Vista 2: The Young Murderers
“Keep all your heads DOWN! I’ll tell you when it’s your turn.” I’m lying face-down in Timothy’s Market at lunch time, feeling a pool of someone else’s blood soak my last clean white shirt. My right eye scanned the room wondering who was alive but everyone else is on the ground too. I hear moans, encouraging moans. My name is Kevin Dwight Page and I do not want to die in the town I grew up in.
My bruised lip touched the cool linoleum. Oh god, it felt so good. A wave of guilt accumulated and hit me like a motherfucker from every time I felt comfortable while others suffered—when Kally got sick after her abortion and I went to Reno with Rick and Jeremy Renfro, when my mom didn’t eat for a whole week while we were on food stamps and I had stashed a Hostess Cup Cake that I wouldn’t share, when my brother died in Iraq at the exact time (I figured it out) I was getting a blowjob from Christy Sanders. If I get out of this, I will reverse my desire to be on the receiving end of the gifts I find in this world. I have to give someone else that gift.
Jesse Klier and Mike Beatty came down from the hills overlooking Parable, CA (pop. 1400) to Timothy’s Market during lunchtime (when barbeque is served) expecting fifteen but they only got five men and women, lambs to carve with their angel of death-looking scythes. The first hit was Dr. Carter, who got a hack to the thigh so deep, the rusty teeth lodged into this femur. Mike had to step down on his leg so he could pull the blade out; he stepped so hard, Dr. Carter’s leg just snapped like plywood. His screams cut through the air for the duration of the slaughter. The weird part was that these screams, instead of weighing on the hearts of the killers, made their work easier. There’s something about a perpetual sound, no matter how horrid, that starts to become soothing. It loses its edge because it literally has no end: a scream with no shock and no cut. So they cut more and felt less remorse, severing flesh, gouging eyes, tearing limb from torso. While Mr. Carter wailed like an infinite stuck pig, they were getting into the physicality of it all, realizing they were naturals at the sport of hacking the human body. If Dr. Carter knew that he was making it easier for them to kill, he’d have winced in silence, holding back the pain past tears and vomit.
Before this, neither Jesse nor Mike had even so much as punched another man. Today was about transformation—they could feel every new kill in their bones, in their blood, infusing their being with responsibility, irrevocable gestures that they had no choice but to own. Their weapons breaking skin slowly and tentatively at first—Jesse held them down (he was the sturdier of the two at 260 pounds, 6’2”) and Mike ran the blade—then graduating to precise butcher-like flesh rending. It felt good, they thought, to exercise their ability to change the reality. Outside, the freezing cold crystallized the green of a new spring.
In the aftermath, this will be characterized as a senseless tragedy. It was a tragedy. It wasn’t senseless. The sense that Mike and Jesse had was that on the deepest structural level, nothing would ever change. Kings are born kings but these two young men received the poor fate to serve. Only tearing at the fabric of their fate would force God to sew them a new one.
Jesse Klier’s mom is the Queen of Dumb. I say this not to be unduly obnoxious but to highlight that she’s never said a single insightful or clever thing in her life. I give Jesse a break because I cannot imagine a more exceptionally unfortunate fate than to be born to a woman like Bernadette Klier.
Because there is literally nothing else she can do in this life in exchange for payment (including housekeeping) she assigns numbers at the DMV in Redwood, CA, about two and a half hours drive from here. Half her daily paycheck goes to the gas she uses to get there and back, which bothers Jesse way more than it does her. She comes home, heats up a red-beef burrito and opens an orange soda, and watches this television program about a kid who solves crimes by talking to his dog. A constantly thickening layer of Ho-Hos and bad TV dulls her senses to where she can barely turn a deadbolt. If I could see anything in Jesse’s eyes it was fear—fear that callousness like that was even possible. I think that’s the only thing that’s different about us. I see that and I want to leave this place, put myself as far away from it as possible. He sees it and he starts to sink…
A damp iron chill hung in the air. My lungs filled with cold blood vapor. Jesse stood over us with his head arched. His upper lip twitched up at the corner of his mouth as he looked over the carnage, physically unable to have an opinion about it but under the impression that he processing it. The twitch was the humble morality of a guy who’s never done shit in his life revisiting a body that was now occupied by the Black Angel of Death’s right-hand man. The profound division inside a body fueled by cheetos and orange soda made him so sick he felt he’d throw up his internal organs. For the first time in his life, he felt what a “splitting” headache was.
Mike—whose arm was drenched elbow-deep in blood from plumbing Vicki Sanchez’s belly with a bladed knuckle (his own invention)—was, of course, our Black Angel of Death incarnate. He was mainlining Christ’s blood, feeling the power of a god while on this earth. This inverse divinity was so far off the map of his fated path, you could practically see the universe ripping around him, shafts of light emerging to close the gaps in the realm of the perceived. The screams of Mr. Carter have faded to reveal the eerie low groan of the newly dead. There’s one body left before the Black Angel’s feast completes; then he’s a free agent again. Occupation is the name of the game in the hungry spirit world and (apparently) no one’s hungrier than Death.
“What are ya thinkin’ about?” Jesse barely mumbled these words, thucking me in the stomach with his steel toes. He did this lightly for a 260-pound guy, which is to say I tasted this morning’s mac and cheese coming back up.
I don’t know why I said this: “I was wondering…why are you lettin’ me live?”
Mike rushed to interrupt this little moment here: “Hey yo, Jesse, don’t listen to this fuck. Who says we’re letting you live? You see how I’m killing motherfuckers? Wait your turn!”
“You’re talkin’ to me. You didn’t talk to anybody else. Didn’t even wanna look at them.”
“What, fucker?!?!” Even with the teeth of that blade on my neck, I was convinced: he would have done it by now.
“It’s too late. You can’t do me.”
“SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!” The words rang in my ears so bad, I didn’t even notice he had kicked me in the head, and harder than before. Blood ran down my mouth leaving a metal taste against my lips and creating that light-headedness that comes from the sensation of lifeforce oozing out of my body. Oh god, I thought, this is really happening. They’re all dead and I’m very likely dying. I think I’m taking this more seriously than my attackers. And that might be a good thing.
Mike kneeled down to press his arm against the back of my throat. “You wanna know what? It was Jesse’s idea.”
“SHUT UP, MIKE!”
“He thinks you’re smart. He looks up to you. I mean, come on, you’re smart.” He was whispering this to me in a conspiratorial tone. Was he trying to get out of this, and get out of it with me?
I REALLY don’t know why I said this: “I’m not special, Mike. Tell you what—you both leave and I’ll say I did this.”
“Don’t fuck with me, Kevin.”
“I’m not fucking with you one bit. You leave. I’ll take the fall. Who would know? They’re all dead. It’s just your word against mine.”
“Why would you do something like that for US?” Mike’s lip was trembling while he touched his blade to my head. “You got a scholarship and shit; y’all gonna be famous. You throwing that away?”
“I want to give you things that no one’s ever given you. It’s just generosity. That’s all we’ve got separating us, man. Generosity.
“The FUCK you talking about?!”
“I’ve already been given chances and I don’t want to stay small.”
I couldn’t see Mike’s face; he was staring at the ground and breathing deep breaths. He suddenly became the linchpin, and seemingly wasn’t pleased with the fact.
“This sounds like…I don’t know…this sounds like…some kinda bullshit. I have an idea, Kevin. You—.”
It happened way too fast. I heard Mike’s wrist snap. That’s all. Jesse had turned Mike’s blade on his gut, forcing the tip of the scythe through his stomach. Forced pounds of pressure set the blade deep before stopping at his vertebrae. It’s fascinating how unaware of his strength Jesse is. His whole body was vibrating as his friend fell silently with this, the last death of the day.
I looked over and Jesse was staring at me, not concentrating but staring fixedly like his daze would produce an answer. When at the point at which I looked so deep into Jesse’s eyes that I could see he was there in a life support capacity only, which is to say no one was home, I projected my self, entered his shell and began to see through his eyes. I observed myself through another person’s body for the first time, which oddly made me feel like my existence was suddenly negated. Phased.
When I say I occupied his body, I’m not speaking metaphorically. I was now in control of the body of Jesse Klier. There is a point at which the animus vacates the shell just so and I have a window of opportunity to take over. It’s sort of like breaking into a house when the person’s on the shitter but you have to be careful—once they’re alerted to your presence, you’re out. Right now though, Jesse, stone terrified by how fucked things had gotten, was more than happy to let me take the reins for the foreseeable future.
Oh, and I didn’t know ANY of this shit yet. I was just looking at my own face thinking I’d died or gone insane and wondering if I’d know the difference.
“Who are you?”
Someone said it. I think it was me. I didn’t mean it to be deep. I meant it in the most boringly literal sense possible. Then I heard it.
“Boy, wassa MATTER w’ you?!”
It was Dr. Carter.
“Wassa MATTER with YOOOOU?!?!”
“Murderer…’s too young…t’ be a MURDERER!!! Brough chu boys…inna th’ worl…”
“I’m not a murderer.”
“I never…never forget…I don—MMMF.”
Sigh. Deep breath. He was dying. He’d lost a lot of blood for a man his age to even be talking let alone lecturing me. I turned around to face him, as Jesse. It was the least I could do.
“Never forget…a face. Y’do sumpin’ GOOD, son. Sumpin’ fer CHRIST. Don’t die…without…”
Goodbye, Dr. Carter.
Here’s what’s gonna happen: Jesse, you and I are trading bodies. All you need to do is stay here, occupy my body, and NOT fuck up. I’m gonna leave right now in your body and figure out how to get you another chance. We’ll meet back in town when I’m done and trade back. I promise all of that. Jesse nodded with my face. I asked him for my keys and left.
Being poorly versed in the transmigration of souls, I was surprised at how well I was improvising. Mike had chained and padlocked the front door. I, having neither time nor inclination to search his corpse for the keys, remembered I was strong as fuck, covered my knuckles in a shirt, punched through the glass door and walked away from that grisly scene without so much as looking sideways. I got into my car and drove towards Eureka, for once welcoming the hours of unpopulated mountain road that lay ahead.
Nothing precludes the possibility of redemption. With that in mind, I drive north.