Genre: Dark Humor, Existentialism Epistemon

30 minute story | SciFi Short Stories | Fiction | By: Jon Brast and Atman Brahman

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The Little Devil: Ghost of Epistemon

Jerry! You little devil, you.  Drinking alone again, you lame ass bitch?” said Andy with a shit eating grin.  As he pulled up a stool next to Jerry, he glanced over to check on the bartender’s cleavage and a small drop of saliva pooled in the corner of his mouth.  The bartender caught the eyes of Andy and rebuked with an objectionable glare, but Andy just winked and nullified her gesture with a cockamamie smile. 

               Tammy, the bartender, hastily made her way over to the bearish couple that was Jerry and Andy to take an order and collect a few sexual innuendos that had been waiting for her all day.  “Can I get you something Andy?” Tammy asked with the tone of a scorned mermaid. 

               “I’d like a White Russian, but I guess you’ll do.”  Andy quipped with demoralizing chuckles.

               Tammy immediately looked back towards the neatly assorted fancy liquors and made a sharp maneuver heading south to the less worthy low-grade liquors underneath the bar next to the rat shit.  She grabbed the cheapest, dirtiest bottle of vodka she could find.  She whipped the bottle up and a plume of dust slowly evaporated into the air while her grip on the bottle slipped an inch from the grease from a month-old basket of chicken wings.  She reached under the shelf to grab a mixing glass and thoroughly rubbed her greasy finger inside the cup.  She beautifully rendered a display of dexterous craftmanship and tilted the bottle of vodka for the regimented amount of time to make a drink.  The bottle befittingly displayed “Mr. Boston Vodka”, which is where the dirty water resides.  She flipped a used coaster onto the bar near Andy and set the drink. 

               Andy parted his attention away from Tammy and gave Jerry an indication that he would be the next to receive his undivided attention.  “So, what is going on with you?” Andy asked.  “How’s the job going?” 

               Jerry replied.  “I got canned again.  I can’t catch a break.” 

               “Again? What did you do this time?” Andy asked.

               “I told my boss he was going to Hell,” replied Jerry.

               “You dumbass. You can’t tell your boss to go to Hell.  You can think it but you can’t say it.  Haven’t you learned anything yet?” Andy inquired.

               “I didn’t tell him to go to Hell. I told him he was going to Hell.  He’s been stealing wages from employees and cheating on his wife.  I guess the golden shower thing would be up for debate, but still a little perverse,” Jerry digested.

               “I can’t believe you got fired from fucking Subway!” Andy reinforced.  “All you had to do was put some lousy meat in the bun and keep your yapper shut,” he decreed. “You really need to keep your personal life to yourself at work, even if you’re the son of Satan.”

               “Seems a little strange for someone like you to be telling me to ‘keep my mouth shut’. Weren’t you the one that was sucking on your teacher’s tits when you were like 16? Damn, them things were massive. Ain’t that bitch still in prison? Either way it shoulda been you keeping your mouth shut, or otherwise kept it off them big titties. Save some for the rest of us ya asshole.” He jerked forward a little on his stool slapping Andy on his back as he was taking a sip of his white Russian, spilling it down his chin and onto his crotch. “Hey Tammy, check it out. He’s got a little more than just a tip for you tonight,” Jerry said, exhaling a thick cloud of cigar smoke in her direction.

               “No whiskey dick tonight Andy?” Tammy said with a sly smirk on her face turning back over her shoulder, pointing her ass at both of them. “He still lasts longer than you Jerry,” She said as she nodded at him.

               “But seriously Andy, that motha fucker is going to hell for sure.”

               “Isn’t he like a devout community leader catholic? Practically jerks off the cardinal on Easter.”

“He sure is,” Jerry said. “Same story as little Jimmy 2-inch cock with the Porsche. Balance is ironic like that sometimes.”

“This world is fucked Jerry. I can’t figure out if it’s because of you, or you are just a product of it. Hell can’t be much worse than this can it?”

“You’ll be there soon enough buddy.”

“Speak for yourselves.” Tammy butted in. “I know that one day I will be reunited with my grandmother Mallory when I get to heaven.”

“Ha!” Jerry spat, losing some of his whiskey. “She’s not waiting up. She’s tired of lookin over you every Saturday night diddlin yourself in bed instead of sayin your Hail Marys.”

“Alright, alright Jerry, be easy on the poor girl,” said Andy

“Hey, she’s real devout alright. Right Tam? Got the Jesus tramp stamp to prove it and everything,” Jerry snickered.

Tammy immediately flipped the bird and proceeded to make her way over to the other side of the bar.  She was obviously hurt but had a “coming to Jesus” kind of scoul on her face.

“I know I’m crude my friends, and I have pity that you have to deal with me. Although I’m the son of Satan, I’m truthful ain’t I? I’m what you really see in the mirror that you would rather ignore. Pshhh you fuck face humans were always busy attributing sloth to me, but I get right to the point, don’t I?; Meanwhile God’s been committing the sin of wrath since day 1.”

“Tammy.” Andy motioned to her. “3 more on me. You deserve one too for listening to this shit.”

“Hell, everything is relative. That’s absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. I hate to break it to the world, but Nietzsche didn’t kill God. God killed himself. He couldn’t watch any longer, the horrible and vile atrocities you all inflict on one another, his own creations, none-the-less.” Jerry hit the empty glass down hard on the bar as he swallowed a big gulp of the shitty whisky.

The Following Thursday Evening

               “So Jerry,” asked Andy “what do you do with a guy like Heinrich Himmler?  You know, the guy responsible for exterminating millions of people during the holocaust.  He must be gettin it really fuckin bad down there, right?”

               Jerry replied with a sinister grin. “Oh, he’s getting it real bad man.” Jerry pointed his jagged thumb up towards his puffed-out chest.  “I personally took the liberty of seeing to his eternal suffering.”

               “Oh shit!” Andy exploded.  “What’d you do to him, burn him alive and conduct painful experiments on him?  That piece of shit.” He brought his beer up to take a long swig.

               “Worse than that my friend,” replied Jerry.  “He’s been sitting down there for decades with his eye lids ripped off, his asshole being eaten out by piranhas, listening eternally to the Jewish comedian Rodney Dangerfield, who’s telling fart jokes while sitting bare-ass on his face.” 

               Andy busted out, spewing miller high life all over the bar counter.  Some of the other patrons looked over in disgust.  “What the fuck?” Jerry shouted, followed by obnoxious cackling.  “That was totally not what I was expecting to hear. Are you ok in the head Jerry?  Now I know why you were kicked out of Hell. You’re a fuckin wacko.”

               Tammy had overheard the conversation due to her insatiable desire to eavesdrop on other people’s business, a habit picked up by being a bartender, and a jealous bitch.  She turned her attention to Jerry’s response.

               “Now that I know how you do business, can you do me a huge favor Jerry?” Andy asked with a smirk.  “I don’t care who or what’s eating out my ass, but just make sure it’s Tammy sitting on my face.”  Tammy immediately gave a fuck you look to Andy including a certain hand gesture as Andy chuckled to a small crowd that did not exist. 

               “Oh, there’s a special place reserved for people like you Andy,” He said, turning a slight hue of red as his evil aura emanated stronger.

               “Gimme a break,” Andy squeaked, with an uncertain self-conscious inflection in his voice. Tammy gleamed a little closer, ready to gloat over any suffering that was not her own.

               “I’m more recently familiar with the area while I was being kicked out of Hell because I needed to consult with all the lawyers and it’s right next door. It says ‘marketing’ at the section but you have to go a little farther in your case Andy. Insurance sales marketers are right there at the right hand of my father.”

               Rolling his eyes, motioning for another beer Andy grunted back, “Yeah, yeah, get real ya bum.”

               “Well there’s car and house insurance marketers but then you gotta go another level for you, Andy. Threatening people and scaring them with the horrible possibilities this life holds is just extortion, but then you call it ‘life insurance’ instead, don’t you? Don’t play dumb Andy.”

               “You’re the son of the devil, you can twist anything Jerry.”

               “Not twisting a thing buddy boy. Some of the insurance salesmen themselves aren’t in hell. They try to provide a semblance of justice, at least by intension. I think it’s you that’s the one doing the twisting. Just like the other marketers, your motivation always gets tainted.”

               “So that’s it, I’m the worst there is?”

               “Well, you aren’t alone. There’s plenty of priests there as well. They do the same thing you know. ‘5 dollars a Sunday, weekly installments, to be safe from the fiery infernal pits,’ they offer.”

               “I bust my ass just to stay alive in this world, dickhead. Nothing grinds my gears more than someone with this ‘better than thou’ attitude in my face. I didn’t ask to do what I have to do. The dice fell where they fell. Maybe God shouldn’t have rolled the dice and fucked half of us in benefit of the other half.”

               “Hahhhhh, ‘half’,” Jerry snorted through a cloud of cigar smoke.

               “Does anyone really want to do what they do?” Andy said with a stressed tone in his voice. “Survival is just a constant ongoing struggle. This pressure cooker makes us all hard boiled, and it’s not until your death bed that you realize you’d never escaped the struggle, nor was it possible, only to endure.”

               “Ah, come-on dude, I’m just busting your balls. You weren’t always this cynical. Everyone’s just along for the ride brotha.”

               “Except you!” Tammie yelped from beside the mini fridge as she was cracking another beer for a patron. “Nobody can ever figure out why you are still here torturing every living soul you come in contact with.”

               “Spoken like a true wench Tammie,” Jerry said enjoying the evil glare in Tammie’s eyes. “There must be something ‘good’ about me or I wouldn’t still be flourishing in the psyche of every modern human being. Survival of the fittest, bitches!”

               Andy had enough and was putting on his coat when he whispered underneath his breath, knowing nobody would sympathize, “Fittest, these days, just means “allowed” to survive; Fittest to someone’s bidding, and exploitation.”

Friday Morning

Waking up in the bed of his ex-wife, Andy rolled over in a hazy forgetful blur, knocking over a bottle of tobacco-dip spit. It oozed across the table in a slow disgusting manner releasing a moldy, sweet, rotting stench which mixed sharply with the foul and sour bouquet from the small trash can full of puke from the night before. He took a moment to collect his thoughts from another mindless wandering, toxifying, and poisoning; His favorite remedy for the anxiety of ever approaching death, hot on his pursuit.

               “What the fuck!” He thought to himself. “Again?” Hopelessly trying to escape the reality that he may have had intimate relations last night with the woman that painfully scorned him for years and ripped his bleeding heart out of his chest, cauterizing it with monetary deprivation, emasculation, and mental anguish. Feeling as though the top of his head had been ripped of and his brain, brutally punched, he now felt the emotional trauma seep through his soul.

               She was standing in the corner of the room, in her night gown, hair disheveled, with eyes and face down in the palm of her hand. She had slender shapely legs except now with varicose veins and some leg hair stubble uncovered by her leggings from the night before. Her breasts beneath her nightgown not even noticeable now without a proper cleavage displaying dress. With the lighting draping properly, she still had some beauty left, coupled with her hand positioned properly, but without his whiskey fog, he knew better.

               “Get the fuck out of my house you piece of shit,” Roxy said as she lifted her jagged nosed, gap toothed face from the palm of her hand.

               “Jesus, calm down Roxy, and watch your fucking mouth.”

               “Oh, sure, says the guy who called his 3 year old daughter a mofo last month and now she repeats it.”

               “Well, its true I suppose. I do “fo” her “mo”.” He shrugged slightly with the tiniest optimism that she might laugh or crack a slight smile.

               “Seriously, get the fuck out of my house Andy,” Roxy said as a stern but desperate request.

               Andy grumbled, now sitting up, trying to get one leg into his pants. “Ehhhhh? You ain’t gonna take another quick shot between those legs before you go back to despising the whole of the male population? Well, at least until your desperation wins again?”

               “Ya, desperate, that’s practically your fucking name at this point Andy. Why would you do this again? I was trying to be cordial when I saw you at that funeral last week. I was sad and vulnerable, and you fucking took advantage you pig.”

               “I knew your little motions, your quips. I knew you were baiting me in. Just a matter of time, I guess. Seems like the cocktail of your emotional fuckery and my verbose toxicology came together to form what at one point intended to resemble some kind of spiritual beauty and emotional dance, but again, of course, ended up in something more closely resembling the mass inside that trash can over there. Just shut up and let me collect my head and I’ll gladly be on my way.” Grabbing his coat as he stood up he stumbled towards the door and over the threshold to turn around and get the last word.

               “Go to hell, Andy,” she said with her arms folded in front of her.

               “Fair enough. Solid advice. And mine to you: Get those damn teeth fixed. It’s 2020 and we’re pretty far from England.” The door slammed in his face with a thud.

Still Friday Morning

               Andy slid through the door to the bar like a walking dead zombie. Sometimes he felt like he was forgetting to breathe, like he had “awake apnea”, like he was forgetting he was even actually alive.

               In the background Jerry could be heard imposing on a newcomer, “Ya, your hard earned tax dollars, hard at work in legislating that that “manhole” cover’s name becomes gender inclusive. Oh, they wont stop. Next up, change “mankind”. Gotta be creative here on this one! Oh, I got it. I got it. They should change it to “retarded”.”

               Tammy looked up from stocking the garnishes. “Great! What fresh hell brings you in so early? Usually I have at least until noon before I have to make liquid contributions to your ongoing mental and internal, physical decomposing.”

               “Easy Tammy. I know you just trying to lighten the mood but I’m pretty weak right now.”

               “I’m sorry brotha. Take a load off,” she said as she pushed the stool out for him to sit down. “I’m here if you want to talk about it.”

               “You don’t want to hear my shit. It’s too much.”

               “What can I get ya then?”

               “A bloody Mary might hit the spot right now if I can hold it down,” he pinched his nose between his eyes trying to alleviate the splitting headache that was crushing his consciousness. “And two aspirin if you got any please Tammy.” As she turned to find the vodka, he momentarily enjoyed the curves of her ass as she concocted his tonic.

Just then Andy felt the presence beside him and noticed the hand, palm side down, slide across the bar in front of him, and move away to reveal its offering. “Take two of these and call me in the morning. Haven’t found anything yet these babies won’t cure,” Jerry smiled sarcastically. A fiery grimace, cheek to cheek. “Cyanide,” he said with a snicker.

Andy slapped them away immediately. They turned into rats as they hit the floor and scurried away into the shadows below the bar. Dramatically he leaned back in his chair and reached to the sky forsakenly, “I know not WHY I exist in the face of so much suffering, but my essence is somehow comprised of the notion that existence is better than non-existence.” 

“Is that not the ultimate curse from and of your God?” added Jerry.

Tammy placed the bloody Mary in front of Andy and as she removed her hand, gave a light backhand slap to Jerry’s face. “Be nice, asshole. Don’t scare away my customers.”

“Friend, customer… whatever.” Andy garbled.

Tammy put both hands on the bar, facing the two of them, with her cleavage pressed together commanding any mans attention. “Have you ever tried to ask for God’s help Andy?”

Putting his face into the palms of his hands, he spoke in a muffled manner, “Ugh how much easier my life would be if I could just BELIEVE!!! Hell, in any other time period of this forsaken planet they probably would have put me to death by now for what I BELIEVE IN.”

“I think you’re crazy not to believe in God,” she exclaimed, holding her hands out as if to express and present the whole world as proof, although slightly in shame that she was merely presenting the disgusting alcoholic den in which they spent the majority of their lives.

“Well… I can’t help but to think that you are crazy to believe in a God that would create a creature that doesn’t believe in him, the supposed answer to all existence. Why has he desolated me and deprived me of the ability to believe?”

“Hahh, Hahh, Hahh, Hahh,” Jerry laughed his deep dark dominating laugh.   

“Or maybe you believe he’s a sadist too?” Andy imposed. “In the end, he is nothing and I’m just a schizoid savant in a solipsist existence.”

“Don’t say that Andy,” Tammy offered. “Here’s a shot of whiskey on the house, to wash the scum of that ex-wife of yours off your breath.”

Indifferent to the whole world, Andy picked up the shot glass of whiskey. His hand shook violently from his now multi-day binge, spilling the brown liquor down his arm… at least something was slowing down his heavy abuse. From his inner coat pocket, he pulled a cigarette and placed it to his lips.

Jerry’s hand reached nonchalantly, flicking his zippo lighter to light it for Andy. “You and your ex are one of my most successful ventures. Both, symbiotic torture inflicted on each other. A combination to be reckoned with.”

“But why?” Tammy prodded.

“Because he fucked up,” said Andy.

“I can clearly see that he’s fucked up.”

“No, I mean he fucked up, real bad, at his only true expertise,” Andy followed. “This asshole is always toying with our suffering. How about, here’s a funny story of his little mishap. Get this… He’s down there in hell whipping up some new and innovative ways to exact retribution on the very souls that he manipulated. Reminds me a little of your so-called God, by the way. But anyways, this moron tries to work some medical alchemy when he heard doctors were using hijacked retroviruses to fix genetic mutations. Of course, superseding the “dangers” of altering the somatic cells, he instead ups-the-anti, altering a bunch of the haploid gamete cells, thinking he will create a harrowing mess of mutant disease-ridden morphology. In all ironic hilarity, he ended up with a mutated endogenous retroviral infection which totally fucked anyone and everyone’s limbic system. Now, with their dopamine responses hijacked and distorted, they are all down there having orgasms while being tortured. Just think, Hell… a realm full of masochists, all of them loving every second of it. And so, himself now deprived of torturous offerings in this oxymoronic oblivion of his creation, he was banished to our realm. And thankful we are. Another round please Tammy, and make it a double.”  

               “You mean to tell me all these doctors are working day and night to cure all the ails of the world and this jackass creates one by mistake that cures bad feelings?” Tammy’s jaw was practically on the floor at this point.

               “But only in Hell. And here we are, tortured just knowing of this ridiculous happening,” Andy whispered through his teeth.

“The road to hell built on good intentions and the rocket to the moon built on the world’s most destructive technology!” Jerry exclaimed with a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders, looking more human than usual.    

Friday Night

               “Well I’ll be damned.” Said Jerry with a look of surprise.  “I didn’t think I’d see you back here after the alcohol infused evening-to-morning marathon you went on.  I’m giving you a gold medal for biggest lush in all of Bean town,” he continued, slapping his hand down on the bar loudly. “Motha fucker sure loves his drinking, although all you pieces of shit come right out newborn sucking from the teet, drinking 24 fucking 7. Liquor and titties is life, eh?” He grinned, waiting for a response from his bloke.

               Andy smiled and sat up on his stool with gleaming pride and a pathetic acquisition of achievement, stroking his ego.  “Thanks for the compliment Jerry. That means a lot coming from the anti-Christ.  I guess I am the anti-abstainerist, Ha!”  Andy let out a forced laugh.  “I’m pretty damn funny too, right Tammy?”

               “Yeah Andy, you’re a fuckin hoot.”  Tammy said sarcastically.  “You ever think of changing careers?”  Tammy envisioned Andy getting booed off the stage at his first stand up comedy act.  Slipping into a deep depression, Andy finds himself in an irreversible downward spiral filled with drugs, alcohol, and unprotected sex with hookers.  He learns he has contracted aids and can’t afford antiretroviral therapy.  Before succumbing to his terminal illness brought on by immoral behavior and self-destructing habits, he dies by self-inflicted autoerotic asphyxiation.  Just before he is found by his ex-wife a week after post mortem, she scolds him through the bathroom door for about an hour about the emanating shit smell and how he should use the air freshener as she had beat into him throughout their marriage, only shortly before having to enter the bathroom and realizing the smell is actually Andy himself, or what’s left of him.  They are forced to have a closed casket funeral because of the twisted smile frozen on his face from the disgusting way in which he exited this world. 

               “Holy shit Tammy.” Jerry bellowed.  “I don’t know exactly what you’re thinking right now but I can smell the evil seeping through your pores.”  Jerry could sense reprehensible thoughts coming from Tammy, an immoral pu-pu platter of wicked ideas and evil plots.

               “Here’s to get those comedic juices flowing,” she said, sliding a rocks glass full of whiskey, neat, across the bar to Andy.

               A tempest of irrationality and predation swirled around endlessly like an invisible aura inside the establishment.  Devilish thoughts drifted through space, infiltrating the impressionable minds outside of Jerry’s realm.  It was an atmosphere all too familiar, a place where Jerry could bask in the blood of sinners.  It felt like home.

               “Hell, Tammy, I’ve contemplated more than just changing careers. At one point in my life I thought I was 2 steps from being CEO of Synthetic Wang and Co. It sure does fuck with your head when you “see behind the curtain” or “dine at the same table” with the apex monkeys, but they’re no smarter than you. It scares the shit out of you because you’re sticking your head up through them clouds ready to see god, and ain’t nobody home but some dirty, stupid, smelly monkeys, just… like… you…”

               Jerry moved slowly, almost imperceptibly slow throughout the speech to just behind Andy as if to reinforce and condone what he is saying. Collaboratively, he passed a cigarette to Andy’s hand perfectly in sync between his pause. With an effortless flick of his lighter, the smooth smelling tobacco smoke rose through the air. “That nicotine’s a nice rush huh? Stronger than those pills I showed ya actually, pound for pound,” he said with a wink.

               Andy exhaled and took back a hard swig of whiskey. “I fell from grace hard. I didn’t want to be at the top anymore. I wanted to be stupid, to be ignorant. Fuck, it’s comforting to be submissive, and I wanted to give back all control. I was always in pursuit of bigger, better, more. I was after brighter days, and when I saw none in front of me, I tried to think back on brighter days, but I now had none to know.”

               Jerry gave Andy a playful but hard punch right in the middle of his arm, bruising the bone, right between the muscles. “Chin up bitch! The souls of the passive exist on the thought that it could have always been worse than what is. You, like so many, have contemplated, dreamed in your paranoia, that maybe you had drudgingly fit the bill or the psychiatric recipe of an acute psychopath, or a malignant demonic possession, and merely walked up to the cusp to see down the path to becoming a serial killer or a deranged imp. But only, at that moment you flittered onward, uninterested, by chance… One thing did not lead to another. In the end, your weakness is a virtue. Embrace it.” He paused to concentrate his emphasis, “and at the heart of it, there’s nothing really all that special that makes you not like them.”

               “There are verses in the Bible about this type of trickery, deception, and temptation Andy,” Tammy said with an air of spiritual optimism, as if to repent for her innate evil woes.

               “Ah yes, the most revised text in human history. Pick and choose, pick and choose. Change, translate and omit as you please. Couldn’t it have at least come up with a more interesting title after all these years? With a massive text filled with such creative and bombastic bullshittery, it seems to be lacking foresight to just call it “book”,” Jerry seethed.   

               “Can we at least lighten the mood a little here guys, this is a bar ya know?” Tammy pleaded.

               “Speaking of lighting up. Was it really an accident when Synthetic Wang Co burned down, Andy?” Jerry said slitheringly. 

Saturday Afternoon

Andy entered the bar and to his surprise, a barren establishment. He was disappointed at the sight of empty tables and a lack of tits on display.  He spotted his favorite stool at the bar along with his partner in crime Jerry and his spank bank all-star Tammy. 

               “Man, who the fuck died and crashed this party?” Andy spat.

               “You didn’t get the 2000-year-old memo, it was Jesus,” Jerry smartly remarked. 

               “Tomorrow’s Easter numb nuts,” Tammy said eagerly as if she would be spared a night of degradation and locker room banter.

               “Really? Shit I forgot all about that,” Said Andy.  He then started the night off with his usual bit of sexual innuendos. “Hey Tam, I’m going on a little Easter egg hunt tonight.” Andy waited for the pause.  “I’m looking for those eggs you’re hiding.” Lonesome chuckles seeped through Andy’s bones accompanied by awkward mannerisms.  “Maybe we’ll create the next holy prophet on the pool table.”  Andy felt the shiver of rejection a little bit more with an absent audience by his side. 

               Tammy slammed a bottle of bourbon down as internal flames ignited. “Do you get off on telling those dumbass jokes?  I’m only asking because someone making those jokes has got to be a scum sucking, illiterate, foul mouthed, low life, shit bag.  The rotting feces of society missed by the janitor, clinging to the underside of the World’s toilet seat.  You are the definition of a bar fly.  The fact you have children is an injustice to humanity and it fires me up to the point of wanting to poison assholes like you.”  Tammy digressed out loud for once in her invalid existence.  She looked around in case of a rogue witness to her demoralizing sound off.  “You wreck my day every time you walk in here and I can’t stand you.  Your breath stinks and you give off a bad vibe.  It’s bad for business.  You don’t have game. You’re a shitty tipper, and your jokes aren’t funny.  Why don’t you just get fucked and die. It would be doing all of us a favor.”

               Andy was stunned.  Not sure how to respond, not sure if Tammy was trying to be funny, a pinnacle of himself.  He was too unsure of himself to respond in a respectable way.  He had no experience in saving face or salvaging regard.

               Tammy broke down and slowly retreated to the back room.  Jerry sat there mesmerized by the scene that had just unfolded while Andy looked down at his drink stunned by Tammy’s candid evisceration of his character.

               In hopes of lightening the mood, Jerry commented in jest, “Well Andy, that joke didn’t land very well.”  Andy just stared straight down at his drink biting his dirty fingernails, a sign of his discomfort.  His inner selfish ignorance had been temporarily dislodged by character assassination. 

               “Jesus, what the Hell did I say?” Andy asked.

               “Ah yeah, so Tammy is infertile,” Jerry responded.  “You know, maybe you struck a nerve with the baby prophet conception joke.  It was a bit off color even for my wretched disposition.  You’re a dark soul Andy.  Welcome to the club!”  Jerry tried dialing down the tension although it was outside his job description to do so. 

               A grief-stricken Andy slowly stood up from his stool.  Picking up his glass of whiskey he nodded his spirits towards Jerry with a solemn face.  “When you see Tam, tell her I’m sorry.”  He pulled out his wallet and threw a handful of bills on the counter. 

               “Where you going? The next round was on me,”  Jerry said in contempt.

               Andy turned towards Jerry.  “You’ve been a good friend Jerry.  You’ve been sitting up there on my shoulder listening and laughing with me for years.  Well I’ve got someone on my other shoulder that I haven’t paid much attention to for a long time.  The weight is getting a little heavy and to be honest, you’re getting to be a real pain in the fuckin neck.”

               Jerry chuckled and pulled his beer up to his mouth.  “You suddenly have an ounce of remorse, a hint of sympathy, and now your hands are clean?  You think going to that worship bullshit tonight is going to sanitize your soul?  Good luck.”

               “Maybe I’ll see you around Jerry,” Andy said as he walked out the door.

               Jerry looked at his reflection in the beer glass.  “Yeah, I’ll see you in Hell pal.”

               Andy was merely 10 steps out the door when he received a text message. It was a request for him to meet Jerry tonight on 6th Ave. behind the abandoned abortion clinic. He had a cold feeling wash over him as all he could picture was a meeting for a duel, finally meeting his and Jerry’s reckoning. He contemplated bringing his .45 in case he needed to dispel his unpredictable friend in self-defense, or just for fun. With the whiskey still coursing through his veins and a freshly lit cigarette temporarily easing his tense nerves he decided to put off his visit to Father Fornicado at the chapel in which he planned on turning a new leaf, as he had many times before.

               The sun set with an eerie somber calm, putting to rest another cycle of meaningless menagerie’esque morbidity. After dropping off alimony with his whore ex wife and rubbing one out in her bathroom, Andy retreated to his apartment for a solitary meal of mechanically separated pig anuses infused with noodles and its own boiled down anus broth; Preparing for his meeting with Jerry.

Shortly After

               Andy hadn’t been to 6th Ave. since he was 16, smoking weed on the railroad tracks with his degenerate friends, hiding out after school. It had been an economically viable area in its heyday but it was pretty much considered the red light district now, seeing as your chances of contracting AIDS tripled as soon as you entered the block. Catching crabs was a near certainty just being in the vicinity.

               “You actually showed up asshole! I’m proud of ya!” Gurgled Jerry through a whiskey infused grumble, from the shadows. The smell from the sewage plant nearby penetrated the nostrils piercingly.

               “You could be more specific next time, dick bag,” Andy irked, still unsure if Jerry was going to put him out of his misery, and part of him hoping that he would. He could hear the sound of female shoes clicking and scraping the pavement, coming around the corner behind him. As they approached, he tensed up, anticipating one of the whores of 6th Ave to do Jerry’s dirty work and shank him in the spine.

               “I am very impressed that you both have the balls to actually show up to this scum infested hell hole without me even having to offer an explanation,” Jerry exclaimed smoothly, acknowledging Tammy behind Andy’s cowering back. “I must have some kind of real effect on the two of you. I’m flattered. Or, otherwise you are both just scared of my brutish nature,” he said gleaming with an air of psychotic intimidation. “I have sensed an escalating tension among you both lately and I finally decided to just get it over with and show you the reality you’ve both been repressively running from so desperately.”

               Tammy looked at Jerry longingly, desperate to hear what he was offering. Andy was still pissed off that his sloppy, solitary, marathon porn binge had been ruined just to be here. Jerry motioned for them to follow him as he turned and walked down the alley.

               “The two of you are fairly smart people. I reiterate “fairly”. So, I feel bad for your struggle in the face of this existential mind fuck we call life. I brought you here to see “the truth”,” Jerry gleamed with an air of irony. The smell of the ocean became stronger, mixed with the stench of seagulls and Sixth Ave skanks as he walked confidently towards the docks, closer to the building he was seemingly leading them to.

               “Just cut to the chase,” Andy yelled.

               “Shut it,” Tammy shushed, in anticipation of this esoteric truth which was to be revealed. Andy and Tammy both had always had a skeptical suspicion of Jerry but also could never deny their deep seeded Machievellian respect for his brutal and shocking honesty.

               “Do you know what this building is right here?” Jerry asked the two. Their faces and hesitation proved that they did not. With his back to the door he snapped his fingers, the dead bolt snapped unlocked and with a heal kick, the door burst open.

They slowly crept through the winding hallways, stumbling here and there with the lights off, as it was late and the facility was closed for the weekend. Entering into the main giant stadium sized room, they could hear the sound of open water and subtle splashing here and there. It was still difficult to see with the lights off but it was clear that there was a large aquarium sized tank in front of them and their legs became weak when they realized they were on a catwalk overhanging the edge of the water. Jerry trembled that he had just shook off the possibility he was about to be shanked in a dark alley, and was too scared and/or stupid to turn back at that point, before he was now paranoid that he was about to be fed to sharks, never to be found or even cared about that he was missing.

Jerry loved the tension! He peered deep into Andy’s psyche and his evil mind preyed on the weakness, instinctively. “Watch your step!” Jerry shrieked, as he hip checked Andy over the edge.

A loud, extremely high pitched, womanly scream echoed throughout the giant room before being snuffed out by the submerged gurgle that succeeded it. There was a frantic struggle in the water below the catwalk as Jerry bellowed a deep belly laugh and doubled over on his knees. Tammy had dove down flat on the metal grated cat walk reaching through the bars in a desperate attempt to grab for Andy, not even sure if she cared, and somewhat curious to see him eaten by a giant sea creature at that moment. She was also lying flat, clenching her entire body trying to hug the ground as a desperate attempt to keep Jerry from making her dessert for the creature also. At that moment, perceptibly frozen in time, she, like Andy, could not help but wonder if this was their penance for blindly hanging out with the son of the devil all this time. And now, it was too late, no chance to turn back or atone. With her hand below the water, she felt Andy’s hand and they both grasped for dear life. As his head came above the water the thrashing and squealing was frenzied, desperate, and vulnerably pathetic.

“You fuck! Glug, gurgle, glug, spit-up,” as Andy went back under. “You mother fucker! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” he cried, in anticipation of imminent, excruciating death.

Jerry was still doubled over, laughing in sadistic pleasure. “Look, you bunch of pussies, it’s a tuna farm. Calm the fuck down. You make it sound like a colossal squid is about to rip your nut sack off.”

Andy felt the commotion of the swimming below him and although he was still a little freaked out by the large fish, was relieved that he was not in fact in close contact with a large dangerous predator… other than Jerry that is.

As Jerry and Tammy helped Andy out of the water they took a collective sigh of relief, until Andy refocused his anger. “Seriously, stop the bullshit. Is this the reason you brought us here, just to scare the hell out of us for your sick twisted pleasure?”

Tammy’s gaze fell away slowly, unemphatically, as her hope was crushed. “Let’s get out of here Andy.”

“Just give me a minute,” Jerry stopped them. “I ask for just a moment of unfettered contemplation. Just look. Take a look around you. This is their whole world. It’s huge to them, containing so much of “substance” in the life of a tuna. They are born, they swim around this place in circles and learn some simple tuna shit. They socialize a little. They even fuck sometimes. Think about it a minute. Really, just imagine that as your life, as a life, as life in general. Just imagine it. And then just as you are getting pretty smart and think you know a thing or two, and you are happy doing your stupid meaningless tuna shit, you are plucked from this purgatory and gutted. Everything is taken from you, to be consumed by your “God” of this tuna realm.” He looked piercingly into each of their eyes, starkly into the depths of their souls. “Pretty stupid fucking concept isn’t it? You’d be surprised how many stupid fucking tuna believe it though.”

Tammy protested in desperation, missing the point: Some bullshit about how life was a gift from god.

Andy nonsensically rambled about how life is some sacred part of nature.

“Hah!” Jerry reclaimed the conversation sharply. “A gift to be harvested, stolen back? How cruel. And like nature is some innate guiding principle? Everywhere you fuck faces look, 99.99% of nature is literally stupid. We are the only intelligence deserving of the term that we’ve seen anywhere, EVER!. And let me tell you something else. Those smelly tuna… There’s nothing really all that special that makes you… not… like… them…”

                After leaving that night, the notion that Jerry had projected unto them had set in deeply. Was it reality? Or was it the deception of “the devil”? Neither knew, and time was the emulsifier of the poisonous notions that Jerry continually immersed them in. Tammy was the type that did better in life to just not think about things. Really dissecting things led down these uncertain and scary roads. She devoted herself to working, mindlessly, but it was all catching up to her. She eventually quit working at the bar, moved away, started dressing more conservatively, and picked up a few classes at night school in New York City to make something of herself. During the day she worked part time as a uniformed usher at the 9/11 memorial, observantly and decisively wandering around, slapping anyone that was unsolemnly taking selfies or talking on their cell phone cluelessly, like an asshole.  Meanwhile Andy had taken a very hard turn for the worst. His anger towards the world and himself had turned him into a shameless wretch, more-so than before, unlovable by anyone. His climactic peak was during a 3-day bender when, in a blackout binge, he leapt from the bridge down the street from the bar in a failed suicide attempt only to have his left leg broken, dislocated, and lodged up his own ass. Ironically this may have been his life saving grace moment.

Many Months Later

Andy limped past the old bar while taking a bittersweet reminiscent stroll down memory lane in examination of his friends, his experiences, his mistakes and his accomplishments. Without his persistent numbing whisky diet of the past 20 years, a slight confusion and sadness passed over him any time he let his mind indulge on the memories of his past and those that were part of it. The door of the bar had a thick chain and lock, and one of the front windows was boarded shut where the glass had been shattered. The bar had been abandoned after quickly going out of business without its vulgar display of comedy and lucrative cash flow supplied by its number 1 drunkard and its big-titted, bimbo bombshell bartender. The past 20 years felt like it had zipped by him in the blink of an eye. Was he happier in his clueless therapeutic drunken slobbery or was he better off in his now reformed seriousness about life? Was he doing it for himself, or for everyone else’s sake? Was there really even an answer?

               It was Sunday. Andy had been on his way to church. He was basking in his melancholy as he looked back on his memories and he stopped into the coffee shop that had opened just next door to the abandoned building of past putrid patronization. It was the best substitute for his lost lair that his now moral outlook would allow. As he waited for his coffee he reminded himself of his oath to his newfound faith. He still wished with all his heart for the ignorance of belief to bring him the bliss that he sought. He was a born again in a sense that he didn’t truly believe any of the religious hocus-pocus but he found moral fortitude in its analogous teachings. Besides, he enjoyed hanging out with believers, like children that still believed in Santa, their cheer was contagious. Their delusion was like an inoculation to life. He still struggled for meaning in all of it, but he walked the walk the best that he could see fit. When his coffee arrive, he gazed longingly, blankly, in a numb contemplation. As he peered into his coffee, in the dim reflections off the dark black liquid and the swirling cream starting to mix, he saw everything before him. He saw the past, the future, the everything, the nothing. He saw books full of words, memoirs, biographies, stories, journeys. He saw sculptures, paintings, statues, buildings, cities full of people hugging, holding hands, talking, sharing. He saw parents teaching their children, brothers helping their fellow man. He saw love. He saw war. And just as his mind was overwhelmed and confused by all of it, enough to just numbly forget everything and move on, he saw a beach frozen in eternity, with the waves of time continually crashing forward, soothingly muting and washing everything away. And then, with the waves approaching, he saw a scribble in the sand that said, “Mankind was here!”

*Disclaimer: Some of this story was generated through the use of AI. All italic text was created by the AI Writer.

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