Guest Post: Ty Hunt
We didn’t think much of it at first. Those sorts of things seemed to happen in waves, like resounding echoes from some turbulence. The world had become so accustomed to terror and violence that it’s impossible to say when it really started. Every week or so network news told us about some incomprehensible tragedy and we shook our heads and clucked our tongues before turning off the television and going to bed. We ignored it. Maybe we shouldn’t have, but looking back, I can’t imagine we could have changed anything. At the time they were just crazy people who lost some psychological battle. They were individuals who had fallen through the cracks of an otherwise airtight system. They were names we had never heard with faces we didn’t recognize in cities we had never been.
Then the events became more frequent. Every few days we watched reports and read articles with our mouths agape and our eyes wide. At work the next day coworkers with shifty eyes would whisper theories and political conclusions in hushed tones. The religious said it was a sign of a fallen world and that the end times were here. The paranoid cited conspiracy theories about secret mass experiments on citizens gone wrong, and that the end times were most definitely here. No one ever thought they would be able to say that either group was right about something.
After a few weeks of this, it finally revealed itself in our own city. Our own morning, noon, and evening news slowly became dedicated to the violence that had infiltrated our neighborhoods and townships.
Church attendance had skyrocketed until the day a pastor had pulled an automatic rifle from under the pulpit and just…
He got 13 before some men in the congregation rushed him and brought him down. Eyewitnesses said his eyes were completely bloodshot and full of a wild anger. Even when they tackled him to the ground and wrestled the weapon away from him he snarled and screamed curses while biting everyone that he could. His strength was so that eventually someone had to break the rifle butt over his head subdue him. He died later that evening in hospital.
The next day an old woman drove her El Camino through a thick crowd of bathing suit-clad, hotdog-eating beach-goers at the pier before smashing through the railing and into the ocean. They said she was heard screaming obscenities over the cries of the victims and that her eyes, too, were a hellish red. The death toll was 18, plus a few dozen injured. Some of those injured were finished off that night when an orderly at the hospital walked from bed to bed, injecting patients with bleach.
By then we didn’t bother going to work anymore. We stayed behind closed doors and drawn blinds, glued to the television or the radio or even social networking sites. Our facebook and twitter feeds were increasingly filled with first-hand accounts of how so and so just barely managed to escape from Foodie-Mart when a crazed old man began slicing his way through the frozen foods section with a machete. Or with casual acquaintances asking whether we could pray for the souls of the Millers, whose ten year-old daughter had apparently turned on the gas stove in the middle of the night.
Then it finally came to our own street. Just after dinner one evening, a series of gunshots rang out from just next door. They were followed by a woman’s shrill and desperate screams for help that abruptly ended with one last shot. My wife and I stared at each other for a few moments before turning off every light in the house and gathering our girls in the first floor bathroom. I tried to call the police, but the number was busy. I tried periodically throughout the night, but after a few hours I just gave up. Cell phones, landlines: all busy. The next morning I risked a peek out of the side window in the living room to see Mrs. Goldstein sprawled face down in the middle of their yard. A pool of blood fanned out from her salt and pepper hair. Mr. Goldstein sat rocking gently in his chair on the porch, a handgun balanced on his knee. No police ever came and by midday he was gone. We haven’t seen their kids since either.
Now shots ring out sporadically throughout the days. Sometimes close, sometimes far. Here and there, an explosion. And always, screams. I found some earplugs in my basement workshop, for the girls while they sleep. They can’t handle the screams.
I boarded up the windows and we usually sit watching the news with the sound turned low, though half of the time, the only thing being broadcasted is the emergency broadcast system. A few nights ago we watched a report telling us that Air Force One went down somewhere in the Appalachians.
So here I sit in my study with my head down. My pistol is laying on the desk next to my glass of bourbon. Carol says I shouldn’t drink, but what does she know? We’re arguing more. She says it’s just a bit of cabin fever, but I think I could use some goddamn space and just a little bit of peace and quiet.
I’ve had a migraine and a bit of a fever for a few hours. My head is in a vice and not even the six Tylenol that I’ve taken have made a dent in the pounding ache.
The kids laugh loudly at something in the other room. What could they possibly be laughing at? Don’t they know we’re fucking dead? I yell through the door for them to keep it down. But soon another shrill peel of laughter breaks my peace and I’ve just had enough. Those little shits need to be taught a lesson. What if someone outside hears them? I’ll be damned if I die for those little insolent snots.
Muttering curses, I stand up, wobbly and unsteady on my feet. Maybe the bitch was right; maybe I am drinking too much.
As I grab the pistol and stumble out of my study and into the hall. The headache pounds down into the base of my neck and hot flashes flare through my body. My vision blurs and I lean on the walls for support. In the candlelit living room the girls are sitting on the floor laughing at the dog chasing his own tail and all I want is some fucking silence for once.
When my wife looks up at me, her smile vanishes.
“Kevin… your eyes…”
Ty Hunt is the occasional host of The Complete Sentences Podcast and has been pretending to be a writer for some 20 years.