UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION

MARK GERLACH

The Germ

Police Detective DOGMA stood in the dark, as a light blazed on the Suspect's face.

A flip clock shrieked, and the Detective lunged out.



"Speak you horrible bastard," he shouted. "And you better tell it to me straight… the entire god-awful, gory thing."

He silenced the alarm by adjusting an oscillator, and slunk into the shadows.

The Suspect, Ecneics, sucked in his cheeks, accumulating a pinch of saliva in his dry, dusty mouth.

"Well then," he said in a gruff voice. "I suppose I should start from the beginning…

*

Thumbing through Spitz and Fisher's Medicolegal Investigation of Death, I found a passage on ricin.

The poison disrupts protein development. Necrosis CREEPS IN and the liver, kidneys and spleen shut down.

About 500 micrograms is a lethal dose, enough to kill a grown man.

But that's not important now…

The phone on my desk – a beige touch-tone single line with a message-waiting lamp – buzzed around dawn.

I listened to the rapid electronic squealing that occurs when a line is disconnected, and my mind wandered. Untangling myself from whatever spell had snagged my consciousness, I hung up."

"Who called?" asked the Detective.

"The killer," the Suspect said.

*

"In my Nash Rambler Wagon, I drove through the village, past the old Woodland Cemetery and onto the arterial.

A red glow washed over the dashboard at a traffic light. There was a chestnut oak ahead – its leaves had died in the numbing nights of autumn – and legions of crows were perched on the branches. The goddamn things were everywhere, swooping and shooting in all directions.

A cluster of the beasts sailed toward the wooded mountains that lined the purple horizon. Some pecked the brown earth below with switchblade beaks. They were awful creatures with twig-like claws and black glassy eyes.

Shrieking and squawking they clumped together, and rose like a cloud of murky smoke, forming an ominous halo.

*

Wild evergreen hedges engulfed the perimeter of a ranch-style house with moldy white curtains drawn over filmy windows.

Clutching the steering wheel with plastic gloves, I examined my eyes in the rearview mirror. They seemed as big as golf balls, with crimson veins chaotically winding through like long meandering roads on the map of some backwards town.

*

I took Polaroids of the dead woman on the floor. Her delicate body – dressed in a neon pink sheath with yellow polka dots – was draped face up on a vile green carpet – soft, pale arms exposed – icy, Nordic eyes gawking at the static abyss.

A trickle of drool ran down her cheek, and blond hair streamed from her head like a cosmic aura – her face cool porcelain.

She wore a dull crucifix on a tight snake chain…

Her pocketbook was on a puke yellow couch. Inside was a pack of Marlboro, a rosary, a switchblade and a wallet with a few crumbled-up singles and a driver's license.

With quivering fingers, I picked the needle up off the floor…

*

Santo and Johnny's 'Sleepwalk' splattered on the radio.

*

THE body bag squirmed like a slug as it bounced on the gurney.

I planted her in the icebox.

*

Washing my hands in a steel sink, I saw a garbled reflection…

I carved her scalp with a serrated kitchen knife then zapped it with a Stryker saw. Using a hammer and chisel,

I tapped the skull loose, which made a slurping sound like pulling apart two halves of a juicy cantaloupe.

On the gob of DEAD BRAIN was a swarthy toxic mold, the kind that accumulates on the ceilings of poorly ventilated bathrooms.

*

A wind-up clock ticked faintly as I sat naked on the edge of my queen-size bed in pitch-black obscurity. The sirens crept closer and closer, becoming louder and more turbulent, until I was surrounded. They cornered me in the bedroom and dragged me out by my ankles, my body grinding on the concrete.

*

And that's how it unfolded…

To be quite lugubrious Detective, we're all cooped up and immured in the big orphanage… a herd of god's bastard, brainwashed children.

And we'll continue to flounder in the swill as long as the germ FESTERS…"









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