A nightmarish and hilarious tour through the 1970s New York punk scene, modern- day Hollywood and the diseased mind of Cracked’s Robert Brockway.
The survival of the human racend is in the hands of a washed- up punk and a wannabe stuntwoman. We are well and truly screwed.
For the first time in a long time, I woke to find myself not in pain. A cold flood of fear washed through me. It ran down my chest and settled in my gut. I couldn’t remember why waking up without pain was supposed to worry me. The reaction was just instinctual. I lay in my massive, ridiculously soft bed for half an hour. A king- size memory- foam mattress that fills every single inch of my tiny bedroom, and an accompanying six- hundred- dollar down comforter are the only great and stupid luxuries that I allow myself. I was trying to figure out where the anxiety was coming from, and I finally pinpointed it: I was not sore, bruised, burned, or broken at all, and that meant I was unemployed.
At least partially. I still had my job waiting tables, but I hadn’t done any stunt work in weeks. I guess sometime during the night, I finally shook the last stubborn bit of stiffness in my hip from that botched somersault I took while shooting The Damned Walk… Again!? So I woke up feeling physically great but with a trade- off of crushing spiritual ennui. For almost this entire month, I had been just and only a waitress.
I sighed and rolled out of bed. I had to roll several times just to reach the doorway and then heave myself out into the hall. My bare feet slapped the cold tile all the way to the bathroom. When I sat down to pee, it really hit me: I was in absolutely no pain. Even as a little girl, I would wake up each morning with a very small but persistent ache in my third pinky. Yep. Third. I have six fingers on my left hand. The superfluous little bastard has hurt me every day of my life, except for two: the day when my kid sister died in a house fire, and today.
I couldn’t remember anything about the day of the fire. The therapists said I’d repressed the memories, but every once in a while I got this feeling, like terrified déjà vu, and I just knew it was some small piece of that day coming back to me. I had that feeling now, when I suddenly remembered, in perfect clarity, waking up with no pain in my sixth finger fifteen years ago. I remembered running down the stairs to tell my mom. It doesn’t hurt anymore! It’s all gone! My mother laughed, picked me up, and placed me on top of the dining room table. “Are you kidding me? Is this a joke?” she asked. I shook my head and wiggled my skinny, single- knuckled little digit for her. “That’s great, baby!” she said. And that’s where the memory kicked out. Nothing past it, just a pleasant little short film and then fin. But I still had this sick fear that wouldn’t shake loose from the bottom of my stomach. Something bad happened after that moment, I knew that much, but whenever I tried to think of the specifics, I could only picture a bright, colorless light and notes of toneless music. Memories defined by their absence.
I flushed the toilet, turned the shower up as hot as it went, and stood under it until the heat made me dizzy and pink. I slid the curtain aside and grabbed for my towel. I was so dazed from the warmth, I almost didn’t notice the face staring at me from the other side of my window. I clutched the towel tightly against me, and instinctively screamed. Jesus, just like some ditzy horror- movie starlet. To my credit, the involuntary yelp only lasted a second. The tirade of increasingly detailed obscenities lasted for much longer. The face disappeared instantly, ducking away in terror. I barely had time to register a set of puffy red cheeks, greasy stubble, and glazed little eyes beneath a ratty green beanie. Still dripping wet, I threw my jeans and T- shirt on, slipped into a pair of flip- flops, grabbed the biggest kitchen knife I could find, and stormed out of my front door.
Mrs. Winslow, the nice lady that lives on the second floor, who, thanks to a series of misunderstandings, thinks I’m some sort of raging psychopath, gave me an odd look as I sprinted
past her, soaked, swearing, and brandishing a butcher knife over my head.
Add that to the list, I guess.
I kicked open the main gate to my apartment building, scaring a little white Chihuahua tied to the side mirror of a brand- new silver Ferrari.
I rounded the corner toward the side of the building where my bathroom window looked out, and saw the Peeping Tom.
“Oh, this is a bad day to be a pervert,” I said, advancing upon him, twirling my knife in tight little circles. “I hope you liked my tits, buddy: They’re the last things you’re ever going to see. I hope my tits keep you warm in hell.”
He wouldn’t turn around. His back was convulsing oddly, and he was taking quick little breaths. Oh, God, was he…? Of course he was. I took a step. Another. I wasn’t sure where I was going with this: I was pissed off, true, but I wasn’t “stab a hobo” pissed off. I didn’t have a plan, but that didn’t seem to matter. I was still holding a kitchen knife and approaching a masturbating bum in a dead- end side yard off Pico. Surely the situation would work itself out somehow.
I was just within stabbing range and felt the moment was coming to its head. I wasn’t going to knife the guy, but I was at least going to have to say something. Maybe cut him a little, just to keep him on his toes. I opened my mouth to speak, then the hobo’s stained canvas jacket abruptly ceased its bouncing. His rapid breathing halted. We were both still for a long moment, then he slumped to one side with a sickeningly fluid motion. I saw that one hand was covered in some kind of cancerous- looking sludge. It stank like burning plastic and flowed slowly outward from his body in a thick, rapidly congealing pool.
And just past him, shimmering in the air, was an angel.
I instantly knew it for what it was. I had seen one before, I was sure of it, but I couldn’t recall where or when. The angel was an intangible blur of pure luminescence, but within it, barely glimpsed fractals and impossible angles rotated, shifted, adjusted, and disappeared. The radiant blob was bleeding all color out of the world around it. The spaces surrounding the light were colorless. Wan and oversaturated. It was too bright to see, but also too bright to look away. The deeper I gazed into the heart of the angel, the more I became aware of a sound. It was almost too subtle to hear, but the second I noticed it, it became deafening. There was an orchestra of reverberating chimes harmonizing over a dull, roaring static. It was like a thousand beautiful voices singing to drown out a million more screaming. I blinked and the sound stopped. I opened my eyes and it came raging back.
Waves of nausea and panic washed through me. I dropped the knife, and the angel sharply adjusted its focus. I couldn’t pick out individual movements, but it seemed to be intent on the knife now, like it hadn’t noticed the blade before. It suddenly appeared above the knife. I backed away reflexively and lost a flip- flop to a patch of mud beneath a leaking garden hose.
Before I could blink, it was there in front of me again, now focused on the sandal.
I turned and ran, and somewhere far behind me, I heard a crackling, sucking noise, as if some large, tacky mass was being scraped up from the ground.
I had a brief, scattershot flashback. Just still images. Polaroids taken of memories: torn little slippers with Corvettes on them. The taste of purple left on the wooden stick after the Popsicle was gone. My sister screaming. Flames on a set of paisley curtains. A noise like stepping on fleshy chewing gum.
I had heard that sound before. To find out what happens next, pick up The Unnoticeables, out now from Titan Books ( RRP £ 7.99). E- book also available. www. titanbooks. com