Marc Carver

Donkey

When I got on the train
the man was talking
on his phone
and I knew
that he would
still be talking
when I reached
my stop in
fifty minutes.

He was mostly
talking about Bob.

“Yea he’s okay but you know”
he said in a way
that only people
who are used
to talking
talk.

He is still talking now
perhaps he never stops
so long as he
has someone
to listen.

My mother would say
he could talk the legs
off a donkey.

This guy could talk the legs
off of thousands.

As I thought about this
I pictured him in a field
with a long queue
of donkeys
and a big pile
of donkey legs
at his feet.

He got off at
Clapham Junction
still talking
and once again
I could see him
in that field.

 

Peter Caffrey

Owning Emily

I arrived at around 3am. I wanted to be first in the queue but had been beaten to it. Occupying the prime position was a tatty old sleeping bag, topped with a woollen bobble hat bearing multiple primary-coloured stripes. Somewhere inside was a man; a man with foresight, as he was slumped in a fold-up picnic chair. A chair; I hadn’t thought about bringing one with me. That meant I would be standing for six hours, if not more.

I said hello to Man Number 1 as I took my place behind him, but he didn’t reply. I wasn’t sure if he nodded an acknowledgement or twitched due to the shock of being addressed. Either way, it was clear he wouldn’t be good company for the long wait that lay ahead.

As the sun sneaked above the rooftops, more people arrived: all men and all alone. The shipment would be limited to 25 models, according to the rumours, but there were already over a hundred people in the queue. The numbers swelled as the store’s opening time approached. Maybe they were just hoping to get lucky.

Activity inside the shop caused Man Number 1 to shed his hat, climb from the sleeping bag and fold his chair. It would soon be the start of the business day.

‘Which model are you after?’ I asked Man Number 1. He didn’t reply, turning away as if I had somehow broken a code of silence. I didn’t know about the etiquette of such transactions; it was my first time.

‘Which model are you after?’ I asked Man Number 3. ‘Any take your fancy?’

‘I don’t want one for myself,’ he replied, almost too eager to disassociate himself from the impending transaction. ‘Hell; I don’t need a sex robot. Why would I? I’m a real man, I’m all man and the women love me for it. I’m only buying one to sell it on. I hear the ethnic models attract high prices in the Middle East, so that’s where I’ll be flogging it.’

Man Number 3 said nothing else. He wasn’t interested in which model I was after. Had he asked, my answer would have been an anti-climax. I didn’t care which model I ended up with; any of them would do. I wasn’t looking to fulfil a specific fantasy.

The staff brought us into the shop ten at a time. As we entered they gave us a number. We sat on a collection of unmatched chairs, filling in the various questionnaires that the programmers would need to ensure compatibility.

They called Man Number 1 in. My consultation wouldn’t start until he had selected his sex robot, and Man Number 3 would wait until I had made my choice. All the robots were unique; well, that’s what the adverts claimed.

The consultations could be quite a lengthy process. After assessing the purchaser’s personality, the next step was to filter the choices of sex robot by looks. They considered weight, height, ethnicity, age, hair colour, eye colour and a host of other physical attributes. Then there were optional extras: piercings, tattoos, scars, birthmarks and the like. With only 25 models in stock, not every taste could be catered for. It explained why some of the late-comers still queued. The last few purchasers would have little choice and might pass up the opportunity to wait for the next delivery.

Once the purchaser assessment was completed, the next stage was to define the robot’s personality. This part of the consultation considered culture, beliefs, hobbies and a wide range of socio-political data. The manufacturer insisted that every purchaser went through the process. Following widespread criticism in the media, they were trying hard to reduce the sleaze-factor of what was – in truth – a machine men could have sex with.

Once the consultation was complete, the purchaser went into another waiting room. The engineers added any optional extras to the robot and used the information from the consultation to create a personality profile. All the robots had artificial intelligence and deep learning was implemented, so they adapted to the owners’ routines, their likes and dislikes, and any special needs they might have.

After an hour, the representative called me in to the consultation room. On the table was a multi-page questionnaire. Its cover proclaimed it to be the Owner Requirements and Expectations Survey. I told him we wouldn’t need it.

‘Are you sure?’ he asked. ‘I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to know which model they want, not without going through the consultation process. Then there’s her personality; we need to get that right for your relationship to be realistic.’ He made his comment sound like a warning against my haste. Representatives were paid commission on upgrades, so it was in their interests to push the customisation options.

I decided to seize the initiative and keep the transaction as straightforward as possible.

‘I’ve done some research and as I understand it the robots, when new, all fit into general classes regarding looks and personality, and within those classes there is a degree of individuality which can be adapted.’

‘Yes, you’re right; that’s stated in the brochure.’ He seemed put out I wasn’t letting him do the hard-sell on me.

‘Do you know which the most popular classes are – in terms of sales – for looks and personality?’

‘Of course I do,’ he replied, not liking my approach.

‘Okay; do you have a model in stock with looks and personality that fall within the most popular classes?’

He checked the stock sheet and nodded. ‘We have three. If we complete a few sections of the survey I can determine which is best suited to your needs.’

‘Don’t worry about that,’ I said, adding a smile to appear friendly. ‘Just get whichever of the three is nearest the door in the warehouse.’

The representative wasn’t happy that I hadn’t let him indulge in his sales patter. He stressed the need for compatibility, for optimal adjustments to the programming, for tweaks to physical traits to suit my every need. By ‘my every need’, he meant tweaks that would make my sexual experience with the robot dirtier. I let him finish his argument and then repeated he should just get the one closest to the door.

The sex robot I purchased was called Emily. She came in six parts: two legs, two arms, one head and one torso. The package included the tools required to build her. At first, I put her head on backwards for fun, but she wouldn’t power up until I put it back the right way. They were happy for you to screw the robots, but not to screw with them.

She had three operational modes: Girl Friend, Mistress and Filthy. I selected Filthy and dressed her in a leather basque and thigh-length latex boots.

Emily asked if I wanted to fuck her. I said I might, in a while, but before we did the dirty deed would she mind sweeping the leaves off the driveway? She took the broom with a smile and went outside. After some time, I went out and watched her working. In fairness, she made sweeping the driveway look sexy. She spotted me watching, and as she swept she told me how much she wanted to feel my cock inside her. After an hour of sweeping and a long verbal description of what she wanted me to do to her, the driveway looked great.

She asked again if I wanted to fuck. I told her to wait and suggested she pass the time cutting the grass. I watched as she mowed accurate lines into the lawn. Each time she reached the end of a line, close to where I was sitting, she’d say how much she wanted me to ejaculate on her breasts. She said it in coarser language; I had set her to Filthy mode after all.

That night I was in bed, reading, when Emily appeared at the window. The rain bounced off her face, her hair wet, bedraggled and plastered to her head. She balanced on the ladder, her skimpy negligee flapping in the wind. As she cleaned the glass with a squeegee, her lips mouthed a message. The only words I could make out were ‘finger’ and ‘anus’.

After a few days the deep learning had built a database of the clothes I dressed her in and the tasks I asked her to complete. She dressed herself, learned where I kept the tools and understood the jobs that needed doing. She also propositioned me for sex and described her fantasies in the filthiest of terms while she was doing her chores.

In the following days she built me a shed, cut the hedges, painted the living room and even carried out an oil change on my car. Despite her usefulness, Emily was beginning to bore me. A sex robot carrying out everyday tasks in a slutty way had seemed amusing and, to be fair, the first few days were fun. However, her sunshine attitude and legs-akimbo spirit started to grind me down.

One night, after a few drinks, I contemplated having sex with her. Despite her attractiveness, that was something I had no intention of doing. With the amusement factor on the wane, Emily represented a pointless investment.

Man Number 3’s plan of selling on his sex robot came back to me. Emily was, to all intents and purposes, a virgin. She had also amassed several housekeeping and maintenance skills, and while it might take time for her to unlearn those, she had kept her filthy attitude. Emily would be a catch for anyone seeking a nearly new sex robot. In fact, I was proud of her and all her achievements.

Searching the internet revealed a rich vein of potential sex robot purchasers. The unique personalities and low supply volumes of the automatons had kept resale values high. Demand changed according to locations. In the Middle East there was little call for anything but ethnic models, and North American purchasers seemed to prefer sex robots of greater heights. Emily was short, slim and blonde. The demand for such characteristics came from Japan.

Finding a buyer was easy, but as we discussed the transaction via a series of emails, he asked questions that made me feel uneasy. How tight was she? I said I didn’t know; I hadn’t had sex with her. He then asked me to gauge her tightness with my fingers. How big would a penis need to be, in terms of girth, to enjoy a tight fuck? He wanted information about her vagina and anus.

I was appalled. This was Emily. She had her own ways: fixing things and cleaning up and doing so with a slutty indifference that made her charming. The thought of a stranger using her as a sperm receptacle was unacceptable. The transaction was akin to handing over a loved one to sex traffickers. I couldn’t sell her.

I bought Emily a dog costume. It was hairy with floppy ears and a long tail. I taught her to chase cats, fetch sticks, bury bones in the garden and sleep in a basket in the kitchen. I took her out for walks, let her curl up in front of the fire when I was watching TV, and trained her to heel and stay.

She still asks me to fuck her every day, but I guess some characteristics are buried too deep.

Matthew Lyons

Paul O’Pandy Fights Everyone On The Train

Paul’s wife Linda tells him over breakfast that despite all his awkward, shame-driven puritan bullshit, she still has fantasies and that the biggest one is she wants to do a threesome with two guys while he watches. Paul doesn’t have the emotional capacity to process this, so he throws his eggs against the wall and storms out of the house to go to work. Beyond the front door, the day is humid and hot enough to flop his hair down with sweat and glue his balls to one thigh. He hate-walks the whole mile and a half to the subway station and when he gets there he hops the turnstile and gives the station agent the middle finger before getting on the first train that comes by. Number, letter, line, fuck it, doesn’t matter, get me out of here already.

It takes him all of thirty seconds to make it worse.

He picks the guy at random, muttering at him out of breath.

“Heyyew. Heyyew. I said, heyyew. Heyyew gotta problem me?”

The little guy on the bench behind the book looks up into Paul’s wet, bloodshot eyes and says

“No.”

“Yes yewdew! I sawyew looking! I saw! Yew gotta problem me, yewdew! Well howbout yew dewsunthin bout? Huh?”

The little guy goes back to his book, or at least tries, but Paul slaps it out of his hand and gets taken totally off guard when the guy immediately socks him in his sweaty, melty testicles. He crumples to the ground and starts kicking back at the guy, but that only inspires him to get to his feet and start beating on Paul worse. The blows crunch against his bones and soft parts like a hammer. Half his teeth go loose and he tastes blood and one eye goes blank and he starts crying like a child, which only makes the guy hit him harder. In his idiot riot and rage, Paul screams that the guy is a tiny little pussy and that makes everybody else stand up and join in on the beating.

They stomp him flat, dancing around him as they screech and preen and kick him through until he doesn’t look like a person anymore. They joyously smash his pretty hands to leather bags of blood and bone chips, powder one of his ankles, kick him in the penis until it looks like a bicycle that was in a car crash. Some of the men pee on him when they’re done and then everybody takes pictures on their phones.

When the train rolls into his station, they all pick him up and throw him out together so he can crawl to wherever he’s going like the vicious little shit he so obviously is. At the office, everybody stares while Paul drags himself to his desk, tracking a thin snail trail of blood behind him. More pictures. Nobody says anything until the boss comes over and sits down across from him and asks if everything’s okay.

“Fllurmrr, mn clurnm, lekkf frummrnp.” Paul’s tongue is swollen and split from the beating and half his teeth are broken, threadlets of nerves hanging loose from the jagged stumps. Words are hard.

“Do you need to go home? Your wife called a little while ago…”

At the mention of Linda, Paul makes a rattling sound in his throat and headbutts the boss in his teeth. The boss recoils, his perfect smile stained red, then he belts Paul in the side of the head with his heavy black Swingline stapler. A blue explosion goes off in Paul’s brain and then he passes out.

It’s dark in the office when Paul opens his eyes again and everybody’s already gone home. He manages to call a cab dialing using his nose and ripped-up tongue and when they pull onto his street he whines and he pushes and noisily fills his pants with shit so the cheery fellow behind the wheel just kicks him out and doesn’t ask to be paid. Paul crawls the rest of the way home and doesn’t even really notice that Linda left the front door open, but he knows something’s wrong when he gets inside because the whole house smells damp with sex fumes.

He finds them in the kitchen.

His boss and the teenager from across the street with the toned arms piston in and out of her like industrial machinery while she hits them and makes them both call her Paul. They all look up in chorus and keep going while he leers weeping at them from the floor. Linda smiles and spits at him and he sees that the eggs are still on the tile from this morning, scattered amongst shards of his plate and dignity.

From between her two lovers, Linda calls his name and when he looks at her she locks his gaze and starts to come so loud the neighbors all turn up their TVs so they don’t have to hear. Except they kind of want to hear.

Paul hates how much he likes seeing her like this, and it’s hard to jerk himself off to it because his hands are smashed-up garbage now, but somehow he manages it.

After the men are gone and they’re alone again, Linda tells Paul that she wants a divorce and inside his heart he knows he’s too old and broken to ever find anyone else. She goes upstairs to sleep and when Paul doesn’t hear her turn on the shower to rinse off all the stinking fuck first, he cries harder and turns the oven on to five hundred degrees and he climbs inside. It’s easy to do because he’s so little.

In the morning, when the boss and the neighbor kid come over again, the kitchen’s blackened with smoke and shame so Linda takes them in the back yard and the neighbors video record her over the fences with their cell phones and touch themselves and invite her over for dinners and Monopoly nights and barbecues and no one ever asks about Paul ever again.

Benjamin Blake

Summer Rain

I lost track of the time
The days bleed into one
And the burning sidewalks
Are all I know now

Local liquor store smile
Some small excitement
Is better than none
And grows a little more
Each and every time

They venture out in the summer
With children and small dogs
Millefleur dresses
That leave you dreaming
Of the skin that hides beneath

A torrential downpour
Unexpected and sudden
Soaked passersby to the bone
And I laughed
From the beneath the cover
Of the bridge

Jon Bennet

Scaling Down

When you’re a fat man
every meal
is a sin

I walk past a restaurant
and someone is eating
chicken and waffles
or fettucine alfredo
and they’re thin!

How is it possible?
My knees are splitting
like old oak
I can’t breathe
without the aid
of pumps and hoses

I go to the doctor
and stand on the scale

“Doctor, Jesus, look!” I say
and I tear at my clothes
and rip at my hair
such is my grief

But my doctor is wise,
“Stay away from scales,”
he says,
“you’ll live longer.”

Rodney Gardner

Dummy

Duplication through submission
Numbers tallied through a gem between her legs
Fruition may come through your probing
Perverted penetration and perforation
Subverted and diverted
You, the present resident is bent
Tortured and incorrect

Greetings to you
Abundant redundant fuck
Today is your moment
The armless plastic monarch
Shares her gift with you
A dummy goddess in true beauty
We tolerate no disrespect

Monorchid plastic outside
The soft interior bestows transfiguration
Your essence drains through your toes
New version conclusive
No longer elusive
Repellant
Foul
Waste

David Boski

droughts & dry spells

usually the apologies
become meaningless—
I’ve said sorry so
many times now
even I have forgotten
what I’m apologizing for
but I guess
it’s for not feeling
normal enough
to sustain
a healthy relationship
for a prolonged
period of time—
for not adapting
and welcoming
another human being
with the love needed
to do so
and for always
thinking the grass
has to be greener
on the other side
only to realize
that a drought
is inevitable—
the dry spells
are what
make
us
thirsty.

A.R. Braun

Dark Web

You’re not a badass if you’re not on the black market.

That’s what I used to believe. Now I know you’re a damned fool if you go anywhere near the dark web. It goes beyond unsafe. It’ll destroy you.

I’ve always considered myself a tough guy. Being named Ajax didn’t hurt. I played football in high school and college, have always been in to the hippest-but-kickass music—gangsta rap and R&B—and I make good money. I started my “Buyer Beware” paid blog with over a million subscribers, for I travel the world to patronize ‘em all. That’s my tattoo, instead of kill ‘em all. I always ride the roller coaster at the fair, have jumped out of an airplane, as well as dove off some of the highest cliffs above water in the world. I never turn down a fight—and I’ve gotten really fucked-up a couple of times; you can’t win them all unless you’re Steven Seagal—and I’ve never backed down from asking a woman out, especially if my buddies dared me to. That was before I got married. I like to joke that she’s a ball and chain, but I love her. She’s as crazy as me and does many of the bucket-list activities alongside yours truly. Speaking of said list, I’m halfway through it. I’m not the type to brag, it’s not my style, but I’ve engaged in porn on skates. Therefore, the dark web was just another hoop to jump through.

Or so I thought.

You Tube videos showed me the way. I purchased a VPN, inexpensive and well worth it, to hide my IP address and make it bounce from IP to IP. When it was static, it said I was in Turkey, but I resided in Chicago. I used DuckDuckGo—the search engine that doesn’t spy on you—and brought up the Tor browser (an acronym for “the onion router” due to the multiple layers of encryption applied on routing data), which led me to Hidden Wiki, with a list of sites on the dark web, and I was ready to rock ‘n’ roll. Everything there is dot onion, and the Bitcoin is used for currency, though it’s falling out of favor. Bitcoin is useful for anonymously buying drugs, any kind of illegal arms, and other unlawful goods, but I can now use other alt’ coins. You can also use PayPal and real money at this moment, but that leaves a paper trail.

And what was the worst that could happen? I’d stay away from kiddy-porn sites and serial-killer sites and shop for drugs and illegal arms. A half hour went buy, and I’d bought some pot and speed from Silk Road Anonymous Market 3.0, now running on new servers—the FBI had taken down Silk Road 2.0 in 2013—and purchased a fully-automatic Uzi and a semi-automatic handgun. In fact, I felt very confident.

Overconfident, as it seems.

My buddies were always pressuring me. Don’t be a Nancy boy: avoid getting a pumpkin, smash others’; Don’t let them put blueberries in your pancakes; don’t wear a jacket no matter how cold it is; never cry; you get the idea. Therefore, when a buddy of mine named Barrett—a muscled and mustachioed man with long black hair—dared me to go further than where he’d gotten stuck after seven black boxes, I had to add it to the bucket list. When I asked if he knew what I was getting myself in to, he slapped my back and said, “Good times, you’ve gotta trust me, bro.” He double-dog-dared me to try, and I answered with a question, “Wanna make this interesting?” Barrett and I being the nouveau rich, I offered up a $100,000 bet. He bit, buying the bridge. I had the confidence to go further than him but didn’t know if I could. Yet he hadn’t chickened out. Therefore, I trusted him.

Big mistake. My friends, like I used to be—but not on such a large scale—are pseudo intellectuals. For we’re hackers, or at least I used to be. I was a cyber soldier when I was in the military. I saw myself as a pioneer, wanting to discover things about the web previously uncharted. I’d gotten pretty good at utilizing software, also. At twenty-five, I was one of the best of the best. I knew what processes to murder to improve Internet speed. After buying more RAM and a new computer, I was ready to jump off the precipice.

I got a case of the nerves, not paying attention to the precognitive warning.

Not one to cower with liquid courage, I decided I’d go into the bathroom and look myself in the eye, even egg myself on, if that’s what it took. My shaven head caught the lights and reflected them greasily. I wasn’t bald, I just wanted the badassest haircut around. My muscles threatened to rip out of my tattoo shirt, and my cleft jaw and dimpled chin helped me scowl menacingly. Yet I just looked like some dumb ape. Hearing thunder and lightning and needing company, I let Killer, my black lab, through the backdoor and into the house, the scents of wet fur and ozone dueling banjos. Killer barked and demanded rough play craven souls didn’t have the balls to engage in. That dog wanted to wrestle harder than ever, and a couple of times, I wondered if I’d get bitten. I told myself if I didn’t have the guts to go on the black market and do some hacking—anonymous online—I’d better go back to thumbwrestling.

I stormed back into my study.

I took it as a challenge from Barrett to get to seven black boxes before getting stuck before he triple-dog dared me. From parent directory to parent directory I went. Most were basic encryption, and the ones that weren’t were dead-ends, so I used new encryption and covered my ass, latching on to an existing IP address for thirty seconds before bouncing to another one, making it seem like I’d vanished. Like Barrett, I got stuck on the seventh black box. I backtracked from the dead-end and made my way to the main directory, following Barrett’s path. The seventh box’s encryption was strange. It took some time, but I made it. Many obsequious things to bust through, but I was taking some time off work. I couldn’t hover, for the encryption would kick me out of the box, making me reset. In another directory, the only one online, I finally broke through. My ghost kept me anonymous, or at least I thought it did. I’d entered a taboo backdoor.

It loaded, and slowly. The dark web ran like dial-up. Then a chat window appeared in the bottom right of my screen, saying, “Welcome to Club Ape, your haven that goes beyond anything you can imagine,” along with what sounded like a children’s nursery rhyme played at wrong speeds—slow, then too fast, then slower, then way quick—eerie as hell. “I’m Archer, your host for tonight. And although that’s not my real name, feel free to use it.” He asked if I knew my way around, and I straight-up fibbed, claiming I’d been invited by a friend.

I was in the dark web’s version of the Further.

“We’ve given guest vouchers for tonight’s event,” he added.

Event? What in the shit?

I typed, “I don’t know how to maneuver, and I don’t see any guide links.”

“You wouldn’t see that through a voucher. You need to be an official member. I don’t recognize your IP.”

He can see my IP? Oh, I am so fucked.

“You’re probably wondering how I can see your IP,” he mind-read. “You’re not running Tails OS.”

Damn! How can a hacker miss something like that? I suck!

Then I did what I could. I made my IP static, saying I’m from Turkey. I got an SD invitation from Archer, for HD was only for members. He logged my IP—which he must’ve written down before I hid it properly—and told me he’s not responsible for any trauma tonight’s event may cause. “Follow this link when you’re ready,” he added. “The event starts in a few minutes. One warning, then a ban, if you don’t chill. I don’t have to tell you this, right? There’re no judgements on the dark web.”

I told him I understood.

“Thanks for coming and I hope you get off.” The chat window disappeared.

Black curtains, the sound of the hushed chatter of a crowd, and sickening laughter, came through loud-and-clear. I could imagine the rictus grins.

I realized I needed to text my wife again, for she hadn’t checked in with me in a couple of hours as she promised she’d do. She was out of town at a seminar about her “work.” I’d tried to tell her she had the worst gig in the world as a writer, for she’d been at it for ten years and had only earned slim pickins. I hoped that seminar opened her eyes to how there are only twelve authors that can sell 100,000 copies of every print book. And eBook sales only spike if you’re already famous, one to bribe potential fans, or very lucky. Yes, I’ve researched it. But you know writers, they don’t know when to bow out. I texted her and got no response, so I texted her again, yelling with capital letters. Still nothing.

What the fuck?

My wife, Stacy—a blond, stacked babe with a raucous personality—was also a caring person and wouldn’t blow me off like that.

Time to worry.

The curtain parted. Tied to a gurney was a sexy babe wearing a white, feckless mask and nothing else. But I could see strands of hair sticking out, and I recognized the curly locks, as well as the mole below her right breast, the one she had waxed so it wouldn’t grow hairs.

It was Stacy.

The severity of the situation crashed down on me like lightning. My mind lurched; my heart climbed into my throat. Wasps buzzed in my stomach. My bladder clenched. I stared at the screen like a zombie.

And coming toward her was someone very tall—obviously male, like an NBA star— wearing a gorilla suit. And holding a . . . oh, no way. . . drill.

Since when did gorillas use drills? I insanely thought.

The chat window popped up again. “Enjoying the show?” the fiend asked.

I came to myself.

Do something!

“That’s my wife on that table,” I typed with shaking hands. “I can tell by the mole under her right breast and her hair.””

“Your wife?”he responded. “She’s the only woman in the world who has a mole in that spot?”

The driller killer stood, rubbing my wife’s legs as she keened, then revving up the tool. And the audience laughed.

I steeled myself. “Listen, I don’t know what kind of freakshow you’re running here, but you get her off that table and let her go or I’ll call the FBI.”

The window was stagnant for about a minute. Then: “That’s it. This is your warning. You’re breaking protocol.”

“Fuck your protocol, Archer, or whatever your name is!” I typed. “Let her go right now or I’m calling the feds!”

Again, the chat window was inert for a minute. Then: “All right, you’re banned. And let me tell you something, you nark bitch—this ain’t the regular Internet with troll cowards. You go to the law, and we’ll track you down. Maybe you’ll be star of our next show, heh.”

I gasped, then cried out when the murderer stuck the drill into my wife’s vagina . . . and made pulp out of it as she screamed, the guy in the ape suit stained with dark-red blood. It was that swinging dick’s world, and we were all just living in it. The crowd evilly applauded and whooped, the bastards and bitches. Then the site went away. Trembling so badly I thought I’d have a seizure, I stood and paced for a spell, then rushed to the phone and called the police. I got back on the computer, getting out of the dark web I’d never go on again, and reported the murder to the FBI’s website on the regular web.

#

Barrett called a few days later, asking if I was all right. My world had been shattered, and I passed the time at home either crying or being filled with rage. Fuck the macho rules; she was my soulmate! I had a pistol with me all the time. And I smoked like a crematorium and drank like a hobo.

“Bro, I’m coming over,” Barrett said. “You can’t be alone right now.”

“Whatever. Nothing will help. My life is over.” I’d drunk twenty-one margaritas last night, and tonight it was moonshine, 150 proof. Tomorrow—if I lived that long—it would be absinthe again, 138 proof. The small bottle I’d drunk last time had sent me to the moon. Don’t think wan absinthe bottles won’t get you. For shits and giggles, I found out the Green Fairy’s a myth, but that, like everything else, meant nothing. I was drinking myself to death.

When he knocked, I looked through the peephole, then opened the door. He threw his black hair out of his eyes, then touched my arm. “You all right, ‘Jax?”

I shrugged him off and walked into the living room, where fast-food wrappers and empty pizza boxes competed for space with an overloaded ashtray and liquor bottles.

Barrett sat down beside me. “I finally broke through to the seventh level and found Club Ape.”

We’d already discussed this over the phone a couple of days ago. I’d told him he could keep his hundred-thou. It wouldn’t do me any good now.

“There’s a message saying the FBI has seized the site,” Barrett added.

I lit two cigarettes and smoked them both. “They’ll be here to kill me pretty soon then, which’ll be a relief. I wanna be with my wife.” I turned my head his way. “You’d better make yourself scarce before they murder you, too.” I broke down, weeping.

He rubbed my back. “I’m so sorry, bro. But I’m not leaving you.”

Then why had he blanched with wide eyes?

#

Barrett’s paranoia—or was that good thinking—got the best of him, and he left a day later. It wasn’t long before I found Killer dead in the backyard. His throat had been slit. Fat load of good police protection was doing. Sitting outside in their cruiser eating donuts and drinking coffee and falling asleep, that’s what caffeine’s worth. I refused to be spirited away by a U. S. Marshall in the Witness Protection Program. I clung to the chance that maybe my wife survived the attack and would be coming home. I do that, lying to myself. Sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps me from putting the pistol in my mouth. Because the po-po was outside, I couldn’t do any of the drugs I’d bought from Silk Road. Therefore, I’d make up for it by drinking a fifth of whiskey a day, like Lemme Kilmister, may he rest in peace, after I finished the absinthe.

After a week of abject horror, a black shape rose up from the corner of the dark living room where I smoked Black Death cigarettes. With shaky hands, I held the pistol on whomever that was. Yet he fired, his gun equipped with a silencer, knocking my gun from my hand. Soon, I was cuffed with zip ties, my wrists chafing. Whoever this guy was—and I could tell he was male from his frame, though he was covered in black clothes from head-to-toe—he was strong as Samson, his scowl a missing link’s, his eyes black and abysmal. Then I was stuffed into the trunk of a black Chevy and driven away from my house. On the way out to his vehicle, I’d seen the cops sitting bloody-necked in the squad car.

My survival instinct kicking in, I reached into my shoe and pulled out my ceramic razorblade and freed my wrists. Then I reached up to that glowing latch and opened the trunk gingerly, then waited for the car to stop so I could creep out, barely making a sound. Being in one of their sick, insidious shows, that wasn’t happening. I wasn’t going out like that.

They got me again a few days later when I was drunk on Everclear and Jack. This time, they used handcuffs, giving me a chance to use my handcuff key I kept in my shoe with the razorblade. And no glowing latch this time—this was an older model, before 2008—so I had to stick my hand inside the space and dig to find the latch. I clicked it and crept out, yet they had a car trailing us, and beefy guys rushed over to me with pistols and threw me back into the trunk. Determined to be the ace survivalist, I—somehow quietly—dug through the flimsy barrier between the backseat and the trunk and sneaked up and cut the driver’s throat with the razorblade when he stopped for a light. It helped that he had the radio on. The men behind us were there in seconds, however. I tried the pistol disarming techniques I’d learned from survivalist Websites but got shot in the knee for my trouble. You can’t take a gun from someone; it’s a myth, too risky. And, oh, did that hurt like shit. It brought tears to my eyes.

Again, I longed to die.

#

Maybe what I’ve told you has inspired you to get on the dark web. You may be one of those people that argues that if you stay away from kiddy-porn and bind-torture-kill sites, you’ll be fine. But if you come across what’s now called Gorilla Group, getting through seven black boxes like Satan snatching hell’s seven keys, and you see me tied to a gurney with that stupid, white mask on, hopefully you’ll do the right thing and not be a coward. I hope you contact the FBI and the cops and have their site taken down. You need to strike them a blow where it hurts, no matter how small the victory, for they’ll be back.

Thing is, the person in the gorilla suit this time, as I lay masked and strapped to the gurney, sounds just like my wife.

And, unsexily, she’s cackling.

They’d broken her, after they’d obviously cauterized the wound.

The only thing worse than death: becoming deformed and morphing in to the monster.

I wonder whose vagina I’ll drill after I’ve become a eunuch, having gone insane from the pain.

Colin James

Renovations in Mauve

The woman had
arranged her men
so she could walk
on their erections
like ladders.
She fixed the cracks
in the ceiling
and briefly considered
changing the color
of the trim.
One young skylight
dripped condensation.
She solved this by
adding an interior
storm window.
Her men are still
emphatically holding
their stomachs in.