Second Chances Like a Shot in the Head
All Filled up on Hollow
A gaping hole intruded on the forehead of the lifeless body lying in a pool of brain matter and blood on the bed. Terrance stepped back, surveying the scene. By nature, he wasn’t a violent man nor was he particularly vindictive. This was an exception.
Killing Greg was only the first step and so Terrance exited the room, returning a few moments later with a kitchen chair. It was a solid piece of furniture with spokes rather than a solid back. He placed it in the middle of the small room and walked over to the bed. Feet first, he dragged the body off the bed allowing the head and shoulders to fall to the ground. Although Greg was well within the recommend weight for his height it still took some effort to get him into the chair. Dead weight was dead weight no matter how you sliced it. By this time most of the blood had already drained out on the bed or spilled out onto the floor. Even so a little still dripped down onto the coat Terrance wore as he positioned him in the chair.
One at a time he pulled the arms through the spokes of the chair, making sure they were bent at an uncomfortable angle. Although it was nothing compared to the pain of a head wound, causing this minor discomfort brought joy into Terrance’s heart. Judging by what he had seen of the house when he went to get the chair Terrance had doubt about finding any rope. All in all, it just went to reinforce the notion that Greg was real piece of shit who could only ever hope to be lacking. A quick scan of the bedroom turned up nothing useful and eventually he settled on ripping the cord out of the still playing T.V. In one last morbid gesture, he twisted Greg’s arms at an uncomfortable angle before binding his hands. The cord wasn’t ideal for this task and the knots were sloppy but he was pretty sure it would hold. It wasn’t until after Greg was tied up that Terrance noticed the laced shoes haphazardly tossed under the bed.
The bass guitar was still out in the hall where he had left it. Not everyone slept like a log and he wanted to make sure Greg hadn’t woken up. It was a pretty safe bet that Greg was not the type to put up a fight but when the chips are down you never really know how anyone is going to act. Turns out Greg really was just a whine and piss type of guy. “Most of them are” Terrance thought to himself as he unzipped the guitar case. Pulling out the bass was like shaking hands with an old friend. It was the familiar sort of comfort that could only be found in a childhood home. He slung the strap over his shoulder and walked back into the bedroom, stopping to stand squarely in front of the body.
Terrance took a deep breath and held it. It wasn’t until the first note played as he slapped the strings that he let out his breath. Note after note rang out and time ceased to exist. Wrapped in an auditory web of bass, he played on. It could have been hours, or days or seconds. An eternity of no time at all ticked onward. Terrance played as Greg’s head began to slowly tilt back and forth. Even when a labored groan cracked forth, he continued. All the way through the struggles as Greg came back to life Terrance played faster and faster. The music built to a crescendo as screams filled the room and the chair rocked precariously as the dead body struggled against the bonds. The final attempt to break free was too much and the chair tipped over. In perfect time his head smashed into the floor as if to add the final note.
The two men stared at each other locking eyes for the third time, frozen, now without any mirrors or shadows between them. Terrance, making the first move, bent down to pick up the guitar case that lay by his feet. Once the bass was securely in its case his slid his arms through the straps so it was situated on him like a back pack. With that Terrance exited the room.
Greg was alone, tied to a chair in his bedroom with a gaping head wound that had started again to bleed. In a state of confused and fragmented thought he moved his jaw to call out. He could remember talking and forming words but their meaning was just beyond his reach. Panic bells fired off in his head and he knew he had to do something but what he wasn’t sure. In the end the only thing that came out was a garbled bunch of nonsense. With part of his brain on the bed it was almost impossible to form a thought much less put together a string of words. With all he could muster he focused an image of a word flashed in his mind’s eye. HELP. Greg was pretty sure it was what you said in situations like this, and he was pretty sure he could force his mouth to make the sounds. Just as he was about to try his mind went completely blank. The only sensation left was pain so intense that nothing else mattered. Every part of him felt like it was on fire. His chest heaved, gasping for breath. Helplessly tied to a chair Greg sobbed and lost consciousness. For the second time that night he laid in a pool of his own blood.
The next thing that Greg was aware of was the light rustling of a trash bag. The sounds woke him gently reminding him of leaves on a summer day. Eyes still closed he furrowed his brow, trying to remember what that meant. His mind scrambled trying to remember a summer’s day. Breaking down the words it was easy to understand what they were, summer and day but there was something more. An emotion the went with it. Happiness? Excitement? Anticipation? He felt all of these emotions like grasping at trails of smoke. They were right in front of him but always just out reach. Every time his figurative hand would clasp the smoke would dissipate, taunting him. Frustrated he opened his eyes. The scene before him caused a new surge of emotion. Rather than being just out of reach these emotions felt shoved down his throat. Confusion, terror and helplessness. Reflexively he tried to scramble to his feet forgetting the exact nature of his predicament due to his arms that had gone numb some hours ago.
“About damn time.” The tone of voice was not at all what Greg expected. It wasn’t that he had any particular voice or parlance in mind, he simply hadn’t expected to ever exchange words with his murderer. Or possibly just his kidnapper, at this point Greg was still a little hazy on the details.
“Christ, I got so damn bored of waiting my thoughts started going all funny. Had to do something with my hands.” Terrance held his hands up to illustrate his point. “What’s your name anyhow?”
Greg didn’t answer. He’d seen this movie a thousand times before and it never ended well for the guy in his position. With a guilty conscience and blood on his hands Greg did the only thing he could do, he begged.
“Please…I’m sorry. I panicked…I…I’ll turn myself in. Right now, let’s go to the police right now and I’ll turn myself in and we can make it right.” By this time Terrance had moved behind the chair and Greg strained his neck trying to keep eyes on his captor.
“That’s a pretty good guess, but not what I was thinking at all.” In a move that seemed almost effortless Terrance righted the chair. He spoke as he slowly walked to stand in front of Greg.
“No you see, I was thinking that I could make you the first man in history to eat some of his own brain.” Terrance let out a deep laugh. “Look, I’m just messing with you, trying to lighten the mood.”
The joke did not have the intended impact on Greg who was trying not to seem suspicious as he tried to slip his hands free. Every time he seemed to get one section of the cord to loosen another would tighten. His brain was scattered as fragmented thoughts shot back and forth in his mind. The situation was bad and Greg was pretty sure that he was about to lose his mind. The awkward angle of his arm was frustrating his escape attempts and what free cognitive processing he had was spent occasionally nodding at whatever the lunatic who was now sitting on the bed was saying. It was best to play along. From what Greg could gather this man thought he was a God of some sort. Every few sentences the man would start over, as if what he was saying was rational and if he could just get the explanation right Greg would understand. Again, the man paused clearly getting ready to try and explain his magical powers in a slightly different way.
Terrance sat on the bed, lost for words. Nothing he said seemed to be getting through. Maybe blowing his brains out was too much, maybe some of his memories got lost too. This guy just sat the chair like an idiot, randomly nodding every couple of seconds. Words were clearly not going to work.
Greg’s heart leaped as he felt the cord loosen, but this time without tightening somewhere else. Knowing this would likely be his only chance Greg’s mind focused like a laser. He caught the words “Fuck it” and saw something flash as the lunatic’s hand flew out and punched him in the throat. Greg tried to take a breath but just gurgled some sort of liquid that seemed to be pooling in his throat. Tossing his head side to side he tried in vain to clear his throat and get some air. The edges of his vision began to go black as he bled out the hole in his neck. After a moment Greg lost the energy to keep swinging his head and let it slump to the side. The last thing he saw before everything went completely dark was the lunatic wiping blood off a knife before folding it up and putting it in his pocket. The last thing he heard, like and echo coming down a long empty tunnel were the words “Don’t forget this time, asshole.”
It was dark the next time Greg experienced any sensations. For a brief moment he was aware only that he existed, and that there was a light pressure on his. It was an experience that Greg would become intimately familiar with, coming back to life. A few more moments would pass before Greg had any true understanding that he was a person. Terrance watched the resurrection taking place across the kitchen table and spoke in a flat emotionless tone.
“Her name was Sally.” Terrance waited, giving Greg a chance to respond. By this time Greg had opened his eyes and stared blankly across the table. The words from earlier rang dully in his head “Don’t forget …” When it became evident that Greg wasn’t going to speak Terrance went on.
“That girl you hit; her name was Sally.”
“I get it ok!” Greg shouted. Learning she had a name brought back all the guilt he had been feeling since the incident. “What do you want me to do, huh? If you’re here to tell me I’m a piece of garbage I know that already ok.” He hadn’t realized before but a part of him, and not a small one, felt that he deserved what was happening. It almost sounded like he was speaking the next line to himself, in a quieter more resigned tone. “I knew that before you showed up.”
“Truth be told she was a nobody that didn’t matter to anyone. But even so, it takes a special kind of someone to drive off.” Terrance paused. “You know what she used to tell me?” He continued without giving Greg a chance to respond. “Used to say that all anyone is really doing is trying to find a reason not to kill themselves. Paints a bleak picture but shit if I can say it ain’t true.” Terrance slammed his fists down on the table and spoke on the verge of shouting. “What happens next is up to you. Either I kill you a third time, or you help me on this little project I’ve been working on. Before you answer I want you to think real hard about being dead. How goddamn cold and scary it is, being nothing.”
Greg knew he didn’t have a choice. Nothing could compare to the sickening dread that came with nothingness. He was pretty confident that giving it any real thought would drive him insane. As if to illustrate this point a mental image popped into his head of him pulling a thread and the universe unraveling.
Terrance pulled out the knife, opened it and set it on the table. A few specks of blood still remained on the handle near the base of the blade. He leaned back in his chair and stared at Greg, the knife between them as if any more reminder of the power Terrance had was needed.
It wasn’t until he went to speak that Greg realized how dry his mouth had become. Before he could talk he had to work up some spit. “Fuck that” he said, trying, and failing to sound confident. “I’ll take the second one.”
Terrance reached out and plucked the knife off the table. “You’d be a fool not to.” Rather than close the knife he began to play with it. “It occurs to me that if I were in your shoe’s I’d be a little sore right about now. Maybe I’d be thinking of saying just about anything to get outta this chair. First chance I got, do a little stabbing…”
“No, I… that’s not-“
Bang! The sound of Terrance stabbing the knife into the table tore through the kitchen. Greg winced. Terrance jumped up and started walking around the table.
“Before you go getting any crazy ideas, I want you to feel that emptiness inside you… all the goddamn hollow. Without me, that’s the rest of your life. When I brought you back I took something, a little piece that makes life worth living.” Terrance began to slowly untie the cord holding Greg’s arms. “That little piece that you can’t quite put your finger on but goddamn if it won’t eat you up. You know what they call that?”
“No! What the fuck are you talking about. You’ve been dead you know there ain’t nothing as stupid as a soul. Jesus I was gonna say insurance.”
“Without me you’ll never get that piece back and it’ll drive you mad. Almost to the point of suicide but not quite, cause you know ain’t nothing waiting for you.”
An audible sigh of relief came out as soon as the cable was untied and Greg pulled his arms through the spokes of the chair. His shoulder would be sore for a couple of days, really sore, but at least now he was able to move it. Terrance clapped him on the back.
“Stick with me an you’re gonna die an awful lot, but I give you my word I’ll bring you back every time. Help me out here and we’ll see if we can get you squared away, make you whole again. What do you say?” With what appeared to be an attempt at a friendly smile on his face Terrance held out his hand. “The names Terrance.”
Either this guy was magic or Greg had already gone insane. Either way it didn’t seem like he had much of a choice. There was still pain in his shoulder as he reached out to shake the lunatic’s hand, but it was starting to dull down “Nice to meet you, I’m Greg.”