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Aberrant: 200X - Boot Stamping on a Human Face Forever


Cain PI

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If I ever see the son of a bitch again, I’ll fucking kill him.

It’s been about thirteen hours since she was killed. Fuck me, just writing it down – she was killed – it fucking destroys me all over again. I wish I could wake up and make it not so, but it is. It is. She was killed. I swear, I’m going to kill that motherfucker. God dammit. God dammit. I can’t even stop my hands from shaking while I write.

I’m probably next. Fuck, I hope I’m next. I hope I’m next and then it’s done. Please, please, please, kill me next.

I have to get all this down. If someone happens to me, someone has to know how it all happened, why it happened. Maybe if something happens to me, someone will find this and get to the ones who did it. I don’t care about exonerating myself, but she deserves better than this. She deserves to be avenged.

This is the only diary I’ll ever write. So I guess I may as well start at the beginning.

And I’m Not Even a Portuguese Jew

So I was born and raised in a small town in northern California. Dad was a truck driver and a Hell’s Angel. Mom was about fifteen years younger than dad, and had been a housewife since she popped me out at eighteen. I never really asked my parents about what they were like before I came along, but that’s because by the time I was old enough to understand the answer, I had figured out enough to know I didn’t want to know it. I know mom was on the street at thirteen, and I’m pretty sure she was the kind of small-town prostitute who didn’t have a pimp or hang out on a street corner but just sort of hooked up with older guys who’d give her a place to stay. Dad was probably the latest in a line of them, and then I came along. I don’t really want to know why. Most kids I know weren’t planned, so it’s not a big deal, but I guess most probably weren’t the mistake of an underage pro and some biker-gang sugar daddy.

I was never a lucky kid, not even when I was little. If I was playing outside with other kids and one of us broke a toe or hit in the face, it’d be me. If there was a kid who took the class pet home the night it decided to finally keel over, it was me. You know that quiet kid who went to school with you who didn’t talk much and didn’t play much and didn’t get a lot of attention and basically just drifted through his childhood like a ghost? You probably don’t, because he wasn’t very memorable. But that kid was me.

When I was young, I got really sick. Dad thought I was faking when I told him I didn’t have the energy to get out of bed. He thought I’d been sneaking his tins while he was at work. Eventually my parents took me to the hospital and I got diagnosed with the flu. Two weeks later, I wasn’t any better, and I collapsed at school after another kid hit me, and I didn’t get back up. This time, they took me to a bigger hospital, where more doctors looked at me and eventually came back with a new diagnosis: a rare genetic disorder called Joseph Disease. I thought that was kinda funny, since my mom once told me she wanted to name me that. Joseph has Joseph Disease. It seemed fitting.

Anyway, don’t reach for your medical encyclopedia. Joseph Disease mainly affects Portuguese people of Jewish descent. My mother didn’t get it, and her father didn’t get it, but his father did, late in life. Great-grandpa was a Sephardic Jew who came to the states from Amsterdam. Died at forty-two, of an apparent stroke, but all the symptoms were there. Guess hindsight is twenty-twenty. Joseph Disease is a degenerative genetic condition that causes muscle weakness and spasticity in the limbs, difficulty with speech and swallowing, and rapid, involuntary eye movements. Charmingly, it leaves the intellect completely intact, so you get to enjoy all of this, too. People diagnosed with Joseph get about five to thirty years to live, usually, but my case was special. Joseph Disease doesn’t usually affect people until their late teens: I was seven. Doctors guessed I’d be dead by twenty, if I held out.

Middle school and high school went about as well as you can expect for a kid who looks, talks, and walks like he’s constantly drunk. At ten, my babysitter fucked me. Low-hanging fruit, I guess. It probably would have fucked me up worse if I hadn’t secretly thrilled at the attention. As it was, I think by then I was all but dead inside, anyhow. I’d like to tell you that I was one of those “special” children who faced their death sentence with pluck and an unkillable vigor for life, but that’s shite. The truth is, like most people, knowing I could drop at any time just made me miserable and sorry for myself, and the way the disease treated me, I was the default lowest rung on the food chain wherever I went. I hated school, because there was no point to learning when I’d probably be dead by graduation and because every day was an endless shit parade of being bullied, teased, made fun of. I hated cops, because from the age of thirteen on I couldn’t even walk down the street without getting stopped and bothered. I hated my parents, for their utter inability to handle my situation. I hated myself. My broken, useless self. I hated pretty much everything. This was back in the eighties, you know, so I didn’t even have the misfit connection that is the internet to pretend with. I read a lot of books and played a lot of video games and watched a lot of tee vee. I was good at all those things. It was all I was good at. I wasn’t good at talking to people, especially girls, or sports, or any of the other things that mattered where I grew up. I tried to kill myself a few times, from fourteen on, but could never get it right. The truth is, I was a fucking coward, too. Too cowardly even to kill myself.

At seventeen, I took a home study course to get out of school, bought a car and started to drive. I probably shouldn’t have had a license, but I managed to pass by faking it the same way a drunk would. I drove a lot after that. I kept hoping that something would happen to me while driving, some twitch or jerk or spasm would send me careening off the road and into sweet oblivion. It never did.

Driving around aimlessly with no money and nowhere to go, I picked up a lot of hitchhikers, who I also sort of secretly hoped might put me in a ditch with a slit throat someday. Instead, one day I picked up some kids about my age who invited me to a show. I got involved in the punk scene. It was the only group where I could find people arguably more fucked-up than I was, and nobody noticed that I was behaving odd at a show. Half the people there were drunk; I fit right in. Also, it was angry. Wonderfully angry. Angry at parents, angry at school, angry at cops, angry at itself. It was music made for me.

It’s funny, looking back. The guys I hung out with back then, they were addicts and runaways and most of them were just out for themselves, as angry as me but with less justification. They weren’t my friends, they were just guys who were so fucked-up and marginalized and outcast already that they’d hang out with even me. Put like that, I guess I’ve been practicing for the Teragen since I was a kid.

Anyway. One not-so-special day, I decided I’d finally had enough. I traded a wad of cash and a salt shaker full of coke I’d stolen from some guy whose couch I’d been sleeping on, traded it for a loaded revolver and a bag of psilocybin mushrooms, and drove out near Vallejo. I parked my car in the middle of a field, ate the mushrooms raw, waited about an hour until I was good and fucked-up, and got the revolver out of a brown paper bag.

Walking out of my car to the middle of that patch of mud was the hardest walk I’ve ever had. And it wasn’t because I knew I was finally going to do what I’d been too chickenshit to do for so long. In fact, I felt elated about that. Almost giddy. I was at peace, which, yeah, I know, most people are right before they finally off themselves. It’s because all we can think of is, “It’s almost over”. But between my condition, the wobble the drugs had put in my body, and three inches of wet mud, I must have fallen down six or seven times in twice as many feet. When I got far enough away from my car, I fell to my knees in the soft earth, clutching the gun to my chest like a precious thing. My hand trembled, but the barrel was large, and my head was an easy target. I felt the muzzle scrape my temple as I shoved it against my head so hard I actually tilted eastward at the neck.

I pulled the trigger six times and collapsed into a dreamless, blissful sleep.

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  • 4 weeks later...

The next time I recall being aware of where I was or what I was doing, I was in a ditch on the side of I-101, somewhere near San Raphael, with dirt in my mouth and eyes. A car had swerved to avoid hitting me – I assume after I’d stumbled into the middle of the freeway – and failed, launching me off the asphalt and into the shoulder ditch that separated the road from one of the vineyards that line the freeways in northern California.

I don’t know if it was the hit from the car, the hit onto the soil, or the shock of the whole episode that finally knocked me out of my fugue, but in hindsight, it’s clear I’d somehow come rather far from that pasture out near Napa. To say I actually was “out” of my shambling, mindless locomotion isn’t all that accurate, actually. At the time, I really had no cognizance of what was going on. I didn’t realize that it was odd that I’d gone from Napa to San Raphael with no awareness of my existence between the two, nor did it come to me that there was something intrinsically wrong with my situation, something that I should have been taking steps to rectify. I guess I was in shock, medically speaking. The only thing that really changed once I clawed my way out of that ditch was that I can now remember back to that point: the time prior to that remains a mystery to me, though I can make a pretty astute guess, based on what little I remember.

I remember seeing my car on the side of the road after I got back up, parked halfway into the shoulder, half into the road, four flat tires, a broken-mawed pit where the windshield should have been, smoke belching from under the hood. The driver-side door still hung open and into the far lane, the odd driver along the road swerving to avoid it, honking at me as they passed by. My clothes were in tatters. I was nearly naked, in fact, shades of Bruce Banner after turning into the Incredible Hulk, clad in barely more than a tattered shroud over my upper body and a rag of denim hanging on for dear life like some self-styled neo-Tarzan on the bottom. My shoes were gone. My nostrils were filled with cordite and dust, and it was all I could smell for miles. Unaware, unthinking, I picked myself up and kept walking, driven by some mental imperative I still do not understand and the unholy endurance of the dead. Had I possessed anything resembling sentience at the time, ‘dead’ is what I no doubt would have presumed was exactly what I was.

Eighteen hours after I tried to empty six into my skull, I tumbled into the doorway of a hospital – I still don’t know which one – somewhere between San Raphael and San Francisco. Novas were still a pretty rare phenomenon, back in those days. Humanity’s understanding of us was murky, and unclear. My memory of the hospital was that they tried to treat me like they would any sunburned hobo, at first, but my body kept rejecting their attempts at help. They tried Morphine, and I broke the needle. They tried Thorazine, and the syringe shattered. Once they finally ticked on to the mess they had on their hands, it didn’t take long before they decided to export the problem to the only people they thought were capable of handling it: the Project. I was airlifted – very carefully – to the San Francisco Rashoud Clinic. A Moxinoquantamine gas – at triple dose – finally did the trick, and I slept again, slipping from comatose consciousness into a poisoned, dreamless sleep.

A week or so passed. I was up and around the following morning, but was still treated like and acted like an Alzheimer’s patient for the first few days. My senses returned to me, but not as slowly as I let on. By the time I’d woken up on the second day, I could think clearly again. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t dead, that I wasn’t dreaming. I really was alive.

I couldn’t even kill myself properly.

I spent the rest of the week in a tacit, abysmal depression. When at last elected to speak again, I pretended as if I’d been in shock the entire time. Nobody could fit me with anything that my body didn’t immediately destroy, so the story passed.

My first waking days in the Clinic were a morass of jumbled-up emotions and conflicting thoughts. It’s something that’s hard to describe, if you’ve never lived it, the intoxicating mix of elation and fear that comes with dodging a self-inflicted catharsis. On the one hand, I was a nova, and in the early days of our species, that was a universal blessing, a ticket to fame, fortune, happiness, all the shit that people struggle for. On the other, I’d failed even at suicide, and was no less depressed than I ever was. But I had nothing to be depressed about anymore, right? Eruption had rendered my flawed genes totally inert: I would live a long, happy, healthy, productive life, and I would do so as a living god. I should have been happy. I should have been fucking delirious. But I wasn’t. The stain of despair and desperation and self-hatred that leads one to empty six bullets into their head doesn’t wash with a little good news, even if that good news could turn your entire life around. Things didn’t get any better, the deeper down the hole I went, either. Some novas got powers that were useful, and a select few got ones that bordered on useless. I seemed like the first nova in the history of the species who had erupted into something actually worse than his baseline counterpart, a wretched sinkhole of destruction in the fabric of reality. It seemed like the deck had always been stacked against me: now, genetics confirmed it. I really was bound to ruin everything I touched.

I spent maybe the next two weeks at the Clinic. This wasn’t that unprecedented, back during the early 00’s. Nova physiology wasn’t as well understood than as it is now, the rules not as set, and Clinic staff were - whether they admit it or not - mostly winging it, as opposed to these days, where the newly-erupted can theoretically be tested and processed on their lunch break. Aggravating the situation was the fact that most of the conventional testing methods didn’t work on me. For the first week or so, everybody up to and including myself had only the most vague idea of what I could do or how, and even when I left, little of that had changed. Most of the conclusions that had been arrived at regarding my condition had been drawn from corollary sources, other novas who displayed similar attributes. I was to the Project what the platypus was to nineteenth-century naturalists: “We have no idea what the fuck this thing is, but if you chop it up into component parts, you’ll find individual pieces that strongly resemble other creatures of its kind. Therefore, we come to the conclusion that this creature is either a fake, or god’s cruelest joke.”

Truth is, I didn’t stay because I needed to or because I wanted to. I just didn’t have anywhere else to go. I’d called my parents, sometime after I started speaking again, and let them know what happened, inasmuch as I’d had an accident and was in the hospital. They hadn’t even realized I was missing, which was, in a perverse way, the first unequivocally good news I’d heard in a while. At least they wouldn’t miss me too much, whether I’d died or not. They had already started letting go. Good for them. After that, there was really nobody else to call, nothing to concern myself with. The staff at the Clinic did alright by me, letting me set up a sort of temporary dorm room in one of the sterile, somehow kitschy motel-like rooms they kept for the many extended stays they had back then. A couple other novas came and went, picked up by their families or met by the media after erupting in some frantic blaze of glory. I felt like the Janitor at an Ivy League school, with new kids showing up from time to time, no smarter or stronger or better than myself, but after a short while, they would slip back into the world as luminaries, and I would still be mopping up their piss. There would be no adoring family and friends coming to get me, no paparazzi waiting to snap my photo. What waited for me after I left those sanguine walls was the same world of disappointment I left, only now I was told it might last forever. I would leave that place the same as I entered it: confused, directionless, desperate for meaning or understanding. Just like life.

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