by Oscar Deadwood
forum: Stains
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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       What did you want to be when you grew up?

       Let me guess; it's probably about 180 fucking degrees from what you're doing now. In fact, I don't know anyone in my little shit-corner of the universe doing what he or she set out to do.

       Me, I wanted to either be a lawyer or a stuntman, you know, a brilliant and wealthy defense lawyer or one of those macho guys in Hollywood who get to jump through flames and wrestle alligators.

       I proved too dumb to be a lawyer, and way, way too much of a fucking coward to be a stuntman.

       But my life isn't a bust and I doubt yours is either, though I don't know anyone who jumps for joy when they have to pour a gallon of coffee down their throat just to drag their ass to work.

       Life is hard and it sure as hell ain't fair. Life sucks, really, if you come right down to it, especially if you're like me, you know, forcing yourself to walk through life without the crutch of religion or meaning.

       I work to live, and I live because I don't want to die.

       But I've been lucky, in a way, finding my kind of work, and let me tell you—there is no one who can do what I do.

       Except for maybe Jesus, he can or could do what I do, but that's only if you believe in Jesus. That's only if you believe he is or was the Son of God and all that shit.

       Me, I don't know what to believe, but I can tell you, I'm no God or Son of God; I'm flesh and blood, I'm as real as that urge of yours to fuck or eat or sleep.

       No, I'm definitely no fucking God; I am far, far from it.

       I'm just your average Joe who's found his niche.

       And that's all that anyone can do in this life, find that thing that can make you live, that job or partner or favorite song or TV show that gives your life some sort of rhythm, a string of events and people to keep the whole thing going.

       Me, I got that rhythm. I got a wife and kids and a house with a garage and a dog that shits all over my backyard. I have the rhythm of bills and birthday parties and watching rented movies every freaking Friday night. I look like any other dude who is hovering around forty and eats the same amount of food as he did when he was sixteen except now his fucking pants are wider than they are long.

       So yeah, I'm a fat fucking slob and my wife kills herself looking like some hot little thing even though I really don't give a shit what she looks like.

       I love her anyway. Probably.

       So I'm sure, I'm sure you're wondering what the hell it is that I do for a living, what is it that makes me the same as Jesus.

       You're probably wondering what it is that makes Jesus the same as me.

       I'll tell you what I tell my wife and the IRS. I tell you what I tell my fat ass neighbor as we bullshit over the row of hedges that separates our front yards. I'll tell you what I tell my kids' teachers at school when they want me to come to Career Night or Father Night or any other night.

       I'm a therapist. I'm a hypnotherapist. That's what I tell them.

       And yeah, I've got an office in a strip mall, right between a Vietnamese grocery store and a smoke shop. I've got a desk with a high-backed leather chair and a couch that is nicer than the one in my living room at home. I've got plants real and artificial scattered around the place, I've got classical music purring out of the tiny and expensive-as-hell speakers that I have scattered around my office and waiting room. I've got a middle-aged bitch of a receptionist/office manager/bill collector who makes sure I get paid for what I do, and even she doesn't know what I really do.

       She thinks I'm a therapist. She thinks I'm a hypnotherapist.

       But that's all right, if anyone knew what I really do, they wouldn't believe me. You won't believe me, when I tell you.

       Even my clients, they don't know what I do.

       Rather, they don't know what I used to do.

       All they know is that one or two sessions with me and their minds become clearer and they become a hell of a lot happier than they were before they found me.

       I clean them; I clean the invisible stains. I take their twisted and noxious souls and wring them of afflictions and memories and emotions.

       Emotions, they're what screws everything up. Emotions keep you from living your life and doing what you want to do. Fear and guilt keep you from telling your boss or wife or parent to go fuck him- or herself when they hang their shortcomings on you in the form of expectations. Guilt keeps you from being really happy, and fear keeps you in your house every night behind locked doors, maybe with a gun under your mattress or with the number for the police department programmed into the speed dial of your phone.

       And that's where I come in. A client comes to see me, heard I did a good job, heard I could take their fucked up soul and make it all better. I have them lie down on the couch and I turn the lights down. I let them think I hypnotize them, but I don't, really, I just let them talk, and its amazing, how fast you can get someone's life story in just an instant. A person can utter one or two sentences to me, a complete stranger, and I'll know what that stain is on their soul that fucks everything up. It's usually an act, maybe two acts, but some defining moment that ruins peoples' lives. Some decision they made that sets the rhythm of their life. Men and women tell me about that first time they groped their son or daughter, some slob will tell me about that first time he cheated on his wife, and couldn't stop cheating on her ever since. Some woman will tell me about how she stole money from her elderly mother's savings account, and used that money for breast implants and a tummy tuck and high colonics, forcing her mother to be taken out of a nice and comfortable nursing home into one of those scary homes where the nurses smack around the residents if they piss in their beds.

       So, you're wondering, what do I do?

       I'll tell you what I used to do, until yesterday, when a client pushed me over the edge.

       My office is busy and I don't advertise. Like they say, word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of advertising and I charge $150 an hour if I know the client can afford it.

       I charge less if I know they can't, and sometimes I don't charge at all.

       So, like I said, I get the client on the couch and get them to relax, I tell them they are going to be hypnotized and I get them to start talking. People, even shy ones, love to talk. Everyone's favorite subject is himself or herself; any good salesman knows that. Show an interest in someone's life and they become your devoted customer/client/friend forever.

       So they start talking and I watch the area around their lips, that space of air just above their mouth.

       I can see words. I can see the thoughts behind the words if the room is dark enough. A client can describe screwing some hooker in a cheap hotel and I can see the remote control anchored to the nightstand. Another client can tell me how she withholds food from her son because she thinks he might get fat and I can see that ten-year old boy, his eyes sunken in a way- too-lean face, the bones of his shoulders and ribs nearly visible underneath his translucent skin.

       Yeah, you could call it a gift; you could call it a gift if you believe in God.

       Or you could call it a curse.

       I call it a living; I called it a living.

       And I watch the dark air above their relaxed mouth, I watch the dark air and watch the words pour out and let me tell you, those words are ugly and they stink and the guilt—when that starts to flow—is absolutely fucking rancid.

       And then I grab the guilt with gloved hands and put it in a bag and I throw that bag in one of my many, many filing cabinets and I lock the hell out of the filing cabinet.

       That's right, I grab the guilt and put it in a bag. Go ahead and laugh, but it's true, and if you want, I can show how to see your own guilt. I can let you smell it and touch it.

       I want you to remember some event in your life; it could be an early or recent memory, doesn't matter. Just try to remember something shameful, I don't know, maybe stealing money out of your mother's purse, or maybe you still fantasize about some girl or boyfriend even though you are now still happily married but those lustful memories keep cutting through your conscience like a knife through soft, soft butter.

       Close your eyes; think about that moment of shame or lust or greed or whatever it may be. With your eyes closed, think about what it looks like. What color is it? Is it hard or soft, liquid or slime? And what does it smell like? I'll bet, if you did it right, you came up with a pus filled ball of gook that smells like a combination of shit and dirty socks. And that slime, that smell, it's what stains your soul. It's what taints your life.

       And I can see it, I can see that guilt or shame or whatever it is that holds one back, I can see it as they describe it, as they tell me about it, it's like they're putting a ball into play and I field that ball.

       And they don't get the ball back.

       So, I guess that's how I'm the same as Jesus, in a way, and no offense to the pious, I don't claim to be a God, but people use Jesus to absolve themselves of their sins and the sins are harmless really. It's the guilt that will kill you. I know people pray to Jesus or God or whomever and they hang their guilt on him in the forms of selfish prayer and their faith allows them to pass that guilt on to Him. Me, I have a more direct approach, no faith required.

       But all that has changed since yesterday, when a male client came into my office. I hadn't seen him before and I always liked seeing someone new, I always like being shocked by something different, some form of guilt that I have never seen before.

       But this guy looked entirely unoriginal. He was my age, roughly, but in much better shape and he was much better dressed than I ever was, even though I can afford to dress better than I do. I feel more comfortable being rumpled.

       He had a full head of blonde hair and skin that was tanned only slightly, enough to give him that cool confident glow of an actor in a soap opera. I am sure he was some sort of executive or something, he had that air about him and I imagined the car he drove was something expensive and foreign.

       His guilt was nothing new; he had recently started cheating on his wife, a wife who he professed to love dearly. He told me how he hated coming home to his kids as they ran to the front door to greet him. He was afraid they might whiff the smell of the woman he had just left in a hotel somewhere in town and how devastated his wife and kids would be if they ever found out about his affair.

       He told me how he first met the woman, met her at the health club where he worked out every day at lunchtime. He described the woman to me, and I saw his words form the woman.

       It was my wife. My wife who kills herself trying to look like a hot and young little thing.

       Well, like I said, I am far from Christ-like. I am utterly fucking human.

       I got pissed and I let that asshole that was screwing my wife sit on my couch and pour his heart out.

       I saw his guilt and it was real and nasty enough, but I let it hang there, I let it hang above his head.

       Instead, I started unlocking filing cabinets and I took out bags and bags of guilt and shame and started opening them, the smell causing me to gag, but still, still I went ahead with what I had planned, even though the plan was absolutely spontaneous.

       And this guy, I think his name was Bill or Biff or Bob, kept on talking with his eyes closed and he couldn't smell the guilt that I was pouring onto his chest, he couldn't feel it soak its way through his clothes and into his stomach and ribs.

       He couldn't feel it until I turned the lights on and he started to stand up.

       The guilt he now had inside him was more than any person could bear. His face turned a bright, bright red and I saw the stains of all that guilt pour out of his ribcage in the form of flowing blood.

       He collapsed, there on my floor, he was crushed and killed by guilt, and I calmly walked out of my office and asked my receptionist to call an ambulance, and then I told her to cancel all future appointments as I was too shaken up to see anyone for the foreseeable future. She called the ambulance and ran back to my office and saw Bill or Buck collapsed on my carpeted floor, his designer suit saturated in blood.

       She screamed and I nodded. I didn't mean to kill him; I just wanted him to go through life with a heavy, heavy burden.

       And guess what? I went home after that and I sit at home still. My wife knows nothing and I've pretended that our life is business as usual. I told her that I just needed a break from work and I wanted to spend more time with her and the kids.

       But I've got to do something about yesterday, about how I feel.

       The guilt is killing me. I can feel its stains spread out across my chest.



copyright 2006 Oscar Deadwood.

Oscar Deadwood:
I have had some non-SF stories appear in Wanderings and Darkervision, and hope to have my first novel "The Trinity" released by Silverthought Press soon.