How about a free story?
This one's "A Town Called Hatred" . . . hope you enjoy it!
On Merrick drove through steamy Arizona, bookin' it at a hundred-and-ten, the 'Vette's tires softly humming atop the weathered asphalt, the Stones on the CD player (Let It Bleed, appropriately enough), and the body of his latest victim sprawled out in the back.
This last one he'd met at a lonely burger joint just shy of the New Mexico border. She was sitting at the bar when he walked in, big brown lost-puppy-dog eyes scoping him out right away. In those cut-off jean shorts and dirty pink tank top (no bra), Merrick knew as soon as he saw her she had to be a runaway.
She called him "cutie," said her name was Jessica and she was on her way to Hollywood where she was gonna be a star. Halfway through their conversation she put her hand on his leg, suggestively intoned over her bottle of Corona that she'd do anything for a ride.
Merrick told her he was a traveling salesman on his way back home, home being a small town thirty miles south of Seattle by the unlikely name of Dicksville. His trade was selling Bibles -- that part, at least, was only half a lie (he couldn't remember the last time he'd even tried to make a sale) -- but he had never been anywhere near Seattle. Merrick lived quite comfortably, actually, on the inheritance left him by his father. The "traveling salesman" bit was merely an excuse to keep him on the road.
Because a fellow like Merrick never stayed in one place for very long.
He allowed the bitch to live for just over an hour, till her constant gabbing was about to drive him crazy. Shortly after crossing the border into Arizona he pulled over at an abandoned rest stop, let her go pee, then quickly slit her throat when she came back out. This one he chose to do with his trusty straight-razor, the very blade with which he'd shaved the night before in the bathroom of a Catholic church just outside of Houston.
God, how she had bled! So beautifully. Such a perfect opening he had made in her for her to take him in.
But alas, those exquisite memories were beginning to fade. Merrick had relived them over and over in his head until they'd become like old sepia-toned photographs, dull and slowly fading with time.
Soon he would need to feel the thrill again. Sensing that familiar stirring in his loins at just the thought of it, Merrick touched himself as he drove.
Not that Jessica had been his first -- oh, no! In fact, she had been just one of four in as many days. First had been the lonely housewife in Dallas, who'd fawned all over Merrick like a cheap hooker before he strangled her with his tie. Second, that sexy little bartender in Albuquerque with the teardrop tattoo on her cheek. Third, a faggoty little man in Verde who had tried to sell Merrick a pound of cocaine along with his brand new Corvette.
Who would be next? Merrick wondered as he sped down the desert highway, cherishing each precious, blood-soaked memory. The possibilities were endless. Only time would tell.
Merrick glanced down at the map on the seat beside him now, flattened it out with his palm beneath the breeze of the air-conditioner. He hadn't the foggiest idea where he was headed next, then again he rarely did . . . maybe this time he might decide to head north toward --
Merrick’s attention returned to the road just in time to see the sign pass by: HATRED, NEXT RIGHT. Someone had painted over half the words with maroon paint that looked like dried blood. “Pit of Man,” the sloppy amendment might have read. Or maybe not. Merrick only caught a glimpse before the sign was gone, just a tiny thing in his rearview mirror like a thousand others he had passed throughout his journey.
"What the hell?" he said aloud, turning down the radio.
Hatred -- what kinda name for a town was that? And what the hell did those strange words mean -- "Pit of Man?" They reminded Merrick of some arcane saying one might find in the Bible. A cryptic warning. Something from the Book of Revelations, maybe.
It made no sense at all.
With another downward glance Merrick was shocked to discover that this strangely named town was nowhere to be found on the map. He touched one long, skinny finger to the spot on the map where he estimated to be his current location, but he knew he was not mistaken. The closest town in this vicinity was apparently a place called Storch Haven, yet Storch Haven was still at least fifty miles east of his current location. On top of that, the only symbol on the map anywhere close to this place called "Hatred" . . . was a tiny red-and-yellow symbol Merrick recognized as usually denoting the presence of radiation.
Merrick looked back up at the road, puzzled, but then suddenly he found himself taking that next right with a squeal of tires and a hard jerk of the steering wheel. It came up so fast he nearly missed it, and he didn't know why he took the turn even after the deed was done. Merrick rarely acted on sheer impulse, usually took the time to think things through. But this just felt . . . right. As if this odd little place had been his destination all along, he simply had not known it until now.
The town called Hatred almost seemed to beckon him.
The 'Vette straightened up easily, coming out of the skid, and then immediately Merrick found he was already in the town. He couldn't believe it, almost thought it might be some desert mirage playing tricks on his road-tired eyes. He wondered if he might have blacked out for a couple of minutes, his subconscious taking over navigational duties at it was sometimes wont to do. It almost seemed as if . . . as if the town was not there one second, then suddenly materialized out of thin air the next. Of course, that was impossible. Yet Merrick felt so sure as he drove on that he had passed through some invisible wall, a sort of metaphysical barrier that normally hid Hatred, Arizona not only from the desert surrounding it but also from the rest of the world.
"Fuckin' weird," Merrick said beneath his breath.
To his left, a large wooden sign proclaimed "Welcome to Hatred."
A rainbow of painted flowers bordered the green-and-white words on all sides, bright and colorful decorations for such an odd juxtaposition of words. Below that, a line of smaller text read EST. 1934, POPULATION:
There were no numbers after the latter. That space was blank.
Merrick shook his head, laughed out loud, mesmerized by it all.
On he drove, into what he assumed was Hatred's residential area. Right away he was forced to stop at a red light, barely fifty feet past that strange sign. Not that he minded. This gave Merrick the opportunity to take in his surroundings as the 'Vette sat idling smoothly at the intersection of two streets called DE RAIS and MENGELE.
Upon first inspection Merrick found Hatred -- God, he just couldn't get over that name! -- to be the epitome of small, Midwestern rural communities. Brick and stucco houses lined both sides of the road, very similar in their quaint middle-class sensibility despite their differences in architecture, and before each of them modest vehicles -- mostly station wagons, sedans, and small vans, archetypal coaches of the nuclear family – were parked in gravel driveways painted green with the spray of recently-mown grass. It all appeared so normal, no different than any other small town Merrick had ever visited. This despite that name. And the fact that the place seemed so . . . dead, thus far.
Where was everybody?
Merrick's question was answered when the traffic light before him finally changed, and the 'Vette rolled on down the street. He instinctively tapped his brakes as he passed one tiny brick house with a couple of tricycles and a swing-set out front, for suddenly he heard a clamor of screams, a slamming door, and loud curses. Merrick tensed, about to reach for a weapon before realizing there existed no threat to himself. He slowed the 'Vette to a crawl of no more than five miles an hour as he watched the bizarre scene, his eyes growing ever wider as it played out before him like something on a grindhouse movie screen . . .
A hugely obese woman in a flour-stained #1 MOM apron had chased her three children out of the house, and was now beating them with a rolling pin right there on their front lawn. Even as the screeching toddlers fought to get away, their blood splashed up in great arcs, looking very bright as it spattered about the newly mown grass and across a neighbor's cement driveway.
Merrick's mouth hung open as he crept by in the 'Vette, unable to tear his eyes from that violent display.
"What the fuck are you looking at?" the woman shouted his way, her weapon dripping wet red chunks as she held it aloft amidst whacks. "You want some too, motherfucker?!"
Merrick smirked, considered pulling out the .38 he always carried in his jacket -- the very .38 with which he'd killed his own father -- but he ultimately decided against it. Instead, he proposed to travel on through the town, anxious to see what other wicked sights this town called Hatred might show him along the way . . .
So on Merrick drove and, indeed, each twisted scene he witnessed far surpassed the last. On the front porch of one two-story house whose mailbox read THE FLEISSMAN'S he saw an old man of at least seventy defiling the corpse of a woman who must have been his wife. Her flesh was gray and mottled, sliding away in the searing afternoon sun, but the old codger kept pumping away nonetheless, as if the two were still nubile teenagers in the back-seat of a Mustang on Prom Night.
Coming up on Merrick's right was a church, the FIRST CHURCH OF THE TRINITY, according to the sign out front ("Visitors Welcome, Members Expected!" read the sub-title below that). It sat at the corner of two roads called HEROD BLVD. and FISH ST. Seemed like your normal, everyday place of worship at first, Merrick thought . . . but as the 'Vette drew closer he realized this was definitely not the case.
Directly above the huge double doors leading into the place hung an immense wooden cross. It was a grand, majestic piece of work, a testament to some woodworker’s skill and devotion to his Lord, and was almost eerie in its symbolic power alone. Still, what dangled from the crucifix was far more horrifying than any dogma Merrick recalled ever having been spoon-fed in Bible school as a child.
Hanging upon the cross was a middle-aged gent with salt-and-pepper hair whom Merrick assumed to be the clergyman of this particular chapel. Naked save for a pair of piss-stained boxers about his groin and the collar of his profession around his throat, he was only half-conscious up there, bruised and bleeding all over. A thin line of pinkish drool hung from his mouth all the way down to his emaciated stomach. It swayed back and forth in the day’s cool breeze like a bloody pendulum ticking away the last few seconds of the man’s life.
In the churchyard below, a gang of eight or nine kids took turns throwing rocks at the man on the cross. One -- a little girl of no more than six with a ragged teddy bear under one arm -- giggled sweetly as she pegged the priest dead-square in the nuts. He howled in pain. The girl glanced back at Merrick as he passed, waved nonchalantly, then giggled again as a club-footed boy in a Batman T-shirt stepped forward to take his turn.
Merrick drove on, shaking his head.
Further down the road he took a right at a stop sign for the hell of it, and found himself entering Hatred's business district. Here was a doctor's office, there a bank; here a toystore, there a bookstore, a pawn shop, several auto-repair garages and even a Mom & Pop's Country-Style Restaurant (though the latter, smeared with anti-Semitic graffiti, looked to have recently been gutted by fire). The road he was now on, he couldn’t help but notice, had been given the dark moniker of MANSON LANE.
As Merrick passed through the town common he could not stop shaking his head in disbelief. The deeper he ventured into this town called Hatred, the more and more dumbfounded he became, unable to believe the utter decadence he witnessed every hundred yards or so . . . .
. . . outside a health food store a yuppie-looking couple were assaulting an old man with no legs and a DISABLED VETERAN sign around his neck, she bashing his head repeatedly into a parking meter as her husband hastily prepared a makeshift noose on a lamp-post several feet away . . . .
. . . on a side street a twenty-something fellow in an Armani suit and a Yankees cap turned backwards raped a purple-haired meter maid with her chalk-stick, gleefully whistling "Camptown Races" with every violent thrust . . . .
. . . in the plate-glass window of a video store two sweaty, leather-clad men were sodomizing a skinny young clerk in Coke-bottle glasses and a theater usher's uniform while a camcorder sat blinking nearby . . . .
. . . propped up in his white Jeep in one vacant parking lot was the corpse of a postal worker riddled with shotgun pellets, a stray cat perched atop the steering wheel eagerly lapping up the man's blood . . . .
. . . in the doorway of a place called Bob's Pharmacy a petite Asian lady clad only in a pair of red high-heels and crotchless panties leaned over a bespectacled man in white, anxiously working with a hacksaw at removing something from him that -- at this angle -- Merrick could not see . . . .
A pale little girl in a long black dress walked alone down a sidewalk, the doll she dragged behind her leaking some dark fluid and looking oh-so-suspiciously real . . .
Merrick gasped at every new scene, his breath catching each time in his throat. It was all so impossible, yet he had seen it all with his very own eyes.
But then, as his astonished gaze returned to the road this last time, Merrick's heart suddenly skipped a beat.
"Jesus . . . . "
Up ahead, in the middle of an intersection, a police car sat in his path, its metal glinting wickedly in the sunlight as if the vehicle waited there just for him. On the other side stood four big cops, laughing and talking jovially. At first, Merrick felt a surge of sudden panic, a sharp little pain in the middle of his chest as he thought of his cargo in the back. Surely he didn't come this far to end up busted here!
Merrick swallowed nervously, tried to think up a split-second plan of action. He stared straight ahead as the ‘Vette approached the patrol car, his hands bone-white on the wheel.
But then, as he rounded the curve, coming completely around the other side of their car . . . Merrick realized these guys were far too busy to worry about him.
The driver's-side door of the patrol car hung open, and from the interior of the vehicle came the generic phlegm-growl tones of death metal. The cops were gathered in a tight little circle, almost but not quite blocking out any outsider's view of the center, and Merrick could not help rubbernecking as he passed despite the suspicious glare of one beefy cop whose face was discolored all over with an ugly purple birthmark shaped like a half moon. In the middle of the policemen's huddle, they had trapped a skinny black man with dreadlocks, blue jeans, and no shirt. A nasty gash covered his forehead like a second shiny red mouth. A boot-print scarred his ribs. The cops were taking turns beating the shit out of the guy, having a gay old time, though being extra careful all the while not to spill their coffee and the box of Dunkin’ Donuts they passed around their circle.
Merrick couldn't help but chuckle as he drove on, despite his utter disbelief at everything he had seen thus far. It was all so overwhelming. From all outward appearances, this place seemed so . . . so undeniably Middle-American, in all its quaint beauty and small-town simplicity. Yet once you'd been here for only a little while, the name -- Hatred, for God's sake -- no longer seemed so unfitting.
In fact, it seemed quite perfect.
This place was a fucking madhouse.
Up ahead, on his right, Merrick spotted a three-story building with a huge flowered sign out right: HATRED BED & BREAKFAST. Without even thinking about it he found himself pulling into the parking lot, selecting a space next to a Harley-Davidson illegally parked alongside the curb.
On the sidewalk, a few feet from the motorcycle, a horribly obese man in Hell's Angels get-up -- leather chaps, hat, vest -- was standing on the head of a whining puppy. A dachshund. He chuckled obscenely beneath his great black beard as he pressed down harder and harder, apparently having the time of his life.
The big biker stopped his fun as Merrick got out of the 'Vette, looked over at the well-dressed stranger with yellow, bloodshot eyes.
"Hey," he said, his voice like sandpaper.
At first Merrick ignored the scumbag. He could already smell the fucker -- a rancid mixture of sardines and rotgut whiskey -- as he closed his car door, locked it, and pocketed his keys.
"Hey, buddy," the biker said again, and his injured victim scuttled off limply, with a weak little bark, at this briefest chance at escape. The biker let it go.
"I'm talkin' to you, pretty-boy."
Their eyes met then, and the big man actually recoiled a bit when Merrick gave him his best don't-fuck-with-me look.
"Nice ride, man," said the biker. "Don't think I've seen you around here before. You new in town?"
Merrick walked right by him, heading toward the Hatred Bed & Breakfast, but then something else the biker said stopped him in his tracks.
"Wow, man. Fuckin-A! Whatchoo got in there?"
Merrick turned quickly to find the big man leaning down, peering into the back of the Corvette. He was mesmerized by the sight of Jessica's body, the girl Merrick had killed at the border. As he stared down at her he licked his lips, touched himself through his leather pants.
He tried the door handle.
"Nice, man. I wanna see her."
"Open the door."
Merrick pulled out the .38 from inside his jacket then, and -- without further ado -- he shot the fucker. Three times. In the face.
"She's mine," he said.
And before the biker's body even hit the ground, Merrick realized what he was doing. Where he was going. He suddenly realized he was not heading into the Hatred Bed & Breakfast as planned. No, behind it sat his true destination. A place he had seen out of the corner of his eye but hadn't really acknowledged at first. Now he walked up the front steps of that white, single-story office building like a man with a purpose.
HATRED REALTY, read the sign above the door.
Merrick had only realized within the last few seconds what was going on here. It was nothing short of . . . an awakening, really. It suddenly dawned on Merrick that he had come home, that in this strange and twisted place -- in this warped little town called Hatred, Arizona -- he had at last found a world where he could coexist with people just like himself.
The freaks . . . the psychos . . . his brethren.
And as he walked through the door into the offices of Hatred Realty -- where, above the threshold, something wrinkled and brown was nailed that looked suspiciously like sun-dried skin -- Merrick thought to himself about what he had found.
Hatred, Arizona . . .
A great place to settle down.
And maybe start a family.
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