“Of course, it's heavier… It's got my Grief in it. I pull it along with me everywhere I go.”
– Roland Deschain, The Dark Tower by Stephen King
October 7, 2022 – Post Coronavirus
AFTERMATH: 10:07 PM
Once everything settled down, it was easy for the Pus-Eater to get back on track. There was a shower backstage, and after washing away the grime, he felt fresh and ready to go.
"Not my will, but yours be done," he prayed. He didn't believe in God, but he believed in something, and the language of Christianity gave him courage.
Everyone had fled by now, and the building was surrounded, but he wasn't concerned. The cops wouldn't storm the building until they were sure he was alone.
"Into thine hands,” he continued, as he exited the bathroom. “I commit my spirit." He walked down the corridor to the stage, where the lights hit his face full force for the second time that evening, causing him to cover his eyes.
It took a few seconds for them to adjust, and then he walked past the podium to the chair where he had left his belongings. And his exit strategy: The noose at the bottom of his gym bag.
CONTENT MAY OFFEND AND/OR SEND YOU CRYING TO YOUR MOMMY
By Gerhard Jason Geick
a Hope in Hell Publications
DEMOPHOBIA may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the author’s express written permission except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. The characters in this book are purely fictitious, except for those that are not.
“There is no such thing as a happy ending. I never met a single one…
Endings are heartless. Ending is just another word for goodbye.”
― Stephen King
TWO HOURS EARLIER
Although Mr. Foicus was, in fact, a Pus-Eater, he despised the label, and he insisted that he be referred to as a Eiterfresser. It didn’t make much difference one way or the other, but it is what his kind had been called in the days when doctoring wasn’t much more than civilized witchery, and the Germanic variant of the word carried some semblance of respectability. He was not, as his kind’s English name implied, a side-show horror. That is not to say that they didn’t have their sordid past, a past that they had faced and made peace with more times than anyone could remember.
It was because of the legends that the crowds came to the Foicus lectures, and if it weren’t for the three-dimensional images his team had mocked up, he would not have been able to sustain the tour for as long as he had. He worked the textbooks into the price of the tickets and called them free, which was another one of his gimmicks, and unlike other books dealing with the subject, he had hired authentic Eiterfressers for his projects.
As a Canadian Minority, he had been eligible for a twenty-thousand-dollar research grant for his book, and he had invested about seventy-five percent of that into the images.
As a long-time fan of the Ginger Snaps trilogy, he had hired make-up artist Sarah Fairbairn, and they did all the filming within the Fort Edmonton Park, where the movies had been filmed. During the final stand, the fort’s haunting wooded barracks made the perfect backdrop, giving the reader the same sense of claustrophobia that the homesteader’s must have felt when the invaders set their barracks to flame.
The Eiterfressers had originally come to North America by way of the Coast of British Columbia back in the late 1700s, and the fort gave the images an added element of authenticity. One fort in those days looked pretty much like any other. But it wasn’t until the early 1900s that their aimless wanderings brought them across the Rocky Mountains and into Montana.
By then they were empty shells of their former selves. All memory of their crossing and anything that had come before that had been wiped from their memory. They were bags of bones. The aboriginals living in the area said that they were servants of Haashchʼéé Oołtʼohí, the God of the Hunt – and they stayed the fuck away.
By the time the Eiterfressers reached Seattle, in 1913, they had lost their minds, and it is no surprise that they nearly killed every living thing they encountered.
This period was referred to as “The Introduction,” and if you turned to page three in The Foicus Textbook, you would get a good look at the carnage. I had dished out the $129.99 to attend the lecture, so all I had to do was look up to the projected images.
“A Eiterfresser,” Mr. Foicus said as he stepped out on the stage, “is a humanoid creature that thrives on the vile discharge from infected, rotting flesh – and human waste.” He made his voice gravelly, and for a moment it sounded like gears were turning in the back of his throat. It was unnerving.
He wore a black hooded cape over his traditional European traveling clothes. He had a flair for the theatrical, and he hid his face from his audience – his prospective investors. He didn’t care if anyone liked him, that part of him had died when they put him out on his ass. But he did want their money. So, he spoke as if he was smiling.
On the screen, there was a two-page aerial spread, and the image was heinous. It covered miles, and wherever you looked, you saw bodies. They were disemboweled. Bones were jutting out at awkward angles. You could see the fear and anguish in their eyes, and when the audience realized that they were all alive – something they had known but not understood – they began to feel sick, and many of them excused themselves, some to never return. Not even to collect their books. Not that Foicus cared. Unless they had been vomited upon, they could be resold.
In the background, the Eiterfressers could be seen – hundreds of them. They were dressed as Mr. Foicus was, except their robes were dark brown with dried blood. They had uncovered their heads, and their skin was a wrinkled darkened brown. They were ugly, and their hair was scraggly and black, but most of the details were a blur from a distance. Still, there was a familiarity to them.
“You can see that we didn’t kill them,” Foicus said. “And why would we? We aren’t vampires or some other type of abhorrent monster. We have taken, as you can see, but our relationship has always been mostly symbiotic.”
It was a Truth Statement – and a Sin of Omission.
He had a remote in his hand, and when he pressed a button, the image changed. In this one, his people were tending to the injured. They were sucking the pus and stink like nectar from festering sores, sealing their wounds with the press of their tongues, and binding them with strips of their own dermis. It was clear that, not only were the people being healed, but they had received relief from their pain, and like a mother who has given birth, they were able to look at the Eiterfressers without any bitterness in their hearts.
The people could see what the Pus had done for the Eiterfressers, how it had restored them, and how close to death they had been, and they rejoiced – because now they were beautiful, and beauty is the only thing in this world with any universal value.
“Of course, this was just the beginning. We didn’t know who we were, why we were there, or where we had come from. We were insane from hunger, and our instincts took over. Even now, one hundred years later, we have very little memory of what came before Seattle. And the people of that day were much more forgiving than the people of today. And inclusive. For example: For our skills, we were welcomed into the military.”
He pressed the button on the remote, and an image appeared of him on a World War One Battlefield treating an amputee. The man appeared to be uncontrollably laughing as his leg grew back.
The lecture was ninety minutes long. The last thirty minutes were reserved for a Q & A. They paid him $500, plus a percentage from the tickets, and the profits from his books were his alone. He knew some authors would be over the moon for a gig like this, and he appreciated it, but he missed being on the field. Unfortunately, he’d made a mistake, and he’d been benched. He’d gotten confused, and he’d helped everyone that needed it, not just the so-called good guys.
Foicus threw back his hood then, but nobody gasped. They had known what to expect. They had seen his face on the cover of his book, and they had heard him speak in the press junket they’d received.
He was humanoid, but not human; ugly, but not horrific. He had the wrinkled face of a two-hundred-year-old Asian woman, teeth like Boris Johnson but razor-sharp, and the jowls of a bulldog. His hair was scraggly, and black. Close up, it looked like pubic hair. His skin was an ashen dark brown, and he had neither eyebrows nor eyelashes.
Thanks to coevolution, Foicus’ tongue was long and thin, and when he said, as he was often fond of saying, that “there wasn’t a crevice he couldn’t get his tongue into,” the double entendre never seemed to amuse anyone as much as it did him.
Foicus looked out into the crowd and tried to meet as many people’s eyes as he could. After a moment, he said, “Well, that’s my presentation. My pitch, as you will. Are there any questions?”
A few hands rose – far too few – and he gave brief answers to their disappointing lines of inquiry. As it always was, they asked all the wrong questions. They wanted to know things like how the medical community had received him, what his response to the Christian Right was, and how long he thought it would be before his kind went extinct.
Well, what did you expect? – he asked himself. It was times like these that he had a difficult time remembering why he was putting so much effort into starving himself, and the Sin of Omission seemed to matter less and less. As it was, he was living on borrowed time. He had increased the dose as much as he dared, and still, the suppressants were beginning to lose their potency, as were the stabilizers. He was a ticking time bomb, and each day, the ticking seemed to be tocking faster, and it was putting him on edge.
“Are there any GOOD questions?!?!” he asked finally, and he took a step back from the podium, startled by the sharp edge to his tone. The room went quiet, and when no more questions came, he dismissed them fifteen minutes early. “And don’t forget, I will be in the lobby if you want to get a picture, an autograph, or if you want to buy any of the trinkets I’ve got for sale.”
It was nice to not have to sell the book. Still, his presentation had been for naught, and that was depressing. The point had been lost on these self-absorbed narcissists, and by the time the Q & A was over, he knew that he would not have their support. Thus, he hadn’t even bothered with his pitch. And if he needed evidence to prove his conclusion, it was there in their rush for the back door and the snack table in the foyer. Of course, none of that mattered. Not if this was the time and the place.
They are more interested in the coffee and the donuts than they were in my book presentation – he realized. He sat down on the steps and placed his face in his hands. He missed his people. They no longer gathered, not since the Riot of 2019. The Westboro Baptist Church had had it out for the Pus-Eaters ever since their public display on the Late Show with Craig Ferguson the year before.
Eighteen Pus-Eaters dead and not a single Christian brought to justice.
A century later, and people still remembered what had first happened when the Eiterfressers emerged, and all the good that they had done since mattered not. They would always be the most out-group, and this proved that.
Following the riot, a commune consisting of 118 Eiterfressers had gathered and committed suicide in silent protest. Seven weeks passed before their bodies were discovered. They were bloated and in the late stages of active decay. Their skin had liquified, and their innards were teeming with maggots and flies, and other scavenger bugs. Their bones could be seen inside, stripped down like chicken wings, and the smell was most disagreeable.
A healing retreat had been planned, and when the people began to arrive, they found the place deserted. They waited an appropriate amount of time – not long – and then they began to investigate. As we know, the Pus-Eaters were found in the shed. They were naked and very much dead. It was one of the largest mass suicides in history and maybe the most disturbing, but you would have thought it was business as usual for those in attendance.
Then, when the memes began to go viral – one was an image of the bodies, naked, rotting, and riddled with filth. A table from a fifties diner had been photoshopped in. One of the corpses had been laid out on the table. Its genitals had been torn off, and you could see maggots squirming about in the blackened stump that had been left behind. Its stomach was distended, and the flesh from its limbs had liquified. A young couple was sitting across from each other, and they were happily feeding bits of muscle to each other. It was reminiscent of the dinner scene in Lady and the Tramp. The headline said: EITERFRESSER PARFAIT? – and Facebook and other Social Media sites let it slide.
It is not as if these were humans. They were Pus-Eaters. Would you freak out over a calf’s carcass? Or an alien’s autopsy?
Foicus went out into the foyer to the table where his merchandise had been set up. There were bookmarks and posters and little bobbleheads. The bobbleheads were his least favorite of the lot. They were caricatures of him at his best, and they made him want to put his fist through a wall. Or someone’s face. The line-up to the Meet & Greet was at least ten times longer than it typically was. What with everyone already having a book, there was no hesitancy. They all thought he owed them something, and the realization that he was in for a long night was depressing.
He had been given a fold-up camp chair, and he made himself as comfortable as he could possibly get. He resigned himself, forced a smile onto his weary face, and looked up into the smiling face of hipster #1.
“Fuck my life,” he grumbled under his breath.
“What was that?” The hipster frowned.
“I said…” Foicus reinforced the smile. “Oh, what a life. You know?” He hummed a couple bars from the old Gibson Brothers’ song.
The hipster nodded and smiled back uncertainly. He was part of a Kumbaya club whose vocabulary didn’t know how to face bullshit, so all he could do was eat it with a grin.
Much to the Eiterfresser’s chagrin, the little peckerwood bought a poster and a bookmark. Then he asked for a personalized autograph and a photograph with the author.
Much to the man’s dismay, Foicus refused the photograph at the last second. He hadn’t even known he would do it until the words came out of his mouth. He was sick of being a side-show, and he was starting to feel claustrophobic.
The foyer was dim, so everyone turned their flash on, and it felt like the bright lights from the auditorium had followed him in. He felt his stomach begin to turn, and he clenched his fists in quiet, white-knuckled fury.
The hipster grabbed his book off the table, sans signature, and left. “He’s not doing pictures now,” he said, loud enough for everyone to hear. “What a Goof!” He turned around and snapped a picture with his camera, and then he took off running as if Foicus were about to sic security on him.
Within seconds, the line began to thin out, and Foicus began to relax. He hadn’t realized he’d been tense, but the difference was night and day. “Alright,” he said. “I don’t have all day here.”
A woman in her late twenties approached. She was pretty, but she was obviously a mom. She had long brown hair. She wore glasses, and she was dressed business casual. The gentleman she was with – Foicus assumed it was her husband – looked to be a few years older. He had a red goatee, and he was dressed in a t-shirt and khaki shorts. He was wearing a camouflage cap, and he had black shades on. Why? Who the fuck knows?
To keep track of the visions in his eyes, maybe? – thought Foicus. And he chuckled.
The woman cleared her throat unhappily and, for the second time, Foicus fretted. “I am sorry,” he said. “How can I help you?”
“My book,” she replied. Foicus looked down and saw that she had his book open and ready. “To Christina Pfieffer. Go ahead, start writing. I will spell my name out for you.”
Fucking Karen – thought Foicus as he gripped his pen in his fist. He had known that he was close to his breaking point, but he hadn’t realized just how close until today.
Her husband, Mr. Joe Cool, seemed to think this was fucking hilarious. It was like he was king shit, and the Pus-Eater was just a lonely ringworm squirming around in other people’s filth.
“I appreciate your support more than words could express,” she continued.
The Eiterfresser looked up and gave Christina a dirty look, but she didn’t seem to notice. She just kept going, and she didn’t stop until Foicus cut her off, mid-sentence, as he slammed the book’s cover.
“What the fuck?” Christina growled, and the eyes of the man beside her lit up. He had seen her like this before. That was apparent, and he was glad that, for once, he wasn’t her victim. She flipped open the cover and read what was written there: “To Christina Pfieffer” and below that: “Foicus.”
Christina was aghast. “Do you know who I am?”
Foicus shrugged as he rolled his eyes. “Let me guess.” His voice was dripping with sarcasm. “Are you my number one fan?”
“Hardly!” Christina laughed. “I am a prominent reviewer on good terms with the hosts of Godless Horrors, Bizzong! and Written in Red podcast. By the time I’m done with you, not even Drew Stepek will touch your books!”
“Oh, fuck off!” By now, the line had become a half-circle, and everyone had their cameras out.
If they wanted a show, Foicus decided that he would give them one. At this point, he was yards past giving a shit. It would be the first display in one hundred years, and with a hundred or so cameras pointed at him, he was sure to be remembered. So, at least there was that.
His kind had made so much progress since they’d invaded Seattle in 1913, but look where it had gotten them, and they’d had to twist the truth to get them this far – and he considered that a failure. Had he been successful, his next project would have been the Tell-All that would have either set them free or cursed them for eternity.
Not for the first time, he wished that he had gone with the silent protesters.
Ever so casually, he reached out and grabbed the woman’s left arm. He placed one hand on her wrist. Then, for leverage, he put his other hand above it. He was strong, and it was nothing for him to pull the woman’s hand off. She shrieked, and he threw her hand on the ground.
This all happened in a matter of seconds. There is nothing that anyone could have done to save her. Blood began to jettison from her stump, but it was hardly at an alarming rate. She would never bleed to death from this wound, but her face had turned white, and she wouldn’t stop screaming. Foicus yanked out her tongue, and the problem was solved.
Joe Cool, the fool, came at him, and he used Christina for a shield. Then with her back to him, he dug his fingers into her spine and wrapped them around her spinal column. Instant paraplegic. And when he pulled his hand out, he yanked out her L4 Lumbar joint. Then he lifted it in the air like a Mortal Kombat finisher.
The hole the joint left behind was ginormous, and there was a sound like threads snapping as the tendons, nerves, and whatnot snapped. There was a quick gush of blood. It hit the Eiterfresser in the face. Then there was a lighter shower that went all over his shirt and pants, and then it tapered off – all in a matter of about 2 seconds.
Foicus looked at the joint and turned it curiously in his hands. It looked surreal, like something in a doctor’s office.
How could this be happening? – I wondered. If I hadn’t had my camera in front of me, I might have been sick. Others weren’t so lucky. They either didn’t have cameras, or their cameras were of lesser quality. Mine was so big that I couldn’t see anything except what I saw through the lens. I felt like I was watching a very violent movie.
All around me, people were expelling the contents of their bellies. I took a few shots of them for posterity, and then I turned back to the main attraction.
Christina’s eyes went wide, and when Foicus let go of her, Joe Cool tried to pick her up. But when he bent over, Foicus punched him in the shoulder blades, and the sound of his clavicles and Scapulas breaking was enormous. The bone broke through his chest, and he collapsed onto his wife.
About a minute had passed. It wasn’t a lot of time, but it was more than enough for pandemonium to erupt.
So, why hadn’t it – I wondered.
Foicus looked up, and he looked around. It might have been that a few people managed to sneak away, but it didn’t seem so. They had their phones to their faces. The incident was being recorded. In some cases, it was probably being streamed live, and that was their insurance. To them, this was still an extension of the presentation. As the evidence had shown, not everyone was guaranteed to make it out alive, but their bicameral minds told them that they were invincible. Christina was the exception that proved the rule.
Of course, if a single person were to bolt, they would all bolt. Herd mentality guaranteed it. In that case, Foicus would have to deal with them in one foul swoop. But He was confident he could keep them under control. I could see that in his eyes.
From the herd’s perspective, Foicus had responded to Christina’s aggression. If they stayed cool, they assumed the Eiterfresser would do the same. But there was blood in the water, and his desire to live had returned.
Had things not gone this way, he would have packed all his merchandise into their boxes, carried them into the auditorium, and placed them on the stage next to his bag and the chair he’d set up earlier.
He had seen all of this in his vision: After piling up the boxes, he took a seat in the chair. He looked out into the auditorium, to the empty seats, but the lights were so bright he could barely make out their shapes. He thought about the questions.
How had the medical community received him?
Not well. That’s an understatement. One day science is overturned by superstition. Of course, they didn’t receive him well. Unless you count the experiments. The doctors were awfully anxious to get their hands on specimens, and there were too many scientists willing to take a life to get it. To cross ethical boundaries in the name of progress.
What was his response to the Christian Right?
What did they think he’d say? Fuck them, of course! Skull fuck them in their self-righteous eye sockets and cum into their optic nerves. Let his white sludge be their guide. After what they had put the Eiterfressers through, they deserved much worse, but he was just letting off steam.
And how long did he think it would be before his kind went extinct?
What kind of insensitive question was that?
Foicus sighed. He thought – This wasn’t how things were supposed to have gone. He had started out so optimistic when he’d set out on this book tour/lecture circuit. Unfortunately, now that it was over, he was no closer to his goal than when he’d set out.
He turned in the chair and opened his gym bag. There was a Bible at the top. He took it out carefully and neatly set it on the floor. Then, piece by piece, he took out all his earthy goods – shirts, pants, socks, underwear, a few paperback books, a half ounce of pot, a strip of condoms (Trojans: Ribbed for her. Foicus was nothing if not considerate), a manila envelope with the contract from his publisher, and a smaller envelope full of photos – and he threw them all on the floor in his desperate dig for the rope at the bottom.
There were tears in his eyes.
He held the rope out in front of him as if it were a viper. He had tied the noose in advance. Just in case – he’d told himself, all those months ago when he’d done the deed. Just in case.
The tears began to stream down his face as he stood up. He had a one-pound weight in his bag that he connected to the loop with a Carabiner. That was the trick, he’d read. If you don’t weight the noose, you could be throwing the rope in the air all night and still get nowhere. He looked up at the beam over his head and calculated the trajectory.
He threw the weighted end too hard the first time and it hit the ceiling with a bang. It missed the beam by almost a meter and landed on the floor well outside of his reach. The second throw was closer. It didn’t hit the ceiling, and he caught the weight easily, and he regretted it the moment it smacked against his palm.
He shrieked in pain, shouting, “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” But by the fifth exclamation – Fuck! – he was laughing. There was something humorous about being outraged by pain while trying to kill yourself.
Foicus was no longer crying now. The third time was the charm, and he chuckled as he tied off the non-lethal end of the noose. “There wasn’t a crevice I couldn’t get into,” he muttered – And by God, those were the days!
Climbing onto the chair, Foicus was surprised by his lack of doubt. What he was doing seemed to be the most reasonable thing in the world to do. I came, I saw, and all I got was this lousy book. He looked down at the cover of his book and silently read its title: Foicus: The Last Pus-Eater. He wasn’t, though – the last – but damn near, and it made for a good sub-title, not that the publisher let him name his own book. He wasn’t bitter, but he had been, once upon a time.
The elders told tales of glory from the days when giants walked the earth, and a Eiterfresser was worth his weight in salt. His agent said that his book would herald the dawning of a new age, and instead of being seen as a freak, his kind would once again be revered as healers. He should have seen the lie on the man’s face, but he had so badly wanted it to be true. “Oh well,” Foicus laughed. “That’s life.”
Calmly, he pulled the noose over his neck and cinched it tight.
“Any last words?” he asked himself.
“None,” he replied. “It is what it is.”
He tottered and rocked gently back and forth on the chair, working himself up for the main event. “Getting psyched” is what he’d always called it when he got ready to take the stage at a reading event or lecture. Often, he listened to music. His favorite bands being, A Gift of Death, Shit Fist, and Donny Darko’s Anus.
He thought about that, then – for no reason – as the chair toppled over.
And as the chair fell over, his body dropped a foot and immediately jerked back four or five inches. His hands went up in the air to grab at the rope, but much to his credit, he got control of them and forced them into his pockets. His face turned red, his eyes bulged, and he held his breath.
He forced himself to relax, and as he slowly let out his breath, piss ran down his legs and he shat himself, but he was observing it from outside of his body as a passive observer. The body began to seize.
It won’t be long now – he thought, and he was not afraid. He imagined that this is how it had been for the man that they had called the Christ. Jesus had, apparently, seen it all in advance. But what would he have done if things had played out differently – if God the Father had chosen to change things up at the last minute without telling him? In that way, in the end, and for the first time, he would have been fully human.
Foicus had seen his end, literally, thousands of times, and he had been prepared. After all, but of that day and hour knoweth no man – not even the angels. Thus, the suicide ensemble at the bottom of his bag.
The whole vision played out once more in a matter of seconds, and it had left him more confused than ever. It confirmed that this was the time and the place, but he had clearly fucked everything up the second he’d torn that despicable woman’s hand off – and yet there had been no stampede. All eyes were on him, in expectation.
He shook his head and pushed the premonition out of his head.
“What now?” I asked. I had been in the third row. I had a Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV, and I bet that of the million photos that had been taken over the course of the last five minutes, mine would prove to be the cream that rose to the top. The camera may have cost over two thousand Canadian dollars, but it was well worth it. When this was over, I would be able to set my price for the pictures I was taking. I would have my own gallery, and I would be set for life.The Pus-Eater scowled. He obviously didn’t appreciate my interruption. “Everyone into the auditorium,” he growled. We looked at each other, and when nobody offered up any dissent, we shuffled our way back into the larger room. The first people in checked their tickets and returned to their original seats, which seemed preposterous to me, but when everyone followed suit, I did the same.
I held my camera steadily in front of my face as I looked around.
The heard thought that their lives were in the hands of the Pus-Eater. Of course, I knew better. My life was in their hands, and that terrified me. Whatever came next was dependant upon their ability to stay calm and follow directions. Or at least that is how I perceived the situation.
I had read the book already. I knew what Mr. Foicus could do, what he was capable of, and the restraint he had shown in the foyer. Had he wanted to, he could have slaughtered everyone in a matter of seconds. But he hadn’t. He had momentarily lost control – that’s what I figured – and then he had regained it.
Now, as he made his way to the podium, he seemed completely calm. This was despite the fact that he was a bloody mess from where Christina had blown her load all over him. There were bits of bone and tendon in his hair and stuck to his shirt. He was coated in blood – it was as if he had bathed in it – and for some reason he had picked up Christina’s hand.
When he got to the front, he looked up, and he used the hand to awkwardly wave. And then he smiled. His razor-sharp, Boris Johnson teeth were hard to look at. Near the edge of the stage, he saw the chair from his visions, along with his bag, and his eyes lit up momentarily. Then his brows furrowed, and he frowned.
Maybe it’s not too late – he realized. He could do whatever the fuck he wanted. But we were throwing him off. We were the unknown, and he didn’t do well with variables he couldn’t predict and control. They made him nervous. He was as afraid of the herd, in his own way, as I was.
We were sitting in place, but from where he was standing, with the lights hot on his face, we were distorted, and we seemed to be getting closer, and encroaching on his territory.
I could tell that he was calculating the value of their lives. I could see it in his eyes. He took a step forward, and I took a picture.
He looked like a trapped animal, and his face turned beet red. His eyes looked all over the place. Several times they settled on his belongings, and this time, tears ran down his cheeks.
This is great – I thought.
This was as good as the controversial Starving Child and Vulture. The one with the African Child, just a bag of bones, bent over as if towards Mecca, as said carnivorous bird targets its next meal. Kevin Carter took a picture, and he became a legend.
Suddenly, Foicus cleared his eyes and leaped from the stage. He was three-quarters of the way to the audience in one-third of a second, and he was openly weeping. Nobody moved. They were too busy being amazed – too busy being invincible.
It was like Eddie Adam’s Saigon Execution. One man pointed a gun at another mans head and fired his pistol. Another man took their picture. Life goes on, business as usual.
It was like when Michael Jackson held his baby over the railing for everyone to see, and the paparazzi went crazy. Without people like them, people like you wouldn’t know half the things you know.
I am old enough to remember 9/11. Where I worked, we got to take an extra, unscheduled, paid, hour break to watch it unfold. Lives were changed as we watched men and women dive from the upper levels. Hardly anyone scored above a five. Of course, the United States have never faired well in the Olympics, or under stress.
That comment enraged one of my co-workers, and he said that he wanted to go into the military. That is how 9/11 changed his life. When I saw those images, I knew that I wanted to be a photographer. That is how 9/11 changed my life. He said that I was being selfish, but he died for our country three years later. You can see how well Altruism turned out for him!
The Pus-Eater placed his left hand on the right side of the head of a fat kid in his late teens and his right hand on the left side of the head of a skank in her late twenties. He clapped, and the force of the clap was so strong that their heads were obliterated. They exploded in a circular spray with a circumference of over ten feet. Foicus’s hands met in between them, and their bodies fell to the sides.
In one second, my camera had captured two hundred images, and I couldn’t help myself. I had to view a few of them. I had read the book, Foicus: The Last Pus-Eater, but the carnage described was nothing compared to this. The spray reminded me of a children’s toy. Only, instead of emitting water, it pelted everyone with a sheet of blood, pulverized bone, and brains – pink, brown, and grey.
Finally, the crowd began to stir; and this is what I had been afraid of all along. Only now, with Dick and Jane decapitated, with their brains all up in the herd’s business, did they realize that they were in danger, as if they hadn’t just been through a ninety-minute seminar on the subject.
What happened next came in waves, and it started with those closest to the carnage. They started to cough and gag, and as they released the contents of their stomachs, a chain reaction was ignited. Within seconds, it was a proper puke-fest.
It wasn’t long, then, before most people had finished vomiting and were trying for round two or three, while others had moved on to coughing up phlegm and dry hacking.
I kept my camera going, but the Eiterfresser was still my main focus. I had lost sight of him for over a minute, and for the first time, I was scared. I had to set down my camera to get a full view of the room. Then, when I did find him – another first – I leaned over and heaved.
I can handle pretty much anything, but when I saw the Pus-Eater laying face first in an inch and a half of vomit, it was too much. His arm and legs were spread out in a starfish pose, and as he sucked up the vomit, he used his hands like paddles and his arms like funnels to draw more to him.
I could hear the gagging, coughing, choking, crying, retching, wailing, and vomiting all around me. People were gradually making their way towards the exit, and Foicus didn’t seem to care. And even with all that noise, I swear I could hear him eating over it all.
There was a mechanical sound to it, like gears were turning, but that couldn’t have been. I told myself that it was impossible, and that it must have been my imagination.
I took a few pictures of the people leaving. The auditorium was still at half capacity, and I took a few pictures of those that remained. They looked like shells of their former selves. Their faces looked haunted. They were pale, and their eyes and cheeks were sunken in. It seemed impossible that they could lose so much vitality so quickly.
I was in the third row, and I came around so that I could get some better pictures of the Pus-Eater feeding.
Now that I had gotten over my initial shock, I was fine. Face down the way that he was, with his hood over his head, there wasn’t much to see. It was a river of sewage with a strong current. Every type of food group was represented, each at its own stage of digestion. Up close, I could see that more than one person had shit themselves. There was an oily diarrhea sludge over the top of everything, with little turd nuggets here or there, and then there were the remains of Dick and Jane. I saw a tongue floating along with a few teeth and chunks of undigested nuts, all held together with mucus and who knows what else.
I could hear the Pus-Eater slurping it up, like a child drinking directly from a bowl.
I took a picture.
Clean-up on aisle one – I thought, and I began to giggle.
Mr. Foicus looked up then. And he was beautiful. Even with the sewage caked to his face and dripping off his chin, it was undeniable. His fresh, blemish-free face was that of a man in his early twenties. It was nearly symmetrically perfect, and there was just enough weight in his cheeks so that he looked slightly angelic.
He looked into the camera’s lens. I had a 256gb micrSD, so keeping my finger on the shutter was no big deal. I wasn’t worried about running out of data. I was taking 200 pictures a second, and with my 2.4-4 zoom lens, once I blew the images up, you would be able to see things that the naked eye could not. I got hard just thinking about it.
I felt a shiver run down my back suddenly, and I looked up. I had been so intent on the image on the screen that I had lost focus of the reality in front of me. The Pus-Eater’s brows were furrowed, and I could tell that he was not impressed.
I pressed the shutter quickly. Then I looked around to see what had gotten under his skin.
Almost everyone was gone, and as I looked back, I felt his hand on my throat. I was so surprised that I didn’t even get a chance to try for one last breath.
I could feel the pressure increase and my finger twitched. It pressed the shutter, and I took another picture.
The strangulation didn’t hurt like I would have imagined it would. I literally couldn’t gasp. My face felt hot, and my heart began to beat very fast. It seemed that I should have been fighting for my life, but I wasn’t. My brain must have known that it was pointless, so it gave me those last few seconds of sanity to reflect on my life.
My vision began to go blurry. Dark shapes and floaters appeared in my eyes like itty bitty things under a microscope, and then I saw red dots. They all said, “STOP!”
Just about time – I thought absently. My neck felt hot suddenly – and wet – and it occurred to me that he had torn out my throat, just like he’d torn out Christina’s spine.
I fell backward, and as everything faded to black, I suddenly realized that the worst thing about dying is not knowing what happens next.
Thanks to Christina Pfieffer, for not putting up too much of a fuss.
“When God calls, you gotta go home” – D12, The Good Die Young
Postscriptum: The mistake was no mistake at all.
Edited by the author https://freelancebygary.weebly.com/
Cover art and Brand Label by Drew Stepek.
Beta Read by Andy & Brandy Carroll
Additional thoughts and ideas by Andy & Brandy Carroll. Without their input, this wouldn’t have turned out half as good as it did.