Chapter 1

In another damp time and in another dark place, there lies yet another broken soul that is waiting for redemption. The chances come and go but he cannot find the strength to reach out and take the hand of opportunity. Why? He asks himself, but he can formulate no satisfactory answer.

And in the darkness of the night he plays a most melancholy tune as pictures and thoughts flow desultorily through his dissolute mind. He glides through the endless tunnel ways of the spaces between the rain. Oddly ambient blue-white lights serve as the only guides along his path to inspiration, and within each there is a hope beyond the virulent doubts that plague him in his waking hours. Where is he from, where is he going, who is he supposed to be, where is the substance of this dreamlike purgatory? So many questions pervade his mind, so many answers so impossible to attain. Can this sorrowful soul be liberated from his hell? Does Hell even exist? Does he? The solutions elude even the sharpest mind, for there is no background with which to compare precedents.

gliding, glowing, crying in the echoes of yesterday

"God, shut up!" Jim moaned to his incoherent mind as he lay sweating in his jumble of blankets, walking the tightrope between wakefulness and sleep. He was no stranger to post-slumber ramblings in the early morning hours. In fact, some of his best ideas came through those misty passages—the problem was that he couldn't remember any of them. From the feel of things down south, however, last night's dreams must have been pretty raunchy. He was stiff as a board.

He noticed the time on the clock next to his bed and hit the button just as the alarm went off. For close to six minutes or so, he sat cloaked in darkness, threatened by tears, already overcome by the nausea that had plagued him for the past week. It was the first day of high school, and he had been hoping through all of his nearly sleepless night that he would die before the sun rose.

His bedroom door opened and a flood of light cascaded across his floor.

His mother poked her head in, and Jim was relieved that he had deflated minutes ago.

"You awake, Jim?" His mother asked, whispering.

"Yeah," he answered, weakly. "Just getting up."

"Excited?"

His tone couldn't have been more robotic or devoid of emotion. "No."

As if disappointed at his lack of enthusiasm, she frowned and walked back down the hall, leaving the door open.

Sighing, Jim stood up and tried to shake off those morning pains that so often accompanied such early waking. He tried to stretch, but the sensation of chains wrapped around his ribcage was still there. The pain and feeling of complete powerlessness had been haunting him for weeks, and it didn't seem as though it was going to go away any time soon, so he just got dressed, brushed his teeth, and went downstairs.

His father was already dressed and reading the paper at the table when he sat down.

"Morning," Jim croaked.

His dad suddenly spoke out very loudly. "Did you hear about those kids who got arrested this week? Had all that violent literature and rock music and hit lists and stuff?"

"Huh?" Jim asked, confused.

The older Gordon lowered the paper and gave his son the strangest look, then asked, "Where's your mother?"

Jim just shrugged.

"Hmm," Peter Gordon voiced as the raised the paper, rebuilding the barrier between himself and his son. "Freak."

"What?"

His father lowered the paper once again, looking irritated. "I said those kids are freaks."

His father went on reading the paper until his mom walked into the room, upon which he continued with his questioning. "Honey? You remember those kids in Indiana? The ones who were arrested for the weird, crazy stuff and the hit lists."

"Jim, aren't you going to eat anything? You mean those gothic kids?"

"I'm not hu—"

"No! Those kids! The sophomores. You know, the Columbine Copycats?"

"Oh, yeah."

"Well, one of them killed himself night before last. Slit both of his wrists, bled all over the walls, it says. His friend says he was murdered, but you know how that goes. He also still says they weren't planning anything."

Jim was curious. "Did they ever actually find any weapons?"

"Jim, eat something."

"They didn't have to," his dad answered in a matter of fact tone. "They had three hit lists. The investigators assume they were going to get weapons sometime during the first of the school year. Real nutcases."

"Then they don't know for sure if—"

"Jim." His mother interjected. No doubt to push for him to ingest something other than bullshit.

"My stomach hurts, Mom."

"Monster."

His eyes widened. "What?"

"I said kids like that are monsters. Why can't they just fit in like everybody else? Why do they always have to start trouble?"

"You have your backpack ready to go?" Peter Gordon asked.

Jim nodded and took a deep breath, but try as he might to muster at least a small supply of courage to fortify himself, he could find nothing but horrendous visions of death and bloody textbooks in every crenellation of his brain as he began a futile attempt to prepare himself for the day of brutal agony ahead.

Damn.

* * *

"Oh shit!" Jim hissed through clenched teeth as he heard the bell ring across the school grounds.

His hands scrambled frantically to collect his things from the dirty asphalt. In his mind he went through a dozen scenarios involving what he could—or more so wished he could have done to the shithead that had pushed him off the bus. He tried to suppress the gore-filled fantasies lest he start to drool.

The morning had begun innocently if not shitty enough with a walk down to the bus stop to stand with the brand new group of wasted, hostile, stone-faced assholes with which he would be sharing the bus stop for the majority of his high school years. He remembered a few of them from middle school, so he knew enough to keep his head down and his mouth shut if he didn't want another ass kicking sent his way. From the smirk on the face of the kid standing by the stop sign, though, Jim knew that the kid remembered that day and was obviously planning a reunion.

Another year of fear, he had thought.

Then, however, when he was finally able to get on the bus (which was ten minutes late), he hit another snag. It seemed that every jerk inside was either stretched out over the seat—asleep—or reserving a private place for their backpack. The one girl who was doing neither simply snapped her fingers at him and nearly screamed, "Uh-uh! No! You ain't bein' sittin' here little boy!" Then she had turned to another girl sitting behind her and began shaking her head while saying, "Girl, he is trifling."

Jim—nervous, afraid, and perspiring like crazy—finally had to ask a kid who was stretched out if he could sit with him. The kid, whoever he was, glared at Jim like he wanted to rip him apart like a rabid dog, but he was more or less forced to give Jim a seat under duress from the other kids around him.

Reading his book, Jim had been startled as the kid next to him barked harshly into his ear, "C'mon man. Move!"

Jesus! Jim had thought.

He had looked up and saw that they had pulled up to the high school and all of the kids in the seats in front of his had already gotten off the bus. With no time to put his book away Jim had scrambled frantically to the door of the bus where a pair of hands—most likely the kid's whom he was sitting with—pushed him very hard and sent him flying out. Jim, falling to the ground, had scattered his things and now there he was.

A kid on a skateboard zoomed by, throwing pebbles and grit into Jim's face.

How's it going, Tony Hawk? He mentally shouted toward the kid's fleeting form.

Then Jim saw it, his book that he had been reading on the bus—Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that it was still in good condition. Chuck was, in Jim's opinion, probably one of the most influential new authors of the late nineties. This opinion was derived solely from his critique of Fight Club so far, but Jim had also seen the movie and had loved it. It had spoken to him on a level that not many people seemed to know anything about, so he decided to give the book a try. To Jim, it was like most people had simply resigned to a fate where all they knew about was the mindless drone of eat, sleep, work, and fuck. Palahniuk, however, seemed to be trying to reach out to people who were searching for something more and tell them, "Break the cycle."

Jim was only halfway through the book, however, and though he was ready for more from Chuck in the new millennium, he wanted to at least finish the guy's first novel. He reached out across the sandy, gritty sidewalk and suddenly took great notice of his hand. Young, inexperienced, it was a hand that was pink and smooth, free from the callous flesh of other kids his age that had grown up riding skateboards or playing basketball or strumming on an electric guitar. Jim had no legacy to carry on, no culture or heritage of which to be proud of.

He hadn't raised himself on the streets, learning to be tough and witty. He had never drained an entire swimming pool so that him and his clique—his stereotypical group of punk rock troublemakers—could skate all day long into the evening when they would light up, pig out, and fuck the neighborhood females on the Honor Roll. Jim was one of a tragically dying breed. He was a generic.

Eat.

Sleep.

Work.

Fuck.

One giant Nike came down on Jim's hand, driving it into the concrete of the sidewalk, grinding his fingers into the ground.

"Ah, damn it!" Jim cried as he pulled as hard as he could, skinning himself, tearing the skin between the hard rubber sole of the cursed Nike and the dirty pavement. The kid who had stepped on him, a junior in a school jacket—the big thick ones that the football jocks wear—nearly tripped. He stepped backwards, stamping down on Fight Club, creasing the cover and ripping God knows how many pages.

"Christ! Get out of the way you little fuck!" The kid spat with a hate-filled acerbic tone that made Jim cringe. This was all the stupid jock had to say for himself.

If Jim had any balls, his nostrils would have flared with anger and indignation, and through his mind's eye he saw himself getting up from the ground and standing erect—a full foot taller than the punk (though he wasn't)—and giving him a look so menacing that the kid pissed himself right then and there. But Jim was a generic, a pathetic one at that, and so his real eyes simply glazed over with tears and he kept his head down until the jerk walked away.

Jim's hand was bleeding by the time he reached for his book, and he didn't care. Perhaps somewhere in his mind (or his soul) he thought (or wished) that by mingling his life's blood with the satire-filled pages of the groundbreaking novel, he could bring it even more to life than what it already was, maybe he could take some of Tyler Durden's fearless philosophy into himself, and do something that would make God look down with interest. He grabbed the tattered novel, smeared his red blood across the first couple of pages, and actually held his breath in anticipation of something happening to him that might shatter his views of reality forever, but he felt nothing inside of himself and he felt no reason whatsoever to fight against a world that was obviously too powerful for him.

Instead he sighed and began to walk down the sidewalk, through the almost endless hordes of teenagers. His hand was throbbing, but he thought that the blood had stopped flowing. Once again in his mind's eye, he visualized himself surrounded by his fellow students, and as if it was a movie, the camera angle panned upward to lose him in the masses. He imagined a theme song for his first terror filled day at high school. He went through a mental list of his favorite bands, and as if by fate, he instinctively knew of the perfect theme song. In his head, he heard the agonized sounds of the hardcore band Korn performing "Got the Life" from their record Follow the Leader. The album was the apotheosis of the hell involved with being a teenager and growing up altogether. It perfectly captured the confusion, the pressure, the depression and revelation of living throughout those years of torment and moral decay, and there could not be a more ironic song with which to start a descent into the bowels of the Black Pit.

Are you ready?

Now, feeling roiling indignation inside but with an odd half-grin beginning to form on his face, Jim entered the school. Everybody was late, that was for sure, but it seemed as though they were all diffusing into classrooms and hallways at an alarming rate, leaving Jim alone and vulnerable, unprotected from the jocks that would torture him and the gangs of drug dealers that would stab him in his kidneys and, most importantly, the eerie janitors that would snatch him up into a closet and do terrible things to him with their broomsticks.

He had his schedule in his hand but he had never gotten a map, and now he was screwed. He would have to find one of those evil ass hall monitors to point him to homeroom.

Shit, he mentally profaned.

* * *

By the end of the day, Jim was ready to eat a bullet. All day long had been nothing but one butt fuck after another and he had nothing left to give to this societal torture-trap known as life. In his opinion, he'd never had anything to give in the first place.

In the early morning, as he had been wandering the halls after asking how to locate his first period class, Jim had noticed that his finger had started bleeding again. In fact, it had been bleeding for most of his journey through the labyrinthine halls of his new "home away from home." As he had looked behind him, he saw the trail of drops and smears that marked his way, and he nearly cried for the second time that morning.

Being far too petrified to even tread near the nurse's office, Jim simply stuck his throbbing, slightly bruised hand into his pocket and continued onward.

His pocket filled with blood.

By the end of first period he would never be able to wear those stained pants again.

Death is the only way out, he thought.

During second period, his resource time, the faculty had the Freshman Orientation planned and every freshman classroom was called to the auditorium. Jim was forced to sit between two incredibly hot but incredibly bitchy girls in his class. He sat through the entire speech without hearing a word. He was sweating with the pain of trying to keep his boner tucked securely between his legs, but the perspiration was making for slippery business.

Better start a fire, girls, because I'm pitching a tent.

He watched all of the main faculty members introduced themselves.

Miss Stevens, In Charge Of Attendance.

Principal Donahue, harmless enough he seemed.

Finally the Dean of Students, George Maser, a real scary son of a bitch.

In Jim's mind, they were standing on mountains of brimstone with fire billowing up around them. They were the Dark Lords of the Lower Regions of Hell, and Jim was surrounded by the writhing damned in a lake of fire and auditorium seats.

"Good morning, I am Mistress Sevens, and I will be in charge of nipple tweaking and inhumane torture. I look forward to tormenting each of you."

"I am the Grandmaster Demon Kill-a-Fool, and I will eviscerate each and every one of you and jack-off over your festering corpses."

* * *

"Greetings, maggots. I am the Fallen Angel Duke Miser, and you know what I'm in charge of."

It was almost too much for Jim to handle.

Almost every teacher had struck him with verbal assaults or insidious glares as he walked into class late. He found himself with a visual of him walking into a room and bursting into flames before the hostile eyes of the people in his classes. Or maybe his head would explode.

At lunch, he sat alone with his book as the preps around him shoveled food into their mouths and eyed him suspiciously.

The prospect of eating nauseated him furiously.

After bluffing through a rather unsavory English class, it was fourth period, Algebra. Jim sat in the back, alone and silent, as the students participated in a nice, friendly activity where they went around with sheets of paper, asking each other specific questions about specific areas of their lives, deluding themselves into thinking that they were actually getting to know the people inside.

If there are any, Jim thought.

"Hey, kid. What's your name?"

Jim was surrounded.

Help me hold out, God, he thought. Just a little while longer.

The bell rang.

"Oh, class. Don't forget pages eighteen through twenty-three, problems one through eighty."

* * *

That night at home, Jim did not speak, nor did he eat dinner. He did not even masturbate thinking of all the new eye-candy he tasted earlier that day. He simply sat in a corner of his room like a crumpled up piece of paper, useless and discarded. His parents did not disturb him, because they thought they knew. They could not know however, that one day—that first day of high school—set off a chain reaction which would follow Jim for the rest of his haunted life, however long it might last. Sleep crept up at long last, but nightmares followed. Tears flowed, Jim mumbled.

Eat.

Sleep.

Work.

Fuck.

Repeat…