by J.M. Williams
Nothing could ruin this night. The lights flashed a rainbow of electric colors. The thumping techno-house bass line pulsed through the club like a heartbeat. The dark room stank of life and energy. Shane was hungry for it. This was his first night out after arriving home on leave. Having endured six months of virtual confinement to a training base in Africa, he felt the uncontrollable urge to let loose. So he had gathered his buddies and went out to party. The moon was full; everyone and everything was crazy. Shane shimmied up next to an attractive brunette on the dance floor. She smiled at him in a flirty way, twisting her body to the rhythm of the music. Alcohol ran through Shane’s veins like the oil in some grand war machine, driving him towards conquest. The girl glanced to the side and frowned, making angry gestures to someone at the bar. She turned back and kissed him on the cheek. “You’re cute,” she said, straining to be heard over the melodic racket. “But I have to go. Maybe I’ll see you around?” “My name’s Shane, by the way.” “Angie.” The girl smiled one last time then rushed to her frantic friend. Shane could almost see the scent trail of her flowery perfume lingering in the air. Angie’s eyes locked on his for one last moment, as her friend dragged her out of the club. Shane felt dejected. But soon the swirl of music and intoxication again took hold and he let himself get lost again in the euphoria of the storm. After several more hours of drinking, dancing, and failed conquests—continuing late into the night—Shane and his two friends stumbled out into the dark, midnight silence of the city. Bathed in moonlight, his muscles felt tense all across his body. He shook it off as a side effect of the drink and exertion. One of Shane’s friends lived close by, so the group wandered off in that direction. They chatted noisily as they approached the wide park that led to the apartment. Shane only hoped they wouldn’t meet any homeless people squatting on benches there. Shane had seen enough poverty—and violence—in Africa during the last six months to fill a lifetime of suburban American experience. He didn’t want to be reminded that some places in his own country were little better. There was no honor in the willful ignorance that passed for politics in this town. The park was dark, lit only by the full moon and the few tall lamps that remained functional. The shadows of the trees painted some parts of the brick path a darker shade than others. These shadows moved across the brick floor, like bodies in a wild dance. Shane felt his skin start to crawl, but wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was just the chill of the night air. He almost stumbled into the men before noticing them. There were three of them, in worn clothes and standing tough in the path of Shane and his friends. The fight was over before Shane realized it had started, the mental numbness of the alcohol having slowed his reaction speed to a debilitating level. He found himself on the ground, his entire body aching, as one of the men starting digging for his wallet. Shane’s head throbbed, but slowly the pain expanded across his body. His back arched. His body felt as though it were tearing itself apart from the inside. The torment covered his body like a blanket of flame. His vision turned crimson. His senses flared—sights, scents and tastes bombarded him. He could smell the grungy men around him, smell their sweat and the salt of their blood. He could hear every footstep, every breath they took. His mind was overcome with rage. The emotion pulsed through his muscles and bones. He was losing control of his body, and even his thoughts. He wanted to hurt these men for what they had done. He wanted to rip them apart. One of the men stared down at Shane, terror on his face. Shane saw a hairy paw reach out and claw at the man. He felt his body rising, out of his control. He took heavy steps forward, sniffing the air. He smelt the salty scent of sweaty flesh and hungered for it. He heard himself growl... Shane woke to the sound of sirens, the noise stabbing at his aching head. He felt the cold firmness of stone beneath him. Opening his eyes, he realized he was still the park. Then he saw the blood, trails of it. And he saw the bodies—strangers and friends alike—scattered around the clearing. The rising sun cast pink and orange beams onto the blood-stained ground. He tried to remember what had happened. All he could grasp were images—red and violent—and urges—feelings of unnatural hunger and fury. It was surreal. He saw terrified faces screaming at him. His muscles recalled the blows they had delivered. Had he caused this…this carnage? The police came upon Shane in a screaming swarm, their guns pointed down at him. He let them pile on and bind his hands. Two officers lifted Shane to his feet; he glanced in numb horror at the blood that rubbed off onto their bright blue uniforms. Shane’s heart shattered. His mind went numb. He was unable to come to terms with what, clearly, he had done. It was impossible to believe. Yet, the evidence was thick and red on his hands. The truth it revealed was contrary to his very being, and the contradiction broke him. He felt a tug on his hand-cuffed arms, but Shane did not resist. He let them take him. He sat quietly in the back of a waiting police car. The morning was as silent as death, as the police took Shane away.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Author, teacher, historian, veteran. J.M. Williams is a Fantasy and Sci-Fi author who is unabashedly into anything pulp. In the past year alone, he has had more than twenty-five short fiction pieces accepted for publication in venues including Flash Fiction Magazine, Bards and Sages, and the Uprising Review. He lives in Korea with his wife and 10 cats—teaching, writing, and blogging at www.jmwilliams.site.
|Click on image for more information|