So, yesterday I posted a writing prompt, for anyone who felt like taking up an ambiguous plot thread and running with it. I was a little curious to see what folks did with it, what their definition of “monster” might be. While I am sad to say there has, of yet, been no responses posted, I did feel that sharing at least some of my own work and where it was going was warranted.
So, without further ado, I present my tale, which remains unnamed, that resulted from that first line of script.
That’s what people say when I try to tell them, try to explain it. “You were only six,” they say. “Not old enough to understand, to know what you were seeing.”
I don’t accept that. Sure, most six year olds don’t – or shouldn’t – make a habit of watching guys take swan dives off of their apartment complexes, and I’m sure it fucked me up inside somehow – at least that’s what the shrink tells me – but it doesn’t change what I saw.
You wouldn’t have known he was a monster. He looked like everyone else. Tall, on the stocky side. Really pale, and kind of sweaty, but it was hot that day, probably hotter up on the roof of my building than down in the alley below. I couldn’t see his eyes before he jumped – he had on big, stupid sunglasses, the kind actresses and housewives liked when their husbands got a little twitchy – and after they had ruptured, so I don’t know about those.
He’d been dressed a little warm for August. Long black coat, made out of something shiny. Maybe it was leather. Maybe it was vinyl. I don’t remember anymore. I wanted to touch it, to make sure it was real, after he fell. I remember that. Wanted to take a piece of it away with me, if I could. But Lafferty, the local truant cop, stopped me. Wouldn’t let me come any closer.
I bet if anyone asked him, he’d say it was a monster, too. Of course, you can’t. He died the day after it happened. Heart attack.
But still, the story doesn’t say monster. Bad dresser, maybe. Depressed. Financial trouble, even. But not monster. If anything, if you’d seen the look on his face when he fell, eyebrows raised like his eyes were wide open beneath those ridiculous shades, mouth yawning wide, a scream so high it had become supersonic and silent coming out of him… well, you’d think he’d seen a monster. It was that sight, coupled with fright and bad judgement, that led him to jump.
I might even agree with that statement. If it wasn’t for what I saw when he hit the ground. Six floors of apartments, bouncing off the fire escape halfway down, rebounding from the wall of the building opposite like a gory pinball, then the impact. It was almost funny, watching him drop. I might even have laughed. I think Lafferty did. I don’t remember for sure. But it wasn’t really funny, and wasn’t like the cartoons, where the coyote gets mashed into a pancake and then slides away.
When he hit, landing headfirst thanks to the flip forced on him when he hit the fire escape railing, it felt like things went into slow motion. I could see every detail. The way his skull impacted the cracked asphalt, seemed to flatten at first. In that moment I almost thought he was going to go full Looney Tunes, just mash into a puddle and be done. It would have been a lot better than what actually happened.
His skull flattened. At first. Then it popped. His eyes went flying from the sockets. I don’t know where they landed. The police probably never found them, either. I bet one of the neighborhood dogs got a little extra protein that day. His nose exploded outward. His throat bulged as the rest of his weight caught up to him, crushing his lungs between the asphalt and the meat that was supposed to be protecting them.
That initial impact changed his fall, shifted him sideways. He flopped like a doll, twisting to the side and landing flat on his back. The sound was somehow satisfying. A thud, punctuated with dozens of little pops, like the kind bubble wrap makes when you twist a great knot of it up.
The shrinks say I shouldn’t be so happy about that sound, either.
All of that was normal, though. Or as normal as anything can be when you’re talking about someone taking a dive and landing so badly almost every bone in his body gets broken.
What wasn’t normal was the splash of gore that came out of him. His bones had shoved through his skin in places – sometimes right through his clothes, even that weird coat – and the open wounds plus the impact made him spray juice like a lemon being mashed on a counter. That’s what wasn’t right. Not the juice; even at six I was old enough to know that if you got hurt, you bled, and the worse you got hurt, the more you bled, and this guy was about as hurt as anybody could get, so that was fine.
But he didn’t bleed. Not really. What came out of him was green.