My town’s just a sour armpit stuffed with chicken shit and nasty people, and I am the Donut Connection. I mean, I’m a donut. I mean, I’m Amara. I mean, I’m a bored reflection working the Donut Connection night shift in a glass box on the highway. Car lights streak through my reflection in the windows. I type in my phone:
“I’m as still as a donut.”
On my phone I read about a woman they found in the dirt who died 3,000,000 years ago. Her fossil’s in a museum now. I want that. Fossilization requires stillness and millions of years for your body to crystallize. When I stand still long enough, I get the spins. It feels like I’m falling in every direction. Maybe I don’t want to be a fossil. I type in my phone:
“Something’s going to happen to everybody’s bodies after we’re gone.”
At my rate, I think my body will sleep for 3,000,000 years beneath a tombstone that says:
“Amara was only 17.”
I want to move to Los Angeles, but it’s almost graduation and I still don’t have enough money. I want to live by the beach. My sister says that’s childish but I think it makes sense because I’ve never seen the ocean.
Eventually someone’s got to come along and show me how wrong I am about this life. When I shut my eyes it’s 12am and I get the feeling that a giant is coming to meet me. Life usually changes right before you accept what you already have is all you’ll ever get. I think. But if a giant comes I’ll see new possibilities in the way its impossible body breaks my understanding of myself, my friends, my family, my work, my town, America, etc. But the giant’s jaws will outsize my jaws so maybe I’ll just get eaten and digested into shit.
It’s so dark and dead tonight that I feel like any minute now the giant might walk in off the highway. I feel like I’m crawling backwards down the second tallest building in Los Angeles. I’m falling in every direction until I open my eyes and a truck drives in off the highway. My heart is at the roof of my mouth. The driver kills the engine and a kid steps out in a t-shirt that says:
It’s only Cliff, one of the hardcore punk boys from school. Like the rest of them, he’s too cute and stupid to function. I think he’s in love with me because he comes to bug me at like every other night shift. Thankfully, to my sad relief, he’s always too stoned to admit it. I smile when he walks through the door though, because I guess I’m glad he’s not a giant.
I went to the Donut Connection last night and according to the radio I was one of the last people to see Amara alive. Kids circle around the grief counseling table but I’m sitting at the computers at the other side of the library. A serial killer has been spiraling toward our town for the past month and Amara’s the 7th victim. A video was posted:
FEET FIRST, uploaded by father_ripper
I click play but the second I see Amara's eyes bulging flesh colored I black out and faceplant into the monitor. I don't know how much time passes before I wake up to the librarian asking me:
"How do you feel, Cliff?"
I used to feel 17 and bored and like this life owed me more. But watching someone I know get killed has left me in a way I can't explain in words, so instead I scream and the nurse lets me go home early.
father_ripper has been an obsession for me and my friend Travis ever since the 1st teenager got killed in a small town just like ours 2 hours away. Amara’s the 1st victim I actually knew, but Travis knew the 4th from camp or something. Travis said he threw up after watching the 4th video. He told me:
"Seeing his insides felt like walking in on him in the bathroom but like if the bathroom was an execution chamber or something."
I'm not saying I'm better when I say I would never talk about Amara's video like that. I just mean I can’t. People take the world in different ways, and Travis’s mind runs on a different level. Like for example, a week after his brother committed suicide we took acid and walked down to the creek behind my house. Travis kept seeing dead bodies. I saw dead branches wrapped in old trash. We were on a drug, but Travis is funny like that sober. It’s like he’s on a drug when he’s not. That afternoon he told me he was gay and I said:
“I don't care but you probably shouldn't tell anyone else.”
When my brain can’t work something out I shut down. I get stoned in my room and perform for myself a range of emotions. By 9pm, I’m laughing because wow I’m so dumb and scared right now. Everything scares me so I don’t do anything. Tell me the secret. How do I unfuck myself up? I’m 17. I’m stuck on horror movie logic. I keep running up the stairs when I should be running out the door. I want someone to tell me:
“The calls are coming from inside the house.”
“Your house is the devil get out.”
But I love my house. I still believe in myself, or at least I’m learning to feel comfortable in myself. But I’m not safe. I lie down on my bedroom floor and become hyper aware that Travis is alone in one room and I am alone in another, and father_ripper stalks the area in between. I need to see Travis so bad that I will myself into believing that I’m brave and I get in my truck and drive to his house.
Travis opens his front door slowly. His parents are gone for the week. He’s quieter than usual and he knows less what to do with his hands than usual. He’s picking his nails when he says:
“We should watch EVIL DEAD TRAP.”
The blood on the screen is this bad shade of candy apple that takes my breath away and makes me sweat. I don’t want to watch horror movies anymore. It used to feel good to feel scared and then watch the credits roll as I returned to reality, but now I’ve seen too much. I want to watch a comedy or a movie about what to do when you realize real life’s not as safe as you thought.
Travis’s thigh is against my thigh. I put my hand on his hand. Japanese teenagers are going through the meat grinder on the TV. Nothing’s what I thought it would be. Life is so long and I’m so small. I’m waiting on this couch for when I can start living the life I want. And as I let Travis pull my face closer I hear a knock at the front door.
I used to call Cliff “afraidling.” He was always worrying even though nothing bad had ever happened to him. He didn’t know what was worth getting worried about until the end. When I came upstairs the front door was open and Cliff was on the floor. With blood leaking through his shirt and out of his mouth he said:
“It feels like we asked for it.”
But it’s only my fault. There’s something inside me so big it has a gravitational pull on disaster. At every impact I become a new me. I want to dig up all my dead versions and amputate the parts that don’t seem so ugly. I’d like to conduct experiments on my past selves’ remains. I could be better. I could stitch the best parts into a Frankenstein’s monster. I’d swap brains with him, or I’d let him tear me apart.
I’m in my parents’ room staring at the doorknob but I don’t know why I’m hiding. I used to never care about when the end might come. It was enough to know that I’d get there eventually. But now I want someone to take me to the end because I’m ready to start over.
When the doorknob jerks I get butterflies in my stomach. I’m nervous but I guess I’m ready. I hope it’s my Frankenstein and that he’s here to lovingly consume me. I sit on the edge of my parents’ bed and smooth the sheets. And I open my arms as a rubber-gloved hand followed by a camera moves a knife through the door.
Jim Walls lives in Philadelphia, PA. His work has previously appeared in Shabby Doll House and he can be found on Twitter @heyitsjim.