Book Excerpt: The Drug

Beelzebub’s Bargain is a single volume compilation of twin novelettes.  An excerpt from the second novelette, “The Drug”, follows:

Jorge couldn’t breath. It wasn’t for lack of air. His lungs didn’t want to take it in. He remembered his poor old mama and the days when the power went out, which it did – sometimes for a week. And then, sometimes, his mama couldn’t pay the bill. He remembered how rank the meat was when it had to be taken out a week later. But this was much worse. This was ten times worse. The thick, sick vapor convulsed him into gag reflex, but he fought it back. He fought it back again and again … and again, and then he wretched. On his knees he wretched. When there was nothing but clear liquid he reached the door. Oddly, the bitter of his own vomit seemed like relief for him. Slowly, he regained a rhythm of shallow breathing. He couldn’t leave the door. Under no circumstances would he leave the door. He worked his fingers around the edge of it and jammed them in. Then he hung there.

The darkness was not complete, and as the hours went by, Jorge’s eyes adjusted to the new condition. He had only briefly turned away from the crack in all those hours. When he had, then – involuntarily – his head had jerked back to the thin line of air and lesser darkness. His head was as that of a rider on a roller coaster at the moment it takes its plunge. A force of gravity brought him back into position. Slowly, his senses acclimatized to the vaporous stench, and now out of the corner of his left eye he could see the gray forms of the corpses. Corpses is a word that implies discrete wholes, but these were different. There didn’t seem to be any one corpse, but instead a tangle of limbs that had incorrect connections to other sections of the mass. Only one corpse seemed whole. It was also the only one with clothing.

For a long time, Jorge stared at that corpse. It was familiar in the way it looked. There was a stripe across the chest that brought the lifeless form even closer to some existing memory in his brain. He stared at the face in the near total darkness. Its features remained shrouded in grayness and non-formation. Hours went by, and now Jorge’s face remained fixed in a stare, looking at the shroud of gray around that face. The shroud was lighter now, and the movement of the sun – far away from his cold prison – let its light filter through more fully. The shroud melted away, and the facial features now presented themselves in recognizable form to Jorge. Jorge’s eyes now focused on eyes that could no longer focus themselves. Finally, Jorge spoke, and his own words startled him. “I didn’t really mean all that crap about your going to hell, Justo. I’m really sorry about that.”

Another excerpt

Hard Gray

The pain in his head was intolerable. He tried to open his eyes, but he couldn’t do it. The light rays coming into them were as daggers into his brain. His heart raced and then … in a horrifying reversal – seemed to not pump at all. It felt like an intense pressure within him, and he couldn’t release it. The pounding in his head increased … it increased up and beyond what he could stand. Mercifully, the rhythm of the pain changed, and the pounding in his head became a voice, muffled and coarse and undecipherable. It was repeating the same words again and again, but Justo could not understand them.

He opened his eyes once more. This time the light was less. Justo became aware of the fact that he was laid out on the floor, a hard, concrete floor. His teeth grated along on it when he moved his head. He became aware that his hands were tied behind him, and that his arms ached.

His eyes tried again and again to focus, and his ears to understand the voice …

Justo! Finally, Justo recognized his name. Suddenly something sharp and stinging was in his mouth and in his eyes, but cold as ice

Seemingly, in “The Drug”  one may see that it is full of the most extreme unpleasantness.  This is not really the case, as the following excerpt shows …

Miguel moved to the window on the other side of the apartment. Standing there, the physical mass of his being pressed down upon the furnace grating under his toes, making small sounds as he rocked in place. He looked at the car – the familiar one that was always parked in that place at the point of the end of his gaze.

It was her car, and she was home in her apartment just now, across the street and one door down. He had tried to notice her schedule, but it was impossible. There was no rhythm or rhyme to it, and in any case he felt guilty for thinking so much about that spot on the street, and always wondering whether or not it was filled. Can a man stalk with his eyes, from a hidden place, watching what no one knows he watches? Miguel stopped rocking when a drip of hot coffee dribbled over the top of his too-full cup and onto his toes, awaking him from his reverie. He shuffled over to the fireplace, grabbed a stoker, and prodded the coals. “God, I hate January,” he half mumbled to himself …

“The Drug” was a first stab at fiction from a fifty five year old converted computer programmer who had never really done much of anything else.  Going from hard fact non-fiction to fantasy is a trip.  It’s been rewarding in some ways as an endeavor done only to experience the zen of doing it …

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