The View

“So are we really doing this?”

A savage gust of November wind claws through the fibers of my wool peacoat, and I brace reflexively against it. I turn toward Rodney, whose resolute gaze is trained on the dilapidated plantation-style house looming like a vampire waiting to feed. He exudes a peculiar calmness as he puffs at his cigarette. Meanwhile, I can barely keep myself from doubling over with anxiety. How is he so calm right now?

“Of course we are,” he responds, finally. Not even a modicum of nervousness in his voice.

“Okay, but can I ask why?”

“We’ve already been over this. Because it’s necessary.”

“Yeah, you mentioned, but… I’m not sure I understand your grounds for making that assertion. ‘Because it’s necessary’ is hardly what I’d consider a self-evident truth. Not in this instance.”

Rodney takes a slow and gradual breath, as if intending to draw the cold into his body. I tremblingly fish around my pockets for a cigarette.

“Donny, you’re welcome to wait in the car. Relax in warmth and security, listen to music. Hell, smoke another joint for all I care. But this is inevitable. With or without you, this is ending the same way.”
A shiver storms my bones. I take another look at the house. To a certain extent, I can see his point. As I’ve said, it’s a rotten, crumbling place. The house sits in an isolated acre of dry meadow, if it’s still even a meadow at this point, surrounded by dense hemlock forest, and vastly removed from the rest of civilization, or even any main roads. I don’t know the exact history of the structure, but I think it was built sometime a little over a century ago, and has only ever had one family call it home. I forget what happened. I can surmise that it must have been bad, because its original occupants left or disappeared, and it hasn’t had any new ones since. It’s just been sitting here, leisurely degrading.

“No, I said I would help, and I stand by that. Just… I can’t help but feel slightly apprehensive, man. This is serious shit we’re about to get into, you understand that. Right?”

Rodney nods and continues puffing his cigarette. “I wouldn’t be so committed if it weren’t ‘serious shit.”

“God damn it, Rod…” By this point, I’ve managed to light my cigarette, taking drag after fretful drag. Come to think of it, Rodney always has been the more decisive of the two of us. Ever since we were kids. He was never one to back down from anything, no matter how utterly nerve-wracking. It was him, after all, who’d convinced me to cross the rickety wooden bridge that spanned the Big Creek to the lookout point with a breathtaking view of the entire valley in which our hometown is nestled.

“You won’t regret this, dude,” he’d kept telling me, while I stood transfixed on that dubious length of planks. I thought surely it couldn’t support the force of two nine-year-old boys as they traipsed across. Despite my best efforts, I was assailed by visions of myself breaking through the wood and plunging twenty feet onto the rough, dark rocks protruding to the surface of the water. But Rodney kept goading, and eventually, I yielded. He was right, it turns out. To this day, I have not had a single regret about crossing that bridge, nor our harrowing trek up steep inclines, through brambles and thorns.

But he’d been wild and enthusiastic in that moment. Now, he’s grave, determined. I honestly intimidated. But, fuck it , I’d made a promise to my friend that we would see this through together, and I was going to keep it. Sensitive nerves be damned.

“Okay,” I pant, “Let’s just do this.” I glimpse a satisfied smile flash across Rodney’s face. He picks up the aluminum canister which had been resting near his feet, and together, we march to our destiny.

——————

Twenty minutes later, and the sun is just beginning its ascent over the shadowy hemlocks. Rodney and I are leaning against the hood of his 2008 Ford, admiring our handiwork over a celebratory joint. It’s breathtaking, really. The exuberant flames feasting upon the old wood, the billows of lush smoke steadily smothering the dawn sky. I’d like to put it all on a postcard.

“And this was absolutely necessary?” I ask, passing the roach over to Rodney. He accepts it, brings it to his lips, and inhales deeply.

“Of course it was. But… Does it really matter?” Something like pride courses through his voice, “Just look at that view.”

“Fair enough,” I nod. He’s right. The view was worth it.

-r. miller

Proofread

Nobody comes into existence by their own consent. Involuntarily, we are thrust headfirst into a society not of our own choosing. This society deigns to shape and mold us into the kind of people who are fit to be a part of it. And then, this same society has the audacity to demand that we “contribute” in some way, as compensation for creating us in its own image, as if by nurturing and sustaining an existence that we didn’t necessarily want in the first place, it’s done us some massive fucking favor. But given the option, who in their right mind would choose being over nonbeing? To be born into a cold, indifferent world filled with pain and murder? And make no mistake – suffering is the rule of existence. Joys, ecstasies, triumphs… These are the exceptions. Puny stones in the torturous sea that is the human condition. Humanity is a monumental error, and by continuing to exist, we perpetuate that error. My advice? Show some initiative and start making corrections.

-r. miller

A Body In Motion

On the morning of October 12th, Jeffrey Riggle stepped out into the clear day which smelled like mulled cider and dying foliage. He sucked the inviting air deeply into his nostrils and contentedly breathed it back out.

He felt alive today, though he wasn’t certain what this peculiar vim hinged on. It was simply there, and he wasn’t going to complain. The neighborhood was strangely deserted, and on a normal day, this would have saturated Jeffrey’s mind with dread and seeting paranoia, but, as he rightly observed, today was not a normal day. A tender breeze swept up fallen leaves and carried them down the empty street in gentle arabesques. Jeffrey smiled, feeling at ease with such a motherly presence.

He wasn’t quite sure where he was going. He had left his apartment guided only by his desire to be in motion, however leisurely. It was when he was in motion that he felt most at home. Motion meant that he didn’t have to focus on the drearier aspects of his life, and surely, if he were at rest, these are what would dominate his attention.

Were he to stop at this moment, stop walking and sit down on one of the benches gregariously placed along the sidewalk, he would immediately, without hesitation, begin thinking of his lousy job at the accounting firm, and how greatly it sapped his energy to perform such tedious, mind dulling drudgery.

He would begin thinking of his mounting debts and how profoundly these debts kept him from leading a fulfilling life. If he didn’t have to pay back his student loans, his car loans, his credit cards, he wouldn’t have to put such long hours in at the firm, and he’d have a little money to spend on himself and by God, some time to spend it.

He would begin thinking of his lackluster love life, how he had no one in whom to confide his deepest fears and longings, no one with whom to share this peculiar experience called life, and no one to hold close every night and be held by, thus affirming his existence as a human being.

Yes, Jeffrey did not want to be bothered by such things. Above all, at this moment, he wanted inner peace and freedom. Doesn’t everyone? So Jeffrey Riggle kept moving his feet along the deserted sidewalk, heedless of a destination. He quickened his pace and kept moving.

-r. miller

Darkness

I awoke to the sound of screaming, coming, it seemed, from just beyond my window. I wasn’t afraid necessarily, but I was concerned that there would be somebody screaming so loudly at such an hour. Not knowing what to think, I groggily shuffled to the window. I saw nothing unusual, merely the darkness of night faintly illumined by the row of streetlights lined on the sidewalk. Nothing unusual whatsoever.

Still, I gazed out of that window for a full five minutes, contemplating the night, the mysteries of that grizzly black. I marveled at the very concept of darkness. Amazing how it transforms something like a quaint main street in a small town like mine into something sinister, how it thrusts open the castle gates of the imagination, allowing all manner of phantasms and specters and devils to storm the Keep, eager to feast on the sanity within. What a tremendous thing, darkness…

My reverie was broken by the sound of screaming. Startled, I realized that it wasn’t, in fact, coming from just beyond the window, but from within my own goddamned house. My heart surged. I crept to my nightstand, where in a locked drawer, I had stashed a 9mm handgun. A homeowner has the right to defend himself after all.

After loading the pistol and switching off the safety, I tiptoed into the hall. The screams had come from the crawlspace, I was sure of it. I slinked like a shadow down the stairs, and approached the entrance to the tiny room. I placed a damp hand on the knob, and slowly, ever so slowly, pulled the door open. The creak it made resonated through the entire house. My heart picked up speed as I flipped the light switch. What I saw shocked me.

There, amidst the dismembered corpses of my previous victims, was my latest prey, chained to the wall. She had somehow managed to loosen the gag I had so carefully (though not carefully enough, evidently) tied around her mouth.  It was apparent that her frantic wailing was an attempt to garner some attention to her plight. I shook my head, and promptly delivered a significant kick to her exposed stomach. She hollered at the impact. I retied the gag.

“Some of us are trying to get some fucking rest,” I growled as I kicked her again to drive the point home.

-r. miller

Rude Awakening

When Trent awoke sometime after midnight and saw the jar which contained a human head, he stifled a scream and his eyes practically leaped from their sockets. Trent was certain that the jar had not been there when he had gone to bed, but then again, he had never placed much faith in his sense of certainty. The important thing now was to take this grisly trophy to the proper authorities. Or was it? Trent wrestled with his options for a solid ten minutes, and eventually concluded that it was not in his best interests to go to the police. He would inevitably have to answer questions for which he had no answers. He wasn’t prepared for that kind of hassle. With a sigh, Trent lay back down in his bed and shut his eyes, allowing the tender arms of sleep to enfold him once again.

-r. miller

Ted Campbell vs. Oblivion

Ted Campbell steps out into a night of unprecedented cold. With shivering hands, he pulls a single Marlboro Red from a battered pack, drowsily slides it into his mouth, and lights it. There’s an understated breeze, which nevertheless makes it difficult for Ted to get a proper flame from his Zippo lighter. Without fully understanding why, Ted is seized by the feeling that this will be his final cigarette. He sighs. He wasn’t expecting such cold, so he’s without a coat, and he regrets his complete lack of foresight. The night is dark – darker than anything he’s ever seen or experienced. It’s as if some massive cosmic hand had wrapped around the world and was squeezing and squeezing and squeezing. Ted isn’t exactly sure why he left the warmth and light of his home for this, this ego rending darkness, and yet here he is, compelled by instinct or duty or some other vague idea he no longer fully comprehends. These things are just words after all, and what is a word divorced from its meaning? Ted Campbell takes one more drag of his cigarette, his last cigarette, and flicks it into the void. He glimpses the red glow of the ember swirl round for but a second before it’s dissolved in the immeasurable, unfathomable black. Taking a deep, meaningful breath, Ted steps forward –

-r. miller