A TASTE FOR LIFE

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A TASTE FOR LIFE

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        Trotty Wilde rides her bicycle (named) Kardashian up and down the slopes of the Coyote Hills trails at night. In these wee hours, Trotty enjoys being the only bicyclist, illuminating her own path with that 400-lumen LED headlight.

        Trotty swoops out of the trail head and onto the public street that circumvents Coyote Hills. She pedals furiously up the incline in a triumphant finale to her workout, focusing only ahead, savoring the deep muscle burn, the rapidly chilling sweat, and the bicyclist’s endorphin high.

        Suddenly a large dark automobile, without headlights, comes up from behind Trotty and side-swipes her. Trotty is flung away sideways onto the sidewalk, bouncing off of her helmeted head and rolling like a rag doll.

        Trotty can feel as she impacts and tumbles but the sensation is not yet pain, only knowledge of what pain must come.

        She faints as the deluge of pain now quickly engulfs her.

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        Trotty awakens. The pain closes upon her consciousness like water upon a hole in water. She sees a blurry figure above herself.

        Trotty hears a man saying down to her, “I have called for an ambulance. Can you hear me? You’re going to be fine.”

        Trotty faints again.

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        When she again awakens, her first conscious thoughts are of dread at being conscious. Her jagged world is pulsing with a red light. She realizes there are now other figures above her.

        Another voice is saying, close to her face, “We’re going to lift you into the ambulance. We’ll give you something for the pain when we stabilize you.”

        Trotty faints as she is lifted onto a gurney.

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        She awakens laying inside an ambulance with two medical technicians moving around her, touching her, prodding her, pulling her, saying, “We’re leaving your helmet on for a little while longer, just in case….”

        Trotty cries out from the pain. One technician says, “OK, here you go. You’re going to feel something in one second…”

        The pain now falls away like a robe. Trotty exhales. Her vision is still blurry as if under water. She watches the two pale young technicians.

        One of the technicians says to her, soothingly, “Welcome back. You were a hit.”

        Trotty giggles at the bad joke.

        The other technician says, “She’ll be marinating in happy juice now.”

        Trotty is sentient enough to realize that she is now strapped naked under a blanket. She drawls with effort, “Where are my clothes?”

        One technician says, “He knocked the shit out of you. Understand?”

        Trotty mumbles, “Yessir.”

        The technician continues, “We’re leaving your helmet on until we are sure.”

        His partner mutters, “These bicyclists. How stupid are they to insist on sharing the road with automobiles? That’s like swimming with sharks.”

        Trotty begins to mouth the movie JAWS’ ominous theme music, “Dun-dun-Dun-dun-Dun-dun…” and she splutters, giggling.

        One of the technicians says, “Don’t marinate her too much. She’ll be bitter.”

        The ambulance stops. The technicians throw the back doors open.

        They are not at a hospital.

        As they lift Trotty out of the ambulance she has a disconnected observation that they are in a dark park. Her gurney is bumping over uneven grass.

        Trotty becomes aware of a small crowd around her. She tries to focus on them. They seem to be a mix of young and old.

        One of the ambulance technicians lifts her head tenderly and removes her helmet. At that moment she realizes that all of the different people seem to have the same pale face with sunken eyes.

        The ambulance technician snatches Trotty’s blanket away. The cold night air is sobering upon her nakedness. The pain medication is diluted with a fierce shock of adrenaline but she can’t make her throat scream. She squirms desperately in her straps upon the gurney.

        The ghouls now surround her closely and begin to press their hands and lips upon her flesh, murmuring with lust and craving.

        For all ghouls have a taste for life.

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THE GRAVES OF LOUIS GAROU

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THE GRAVES OF LOUIS GAROU

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          Louis Garou was a black slave on a sugar plantation in the French Caribbean colony of Ayiti.  It was 1789 and the National Constituent Assembly of the French Revolution had promulgated the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

          Louis Garou listened to a domestic servant Odetta LaSang who lamented, “The declaration did not revoke the institution of slavery.”

          Odetta LaSang long ago had taken pity on Louis Garou for the lashings upon his mind, body, and soul by overwork; inadequate food, shelter, clothing and medical care.  Therefore, Odetta LaSang swore that she secretly would educate him.  But teaching Louis Garou to read or write was forbidden by the fearful slave masters.  There were ten times more slaves than white masters and Odetta LaSang had told to Louis Garou the words of Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau who had written that “the whites sleep at the foot of Vesuvius.

          No, Odetta LaSang was not going to educate Louis Garou to ingratiate himself by learning the conventions of his tormentors.  Odetta LaSang taught Louis Garou instead about vodou (spirit demons and deities) because Odetta LaSang was secretly a mambo (vodou priestess).

          Some slaves already had run away from the plantation and lived in the jungle beyond the sugar plantation by stealing what they could not find to survive and by living in fear of being recaptured and violently punished.  Runaway slaves when captured were whipped and many were tortured as a warning to the thousands of other slaves.  Some were castrated.  Some were burned.

          A confederation of runaway slaves known as maroons (“fugitives, runaways”) had congealed and they were perpetrating sporadic raids on the sugar plantation.  But they had no leader.

          Louis Garou had always sought his refuge within flickering dreams of rebellion but under the tutelage of Odette LaSang the pitiable slave was devoured slowly by a fiery conspiracy of ungodly revenge.

          Louis Garou’s macabre enlightening could not be hidden much longer under a bushel of sugar cane.  One night he simply walked away into the jungle.

          He appeared before the maroon camp, terrifying them with his apparition.  They saw angels falling from his eyes.  He grinned upon them with the teeth of a dog.

          Louis Garou proclaimed himself the savior of the maroons and he gave them commandments of blood.  Louis Garou convened the maroons in a vodou ceremony and inflamed their ever-present African ancestors.  The disembowelment of a black female pig marked the beginning of the holocaust on Ayiti.

          The slaves of the sugar plantation had been told in the epiphanies of Odetta LaSang that the descent of Judgment would be sudden and terrible upon the French grands blancs (wealthy white aristocrats).  Yet even Odetta LaSang fell to her knees when she finally witnessed the horror that her epiphanies had refused to reveal.

          Louis Garou led the attack on the plantation mansion.  Grands blancs security guards and administrators were hacked down like sugar cane.  Mulatto workers were not spared.  Louis Garou finally broke into the kitchen where Odetta LaSang was shielding the innocent young grand blanc children that she had raised.  Louis Garou told his rabid followers to bring the parents down to him alive.  In order to force the mother and father to witness what would happen next he commanded that their eyelids be sliced off.

          Possessed by his fearsome Djab (personal demon) Louis Garou snatched the children one by one away from Odetta LaSang and with his teeth he disemboweled them alive upon the lace cloth of the dining table.  He flung their limp husks into the basket of garbage that was to have been given to the slaves to eat.  Then, while the guts still steamed, Louis Garou reached into the face of the mother and pulled the eyeballs from her sockets, throwing them upon the heap of the children’s entrails.  She toppled forward spewing blood.  The mind of the father had fled his body.  To bring the father’s mind back Louis Garou had him placed upon the table and his skin peeled off.

          Louis Garou then took the gory lace tablecloth and commanded that it be raised as the flag of the rebellion and so it was done.  Odetta LaSang chanted protection for herself as she followed Louis Garou outside.

          The massacre soon covered the entire island of Ayiti.  Louis Garou at last declared amnesty for the survivors who had hidden themselves, promising, “I will not kill you!”  As soon as the survivors revealed themselves Louis Garou had them buried alive.

          Odetta LaSang proclaimed to the sated followers, “We are free.  We are the Republic of Ayiti!”

          The sugar of Ayiti was too valuable to the economic interests of even a newly enlightened France.  Napoleon Bonaparte eventually sent a formidable expeditionary force of French soldiers and warships to the island in order to restore French rule.  Odetta LaSang and Louis Garou were forced to flee Ayiti by stowing away on a vessel bound for Nouvelle-Orléans, the capital of French Louisiana.

          Odetta LaSang became a wealthy woman once in Nouvelle-Orléans.  Louis Garou was not documented as being seen again although there have been strangely gruesome murders and inexplicable vanishings in New Orleans ever since.  One day Odetta LaSang just disappeared and her devotees said that she entered the spirit world intact.  Her abandoned mansion became a vodou pilgrimage site and finally it was declared the Historical Site known today.  Lately there have been financial difficulties and maintaining the site had become problematic.

          The real surprise came when potential developers were surveying the grounds of the mansion.  An unmarked crypt was discovered that held a tightly sealed coffin.  The publicity has been sensational.  Of course the speculation is that the body of Louis Garou has been found.  This discovery has resurrected the Historical Site as a viable endeavor: a lucrative exclusive television deal has been signed and tourism has returned with a vengeance.

          I am the Forensic Anthropologist who has been contracted to open the coffin and document the findings and present my “mystery guest” in a televised special.  This discovery has also resurrected my career.  I was laid off in the recent State University budget massacres.  Since then my desperate “consulting business” has consisted only of “consulting” with bill collectors.  I eventually was hired only because my family could be traced back to the time of Odetta LaSang and Louis Garou.  My family legends even say that the disappearance of one of my relatives was attributed to Louis Garou.  I always figured that my ancestor’s disappearance was attributable to a drunken stupor and a swamp.

          Truthfully?  I personally figure that the coffin will contain the remains of Odetta LaSang’s favorite cat.  But who am I to piss on my own parade?

          A mobile cleanroom for isolation and temperature and humidity control has been set-up for me in the parlour of Odetta LaSang’s mansion.  The television broadcast will be early tomorrow for Good Mornin’ All Y’all.  Alone tonight I am expected to open the coffin with painstaking caution and to prepare my “debutante”.  I had insisted that I have no distracting assistant.  Truth be told, I am not too confident of my rusty techniques.

          OK.  Turn on the video recorder.  I am dressed like a surgeon.  Nice touch if I do say so myself.

          “The coffin is wrapped in an oily swaddling that bears symbols of vodou curses.”

          I place the excised strips of the cloth cocoon upon a large stainless steel table.  The coffin itself is revealed.

          “The coffin appears to be made of Bayou Cypress.  It has been given a mirror-like finish,” and then I expound for dramatic effect, “There are ancient religions that believe the cypress tree is sacred.  Some believe that the cypress tree is last tree seen before entering the underworld,” and then I joked, “I guess that was true for this resident, whoever it might be.”

          I lean very close to examine the highly oiled and polished coffin lid.  I can see my reflection.  I stare at myself.  My shifting focus makes me feel light headed.  My vision wavers.

          Suddenly I am looking through a completely transparent coffin lid and I can clearly see that it is me!  It is me laid out as the grim resident of the coffin!

          I open my mouth to exclaim but something has me by the throat.  I try to pull back but I am restrained.  I panic!  The sensation of strangling!  All fades to blackness.

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          I must have fainted.  People are standing around me, looking down at me.  There is the Good Mornin’ All Y’all hostess.  There behind her stands her cameraman.  There are children leaning over me; young boys grin with wicked relish, young girls grimace, “Eeeww!”  There is laughter.  I cannot yet speak.  And then I see a familiar figure with his back toward me.  He turns.

          It is me!  He is leaning down toward me.  I am having a nightmare and I can’t wake up!  His eyes glint and I hear him saying, “The body is badly decomposed but we are fairly certain that it is not the body of a black man such as was Louis Garou.  He will be returned with the coffin to the crypt out of respect for whoever he might have been.”

          The hostess of Good Mornin’ All Y’all asks, “Could this have been one of Louis Garou’s victims?”

          I see the apparition of myself look back down at me and I hear it say, “Now why would Louis Garou have gone to so much trouble to bury a victim when he could have just thrown him into the swamp?”

          The hostess sums up for the camera audience, “And so we have not found the coffin of Louis Garou after all…”

          The apparition of me interrupts, smiling mischievously, “Well, we don’t know that,” and then the apparition of me makes a ghoulish face at the children, saying, “Maybe Louis Garou is just not in his coffin anymore!” and the children shriek.

          I cannot.

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ÉUPHORANASIA

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ÉUPHORANASIA

        I open my eyes and I am pressed warmly against her soft skin. She still sleeps. Her sweet breath is a gentle tide across my mouth. I don’t want to get up; I never do when she is with me. And we have been together since our marriage five years ago. Gloria and I were so young but I wanted her like I want my next breath. I do still. My love for her used to be terrifying when I imagined the possibility of not possessing her completely forever. And now, now we have a little daughter who looks like her and my love for our little girl is, is, is… excruciating. I never thought it was possible to love something, someone else as much as my Gloria. Is this much… really possible? Sometimes I think it is all the happiness that I can possibly bear.

        Forgive me, dear Lord, when I honestly say that I don’t care about the rest of Your foolish world. I mean, I would help someone truly in need, but Gloria has been my sun and my guiding star and, yes, dear Lord, my religion. I work so that she never shall want. My will on her behalf is unbending and it grows stronger. My career has been like a solid stairway, every step higher, more sure, more secure but always for her, never for myself. I am strong because I am so sure of my path. And my little girl is the finest gift I … we could ever bestow upon this foolish, undeserving world.

        Today is Christmas Eve and we will be having our parents over for dinner and a very special surprise for Gloria as well. I have such a good relationship with my in-laws. All those in-law jokes have no meaning in this family. Tonight Gloria’s parents will arrive in the new XL-Z that I bought for her. She will not believe her eyes, and she will be so happy which is all that matters to me.

        I finally get up and I go to work. There will not be much work accomplished anywhere onsite but I have a report to finish as a favor to my boss. No problem, he is a really good boss and I greatly respect him. And I finish my report after 5PM. No problem, I just need to be home by 7PM. It is already very dark and cold outside and I look out my window to see that the parking lot is shiny with this afternoon’s rain slick that captures the full moon light.

        I log-off my computer from my Yahoo Home Page. A news brief catches my eye: Your teenager and the new designer drug dubbed “Éuphoranasia”. What a world. It is not my world. But I should probably know something about it, so I click on the link. Instantly a message in red lettering against a black screen states “The side effects can be Hell”. The message dissolves into an up-close visage of a grotesque upper face with malevolent glaring yellow eyes that seem to stare right at me. Oh, great. A virus. Well, I’ll have to tell IT on Monday. I shut off my computer completely.

        Outside, my car is the only one left in the moonlit parking lot. As I walk toward it I notice the alley-way across the street. Of all things, there is a dark and gleaming XL-Z parked there. Next to it is the silhouette of a man. He is standing still, but I have suddenly the sensation of ice-water in my chest as I believe he is watching me. I get into my car quickly and lock the doors. The man has not moved, but he still seems to be watching me. I step on the gas pedal and slide out of the parking lot into the main street. It is lucky there are no other cars coming.

        It is starting to rain again. I look in my rear-view mirror and see no other car behind me. I focus forward and begin to think about tonight. Christmas Eve with everyone I love. The oncoming car headlights look like a string of bright ornaments. But there is one that has those really bright “phosphorous” headlights that young people think are so cool. I have to squint and turn my face sideways; the phosphorous headlights are so bright. Suddenly, Jesus! The phosphorous headlights swerve directly in front of me. My eyes are wide, my mouth is open to scream, I lean back, and then there is blackness.

        I awaken. I am in unbelievable pain. It feels like every joint is broken. I am lying on the wet asphalt on my side. I see my car. It is crumpled and shredded into the front end of … of the XL-Z from the alley-way. The XL-Z is unscratched, but there is a furious inferno inside the vehicle.

        I sit up in agony. Something softly bounces on my cheek. I reach up and touch it. It is my eyeball, with splinters of glass in it. I try to scream but I choke. My hand falls on my face. It is wet and ragged and I feel glass splinters. A thought hits me: I was thrown through my windshield. Help me. Help me, God!

        Suddenly there are figures rushing around me that I can barely make out. I am grabbed under both arms and lifted screaming. I am conveyed toward the XL-Z that is so shiny and unscarred but with the boiling flames inside that seem to burn without consuming. The door to the back seat of the XL-Z is now pulled open. I am flung inside screaming. The unimaginable pain causes me to shrivel instantly. I faint.

        I awaken on my back under a bright light. My skin shivers in pain from the merest breeze. There is a person in medical garb above me. I am paralyzed. I cannot speak. My one good eye is open but I can not move my field of vision. My sight is glazing over. I cannot blink. The medical person looks into my face and clicks his tongue. Suddenly he slits my torso from neck to crotch. I faint into the raging pain.

        I awaken breathing hot sulfurous vapors. The smell is hideous. My head is tipped back staring at the ceiling of a stone cavern. I am straining on my tip-toes, gasping. Out of the corner of my one good eye I see the unthinkable. I am in a lake of feces. There are others mired as I am, wailing. I suddenly see a pack of hideous dog-like creatures patrolling the shoreline of this Hell. When they pass, one of the other poor mired people wades quickly to the shoreline and scrambles out, slippery with the nauseating feces covering him. Suddenly, there is heart-stopping howling from the pack of dog-creatures who race back to the individual who tries to run. He slips. The dog-creatures are upon him. They rip his guts out and gnaw off his limbs, shaking their heads viciously and with a final shake toss the gory remains back into the lake of feces.

        I am paralyzed with terror. But a moment later a head breaks the surface and gasps, wailing. It is the mutilated fugitive, now apparently whole again. I turn to a woman beside me who has watched the same spectacle. I cry to her. What is happening?

        She looks at me sadly and says it is near the End of Days. The Devil has been allowed his own “Rapture”.

        Do you mean the Devil is kidnapping innocent souls? I must be dreaming but there is too much pain and terror.

        She tells me I have a chance, that I am lucky! She tells me, saying that she no longer cares that she will pay in more suffering for telling me this: my Free Will has not been consigned to the Devil.

        She says to me in earnest that she will create a diversion and that I must flee. Down that tunnel. Before my mind can even sort the meaning, she wades to the edge of the lake and clambers out, gasping. A moment later the dog-creatures are upon her, but before she suffers the same fate as the man before, she screams to me to gather my Fee Will.

        While the dog-creatures are slavering in their mutilation of her, I myself wade to the edge of the lake and slither out, covered in foul feces. The dog-creatures do not see me. I run, slipping and sliding away from the hideous lake and into the tunnel. But where is this going? God help me. God why is this happening to me? Help me.

        I see a glow ahead and finally I am stopped against a perfectly smooth stone wall. The glow intensifies and I can suddenly see through the stone wall as if it were a huge pane of glass. There is a room beyond. It is illuminated only by the light stealing in from the window of a door on the opposite side. Oh, Jesus, Jesus… I am looking into the refrigeration room of a morgue! There are bunk shelves and gurneys with shrouded figures.

        Suddenly, to my shock, one of the shrouded figures arises, casts of his sheet, gets off of the gurney and walks slowly towards me. When he encounters the other side of the wall, there is a halo of light around him and he passes through into the tunnel right beside me! “Help me!!”, I cry. He never turns his head. He has a bewildered look upon his pale face and he proceeds down the tunnel as if hypnotized. I cry after him, but he is soon lost to me in the dark distance.

        I turn back to the translucent wall and I pound upon it. Help! Help! I’m in here! Help!

        But then, for some reason, I think of what the woman who saved me said. She said to gather my Fee Will. I lay my forehead against the translucent stone and I pray to God with all-consuming intensity and I feel my guts tensioning. Suddenly there is a flash of light and I am on the other side, in the refrigeration room of the morgue. The freezing air feels like a balm, but I race to the door opposite and emerge into the morgue examining room. Soon enough I find the employees shower and I run warm water to remove the slime of feces from myself. But when the warm water strikes my burned skin it becomes agony and I barely keep from screaming. I open the nearby hamper and I pull on some soiled scrubs. At the exit door of the morgue there are several white coats hanging. I grab one. I pull some paper booties over my bare feet and I exit into a hospital corridor. Basement Exit the sign informs me. None of the few people I pass take any notice of me. I am outside. I am free.

        I recognize where I am. This hospital is only a few miles from my home. I shuffle rapidly as my paper booties shred into clinging fragments. I just cannot run! I wince in tiny agony with every step. I don’t want to faint again.

        After an hour of eternities I arrive at my street. It is still Christmas Eve. I am crying. But what is this?

        My house is dark. There is police crime-scene tape around my entire property. On the sidewalk is an improvised memorial. I see a large framed picture surrounded by flowers, teddy-bears, and candles. I limp toward the picture. Oh, no, no, God. I fall to my knees in the gutter clutching my hair. It is a picture of my wife and child! No, no, please, God, no!

        Then suddenly I remember.

        I am not her husband. She is not my wife. That is not my child.

        I killed them.

        I was supposed to kill the family of a rival Éuphoranasia dealer. I went to the wrong house. I was caught. I was sentenced to Life Under The Influence Of Éuphoranasia.

        The candles begin to glow brighter. Brighter. BRIGHTER! I cower in blindness, drooling in mental anguish. I feel weak. I am going to faint. Oh, God, no, no. Not again!

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        I open my eyes and I am pressed warmly against her soft skin. She still sleeps. And now, now we have a little daughter who looks like her and my love for our little girl is, is, is… excruciating. I never thought it was possible to love something, someone else as much as my Gloria.

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