Do you think me a monster? I know there are some who do, petty, small minded fools who fail to appreciate the depths of my unique intellect and the conservative commentary I bring to my writing, but I tell you I am no monster, merely a man.
Well perhaps not merely a man -- there are few after all who have been gifted with such divine vision as to pierce the lies and illusions foisted upon us by our so-called leaders and see the true face of the world, even fewer still who possess the insight to rip open the veil of deceit and expose that face to any and sundry at with but a handful of words placed upon the waiting page. Indeed among my peers I am known as The Surgeon, for the sheer finesse with which my prose slices open the skin of humanity's self deceit exposing the twisted veins that carry hatred, perversion and intolerance to the heart of this great country of ours, pulsing with dark intent as they await the denouement where with the scalpel of preternatural discernment they are severed exposing their foulness to my beloved readers.
So while I may not be a mere man I am still human and what better proof is there than the nightmares which burden me? Nightmares are a gift to humanity, not only do they inspire horror writers such as myself but they illuminate the mistakes and regrets of our youth keeping us humble. Monsters have no need for nightmares, they are the very terror in the darkness after all and our regrets often number among their fondest memories, as such they sleep deep and well. I do not.
Every night I am tormented by visions from beyond our limited frame of understanding, tossing and turning so violently that to share my bed with another would constitute an act of physical violence, depriving me of the love that might salve my soul. So often have I awoken screaming on the floor, my body drenched in sweat, that out of consideration for those around me I have been forced to sleep ensconced within a cocoon formed from duvets and blankets, a ball gag within my mouth, in my repose I am the very image of a resting pharaoh of old, the Tutankhamen of Horror as my dearest friend and a writer of no small regard himself once joked.
Allow me to share the most pestilent of these nightmares with you, that you might come to know me better and to refute the lies my detractors may have poisoned your mind with. To understand this nightmare first you must know something of my youth. I have never been of great stature in a physical sense, indeed the unkind amongst my peers often labelled me a runt. A painful term to be sure but one I could live with for I harboured little desire to be known for my physical prowess, however there was one other label foisted upon me so repellent that even to this day I shudder to hear it uttered and even the act of typing it is almost physically painful to me.
You see High School with its standardised syllabus and tests, where teachers all sing from the same dull hymn sheet is a place ill suited to handle a unique intellect such as my own, it bridled at their common methods and sought unique solutions to the problems they set that were sadly beyond the system's limited ken. As such my teachers blamed their frustration with my answers upon me and not their own stagnant minds and thus my methods, which would have elevated me to the crème de la crème in a more enlightened society, condemned me to the Hades of Special Education where I laboured in a Sisyphean struggle to acclimatise to their mundane methods . Of course my peers could not understand the true nature of my demotion and thus took every opportunity to regale me with the insult which haunts me to this day, retard.
You cannot imagine how such an epithet burned when hurled against the tender soul of a born artist, even one whose natural inclinations lay towards the darkest aspects of the collective soul of humanity. I responded of course, with witty salvoes and clever rejoinders seeking to disprove their accusations of retardation, they responded with violence. Still even though they were clearly Neanderthals lacking in all appreciation for the delights of culture they were still my peers and I sought to earn their grudging respect, in time most of them appreciated my determination and dark sense of humour bestowing upon me such fond nicknames as Iron Horse.
All save one.
His name was Lloyd Campbell, and he was my nemesis, the Ahab to my Moby Dick, seeking to reduce the leviathan of my intellect to a cooling corpse of mediocrity with harpoons fashioned from bitterness and jealousy each with that vile insult "retard" carved into every barb. Aside from his unremitting hatred of me he was an average teenager of average build, average looks and average achievement. Perhaps that was the source of his distaste for me, an innate desire to drag down to his own level those who strutted among the clouds he could only dream of and exposed the dullness of his existence to him.
It seemed that wherever I was there he would be, in the halls, at lunch, or on the bus my meditations on the darkest aspects of the cosmos and the terrors lurking in the depths of society would be interrupted by Lloyd's lilting voice ringing out with "Hey retard, watch where you're going." He was a single child, his father long since absconded into the ether so perhaps that's why he would react so strongly to my delicately phrased response to his insults in which I described his mother's amorous adventures with a veritable menagerie of the inhabitants of the animal kingdom, for while in all other respects he was as I have said average his wedgies were an art form and I oft feared that I might never free my underwear from the stygian depths of my sphincter.
I know what you are thinking, that my nightmares are merely a banal recreation of my childhood experiences with bullying, but that would be for lesser men, not one such as I. Though perhaps that would have been the case were it not for the tragedy that struck our school one cold Illinois winter when the snow blanketed the ground and the children played hockey on frozen ponds.
That was the winter Lloyd died.
It was a tragic incident, the death of one so young always is, he had gone out early one bright and frozen morning and never returned. After two panicked days of searching his waterlogged body was found beneath the ice of a frozen pond, it seemed he had misjudged the ice's strength and plunged to a watery death. I take no shame in the surge of pleasure I heard at the news of his passing, I was young after all and this seemed to be the answer to my many prayers to God above that I be spared Lloyd's vicious attentions. Of course as a man of principle I refused to attend his funeral, I would not mourn his passing after all and the very idea that I should join those who would in a public ceremony of grief seemed hypocritical to my mind.
It should come as little surprise that my peers, with their limited perception failed to understand this and thus my ostracisation was complete. Everywhere I went I could feel their judging gazes upon me until I could almost hear their accusations lurking behind their eyes, "Why didn't the retard attend Lloyd's Funeral? Look at him flinch when we say Lloyd's name is it guilt? Was he responsible for his death?" Oh how I longed to unburden myself to them, but I knew they could never understand my pain, how could they who knew only the light and warmth of a society that accepted them understand one who from birth was destined to stand outside who could not ignore the horrors in the shadows our world cast?
"Yes," I wanted to say to them, "I prayed for Lloyd to be gone, why wouldn't I given the pain he caused me? But I never wished him dead, only a monster would do such a thing, it is God you must blame not I! It was He that answered a young boys prayer for release with death, His hand that swept Lloyd from the board of life!"
But I kept my silence, even when the dreams began.
(Yes, we now come to the nightmare I promised you, the damnable vision that haunts my nights to this day and though its frequency has mercifully decreased over the years it is still as potent as that first night I awoke screaming.)
It begins the same way every time, I find myself alone standing in the back of an impossibly large church, it's rafters reach to infinity the roof hidden by black, undulating clouds. On occasion I can spot pale, blank... faces for lack of better word staring down at me from amidst the darkness, though how one can call those smooth featureless discs of flesh a face when they lack all the features we associate with a face, eyes, nose and mouth. Still I know instinctively that these are faces, belonging to the nightgaunts of legend and that they watch my suffering with amusement. The church itself is built of the finest marble and I stand beside a font filled with noxious liquid that bubbles before me, and as each bubble pops I hear Lloyd's voice forming a damnable symphony of "retard, retard, retard".
With a herculean effort of will I manage to ignore the noise and look around and then I realise that this is Lloyd's church, a monument to his life and my suffering. Mighty pillars rise into the clouds adorned with sculptures of cherubs, each one bearing Lloyd's sneering grin, mocking me. The walls are adorned with frescoes of my humiliation, in the halls, the lunch room, the field, the school bus, the bathrooms. All those places I felt the lash of his tongue, the roughness of his physical retribution when I responded in kind. With each image the pain and shame inside me grow ever sharper until I see at the far end of the church a stained glass window, where a canonised Lloyd, evincing a beatific expression of peace beneath his halo, is performing a wedgie upon a vile caricature of myself.
It is at that point I collapse to the floor of the church in aguish beating my hands upon the cold marble, tears flowing from my closed eyes. I stay there for what seems an eternity until I hear distant whispers and I open my eyes, lurching to my feet to find that the rows upon rows of once empty pews are filled with now silent mourners in black, the women's faces hidden by veils the men's distorted by my tear filled eyes and the expressions of disgust upon their face. Beneath the stained glass window is a lone coffin, a wreath set before it and the knowledge blooms within me that it is Lloyd's coffin, that this is the funeral I avoided and my penance for the insult my absence dealt to his memory.
I have no idea how many lifetimes I stand there, the eyes of the mourners focused unblinking upon me like a horde of snakes confronted with a tasty morsel but eventually with hesitant steps I begin the journey forward to pay my final respects. As I pass each pew their heads swivel to follow my progress and they begin to whisper again, only this time I am close enough to make out what they're saying and again it's that hateful word which cuts through every layer of my being to whip upon the tender soul I conceal within. "Retard", they whisper their voices dry as a desert wind echoing through the cavernous church, "retard, retard, retard".
Each pew I pass adds their voice to the throng until the whispers become a roar, a tsunami of sound and pain smashing against my back driving me onward as I begin to increase my pace. My stride widening with every step until I'm running forward at full pelt, my arms pumping, my lungs burning, gasping for air up to the point where I collapse before the coffin and the chant ceases. As the final echoes die I manage to drag myself to my feet leaning upon the coffin to look one final time upon Lloyd's corpse.
The mortician has done a fine job, at a casual glance you would think Lloyd's merely asleep, the aftermath of drowning erased by their craft. I stand there my mouth hanging open as I try to find the right words, what can I say though? What words of respect can I leave for one I despised with every fibre of my young being that won't rot in my mouth? As I ponder this conundrum, my eyes raised towards heaven seeking divine inspiration I begin to notice the smell, the sweet and sour stench of rotting flesh. I look down in disgust at the body of my former classmate to see his belly distended, his flesh swelling and water beginning to drop from his pores. I stare in dumbfounded terror as his eyelids open to stare at me as the eyeballs themselves melt into pools of jelly that drip down his cheeks. The flow of water increases filling his coffin and flowing over the sides. His hands grab the sides of the coffin pulling the rotting body into a sitting position, the empty sockets staring at me as the flesh begins to slough from his face. His jaws open wide, wider than they could in life the decaying flesh at the corners of his lips tearing at the force leaving him with a ghoulish Glasgow grin, his hand extends towards me a bloated accusatory finger pointing in my direction. Then a jet of foul, blackish water, foul with the remains of his decaying organs ejects from his mouth and hits me in the face as I hear Lloyd voice distorted and burbling as though from deep underwater scream with all the hatred he bore towards me "RETARD!"
It is then that I awake safe in my bed, soiled with sweat and urine, oh the shame I felt as a child having to endure the resentment and anger of my family at my failure to control my bladder. They ignored my desperate explanations and punished me harshly, oh if they could only have experienced a fraction of my nightmare they would have understood! Alas such visions are not meant for the common man, only for those of us who have been gifted with true imagination, only in those blessed few will the subconscious mind create terrors that beyond humanity's ken.
Lloyd's spirit was not content to hide within that nightmare though, oh he spread to other dreams. I would be a hero flying above the clouds when they would shape themselves into his face and the wind would whistle, "retard" into my ears driving me into the ground, or I would seduce the finest courtesan in a sultan's harem only for her to whip aside her seven veils and reveal Lloyd's mocking face and dangling penis at which point I would flee the raucous call of "retarded homo" echoing after me. In time he even began to intrude into the waking world, I swear I once turned around in a Laundromat to see Lloyd standing before me asking "What you doing, retard?" I ran screaming from the place and it took me hours before I summoned up the courage to return and claim my clothes. Fearing for my sanity I decided that I must appease his spirit in the only way I knew how, I took his name for a nom de plume, granting it the same immortality my other writings have guaranteed me.
So, my friend, you can see now the truth? That I am far from the loathsome monster my detractors have painted. After all would a monster be haunted to this day by a childish wish to see his tormentor gone and the accidental death that soon followed? No, only a man could harbour such guilt, just as only a man would have prayed for intervention in the first place. A monster would never have done such, he would have called Lloyd out to a fight on a pond one frozen morn, the night before he would have hacked and salted the ice weakening it to the point that it would not bear Lloyd's weight, he would have lured Lloyd out on to the ice and stood there laughing as that poor child fell through into the freezing cold water, as he desperately bobbed up and down struggling to find purchase on the ice and pull himself free screaming and crying all the while until he sank beneath the surface never to rise again. Yes, a monster would have done all that, but as we have agreed I am not a monster, merely a gifted man.