By A. A. Garrison
Enter Simon Gabriel:
You live in a small mid-western town that the young aspire to leave.
Your face has been recently disfigured in a car accident that wasn't your fault, and you were never too attractive to begin with. Also, the insurance isn't coming through, because they believed the other guy's lies in spite of his fleeing the accident and driving drunk.
You're three days' sober—by lack of funding rather than volition—and everything is oddly reminiscent of the drug you no longer take, especially the bottle of pills you have yet to throw away. The withdraw is making your brain itch.
You've never had many friends, and you yesterday realized that Pit, the one you thought you had, is only a figment of your imagination.
Your few remaining pleasures have become more punitive than anything, only making the time in between worse.
You're discovering the gentle hell that is invalidity, feeling ugly and victimized and wronged without recourse, with no one to recognize this circumstance but the unrequited observer who is yourself.
You're shunned wherever you go, receiving that same look of contained disgust. You extinguish conversations by presence alone, eyes finding reasons to look elsewhere. You see now that people never really graduate kindergarten, confirming your long-held suspicions.
You've been diagnosed with an STD that is more than embarrassing, even though your girlfriend, like Pit, was of your own making.
Your mind is clearing as to emphasize the most god-awful aspects of life, reminding you of why you started doping to begin with. And, woefully, the only remedy is the incognizance that is now beyond your means.
So you spend your days caged in cold awareness, the world your prison, with no key in evidence, or even a lock. And that's when you start to notice things:
That mankind is a disease.
That there exists a stalking darkness to which all not you are party.
That there is only ruin, and ruin in making.
That society is a monster that denies its own existence.
That man's favorite pastime is scenting disparity and eschewing the bearers of this fetor.
That those around you aren't people at all, but robots programmed for disparagement.
That the end of the world just might be upon us. Or, at least, you.
And, last but not least, that He's out there. Him: the guy who hit you and hamburgered your face and got away with it; your father, who outfitted you with enough impedimenta to sink a battleship; the bully who tormented you into an anxiety disorder; the stranger on the street who regards you as though you have wings. He is an archetype of your fears, an agent of that darkness upon you. And He is coming.
So you've stopped going to work, because He's there, in the form of those punishing eyes, resulting in your dearth of funds and, therefore, your sobriety.
You've bought a gun, to be ready for Him, and that makes you feel a little better. But, now you have a gun.
You've renounced sleep, because He wants you vulnerable, exposed, so He can strike. But that's fine, because you weren't sleeping anyway.
You've more than once witnessed a cephaloid tentacle peek from various plumbings and then disappear when confronted. You insist that you won't hurt it, but it hides anyway.
You no longer drink fluids of any kind, because they burn red on the way out, thanks to your phantom STD.
You suffer a week of this, and then there comes an insomniac epiphany, rising with fever-dream meaning from between your ears: You decide to go looking for Him, because He'd never expect that. It's clever, dastardly, outside the box; so you leave your apartment for the first time in 168 hours, and the hunt begins.
It was a hot July noon when the disaster that was Simon Gabriel mounted his search for the unassailable author of his griefs. He made several discursive circuits of his suburban neighborhood and then progressed into the scornful town some miles away. The sun-shot streets were a phantasmagoria of baleful images, smiles that were not smiles, malice behind every seen face, his perdition reflected in all things. From the corners of his eyes, snide goblins waved and jeered and then vanished upon scrutiny. Throughout this he waited for Him to pronounce himself, without luck. Simon did at one point hear an alienist whisper imprecations from behind, but when he turned, the man had fled, so much like his other coward tormentors. The gun was in his jacket pocket and he did not let go of it.
He eventually entered the five square blocks that comprised downtown, and it was there he encountered his nemesis. Simon passed a group of smirking kids and one commented his face, something about pizza. Simon at once interpreted this as his awaited sign, so he removed his Colt revolver and emptied it into the offending manchild and then spat upon the corpse. There were screams and running and, later, sirens, but Simon didn't hear. He continued airily, celebrating his vanquishing of the contemptible entity known as Him.
As he reached the corner, however, he looked behind and was surprised to find neither the kids nor a corpse nor carnivorous bystanders. There were still sirens, but it was the end of the world, so that seemed right. There came a voice like God that told him that he had imagined the homicide, so he checked the cylinders of his revolver and found only two spent. He couldn't remember shooting anyone else, nor loading two spent shells. He decided it was best if he didn't have the gun, and went looking for a receptacle.
There was a dumpster in a nearby alley and he tossed the gun inside, watching as it descended soundlessly like a rock in a well. He waited several minutes and when no noise came, he made his own—"Thunk!"
Simon domiciled the alley for hours that could have been minutes, and it then occurred to him that, given the immateriality of his victory, He was still at large. The disturbing notion inspired Simon to construct a man, an ally to aid him in this war.
He gathered cardboard-box arms and legs, and a torso-crate, and a multiplicity of discarded giblets found by the dumpster, arranging them athwart in the gloomy alley. He then outfitted the effigy with a flat-tire head and incanted words he knew would imbue it life, and, despite Simon being an amateur of manmaking, it stood and spoke.
"Hey, Simon," it said, and Simon at once recognized the voice and face as that of his departed best friend, Pit.
"Pit?" Simon said, aghast.
"Yeah, it's me," Pit said, and the two spoke at length, Simon discussing the accident and his bandages coming off and his revelations regarding the malignity of the world, as well as his inability to find Him.
"Follow me," Pit said decisively, and led Simon onto the sidewalk and down blousy streets, the cardboard legs purposeful and strong.
They went deep into town, passing myriad people in their travels, all of whom ignored Pit the giblet creature in favor of Simon's grotesque countenance. Simon heard an explosion that may have been a backfire but was an explosion, and remembered that it was the end of the world. He mentioned this to Pit and they walked faster, until Pit stopped at a bus stop and they waited for the bus and then got on. Pit didn't pay a fare but the driver didn't seem to notice. The people on the bus looked and then looked away.
"Where are we going?" Simon asked once they'd sat down. His voice had risen in timbre to that of a child.
"To visit someone," Pit said.
Simon shrunk. "But I don't have my gun anymore. I threw it away."
"You won't need a gun, Simon," Pit said, and then produced a gleaming razorblade in one cardboard hand. He didn't have any pockets, and Simon wondered where it had come from, but he took it anyway. They didn't say anything else.
The bus soon left the city, and they stayed on until it reached the end of the line and started back. They disembarked in a grassy suburban area like where Simon lived, and then walked for nearly a mile. Simon asked if Pit was tired and Pit said no. There were rockets glaring red and bombs bursting in midair and again Simon remembered that it was the end of the world, but Pit told him not to worry about it. They went on another mile. It was nighttime now.
Pit led Simon to a nice-looking house with a shake roof and a big lawn and a fence and a driveway with two cars. Pit said this was the place, and Simon started for the door, but then Pit stopped him and steered him into the bushes instead. Pit said they had to wait until later to see Him, when the lights went out. Pit was Simon's best friend, so Simon did as he said.
Time passed and the bushes were safe and eventually the lights went out as forecast. They then quit the bushes and started around back, and it was then that Simon noticed one of the two cars in the driveway was all banged up, like it had just been in a wreck. He started to say something but Pit shushed him.
Behind the house, Pit told Simon to take off his shoes, then stood waiting while he did; Pit didn't have shoes. He then got Simon to check the windows, and one was open, so they slipped inside, Simon first. Pit told Simon to be very, very quiet and Simon was, and then they were upstairs in a bedroom where a man and a woman slept. Pit told Simon what to do, and Simon padded to the bed.
The sleeping man didn't at first awake when Simon put the razor to him, and Simon traced nearly the entire margin of his shitfuckasshole face before he awoke. When he did, eyes wider than they'd probably ever been, Pit told Simon to brain him with the nearby telephone, and Simon did and the man went back to sleep. The woman beside him stirred but didn't wake; Simon was very quiet, per Pit. He continued his work and soon had relieved the familiar-looking man of his face.
He and Pit then went back outside and into more bushes, these far away. Pit told Simon to put on the face and Simon did.
"There, now you're not ugly anymore," Pit said, and Simon smiled. He had a new face.
They sat for a piece and then Simon said, "That wasn't really Him, was it. That was the guy who accidented me."
Pit said yes, and Simon stopped smiling.
"So He's still out there?" Simon said.
"Yes," Pit said, "but now you've made things right."
Simon thought for a second, then said, "Yeah, I guess you're right, Pit." He smiled again, though it didn't translate to his surrogate skin.
At some point Simon slept, secreted in the bushes and the blood, not his, still dripping, and when he awoke, it was day and Pit was gone. He thought yesterday might be a dream but when he made a mirror of a rain puddle, he was still wearing his new face. He smiled again, feeling like a million bucks. He was still out there—--HE--but Simon thought that he would be safe since He couldn't recognize him now, what with him so changed. Simon looked like a totally different man now, no longer ugly and scarred. Oddly, people still gave him funny looks.