Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Twisted Guts of Wilbur Grey

The twisted guts of Wilbur Grey felt sick again.

It always felt that way when something horrible was approaching, and he watched behind himself as he walked to the station as if his terror was going to manifest in physical form and emerge from the shadows, hungry for his blood.

To Wilbur, it felt like a cliche story beginning with "it was a dark and stormy night...", only the night was balmy and clear, with just a bit more wind than Wilbur would have cared for.

His horrible insides were practically retching at the pleasance of the evening, and he had to exercise a great deal of self-control to avoid screaming out in agony and fear. The pressure upon him felt like it would cave in his skull, splattering chunks of its contents everywhere.

Soon, he hoped, he'd be on the Greyhound and sleeping soundly. It never went that way, of course, because he was too tall for the seats to be comfortable and the scummy people on the buses always got to him, all hair and beards and sniffles and sweat. The buses smelled, and if he'd been a germaphobe, he'd never have set foot inside one of them.

A crackle in the bushes near the sidewalk gave Wilbur pause. He listened and squinted into the darkness, but quickly moved on. He didn't want to miss his bus and arrive for family Thanksgiving too late for the feast – the food was always gone fast, and his family didn't wait around for slowpokes and late arrivals.

In fact, he was so worried about being late that he arrived well before the bus was scheduled to leave. The bus wasn't there and neither were any passengers. It was called a station, but in reality it was just a stop on the roadside.

Nervously he waited, every shadow nearly causing him to jump. Lurking things waited in the darkness, he knew. They'd come to Wilbur before, whispering to him like rustling grass in the evening wind that chilled him then. They told him terrible things and he could never block them out, had to listen when they spoke.

"Stay away," he said in an angry, frightened voice to no one in particular - or so he thought.

"Calm down, I'm just waiting for the bus," said a short, pudgy woman who had approached from behind. Wilbur had been so intent on the shadows that he'd not even noticed her noisy footfalls or the scrape of her broken-wheeled luggage as she walked to the stop.

He looked at her for a moment then frowned, unable to think of anything to say in this situation. She stopped looking back at him after a second and pretended to read the bus schedule. But Wilbur kept looking - maybe he understood why those shadow-whispers did such nasty things to people. They could be so ugly and obnoxious, and he was no exception. So far though, he'd lived through his encounters with them - the shadows, that is.

After fifteen minutes, a rumble could be heard coming from the direction of the highway, and Wilbur knew this would be the bus. Maybe even the same one he'd taken last time, he thought unhappily. Obviously, he realized, he was in a bad mood because of how his insides felt. The rumble of the bus was matched by a rumble in his gut, just as the icy air on his neck matched the icy feeling in the pit of his stomach, well below the pain.

The timing couldn't be worse, he thought.

It seemed to get darker for a moment, and he feared the shadows were coming to take him, but there wasn't a peep out of them, so it must have been a trick of his eyes. He still glanced sideways while nervously awaiting the bus, hoping that they'd leave him alone for once and maybe attack the woman beside him, instead.

It never worked that way, of course. Wilbur heard them coming, encroaching like a rustling army of conscripted roaches, just waiting for the lights to go out. Every second brought the danger closer, and adrenaline began to pump into Wilbur's bloodstream while a cold sweat poured out from his bare, razor-nicked scalp. He didn't dare wipe the fog from his glasses for fear that moving would encourage them - he had to hold his ground as long as he could.

The bus came rumbling up to the curb and the driver sleepily climbed out to check tickets and open the luggage compartment. The driver had to pull to take Wilbur's sweat-soaked ticket from his clammy hand, and he flashed Wilbur an annoyed look. Once the ticket was punched, Wilbur rudely crowded past and all but leapt into the bus, taking the steep steps two at a time.

At the top, his guts groaned like a monster and he doubled over.

"Are you okay?" asked the driver, concerned.

The driver stepped onto the bus and reached toward Wilbur to help him, but the still-hunched Wilbur staggered away, shouting, "Don't touch me!" as if he feared for his life. He couldn't stand being touched.

The driver looked taken aback, but not too surprised. "Sorry," he said, "just let me know if you need help with your luggage. Where you getting off?"

"Spokane. But I don't have any luggage," Wilbur squeaked out as he stood upright, frowning and turning to find a seat.

Timidly, he walked back in the bus, the short woman impatiently walking behind him and trying to move faster than he was going. Wilbur glared at her over his shoulder before selecting the seat furthest from everyone else - the other passengers being grungy, smelly and unwholesome enough to upset his grumbling intestines. To his great annoyance, the pudgy woman sat just two seats behind him.

Clearing his throat, Wilbur tried to pretend she wasn't there. It wasn't working, but he closed his eyes anyway and insisted to himself that he wasn't being bothered by it. He was confident. He was clear. He was cool.

"No you're not," he thought he heard a voice said just to his right. Hesitating out of fear that someone was actually so close to him, he waited a moment, eyes shut tight, then opened one - to find that nobody was there.

Now he shook his head vigorously, as if trying to say no to some disgusting request. Something was definitely coming for him, he thought, and it wanted to tear him to pieces. But only after toying with him like a shadowy, invisible cat. He imagined its blood-soaked razor-claws kneading the shredded flesh of his freshly dead corpse and shuddered.

"No," he squeaked quietly. "No, stay away."

Nobody else heard.

Guts feeling tied in knots, Wilbur tried to sleep. It didn't work - never did on the road, and unless he managed it before the bus started moving, he had no chance. The fumes and the smell and the other passengers made it impossible to relax completely, as always.

Wilbur straightened his glasses on his nose.

It felt like an eternity, but he nervously sat there trying to sleep for just a few minutes, fearing that the shadows were going to follow him. Finally, the clock hit 6:16, and the driver putout his cigarette before climbing on the bus and shutting the door. It left one long minute too late. Wilbur exhaled heavily and felt somewhat better to be on the road. They couldn't follow a bus, right?

He hoped not.

Since he couldn't get any rest, Wilbur found distraction in misery. Just as he had expected, there was a bad smell and a lot of minor damage, wear, filth, and vandalism of the parts of the bus – he examined all of it he could see, wrinkling his nose at every sordid detail. Terrible.

"Oh Wiiiilllllburrrrrr!" said a quiet, whispering voice, interrupting Wilbur's miserly meditation. Maybe he was hearing things, he told himself, and he looked behind himself to see the woman, apparently reading something. In his imagination, it was the bus schedule, and she was so boring that it actually entertained her.

Wilbur decided to ignore the voice, but it made him even more nervous, and soon he had to pee. It was dreadful and he always hated having to do it on a bus - or in a public bathroom - to the point that he often held it longer than he should have, which made him concerned for his prostate. This time, he was nervous and couldn't possibly hold it any longer, so he had to go.

As he stood and walked to the rear of the bus, he noticed with some small feeling of disappointment that the woman behind him was reading a cooking magazine. A man in a Levi jacket came out of the toilet and crowded past Wilbur to get back to his seat. Wilbur turned and looked at his back, annoyed. Once in the lavatory, though, Wilbur forgot all about the people outside.

One good thing about bus lavatories was the aseptic chemical smell - of course it was mixed into a cocktail of unpleasant excrement by now, but the chemical smell was distinct enough to almost soothe Wilbur's weary nerves. Breathing slowly a few times, he shortly felt like he had restored some modicum of sanity to himself.

That was, until the lights went out.

"Oh no!" he wailed quietly. Outside of the toilet, the woman sitting behind Wilbur looked over, thinking she heard something, then went back to reading her cooking magazine. Then the lights went out and the bus lost power.

In the pitch darkness of the chemical toilet, Wilbur felt helpless and it paralyzed him. Luckily, he thought, he finished his business, but now he wondered if he'd forgotten his fly. Had he zipped it up? Oh, god, how embarrassing it would be if he stumbled blindly out of the lavatory and someone saw!

A feeling of dread replaced his worry about his fly when he felt the bus roll gradually to a halt.

"Hey, Wilburrr," said a grinning, sadistic voice. It was whispering and Wilbur swore he felt the cold breath of some wicked demon in his ear.

"No, I'm not talking to you. Don't hurt me!"

"But heyyy...Wilbur," it said, the words slithering out of its sharply grinning mouth smooth as mucous, "Wilbur, buddyyyyy...you are talking to ussss!"

"I'm not your buddy! You're...just bad!" he said as forcefully as he could manage - an effort even a mouse could have easily put to shame.

Someone knocked at the door. "You done in there, kid?" said a gravelly, male voice. Wilbur didn't answer, but he thought it must have been the mustached man.

"This is not happening," Wilbur told himself.

"Hey, other people have to go! What's yer ETA, son!?" asked the man again, delivering another rap to the plastic door, which Wilbur realized he fortunately remembered to lock.

"Wiiiiiiilburrrrrrrr..."

"Don't hurt me, oh God, please don't hurt me!"

The man outside must have heard him, because Wilbur heard him swear about the crazies on buses and give up, apparently going back to his seat.

"Aww, Wilby, we wouldn't hurt you. We neeeeed you, yesssss we doooo." The voice was slick, flattering and sweet, but it still disgusted Wilbur. It felt slimy, like - he struggled for a comparison. Like a servant of the Dark Lord, he thought.

Wilbur would have been wetting himself if he hadn't just peed - but he nearly did, anyway.

"Feels fouler...stay away...please stay away. Jesus, keep them away, Oh Jesus..." Wilbur doubled over as his intestine exploded like a shrapnel grenade of pain that seemed to permeate every last inch of his digestive tract. This felt worse than ever.

Now there was a guttural, breathy laugh, which sounded as if the shadows were wheezing and pneumatic, and happy to see Wilbur in pain. "Jeeeeesus? He won't help you, Wiiillllburrrr. You're ours."

Finally he snapped. "No! I hate you, you monsters – just, just fuck off and leave me alone!"

Wilbur collapsed and lost his glasses down the toilet with the next bout of pain, stabbing like a dance of knives in his entire abdomen. A pathetic "Oh..." was all he could manage as he began to cry, losing control of his bowels, succumbing to fear.

That was when the fits always began, when he felt everything was too much – when they raped his mind and stole his body. Making him do things...and he realized they were things he wanted, too.

"Awww, hahaha," said the voice, almost with a note of pity. "Pooooor Wilbur," it intoned in its sickly sweet manner.

"No," sniveled the broken Wilbur repeatedly, knowing he needed help - he had to get away from the voice. He had to escape, he couldn't let it have him; he knew it meant him harm. It was hurting him, already.

Wilbur collected his wits enough to reach up and unlock the door, then he noisily collapsed against it and fell out into the bus's walkway. He crawled forward until the woman who'd sat behind him noticed him in the darkness and screamed.

"Driver, oh my God, something happened back here! There's something wrong with this guy, oh God, help him!"

She continued to scream and Wilbur kept crawling, scared for his life, reeking of shit and determined to get off the bus.

"Mmmmheheh, Wiiiiiilbur, what a messss you've maaade, chiiiild," said the evil voice, and Wilbur began to hear nothing else. The world seemed to shrink away, and in the midst of his terror, he was imperceptibly glad for the small measure of relief this gave him. But his anger welled up and he saw red, saw the people so small and distant and indignificant, as if they were his playthings.

The driver, who'd taken advantage of the power loss to have a cigarette, clambered back onto the bus and looked back into the darkness with a flashlight. "God!" he shouted when he saw Wilbur's terrified, agonized expression.

Wilbur didn't even notice the blood oozing down his face from his scalp and nose. While most of the passengers looked afraid or concerned, the mustached man just stepped over Wilbur and went to the toilet.

"Little bastard," the man muttered under his breath.

The driver put on the parking brake and jumped up, asking Wilbur, "Are you okay son?"

"Auuughgh," he answered.

"You hang in there, I've got first aid and I'll call an ambulance!" Wilbur only groaned.

Wilbur tried to feebly shake his head, and gurgled out the word, "No," in a barely-audible whisper as the driver went to call for help. It wasn't even clear to him who he was saying it to.

Anyone that knew Wilbur would have said that his voice didn't sound like it usually did. Something about it would have been wrong, would have scared them, told them something bad was about to happen - but nobody else on the bus knew Wilbur, so they didn't expect what happened next.

Wilbur turned onto his back and breathed heavily once or twice as the remaining six passengers crowded around all sides to see what was the matter. People said things to him - probably concerned things, worried things, the sort of things you say when something terrible happens to someone, and you don't know what it is or what to do about it. It was polite of them, but they were as confused as Wilbur looked.

When Wilbur reached into his pants they thought he was doing something sexual, and all recoiled from him, exchanging uncomfortable glances.

What he was really doing was pulling out a long kitchen knife, which cut the skin on his leg and cut his jeans as he pulled it from where it was taped to his pasty thigh. His leg bled into his black jeans and the people around him recoiled again, looking at each other, confused and now scared for themselves.

The pudgy woman screamed again and ran into the bus driver as she tried to escape. The driver was holding the first aid kit and tried to calm the woman. Before he had a chance to see the knife, Wilbur had sunk it far enough into his back that the stunned onlookers thought it might appear out of his chest.

Blood ran down from the wound, spurted on people, and stained the driver's shirt as he spun around and fell backward, landing next to Wilbur as the knife sunk further into his back with a crunch, now poking several inches out of his chest.

After a stunned, silently pregnant second, all hell broke loose.

The pathetic figure of Wilbur inspired fear now, and everyone tried to escape from him. Those that could ran for the front exit, while the two that couldn't went for the emergency exits. Windows were kicked, smashed, people trampled one another and tried to crowd past each other to escape the bus, slowing them down.

Wilbur recovered the now bloodied knife with a blank and vaguely disgusted expression as he got to his feet, climbing around the bus driver's corpse, and his now vacant eyes, smaller without his glasses, flicked to the front of the bus. Unhurried, he quickly flung the knife at a man near the door in a Levi jacket, without taking time to aim. The man toppled and fell, causing two others to go with him while one climbed into the driver's seat.

Wilbur strode forward and found the fire extinguisher, which he tore from its fixture and used to crush the skull of the man in the driver's seat, who was trying to open the window to escape. The man's body went limp instantly, and Wilbur smiles as he abandoned the extinguisher.

"Awwww," purred Wilbur in his new voice, "pooooor thiiiing." Then he darkly chuckled as he stepped down and over the body that had crumpled onto the stairs. The knife was in the still-bleeding wound of the man in the Levi jacket, and the two women ahead of him had fallen out past him; now they were struggling to get up and run away.

Wilbur reached into his pants for another knife, saying aloud, "Oooh, ticklesss," as he drew it across the pale skin of his other leg.

Reaching down to the other corpse, he recovered the first knife, then leapt down the rest of the steps, landing on the back of pudgy woman, whose ankle had been broken in the fall. She grunted in pain and Wilbur felt a crunch beneath his heel.

"Yessss...." whispered Wilbur as he plunged both blades into her, laughing at the fleshy, plunging sound it made, then cutting randomly into her abdomen and reveling as the blood splattered his face.

Quickly he stood and turned, throwing a single knife into a man who'd just dropped out from the bus emergency escape. It landed in his arm, and only slight disappointment showed in Wilbur's otherwise blank face.

Wilbur strode toward the man, who pulled the knife from his arm with a pained outcry and a gushing of blood, and tried to fling it at the approaching Wilbur. Wilbur reached up and plucked the clumsily-thrown knife from the air as easily as if it had been sitting on his kitchen counter.

Instead of throwing the knives, he barreled into the man, knocking him to the ground, and put a foot on the man's leg, only to dive with his full weight into a stabbing frenzy, cutting the man to ribbons as he screamed and defended himself uselessly with his mangled, bloodied arms. There was no maniacal glee in Wilbur's actions, this time. Just a cold efficiency that left a mess instead of a corpse, with as much feeling as if he'd been chopping vegetables.

Four, so far, and the driver. There were still three more passengers.

Wilbur looked both ways. "Hmmmmm..." he growled as he walked toward the front of the bus. A ways up the street, he saw movement - someone was hobbling up the shoulder to escape.

As if he had not a care in the world, Wilbur took his time walking up to his next victim. He was savoring the futile escape attempt, like a cat watching a maimed mouse, but was far more aware of the pain he was about to inflict than any cat. Instead of just using the knives, he shoved the woman to the ground, making her yell in a coarse voice. Then he bent over as she struggled to raise herself back up, let his chest rest on her back, ran a hand through her hair, which seemed to make the poor woman crack.

"Hellooooo," he said in the sweetest tone that could still be called hostile, then, "Awwwww, poooor thing!"

She had already been sobbing, but now it intensified. Wilbur recalled the two other passengers left and decided to stop fooling around, quickly and quiecutting her throat.

One had run across the road, he thought. It seemed obvious - he sniffed the air and thought he could smell his fear there. Looking both ways before crossing, he went to search the brush on the other side of the road.

"Boo!" he growled as he jump out from behind a rock. Nobody was there, and Wilbur kicked a small stone in frustration.

"Ow!" said someone from the direction he'd kicked the stone - then Wilbur grinned a giant, toothy grin and glided toward the sound of the voice. The darkness was no hindrance for him, but he saw the other man was stumbling on roots and nearly running into trees – not very sporting. The man was older and gray-haired, but athletic. His fitness was useless to him in the darkened stand of trees.

Wilbur gained on him easily and kicked him in the back of the knee, sending him sprawling down a slight embankment - Wilbur jumped down it effortlessly and landed next to a large rock, which he decided with impulsive grin to throw at the man.

"Oof," cried the main as the rock hit his ribcage with a sickening crunch. Now, panting, he spat blood and said, "I don't know who you are, but you're going straight to hell. God has a place for monsters like you."

"Ohhhh no, not hellllll," Wilbur answered mockingly. "God," he spat the word, then indignantly hissed, "how old fashioned!!"

"I have a family," said the man, starting to plea, trying desperately to find some leverage to save himself. "Two daughters, grandkids--"

"Hahaha," laughed Wilbur, "tell me where they are and you'll see them soooon enough."

"Go to hell," said the man impotently, blood gurgling out of his mouth to accompany the words and pain evident on his face. Only his eyes looked undefeated.

Wilbur didn't kill him outright. He beat him, kicking with his heavy boots until his flesh was like pulp. Then he cut along the length of his wrists and split his eyelids, careful not to damage the eyes. All the while the old man screamed, but had no more energy to thrash or struggle, which made it less amusing for Wilbur. As a final thought, he scalped the man, throwing the removed flap of skin and hair into the stream that flowed nearby.

Now he had just one more, so Wilbur climbed back up to the highway.

"Nowwww...where would a little mustache maaaan hide, heh heh," he muttered to himself, sniffing as he walked to the bus. After a second, he thought of the man in the toilet and exhaled a quiet, breathy "Aha!"

He went back to the bus, stepping over the bodies to get in and go back toward the toilet. Smiling, the anticipation grew within Wilbur as he approached the door. It rattled and didn't open when he tried it.

Undismayed, he systematically plunged the knife blades into the plastic, hearing some movement out of the man inside, who shifted to escape the reach of the blades. Before long, a knife struck the locking mechanism and forced it to unlock, letting the door swing open to reveal the mustached man. The bus was still dark, but the fear shone in the deep-set eyes of the gravelly-voiced man like a fireworks show, to Wilbur.

Baring his teeth in a grin, Wilbur said, "thissss is my ETA, I hope it's not inconveeeenient timing!"

The man only shook his head, backing up into the corner and trying to get further away, clawing at the carpeted wall for a last, desperate chance at impossible escape.

His screams could be heard far away on the highway as Wilbur pinned him to the wall and used his teeth to tear out the man's throat, but there was nobody to hear it for miles.

Wilbur stepped out of the tiny space after flushing the man down the chemical toilet, piece by piece, and wiped his blood-covered mouth on his sleeve. The chemical smell was still soothing, although the man had further stunk up the place.

As if triggered by the smell, Wilbur dropped the knives and began to wonder what was next, coming back to himself.

"Aaaaaaagh!" he screamed in his regular voice, doubling over in pain.

Covered in blood now, Wilbur squirmed on the ground, not noticing the sirens approaching. Helpless now, he was crying, sobbing, felt like a child. As if waking from a horrible dream into a horrible reality, he felt shaken to his core and was confused. Where was he and what happened? He crawled over bodies to get out of the bus into the cool night air, sickened by the carnage that seemed to coat every inch of the bus, until he reached the door and emerged into fresh air.

Not a body stirred as Wilbur half-fell, half-rolled out of the bus and lay writhing in pain on the pavement, chest heaving, legs bleeding.

Soon he saw a reddish flashing light and heard a car crunching to a halt on the gravel shoulder, doors slamming as the paramedics jumped out. Footsteps came near Wilbur and a voice said, "Come on, before he loses more blood."

"And before the cops get here," said the other.

Wilbur tried to tell them, tried to confess - something. What was he going to say? What had he done? He saw the sliver of a moon and became transfixed by it as they loaded him onto a gurney.

The last thing he remembered hearing was a voice saying, "Wiiilbur, suuure got yourself into a mess thiiis time!"

Struggling, he opened his eyes and looked at the EMT. "No," Wilbur tried to say to the voice, knowing it was the shadows.

Now the paramedic spoke, and Wilbur listened to his words in confused terror.

"Awwww, poor guy...next time willll be better. Don't want to be laaaate. Let'sss get you hooome for supper..."

They roughly tossed Wilbur into the back of the ambulance, locking the door, then got back into the cab and drove away, continuing on in the same direction. A feast awaited them.

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