Authors: Peter Stenson
Tags: #Speculative Fiction
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by Peter Stenson
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
CROWN and the Crown colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Fiend : a novel / Peter Stenson. — 1st ed.
1. Methamphetamine abuse—Fiction. 2. End of the world—Fiction.
3. Zombies—Fiction. I. Title.
Jacket design by Christopher Brand
To anybody who has helped me with anything
So Typewriter John and I have spent the last hour lying to each other, faking concern, panic, and desperation, all the while helping the other look for the last hit. The thing is, we each know the other is holding on to an eraser-sized shard. It’s like a standoff, both of us wanting to be left the fuck alone for five minutes. Finally Typewriter caves, says he’s going to take a shit, which I know isn’t true because we haven’t eaten in close to three days.
I pull out the tiny bit of glass. Burn it. And it’s barely two hits and I’m spun bad, like from our weeklong bender, but this one really does it, because when I peek through the G.I. Joe
sheets we’ve draped over the windows, I see a little girl playing with a dog. I’m thinking this is kind of sweet—this blond child crouching on all fours, inching closer to the dog, like maybe she’s playing a game of make-believe where she’s a dog too. But then I notice the dog is shaking. And it’s a big dog, a rottweiler, and he’s shaking, his head down, his tail covering his nuts.
What the fuck?
I’m about to return back to our cave of a world because the sun is ungodly bright, but I see the dog take a snap at the little girl. She dodges him just in time. I think about pounding on the glass. I need to warn this kid. I need to do
But I don’t.
I stand there. The little girl creeps back to the dog, and once she gets close enough to touch it, she does, only her touch isn’t a pat but a lunge for the rottweiler’s throat. It reminds me of this time I saw an elderly woman crossing the street, she almost made it across when a black Hummer turned right and came straight at her not slowing, and the old woman looked up in time to see her fate as an extravagant flaunting of male testosterone, and she crumpled, lost underneath tons of metal.
The little blond girl rips open the dog’s throat.
I rub my eyes.
Blood spouting like Old Faithful. Her white dress now tie-dyed, swatches of brilliant red on cotton.
I close the G.I. Joe sheets. I sit down.
I’m telling myself that it’s gone too far this time, this latest run, smoking half an ounce of scante, that I need to chill
the fuck out, like KK said. I tell myself that this is it. That I will leave this house on the outskirts of St. Paul, go find something to eat, take a handful of Advil PMs, and call it a day. Call it a career in smoking speed. Never have I experienced such vivid hallucinations. Sure, tracers and voices and shit like that, but not seeing carnage on this scale. I laugh to myself. I try to analyze my hallucination—the little girl represents innocence, and it’s probably significant that she’s blond, because KK’s blond, and that ties into innocence, because we were close to that, her and I, at least in the beginning. And the dog, maybe that’s man’s best friend, maybe it’s the natural world, maybe primal nature. And the subversion of the natural order, the child killing the dog, that’s pretty simple—innocence wins out.
fucking epiphany and realization and coded message all tell me the same thing: I need to get clean.
I’m rubbing my hair. It’s greasy like a motherfucker. I smell my breath. It’s like abortions. Then I look around Typewriter’s house and it’s disgusting, that eerie shade of manufactured darkness, the sun doing its damnedest against the strung-up sheets to tell us the world is still going about its boring-ass business. I’m on the one couch left over from his mother, the only thing he hasn’t pawned. I hate my life. I think about Typewriter smoking shit in the bathroom. Maybe he has more than a shard? I stand up because I could really go for one last hit, a nightcap.
Something tells me to take one more peek outside. I’m
nearly positive the blond apparition will be gone, a fire hydrant standing in her place. I peek. She’s still there and her dress isn’t a Jackson Pollock anymore, just red. So’s her hair.
Typewriter, I yell.
has her face buried in the dog’s stomach. She pulls at the intestines like saltwater taffy.
Type, I yell again.
Shitting, bro, he calls back.
I’m practically chewing on my overworked heart when the girl turns. She stares right at me, her face nothing but canine blood, a piece of matted fur dangling from her jaw.
Need you right fucking now, I say.
I close my eyes, rub them, breathe, just breathe—one one thousand, two one thousand—and when I look back out, the little girl’s standing, dripping guts, still staring at me.
Shit, man, I yell at the bathroom door, I found half an eight ball.
This gets his attention. I hear him rushing through the house. He comes jogging into the TV room (minus the TV, sold six months before). I stare at his fat Italian face, his eyebrows a launch ramp over his nose. He says, Fucking A, bro, let’s get it.
I’ve smoked enough meth in my life to know the power of suggestion among the tweaked is realer than AIDS, so I don’t tell him about what may or may not be going on outside. I pull the curtain back.
Bro, the dope, let’s see it.
I step to the side. I motion with my head.
Typewriter John stares at me, his chubby body all sorts of impatient.
I nod again at the window.
He looks outside. He screams. He drops to the floor. He’s saying
fuck, fuck, fuck
. I take one final peek, and Innocence is standing two feet from the window, bloody like the First World War, and before I can scream and close the drapes, I take one solid look, like really study her. Pieces of her flesh peel off her face like thin slices of gyro meat.
I’m on the floor.
Typewriter continues his refrain of
s and I still am not one hundred percent sure of the situation so I say, What did you see?
What the fuck?
Type, I need to know what—
Blood. Girl. Monster.
He’s crying. I wonder why I’m not. I tell him to follow me, that we need to get the fuck away from the window. I lead on my stomach. We make our way to the staircase, my heart is sixteenth notes, I’m still telling myself it’s a lack of sleep and bowl upon bowl of meth, and I look over my shoulder past the whimpering snot that is Typewriter to the window, and I can see a three-foot silhouette through the thin bedsheet. Then I hear a crash, and the sheet moves, and this isn’t fucking happening.
Go, go, go, I yell.
He’s on his feet and running up the stairs and I watch the blond girl climb through the window and sit on the sofa like
nothing happened, maybe she’s just returning from eating a handful of potato chips off the coffee table. I can see bone underneath the peeling flesh. It’s whiter than I would have guessed.
I turn to see Typewriter at the top of the stairs and then look back to the girl sitting there like a used tampon. She smiles at me, starts to giggle. I sprint upstairs.
We get into Typewriter’s room and lock the door. He bends over a stack of spread vaginas in glossy pages, and I want to be like, What the fuck are you doing, but he starts to vomit. I tell him we’re fine. That the dope must have been bad. That it was nothing.
We hear footsteps, slow and methodical.
I say that we need some benzos or opiates or barbiturates, something to come the fuck down.
He’s expelling bile with the force of a capped volcano.
And I say that these things happen, audio and visual hallucinations, that the shit from the Albino was always strongest, and we’ve been at it hard, and we’re probably dehydrated, and starving, yeah, starving. The footsteps seem to be getting closer, and I’m staring at the chrome door handle, and I’m telling Type that we just need to think about something else, anything else, something happy. Okay, Type, think about something happy, peaceful, and shit. And it’s more vomit from him and I’m shaking and the door handle starts to jiggle and I’m like, Happy thoughts, man. Then for some reason I remember one of KK and my first dates two years before, how we’d gone to see
, how we’d waited for the
16 bus, neither of us having cars because we’d fucked up our lives smoking shit, but we were getting better, together, living in sober houses and going to meetings, and how she was the first girl I’d ever thought of in terms other than a means to an orgasm, how we’d just sat there, throwing rocks from the faux garden in front of KFC at a metal trash can, how that was the only thing I wanted to be doing at that very moment.
The little girl starts pounding on the door. I know it won’t take long. The door’s not actual wood, this being a prefabricated suburban house and all. The next tiny fist splinters the frame. I wish we were the kind of drug addicts from movies, the kind with guns. I keep telling myself I’m spun. Her one hand becomes two. And it’s me and KK sitting along Ford Parkway, waiting for the 16, debating the merits of
, our pinkies touching, grazing.
The middle of the door cracks open and I’m screaming at this hallucination, screaming because I’m going to be dead at twenty-five, dead without having accomplished one fucking thing in my life, having burnt every fucking bridge worth having, my primary relationship now being with a junkie called Typewriter, and I think how everyone who’d ever said they loved me had told me this would be my fate—drugs would eventually kill me.
The door’s off its hinges and this little girl is smiling at us with blood and flesh and dog fur. All I can do is close my eyes and listen to her labored breathing and giggles, her cute fucking giggles. Then I hear the bedsprings to my right. I look over. Typewriter jumps off the bed with something raised above his head and by the time I realize it’s his actual fucking
typewriter, by the time I scream
, it’s too late. He’s brought it down onto the little girl’s head. She falls limp on the floor. I’m covered in bits of skull.
Typewriter looks at me. He says, I did it.
No, fuck, no, Jesus.
I did it, he says again.
Fuck me, Jesus, what the fuck?
Typewriter spits, then rubs his tongue like he’s trying to snag a pubic hair.
I’m picturing the headlines—
JUNKIES BRUTALLY MURDER PRETEEN IN DRUG-INDUCED PARANOIA
. I’m picturing the press and TruTV and
reenactments and then an MSNBC
special edition and then prison and getting my young ass blown the fuck apart and this is the last image because this will be my life.
I did it, he says again.
I look at the little girl. She’s wearing black shoes with tiny silver clasps. Her socks have printed umbrellas and raindrops on them.