“Fascinating and scary…”
“This is a short book; you could read it in a single sitting, as I did–twice. Even so, Reverend Rage somehow manages to give us a story that has the scope of a full-blown novel without skimping anywhere. It’s fascinating, scary, out-and-out repulsive at times, and even amusing in a few places. (I love Sammy, the crusty old ghost-dad who lives with Westphal.)
The book tells an intricate story, dark and gritty and bizarre–I don’t know if Rage claims them as influences, but it makes me think of Chuck Palahniuk and Philip K. Dick collaborating on a horror novel–set in a world of drug dealers, prostitutes, porn producers and otherworldly beings. This world, as well as the story, is well-realized and full of the kind of detail that makes it feel authentic. Everything is extremely vivid.
Westphal, the central character, is a drug-addicted loser who’s just one screw-up away from losing his job at a hospital, and who finds he’s gotten in over his head with his drug dealer. In fact, I would imagine most of us know, or have known, at least one Westphal in real life. There’s much more to it than that, but talking more about the various threads and themes in the story would be running the risk of giving away spoilers.
Suffice to say it’s a story full of imagination and weirdness, a story that invites you to give a little thought to what it takes to maintain some control over your life, and to take a look at your capacity for good and evil.”
~ Born whole from the rectum of a dying patient, Morbid silently stalks the hospital’s hallways, heinously dispatching the most helpless of patients and in the most painfully repulsive of manners. ~
In the meantime, in order to pay for his family and home that includes his ghost step-father Sammy and his pet aborted fetus Chip, Westphal has to ingest mounds of dangerous narcotics to get through his night shifts. Barely hanging on to his Care Tech gig by his fingernails, the last thing Westphal needs is to be accused of Morbid’s evil deeds. You, on the other hand, simply want to find some solace. Terminally ill from a virulent infection, and dependent on Life Support, all You beg for a peaceful and dignified demise. Shirk has other plans for You. The ancient drug-snuffling demon makes You relive all of your deadly and venial sins as he tortures You. Night after night. Until eternal Damnation comes calling.
“YOU MORBID WESTPHAL”
SHIRK COMES CALLING
Pain Like Fire
It is getting colder than a witch’s titty in your hospital room. You can’t see him, but that’s how you always know. That God damned Shirk is here again.
Shirk stares his not inconsiderable malevolence and hatred at you. That you know without needing to see the rat bastard. You can sense his presence here and in the whole of the room. You feel that stare. You just know he’s going to fuck with you againShirk sits quietly, sniffing periodically, in a chair across the room from you. His presence is making the room temperature drop perceptively.
The demon chooses this moment to thrust his heavy compact body up from the chair. He strides right on over to you and sits on the edge of your death bed which gives creaky protest to his other-worldly weight. Tiny cries of please-please comes muffled from the roomy sleeves of his stained-sticky cloak. The hood is turned up, the blood red eyes burn from deep within a face that is as old as pain.
“Well, well, look at you,” Shirk derisively smirks. “Looks like you’re still all dressed up but can’t get it up to go,” he scoffs and flicks a sharp-nailed yellow finger at your useless pee-pee.
You can still feel the pain, however, and your silent scream makes the life support machine sound an alarm. Shirk looks at you, mock worry fleets past his thickly wrinkled-leather face. He puts an index finger to his lips, smiling, teeth a mad jumble of yellow and grey and whatever the fuck Shirk eats for lunch, and makes like you and he need to be quiet.
Shirk giggles scratchily to himself; being the star of his own show. He reaches in to his big wizard-sleeve and removes a tiny screw-top vial of opaque granules, the movement eliciting another round of please-please from the teeniest-tiniest little humanoid you ever did see. He was hugging the vial with all his might, staring with over-sized greedy bug-eyes through the clear glass at the wonderful drugs inside.
It was mucky all around the center outside of the vial wall where the horny wee gnome had, on countless occasions, blasted his gravy. So much so, it became a crusty railing in which the naked gnome didn’t seem to notice. He’s too busy staring at the drugs, mewling for more, until he gets it, gets balls deep on the scum rail and ejaculates on the vial wall. Then he will pass out with a blissful smile, hugging god in a death grip until he wakes up, begging for more.
Shirk plucks the 2 inch long pleading creature from the vial and holds him between the second and third fingers. On cue, the gnome opens his mouth as wide as he can. He slips out a long tongue and swipes it wet all over his face while Shirk unscrews the lid and dips the little spoon deep into the multi-gram vial. The gnome smacks and smacks at the potent Plata, gobbling up as much as it can before being placed whole up the demon’s nose. Shirk snuffles up the big bumpety-bump, before rinsing and repeating, snorting what the tiny fiend couldn’t get to.
Shirk screws on the top of the vial while the spoon licks the thick Plata paste off his face. Shirk lets the tiny gnome, who is already thrusting at the empty air, grab a tight hugging hold onto the drug vial. Then the little beastie begins to hump the wall, squeaking like a cricket. Shirk drops them both back down into his sleeve, breathing heavy with dark ardor.
Shirk’s eyes brighten with an orange fire smoldering beneath a red-embered glow. He starts moaning to himself, slow-dancin’, swaying to the music.
“Love this shit,” he states, shuddering, hand slipping up under, beneath his cloak, “it’s just balls to jerk off to.”
“Slip a finger in my ass,” he says, “Second knuckle, hit that sweet spot…”
Jesus, please no.
“But I won’t!” Shirk exclaims with a hearty laugh, looking down at you. “Say!” he says, flicking you again, “You ever try it, junkie-fuck?”
Beside the sharp pain in the shriveled head of your doolittle, you can not answer, as Shirk already knows. The airway tube has the cuff inflated and is taped securely down your throat, keeps your shit from vocalizing at all. The breathing machine hums smoothly and expertly, filling your wrecked lungs with pressurized gases to keep your wracked ass alive.
“Did ya?” he asks, you say fuck-all. “Cuz if you never have, you don’t know what you’re missing or I’ll suck you straight!”
Hydromorphone-methamphetamine hydrochloride, if you didn’t know, had the lovely sounding Trade name of Duradilauderal. It had an even cozier street name of Plata which is Spanish for silver and slang for folding money. The popularity for Plata was just beginning to be a prairie fire in the Midwest when your body had already wore out. Like a roofied starlet, the party went on without you.
“Probably the only drug you didn’t abuse, if I remember correctly,” shared Shirk.
“Sometimes,” Shirk admits, “You stupid fucking humans do mange to come up with something worthwhile.” For emphasis, Shirk pats your skinny stump of a thigh. Then he trails his cold, wrinkly demon fingers up your leg to where the scars of Lilitu’s love bites began. He laughs as he remembers the night she made them at his behest. They were numerous and deep and all over his belly and chest as well.
“That was fun, huh?” Shirk asks. Seeing that you do remember, he chuckles afresh.
Fuck you, asshole.
“But this one is new,” he says and bends to closely check on your latest surgical procedure. This one involved removing the bottom half of your left leg. Your thigh draws to a close in a tightly stitched below the knee amputation. It was recent and still hurts. He gets in real close and smells it. He rises, wincing in mock sympathy.
“You got the gangrene, huh? Too bad, buddy, it smells like liquid shit.” Shirk states flatly, “I’m sure they had no choice but to chop it the fuck off and –Bam! No more leggy for Greggy!” There is still no response from you. “Bet that must’ve hurt like a mo-fo, butterbean,” he says with a nice stump smack.
Blood and light yellow serous fluid splatter the already dirty bed sheet. You howl silently as the pain like fire hits a big nerve cluster and heads north. You break into a sweat, teardrops roll unimpeded down your sunken cheeks and the alarms sound again.
“Anywho,” Shirk resumes with a comic sigh, “I guess I’d better stop playing with you, before the babysitter comes in and catches us.” He gets up, smoothing his cloak, looks back down to you. He says: “Stick around,” laughing at your restraint. “The Fat Lady’s warming up.”
Yes, I know this. Jesus-fuck, just go away!
“She’s coming to dinner, baby cakes,” Shirk warns you, “And grand-mama’s hungry.”
“Tell the old bat I said hi.”
God you hate that fucking guy
NOT BY HALF
Narrowing, Closing Down
You hear Shirk laugh to himself as he walks through the wall, unimpeded. A huge blocky slab of ice forms in an instant and he is gone.
The near-dark he leaves you in is fogging up from the ice melting and the hospital’s industrialized environmental heat control kicks on and ramps up.
Hell for you begins in the here and now, in your sickbed. You don’t need some snarky visiting evil jinn coming in here, constantly fucking with you and reminding you. You know how you got here, that’s for sure.
It is here you started planting your sins. It is right in this spot where you have watched with joy, in the bits of clarity, their budding fruits. You looking down and smiling as they piled high. The silent cries and screams and pleading troubled you not. You enthralled at restraint, too weak to fight back, aware of how wrong it was. She could not understand why you were doing all those horrible things to her.
Now the spill has covered you, laying still and unmoving yourself. Chemical restraints they call it, keeping you drifting in and out of consciousness, fleeting as a swirling passing breeze, then back down to the deep dark warm nothingness.
Because you cannot be baby-sat 24/7, strong leathers make sure you stay put, if you accidentally throw off the chemical shackles. If you ever try to heave yourself over the safety rails and truck right on out of this place. No way, Jorge, just forget about it; ain’t happening. You are here, my friend, for the duration. The Big Man says so.
This is why you are wrapped in your sick bed, dying slow, perfectly still, alert in this moment. Not surprisingly, you seek your only form of comfort. You search for the dark cloth to pull over this pesky alertness, but then you feel something under the covers with you.
Oh, fuck, not again…
Through the foggy dim light, cold drizzle falling soft on your bits of exposed skin, you see her.
The hand grasps up your leg, dark blue and crawling. The night-light glow, showing through the growing fog of melting ice, illuminated the bone-thin and veiny dead hand. Her old face comes into view. Her mouth is screaming silent. Her eyes are red and leaking, reeling you in, you stare hard at her as she grabs your crotch with her other hand. She tugs and pulls her way up, the tired green covers slipping past her wigless, spotted scalp, blue with death, hands icy on your bare stomach. You screaming noiselessly, the breathing tube keeping you alive placed through useless vocal cords. She uses the hair and loose skin on your withered chest for purchase. Your head is rigid and your neck too drugged and heavy to move. Her horrid breath is leaking out of the great black hole of her dead mouth as she reaches your face. She grabs hold of your life support connection and pulls the circuit from your breathing tube. She drags her dead, decaying self, one more tug and she clamps her hole of a mouth onto your breathing tube. She begins to suck on it, aspirating the life right out of your lungs.
The breathing machine alarms shrilly, but no one comes. You crash inside, darkening your peripheral vision, narrowing, closing down. Your heart thuds crazily in your chest. You lose your hold on consciousness and you lose, are lost.
Finally, as the only thing left of This is the faraway alarm of a cardiac arrest and the only thing so far of That is the scent of sulfur and sugar, the code team arrives.
They come wading in and save your sorry ass, again. They pull you away from That and back into Hell’s waiting room. Back to your bed, back to being resuscitated by a whole fucking squadron of scrub-clad heroes. Fifty bills an hour times twenty of these motherfuckers and you ain’t worth the scratch, brother, not by half.
The heroes bring you back, successful, slowing down. Just now noticing the cold water puddling their clever-stupid multi-colored crocs on their sore wet feet, wondering from whence this shit came.
Fuck fuck, dumb-ass donkey fuck, you think. I’m still here. Show some mercy and gives us some morphine, you fuckers, you yell in your mind. You need to go under, rest. Because you know they’ll be back. And so must she….