embezzling. Embezzling different nonprofit groups.”
“And that’s not bad?”
“And weren’t you trying to find the women?”
“Yes, but they’re too tricky. We got to where we were tracking you, but we could never get a fix on them.”
“And why did we all end up in southern California?”
He shrugs again. “I got theories, but that’s all they are. Maybe this is the point of origination. I don’t know. Like I said, theories.”
“What happens next?”
He sighs a long, withered sigh. “I can’t tell you. If I did it wouldn’t happen.”
“And you knew, didn’t you, you little rat bastard? You knew I was gonna ask you that just now, and you knew you were going to say that…”
He just looks at me. I hear cracking and I realize he’s grinding his teeth.
“I’m gonna shoot you now.” I shoot him in the head and now it’s just me in the kitchen and the tinkle tinkle fluorescent light and the crickets and the heat. Just the bad triplet up to his old tricks. It’s all too fast. This night, this night…
“Fuck,” I say. “Fuck a duck, Jack. Fuck a duck.”
I take a step toward the door then take a step back. Do this like eight times, then I remember the card she gave me. Well, not really, but I’m rubbing myself all over for no reason – patting and rubbing – and I come upon the card in my breast pocket.
Just a number.
Try to wipe the blood off the wall phone. Punch in the number. Hiss of static then a recorded voice says “Three-twenty-five Trident Way, Las Vegas.”
And I go “Man…” and the phone slips out of my hands and bounces off my bare foot.
And I’m tired, Jack. I’m getting so tired…
…Driving to the airport with a lack of peripheral static and feeling happy that I’m a little ahead of the cops and whoever else wants my ass at this point.
At the airport, I’m too tired to be clever. March down the runway toward a little plane about to take off. Use the gun, always the gun.
In the air up, up, up, with enough time to put on a parachute. Make the pilot turn off the radio because it’s stressing me out. All those people sounding so official and making threats, like at this point it means anything.
Up, up, up, and ten minutes watching the pilot continually shit his pants, then down, down, down, the lights of Vegas all blurry through my yawns, the pollution making it all look thick and heavy and frantic somehow.
I don’t even know how to use a parachute and I guess there’s more than a large part of me hoping I’ll fuck the damn thing up and bounce where I hit. But despite myself, I get it open – wondering vaguely if killing myself is maybe good, and that’s why I can’t…
Definitely break an ankle landing in some parking lot and the sirens aren’t far off. The goddamn sirens, I fucking swear, Jack…
Wasn’t I in Glendale at one point? Was that years ago? Was I born there?
Stagger, stagger, stagger, through dark industrial hell. Sirens, sirens, sirens, playing peek-a-boo through the dark buildings.
Find a road and flag a car and hop in, telling the teenage girl at the wheel to take me to the address on the recording.
She’s all wide-eyed and happy-looking and goes “Wow, it’s you!” I don’t have time for any of this, but I’m getting nauseous so I unroll my window and puke on the side of the car.
Still wiping my mouth as we pull up to this very plain-looking ten story office building still out in God knows where. All these cars parked around, the girl getting me out of the car and holding my hand, stroking my hand and saying “Don’t be afraid, just go with it…”
– Jack? – Jack? I’m terrified, Jack. I’m going into this building and going through this heavy door with this heavy bouncer who takes my gun and bows to me.
Bows to me.
The space is brightly lit and there’s no furniture and there’s tons of naked people doing what looks like yoga and they all stop and stare at me as the girl leads me to this silver elevator and pushes me in.
Up, up, up. Gulping.
The doors open and now everything’s real dark. Dark and red and tacky and there’s this Arab bed in the corner with red sheets and you know the rest, don’t you…
– Jack? – Jack? You were never there and you’re not here, you’re not here now – you’re not…
Standing there, trying to breath but it’s so hard… Why is it so hard? So weary, it’s like concrete blocks on my eyelids, like dead camels on my shoulders…
…And there she is. Of course. With that short brown hair and those eyes like fishing knives, knives slicing open my stomach.
My mouth dropping open and spit sliding out, slow diving to the floor.
My dick’s gone rock solid, or maybe it’s been that way all night, since the first time I saw her.
I try to swallow with my mouth open, which makes this sick little gag sound.
“I don’t know what to say,” I say.
She just looks at me, her eyes slicing, slicing.
She opens her mouth and my dick gets harder. “Here you are. You probably still have a lot of questions.”
I do, but at this point, does it matter? Maybe some of it still does. “A girl brought me here…”
“She’s part of this… organization. Call it a religion. Most of the people in this town are part of it. This organization financed my tracking you down. Helped me organize.”
“So…” I don’t even know why I ask, “Are you the good one or the bad one?”
“I’m the good one. You’re name’s Everett, my name’s Dolores. Here we are, baby, here we are…”
“I don’t get it. Was that you at the mental hospital?”
“It was. You flipped out and luckily asked me for my number and… I just figured you’d come to me.”
“But you didn’t know… what if I’d hooked up with – oh fuck I don’t care… I’ve got this huge urge to kill you and to fuck you and I know I’m not gonna be able to kill you, but does that mean that would be good and I can only do bad?… You can’t be bad because you can’t lie and, and… You can’t kill me but you could have me killed and that would be good, but you’re not gonna, are you?”
She shakes her head and lights a Capri cigarette.
“So that means killing me would be bad, and then keeping the bad alive is maybe good…”
“Abba dabba dabba,” she says and winks, and I just stare at her.
And let’s face it. You’ve got to agree.
“I don’t know what the fuck’s going on any more. I’m just, just fucking tired.”
“What do you see?”
I look around again. “I see you and this room and this bed. What do you see?”
“I see you.”
I shrug. I look at my hands, covered with blood and dirt. I look at the big bulge in the crotch of my pjs.
She lets the Capri drop and steps on it.
She takes off her clothes.
She goes over to the Arabian bed and motions for me to follow.
She motions for me to get undressed, which I do.
“I’m pretty fucked up. I think I must’ve died like six times tonight,” I say, standing there naked, bruised and still bleeding in some places.
“That’s the way I like it. I’m gonna make you feel all better. We’re both going to die soon, hopefully.”
She takes me and guides me down on the silky sheets.
The last thing I say is “So, I’m gonna shut up now, but, but fucking me is obviously good or else you couldn’t do it. But if it’s good, then I’m afraid… I’m afraid, I don’t think I’ll be able to do it then.”
The last thing she says is “Don’t be afraid. We’re not going to fuck. We’re going to make love, and that’s neither good nor bad. Now honey, baby, please just shut up and kiss me.”
THE DREAM BODY, Chapter four
The Vegas airport was much quieter and emptier than she thought. The air felt warmer, even though she knew it was just treated or conditioned or whatever. The way Rick hurried her along into a cab excited her, and once they were in the cab, she remembered all of a sudden that she had some crystal meth in the inner pocket of her jacket. The taste of it like glass when you pressed your tongue against it, the way it slid down her throat after she’d discretely snorted it while Rick gave directions to the cab driver – it was perfect. Suddenly everything was perfect, if somewhat agitating.
“So, uh, I got this place… It’s kind of in an industrial section of town.” Rick was shrugging, looking distracted, looking all worked up.
Suddenly Dolores wasn’t wet any more. She wasn’t excited in any way, and deep down inside, she’d been horribly afraid this would happen. Now that it was, she felt like static, felt like friction and nothing.
“How come we didn’t go to L.A.?”
“Oh, you’ll love this place. I mean, it’s a ways from the strip, but you’ll really dig it, honey.”
“Groovy. Groovy. You know you can do whatever you want with me. Do whatever you want to me. You want to make it rough or sick or whatever, or, like, hurt me or make me do it with some animal? Really… I need it. I haven’t stopped thinking about stuff like that since I don’t know when, and you’re the first person I told, which makes you special. Oh, shit, I should’ve brought my vibrator… You know, I stole it from my aunt when she died last May… I was going through her house, like, her stuff…”
Rick was making hushing signals with his hands, looking at the cab driving and grinning that idiotic grin while the guy checked them out in the rearview mirror and was very silent.
The place was just another industrial space in an industrial park or whatever it was called. It was so bland and boring that she became convinced that only horrible things could happen here, and she forced herself not to think about them because she was getting the idea that if she thought about them, for some reason, she’d only become more disinterested.
Thoughts spinning around and around in her head in a way that was all meth, in a way that she’d never gotten used to.
Rick led her into a little room that had a bed in it and nothing else. He fumbled around on the wall until he found the light switch, and then the room filled with sharp, greenish halogen light. The bed looked like the kind you found in a Sears showroom. She figured that Rick must have made it because the sheets weren’t folded very well.
Rick scratched his nose, then his elbow, then his nose again. He looked at his watch and sniffed. He tapped his teeth together.
Dolores watched and blinked.
Finally, Rick said, “So you must be tired. Maybe you wanna just take a nap, whadya say?”
Dolores blinked again.
“I’m not tired, but if you want me to lie down and close my eyes I will.”
Rick stared off, looking like he was thinking about it.
“Naw, that’s no good. See…”
“Did you want to do something to me in my sleep?”
“Jesus Christ, listen to you… You’re really, I mean, you’re really really bona fide, you know that?”
Dolores nodded her head.
“Lemme… Okay, fuck it, here’s the deal… I’m just gonna explain it to you. C’mon.”
He lead her out of the room and into another one which was filled with a massive computer that looked like it had been put together from all the stuff that was always on the walls in Radio Shack.
Rick gestured at it nervously. “See, I built this.”
“I thought you were a producer.”
“I am, I’m a lot of things. I’m sort of a producer, like I invested in this infomercial one time… There’s something about saying that I’m a producer that opens more doors and stuff…” He gestured helplessly.
“The name I use when I do that sort of stuff is Jack. I don’t know why I told you Rick, it just came out of my mouth that night and I was like, okay, go with it… See, the thing of it is, I mostly build computers and they aren’t… useful. Like you can’t use them to really make money, and the government couldn’t use them to help with weapons or whatever. The computers I build are sort of… like, they’re designed to be more philosophical, and that requires a different sort of language and wiring and operating structure. To do stuff in that area… This is boring, I’m sure.”
It was boring, but then again, since she wasn’t getting what she wanted, she sort of figured maybe this was actually what she wanted all along. No, that didn’t work, and it made her more frustrated. She was frustrated and the computer was ugly and boring. She realized that she was sick of hanging around Rick or Jack or whoever, and she would have left, but then she realized also that she had absolutely nowhere to go and nothing in mind to do.
“See,” Jack was saying. “My whole life, I’ve felt that I was destined for greatness. I’ve got all these talents and skills and I can make as much money as I want, but the stuff that I feel that I’m really good at and interested in, well, that doesn’t interest anyone. So I figure that means I must be, well, like beyond. Or like I should be able to go beyond.”
“And that’s why I built this one computer, cuz like I wanted to become, like, that beyond. Like a god, basically.” He shrugged, acting humble in a way she didn’t buy. “You’re the first person I’ve told about this, and it sounds really good saying it out loud. I wanna become a god. Yeah. So, I built this computer and the computer’s job was to help me figure out how to become a god. It was this question that I fed into the machine and then it took a little while for it to come up with an answer, but it did, ’cause I did a really good job building it. The answer… Well, the answer was complicated. Basically, what it boiled down to was that I needed to find someone completely oversexed and virginal – didn’t have to actually be a virgin, but it sure helps…”
“And hook them up to this other machine, which is that thing in the corner there.” He pointed to what looked like a blank canvas that was leaning against the wall on the floor.
“That’s a machine?”
Jack nodded, looking genuinely pleased. “Yeah, isn’t it cool? You can’t see it from here, but I had to use these ultra small fiber optic-type of cables to gear it into the bed in the other room.”
“It’s hooked up to that bed?”
“Yeah. It’s a totally new sort of computer. It doesn’t operate in any sort of linear, rational way. To build it, I had let myself fall asleep and then bring myself to a lucid dreaming state…” he stopped, she was sure, because of the look of incomprehensibility on her face. “Anyway, the first computer told me I needed to find a woman who was like all about – all consumed by the Eros, a desire for sex – raw, complete, totally in it.”
“And that’s me…”
“Right. That’s you. And once I found you, I was supposed to get you to go to sleep on that mattress and then I was supposed to go to sleep on that mattress, and something would happen while we were sleeping. This part the computer wouldn’t explain to me, but something would happen while we were sleeping and we would meld together and then that would be it. I’d become a god.”
“What about me?”
Jack looked at her for a second. “Well, I’d guess you’d become one, too. To be perfectly frank, I never asked the computer what was gonna happen to you, but I’m sure you’d become part of it… Pretty cool, huh?”
Dolores stared at the canvas on the floor which was covered in a layer of brown dust. “So we’re not gonna fuck.”
Jack chewed on the inside of his cheek. “Not as… I mean, something like fucking happens, I think, during that time when we’re asleep. Maybe we have the same dream, I dunno. I got that bed wired in some pretty serious ways, but ah, no, no fucking like that, no.”
Suddenly, Dolores was extremely tired. She didn’t want to punch Jack, but she still wanted to get punched and have all the dark horrible sexual things happen to her, all the things that she didn’t understand why she wanted them, which was what she now guessed was making them so attractive. She still wanted all that, but she was too tired to get worked up over it. The meth she’d taken was already on the way out, just like her.
“Fine,” she said, and went into the other room to the mattress and lay down.
Jack came in behind her and she gave him room on the mattress. They both lay there on their backs. Jack had his hands together across his belly. Dolores stared up at the ceiling. The mattress felt cheap and lumpy, just like the one she had at home.
“So something really weird’s gonna happen to us on this thing.”
Jack nodded earnestly. “You know, I just wanna tell you how impressed I am. I mean, you’re taking all of this so well. I was totally prepared for you to, well, I don’t know, spaz out. I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done. I don’t know, I probably would’ve spazed out too.”
Dolores sighed. “My real name’s Dolores.”
Jack gulped. “No kidding… My real name’s actually not Jack. It’s, uh, it’s Everett, Everett Stillwell.”
And that was the last thing Dolores heard before a hard, dry, all-encompassing sleep overtook her.
** ** **
Dolores woke up and looked around. She was still in the empty little room, still on the plain little mattress. She was still next to the man who had finally identified himself as Everett Stillwell, who was still lying there with his eyes closed and drool sliding down the corner of his mouth.
Dolores got up and stretched, feeling great, feeling like she’d just drank gasoline and shit herself some primal fire.
Everett opened his eyes and looked around. He didn’t look half as good as she felt. She watched him lie there for several long minutes, just looking around with a childish expression that was something like fear. Eventually, he got to a sitting position. He looked back at her.
Dolores realized she was smiling.
“Now Everett,” she said. “I’m going to leave now and I want some money. I want you to give me some money.”
Everett numbly took out his wallet and gave her the contents, which Dolores put in her pocket.
“Where are you gonna go?” he asked.
Dolores shook her head. “That’s none of your concern, Everett. I’m leaving.”
She went into the other room and picked up the blank canvas and felt the little cables popping off. She kicked the computer, knocking it onto its side where it hit the concrete floor, making a satisfying, crunching sound.
Everett stood by the front door in the hallway. “You can’t take that. I don’t think I’ll be able to build another one. You don’t have any idea how difficult it was to build that one.”
Dolores got right in his face. “Everett, I’m taking this and if you do anything to stop me, or to look for me, or to otherwise try to mess with my life… I’ll fuck you again.” Her eyes going bright, telling him she remembered well. His eyes going dark, telling her he did too.
Outside it was hot and dry. Dolores walked in a direction that she figured would take her to someone somewhere who could tell her where the strip was. She had an overwhelming desire to play a slot machine. Hell, if Wayne Newton was still around, she even felt like checking him out. And if he wasn’t, it didn’t matter. Walking felt fine and whatever happened happened. No more fantasizes or expectations. Whatever happened would be whatever.
She started to skip along, feeling fifteen years older. She was fifteen years older.
“I bet this sort of thing happens all the time. I think I died tonight,” she said up to sludgy purple sky, and she wasn’t sure but in that exact moment it looked like something happened through the polluted haze. Was that a star that fell? Was that a satellite exploding? Was it a signal or a sign? Dolores skipped merrily along, happy that the world made absolutely no sense whatsoever and was spinning and that everything had to spin and spin and spin and spin; happy, so happy, that she was spinning too.