I used to see my whole family – Mom, Dad, little sister, a couple cats – hanging by their throats from rafters in the garage. Twice-weekly, sometimes more. Always after pounding the door code two, three times; first-try success hampered by warm Colt 45 and shake rips off pop can pipes, testing the limits of my Bambi-legged tolerance before curfew at eleven. Buzzed, sausage-fingered, I’d eventually crack it – the door half-up when I’d see them, mind’s eye but crystalline, tangible, dangling stiffly. I’d watch the door creep higher, awaiting toes pointed at the floor; shins, knees, ribs, necks wrung like dish rags.
It’d nudged the end of the track; the roar paling. Mucousy light from the bare bulb coating the empty garage. I’d rush inside, lock up, and kill every light; trot upstairs to distance myself from a bad feeling, knuckles rapping wood railing in frantic beats, all three sides of my doorframe – inside, out – then each side of my dresser, the posts of my bed. Only then I’d feel safe, the last tendrils of dread releasing.
It felt normal – tricks of a tired mind, triggered by what I’d ingested recently in friends’ damp, half-finished basements: Silence of the Lambs. A Clockwork Orange. The Matrix. Imagination was easily blamed – it brought sleep, surrender to neon hypnagogia. I’d slip under the surface but didn’t need air, and sink, deeper but unknowingly closer to the beast leaving corpses strung in a declaration of war.
Stephen Ground is freshly-freed. His work has appeared in The River, Soft Cartel, antilang, and others which can be found at stephenground.com.