13 – Family Reunion and the Death of a Dream
Somewhere in the Forest,
Patrick Kibby and Stacy Dasher happened upon a depraved looking campsite after walking for some time. The site itself reeked of kidnapping mercenaries and contained a heavily used looking real doll, which slightly resembled the bastard cousin of an indiscernible reality TV star, a s’more making kit and several sizeable piles of feces covered in excitable maggots. There was no actual fire, but instead, a Microsoft Surface Pro displaying a seasonal holiday fire screensaver. The digital rendering of flames and presence of a Microsoft tablet made the campsite seem that much more unwell. Kibby put his infinity scarf around his face in an attempt to mask the smell with the cologne he purchased at his most recent visit to Trunk Club. He pulled his Rob Kardashian fedora deeper around his scalp, hoping to cover as much of his skin as possible from the depravity at hand.
Stacy noticed white powder caking on the plastic exterior of the real doll, she licked the substance and confirmed it was cocaine, though she explained to Kibby that is was “incredibly stepped on” and did not pursue any further consumption of the rest of the powder stuffed into varying nooks and crevices of the sex doll. Nor did she elaborate on the description of the cocaine, which had left Kibby visibly mystified. Overall, the camp looked abandoned, which comforted Kibby, but he wondered why. Why was the twisted dwelling set up in the first place? Maybe it was just several men succumbing to carnal urges around the warm glow of a fake fire on a Microsoft tablet likely bought at a H.H. Gregg closeout sale. He tried not to think about what had happened here in the nights prior. Nevertheless, his mind ultimately conjured up the image of several nude men getting blackout drunk and hastily passing around a decomposing real doll, ravenous and overwhelmed by the romantic glow of the artificial fire and endless stream of vodka. The tablet illuminated the excess of fluids.
He picked up the dripping tablet, stirring it awake. The wetness was unnerving. Kibby instantly wiped his hands on his pants, praying that it was merely urine. It automatically connected to a 2G Cricket Wireless network, which Kibby did not even know existed. Absolutely no one used Cricket Wireless, so whatever was happening on this tablet was either so inconsequential the users did not care about service, or it was so top secret they wanted to avoid government listening by using a network that was promoted during daytime television and was preceded by several advertisements for personal injury lawyers. He glanced over at Stacy Dasher, who had produced a magnifying glass out of nowhere and was furiously examining the excrement while having an argument with herself over whether or not Cecil the Lion killed Kurt Cobain. Kibby returned to the familiar blue glow of the screen. The same glow that had created an insatiable orgy of worms in his brain who were perpetually seeking orgasm by means of the blue light, who were impregnating themselves with limitless, heaving fistfuls of stinking content and who were quickly becoming a substitute for a viable personality.
He noticed three tabs open. One tab was a halfway filled out form for a structured settlement with J.G. Wentworth. The presence of the site itself and the inability to complete a standard web form suggested a transcendent incompetence and questionable financials. The second tab was a confirmation message for a successfully ordered adult-sized Minions costume. Strike two in Kibby’s brain, as anyone over the age of five who still liked Minions was as equally harmful to society as a group of mercenaries attempting a governmental coup. Kibby opened the third tab and noticed several hundred recordings with varying date and time stamps. He started with the most recent recording. The recording was more bizarre than Kibby could have ever anticipated. It sounded like someone practicing a speech for their local Toastmasters chapter in which they attempted to make an impassioned speech in favor of naming the Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida an official wonder of the world.
The speech was poorly written and ripe with stuttering, garbling and brutal mouth breathing. Kibby hoped that whoever had recorded this would die before they ever got a chance to unleash it on the world. Although, Stacey had picked up several parts of the speech and nodded in thoughtful agreement especially at the speaker’s point regarding Epcot Center’s resident barbershop quartet, The Dapper Dans, and their unrivaled, well-conceived and articulated harmonizing ability.
He selected the next recording and found something entirely different. Two men, one Russian, one seemingly Middle Eastern, discussing a plot to ruin the United States government and enslave its people in detail. Kibby’s face lost the little color it had. If the recording on this Microsoft Surface Pro was even remotely true, they were in a lot of trouble. The country was already weakened and its constituents were desperate for change. The prospect of being enslaved by a Russian with a debilitating drinking problem and his army of cheap celebrity replicas would probably garner a standing ovation if it were pitched correctly during one of the many asinine debates, especially if they got an endorsement from the coveted Vapers of America booster club, which had gained substantial power after the President popularized the vile habit.
Kibby’s biggest concern was their mention that the President was a willing participant in all of this. Maybe he was not involved at the birth of this revolution, but he was certainly involved now. The recording referred to a time and location where the President would formally submit his allegiance to Vladimir Popov. If the President had his tongue inserted deeply and firmly in the frozen center of this shit casserole, Kibby didn’t know what to do next. Who else had taken a drink from Popov’s tainted bottle of hooch? Had the police and military also suckled vodka from Popov’s chapped nipples? Were they also drunk off the tainted breast milk flowing freely from Popov’s reddened udders? Kibby thought about whom he could trust and realized the answer was absolutely no one. Stacy Dasher was going ballistic on a squirrel who she thought resembled Bernie Sanders, so Kibby was left alone in thought. Stacy caught the squirrel and beat it to death on a nearby rock.
He put the tablet down and began to cry. For the first time in his life, he couldn’t worm his way out of something. The country was doomed and there was nothing he could do about it. He could publish another article, but he knew it would not take off in time. The meeting was tomorrow and he was on the outs with his editor after the first Duke Dasher list he published. Just when he thought all hope was lost, he saw two men walking towards them.
Somewhere in the Forest,
Stacy looked up and immediately began crying. The man who she learned to tolerate after all of those years was alive and well. The marriage she had grown content with over the last decade, and was loosely held together by a child they both resented, had been resurrected from the dead. Though part of her longed for Dasher to be dead, which would be the catalyst for her to finally change; she was still oddly relieved that he was alive. She had grown accustomed to the oppressive nature of their relationship and fear of the unknown ultimately surpassed general malaise. Simply existing until finally giving out and being celebrated with a sparsely attended funeral is the most anyone can really expect – Stacy Dasher was no different. She fantasized about an affordable coffin and a continental breakfast for the few people unfortunate enough to mourn her insignificant life. Countless years of personal growth, creative endeavors and emotional hardship distilled into a cinnamon apple Danish being gummed by a distant relative.
She ran serpentine towards Duke Dasher and embraced him, sobbing heavily into his blood-soaked shirt.
“You look like crap Duke,” said Stacy.
“You should see the other guys,” Dasher replied with a chuckle.
Serone thought back on the defiled corpses littered like pieces of bothersome waste in the woods and objected to the suggestion. The three walked back to the campsite where Kibby remained glued to the tablet, struggling to digest the entirety of what he had discovered. Stacy Dasher looked like an entirely different woman upon returning, both physically and mentally. He watched her transform in front of his eyes, morphing from someone who, just hours earlier, pulled the teeth from an unconscious stranger and tied them to a cross bought from Skymall to a charming American sweetheart. Dasher noticed the look of dismay on Kibby’s face and spoke with the quiet voice of an angry dad.
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now, as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything,” Dasher said, with the same devout cluelessness as an aging, out-of-touch priest wrestling with dementia.
Serone and Kibby looked at Stacy for some type of objection, given how backward the statement was, but she remained quiet. The grin that she had been trained her entire life to maintain was tattooed on her paralyzed face, repressing a lifetime of feelings.
“Duke, I don’t thi…” started Serone. A wave of relief hit Kibby’s face, who was terrified to object to the psychotic ramblings.
“Ephesians 5:22,” Dasher replied with a prideful tear in his eye and a slight snicker. Just stating the verse it came from in the Bible was enough to completely kill any thoughtful conversation and Dasher knew it. Absolutely no one messed with Ephesians. Dasher’s beliefs and views trumped those around him. After all, shouldn’t the direct extension of God himself be able to win an argument about the treatment of women with a verse from a book written several thousand years ago? Kibby spoke up, deciding to wade into the microwaved bathwater that swished freely in Dasher’s skull.
“Sir, I don’t think we’ve met. Patrick Kibby,” he said, offering Dasher a cowardly, trembling salute.
“At ease cadet,” said Dasher as he gave Kibby a condescending pat on the forehead. “You’ve done well so far. What happened to all of your teeth?”
“Stacy pulled them after she knocked me out, sir,” replied Kibby with his now prevalent lisp.
“Atta girl,” said Dasher, patting Stacy on the shoulder. She blushed at the compliment, much to the dismay of Kibby.
First things first. There’s something I need to take care of,” announced Dasher. Serone and Kibby looked coyly at each other, assuming Dasher would dip and kiss Stacy and celebrate the reuniting of their family. Maybe a moment of humanism in someone who, up to that point in the journey, had been anything but. Instead, Dasher began furiously grinding his teeth and straining his neck. Every rope-like vein became completely visible as though he had no skin at all. His mouth began foaming once more; every muscle contracted in unison and Dasher collapsed to the ground. Serone and Kibby weren’t sure what to do. They immediately began searching the campsite for a First Aid kit. Stacy commenced a booming countdown, starting at 20 and counting backward.
The other two men stopped what they were doing to absorb the insanity around them. Duke’s corpse lay perfectly still on the ground; the only movement was a steady drip of blood slithering from both nostrils. Stacy’s count was oddly patriotic. Her eyes were unblinking; her voice was unwavering, as though she had been training for this moment for her entire life. She seemed to realize her purpose on this earth during the fervid countdown that accompanied her inert husband. The men feared what would happen when she inevitably reached zero. When Stacy reached the number five, the men heard an unpleasant clicking sound coming from the pocket of her Wrangler jeans. Stacy reached into the jeans and brandished a military-grade Taser, yanking it out and hoisting it above her head like Excalibur being pried from its enormous boulder. When she hit zero, she slammed the Taser into the forehead of Duke Dasher.
Kibby puked bile onto the shoulder of Serone, who instinctively pissed himself. Dasher sat up and scratched his head. He tilted his neck both ways and everyone present could hear an audible bone cracking. Dasher then grinned at Serone, a calculated grin…with someone extremely nefarious lurking behind those otherwise virtuous lips. The gravity of what had just occurred hit Serone like a ton of bricks.
“Dasher, you didn’t. You couldn’t have,” Serone said, attempting to hold back tears.
“You bet your ass I did Serone,” replied Dasher. “An eye for an eye and your other eye and the rest of your family as the Bible says.”
“What is going on?” cried Kibby, overwhelmed by the traumatic event that had just occurred.
“Duke spent the entirety of our life savings on a device that hoisted a human-mini horse hybrid over an enormous garbage disposal. He took the hybrid from a facility in Iraq with the assumption that the evil scientist who worked at the lab would someday attempt revenge for the slaughter of the rest of the herd. Knowing that he may not be able to push the button and drop the mini hybrid to its horrific death, Dasher installed a heart rate monitor in himself. The engineering behind it is actually quite impressive. If his heart completely stops, the horse is plummeted into the grinding gears and poured into a bottle of Elmer’s glue,” said Stacy in a matter-of-fact tone.
“My counting back from twenty ensured that the horse was completely ground into oblivion; we spent most of our honeymoon rehearsing this exact scenario. Once the deed was done, I shocked Duke back to life with this head Taser,” continued Stacy, flicking the on switch of the Taser a few more times.
Kibby vomited up more bile. His abs ached from heaving so much. Dasher’s misinterpretation of an outdated Bible verse had gone more or less unnoticed as the two men considered the prospect of doing this drill on a honeymoon and then actually executing it in real life. The amount of time and energy spent preserving that horse was downright astonishing.
“Was that really necessary?” screamed Serone. “The man said he was going to live peacefully with that horse!”
“Is protecting our country necessary? Is carrying out God’s will necessary?” sneered Dasher. “That horse was the last bargaining chip I had; I did what I had to do. We won’t be bothered by Hisan anymore. When he comes across that glue bottle, he will be broken.”
Hisan would absolutely be broken. Serone had to give him that. In some ways, Dasher’s ability to drive his enemy to the brink and then push them further was an impressive feat. Serone was happy that he wasn’t on the other end of this ruthless maniac who had truly transformed into his nickname God Hand. Stacy Dasher stood there giggling.
“If that device had gone unused Duke, boy, I would have been awfully sad!” said Stacy. “But you knew all along; somehow, you always know Duke!”
In Rockford, Illinois, a man was desperately trying to save the only love of his life.
Hisan kicked down the door to Dasher’s house. He hoped he had made it in time. He barreled down the basement stairs, tripping over a Precious Moments statue and falling directly on his back. The popping sound he heard was sickening and when he tried to move, his legs were not functioning. No time to worry about being paralyzed now; he could still ride this horse into the sunset, or so he thought. He crawled furiously towards the machine, which occupied most of the basement. The sheer size and complexity of the contraption was a testament to how consumed with madness Dasher must have been. The room was mostly black, but the machine still glistened, even in the dark; it was meticulously clean.
Hisan scrambled for a light switch, using his arms to propel the rest of his limp body across the floor. Anything to let him see his horse once more.
After finding the switch, he flailed helplessly at its base for several moments before painfully clawing his way up. His fingertips bloodied from the steep, unrelenting brick wall.
He flicked the light switch hoping to see those doughy eyes staring back, full of hope and wonder.
Instead, he saw a tattered rope and harness, chewed to bits by the grinding gears below, which were still grinding as machines do. The sound of metal on metal suggested they had eaten through the flesh and bone hours ago. The whirring sound persisted relentlessly, bludgeoning Hisan’s eardrums. Maybe it escaped? Maybe the horse figured out a way to undo the harness before it dropped. Yet, he knew in his heart the hybrid horse was far too stupid to achieve something like that, especially after having lived contently hovering above those whirring gears for several years.
He looked at the rubber hose that had been crudely fashioned into the tub where the gears turned. He saw it had previously been connected to an empty bottle of Elmer’s glue, but because of the force of the contents spewing from the machine, it had since tipped over. Dasher had clearly neither understood how paste was made nor anticipated the sheer volume of pulpy guts the hybrid would render once blended. The mess around the tipped bottle was substantial. Hisan cried one last time. He had spent his entire life trying to create a legacy for himself, something that would outlast his time on this earth. He desperately sought some form of immortality. The prospect of death frightened him, knowing that his daily toil would be instantly forgotten once he passed. Friends and families may reminisce from time to time, but otherwise, the earth would be indifferent to his minor contributions. In his effort to create that legacy, he made something he truly loved, something that transcended his desire for remembrance. He had sought revenge, but after seeing his life’s work haphazardly splattered over a tipped Elmer’s glue bottle, he lost his will to live.
He crawled up the rope that hovered above the contraption and before he dropped himself in, he considered the fortune of having ever created something. Though the creation was short-lived and tragic and led him to his current suspended position over an enormous garbage disposal built for the sole purpose of destroying all that he loved, it had been realized; and for that, he felt indebted to the universe. Knowing he would never create something with so much beauty again, he lowered himself in and met the same demise as his masterpiece. The gears ate through his skin and bone with ease, weakly sputtering his remains on top of his hopes and dreams, which already stained the basement carpet. A forgettable drying crust in a basement in Rockford Illinois.