Paper or Plastic?

Cycling down, compressing, Ronald watches as the arms and legs hanging outside the machine snap off like muted branches.  Thick and bleeding, they fall to the concrete floor, no longer a part of what once made them whole.  Occasionally—perhaps one in five—these appendages roll towards him, but most times they do not.  Inert, they remain still about his feet, pooling, each piece preceded only by the dull thud its weight creates against the floor.  It is Sunday, pre-church, and before the morning rush.

Does he care that they make fun of him?  Yes.  More than they could know.  Does Ronald show it?  Never—not once.  He is good at this; at holding things in.   He lets them stew, boil.   That is how he cooks; how the man inside him rolls.  In the mirror, naked, he repeats:  I am rage. 

At sixteen he is hit by a car.  It hurts, but he survives.   Scars come, many, and every day he limps because of it.   So what, he thinks.  It beats the hell out of being dead.  Dead can’t bring closure.  Dead could not extract revenge.  His right hand turns inward as well, up and towards his chest.  It resembles a claw, but one which has lost the will to live.  Chicks never look at it, not if it can be helped. 

At least I survived.

He says this whenever an associate asks.  And he says it with a smile on his face each and every time.  He believes it keeps them humble, the ones he secretly despised.  They think he never hears their whispers; that he could ever possibly know.  Each of them is wrong; all of them his rage.

Mr. Gray keeps him on at Mister Food even though Corporate doesn’t want him to.  Ronald gives the man credit for that.  He really, truly does.  Mr. Gray—tall, bald, bad breath—shouldn’t have done what he did though, and only because of what it would produce.  He should have given Ronald severance; just ensure he went away.  He did not however, and soon enough Ronald finds out that Mr. Gray is no better than the rest of the people behind his back.  He never yells at Ronald, nothing as vulgar as that.  But he whispers along with the rest of them, and at times Ronald would see him laugh.

The final straw involves the baler, and the day Mr. Gray takes him aside.  Mr. Gray says it is only meant to house cardboard and plastic—that only a bale of each could be made at a time.  Ronald says he understands; that it hadn’t been he who mixed the two.  It was then Mr. Gray chooses to call him a liar, and his voice, had it been raised?  Ronald can’t remember, only that his fellow employees have stopped in their tracks to stare.  One of them had been Cara, a girl Ronald wished he could call his own.  She would never fuck him though, and he was happy he held no delusions concerning that.

  “And Ronald, really, you need to be washing your uniform more than once a week.”  Ronald nods, takes what has been given, and then watches Mr. Gray walk away.  From the side he sees him roll his eyes as he passes Patrick, Bill and Mark.  They smile in return, the secret shared and understood.  The rage comes forward then, leaping, but Ronald smiles instead, his big grin containing what will no longer be contained.  Later, while masturbating, the staff meeting at the end of the month enters Ronald’s mind.  They are always held out back, where Mister Food keeps all its excess stock.  Mr. Gray purchases folding chairs and everyone gets a seat.  Beside these seats looms the baler, metal and brown, stickered and wide.  Plastic and cardboard Mr. Gray had said, saying it as though Ronald were new; that he hadn’t been an active member of the Mister Food Team for the past twelve years.   The baler produced rectangle kids after you fed its mouth and the plunger pushed down until it no longer could.  After that came the twine, six lengths of rope you tied off in order to hold the child you created in place.  Ronald was far from wondering about cardboard and plastic as he spasmed into his hand.  He was thinking about bodies; about stacking them high.  Could it be done, he thought, and realized he had been talking out loud.

“Mr. Gray?”

“What is it now Ronald?”

“At the staff meeting—could I be in charge of the refreshments?”  Pausing, Mr. Gray finally swivels in his chair.  “Of course you can,” he says.  Ronald notices that Mr. Gray is more than enthused that he has offered to do this.  Good for me, Ronald thinks—everyone needs a little happiness in their lives.

The dosage is enough, more than, and all but Florence had taken a glass.  It doesn’t take much to persuade her however, not once Ronald puts the full force of his limp on display.  She takes the glass, sips—comments on how peachy it tastes.  Thirty minutes later all thirty-seven employees lay prone before him.  Where to begin, he thinks, and suddenly he notices how hard his breath has become; how hard his heart is now knocking against his chest.  “I am Rage,”  he says and looks around, taking each of them in at a time.  I will be stacking you, he thinks, and then goes on towards Mr. Gray.  In time—stupid fucking hand—he gets the big man up, rolling him up and over the baler’s bottom lip.  Easier, he takes the cashiers next, each of them half the weight of Mr. Gray.  Eleven of them inside, Ronald closes the safety gate and then pushes the big green button on the side of the machine.  With a start and then a screech, the plunger descends, crushing breath and bone alike.  They never wake, not one of them.  They only bleed, forming a lake like syrup to which Ronald sees no end.

  The buggie boys come next, followed by the Stationary Department.  Of them all, Sheila the office girl proves the most difficult.  Over three hundred pounds, she is more than he can lift.  Using empty milk crates, Ronald creates the leverage he believes he will need.  In, she sinks half way down, her face coming to rest beside George from Frozen Food.  Amanda is beside them, her brain exposed and grey.  Done, he looks around at the empty chairs, at the skids full of overstock beyond.  He takes in the blood that continues to seep from the bottom of the baler and arms and legs that rest within.  Should I leave them, he thinks, but knows a job is not complete until you have cleaned up after yourself.

He makes a bale using twine that will never again be white.  It does not turn out as he had hoped, not as rectangular, nor as solidly built.

From skin that runs in flaps to muscle that hangs and drips, Ronald stands in front of the baler’s open door, squints into the chamber for all the faces he can still make out.  There is Stacy and Beth, both of them covered in Shawn.  Below them he sees Richard, the man finally inside Peggy-Sue.   And there at the bottom lay Mr. Gray, his bright eyes now dull, his nose below his mouth.  They would not be laughing anymore, nor would their whispers continue to come.

Washing up, Ronald changes into his extra uniform.  He then goes out and fills the milk.  He rotates the product as he’s been taught, finds that the person before him has not.  He sighs when he finds this; dejected to see that someone had not been doing their job as they were supposed to.  Finished, he takes his empty crates out back and piles them away.  He stacks the chairs as well, the ones Mr. Gray had rented for the day.  Making his way up front, he realizes he has lost track of time; that the customers have been waiting longer than they should, many of them now tapping their keys against the glass.  Opening the doors, they look at him weird, like they have never experienced rage before.  Have I missed some blood, he asks himself, and then he looks to his one good hand.  Seeing nothing, he welcomes them in; informs them that the cashiers will be up front shortly.  The customers smile in response to this, but Ronald feels that something is off.  He doesn’t know what, only that it is there.   The customers do not whisper however, nor do they laugh.

By Beau Johnson

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Hang

They held him down and wired his hands behind him, the wire cutting tight into his meaty wrists, then stood him up and blindfolded him then marched him into their vehicle and drove him away. He was in some wooded lot but now they were taking him somewhere else, where he didn’t know, couldn’t know, had no chance of seeing where, all he knew was that they were driving and he was being driven with wired wrists and blinded eyes.

At least they didn’t gag his mouth.

“Where are you—”

The smack made him feel its sting, numbing his jaw. He couldn’t tell if it was really a smack or a punch but it hurt so bad he couldn’t speak. He wanted to know where they were taking him of course but now it didn’t matter because he knew that in less than an hour he would be dead anyway. At least that’s what they said before when they wired his hands.

In what seemed just a few minutes the vehicle stopped. He heard shuffling feet but no voices. Then a door opened and he felt angry hands grab at his arms and yank him up and move him. He stumbled on something then felt what he guessed was pavement. He sensed the presence of one of them close to him but wasn’t sure if it was the vehicle or something else.

Then he heard what struck terror all through him.

Traffic.

The sounds of passing vehicles emanated from somewhere. He felt himself being moved, walking forward. The sounds seemed to get closer. They seemed to be coming from below his range of hearing.

I’m on an overpass.

He heard a vehicle pass nearby, then another, but the continuous sounds confirmed it.

I’m standing on an overpass. They’re going to throw me off.

Suddenly he felt something being wrapped around him. Something that felt like a rope, or maybe a longer wire. He felt them putting it under his arms and tightening it around his chest. Someone was behind him pulling at it, getting it tighter, now too tight. It constricted him, but he could still breathe well enough. But it was too tight, it cut into his flesh, moreso than the wire on his wrists.

Someone pulled at his hair from behind and yanked his head back. The traffic seemed to get louder in his ears. Someone spoke from his left.

“You had many chances. We gave you so many chances to tell us but you refused. You signed your own death wish.”

The pain in his chest became more intense as he felt himself being moved again, but only a few steps until he felt something solid against his hips. Hands from both sides lifted him sideways, to his right, and he felt the solid thing on his shoulder and legs and hip. Hands pushed his feet forward and then he felt himself drop. Whatever it was they tied tightly around him cut deeper into the flesh of his chest and back, against his armpits. The pain was excruciating and his mind raced, realizing that he was being lowered into the sound of all that traffic, which was no doubt an expressway during rush hour.

The air was cool and he felt a breeze on his face, but it did nothing to diminish the pain. The sound of the traffic, the passing vehicles, got closer. He began to focus on his feet, knowing that soon he would feel something strike against them, and hard. It would be the top of a semi more than likely and maybe the impact would crack his feet right off. A semi going 70 miles an hour could do that, he thought. He instinctively bent his knees to raise his feet up but then he thought that would be even worse if his knees and legs got it so he straightened them out again and tried to think of something else, anything else, which was hard to do when you’re being lowered into oncoming traffic, all those vehicles rushing to get to work or wherever the fuck they were going, and then suddenly blowing their horns since they’re seeing you now, you, a body hanging off an overpass, your eyes blinded by some wrap, the cars and the trucks and campers and motorcycles not seeming to slow down but instead speeding up, why would they do that, shouldn’t they be stopping, but no, they can’t just stop, there are hundreds of them, they can’t stop, you’re not some ornament on a tree or some landmark they need to look at, you’re just a body hanging from an overpass and that fucking semi just took off your feet and you’re swinging around and being lowered even further, right in the path of a Winnebago and BAM it bashes against your chest and those wires cut into your ribs, you feel as if they’re gonna cut you in half but they don’t, you’re just bashed by another one and you see that your legs are deformed and lower you go so that you’re level with the oncoming traffic, a little break in it but that’s no relief since your ribs are cracked and there’s blood dripping out of your legs where your feet were and BAM right in the fucking head another one hit, it hit the wire that hangs you there too, and you’re catapulted around and back so that you’re struck by yet another one, and now it’s all black and you can’t feel much now, can’t see that your intestines are hanging out of your bloodied torso, those wires still slicing through you as if you’re a block of cheese, but soon it’ll be over, soon you’ll be splattered on the fucking freeway like a deer and you’ll be a carcass, bashed open like a human pinata, all those cars and trucks and whatever else swerving to miss hitting you, their drivers unaware at first of what’s in the road, maybe it is a deer but no it’s a fucking person, oh my fucking god, it’s a person and then you’re done, you’re history, everything’s over, there’s blood and guts and brain matter and limbs in the road, your torso and head are all that remain intact, they’re still lovers, they still love each other so much but they died together, your head cracked in half but still connected to the neck, the neck still connected to the shoulders, but what bloody mayhem of a mess you are now, you’re just a dead thing in pieces that had been hanging from an overpass. That’s really all you are.


By Jeff Callico

The Others

“Where are you taking me?” she almost screamed at him as he forced her to walk in front of him, her eyes blindfolded, her wrists bound in tight wire behind her, so tight it cut into her flesh. He could smell her blood and it excited him. He always liked the smell of her blood — not just any blood, her blood. The trees in the woods, so tall all around them as they walked, seemed to listen to her pleadings for an answer; he gave her nothing but an occasional poke in the small of her back with a sturdy stick.

He once loved her. No, he always loved her. Even from when they began with things. She the sexual creature he saw across the room at that fucking former friend’s house party, he the brooding male on the hunt for a girl who would suit his needs for…whatever he had been looking for at the time. He decided that he had been looking for a woman like her, this dark-haired queen who sparked his lust and fed him her own when they got alone in some dark room. They fucked like mad then fucked some more. Their fucking was out of control and when she fucked him she gave him bruises and scratches and scars. She used her sex as a weapon, her pussy her trusted partner in crime. He begged for more and soon he became her animal on a leash. He desired her more than anything and they fucked every night, no matter where they found each other. He was eager to be marked by her, wanted to be branded with her fucklust. She made him hers and told him so. But she liked it when he bit her when he fucked her, when he bit at her flesh and tasted her own blood. She demanded he feed it to her off his tongue and she sucked it like a cock, tasting her blood and wanting more. She bit his cock, made it bleed, drove herself insane. They were crazy for each other’s blood and they both knew it. But he knew something was boiling deep in her mind, he could see it sometimes when she was riding him. She sometimes stared down at him with evil in her eyes; he knew what it was inside her. It took her a few nights to speak her desire, to spew her lust at him.

“If I ever find out you’re fucking somebody else I swear I’ll cut your fucking cock off,” she had told him one night after she fucked him into silence, her hand grabbing his face, the other hand gripping his wilted cock. He knew she was serious, too. She had shown him her knife, the one she told him she would use if he got out of line.

But that was months ago. She was a fucking cunt. She was the one who fucked others behind his back. And he knew it for a fact, he knew people who knew others, the others she fucked and never told him about until he found out for himself. He never dreamed she would, he always thought his submission to her kept her coming back for more, he thought it made her lust stronger for him. “My pussy is yours, your cock is mine,” she had said, the evil in her grin making him believe it. Fuck he loved her. He wanted to consume her, wanted her to consume him. Wanted to be devoured by her evil mouth, her evil mind, her evil lust. But no. She fucked them all, the others. She fucked each one and then fucked them all at once. There were five, no six. The people he knew told him everything. How she seduced one after another then got them all together at some other party and got them to take her home, to fuck her in her bed. How she was ravenous to be fucked by them even though she knew her submissive animal was left alone without a leash, unknowing at the time of her sexual abandon.

Well, then. Fuck that, fuck her, fuck the bitch, fuck her to fucking death.

“I said where the FUCK are  you taking me? Fucking answer me!!!”

He poked her in the back, harder this time. He wanted to poke the stick in her cunt. Maybe he would, soon. Once he got her legs splayed open before him.

They arrived at the location of his choosing. The one he had selected earlier that day. He turned her toward him and took a moment to look at her. What a fucking cunt. He wanted to tell her, wanted to scream it at her, but no. He smacked her instead, smacked her hard in the face, then smacked her again. Blood oozed from her bottom lip. Yes, her blood still excited him, but this time he wanted to taste the blood of her death and not her sex. He licked it offf then spit it in her face. Fuck her sex, he thought, that bleeding lip begging for another vicious slap. So he did, because he could. Because her wrists were bound with wire behind her and she was still blindfolded, she couldn’t tell where his next blow would come from. SMACK. SMACK, SMACK SMACK. He wanted to smack her until she passed out but no. He stopped and stripped her, got her naked like she always wanted to be with him, then pushed her backwards, so that she fell upon his prepared pile of finger-sized twigs and limbs.

She was semi-conscious, he could tell; her moans weren’t sexual, he decided they were filled with pain, with fear, and that was perfect. Darkness was imminent, there was just enough light to see the four stakes he had set in the ground. He unbound her wrists then chained first one arm, then the other, first one leg, then then other. There. She was ready. The fucking cunt slut bitch was ready.

“What….are  you….doing,” she said, her words faint but loud enough for him to hear.

He removed her blindfold but said nothing. He watched as she was able to determine her surroundings, what she was lying on, and saw the sudden terror in her now exposed eyes.

He set her on fire. It was that simple. He lit the match and then the kindling under her arm that was chained to the stake, just like her other arm, and her legs, too. The flames ate her, consumed her, devoured her flesh and he sat on the nearest log and watched, hearing her screams, those other-than-human screams, echo through the woods. He was where no one was, where no one was near, so her animalistic wails meant nothing, not even to the trees. They watched right along with him as she burned alive, the scent of her flesh strangely sweet in his nostrils. Soon her screaming stopped and she knew she was dead. Fucking cunt bitch slut, she shoulda known better. And it was all her fucking fault, not his, he didn’t do a damn thing, it was all her, so yeah she deserved it, she deserved it all. He stood and waited for the flames to die down, for the smoke to dissipate, for the smell of her sweet flesh to turn rotten. He turned and walked away, leaving the trees to deal with her, now nothing more than a burnt corpse nobody could fuck.

By Jeff Callico