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For Dio: The Only Appropriate Tribute

Blood. My mouth tasted like blood and steering wheel… probably because my mouth was full of blood and steering wheel. My vision came back in pieces, the peripherals first. I saw the empty passenger seat covered in shimmering glass. Half the driver's side armrest was ripped from the door, one of the mounting screws embedded in my leg. I heard the pattering drip of rain, but couldn’t feel the moisture; I dimly came to realize it was just the sound of various engine fluids leaking, falling to the ground.

“OnStar, this is Tammy. Our sensors are reading an impact, is everyone OK?” a voice chimed from the guidance system.

“Tammy,” I coughed, tasting the telltale grit of shattered enamel. I spat blood into my lap, laced with the white powder that used to be teeth.

“Yes, sir?”

“Tammy… what… ” It was impossible to assemble my thoughts. My mind seized on any random fleeting notion - I had a rabbit as a child, didn’t I? What was its name? Something stupid, childish: Mr. Hopper, maybe.

Wait, no: Captain Bunny Wuvs-a-lot.

“Tammy…”

“Sir? Are you all right? What is it?” Her first response had been automatic, perfunctory. It was a duty to be carried out. She sounded concerned now.

“Tammy… what… are you wearing?”

“Sir?”

“I bet it’s hot. You sound…” a wretched cough came again, covering the inside of the windshield in a fine red mist, like bloody morning dew, “you sound kind of slutty, Tammy. Is it crotchless? I’ll take pretty much anything crotchless.”

“Is this a prank? My sensors show a serious impact. If you need help, tell me.”

“Panties, gym shorts, hell, even crotchless overalls would do me solid,” I pawed at my seat belt, couldn’t work the latch. Realized it wasn’t even on– something was wrong with the nerves in my hand. Having trouble registering shapes. “Oh man, especially crotchless overalls. You are just filthy, aren’t you, Tammy?”

There's just something about a girl in armpit-pants...

“Sir, I’m hanging up now,” her voice had a mechanical flatness to it, the speaker fuzzed, cut in and out. What do you do if you crash so hard you wreck the OnStar?

“No! Please… wait, I’m hurt. There’s been an accident.”

“Sir, is everybody else OK? Is anybody else hurt?”

“No, I’m alone.”

“Are you sure? What caused the accident?”

“I did.”

There was a moment of silence. I swore I could see her face. I pictured her with pigtails; something about girl's names that end with ‘Y’ makes me envision little pigtails all tied up with bows.

“On purpose?” she asked, my mind filling in the quizzical head tilt.

“Yes. I crashed this car.”

“But why, sir?” she asked sincerely. Those little bows; they were blue.

“I crashed this car…” I held up my hand, though I knew there was nobody there to see it, with the pointer and pinky fingers extended, “...I crashed this fucking car for Dio.”

***

Blood. My mouth tasted like blood and the police officer’s arm… probably because my mouth was full of blood and the police officer’s arm.

“HEEEELP! HE’S DOWN TO THE BONE! HE’S DOWN TO THE FUCKING BONE!” Pure panic had taken the man over; his jaw trembled and wagged loose as though unhinged.

I braced my arms and legs against the doorway and held myself immobile. The officer stood on the opposite side, his whole body pivoted and leaning away as if to flee. He was held fast only by the teeth I’d sunk deep into his arm-fat. We’d been like this for far too long, he and I. With every gnash of my teeth, he panicked and struck me with his nightstick; with every strike, I gnashed my teeth. Two hours we had stood locked in the doorway of the Krispy Kreme, the angle of our bodies the only thing preventing the officers from physically separating us. Well, that and the fear of rabies. Somehow they’d gotten the impression that I was rabid. Possibly because I’d stripped to the waist and written the letters ‘R-A-B-I-D’ on my bare chest in custard.

Also the biting. That likely cemented the assumption.

There may have been other signs.

The hostage negotiators tried to reason with me at first, but I wouldn’t fall for their tricks. Making demands required a mouth to speak them, and I would not release.

“Please,” the officer’s eyes welled up and spilled over with tears, “I got kids. Probably. I probably got kids. I banged a lot in college.”

I narrowed my eyes at him skeptically, and bit down harder. Did you know that cops taste different than normal people? I mean, at least the arm-flesh does. Tangier. Must be something in the uniform.

“AWOW OH GOD! OK!” He held up his other hand to placate me. “I didn’t. I didn’t bang at all, all right? Jesus, I’m so lonely. I haven’t even yet lived! Please!”

I shook my head, starting into a death-roll like a crocodile. Like a half-naked, custard-covered, Krispy Kreme Krokodile.

“No! Why!? Good lord, why are you doing this?”

“For Dio!” I howled, realizing, too late, that I had loosed my grip. The momentum of release sent the officer sprawling into the parking lot, and he rolled with it. There was no pause in his movement; he’d hit the ground and transitioned straight into a dead sprint. Even as he leapt the barricade, barreled through the crowd that had gathered, and disappeared down the street and across the distant horizon, he showed no signs that he would ever slow.

I learned my biting skills from the best.

“FOR DIIIOOO!” the impossibly loud moan broke loose from me in wracking sobs. When it died out, there was only a dim ringing. A still, reverberating sort of silence, as the eardrum re-calibrated itself to hear softer sounds again. I watched the world on mute.

Until I heard the staccato patter of the beanbag guns firing.

***

Blood. My mouth tasted like blood and kerosene, probably because– well, you get the drill by now, right?

My chest ballooned with the deep inhalation, the stale air around me thick with the stink of animals and sweat. I continued filling myself with the seemingly infinite stream of air – as much as my nostrils would allow. A thousand pairs of eyes were trained solely on me, awaiting my next movement with equal parts dread and anticipation. Still I inhaled, the pressure building on the interior of my skull, the strain on the inside of my chest becoming unbearable. When the dim exploding circles of oxygen deprivation bristled at the edges of my vision, I held the torch out in front of me, and I screamed fire into the crowds.

I also learned how to use fire-breathing as a Conflict Resolution skill from the best.

Fearful cries welled up from animal and man alike. The lions threw themselves at the bars of their cage as the flames raced up the central beam to the canvas above us. It was all I could do not to laugh when the clowns ran.

It was an effort I lost when I saw that one of them was a midget.

The strongman shook his head, trying to clear it of the blow I’d knocked him down with. I don’t mean to imply that I’m a prize-fighter here; he had absolutely pummeled me before I landed that shot. Every inch of exposed flesh swelled with the dull ache of rising bruises, and I was pretty sure I’d lost my front left canine in his knuckle. But eventually he stopped. Eventually he left me for dead, figuring that the puddle of oozing meat beneath his boot-heel couldn’t possibly hold any semblance of life. And so I seized my opportunity.

But here he was now, coming around, and I was again trying to take in enough oxygen to ignite the kerosene in my mouth before he could reach me. He strode forward in purposeful, furious bounds, and just before his arcing roundhouse connected, I tossed the lighter up into the air between us.

His blow connected, and the contents of my mouth exploded outwards. The abrupt trauma caused my perception of time to slow temporarily: I saw the first shining droplet contact the flickering lighter’s flame; the tiny, almost imperceptible explosion soon mirrored a dozen times over; a hundred; a thousand. As the fireball engulfed the two of us, I embraced the baffled strongman and put my lips to his ear.

“For Dio,” I whispered.

"Dio" is the fourth most common word heard just before death. The other three are "Oh shit, it's."

***

Coffee. My mouth tasted like coffee and a little bit like cheese Danish, probably because it was full of coffee and a little bit of cheese Danish.

The constant, clattering rattle of my fellow office workers typing was somehow amplified and made hollow, bouncing off the walls of my cubicle. One half of my hand was asleep, split down the middle vertically: The ring and pinky fingers gone numb. Something about the height at which I held my mouse did that, I presumed. I fumbled it over and closed Firefox. I swallowed my coffee; it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.

“Shit,” I mumbled in shock.

“What’s up, man? Everything OK?” Stanley, my friend in the cubicle opposite me, poked his head over the wall like the neighbor from Home Improvement. I hated when he did that. Trying to hold a conversation with somebody peeking down at you over a wall while you remain sitting at your desk is so fundamentally awkward. Your seated posture, which seemed so natural a second ago, suddenly feels stupid and inappropriate.

“Dio just died,” I recited to him, like I had only memorized the words phonetically and had no idea as to their meaning.

Dio gets the VIP Reaper.

“What? Who?”

I stood up abruptly, the back of my knees straightening so quickly that they sent my wheeled office chair spinning out into the corridor between cubicle rows.

“Whoa, what’s going on, dude?” Stanley asked, coming around the barrier to stare into my face. “Oh shit. I know that look. That’s the ‘I’m going out to get supernaturally tanked and engage in a series of increasingly wacky shenanigans that accidentally end in tragedy’ look. Am I right?”

“No, Stanley,” I informed him, adjusting the length of my shirt-cuffs on my wrists and straightening my tie, “What happens next is very deliberate. In a moment, I am going to take the elevator to the ground floor, where I will exit this building. I will proceed two blocks east to Promenade Plaza, where I will strip naked and lay siege to the doughnut shop. If police arrive, I will maul them with my teeth. I will escape on foot, and make my way to the fairgrounds out by the paper mill. Once there, I will burn down the circus. Then I am going to steal the largest, fastest car I can find, and I am going to crash that car at a terrible speed into the oldest and most sacred looking tree I can find. I will then mouth-fuck the OnStar operator from the wreckage.”

Would the man whose album cover this is accept any less tribute?

All measure of reason drained from Stanley’s face.

“But why?” He asked plainly.

“Because Dio taught me, in part, what it is to be a man. Oh, he did not teach the rational lessons: He did not teach me morality, or responsibility, or restraint. No, Stanley, he taught me that being a man means sometimes ruining things in the most extravagant fashion possible. Because you can, and because it’s awesome. And Dio died today, so now I am going to ruin things. I am going to ruin everything, Stanley. For Dio.”

I took another bite of Danish; I would need the calories.

“But first, Stanley, first I am going to orally pleasure the receptionist - your fianc - on top of the copier. I will set the machine for 666 copies, and if she has not climaxed by the time it’s finished making them, I will throw her out the window. I’ll be sure to mail one to you, buddy."

“W… wh…”

“What’s that? Why? You want to know why, again? Because you didn’t know his name, Stanley. You didn’t know his god damn name. But you will now. It was Ronnie James, incidentally. Ronnie James Motherfucking Dio.But that’s okay: I promise this time, you won’t soon forget it.”

I polished off the rest of my coffee, and gently pushed him aside.

“Welp, I gotta be off now to pleasure your woman and commit some Tribute Crimes. Oh, and Stanley?" I turned, clapping him reassuringly on the shoulder, "Ride the tiger, buddy. Ride the tiger.”


You can buy Robert's book, Everything is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead, or find him on Twitter, Facebook and his own site, I Fight Robots. Originally I said "I fear for the Gods," when Frank Frazetta died last week - now there's a Metal tag-team rocking the crap out of heaven. The Gods are so fucked.

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