The Nayslayre's Infamous Carnival


Part II

Chapter VI

To say that the recent turn of events made David upset was a bit of an understatement.

In his immediate rage, David had managed to launch himself towards the eye-slashing woman and had enough time to grab her throat in murderous intent before the doors to the dining area were opened, and David was forcefully removed from the woman. Clearly flustered, Miss G. didn't put out much resistance as Arturo escorted her out of the room and presumably off of the property.

By the time that Arturo could calm David down enough to form coherent sentences, the entire Nayslayres household and staff had found their way in hearing-distance from the kitchen, where Arturo was currently having Minnie's mother bandage up David's eye. A short argument began about the nature of medical attention that David should be given – Minnie's mother insisting that they seek out professional help immediately, Arturo promising that he had already called a well-trusted doctor, and David being altogether uncooperative in claiming that he was perfectly fine, and that the only thing that needed to be done was a very gruesome slaughtering of Miss G. The next hour and a half or so consisted of the arrival of Arturo's promise well-trusted doctor doing the best he could to disinfect, stitch and otherwise properly care for David's injury while David kept trying to get Arturo to promise to help kill Miss G.

"This is your entire fucking fault, 'Turo. You knew what the cunt wanted. You knew how crazy she was. But you still-"

"David, listen to me-"

"You still went ahead and locked us in a fucking room together. With knives. Fucking knives!"

"I knew she was a bit crazy, but not that she was psychotic. David, calm down."

But David was relentless. The doctor was gone by this point and had left in his place some painkillers that David was beginning to be very fond of. They seemed to give him some fire for his energy, and in some perverse way, it felt numbingly fantastic to have all of his anger focused on a sole object. "She's going to die, Arturo. I don't care if that's what she wants, it's what I want. Please tell me you're going to support me on this."

"You know it's not that simple. If she dies in connection with us, it would open up an investigative trail directly to us. We'd be fucked!"

This conversation lasted another half an hour before Arturo strictly refused to talk about it anymore. As expected, David had angrily retreated to his room where he sat on his chair and longingly looked at his now-extremely-vast collection of ashes, and tried to imagine one that was labeled 'Miss G.' When this began to bore him, however, David settled his single eye's attention on Ryan's old eye-jar. All in one sweeping second, the entire affair with Miss G was forgotten, and instead David's anger was replaced by an equally potent fear – how long did he have to live? It was all too similar, all too poetic and fitting that Ryan had somehow been forecasting the very nature and timeline of David's death interposed with his own. David's mind was forced back to a sort of stunted nostalgia, recalling certain moments that he had with the Knolves and with Ryan. What sort of things could be compared with his own life – what did David know now that would help understand why Ryan killed himself the way he did. In an eerie sense, David realized, Ryan wasn't so much as foretelling the future so much as leading it: David wouldn't have even thought of the Nayslayres if Ryan hadn't recorded his own death, and without the Nayslayres, he wouldn't have come in contact with Miss G and her eye-killing habits. Or was it all just a coincidence? That Ryan had simply killed himself the way he did because he thought it would be a cool way to go?

David felt like he was caught in the middle of something much larger than himself, something that had been going on long before him, and something that was his job to find a way to continue on. It was a feeling that he had felt now and again while at the Knolves, shortly after Ryan had died, and David had first felt the burden of the ghosts. The ghosts that David felt that he knew so well, he could feel and anticipate them taunting his lack of one eye even before he could hear or see them. The noise was something different altogether – while it wasn't a product of or a precedent to the ghosts, David knew that the two were distinctly related in a way that extended beyond the obvious. David's desire to kill Miss G was suddenly replaced by his desire to kill the ghosts and the noise. Too long now, David decided, had he been left to deal with such annoyances and eccentricities alone. The overwhelming puzzle was to then figure out how to forever rid himself of them all. Ryan, he was certain, must have come to same conclusion – and found himself in the everlasting peace of death. Until he began haunting David, of course.

On cue, David could see the noise and smell the ghosts. The oddity of this had long since stopped confusing him. It was such a feast of the senses; David couldn't help but to deeply mourn the loss of his right eye. As soon as this emotion came over him, there was a strange rush of adrenaline that started at the tips of David's fingers and toes and rushed brutally inward to his chest. From there, the only thing David could feel was the obnoxious pounding of his heart. Completely consumed by the thrusting of blood through his veins, David knew his dissociation from reality was nearly complete when he began to feel that his blood was being pumped beyond his veins and flesh, and into his surroundings: it didn't feel so much that David was loosing blood so much as gaining limbs. The most prominent of his new limbs was that of the ever present bag of Ryan's ashes lying quite appropriately on his chest. The ashes were throbbing and living along with David's own mortality – or was it that David's heart was actually located in the bag of ashes? For a moment believing this, David's sense of loss only increased as he realized his heart had already died and crumbled to ashes, and the rest of his body was autonomously moving on borrowed time only. It seemed obvious right then that David Hargraeves had been dead a long time, and the decay of his body was finally starting to settle in. As that thought occurred, a dull sort of radioactive ache began to spread outwards from David's joints and muscles and steadily intensified until David was ready to accept that he was going to witness the rotting of his own flesh before his very eyes.

A violent panic pierced David from the top of his head downwards, and he found in himself an extravagant will to move his body one last time before it fell to pieces. With little grace, David grabbed the bag of ashes and fumbled relentlessly until he had opened it up and emptied out the contents in his hands. Simultaneously relieved and confused that a heart did not come out of the bag with the ashes, David glared at the dusty specs of gray, having a difficult time believing that this was the true form of Ryan, not his ghost. Moving with a will not quite his own, David slowly reached for the jar containing Ryan's eye-juice and removed the lid, letting Ryan's ashes reunite with the other last remaining segment of its previous owner. It was a strange and comforting sight for David.

The next day, there was another suicide to be filmed. Before the events with Miss G. had taken place, David had been excited to meet the suicider – it was a washed-up professional football star, currently in his fifties and torn to ruin and shame by a well publicized and thoroughly discussed incident that involved massive amounts of child pornography on their former professional athlete's computer, and some inappropriate acts with a twelve-year-old girl. Needless to say, after a long night of sleeplessness, David was hardly in a mood to work. Feeling the stubbornness strong within him, David flat-out refused to film unless Arturo promised that in some way, shape or form, Miss G. would be dead within the month.

At first, Arturo didn't believe David. He tried to push it off, claiming that it was something that they could discuss later that night. It was only until David retreated and locked himself up in his room did anyone began to suspect that little progress in filming would be made unless something about the nature of Miss G's soon-to-be-non-existence was said. As Arturo pounded on David's door and tried to unsuccessfully negotiate the terms of Miss G's death, David wasn't really listening. He instead was focused on how much he missed his right eye. It wasn't until he heard Arturo mutter the words "…and she'll die however you like her to…" did David unlock his door. When he exited his room, David merely smiled at the crowd of bewildered Nayslayres crew outside his door and announced something he knew they'd all appreciate: "Ladies and gentlemen, the time is ripe for a suicide." Everyone, even the suicider, cheered.

After the suicide – the man triggered a giant cement block to drop on his head – and after David's indulgence with a painkiller or two, he and Arturo sat down at their usual table and began to talk business.

"So Miss G. is going to die on the show?" David casually lit a cigarette and passed on the lighter to Arturo so he could do the same. When Arturo silently nodded, David felt what could only be described as hysterical revenge. "What ever happened to that investigative trail leading right to us?"

"If we have enough prep time, it shouldn't be too difficult to cover the tracks."

"That's what I thought. Now," David leaned forward a bit. Despite his deep appreciation for the painkillers Arturo's doctor had given him to help ease the 'healing' of his eye, he had to admit that they had a tendency to make him a bit dizzy at times. Something about the pill-induced dizziness made David's spine particularly vulnerable to the Noise, and it made him slouch more, presumably under the weight of it all. "How much time do you think you'll need to cover said tracks?"

Arturo made his stereotypical deep-in-thought face. It generally involved furrowed brows and an off-focus glance at something across the room as the man slowly exhaled. "We can't have it sooner than the latest scheduled suicide. That takes us late into next month. That might be enough."

"That's so fucking far away!"

"Think of it this way," Smirking, Arturo took a break to smoke a bit. "It gives you more time to think up a more gruesome death for the broad. Do you think you can live with that?"

"I think I can live with that."

"Good. Now on with the normal business!"

As Arturo discussed the average number of viewers that tuned in for each type of show, David let his mind wander to the darkly satisfying realm of the Perpetually-Suffering-Miss-G. In this realm, Miss G. was always losing a drastic amount of blood in various different places and fashions, and screamed loud in excruciating pain as method after method of torture befell upon her. While David had always considered himself morally bankrupt, it was only during such destructive fantasies of Miss G. did he begin to wonder if he was truly evil. As Arturo stressed the likely themes of future group suicides, David tried to piece together the last remaining grasps on reality he thought he held. One or two days before the arrival of Miss G. into his life, a discussion on the Nayslayres discussion boards caught his eye. It linked to an article that cited an alarming increase in video-taped suicides since the start of the Nayslayres. The article went on about suicides that were recorded in their simplest form, to suicides that were brought about in full Nayslayre-style with costumes and scripts and themes. One man had apparently dressed up as David himself and hung himself. While he did very little to fool anyone that David Hargraeves was dead, the knowledge of the act had proved very symbolic and moving for David: while it did not mark his literal death, it marked the death of his originality and exclusivity. David began the Nayslayres to bring the perversed masses of the internet something wondrously visceral and shocking – but now that everyone was doing it, David either had to find a new reason to continue on with the Nayslayres or drop it altogether. As Arturo confessed that the idea of making Nick kill himself on the show was becoming more appealing, David realized that even if he made up his mind to retire, Arturo would probably kill him. At that thought, David tried to hide his smirk as he realized that if that situation were to occur, Arturo would be the new bearer of the ghosts.

Later that evening, when David was sitting with Minnie and Bebe, he decided it would be a good idea to casually bring up an early unofficial retirement. "Hypothetically, how long do you think we could stay in hiding if we ran away?"

"What? From Arturo?" Minnie kept getting an obnoxious sun-glare in her eyes, and as she squinted to avoid it, David thought she looked fat and old. "Why?"

"Retirement would be nice. The sooner the better – I just don't think 'Turo would approve. He's on a fucking role."

"He's always on a fucking role." Once David's wife had found a satisfactory place in a shadow, she momentarily turned her attention to the squirming Bebe on her lap. "But I like this running away idea. We could just wake up one morning and go."

David giggled maliciously. "What makes you think I wouldn't leave without you if the opportunity arose?"

"Don't be a bitch."

"It would be so easy. Right before we film, for example, everyone is getting ready and off doing their own shit. I could just slip out for a smoke and never come back. By the time anyone realizes I'm gone, I'd have an hour head start – at least. Arturo couldn't call the cops – the best he could do in those first hours is force the crew to go out and search. By the time he could get anything going, I would already be so gone it wouldn't matter. Bam, Mr. Hargraeves, grand Executor, no more."

Minnie rolled her eyes. "For about three hours before the police catch your sorry sheltered ass. At least no one knows my face. You need me if you want to leave." When David didn't answer at first, the usually quiet Minnie continued. "I figure it will get pretty boring for you after Miss G goes. Have you decided how you want it done?"

"Of course," David welcomed the change in subject. While the idea of dropping from the Nayslayres calmed David, the thought of a suffering Miss G pleased the darker sides of him. "I'm thinking about starting off slow. Maybe saw out her tongue, and then skewer her from the mouth to the ass with a wooden, splintering pole. Preferably crawling with insects."

"A little too torturous to be a suicide, don't you think? Or is it going to be an execution style thing, where you're the judge?"

"I just want the cunt to die. Let's not get to technical about this."

"Don't get so offensive." As if on cue, Bebe started to squirm and fuss a bit. "It's her bedtime."

After David had kissed Bebe goodnight and the two girls were gone, David was left alone to his own devices. Almost immediately, his thoughts returned to secretly running away from the Nayslayres – no, secretly running away from Arturo. With an almost detached sorrow, David realized his relationship with Arturo now was how his relationship with Andrew Knolves had been right before he died: tolerable, but not preferable. Not to mention the Noise. It felt to David as though it were slowly filling him up, from the outside moving in, taking control of his inner workings and corroding away everything that made life pleasurable. The longer David stayed with Arturo, the faster the Noise would surely complete its task of taking control of David and killing him. With time on the line, David wondered if he could really risk waiting too far past Miss G's suicide. For a second, David thought that it would be best if he – yes, and Minnie – left before Miss G died. After all, Arturo would never suspect he would miss it. All at once, however, David realized that no matter how crucial it seemed to him to forever leave the Nayslayres and never look back, it was impossible to imagine a life where he missed out on the opportunity to see Miss G die. No, David would have to trust that the Noise's brutal hijacking of his body would wait until after the event.

Life as usual continued on for the Nayslayres and all those involved. Suiciders would come and die as they always did. Group suicides, trial suicides, themed suicides, and even celebrity suicides. There was a slight media buzz when the first of David's video with his covered eye was posted online. The suiciders meant less to David than they ever did before – he barely paid any attention to them, and could only think about how much he wished the filming would be over and done with. David read his Executor lines habitually and without much conviction. Obviously distracted, Arturo sometimes had to take David aside and urge him to concentrate – but it was useless. David's mind was completely fixed on three thoughts – seeing Miss G. die, leaving the Nayslayres, and dreading the Noise as he felt it close in on him. As every suicider made best to die up to their title, David spent the time imagining Miss G's body sending itself to the grave. David tried to determine if that particular way to dying was how he wanted the bitch to go.

Almost daily, David and Minnie would talk about secretly running away. Sometimes Minnie's mother would drop by and contribute her two cents worth, more or less approving the idea. There were so many things to consider – when to leave, how to leave, where to go, and what to do to stay hidden. Most the time was usually spent arguing on the details, almost as if to purposely delay the actual event itself. In some way, David felt as though he and Minnie had no true intention of leaving Arturo, and all of this discussion was more of a way to give themselves an illusion of strength.

It wasn't until Arturo announced that he had decided to fire Nick in a literal fire on the show did David truly make up his mind to leave. It wasn't that he really liked Nick or was threatened by his death. It was more that David began to detest the desperation that Arturo had to continue with the Nayslayres – which, in David's opinion, was beginning to lose its luster. More people than ever before were downloading and watching the suicides, and therefore, more people were calling for the immediate cessation of the on-line suicide show now infamously known as "The Nayslayre's Carnival." David also had a feeling that the investigation against them was coming closer than was comfortable for Arturo, which only lead for a greater drive for secrecy and notoriety. The sacking of Nick made clear how little control Arturo actually had – he couldn't make the employee work harder, he couldn't let him go free for fear of being discovered, and he couldn't even kill him in secret, despite the fact that it was so blatantly not a suicide. This evident lack of power made Arturo seem inappropriately small and useless, making the task of running from him that much less daunting.

As soon as David was serious about leaving, his and Minnie's discussions became much more productive and their plan much more structured: The day before Miss G's suicide, David would steal as much cash as possible from Arturo. That night, only the absolutely necessary things will be packed. The next day, the day of Miss G's arrival and suicide, things would be busy and predictable. On suicide days, it is understood that Minnie, her mother, and Bebe would be relatively isolated and out of the way. However, during this time, while Minnie stayed with Bebe, Minnie's mother would go and steal some car keys. Any car keys really, but preferably keys that opened an incredibly non-descript and common car. Since most of the crew had grown very fond and trusting of the woman, it was likely that this would not be very hard. According to tradition, David, Minnie and Minnie's mother would all go outside for a pre-show smoke before the filming began. It would be during this time that they would all check with each other and make sure everything went as planned. If it did, David would go and do his Executing duty while Minnie and her mother packed the car and returned inside to wait. Since the suicide was going to be in the style of a trial, David finally settled on a good old hanging for Miss G – a nice, slow and torturous hanging. After the suicide, finally at peace knowing the woman was dead, David would go to have his usual post-show smoke with the women, and they would forever leave. David figured this would give them a good head start – Arturo usually didn't bother David until later in the night and the cleanup was complete. Once established that David and his family were gone, it would still be a few hours until Arturo could assemble some sort of effective reaction. The plan was to drive to Minnie's father's (and Minnie's mother's ex-husband's) house. Apparently the man was a trucker, and the general hope that he would be willing to drive them inconspicuously to a far away place if promised a large sum.

David didn't allow himself too much thought of the escape until Nick's 'suicide.' According to the official calendar, there was only one week between Nick's last breath, and Miss G's last breath. In David's opinion, time couldn't move fast enough.

According to Arturo, Nick's last straw as an employed and living man was when he stole some of David's pain medicine and began to sell it as a recreational drug. From what David understood, it wasn't that Nick had stole that was the problem. It wasn't even that he was a piss-poor drug dealer that couldn't hide his tracks to save his life. The act that really sealed the poor camera man's fate was that he had begun to advertise his sales on the Nayslayre's website. When Arturo called Nick to his office and made it official his two-week's notice decision to kill one of the Nayslayre's own, Nick didn't take it very well. After a series of violent outbursts, Arturo had him restrained and locked up in the over-secure dog cage he has used to hold Miss G's commission murder. The first day, Nick would alternate between begging to be forgiven and angrily insisting that Arturo didn't have the god damned right to do this to an American citizen. Three days more of living in a confined space where he pissed inches from where he ate and Nick's attitude changed to include a deep desire for a shower, space to stand, and some cigarettes. For the remaining time in the dog pen, Nick stopped being specific in his pleas, and most often just started and stopped at the word 'please.' On the morning of his suicide, Nick was finally allowed to leave his 'cell' for the first time since he received the news of his death. He was covered in shit, urine and vomit, could barely stand, and was told that it was time to write his Will. When he was finished, he was returned to his prison, to which he objected violently.

By the time David saw Nick when it was time to shoot, he was already on the set, still covered in his various bodily secretions with his hands bound in front as he knelt before a strategically placed handgun right in front of him. As David watched him, he realized that his mouth was moving as though he was talking to himself. Obligated, David approached.

When Nick realized that David was standing next to him, he stopped moving his lips and focused his eyes on his former smoking-buddy. The longer David stood next to him, the more evident and impossible it was to bear the smell coming off of the man. Briefly, David felt sorry for the poor bastard. Despite the complete lack of desire to do so, David felt that he should mock the man over the stench. As even more seconds passed, however, David realized that in one week's time, he would be able to accomplish what the man before him never could: quit the Nayslayres. In all honestly, David was sympathetic to Nick's position, despite the stupidity that brought him there.


In a sort of retarded recognition that his name had been spoken, David gawked at Nick. For a second, he had completely forgotten that the man's ability to speak hadn't been torn away from him along with his dignity. David tried to think of something to say – preferably inappropriately mean and condescending, but anything would have done. Being stricken with momentary failure, David was forced to remain speechless as Nick continued on.

"David, I don't want to die."

As if to make up for his previous lack of comments before, David's mind was at once bombarded with responses: Then you shouldn't have fucked up; You're barking up the wrong tree; Too bad; Everyone dies; I'll pass that along to Turo for you; Are those your last words?; Of course you do, and you'll be committing suicide momentarily; Your smell tells me you're already dead; I want you to know it was my idea to get rid of you this way…etc. But David chose none of those. Instead, he forced himself to lean as close to Nick's ear as he could without vomiting from the smell and whispered slowly. "Relax, Nick. Your ghost will follow me to freedom. I promise."

When David backed away, he was not surprised to see a look of complete confusion on Nick's face. Unwilling to continue the conversation any further, David quickly left, lighting himself a cigarette to help clear his nose of Nick's revolting smell.

During the filming of the show, David felt incredibly detached. Looking back, he would realize that the only thing he remembered clearly was those last few seconds of Nick's life. Slowly raising the gun to his head, Nick had started to shake and cry. Unable to imagine Miss G. in the suicider's place as he usually did, David felt small traces of some unnamed emotion he used to feel while watching Ryan's suicide tape for the first time all those years ago. It was both nostalgically depressing and enlightening to know that even someone as jaded as himself could still muster up that emotion. For a second, David felt that running from the Nayslayres was a deep betrayal to everything he had accomplished in his life. As soon as Nick pulled the trigger, the sound of the explosion pulled David's focus back on track, and he knew that the only way to save himself from the noise was to leave, selfish as it may be.

Six days to Miss G's suicide and David suggested that Minnie's mother start looking around for easy-to-take car keys. Sex with Arturo became noticeably better, and David attributed this to the fact that he knew these were the last fucks he would really have with the man. There was also a distinct weight-gain in Minnie as well an almost barbaric obsession with baking cookies. David specifically associated weight gain and cookies with the pre-Nayslayres pregnant Minnie, but didn't really have the interest in asking her specifically if she was pregnant.

Five days to Miss G's suicide and it was time for another suicide. It was a no-body. Some middle-aged woman wanted to slit her wrists. The only amusement David found from his woman was that she was so much alike Miss G, it made it that much easier to imagine the cunt in her place. It was also time for a refitting of his costume, because according to Arturo, David had been losing weight. It was also on this day that David's room smelled exactly how Nick did on the day of his death. Despite his efforts to avoid the room, David first caught site of Nick's ghosts later that evening. The following few hours were spent trying to unsuccessfully ignore the feeling of the Noise filling David up and decaying his insides.

Four days to Miss G's suicide and it was Halloween. Since Arturo liked to plan ahead, the Halloween themed show had been filmed weeks ago, and was just being posted on the site on that day: some attractive twenty-something girl had dressed up as a witch and closed the door of one those Iron Maidens on herself. On the real Halloween, however, there were no suicides at all. Arturo liked to fancy that Halloween was 'naturally' the Nayslayre's most important holiday, and treated it like a company-wide policy: no work was to be done by anyone. While David refrained from dressing up with the excuse that he did it nearly every day of his life, Bebe was dressed up as a pumpkin and it was adorable. Minnie had originally wanted to have the girl be a ghost, but David had strongly objected. Trick-or-treating was no allowed, so to celebrate, Arturo, David, Minnie, her mother and Bebe all sat around, played board games, and drank warm cider. It was all very old-school. A source of amusement for David came when he was told that 'David Hargraeves' costumes were among one of the most popular this year.

Three days to Miss G's suicide and it was time for the last suicide before Miss G's Big One. Arturo was excited because the suicider was the first underage suicider they had ever had. Personally, David was indifferent. He approved, of course, since even he had to admit it was a powerfully upsetting feeling to know that someone so young, with so much potential, wanted to end their short existence. David blamed his general apathy when the girl arrived on his own growing excitement and nervousness of his upcoming escape. The girl hung herself. While going out for his usual post-show smoke, David let himself sit down on the dock and absently listened to Minnie's mother explain her confidence at her ability to find some keys to take. However, when he tried to stand, every inch on David's being began to ache and it felt as though the Noise didn't even leave enough room in his lungs to breathe. Losing strength and balance, David had lost his balance and almost fell into the water – he instead fell awkwardly on his side and twisted his wrist. For those few seconds that David's lay on his side on the dock, the early November wind feeling especially strong, and the pain of the Noise under his skin still severe, David caught sight of an abnormal amount of fast movement in his peripheral vision. As the pain in his newly twisted wrist somehow dissipated the pain of the Noise, David focused his attention more closely to the movement and realized it was the ghosts. So many ghosts – dozens upon dozens upon dozens of ghosts just running around him. David wondered if he could survive until the big day.

Two days to Miss G's suicide and it was the first snow of the season. It was a light sort of melt-immediately-after-touching-the-ground snow, but David was relieved to see it. The cold air made his eye-injury hurt, but the excitement of knowing how close the escape was seemed to make up for it.

On the day before Miss G's suicide, it was all preparation. In David's mind, it was like Christmas Eve – the day before both the death of a woman that seemed to be the source of all his misery, and the day before David could yet again completely alter his life and seemingly start anew. Never before had David had such mediated control over this change – it usually happened by accident, as with Andrew, or by some outside force, as with Arturo. This time, however, it was all him. David liked to romanticize it a bit, thinking of the escape as some heroic gesture to save himself from a complete downfall into the hands of the ghosts. Despite the fact that David wanted to include Minnie, Bebe and the theoretic kid Minnie was hiding among his list of people that would benefit from his ungraceful divorce from Arturo, David knew his excitement was nothing but pure selfishness. Rationally, he knew that they could all wait. Whether they decided to flee tomorrow, in a week, month or even a year – fuck, they'd survive. They didn't carry the weight of the ghosts or the Noise as David did. It was very much true that David was more so excited about the thought of leaving the Nayslayres with some of his sanity preserved than just the thought of leaving in itself.

After dinner, Arturo and David sat down to discuss a few details of the following day's show. The day had been torturously long, and all David wanted was for the night to be over and it magically to be the morning of Miss G's suicide. As it was, it was still the day prior, and there were still things that Arturo felt David should know. Given the circumstances of Miss G's death, Arturo explained that another member of the so-called 'Evil High Society' would be escorting Miss G. to the Nayslayre's – a man that wished only to be known as 'Mr. H.'

David grunted. "What's with these names? Can you just make up a normal sounding fake name to tell me? I'll believe you, honest! But fucking A, there's Miss G. and now Mr. H – what the fuck am I going to do with their names, anyway?"

"Don't get your titties in a twist, now." Arturo knew it slightly peeved David to be referred to in feminine terms. Before David could say something about not having tits, the man in charge went on. "If you makes you feel better, you can think of them as Mr. Harmon and Miss Gray, like your own long-forgotten, mysteriously reappearing and fucked up parents."

Apparently, Miss G.'s hanging was going to be quite unspectacular as far as in comparison with the dozens of previous trial-themed shows. She was going to appear as the one on trial, made to look frightened, weak and victimized. David would be there, of course, in his usual exaggerated mock-Judge outfit, his eye freshly bandaged and his now-more-than-fitting eye-topped cane loyally at this side. Slightly different, of course, would be the charges brought up against Miss G – they would be specifically in regards to her brutal massacre of David's eye rather than the generic shit they usually condemned the suiciders with. Arturo mentioned that although she truly did wish nothing more than to die on the show, Miss G. had promised to act extremely disturbed when her death sentence was handed down to her. David didn't care – the more it looked as though the bitch was in agony, the more he liked the idea.

As the discussion seemed to slow, David sighed and ran a hand through his hair. Lately, his hair had been falling out at a ridiculous rate. Although believing he would get very little sleep that night from his excitement up of the upcoming day, David did his best to sound tired. "Are we done here?"

"Not quiet yet, David." Arturo looked at David in a way that clearly communicated some sort of clever malignance; David leaned back in his hair to subconsciously distance himself from it. "Don't think I don't know what you and your white trash parade are planning after the show tomorrow."

The smarter half of David didn't say anything. The dumber half rolled his eyes. Almost immediately, the Arturo's expression changed from almost playful to downright violent. Arturo's eyes burned fire into David's, and there was a second or two that David was afraid to breathe, afraid to open an airway into his lungs for fear of being brutally burned from the inside out. There was a quick flash in his mind of Andrew, of Maggie and of Rita, their faces charred, and their artificial clothing melted to their skin. It was completely logical at that moment to think that Arturo had burned down their house with nothing but the fury in his eyes. When David finally did breathe, he was shocked to find the air was quite cold.

"You will not leave me. Not tomorrow, not the next day, not ever. If you even so much as attempt, you and whoever attempts with you will be so severely punished, it will make Nick's final days look like our vacation in Cancun by comparison. Do you understand? David, look at me, do you?"

"Of course." Without waiting for any reply from Arturo, David quickly stood up and left to go to his room.

In reality, Arturo's words did nothing to deter him. If anything, they seemed to make the Noise throb in David's joints even stronger than before, making it of even higher importance that David leave as soon as possible. As soon as David reached his room, he began to pack. He didn't know what was appropriate – a half of a pack of cigarettes, some underwear, mismatched socks, maybe a shirt or two. Upon stuffing his bag with a book David didn't remember owning, his hands and lips began to shake as if he were cold, though he was anything but. There was a distinct burning sort of sweat on David, and there was a lack of coordination that overcame him, as though the Noise had finally made its way to his nervous system and was set on taking it down. Fighting for control, David grabbed his painkillers and took a few, hoping it would buy him enough time to leave – it was obvious that tomorrow would be too late. By then, David would be nothing more than an empty shell filled with Noise, the power to move granted to him only by the occasional ghostly possession. As David threw the pill bottle into his bag, there was a distinct sound of a door opening, and upon looking, David saw that it was Arturo. The man at the door's eyes looked from David, to the half packed bag on the floor, and then back to David.

With little warning, Arturo launched himself at David, his entire body weight thrown hands-first at David's chest, shoving his intended target roughly into the now-crowded shelf of ashes behind him. As David's back made awkward contact with his beloved Morgue, a strange sort of disbelief overcame him, and it wasn't until he heard a few falling and breaking jars of ashes did he realize that there was very little he could do to stop his world from literally crashing around him - nothing that could ease the sudden emptiness in his lungs or the pain in his shoulder.

In a moment of weakness, David felt the urge to try and bargain with his attacker. If he said he wasn't trying to leave, that it wasn't what it looked like, how far would it get him? David wasn't given ample time to consider this option, as Arturo reached forward and forcefully grabbed David's jaw. Slowly, David began to become aware that Arturo was saying things, and he found he was more shocked that it took him such a long time to realize it than what he was actually saying – things like "I thought you fucking understood" and "No one leaves me" and "You didn't know how good you had it." The forces in David's mind worked together and told him to fight back, but the toxic Noise made his limbs little more than useless blocks of flesh that could barely build up enough strength to even scratch his attacker's arm.

With little reason or warning, Arturo swiftly used his other hand to rip off the bandages over David's right eye. Startled more than hurt, David reached up with both his hands to cover the naked wound. There was a moment of extreme disorientation and such ease of movement, and David finally realized that Arturo was no longer holding him against the Morgue. Escape! It was his chances to escape! As soon as David lurched toward his desk in attempt at freedom, he was instantly filled with the paranoia of being chased. The fear was not in vain, David learned, when he felt a sturdy push on his back, forcing him to fall awkwardly onto his desk. With little time to recover, Arturo turned his lover over and released upon his face the reason he had allowed such a brief moment of freedom earlier – an entire jar of some random suicider's ashes. His mouth open in complete shock, David didn't have enough time to close it before the dusty remains were poured all over and in his mouth, nose and open eye wound.

For a second, there was nothing. No sound, no feeling, no fear. Then a nuclear presence of Noise and pain overcame David to the point of making him scream in a carnal, blind rage. David just knew it, could see it past the last remains of some unnamed suicider as they filled his facial orifices: the ghosts were laughing at him. All of them, from Ryan to Andrew to Lisa Shells to Nick to the under-aged slut that had died a few days ago. They were all laughing, enjoying the show as Arturo unleashed his violence upon him. The Noise finally penetrated something deep in David, and he instinctively knew it was over for him as nausea ripped through his spine. There was no recovering from the Noise once it had such strong control over him as it did now.

David's burst of sound had startled Arturo, and it allowed the dusty boy on the desk just enough time to grab a rogue pen and arc it desperately towards his offender. The pen made contact with Arturo's shoulder, breeching the skin not more than a millimeter. Still, it was enough to make the man back up in shock and gave David a second to fulfill a more effective attack: a solid kick in the balls. Knowing he didn't have much time in his moment of sudden clarity, David stumbled his way to his semi-packed bag – it seemed like the most important thing in the world for a second. Briefly cutting himself on the broken glass of the fallen jars, David secured the bag to his side and threw a random shard in Arturo's direction just to be safe. With that, David ran from his room, knowing he had at most ten seconds before Arturo stopped grabbing his crotch in pain enough to move.

David never ran so fast in his life. He didn't know why he was so afraid of Arturo finding him – he was too late, wasn't he? He had lost himself to the Noise, and there was no going back. No salvation for David Hargraeves. As David clumsily tripped on the last three stairs in his panicked descent, he thought about how little Miss G's death meant to him at that moment. How did he ever think he could survive until after her death? Hadn't it been obvious how fast the rot of the Noise had been spreading in him? He should have left as soon as he and Minnie had the idea – oh God, Minnie. David forced his thoughts away from her. There was nothing he could do for her, and there was nothing he could do for himself. Upon leaving the house, David was met almost poetically with an absurd amount of frigid wind, a distinct snowfall biting its way all over his mostly-unprotected skin. There was a strange feeling of gravity against David's back, and without looking, he knew it was the Noise.

Horrified that Arturo might catch up, David ran towards what seemed like the most obvious route of escape: the stupid old rowboat at the dock. The wind against him, David sped towards the boat, only mildly aware that he had little idea what to do once he did escape. That wasn't important. Once in the boat, David managed to free it form the dock, and it almost immediately began to drift away from the house on power of the wind alone. To speed things up a bit, David frantically grabbed an ore and attempted to help the boat move along. As the darkness and thickening snowfall obscured the view of the house David once had the audacity to think of as his own little paradise, the fear that Arturo would come after him began to dissipate.

The Lake was not large, but David soon found that the wind and current had brought him out far enough where it would have been impossible to see the shore if it wasn't for the lights of the buildings on it. Alone on the boat, David began to feel safe at last. As if to mimic his emotions, the wind died down to barely a breeze, and the sound of the water against the boat induced a sense of peace. Relishing in his freedom, David produced from his bag a cigarette and proceeded to light it in victory. As David inhaled his smoke, the wind completely stopped, and David could hear the snow as it hit the water. He couldn't help but let out a chuckle. It was just like his days back at the Knolves, where he would go back into the woods to avoid Ryan and just listen.

The moment the thought of Ryan popped into his head, things began to change. The peacefulness David had felt before was now an emptiness. The bitter air was starting to get to David, his fingers having a hard time holding his cigarette from the sudden shivering. The snow falling around him began to look less like white crystals and more like ashes. The revolting smell of rot David now associated with Nick was in the air. With a sudden gust of returned wind, the cigarette David had been holding was forced too easily from his shivering hands and into the water surrounding him.

It was all too familiar. The corners of David's vision seemed to slowly fill in with the creeping noise as he cautiously peeked over the side of the boat to where he believed the cigarette had fallen. This wasn't right – he had escaped the Nayslayres! The Noise was supposed to have left him, the ghosts supposed to be less obtrusive. The wind began to build up and David knew that all this time, it wasn't the wind at all, it had been the ghosts – the ghosts had helped blow him to such a desolate spot of water, and it was the ghosts who had robbed him of his cigarette. At first, David could not spot the cigarette. He tried to let it go – he could always just get a new cigarette, there was nothing extraordinary about the one now doomed to bloat and sink. David's curiosity lingered and he was driven to continue searching. As David leaned over the side of the boat in desperation, it felt as though his ears were swollen and heavy with the Noise, perhaps slowly rotting off under the weight – maybe that's what the gruesome Nick-like smell was from. Still no cigarette to be found, David fought a strange hysteria growing inside of him. Surely it could not have been blown so far away it was unable to be seen. Almost anticlimactically, David spotted the floating object about a foot away on his right-hand side. Unfortunately, David found that victory was short-lived when a vicious gust of wind made it all too obvious that he was leaning too far over the side of the boat with his arm ambitiously stretched out to keep balance; David fell into the water.

First there was shock. Then there was cold, nothing but cold. Cold that entered into every hole of David's body and made everything hurt and everything numb at the same time. For a moment, David wished for nothing but warmth, to be out of the water and back into the warmth of the house, apologizing to Arturo. David's mind was racing. The cold, Arturo, the Noise, the ghosts, the cold, the Nayslayres, suicide, Ohio, Ryan, the cold, the Noise, Minnie, his unborn child, the Knolves, and –

Slowly, David became aware of a horrific screeching. It was the wind, David thought, the terrible, freezing wind. But the more David focused upon the sound the more apparent that it wasn't wind at all, it was screaming. In a terrible realization, David's entire being focused on the sound: Minnie! It was Minnie screaming! What had he done, leaving her alone with Arturo? What sort of horrific, torturous things could he be doing to her because David ran away? A pathetic burst of energy urged David to save her. It wasn't until he attempted a heroic inhale of air before he realized he was still underwater. Confused, David forced his single functional eye to open to the freezing, screeching water around him. A mental image of his eye freezing up like glass and cracking ran swiftly through David's mind. The screeching only got worse. David didn't understand that he was still underwater – he could so clearly hear Minnie's screams carried by the wind, and could so clearly feel the force of the gusts against his back as it forced his weakened and rotting body into the depths. With his eye opened to the freezing water in an attempt to understand the situation, David at first saw nothing but cold. As his focus slowly came to him, David was horrified to realize that he was surrounded by ghosts, and the most prevalent ghost in his vision, right in front of him, was his Minnie, screaming. At that moment, there was nothing but despair in David. It was so obvious that Minnie was dead. He was looking at her ghost. It was hopeless, completely hopeless. David finally felt himself give completely into the Noise, feeling it rule every fiber of his being until he had lost all autonomy to move on his own. Minnie's screeching was growing louder and louder, and it was somehow infused with the numbing cold of the water and the melting rot of the Noise. David was completely surrounded by ghosts, now, and even Minnie's was lost in the obnoxious crowd. Maybe they were all screaming, David didn't know or care. Maybe it wasn't screaming it all – it sounded more like laughter now. As David spotted his own face among them, he knew they were laughing. He was laughing, too.

The End