A disgusting, yet hilarious serving of toilet time horror!
Welcome to the Shit Fest. A disgusting horror short story collection that will make you rethink just how safe you really are. These stories will make you dread dropping that morning deuce. They’ll make you question the food you eat, the buildings you walk by, and toxicity of just a little fart. Because, as we all know, while the loud ones are awful, it’s the silent one’s that you really have to worry about.
Norbert Gora is talented poet and writer that demonstrated that you can polish a turd! Don’t believe me? Check out his poem The Vast Sea of Shit in Deadman’s Tome Shit Fest. The poem provides layers upon layers of social commentary from a cynical perspective. As with all of the stories in the Shit Fest, The Vast Sea of Shit blends disgust and horror with an element of humor.
Mr. Deadman: Let’s start with why Shit Fest?
Norbert Gora: It’s because my interest in bizarro and extreme horror fiction. This kind of literature pushes the edge, but in my poem I tried to draw the attention of readers to another type of shit – contemporary media and idiotic behavior of people.
Mr. Deadman: You have a point about bizarro and extreme horror, nothing quite pushes the limits in terms of graphic content. However, what do you say to those that dismiss that graphic content as a gimmick?
Norbert Gora: As a gimmick? I’ve never heard of such readers. I’d rather expect people who dismiss these subgenres because of bestiality, stupidity and manifestation of the total fall of literature. What could I tell them? Your choice, but you won’t stop the development of this literature. The 21st century is the apogee of cruelty and idiocy.
Mr. Deadman: Some dismiss the extreme content as unnecessary, but I agree that there are times when the graphic imagery is needed to tell a story. Take your poem, for example, a quick glimpse into the cruelty of humanity. I think the poem wouldn’t be as effective if it were “tame”.
Tell me, what was the inspiration, the motivation, for your poem?
Norbert Gora: I wrote this poem more than a year ago for a special call for submissions. It was supposed to be an anthology of the heaviest stuff between horror and bizarro. The editor inspired us with a short note: “Make your work disgust my life”. I have been improving it for so long that the deadline has finally passed. In fact, the motivation to writing this poem was very weird. I was very helpless then and I had to “restart” myself somehow. A poem about the shit was an ideal reboot.
Mr. Deadman: Wow, I didn’t expect a submission call for shit to be so… therapeutic? The poem reflects a brutal reality, but tell me about its depth? Was this based on a real event? Personal experience?
Norbert Gora: It based more on the observation of modern civilization, influenced by media. What do we have on TV, whether American or Polish? Is this something meaningful or just a total crap? Comedies in which the characters alternately shit and have sex, programs in which people admire a guy devouring two kilograms of beef on time. It looks like society is some kind of a huge loo, hah! That’s why I wrote this poem – to describe the darker part of humanity.
Mr. Deadman: Well, the poem certainly reflects the darker side of humanity. This line comes to mind. It grabbed my attention and worked well to frame the rest.
oh God, tell me why did you do it
clogged toilet with a monstrous poop
Not to get religious on you, and you’re free to go as deep as you feel comfortable with, but do you think God clogged the toilet that is humanity with a monstrous poop?
Norbert Gora: The hardest question, hah!
Well, according to religious teachings, God created us. He is also our “guardian”. After difficult, stressful experiences, most of us ask “God, why did you do that?”.
In this line, God nothing to do with it. I just wonder why He had to show me this toilet(knowing that He is our “guardian”). There are two answers:
1. If the toilet is a symbol of the world and God created us, we – as a humanity – poop on it. We don’t really care about the world.
2. It’s also a surreal, dingy allusion to people, which is connected with the first answer. We act like a sloven. In many cases, life comes down to consumption and excretion. This toilet is the final stage of “life”.
Mr. Deadman: Oh, that phrase is used a lot: God, why did you do that? I like your answers because I can see one would gravitate towards them. It’s true that as a species we are not afraid to exploit others and the environment for money and power. It’s also true that consumption and excretion is a fact of life. I can’t think of a single organism that doesn’t consume and excrete. While every organism follows this pattern, humans do it on a much larger scale. We may sound like a couple of hippies right now, but it’s true. People equals shit.
How do you feel that many will fear going number two after reading this disgusting book?
Norbert Gora: Then I will think that this was the point that we wanted to achieve.
Mr. Deadman: Hahaha, it really is. I couldn’t use a toilet without fear that a demon would bite my ass after watching Ghoulies II, and know I want others to feel the same!
What other projects do you have lined up?
Norbert Gora: I’m the author of more than 100 poems published in numerous anthologies around the world(most of them are horror&dark anthologies).
Mr. Deadman: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Norbert Gora: I like… reading 😀 I assume you didn’t expect it
Mr. Deadman: How did you find Deadman’s Tome?
Norbert Gora: I found a call for submissions for Deadman’s Tome on Horror Tree. Then I looked at your website. It was very interesting, so I decided to send my submission.
Murders, suicides, and brutal savagery claims more lives than you may think. With over hundreds of thousands of lives claimed every year, its an indisputable fact that it’s not uncommon for heated arguments to lead to heated death. While this is not just an American thing, it’s a very real horror, a very real reality that permeates American society.
While most fiction create fictitious worlds to distract from the brutal reality, Real American Horror dares to do the opposite. Deadman’s Tome Real American Horror dares to explore the dark underbelly of American lives. Every story is based on real life events, based on truths that are much more horrific than anything you could make up. Crib-side murder suicides, Zika viruses, torture, abduction, and meth addicts. This grim anthology paints a very bleak, but very important image.
Check out what The Scary Reviews said about Monsters Exist!
Review copy provided by in exchange for an honest review
Growing up we have all heard stories or urban legends about monsters and creatures. We’ve seen footage or reports that feel sketchy at best. But we all want to believe them, and why not, it’s fun to think the impossible could be possible. Monsters Exist has 14 short stories covering a variety of monsters. I found a number of stories in this anthology really good. Many hit the spot fulfilling my horror expectations while many fell short and could use more polishing. I’ll cover a few that really hit the spot for this horror fan.
The first story Legend Tripperswas a solid tale, an urban legend, and very well told. I liked the characters and plot. I thought the ending gave it that little extra kick to seal the deal making it feel like a story I’ve heard as a kid. Never Sleep Again was a breath of fresh air. This was my kind of story with a beginning, middle and end. I was reminded this was one of my own fears as a child. It was a nice expansion and twist on the classical childhood fear of monsters under the bed. The Voice from the Bottom of the well was a slow mover but the twist at the end gave it a nice finish for me. The antagonist was strongly written to be hated, making the twist better. Eclipse at Wolfcreek was creepy as hell, and well-constructed. We get two monsters, one was the Mothman, the other an old lady. I’m not sure which one was more frightening but I enjoyed the scares equally. No. 7 had great pacing and tension. The monster was never explicitly revealed or described but it wasn’t necessary here. There was enough hints and clues for the reader to fill in the blanks. Criatura was a fast read and fun read with a good sense of humor about the monsters. It had plenty of the blood and guts variety horror but not over the top. I’m a horror fan through and through but I find spiders one of the nastiest creatures in existence. Bitten took that weakness and repulsion of those eight-legged monsters and made me cringe all the way to the end of the story. This was a perfect length for a short story. It had a solid plot, including an ending to raise the hairs on your arms. Well done sir, well done.
From the time we are young, we fear the monster under the bed or in the closet, making it impossible to sleep without a nightlight. Then, we hear stories of Bigfoot, and maybe even the Mothman around campfires. When we are adults, we wonder if there might actually be supernatural creatures lurking in the shadows. Are these tall tales and urban legends only metaphors for what horrific things humanity is capable of-or do monsters exist? Go to some terrifying places with this cast of authors. You will be dragged into mystifying realities where demonic fairies hide, where devil monkeys lure carnival-goers to their demise, where Goatmen seek to destroy their prey, and where the goddess of death puts out a hit on victims of her choice. These shocking tales will have you biting your nails and locating that childhood nightlight. Because, in the end, we all know monsters do exist.
This is such a great anthology about monsters of all shapes and sizes. This book holds monsters that we all have feared since our childhood. It is the things that go bump in the night. It is the stories we tell around campfires. They are the urban legends and the tall tales.
Let me be straight forward with you now. I have never read any of these authors before. Now that I have, I will definitely be reading their other work. Each author brought something to the table. I thought the editors did a great job of ordering the stories as well. There was not a bad story in this anthology! With that being said, let’s get to the stories.
The anthology gets off to a strong start with Master Vermin by Wallace Boothill. This story is about rats taking over Baltimore. Think the bubonic plague with a twist! It is a great story!
5/5 rabid vermin!
Legend Trippers by Theresa Braun is amazing! Ever wonder why there is never any proof of urban legends? Read this story and you will know why! The story is about a Goatman. Great story!
The Murder of Crows by S.J. Budd is crazy cool! A mysterious lady gets into a serial killers cab. He tries to kill her, but he can’t. Turns out he owes her a debt! I will never look at crows the same way again!
Wicked Congregation by Gary Buller is terrifying! This is about sacrifice and fairies. This story is told as a confession or a recounting of events. I have wanted to visit England for a while now, but I might hold off due to the fairies that reside there. Great story!
5/5 wicked fairies!
Playing Dead by S.E. Casey is amazing! Who doesn’t like a circus that pops up overnight in your town? I don’t know what it is about them, but you just have to check them out. Am I right? The story is set in New Hampshire at a circus. This story deals with loss, nightmares, and depression. Great story! Didn’t see that ending coming!
5/5 devil monkeys!
Lake Monster by Mr. Deadman is crazy! Two friends go on a fishing trip, but things go terribly wrong! Great story!
5/5 bloated carcasses!
Never Sleep Again by Calvin Demmer is creepy! There is a serial killer on the loose. The serial killer has killed 4 people. The only thing left behind is dirt under the victims’ beds. This story will make you want to leap from your bed. You never know what might be under your bed! Great story!
5/5 sleepless nights!
The Voice from the Bottom of the Well by Philip W. Kleaver is mind blowing! Johanna hears a voice at the bottom of an old well near her house in Massachusetts. The thing at the bottom of the well is hungry. Johanna must feed it, and boy did she! Awesome story!
5/5 creepy wells!
Eclipse of Wolfcreek by Sylvia Mann is eerie! I have heard of the Mothman, but this story takes the legend to the next level. Great story!
5/5 red eyes!
No. 7 by William Marchese is crazy! This story has zombies and soldiers. Great story!
Criatura by John Palisano is great! He breaks down in the desert. He runs into La Criatura, a desert creature with white fur. He finally makes it to his destination the next day, but he is different. He has transformed. Great story! I honestly have never heard of a Criatura until I read this story.
Bitten by Christopher Powers will make your skin crawl! Charles goes to the Congo Basin on a trip and gets far more than what he was looking for. He finds a new species of spider in the sausage tree. The spiders are great hunters. One spider has hunted Charles down. Great story!
Kelpies by Leo X. Robertson is wicked! This is the first time that I have ever heard the term Kelpie before. A Kelpie lures a man into the water. Turns out he can go home anytime he likes, but he doesn’t. Years later he meets his son. Crazy story!
5/5 wicked Kelpie!
Bloodstream Revolution by M.R. Tapir was a good read! This story is about Chupacabras during the Mexican Revolution. I enjoyed this story!
This is a great anthology that everyone should read! This book doesn’t have any low points because the stories are balanced out so well. I highly recommend this book to fans of horror, tall tales, and legends!
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When your girlfriend is going down on you, you must be very quiet. Especially when you’re on her parent’s living room sofa, and her mother is in the next room reading. You must stare at the textured ceiling and count the cracks in the paint. It will help you listen for her mother’s footsteps, should she come running.
Keep your hands on your girlfriend’s breasts and remain as excited as possible. This needs to be over quickly, before her mother finishes her chapter. That’s what your girlfriend whispered into your ear, anyway. Back before she unzipped your pants and took you into her mouth.
You will bite your lower lip until it bleeds, but you won’t notice until you’ve wiped the happy tears away from your eyes with the throw pillow and found blood on the gray fabric.
The flicker of a page turning, the creak of a rocking chair settling. All these sounds make you nervous as well as excited
The kitchen table is so close, your girlfriend’s mother casts a shadow onto the hardwood floor, rocking back and forth as she reads.
Your girlfriend knows how quickly this must come to an end, and she slips a finger inside your asshole to prove it. The tip rubs against your prostate, making you thicker, making you bite your lower lip harder. Your girlfriend feels you growing inside her mouth and shoves her face into your lap with more force. Her breathing escapes in warm huffs that warm the insides of your thighs. It tickles your balls, and it’s amazing, but not as amazing as the eruption building up throughout your body.
Your toes curl. You bite your lip until blood oozes from your mouth, dripping from your chin and onto your bare chest. You grab the back of your girlfriend’s head to make sure she takes everything you got, and then her muffled breathing becomes more frantic.
Your arms tighten against your girlfriend’s struggle for air, but your need for release is far more important than her need for air. Then you learn she wasn’t having trouble breathing at all. Her problems are much worse than that.
You explode inside her mouth. The eruption forces your hands to your mouth, stifling the screams that helplessly squeal from your throat, but you’re not quick enough, and your girlfriend lifts her head just in time to vomit on your lap. It erupts with the same force as your semen, which rises up to meet her bile, combining into a liquid of purged love. It all falls down onto your stomach, between your legs and onto the couch cushion where it weasels its way into your ass crack.
This is when your girlfriend removes her finger from your prostate and places it onto your chest, smearing your own shit onto your nipples, where it merges with your blood, turning your body into a canvass of gore.
It’s too late to do anything now, so you stare at the doorway, waiting for her mother to enter the room. When she does, the horrified expression on her face pleases you, because she was the one you were thinking about the entire time you were inside her daughter’s mouth. You pretended her breasts were in your hands, her finger was in your asshole, and you can’t help but smile at her.
This will be the last time you ever see her, so you burn her disgusted face into you memory, where it will remain, forever.
Late announcement, but Deadman’s Tome is hosting a launch party for it’s latest issue! Deadman’s Tome Shit Fest is a full serving of disgusting, horrible, yet hilarious stories pertaining to and revolving around shit! If you want to be entertained, enjoy a good laugh, and you don’t mind getting dirty then Shit Fest is for you!
Want to get a free copy? Well, then you’re in luck! Excited about the brand new issue, Mr. Deadman will giveaway $50 worth of free paperback copies, $100 dollars worth of digital (epub/.mobi/pdf) copies, and will read a few stories during the Deadman’s Tome podcast! How? Easy, be a part of the chat. Mr. Deadman will ask who wants a copy and you just have to be faster than the others in response!
Tonight’s show features Patrick Winters, a horror writer featured in Deadman’s Tome Shit Fest with a story entitle Curses and Shits!
Want more shit fest? After the Deadman’s Tome podcast, there will be a special post show exclusive to patrons. This private show will be wild, but not the sort of wild you might be thinking… not for cheap.
Just about every weekend I run a special or giveaway on select titles. I really don’t care about the money. I’m not in this business to make bank. What I want is to create a platform where authors can reach readers like you, and that means I’m willing to make some very persuasive offers from time to time. I present Name Your Price.
I have a small inventory of paperback for Book of Horrors I, Book of Horrors II, Monsters Exist, and The Ancient Ones. You name your price, anywhere from a dollar to a million dollars, and that’ll be the price for the selected book. You could technically ask for zero and get a free book + shipping ($3). It’s stupid simple. Use the form below to make a request.
Shipping: While I don’t care about the money, shipping gets expensive fast. Any offer of $5 or more gets FREE SHIPPING as long as US domestic. International shipping gets really expensive, especially to certain regions. I will offer free shipping to the UK for orders $10 or more.
It was heavily disguised, he knew that, and as such, there was not a trace of accent. His heart sank a little at the words, but he knew it was coming, this call. He had been paid, and paid well, and God knew he deserved the money.
The desert blew in sandy twists around his feet, and when he opened the seventh and last packet, the wind threatened to dislodge the dark powder nestling there. He cupped a gloved hand around it, and breathed deeply of the desert air.
‘Christ, man! What the fuck?!’
Armitage pushed back on his bunk, his right hand clamped across his brow. He felt absurdly like a film-noir heroine about to faint, but couldn’t stop himself. His right hand held a bottle of beer, and he felt the slow pulsing of its contents escaping over his lap. The TV high on the wall in the corner blared banality. It served to add a level of normality to the surroundings. The humid clench of the air, the muted pops and stuttering chatter of distant gunfire dispelled it.
Donnie sat across from him on a ratty chair. Threads of stitching had popped free all across the upholstery on both arms. It would scratch your own arms unrelentingly if you sat there, which was why Armitage always opted for his bunk. This was Donnie’s lucky chair, or so he claimed. It didn’t seem so now. Donnie’s arms, for the most part, lay in his lap. The hand holding the chef’s cleaver drooped between his opened legs. His other hand, the one he had just severed, rocked gently to stillness at his feet, tendrils of blood threading the hardwood floor and the big toe of his left foot.
‘What the fuck have you done? Ah, fuck!’ Armitage almost screamed. Donnie was silent except for the tight inhalations of hot sour air through his clamped lips.
The beer finished its pulsing escape and Armitage let the bottle fall to the floor. He stared at the hand. He thought it was the very one that not five minutes ago has passed him the beer that was currently soaking through his jeans. He tried to speak but could not.
‘It’s ok, man,’ Donnie whispered. ‘I’ll be ok in a minute.’
He raised his head and looked straight at Armitage. His eyes were wild and white, red-rimmed and brimming with wetness. Armitage thought that they looked like they were brimming with insanity, and why not? What else could it be?
He had not seen the cleaver pushed down between the chair and the seat cushion. He had only vaguely seen Donnie pull it out, but had thought nothing of the gesture because his head was tipped back, swigging deeply from his beer. He had heard the whistling smack as the cleaver came down through the air and buried itself into the arm of the chair. He had heard a soft thump that only now did he sickeningly associate with the fall of a severed hand. Donnie’s hand.
Donnie’s jesus-fucking-christ-almighty left hand!
‘Why, Donnie?’ he whimpered. He could barely take the breath for these words and they left him panting, his chest tight.
‘I don’t think it was mine, man. The hand, I mean. I don’t know.’ He looked confusedly at Armitage.
‘What?’ Armitage asked, stunned and feeling foolishly like laughing.
Donnie shifted so that he could look down to his feet and prodded at the hand with his big toe. It rocked, looking like a dead spider, still leaking redness at its wrist. He looked at his abridged arm, leaking more copiously. A smile began to tweak the corners of Donnie’s mouth. Armitage felt cold wash through him.
‘Better,’ said Donnie quietly, and nodded.
‘Donnie, man, we gotta get you to the doc, something, you’re gonna bleed to death.’
Armitage stood in panicked jerks, his knees feeling like someone had taken a sledgehammer to them. He fought the urge to vomit, but lost as Donnie absently kicked his hand across the hardwood in a series of strangely balletic tumbles. Wiping strings of drool from the corners of his mouth, he fell back onto the bunk. He clutched his head in both hands so that the bends of his elbows formed a tunnel through which he stared at his friend, and implored him.
‘Come on, man. We gotta do something! You just cut off your fucking hand, for Christ’s sake!’
Donnie put down the cleaver, a circular smear of red bisecting the blade, and reached into his shirt pocket. He pulled out a plastic tie-wrap, and threaded one end through the other, clumsily, holding it in his teeth. He looped the resultant noose around his ruined wrist and ratcheted the tie closed, forming an absurd collar of puckered flesh at the arm’s end. The bleeding slowed and stopped. Donnie raised the stump and gestured to Armitage. It looked as though he was proffering a wet red rose to his friend.
‘Ok?’ he asked, petulantly. Then, more to himself, ‘It’ll be ok, man.’
Armitage moved his hands from his head and squeezed them tightly over his eyes. He could hear Donnie’s ragged breathing, hear his own.
‘What are you gonna do, Donnie?’ he asked without looking. ‘I mean, you gotta do something. You are a fuckin’ soldier, what are you gonna do?’
‘First I’m gonna cut off my foot. It’s this whole side,’ he said, waving the dripping cleaver up and down the whole left side of his body. The honed blade chimed on the leg of his jeans. ‘It’s not mine. I don’t know how or why it was changed for….this….fucking thing…but it’s not mine. I have to be rid of it. I have to, man.’
‘Donnie, no,’ Armitage moaned through his hands. ‘Come on, man, let’s talk about it. What’s got you like this? You sick? You worrying? It’s getting to us all you know, this fuckin’ war.’
Donnie looked up momentarily, just long enough to speak two words. ‘Less, now.’
He hefted his left leg up onto the arm of the chair. Armitage began to rise, but the look shot him from Donnie’s crazed eyes stopped him cold. He sat roughly back down onto the sofa, amid cooling vomit and beer stains.
‘Please, Donnie,’ he said. ‘Don’t.’
* * *
‘How long?’ he murmured into the mouthpiece on his cheek. ‘Till this is over?’
The voice chuckled. ‘You will be home by Christmas, Fallon. Your part in this war has begun, and for a few nights work, you will have saved countless lives.’
‘But please, is there no other way? I don’t want…..’
‘Just do as I have instructed you. The powder is untraceable, and is perfectly formulated. You have used six sachets so far. One per night? It will do as I have told you, and your men can go home. You…can go home. There need be no further death, my friend.’
The cleaver whined through the air and a meaty thump marked its progress through the tough meat and bone of Donnie’s ankle. Donnie whimpered softly as he wrenched the blade free, a little jet of blood following the blade’s edge, as if desperate to cling there. Armitage fixed on the arcing droplets. He shut his eyes and did not see the second swing of the cleaver. It met less resistance this time, and in a soft crunch of bone and tendon, the foot fell free and came to rest, sole down in perfect companionship to his still attached right.
Armitage screamed. He launched himself to his feet and rushed to Donnie, who was convulsing slowly on his chair, blood jetting from the end of his leg, still raised onto the arm of the chair.
‘Tie it,’ Donnie said, weakly. Without thinking, Armitage reached into Donnie’s shirt pocket and found a second tie wrap. He noosed this around Donnie’s leg and pulled it tight. His hands were slick with his friend’s blood.
‘Why are you doing this, Donnie? Why, man? Please, talk to me.’ He was crying now, and as he wiped the tears a thick smear of blood painted across his cheek. The tears cut through it slowly.
Donnie appeared to think. The convulsions had stopped, and his ashen face was turned up to the ceiling in beatific smiling blankness.
‘Those…things…’ he said, ‘weren’t mine. They just weren’t, ok?’ He said this last defiantly. ‘I don’t know. When I woke up today I saw the truth. That hand wasn’t my hand. The foot wouldn’t fit in my boot any more. You getting that, man? My fucking boot wouldn’t fit anymore!’
‘But Donnie, that can’t be right! You can’t cut off your own fucking hands!’
Donnie nodded. ‘Not both, of course,’ he chuckled, sounding weak. ‘But this one is ok. This one’s still mine. I can see it is. Can’t you see that?’
Armitage looked at the remaining hand, blood speckled and living, then looked across to the severed hand. Already greying, it rested against the leg of another bunk. It was curled into a half fist, as if it had tried to grab the leg. Armitage shivered and reached into his jeans pocket. He brought out his mobile phone. In a flash, Donnie swung the cleaver and sent the phone across the room. It broke into pieces against the floor. Armitage just stared at the fragments.
‘I’m ok, man!’ Donnie said again. ‘No doctor. I’m ok.’
‘Look, Donnie. You’re gonna have to explain this. You can’t hide what you’ve done, and if we don’t get this stitched up or something, you’re gonna fucking die.’ Armitage shook. He felt dangerously close to hysteria. He could hear a hitching in his breathing, a tight clipped tone to his words. ‘Talk to me, man. Explain why you’ve done this.’
Donnie dropped his head and appeared to sleep. Armitage started towards him, and was reaching for his shoulders when Donnie raised his head. His eyes showed none of their previous madness. Armitage made an involuntary noise deep in his throat all the same, and sat back.
‘I have no idea,’ said Donnie.
Armitage willed himself to calm. He rose quietly, backed away from his friend, and continued backing until he almost fell onto his bunk. The soft scrape of the iron legs against the floor caught Donnie’s attention for a second, but only that. He turned for a brief moment, and then returned to his inspection of his shortened limbs. He appeared to feel nothing at the sight of the stumps, but Armitage could see a waxy yellow sheen starting to show on his cheeks, and runners of sweat were beginning to paste his hair in dark feathery fronds across his forehead.
Armitage thought Donnie would be heading firmly into shock right about now. He made as if to move for the door and Donnie spoke, almost too quietly for him hear.
‘I feel…better, somehow,’ he said. ‘That’s the funny thing about all this. After our food last night, I slept better than I ever have. The sound of the guns didn’t disturb me like it usually does. I had no nightmares. And yet I woke thinking that something was terribly wrong with me. Something that only this could fix.’ He motioned to his mutilation with a nod of his pale face. ‘So I fixed it. And now I feel better, like this is how I need to be.’
Armitage chilled, and slowed his movement. He stared at the severed hand, curling like a starfish brought suddenly into dry desert air.
‘What am I going to do, man?’ said Donnie, and Armitage thought,
At last, he sees what he has done. I can help him,
but Donnie said, ‘This is how I need to be, but this is not how I trained to be. I am a soldier, man, and now I can’t fight. What am I gonna do?’
‘I’ll go and see the doc, Donnie. He can fix you up and we can get through this. That sound ok?’
Donnie waved with his remaining hand. Armitage left.
* * *
‘But…..?’ he said. ‘Must it be this?’
‘It must, and please be realistic now. It is too late to turn back. You know cannot possibly win this war. Do this, or you will all die, and will continue to die until there are no more of you.’
There was a soft click as the call ended, and he knew that was the last time he would hear the voice. His part was done now. It was over, or would be in scant seconds time.
Armitage pushed into the medical tent. The hot smell of blood and the chemical tang of disinfectant washed round him like mist. There was time enough to see the beds, all of them occupied, and the nurses that tended there, and then all was blocked from view as a uniformed officer stepped into his line of sight and laid a hand firmly onto his chest.
‘Sir,’ began Armitage, and then stopped, convinced his words would eject from him in a flood of teary babble. ‘I…’
‘You can’t be in here,’ said the officer.
‘But Private Donald Richards, sir. He’s…ah…excuse me sir, but he’s cut off his own fucking hand.’ He blurted this last and stepped back, head lowered.
The officer was silent for fully half a minute. ‘Christ,’ he murmured, then louder. ‘Christ, WE GOT ANOTHER ONE!’
The tent erupted into action around him, nurses flocking around Armitage, their hands fluttering feather-like across his arms, and feeling his hands.
He shook them off. ‘Not me!’ he shouted and ran back towards the bunkhouse he shared with Donnie.
They removed Donnie, strapped to a gurney that looked rusted with blood. His hand and foot went with him, although whether there would be a reattachment attempt, Armitage could not guess. All he knew was that the body parts were gone, and as he sat cradling the shattered remains of his mobile phone, he was thankful for that.
The officer that had stopped him in the medical tent came to see him as the darkness fell around their tents. Armitage sat in his desert combats, as if they would afford him protection from madness as they had from enemy eyes. The situation was explained. In the hours since Donnie had begun his nightmare mutilation, in the hours since he was stitched and sedated and guarded, 16 more soldiers had suffered the same dysmorphic reactions. The medical tent was now bursting with amputees, Donnie by no means the worst of them. One soldier had systematically shot the fingers from his left hand, one by one, and had put a bullet into each knee. One had attempted to remove his own head but had passed out from shock before he could complete the deed. There was no loss of life, not yet, but fully half a hundred bleeding stumps, burst knee joints, ruptured organs. Donnie had not been the first, and listening now to the officer’s words, words of sabotage, of mass hallucinations, of hypnotic suggestions, Armitage knew he would not be the last.
The officer asked Armitage if he had felt any similar desires to mutilate himself. Armitage almost laughed at this last. Desire to mutilate? When did he ever think he would have heard those words spoken in this or any other situation? The officer had finally left him alone, content with his assurances that, no, he didn’t feel the need to cut off a limb, or thrust a pen into his eye, or into his ear drum. The officer had looked at him for a long time before exiting the room. There were orders in that gaze, Armitage knew. When we are on the other side of this, that gaze inferred, there is to be no mention of anything that has happened here. Armitage didn’t think he would have trouble keeping this to himself. Already he felt his brain slowing, bogged down with the enormity of seeing his friend knowingly cut his hand from his body and sit watching the jet of blood like a fountain in a park. Time would tell if his mind would ever work the same as it had.
He almost entertained the notion that come morning, come the cleaning of weapons and the donning of uniform, all this would be nothing but a nightmare. He expressed as much to the officer, not noticing the look of suspicion in his eyes. His own eyes felt hot with grief, and his hands shook. He thrust them deep into his pockets and followed the officer, kicking the door closed behind him. He wandered, in and amongst the dusty habitation quarters, the dry desert biting his ankles, and sending hot air deep into his lungs.
The order to surrender was given two hours later. He heard rushing footsteps along the tented corridor that flanked the dining area. Armitage followed them in. He heard raised voices, and asked Fallon, the cook, what he could see from his vantage point behind the cooker. There was no answer.
Presently, officers and the remaining unharmed soldiers trailed into the canteen. They sat, and the order was relayed. Several voices were raised in protest.
‘Let us at least wait till everyone is here!’ one such said.
There was a beat’s hesitation from the commanding officer, and then,
‘We are here. All of us left. We are here.’
Shocked silence filled the room. The scuffing of boots became deafening as soldiers moved, restless to fight, but now unable. With the officer’s last words, Armitage again thought of Donnie, bandaged and screaming insanities in the medical tent, along with two thirds of the soldiers stationed here.
* * *
He straightened, but his head dropped low into his chest. A ragged breath scorched into his lungs, and he exhaled it. He hurriedly removed the ear- and mouth-piece, and with a deft flick of his wrist, sent the sandy powder drifting down into the huge pot of bubbling chilli con carne that was tonight’s meal. He stirred it in, and raised his smiling face to the first soldier that stood in line.
‘What war is there to fight when the army you rely upon to fight it has destroyed itself in the most fundamental way? We do not understand this,’ he continued, ‘but we know that we no longer have an army here. There are not enough of us and there are too many of them. We truly have no choice but to surrender ourselves. I suspect…? God help us, I have no idea. Is it magic, or poison, or hypnosis?’ he said, looking bewildered and shocked by his own words, as if they could not have come from him. He sat heavily. ‘We have undone ourselves.’
Armitage chilled. There were murmurs and soft words but no more cries of disagreement. The remaining soldiers had seen too much, and were numb with it. To see such wounds on the battlefield was one thing, but to see them here, and inflicted as they had been? It was too much. Armitage stood with the others and queued for food. None of the remaining soldiers spoke now, and none wanted to eat, but there seemed little else to do while they waited for their captors to remove them, as they surely would.
He sat alone at an empty table. There were many. His plate was heaped high. Armitage ate greedily but without hunger, mopping the wetness with hunks of dry bread and washing it down with water. He tasted none of it.
There was time enough for one last night.
Armitage noticed the first tingle in his fingers as he sat on his bunk, restless after the night’s bad sleep. In the second it took his brain to register the feeling, and perhaps begin to formulate some hypothesis as to its cause, he thought how much better it would be if he removed that itch. He looked at his hand and saw nothing that he recognised. A wedding ring gleamed from his ring finger and it was not the one he knew. A scar, jagged and deep pink, wormed across the back of the hand, and Armitage could not place it, nor the wound that caused it. He reached nervously to the hand and touched it. The hand felt not his own. He frowned and began his examinations afresh. There was no corresponding feeling from his left hand as his right fingers pulled gently at the skin there, just a deep itch in the tendons of that wrist, and in his mind’s eye, he could see the tendons fighting the connection of wrist to hand. He turned the hand over, and was unable to make a fist. The palm was too soft, he thought, to be his, the lines too deep.
‘Oh God, Donnie,’ he said softly to no one. ‘God, man. You were right.’
The screams intensified from the medical tent, and the sound of gunfire waned in the distance. Armitage stood and walked to the ratty chair, and to the cleaver that lay blood-rusted on the floor beside it.
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No matter who you are, no matter where you were, 9/11 was a devastating and soul shocking moment. The fact that the destruction was allowed to take place revealed just how vulnerable the West really is. The twin towers shattered and collapsed like our confidence and sense of security. Battered, bruised and with angered hearts, just about everyone demanded revenge. We sent our brave men and women into a warzone that was created through broken promises, failed deals, and resentment.
Honestly reflecting on 9/11 is a sobering experience. In recognition to the dreadful terror attack that reshaped the world into what it is today, Deadman’s Tome is giving away free ebooks of March to the Grave – the horrors of war themed issue all week (from 9/11 – to 9/17).