I can’t say how long the Other had been inside of me. Maybe a week, maybe an eternity. I didn’t know much besides that it was there. Really it didn’t matter. Not after I’d left home and started toward that rock concert. Well, no. Scratch that. It did matter, because the rock concert was just a cover. An excuse to make it seem that I had a destination. Really, I had no idea where It was pulling me. I just knew it was in control.
The rain plooped and plopped, which for some terrible reason reminded me of gumdrops. I hated those things. Despite the fun colors, despite the sugar, I hated them. Or did I? Did the Beast hate them? I couldn’t tell.
Headlights appeared in the distance and I found myself sticking out my thumb. A simple gesture, but why? I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t answer why I had no car in the first place. Didn’t I own one? No, no that’s right I didn’t. Mom and Dad had refused to buy me one. I’d refused to raise the money for one. And so that’s why it only had this as Its transport. My own two feet.
To my horror the car stopped. An old pickup truck, red and battered, with steel peeling off it like blood. I was mortified. I couldn’t let this thing get out! Why had I hailed this poor fellow over? Why had I stuck out my thumb!?
“Yeah?” he said, rather softly. He had a mop of hair, thick glasses, and reeked of beer. His eyes were the worst though. They pierced me, and I was slightly worried they’d see the Monster. The Monster was slightly worried that they’d see It. Neither of us could tell. “You want a ride?”
Everything in my mind screamed no.
The infestation in my soul whispered, “Yes.” Free of the gumdrops, It felt safe. I felt dead.
We sat in silence. The driver was an odd fellow, I could tell right away. He wasn’t exactly drunk, but he’d been drinking. The empty beer cans strewn about could attest. There was a steely edge about him that made me think he was used to the side effects. Too used to them.
“What’s ya’ name?” he asked, slurring only slightly.
“Steve,” I replied. I was compelled too. “How ‘bout you?”
“Jeff.” And then as if for reassurance: “Jeff Dahmer.”
The name carried no clout with me. It meant nothing for the Creature.
“Where ya’ headin’?” Jeff asked as a follow-up.
“Lockwood Corners,” I said, again compelled to give up this information. But by what? The Thing? Jeff’s charisma? God knows he probably lived in his mother’s basement.
“Ah, yeah, the Corners,” Jeff said as if I’d immediately recalled a thousand and one precious memories. “Rock concert going on over there, ain’t it?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Looks like shit weather for it though,” he said, peering up through the windshield at the starless sky.
“You thirsty?” He took a swig from a half-empty beer can in the cup holder next to him. I just knew he was going to crash. I wanted out. I begged the Beast for out. I was denied.
“Really? Shame, it really is. Gotta’ whole ‘nother six pack back at the house. Two actually. Hear that? One for you, one for me!” He said it as if it were the greatest thing in the world. I forced the bile back down my throat.
“No, honestly I’m alright. If you could—ah!” A sharp pain hit my chest. I clutched for it, but there was nothing there. Just my skin, cold, wet, and clammy. Jeff gave me a funny look, but I waved it off.
“Just one of those weird pains, you know? I think I broke my collarbone as a kid or something.”
“Yeah, broke it…” His eyes were back on me, and I could feel the truck drift toward would surely be all three of our deaths. “How, might I ask?”
“Huh?” was my feigned response. How did someone break a collarbone? Dumb luck?
“How’d you break it? Just curious is all.”
“Oh, a, uh, freak accident. Yeah, round the house. Fell off a ladder.”
“Really?” His eyes knew I was lying.
“Yes,” I said slowly, which for some reason It thought would be more convincing.
“Humph,” was the short breath. “You sure you don’t want a beer or something? It could be fun.”
“Yes, I’ll have one,” I felt it slip like putty through my fingers. It had squeezed the response out, and in Jeff’s demeanor I saw no way I could take it back.
“Great,” he said, a genuine smile crossing his face. That set me at ease a bit. Didn’t it?
The ploop, plop began to taper off and as I found my feet mechanically moving out of the truck and toward the darkened house at the end of a lonesome highway, I smelt the freshness of the place. The Monster turned up its nose, and I tried to drink as much of it in as I could. The gumdrops had washed all away, and I could sense a renewal all over. Except for Jeff, and for the first time It really realized this. He was a black hole drawing life from everything he touched.
“Come on,” he urged, waving a hand toward me. “It’ll be cool!” Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, through the door, down a hallway, around a corner, and into a living room. A TV was there, its screen blue. As there were no other lights, the machine doused the room in a sapphire bath. There on the table was the eponymous beer Jeff had spoken so highly of, side by side with two thirty pound dumbbells.
The contrasting light and shadow made Jeff’s face look gaunt. Thin. Stretched. His jaw hit the floor, his forehead the ceiling. He was this anamorphic ghost come to eat my soul. The Snake felt a tinge of something then. A tinge of fear most likely. I know I was petrified.
“Go ahead,” Jeff motioned, stretching out an equally ghastly hand. “Take one. Or two if you like!” He jumped over the couch there in that living room with all the grace of a well refined tiger. He stretched out his claws and clasped the cardboard of one of the packs. Tearing into it with a tenacity unparalleled in any other endeavor. I could bear it no longer when he turned his head, ever so slowly, his smile leaving just as laggardly.
“Don’t you want to have fun?”
“I-I-I, got ta’ piss.”
“First door on the left.” Following the direction of his bony finger, I used all of my remaining courage not to sprint. I was sure he could smell fear, just like the aforementioned tiger.
I fumbled for a light switch, found it, and looked into the mirror. I was a mess. My blonde hair was pointing every which way, my plain red T-shirt was stuck to my body, and mud caked the cuffs of my jeans and the soles of my shoes. What the hell was I doing? Where the hell was I? Just in the middle of Nowhere, Ohio, with some psycho. Alone with some psycho.
And then It wriggled and writhed and let me know it was there inside. I jumped, startled, and smacked my hand on the towel rack as I did. Blood flowed outwards, and I looked down at it. It was bright, cherry red, yet there was something wrong. It wasn’t my own. Not entirely anyways. Fro the Thing had yelped in anguish too, and then Our rage became One. Who was he to do this to Us? WHO WAS HE! There was something wrong with him, clearly. We wanted no part of it. Before, It had wondered if maybe Jeff’s useless body could be of some use. No more. We would walk five hundred miles in the gumdrops if only to avoid Jeff.
And then Our courage evaporated outside, back in the living room. Our anger remained, but the drive to act was gone.
“How was it in there bud?” As if we’d known one another all our lives.
“Great,” I muttered. Again, We (now it was most certainly We) felt driven to walk around the couch, take a seat, and bask in the eerie glow with him.
“Here,” he said passing me a beer. I grasped it, though I didn’t want too. We couldn’t handle anymore of this. It wanted out.
I popped the tab, sipped, and sighed.
“Nothing,” I grited my teeth to lie. It howled at this. What was doing this to Us. Who was controlling Us?
“Nothing. Are you sure?” Jeff inquired, soothingly, caringly. His lean build said otherwise. He was as taut as a tightrope. Ready to pounce. Ready for the kill. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” We replied, a smile shoved upon Our face. “Why would We be?”
The temperature dropped, and Jeff’s eyes rolled back into his head. I’m sure We screamed. Well I, not It, but We did. We screamed. Only the room remained silent. Maybe it was the psychedelic wallpaper absorbing it all, maybe the TV blue. Whatever it was, We heard nothing.
“What’s the matter, Steve?” Jeff asked, only the whites of his eyeballs visible. “Are You All, not having any fun? That’s a shame. I like my guests to have fun. Here have another.”
Frozen, I couldn’t take the can he offered me. I couldn’t move my hand. I wouldn’t have been able to hang on tight enough.
“Take the can, Steve,” Jeff cooed, his skeleton frame fidgeting and jerking. It was all terrifically gothic. We couldn’t.
“Take the goddamn can!” He threw it at me, at Us, at We, with all the force he could muster. His voice had changed. It wasn’t his own anymore, but Something Else’s. That’s when I realized my It, wasn’t the only one. There were two of Them. One in him, One in me. Jeff, Steve, and Co.
The can had hit Us in the arm, and there was a definite mark on it.
“Get out bastard!” he shouted. “Leave you stinking Hellspawn.”
“Speak for yourself,” Our voice croaked, though not my own anymore. It would seem that Jeff and Steve had been purposely excluded from this bit. “This vessel is mine, and so is that one!”
“No, no, no,” Jeff’s It pouted. “He’s mine. He’s got a terribly dark head, you know, and I want it! I got here first!”
“Damn it, I want it worse! And I’ll take the rotten thing from you whether you relinquish it or not!”
My hand clutched for the dumbbell, while Jeff swung to punch me. I ducked, he overstepped, and my fist came back around clutching the iron. Luck would have it though, he fell flat on his face, and I over-swung. He was on his feet just as fast, before landing a punch at my gut. I went flopping to the floor.
“I’m not afraid of you, Rangda,” We piped up.
“Really, Tannin? Ha! I could smell your fear from that shit bowl these creatures use. You are very afraid indeed!” But We weren’t, that was just it. We were angry. Terribly angry. This vile demon had drawn Us to his lair, and yet he had shown no courtesy. No common hospitality! Even We demons could appreciate brotherhood! My fist raised still clenching the weight. With a screech, We were upright, charging, and throwing everything we had at Them. We swung, we brought it down with all Our might.
Jeffrey Dahmer caught it with his hand, as if They’d done it a million times before. As if it were easy. Just as fast he brought the other dumbbell at me, launching it at my left temple. He connected, and We crumpled to the ground. He was over us then. He beat us, repeatedly, with the weight, and We cried out, repeatedly, for it all to stop.
And then It was gone. I can’t even be certain where It left, just as I was never certain when It had arrived. One moment, We were inseparable. The next, separated. But Jeff and his It (Rangda, as had been the name) continued to bludgeon me. I cried out for mercy. In the name of the Lord, mercy! There was only a chuckle, as Their hallow eyes found me one last time.
“Yes, this one has a dark mind, indeed.”