Blood. My mouth tasted like blood and steering wheelâ¦ 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 couldnât feel the moisture; I dimly came to realize it was just the sound of various engine fluids leaking, falling to the ground. âOnStar, this is Tammy. Our sensors are reading an impact, is everyone OK?â a voice chimed from the guidance system. âTammy,â 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. âYes, sir?â âTammyâ¦ whatâ¦ â It was impossible to assemble my thoughts. My mind seized on any random fleeting notion - I had a rabbit as a child, didnât I? What was its name? Something stupid, childish: Mr. Hopper, maybe.
Wait, no: Captain Bunny Wuvs-a-lot.âTammyâ¦â âSir? Are you all right? What is it?â Her first response had been automatic, perfunctory. It was a duty to be carried out. She sounded concerned now. âTammyâ¦ whatâ¦ are you wearing?â âSir?â âI bet itâs hot. You soundâ¦â a wretched cough came again, covering the inside of the windshield in a fine red mist, like bloody morning dew, âyou sound kind of slutty, Tammy. Is it crotchless? Iâll take pretty much anything crotchless.â âIs this a prank? My sensors show a serious impact. If you need help, tell me.â âPanties, gym shorts, hell, even crotchless overalls would do me solid,â I pawed at my seat belt, couldnât work the latch. Realized it wasnât even onâ something was wrong with the nerves in my hand. Having trouble registering shapes. âOh man,
There's just something about a girl in armpit-pants...âSir, Iâm hanging up now,â 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? âNo! Pleaseâ¦ wait, Iâm hurt. Thereâs been an accident.â âSir, is everybody else OK? Is anybody else hurt?â âNo, Iâm alone.â âAre you sure? What caused the accident?â âI did.â 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 âYâ makes me envision little pigtails all tied up with bows. âOn purpose?â she asked, my mind filling in the quizzical head tilt. âYes. I crashed this car.â âBut why, sir?â she asked sincerely. Those little bows; they were blue. âI crashed this carâ¦â I held up my hand, though I knew there was nobody there to see it, with the pointer and pinky fingers extended, â...I crashed this f*****g car for Dio.â
There may have been other signs.The hostage negotiators tried to reason with me at first, but I wouldnât fall for their tricks. Making demands required a mouth to speak them, and I would not release. âPlease,â the officerâs eyes welled up and spilled over with tears, âI got kids. Probably. I probably got kids. I banged a lot in college.â 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. âAWOW OH GOD! OK!â He held up his other hand to placate me. âI didnât. I didnât bang at all, all right? Jesus, Iâm so lonely. I havenât even yet
I learned my biting skills from the best.âFOR DIIIOOO!â 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 becauseâ 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 â 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 Iâd knocked him down with. I donât mean to imply that Iâm 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 Iâd 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 couldnât 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 lighterâs 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. âFor Dio,â I whispered.
"Dio" is the fourth most common word heard just before death. The other three are "Oh s**t, 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. âs**t,â I mumbled in shock. âWhatâs up, man? Everything OK?â Stanley, my friend in the cubicle opposite me, poked his head over the wall like the neighbor from
Dio gets the VIP Reaper.âWhat? Who?â 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. âWhoa, whatâs going on, dude?â Stanley asked, coming around the barrier to stare into my face. âOh s**t. I know that look. Thatâs the âIâm going out to get supernaturally tanked and engage in a series of increasingly wacky shenanigans that accidentally end in tragedyâ look. Am I right?â âNo, Stanley,â I informed him, adjusting the length of my shirt-cuffs on my wrists and straightening my tie, âWhat 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-f**k the OnStar operator from the wreckage.â
Would the man whose album cover this is accept any less tribute?All measure of reason drained from Stanleyâs face. âBut why?â He asked plainly. âBecause 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 itâs awesome. And Dio died today, so now I am going to ruin things. I am going to ruin everything, Stanley. For Dio.â I took another bite of Danish; I would need the calories. âBut first, Stanley, first I am going to orally pleasure the receptionist - your fiancÃ© - on top of the copier. I will set the machine for 666 copies, and if she has not climaxed by the time itâs finished making them, I will throw her out the window. Iâll be sure to mail one to you, buddy."
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It's just the wind ... or is it?