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View Full Version : The Blood of James - (2,772 words: Profanity and Violence)



NathanBrazil
March 21st, 2015, 05:29 AM
[This is an old piece that I decided to revive. My biggest concern is clarity. Is it clear what is happening in the story. Of course all comments and suggestions are welcome.]



A charcoal-gray limousine pulls alongside a bus stop. A man wrapped in a worn and stained overcoat is curled up on the bench. He is sleeping soundly and chewing on his beard which is matted and gnarled. Muffled screams and pounding can be heard from within the backseat of the limousine. A pale young boy, devoid of hair, presses his face against the window and screams again. “Patience, James”, says the driver, a distinguished gentleman with graying sideburns. He presses a button on a front panel and the rear door unlocks.

James leaps out of the car and accosts the man on the bench. He yanks off the overcoat, rolls up a sleeve and locates the brachial artery.
The man awakens groggily, “Hey, what are you doing?”

What looks like a thick plastic straw, slides out from a sheath of skin in James’ right arm. He jams its sharpened tip into the artery, then steps back and waits. The man begins to shake uncontrollably then jumps to his feet. James watches in wide-eyed fascination as the man throws himself into the path of an oncoming bus.

***

Shane, a wiry black kid, has arrived early to school at Ridgemont. In the shadows of the early morning sun, he has his nose buried in a text book. He absently rubs a jagged scar above his left eye, a present from dear old dad, who had cracked his head open with a 9-iron.

Ridgemont High is the government’s solution to rising violence in poorer inner city neighborhoods. This school utilizes metal detectors and guards, though due to underfunding, the school has to resort to hiring out-of-work bouncers and security officers. The students are rarely allowed direct access to the staff. Even the teachers are separated from their pupils by a sturdy wire cage.

He hears the scrape of folding tables and the clatter of metal chairs, as the guards begin to setup to receive the students.

A lanky white kid with a TAPOUT tattoo on his shaved melon, brushes past Shane. He lays his backpack on the scarred, folding table. A guard spills out the contents.

"Hey, Mike, looks like you just got yourself a new…,” he says examining an MP3 player, “…GPX MP3 Player. Nice.” He tosses it to Mike, who catches it deftly.

“Hey!” the boy says. His real name is Leyland but everybody calls him Tap. “That’s my shit, man.”

“Save it.” The guard points to a newly-tacked paper on the wall.
IF IT DOESN’T BELONG,
IT’S MINE!

“Next!” He flings the backpack to Tap, who almost drops it. “Let’s get these pussies rolling. We haven’t got all day.” He looks at Tap who hasn’t moved.

“I’m not going anywhere, until I get my player back!” A few of the students begin jawing to each other . . . try that shit with me.

He rises and jabs Tap in the chest with his night stick. Tap winces and falls back a few steps, but doesn’t retreat. He shoves Tap, who loses his balance and lands on his ass.

“Hey!” A black kid with an unbuttoned checkered shirt and a fro comb sticking out of his hair steps out of the crowd. “No need f’that.” The volume of the students begins to rise, many gesturing towards the guards.

Tap approaches from behind with a pencil gripped tightly in his fist.

“You believe this shit . . .,” the guard starts.

“Behind you!” another shouts.

Tap slams the pencil in the guard’s neck as he is turning. A spray of blood spatter’s Tap’s t-shirt. The guard cups his hand around the side of his neck, trying to staunch the flow.

Someone trips the alarm and five more guards beat down the hall to the front of the school.

Two guards wrestle Tap to the floor and pin him down, while the crowd of angry students surges forward.

“Stay the fuck back!” yells a guard. All of the guards brandish night sticks and tasers.

The boy with an open checkered shirt leans forward, chest out and arms back. “Why don’t you put that shit away, bitch?” He beats his chest with the flat of his hand, “And come get some. Come and get some of this shit!”

The guards’ eyes move uncertainly, fearing a full-scale riot.

A distant wail of police cars can be heard approaching. They pass by in a high speed pursuit but it is just enough to ease the tension. As the students finally begin to filter through, Shane finds a place in line.

***

Shane waits patiently for his English teacher, John, who is notoriously late. John is one of three English teachers in a school that is filled to capacity. The only reason he is shy one kid is that last week one of his students had his eye popped out with a spoon in a lunch room brawl. The teacher’s cage is spotted with grime and rust; dark streaks on the cement floor are remnants of past violence.

State testing is in two weeks and Shane was squeezing in every bit of studying that he could. Though deep down, he realizes it’s a colossal waste of time. About as pointless as a monkey with a facelift.

The door at the front, leading to the cage, pops open and John ducks his head in carrying a leather satchel.

“Yo, teach.” Jackson, who could have easily been offensive line for the Chicago Bears, grabs his crotch. “I need you to sharpen my pencil.” A couple of the kids snicker.

“Yo, Jackson, why don’t you shut the fuck up?” John says.

Jackson holds up a closed and fist and winds an invisible crank with the other hand, slowly raising his middle finger.

A guard escorts a kid who looks like he is battling emphysema and his skin is a shade of dingy white that you might find in a rundown gas station bathroom.

No way that kid’s a student here, Shane thinks.

“Who’s the new inmate?” asks Mark, wearing a “Weed my lips!” t-shirt. He had been busted three times for selling on campus, and had finally earned a tour here. Everyone knows he is “partying with the white-haired lady” at school but he has never been caught.

“James Phelps,” the guard announces then promptly leaves.

“There’s an empty in the middle, James,” says John. James has a slight hunch and shuffles more than walks to his seat.

“My new bitch.” Jackson smiles. James makes a slow turn and faces Jackson, who flicks his tongue in and out between two fingers forming a V. How the hell had a kid like James earned a seat here?

***

Shane, in no hurry, strolls to the lunch room. He hears of couple of kids shouting and the crash of lunch trays. Somebody was almost always throwing a party. He arrives in time to see James sprawled on the floor, drooling blood.

A couple of officers are restraining Jackson. “It’s okay girls.” He is laughing. “I was just sayin’ hello.”

James gets to his feet and approaches. “My bitch.” He rasps.

“Fuck you say?” asks Jackson, getting riled.

James, a blur of motion, buries what looks like a pen deep in Jackson’s thigh. Jackson’s look of surprise quickly is replaced by a mask of pain.
A black swelling is forming around the puncture in his thigh, like a dark finger trying to push through the skin. Jackson begins to thrash and squeal. It takes five guards to drag him to the nurse’s office, strap him down and sedate him.

***

Hungry.

Jackson wakes up alone and experiences a hunger he has never known. It is scratching and clawing from the inside of his stomach.

“Hey!” Jackson screams. “I need to get something to eat! Please!”

‘Hot dogs.’ The slick voice of a carnie. (Three throws for only one dollar. Try your luck.)

“Who the fuck said that? Where are the hot dogs?” he says, growing desperate.

‘I got ya hot dogs, right here. You just have to dig.’ The voice is close.

“Don’t fuck with me. I gots to eat somethin. I don’t see any hot dogs.”

Jackson’s belly starts to ripple and a face emerges, centered on his belly button.

'Right here. You just have to dig!' The smell of hot dogs, slathered with nacho cheese and chili, is overpowering.

He lifts his right hand and the straps bulge and snap. When he frees both hands, he begins to dig.

'That’s it. Just a bit lower. You got em. Ahhhh. Smell those dogs!'

Jackson pulls out a whole string of hot dogs. He smiles and frees one, stuffing it in his mouth. Warm cheese oozes down the side of his face. He breaks off another.

“I’m gonna save that one for a midnight snack.” He tucks it under his pillow.

'Ohhh. Honey. Look at that! Is that a hot dog necklace?' His mother's face appears, glowing with the purest, sweetest love.

“Yes! I made this for you momma! I made this!”

The nurse enters and sees Jackson holding his intestines; his bed drenched with blood. She begins to scream.

***

Shane enters the break room after lunch. There’s a week’s worth of dirty dishes in the sink, an unused coffee pot with a dark thick ring burned into the bottom, and a number of plants in various stages of death. Most are so limp and brown that it’s anybody’s guess as to what they once were.

Raymond, a paunchy middle aged man, is sitting next to John on a beige couch with stuffing peeking through. He is one of only two math teachers, though he is more off then on. Rumor has it that he spends many a romantic evening with a bottle of Jack and a few DVDs. John notices Shane and waves him over.

Raymond shakes his head. “Bangers and Dopers. What do you expect?” John elbows Raymond. Shane tries to fill in the missing pieces of the conversation. A morsel of barbecue beef has landed unnoticed on Raymond’s blue over-starched shirt.

“Look,” he says, “We’re friggin security guards with teacher’s diplomas. Nobody gives a baboon’s ass what goes on here and we sure as shit don’t take any of it home.” The way his buttons are straining against his shirt, Shane wonders if he’s got an accordion stuffed in there.

“Did you hear about Jackson?” John asks. Shane shakes his head. “He’s dead,” John says.

Shane tries to think of something P.C. to say. “What happened?”

John hesitates and Raymond seizes this moment to excuse himself. Raymond finally notices the rogue piece of meat and flips it in his mouth. John waits for Raymond to waddle out of the break room.

“We don’t really know what happened.” John sighs. “Look I asked you here to help out with James, the new kid. With testing right around the corner and I really don’t have the time, I was hoping you could . . .”

“Yeah, sure,” Shane nods his head. “Whatever.”

***

Shane looks for James the following day and finds him in the lunch room. He plops a few text books down on the table next to James. “Hey, James, the teacher thought we should maybe-”

“Don’t bother,” James interrupts.

“Hey, I don’t mind-“

“I’m not going to be taking any tests.”

Laughter breaks out somewhere behind them. Shane turns to see Carlos. Acne, like a rash of red stars, cuts diagonally across his forehead. He and a couple of his banger friends strut over to their table.

“Hey, homez.” Carlos puts an arm around Shane and sits between the two of them. “Can we talk to your girlfriend?” The skin on James face is stretched taut. The veins at his temples are like blue meal worms feeding. His irises widen and darken.

“His name is James,” says Shane looking down.

“Jaime! Hey, Jaime, you like to punch the donut? Huh…? Or maybe you like to get yours punched?” says Carlos. All of them laugh. “You know. Butt Bungie?” Then real slow, “Do you like to have your fudge packed?”

“Maybe you’d like me to punch your donut?” says James, slow and raspy.

“Damn, you got a real sexy voice, Jaime. You’re really turnin’ me on.” His knee thumps the table. “I’ve got some serious wood.”

“You know what turns me on?” James says. “Thinking about using your skin to paper my new shelves.”

“Shhhh,” says Carlos whispering and motioning towards the guards. “The sisters are watching us real close right now. But I think we’ll talk again after school.” He wraps his hand around James throat and hisses, “And I’ll rip that tongue outta your sissy mouth.”

James thrusts his hand underneath Carlos’s armpit. Carlos stumbles backwards and knocks over a trashcan, holding his arm close to his side.

“Problem?” quips James.

Carlos runs toward the hall leading to the bathrooms.

We hear a scream. A group of people have formed a semi-circle around the entrance to the bathroom. The nurse is already there attending to Carlos, who is unconscious. He had somehow wedged his right arm in the door of the bathroom stall. It looked like he had tried to pull his arm off. A bone protrudes at the base of the shoulder and his shirt is soaked with blood.

***

Weeks pass and the state testing has come and gone. The violence surrounding James has been mostly forgotten, violence being such a commonplace occurrence. On the way to the restroom, Shane and Mark pass James. He is shuffling down the hall surrounded by a bubble of space, his unholy presence making people uncomfortable.

Mark enters the bathroom stall with Shane entering the adjacent one. He pops the lid of his yogurt snack, which he had re-sealed. He dips in with his fingers and pulls out a Ziploc with high quality shit. He slides the pencil from the back of his ear and removes the eraser to retrieve some rolling paper and a couple of matches from the hollow in the back.

He had super glued the shortened lead at the top. He strikes the match on the back of his jeans and smiles, as he takes his first toke. He blows the smoke out of a wall vent close to the floor.

“Give it over,” Shane says. Mark hands the joint under the stall and Shane takes a quick drag.

Shane hears the swish of the bathroom door. Shit. He almost swallows the joint. He hears another door swish and quickly lifts his feet, putting the joint out in the toilet.

Shane puts an eye to the hole left by the knob on the stall door, which had long ago been removed.

A black man with beefy arms and a stomach that is mid-way to forming a party ball pulls out shank wrapped in masking tape. He disappears from view. Shane opens the stall door when he sees the black dude tearing out of the bathroom. James slumps to the floor and is wheezing like a beached fish.

“Shit,” Mark says. He slips on the blood that is spreading across the floor, then loses his lunch in the closest sink. “Dude, we got to get out of here,” he says, pale and shaky.

“He needs help, man.” Shane rips his shirt off and applies pressure to the wound in his chest, trying to stem the flow. “I can’t,” Mark says. He ducks out of the bathroom, tracking blood into the hallway.

“Dumb ass,” Shane shakes his head.

James clamps his hand around Shane’s wrist. “You know who that guy was?”

“Yeah,” replies Shane, “I think that’s Jackson’s older brother.”

“You’re going to take me to him,” James says. He gets to his knees and pushes himself up.

“Dude, you lost a lot of blood. You need to get your ass to a hospital.”

“I’ll be fine.”

***

Shane, one arm around James for support, cuts through a narrow alley.

A pit bull, with a nasty pink scar under his left eye, is trying to squeeze his way under a chain link fence, huffing and growling.

A few houses further and Shane says, “This is the place.” The screen of the front door lies in a heap at the bottom of its wooden frame.

Jackson’s brother is asleep on the couch, his t-shirt doing a poor job covering the big man’s belly. He doesn’t hear James open the door. Doesn’t hear James kick a couple of the littered beer cans as he pads towards him. James slams his cartilage tip home, deep into the man’s femoral artery, and shivers as the madness once again leaves his body.

rcallaci
March 24th, 2015, 02:48 PM
Enjoyed this piece immensely. A new kind of vampire- loved the hot dog scene-a grisly delight. This story is quite clear in its intent- I could only hope that you expand on it. This is a tight gripping horror story with all the right elements in play- setting- people and the atmosphere. The beginning scene was a great setup for the rest of the piece- good stuff....


my warmest
bob

NathanBrazil
March 24th, 2015, 04:18 PM
I greatly appreciate the warm praise. This piece has gone through numerous edits and, as much as I enjoyed writing it initially, probably around four years ago, I really don't have expansion plans for this story.

KellInkston
March 25th, 2015, 01:59 AM
Awesome, awesome, awesome idea for a story.
Right out, this is very gripping, and a really original idea- a creature that disposes of his insanity by injecting it into others? Too cool. Great idea and solid writing.

You are right to worry about the flow and ease of reading, though. I was set off by a couple of things, but otherwise I'd call this perfectly polished.


On occassion I feel the clarity of the character's actions would be greatly enhanced by a simple adjective or verb. On occasion I didn't know how to think on a person's actions- which proved confusing. For example: "Muffled screams and pounding can be heard from within the backseat of the limousine. A pale young boy, devoid of hair, presses his face against the window and screams again.." Are these screams of fear? Insanity? Glee? Is he pounding uncontrollably in excitement? While you're perfectly free to leave this unanswered, if you're looking for clarity, a verb or descriptive adjective of the boy would prove quite elucidating.

Also, I spotted the occasional unclear sentence, particularly at the school checkpoint scene. For example "“I’m not going anywhere, until I get my player back!” A few of the students begin jawing to each other . . . try that shit with me." was unclear as to who was saying (implying? narrating?) "try that shit with me". It was not closely attributed enough to either a student, or Tap, or the guard for it to be crystal clear. I'd consider perhaps reading out loud with a friend and let them stop you anytime something isn't totally clear to them.

My last suggestion, I loved all of the reading, and the contrast of some sort of probably-evil night creature taking classes in an inner-city high school was incredibly refreshing - sort of a wolf in the room feeling to it. My absolute favorite part, however, was the "Hot dog eating" scene. Genius, I salute you. What would push this even higher for me would be more of those scenes, perhaps with every victim. Of course, that would take a lot of extra creativity on your part, so I'll leave it to you.

Great job.

NathanBrazil
March 25th, 2015, 04:28 AM
Thanks, KellInkston. Excellent crit. Exactly the kind of feedback I need. It seems like a couple quick edits should resolve the two trouble spots you've pointed out. Unfortunately the few guinea pigs I "employ" for that kind of assistance don't really care for this kind of piece - a little too dark and messy for their tastes. I'll give it a few more reads with your comments in mind and see if I can spot similar issues.

Thanks, again.