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WEREN’T NO BULLETS

BY NICK PETROU

I was the slow old bull of the herd. Easy pickings for the lion or, in this case, VC guerrilla. Last thing I remember seeing before I was bagged and zip-tied to that steel workbench was a light. The sun in the midnight sky, a fluorescent globe strobing under a ceiling fan. It fell on me, or I was hoisted up to it, no rope. Only sounds were my heart fighting the bars of its cage and something like a truck rushing past a cheap city apartment. Can’t have been a Huey. I might’ve squeezed a round or ten out into the jungle. Maybe.
            Don’t know for how many minutes or days I’d been fastened there, but they stripped me to my ass and bush and gave me plenty of time to think about the blowtorches, tack hammers, and pliers doubtless to come. Maybe they were more… traditional than that. Maybe they’d do something nasty to me with water, maybe bamboo. I was doing exactly this when he came in — pondering my torture, wondering if I’d spill what little beans I had.
           
The room was all black aside from my bacon belly and thighs and the white operatory light behind my head. Bastard stepped out of the dark like a knife-edge, got broader as he neared, like someone was rotating said knife so I could catch my reflection in its side. Before my primate brain could comprehend just who or what my eyes were seeing, it changed, morphed into the varnished freedom fighter you’d find on a propaganda leaflet dropped from a plane.
           
He clicked his pliers together instead of speaking words — same damn pliers I’d seen in my brain just seconds before — and he turned the operatory light way up. I smelt my hair burn. Then my scalp melted, poured down a tube somewhere under me. The pain didn’t start until what must’ve been an air-conditioning vent blew a kiss upon my naked skull. The zip-ties were adamantine now. I writhed like a worm in the tightening beam of a magnifying glass.
           
An invisible force spread my arms and legs, making a starfish of me, and that sticky jungle guerrilla played with me then, testing the pliers in the glands of my armpits, the webs of skin between my ribs. Throughout it, he kept rested on me a hand with too many fingers, attached to an arm that was, somehow, neither of the two with which he was operating the pliers. Almost… reassuring.
           
Several more knife-edge figures lingered in the dark like cracks in a pitch-black curtain, and at this point, my interrogation resistance training was about as useful as the cashew passing for my crotch. I screamed, and the probing got worse. Much worse. I was blind, deaf, and dumb with pain. It made an infant of me, birthed me out between its clapping knees into a world of hurt. A planet-sized nerve.
           
It was during my climax of pain that my torturer’s unicoloured jungle fatigues strobed like the Huey-that-wasn’t-a-Huey that took me to this place. He strobed, and what I saw in those brief absences of the illusion was simply too much. My wormlike throes got me epileptic. Teeth had a bubble bath in my mouth. Tasted bile, bilge. Purged baby food I never ate.
           
Sweet unconsciousness took me.
           
While I was out, that primate brain of mine tried to make sense of it all, to render it. What I got was a sort of moon with smoothed black pebbles socketed in its craters like gems, arranged as eyes in the head of a spider. Smells too — a bucket of greasy old washers and nuts, tangy battery acid. Lastly, that clacking and chittering of the pliers, a language made from popping the tongue off the roof of the mouth. Tap dancing on wood.
           
When I came to, I was naked on my balls in the jungle, M60 lying hot beside me, smoke lifting off her mouth like a cigarette after sex. If I had my baby five minutes ago, they’d be cleaning up those bastards with a bucket and a mop.
           
Reality bitch-slapped me.
            I was exactly where I’d been when I was hoisted up, taken prisoner, and half the platoon was crunching leaf litter to get to my side. Sounded like popcorn going off. Their faces in the moonlight tendrils scared me more than whatever in hell happened in… wherever that was.
            Field medic stitched me up, salved the peeling monk tonsure that was left of my head. Infections brought on fever dreams, in which I felt their many-fingered hands upon me. Feel them even now. Reassuring.
            Never saw the X-rays. They said I looked more bullet than man. But as I told the surgeon, they weren’t no damn bullets, and they sure as hell weren’t VC.

END

Weird and wonderful [FU20]

Fortnightly update 20: 31.08.2020 to 13.09.2020

In this blog series, I share my fortnight-to-fortnight triumphs (and failures) as a writer. Despite all the ups and downs, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Twitter

I write 280-character stories using various writing prompt hashtags on Twitter, and this was a big fortnight for me in that regard. I made my own prompt service, #WeirdVSS, which is solely for the weird and dark. The featured image of this post is something I had made up just for it. All in all, I wrote six VSS (very short story) pieces this fortnight; the last one, #tentacles, was my first under #WeirdVSS.

#glory

The glory of shadow
In lightning-lit corners
Where the blasted sun daren’t tread
And mosses suck the brick mortar marrow
Where winds ride in on black sea tides
And rain turns flesh to bread
Sloughing skin from twisted trees
And sheening crow plumage gold
O shadow

#hide

Klu-Tok slung his railgun over his beetle-armoured shoulder and strode into the Lodge with a pink hide rolled up in his hand, still bleeding. He threw it on the neon bartop, and all the Hunters gasped as it unfurled to form the boneless torso of a human being

#numb

Throat numb, tongue bitter,
I rode basslines to sunrise
and gin-washed you away.
But my mouth is black now,
and my broke heart’s silent,
and I can’t leave this place,
where the lights strobe,
and glowsticks stain,
and where my life went
down
with
the
toilet
water.

#morning / #kid

Toy-soldier mornings. Bone-white keyboards and pixel gore. Trading cards and cut lawn picnics. Trampoline-spring screechings. Slingshot slaps. Lollybag pool parties. Two scraped knees. Sun-red ears. Hose-water. Twisted-blanket blood dreams. When I was a kid.

#tentacles

All I wanted were tentacles or extra eyes to help me get my novel done. But dark rituals can’t be taken back, and now I’m cursed with the knowledge of future and past — aware, wretchedly, that no matter what I write, not a word of it’s destined for a bookstore shelf.

#space

My brain is an astronaut spinning into space. My love is a porcelain bowl. I gift her the lemon lining of my gut, which shakes like a dog in summer thunder. There’s a caltrop in my throat. A bottle-cap cookie-cuts my knee. I won’t do this again; I do it next week.

WeirdVSS

Flash fiction and short stories

I guess I just love tiny stories because I also spend a whole lot of time writing flash fiction and short stories this fortnight. I intend to submit all of the stories I’m currently working on for publication, so I unfortunately I can’t share any of them here. I can, however, say that I’ve started making use of r/DestructiveReaders on Reddit, an invaluable (if a little intimidating) tool for writers and editors. The feedback I received for my stories was, overall, very positive.

The Front

I write scripts for the popular World War II YouTube channel The Front. We uploaded three videos this fortnight.

The Jerk’E’Club

I also wrote another chapter of the Tales of the Jerk’E’Club blog series for The Jerk’E’Club. We’re shifting to quarterly post now, and this one is particularly funny.

Conclusion

Like I said, this fortnight was all about tiny stories. I’m stoked with my progress, and it feels great to step away from tabletop RPGs and such. With that said, I’m trying Fate Accelerated soon, playing in an X-Files-esque setting. Maybe I’ll end up creating something for that system — who knows?

Thanks for reading ❤

#WeirdVSS

Weird is wonderful, wouldn’t you say? #WeirdVSS is a Twitter-based writing prompt service solely for the weird and dark, run only on Wednesdays. Think H.P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Laird Barron, Thomas Ligotti, etc.

All you gotta do to be a part of it is…

1) Wait for the word prompt, which I’ll tweet from my Twitter account @nspetrou on Tuesday in preparation for Wednesday (and also on Wednesday)

2) Write a very short and very weird story using the word prompt (all derivatives of the word are welcome; you can hashtag it if you’d like)

3) Add the hashtag #WeirdVSS

4) Tweet your story on Wednesday (time zones don’t matter; it just has to be Wednesday for you)

5) Wait and see if your story is one of my favourites of the week (you can find all my previous favourites at the bottom of this page)

6) Make a blood offering in preparation for next week’s prompt

That’s it! Enjoy!

The #WeirdVSS logo was created for me by Noah Peloquin.

My favourite #WeirdVSS from each week:

– 23.09.2020 — https://nspetrou.com/2020/09/25/weirdvss-23-09-2020/
– 16.09.2020 — https://nspetrou.com/2020/09/14/weirdvss-16-09-2020/
– 09.09.2020 — I accidently wrote over this one; here’s the Twitter post.