Chapter 1

My problems, as with most in a teenage guy's life, started with a girl.

It's always the end of the world with us, isn't it?

I imagine the zombie apocalypse as something you'd hear about on the news between the weather and an ad for light-speed internet or the newest nuclear powered smartphone.

When I turn around after tossing another bulging bag of trash in the dumpster, I see a shop full of people tapping away at their phones, oblivious to the world around them. These are the zombies I deal with every day. No, I think the virus that ends the world won't be so much biological as it will be of the digital variety. When that virtual reality of likes and faves and anonymous libel finally comes crashing down, that will be the real apocalypse. If I was a smarter guy I'd be boarding up my windows and sleeping with a shotgun every night.

Unfortunately, I'm just not that bright. I don't even have a Facebook page.

As much as I view life as a horror film, if I had a story to tell I'm sure it would begin in a fashion more in tune with one of the latest raunchy coming-of-age teen dramedies, though I'm always hoping it'll turn into another Battle Royale rip-off.

I guess it could even be a pretty decent story, if I spin it right.

So it's a Saturday night and we're busy as hell and I'm in the back scrubbing a big porcelain plate with a sponge and wondering again how I got stuck with this shit job. The kitchen is so loud I can hardly hear myself think, but I still manage to hum a Disney tune while I deal with my perfectly menial but nonetheless perfectly necessary duty of washing dishes and utensils and disposing of other people's leftovers.

Sometime after the final hook I continue my mantra.

I deserve this.

Somewhere up front I hear somebody say, "Sixteen-inch party style with extra cheese, pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, and green pepper," but all I'm thinking about is the endless list of sexually explicit categories under which one can find pornography on the web.

Three-way, orgy, bondage, oral, feet, anal, hairy, fat, old women with young girls, young women with older men, young boys with younger boys

It goes on like this.

"Fourteen-inch with mushroom and light on the sauce."

I'm thinking of three girls in cheerleader outfits ripping each other's clothes off and rubbing cheese pizza all over their bare breasts and thighs and licking the grease off one another. I swear there's something for everyone.

Rule 34.

This is what happens when you become a pervert. Everyday things like phrases, items, tasks, and maybe even lunch with your grandmother all turn into obscene scenarios in your mind. You catch yourself and try to shake it off, but before you know it you're thinking about Sasha Grey strapped in leather, whipping you with a cat o' nine.

I've lost all self-respect.

I deserve pain.

Nina Valet walks by and says hello. I once again think about how her name sounds oddly enough like a porn star's. She's a nice girl, and I return the greeting, but there is no chemical attraction between us aside from that which is programmed into us as animals—that is to say, the simple desire to hump.

I doubt the feeling is mutual.

"Busy night," I say, painfully aware that I sound like a complete moron.

"Yep," she answers while grabbing a plastic container off one of our shelves. "Hope you like dishes. You've got more coming."

"Then I'm in luck."

She laughs and walks away.

Pete Nelson, Nina's on-again off-again boyfriend (no pun intended), hates when I talk to her and therefore takes the chance to shoot me a shit-eating grin when-wait, was that even a pun? Anyway, he walks up to the sink and drops a big stack of plates into the soapy water. A thick sudsy stream squirts into the air and hits my pile of dry dishes. I could be angry, but instead I'm thinking of all the possible words one could use to find pictures of fellatio on the web.

Sucking, facial, cocksuckers, oral, drenched, cumshot, white shower, bukkake

"Enjoy that," he tells me before walking away.

Some people don't know that bukkake is a Japanese word meaning something like heavy splash. In pornography it describes a situation in which a subject generally pleasures as many men as physically possible, ending with them ejaculating on her. I once saw a video where a woman was in the center of a room while a number of men stood around her jacking off until they came one by one into a huge bowl that they were passing around. I don't like thinking about the rest but I ponder momentarily whether or not to ask Pete if he knows what it means.

"Blake! Get out there and wipe off those damn tables!"

I deserve minimum wage.

I dry my hands and grab two towels—one wet, one dry—and in a few seconds I'm out in one of the busiest dining areas I've ever seen wiping crumbs off another stupid tabletop. I continue my mantra as I look around and take in tonight's list of attractions. Off in the distance I see three little kids running around with Yu-Gi-Oh cards, screaming their heads off. One of them even has a cell phone. Kids can't play with plastic guns anymore, or behave themselves, apparently. Now they have little cardboard rectangles and IPhones while they run around like idiot assholes. I can understand why the idea of a zombie apocalypse is so popular.

"Hey, Blake, I didn't know you worked here."

I look over and see a kid named George Thompson that I know from school. He's kind of a jerk, but he's okay I guess, definitely a lady's man. He's sitting with three girls, only two of which I've ever seen before. They have names, but it's not terribly important to know them. If this were a movie they would be dumb blonde one and dumb blonde two. At arm's length I can see that's about as deep as their respective characters go.

"Hey man," I say, starting to sweat as I run my wet towel over the same clean patch of table over and over again. I hate running into people I know in public, even more so at my job.

"Pizza's not bad here. Hey, Blake, these are my girls. This is Tiffany, Tiffany, and Stacy."

That's right, two blondes named Tiffany. At first I give him credit for introducing me, but then retract it when I figure out that he's just trying to show off.

"Hi," I say. They don't say anything back.

I'm starting to wish I'd never come out here.

"Did you get that History homework done?"

"No."

"You got it on you?"

He obviously didn't hear me. I'm normally the kind of person that gets my work done. Most people in my position would think that was a stupid question from a stupid person, but I try to be a nice guy and give people the benefit of the doubt. I just tell myself the question is perfectly reasonable when heard by the right ears. I mean, what if I did have my homework at work with me? It wouldn't seem like such a stupid question then.

On the other hand, I really don't like this guy. "No, I don't have it on—"

"Blake!" Arnold Nelson blares from the back. Arnie is Pete's father and the owner of Nelson Pizza, the place where I work nights on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Weekends always suck.

"I'll get it from you Monday, Blake." George yells as I walk away. I almost gag when I think of having to see him first thing next week. My mind is soon off of it, however, as I reach the sweltering kitchen.

"Yeah?"

"It's your street again."

It's busy as hell, like I said, so I don't even bother to respond. I wash my hands and pull off my apron and in two minutes I'm heading to the back door to deliver three large pizzas an order of breadsticks. I don't have a car tonight so I have to drive somebody else's when I go on delivery, which nobody really minds. Well, almost nobody.

Pete shouts from the kitchen, "You better not take my car, asshole." He probably had to take over the dishes, which I know he blames me for.

I turn around and Arnie's in my face and right away he starts giving me shit and I wonder what the hell these two have against me. "You tell these people, whoever the hell they are, that you are not a delivery driver, and if they don't want my drivers delivering their food then they better not order again, you got that?"

"Yes, sir." I give him my little subordinate head nod before I slap on my cap. He's told me more or less the same thing a few times before, and as long as I don't talk back he usually keeps the hard-ass routine short. He'd never follow through on his threats. He's too greedy to let that kind of money go. I stand still for a moment, waiting for him to get the hell out of my way, but when I finally wise up and realize he's not going to I have to squish myself against the wall to get by. He's always pulling shit like this, the silly bastard.

I grab the pizzas and breadsticks and a pair of keys from the table near the back door before I leave.

I spend most of my time washing dishes, but sometimes due to certain circumstances I have to make a delivery. I wish I actually had my car more often so I could be a regular driver, I hate being in the place. But I guess it keeps me humble.

It's raining when I step outside and I don't even wonder why nobody bothered to tell me. I feel more foolish for not anticipating that something shitty like this would happen to me, but it still doesn't stop me from starting to hum a Manson tune as I balance the two big heat-retaining bags and unlock Pete's car. My key hand is also holding the big bag of breadsticks.

I usually try pretty hard to be a nice guy. It's just something that's important to me, and I'd normally never do this. Unfortunately, my mom's car broke down yesterday and she needed mine to take my sister to her class play tonight, so I'm stuck having to use someone else's, and I just so happen to be irritated enough to want to piss Pete off.

My house isn't too far away from the shop, but it's the place down the street from my house that I'm headed to. I'm shivering from being so cold and there's no heat in Pete's car, but I warm myself by thinking about the things he's probably saying about me right now after he's stepped out and seen that his car is missing. He runs delivery fairly often, and even though none of the neighborhoods around here are very dangerous, he still keeps a stainless eight-shot Taurus .357-Magnum revolver with a ported barrel fully loaded in his glove compartment.

What can I say? The guy's got good taste in guns.

I turn on the radio and I'm pleased when I hear "Loco" by Coal Chamber.

Even though there's not a soul in sight at the intersection before my street, I still stop for reasons of integrity. When you're a perverted freak like me, you're always trying to do the right thing when it doesn't really matter, just so you can say you did. Even as I start driving again, though, I think about taking my knife to the side of Pete's car later on tonight, but then again I'm carrying a fairly nice speed assisted folder and I really don't want to dull the blade. Looks like I'll be a good guy after all.

I'm not really the kind of person who would do that anyway.

When I arrive there's no room to pull into the driveway since its overflowing with hot sports cars and cargo vans, so I have to pull up to the curb and walk across the wet lawn. Every light is on inside the big two-story house, and to the uninformed it would seem like there was a party going on, which while that may not be far from the truth, it still doesn't come close to scratching the surface.

I ring the doorbell and hear a muffled male voice boom out, "Food's here."

A collection of howls and cheers follows. A sharp looking guy in a bathrobe with a hand full of money opens the door as I'm shuffling the pizza boxes out of the bags, juggling them and the bag of breadsticks. He snatches the bag with the breadsticks out of my hand and throws it off to the side where I can't see, then he grabs two of the pizza boxes and hands them to another guy who's moved up beside him, this one fully clothed with big headphones around his neck.

"Looks like that'll be—"

He snatches the last two boxes from me and throws the money out before he slams the door. The bills and change hit my chest before falling onto the welcome mat, and I can hear laughter on the other side of the door as I kneel down and start picking up the money, which is only a little wet. I get a dollar tip and try to tell myself that things are looking up, but a part of me still wishes I could kick the door down and rip someone a new asshole. I have to remind myself that I'm not needed for that in this place.

Suddenly the door opens and the welcome mat is once again flooded with light. I stand up immediately and find myself staring at a bare set of tits. These belong to a girl this time and she's wrapped in a towel herself, but only from the waist down, and her lithe, lovely frame leaves little to the imagination. Of course, for four ninety-five a month one doesn't even have to try to use their imagination—they get the whole show.

"—assholes," she says to the side before turning to greet me. "Hi Healey!"

"Hi," I say, looking at her face instead of her chest now, and once again I'm struck dumb by how lovely she is. I wish I could tell her this, but…well, you know.

"Step in out of the rain, okay," she tells me.

"Thanks, but I really need to get back."

"Oh, come on, just for a minute." She grabs my arm and lugs me inside. It's cold out, and even through the material of my jacket I can feel her nipple hard against me, surrounded by that indescribable firmness of her breast.

"It's freezing out there. Come into the living room and warm up." She pulls me again, and though I try to protest, she makes a pretty good point. "They're not going miss you so soon, Healey. Just five minutes, please." She tops it off with those damn puppy dog eyes.

"Five minutes," I sigh. She turns and walks around the stairs and I wipe my wet shoes off on the inside mat before following her in. As I round the corner a cute redhead named Mindy walks by me in a cheerleader outfit. She spots me and gives a little wave, but she's got a cell phone to her ear so she doesn't say hi.

I walk into the brightly lit living room and the first thing I think is that I'm standing in a pervert's paradise with something for every appetite. Sitting around are probably eight astoundingly pretty girls of all different types—tall, voluptuous, lean, sultry, classy, and a few more if you put them into more than one category each. There are also at least three guys that I can see. Almost everyone is naked save for one guy dressed in a football outfit with shoulder pads and all, and one woman in a corner done up in hardcore S&M leather strap clothing. The word dominatrix comes to mind.

There's a television against one wall that they're all watching intently.

"Ha!" one of the naked guys says. "Right there. She gagged, see? I told you."

"That was not a gag. That was a cough. I couldn't breathe."

"Just admit it, Claire. You can't take what I've got to offer," he says while gripping his dick, which I have to admit, is pretty damn big. Claire is my friend, and she's an Internet porn star.

She says, "Dream on, Adam. I could take two of you in each hole and still have room for more."

"Shit," Adam says dismissively and walks out of the room.

"So who's this?" The woman in the leather asks. She's referring to me.

"Oh! Guys, this is Healey. He's a friend. He delivered the pizza."

"Cool," the woman in leather says and steps towards us. "You want to make some money?"

Claire jumps in front of me like a puma protecting its young. Her voice is still sweet, but I sense an underlying hostility, almost like a warning. "Healey doesn't do that, Liz. He's just a friend."

"Well, so sorry for asking. At least let me introduce myself."

The woman named Liz gently pushes Clair aside and leaves her leather-clad hand hanging in the air for me. I reach up and take it respectfully. I think she expects me to kiss it, but I smell weird stuff on it so I stand there as she talks. "The name's Liz Bathory. I bathe in the juices of young, nubile girls. You've probably visited my website—cum bath and beyond dot com?"

That explains the smell. "Umm…"

In my mind I'm seeing flashes of the samples on the free tour. The stuff's a bit too heavy for me—lots of chains and black leather and too many girls making faces of pain. I don't do pain.

I'm saved from having to answer when a fully dressed guy with thick framed hipster glasses walks into the room and starts yelling. "Claire! Get Mindy and get upstairs. We've got a chat room full of people who want to see you two and we're going to give them what they pay for. We're going live in five."

Claire sighs and blows the hair out of her face. "Sorry, Healey, duty calls. I'll see you in a few?"

"No, I've got to get going too."

"Aw, all right. I guess I'll talk to you some other time. Bye."

"Bye," I say, but she's already walked off.

I feel a hand on my shoulder and I turn to see Liz. She looks slightly bemused as she questions me. "You like that one, honey?"

"Claire? We're just friends."

This seems to amuse Liz even more, as she speaks rather condescendingly. "Yeah, it'd probably be best if it stays that way. The last thing you want to do is fall in love with a porn star."

I force a smile. "Tell me about it."

"Have a good night, honey." She pats my shoulder and I turn to walk away, but before I'm clear I feel her grab my ass and though I can't imagine that my face could get any redder I still manage to blush. I instinctively know she's walked away so instead of turning around I just head back around the corner to the door.

At this point I wish I could say that I open the door, walk out, and go back to work to be insulted further over my perfectly menial little tasks. This just isn't what happens, though. Something indescribable pulls me away from the door and makes me turn to gaze up the front staircase. There's another stairwell in the kitchen, which is the one I assume Claire used. As I stand looking up those well-treaded steps, it begins to appear as if they might never end, but in truth I know where they end. I know this truth well and even though I don't necessarily like it I want to see it for myself.

I keep thinking that life is just some terrible dream that sooner or later everyone wakes up from.

Suddenly I notice that Nine Inch Nails is playing far off, drifting to me from somewhere in the house, and as I take the first step up it strikes me as terribly dramatic; so much so, in fact, that I wonder if the music is really in the house or just in my head. One by one I take the steps like a cripple trying to climb Mount Everest—and, like a cripple, there are two thoughts running through my mind when I reach the top. The first is how I ever made it to begin with and the second is that I'm surely going to die here.

By now Trent Reznor's voice has been slowly drowned out by a mixture of harsher and much less savory sounds. I approach the room that my gut tells me is the source of the sounds and I'm overcome by how much lighting is involved in broadcasting porn over the Internet from a staged location. A part of me isn't so surprised, however. After all, lighting is everything.

It's incredibly warm up here.

I know they're doing a live stream, so I try my absolute best not to make a sound. I'm not in the mood to get my ass kicked tonight, but a morbid fascination with this reality as well as a sick impulse to harm myself compels me to look further. My soul knows that I'm not going to like what I see, but my dick hasn't gotten the message. Because of this it's much more difficult to sneak up to the door seeing as I can't flatten myself against a wall, but I manage.

I stand close to the doorway and look inside. There is a woman sitting behind a bank of computers set up in one corner to monitor the various websites and accounts that are run from the house. There are three different cameras with bright lights upon them setting on tripods in front of a large bed in another corner of the room, catching the action from as many angles as they can get. There's also one camera-man manually filming while the only other guy in the room directs. Every now and then the guy with the camera moves in for a close shot, positioning the camera as best he can between Claire's legs and around Mindy's head.

I've been here before so I know how most of this stuff works, and then there's my extensive background of watching lots of porn, too.

"Get the face now. Okay, Claire, remember, you two aren't supposed to be doing this. You're parents are going to be home any minute and you've got church tomorrow. Yeah, like…yeah, that's it, little bit of resistance, but it feels so good."

At the moment I feel as though I should have Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Allan Poe standing by my side to experience this as well, because maybe they could formulate words to describe my despair. From what I can just barely hear, however, Trent's doing a pretty good job of it.

Life can't always be this painful.

"Okay, time for an orgasm."

Just when I think I can't take the light and the heat and the non-cinematic sound any longer without turning and vomiting my guts out, my pager goes off. I grab it like I've just realized there's a live grenade on me, but it's too late.

"What the fuck?" I hear the director snarl.

I decide to bolt down the stairs as fast as I can and by the time he's even out of the room I'm on my way to my car. The page came from the shop, and I bet I'm going to get my ass reamed out when I get back for taking so long. I've left the two big heat retaining bags by the stairs but there's no way in hell I can go back now, so I get in the car and peel out, turning on the radio and setting it as high as I can comfortably listen to it. The Deftones song "Minerva" is playing and it pacifies me.

When I stop at the stop sign on the way back to the store I remember the look on Claire's face when my pager went off, rudely interrupting her little orgasm. At first she looked irritated, but then when she saw me in the hall she looked…ashamed.

I'm haunted, and the thought of getting home is the only thing that calms me the rest of the night.

I deserve this.