BODY MASH – Max Restaino
October 14, 2021
I’m standing in the bathroom, waiting for my mom to leave for work so I can smoke a bowl before walking to the bus stop. People have been telling me that I look stoned since sixth grade. I get it. I’ve always been a little tired, so it makes sense that I’d look tired. The orange bottle of Concerta on the counter glares at me. I picked it up from the pharmacy a week ago but haven’t started it yet. I’m going to tomorrow.
When I was three years old, I walked into the corner of my mother’s bedside table and cut my head open. I have a vivid memory of walking into the room, colliding with the table, falling on my butt & feeling like nothing happened. Right before the memory ends, I see my mother’s panicked reaction and absorb it into myself. I still have the scar beside my right eye.
I think that, if that had not happened to me then the Intruder wouldn’t have gotten in & made me sick. I’ve believed this for a while, but now it scares me. Sometimes I feel like I have to internally scream some of those thoughts away. When I’m at home, I can beat them away with the palm of my hand, bludgeoning the space between my cheekbone & eyebrow. Hitting myself is kind of a way of bashing the crumbs of violence-dust out of the carpet.
In my imagination though, I’ve killed myself a thousand times. Others too, but that’s mostly the Intruder. It’s not something I like to talk about ‘cos it’s too confusing & already sounds fucking crazy.
Walking to the bus stop, pleasantly stoned. It’s hot out already. The weed is keeping the anxiety-roach from clawing at the inside of my chest. I’m lost in thought, meandering down the quiet, early-morning street.
Last month some boys—from another high school near mine—molested a mentally challenged kid in the school bathroom. They made him eat garbage and pulled down his sweatpants & underwear and made him masturbate for them. They’re facing criminal charges and being tried as minors. Their identities were never released. Not through any official channels, I mean.
I saw the post with their yearbook photos and took a screencap before Facebook had it removed. I learned their faces so that I could see them well in my fantasy. Their victim’s photo wasn’t posted. I was glad. I already felt sick with despair for the kid but seeing his picture might make things less clear. It’s usually more effective when I let whatever projection my mind creates stand in his place, someone I know.
This is different, by the way, from the thoughts I can’t control. Those come from the Intruder. This is just the part of me that the Intruder learned from.
I’m standing in a dank, concrete basement. I’ve been here before but it’s not an actual place, just the set my mind has designed for this production. In the center of the floor is a circular sewer grate. It’s uncovered and the ultra-sweet, gagging stench of rotten flesh spills out, filling the room. The corners are dark, but there is enough light to see the three boys standing around the sewer. They’re all nude and shivering with fear.
This is not happening before their crime. It is happening after. I want them to know that this is happening because of what they did, and I make sure they do.
Gripped in my right hand, hanging at my side, is a steel-headed mallet. It swings like a pendulum as I move to stand behind them. For a moment, all is silent & I savor it, raising the satisfying weight of the mallet over my head.
I bring the steel bludgeon down on the crown of the first boy’s skull and it shatters like an eggshell with a vibrant visceral spray. His knees buckle and he collapses into the hole in the floor. Calmly, I step behind the second boy—
The bus pulls up to the stop and I have to jog the last 20 yards or so.
It was a raised ranch style house just like the hundreds of others in the neighborhood. Not everyone took equal care of their homes (interior or exterior), but this was the only one that had gone to disrepair.
You could tell that the siding had once been white, or maybe a very pale grey or blue, but now was the filthy brown color from years of elemental build-up. The backyard was surrounded by a wooden fence, only leaving the upper floor of the house visible from the next street over. There was a sliding glass door that had once led to a deck but now only led to a drop. Presumably to the jagged remains of the deck below.
The driveway was always empty. The front lawn was overgrown, mostly golden-brown but still struck with glimmers of emerald, and in its center loomed a massive willow tree. Even in daylight, the windows seemed unnaturally dark. Not unlit, but nonexistent. Negative space within; an abyss and that’s all.
In communications class. The desks are arranged in a circle. Ms. Craig walks around the inside of the circle, reading aloud—some Edgar Allen Poe story, I don’t know which, I’m not paying attention—with one hand resting on her large, pregnant belly. The Intruder shows off one of his tried-and-true favorites:
As Ms. Craig passes my desk I lean forward and plunge my pen into her stomach over and over.
Whenever this one comes up, I put away whatever writing utensil I’m holding and fold my hands on my desk. The image plays over and over again until I scrape my forearm raw with the nails on my right hand and the pain erases it.
I shouldn’t be in this class, but I can’t tell anyone why. The anxiety-roach in my chest thrashes against the tight cavity it’s lodged in. I think I’m going to puke.
In the cafeteria, the cacophony of mass-conversation echoes amongst the painted brick. I’m burnt from smoking this morning and can’t follow my friends’ conversation, so I let my eyes wander and try not to fall asleep.
“…which one do you mean…”
Not many people actually eating lunch. Several are milling about, making the rounds from table to table like they’re hosting a party. 6 or 7 students each to a hexagonal table with a hinged seam running down the middle.
“…oh, yeah, near what’s-her-face’s house…”
Bodies are weird. I think that’s why I’ve always been so drawn to them. Watching them, that is. You could call it a curiosity, but I get how it looks. My eyes are always drawn to skin.
“…like a real-life RPG! Finding keys and…”
I watch the girls that are up walking around, staring at their asses while they walk towards the bathroom or trashcan. My eyes are on a constant cruise for girls in low-cut jeans, leaning over and unknowingly exposing their underwear, or even just the bare small of their back.
“…are you sure nobody lives…”
I like to tell myself that I do this to counteract the Intruder’s violent thoughts, like a mental cleansing, and not because I’m a creep but I like to tell myself a lot of things. Really, I think it all comes from the same place; this is part of my illness. It has to be, because sometimes in my head the girls are decapitated, and that’s not—
Peter swats at my arm, pulling me out of my own head but for a moment I see myself caving in his forehead with a mallet, making his glasses a part of his face. “Can you fucking not do that?” I ask and move my chair away from him. I try to make it look like I’m just readjusting for comfort.
“Well can you fucking pay attention?” I look up and see Alex, Lauren, and Lauren’s friend, all staring at me.
“Wait,” Sam, Lauren’s obnoxious friend who is sitting with us today for some reason, kneels in her chair & leans across the table towards me. “How high are you?” she finishes her question. I ignore her and turn to Alex.
“What are you guys talking about?”
After school, in Peter’s basement, watching Cannibal Holocaust. We’ve been using his parents Netflix account to rent movies off this list we found, 20 Most Fucked Up Movies Ever Made or something like that. Mostly it’s been weird black & white stuff, or just slow boring shit that gets violent at the end. Also, this one that had a drag queen eating dogshit. Weird stuff but I don’t know if it’s “fucked up.” I think I’m the wrong person to ask though. This movie is mostly animal snuff & rape, which manages to make me really uncomfortable.
I let the idea that I do, in fact, have a line console me for a minute, but only for a minute. Sam is in the next room on the computer & Alex is desperately trying to pry conversation out of her. Lauren is sitting on the couch between Peter and me. My attention is split between the movie & her hands, which are folded in her lap. I’m imagining how the soft the skin of her palm would feel in mine. I think she’s looking at her hands too. I can’t tell what she thinks of the movie though.
“Are you fucking retarded? Just go straight!”
They’re playing Xbox in Peter’s basement. Him and Peter are seated on the couch with a cushion’s length of separation between them. He is cross legged. Peter’s feet are on the floor. Alex sits nearby in some kind of weird wooden rocking chair.
He doesn’t think Peter is consciously yelling, Peter just doesn’t know how loud he is. It doesn’t matter though because he knows his tones.
He only plays video games when he is with his friends because they make him angry. Video games, not friends… Not all friends.
“Fuck this,” he mutters, throwing the controller down on the couch between them. “This is fucking stupid.” Peter swats his arm with the back of his fingers. He flinches at the swinging. Peter and Alex both laugh.
He focuses his eyes on the gap between Peter’s front teeth, and the image comes bludgeoning into his mind. He hates when this happens.
The handle of the controller strikes Peter’s teeth, breaking several all the way up to the gumline. The controller strikes again and again—
flattening the bridge of his nose and collapsing his—
brow. Jags of shattered bone tear the flesh on his cheeks & forehead & lips and his face becomes a gory mash dripping off—
He scrapes a long fingernail into the tender sore on his left ankle. The pain is a rusty saw the rockets to his head and eviscerates the thought in its tracks. Peter & Alex both have their eyes fixed on the television screen.
Normally I hate doing shit like this. When I was little, my friends would always ask me to play manhunt. The idea of hiding somewhere alone at night while someone else stalked me was terrifying. That had persisted, though now instead of manhunt, my friends like to go “urban exploring,” the internet’s term for breaking into dilapidated buildings. Any other time, I would have told Peter to fuck off and walked home, no matter how many times he called me a pussy or a faggot or whatever else he wanted.
Something about this house though…
“Are Lauren & Sam coming?”
“Why? Do you think you’re gonna get your dick sucked?”
“Are you offering—”
“We should go inside instead of just standing here on the street.” I say. Peter tries to swat my arm but misses. He loses his balance and almost falls to the asphalt. Alex steadies him with a hand on Peter’s arm. Neither of them see me smiling.
I turn and start walking up the driveway toward the house. They’re right behind me. I hear Alex ask Peter why he doesn’t keep his hands to himself. I don’t listen for Peter’s answer, but I don’t think he responds anyway. The house is looming over us now. Its windows are impossibly dark, and the giant Weeping Willow in the yard blocks out all moonlight. I realize that I’ve never felt so calm. The relief in my chest nearly lifts my feet from the driveway. There’s something for me in here.
“I’ll wait out here,” Alex stood outside the doorway in the shadow of the tree. “Just in case.”
“Dude, are you fucking serious?” Peter is leaning over my shoulder. His stale breath puffs on the side of my face. I nudge him backwards with my elbow.
“Shut the fuck up,” I whisper at Peter, then turn to Alex. “We’ll be fine.” He looks into my eyes, and I can see the anxiety that I’d normally radiate myself. I’m relieved to see it rather than feel it. I think he sees something in my eyes too, but I turn away from the door and walk past Peter toward the steps to the top floor. I hear Peter whisper something to Alex before closing the door.
The air is an overwhelming sheet of moisture and mold-spores, edged with the familiar odor of rot. Everything in sight is in a varying state of shadow. I test the first step under my foot & feel the whole set creak. “We should go downstairs,” I say to Peter without turning around. He might have responded, but I already started descending as cautiously as possible.
These stairs didn’t feel nearly as weak as the others, but it’s obvious why nobody is living in this waterlogged corpse of a house anymore. They hadn’t left anything interesting behind either. Some furniture that looks too big to fit through the front door and a hallway runner that had molded itself to the hardwood (now softwood) beneath.
At the far end of the downstairs hallway, a sliding glass door let in some soft light from the moon. In the wall to our left are another two doors. One collapses into itself like an accordion, sliding instead of swinging, but only to reveal the remains of a boiler room. When I open the second door, I understand.
Down another set of stairs, the basement is a dank & cold concrete block. I walk cautiously into the darkness, open hand stretched out in front of me. Peter calls my name & grasps at my sleeve with his fingertips, but I pull my arm away. The chain hanging from the ceiling light swings gently into my palm. I pull it, and the basement explodes into view.
The bulb on the ceiling illuminates most of the room but leaves a ring of darkness that the corners and walls fall into. In the center of the floor there is no sewer grate, but a barrel made from dark blue plastic. In there, I think.
Peter walks toward the barrel, squinting at the brightness stabbing at his eyes. There is no lid on the barrel but the shadow that casts down into it is impenetrable. “Jesus fuck, it smells like shit down here. I think it’s coming from this.” He leans over the barrel and stares into it. The rotten miasma that swirls through the room fills my lungs. I reach into the shadow and wrap my fingers tightly around the mallet’s wooden handle.
I had to hit him three or four times. I can’t remember which it was exactly. The first struck the crown of his head, but it was no eggshell. A solid thud, and slow trickle of blood, but he stayed on his feet. Midway through the second swing of the mallet he turned, and the hammer struck his jaw in half. His mouth hung open and several teeth dangled from his torn bottom lip on strings of blood & saliva. The third blow collapsed his scalp and his knees buckled.
So, I guess it was three times.
Peter is still twitching but I drag him away from the barrel. He’s mostly in shadow now and I can’t see him very well. That’s okay though because he’s not really there. Neither am I.
I drop the hammer and start taking off my clothes. I swing one leg into the barrel followed immediately by the other. The viscous, slimy darkness begins pulling me apart from the waist down, integrating my flesh into its own amorphous being. The soft flesh of my genitals disintegrates more quickly than the muscles in my legs. I crouch lower into the barrel, submerging my shoulders, taking one last look at the yellow glow from the light bulb, then I go under. I’m becoming a part of something very special, separating me from myself, from the Intruder.
This is home. This is where I was born, this is where I grow, and this is where I will die. Tomorrow morning, I’ll see about taking care of that lawn.
BODY MASH is a work of fiction but, unfortunately, the incident involving the three boys molesting a mentally challenged student did happen at a high school adjacent to the one I attended. I do not know anyone involved, nor the ultimate outcome. As far as I know, there was never a social media post divulging the perpetrators identities.