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Beads of sweat trickled down my face, over my neck, and soaked into my shirt. My chest swelled with fear and my stomach ached with hunger. Particles of old, crusted food were dried and caked across my chapped lips. My hands were shaking with involuntary tremors that I couldn't seem to get rid of. My apartment reeked of mold and vomit that I failed to clean days earlier, and the smell was finally reaching my nose.
I was alone, yet I couldn't shake the feeling that someone else was in the house with me. Someone or something else was here, hiding in my small one bedroom apartment that I had trapped myself in for two weeks.
He was a sneaky bastard, almost like a rat, running around in the darkness. I could hear him rustling in my bedroom, his bright, slippery, red shoes clomping on the floorboards. He was definitely here, and he knew that I knew. He knew, and he was just waiting for me to step inside my own bedroom so he could crack me over the head with the crowbar he had concealed inside his tightly wrapped trench coat.
I could see him out of the corner of my eyes every so often, peaking out from my bedroom, beckoning me to walk straight into his ambush. He had to be about 6'2", weighing in at 230 pounds of pure threatening muscle. He was dressed in all black with a trench coat and a loosely fitted hat that looked like it belonged to a scarecrow. He was a shadow, a black patch that danced across my walls taunting me; torturing me. He would be the end of me ...
I sat on the living room couch, my body sinking into the cushions. My breaths were coming in slow gasps. I listened for a moment. I could hear the intruder whispering something to me. It was faint at first. I held my breath and the words came clear.
"Turtles!" the intruder hissed.
I leapt up from my living room couch, my fists in front of my face. I glanced around the room. I had been hearing the intruder's voice ever since I locked myself in my apartment two weeks ago, yet I couldn't find a body to place it with.
My living room fell completely silent. For a moment the intruder wasn't making any noise. The single lamp in the corner of my apartment flicked on and off, casting shadows of different objects across the walls, and for second I saw the shadow of the man rushing towards me.
"Get back!" I shrieked. "Stay away from me!"
I stumbled back, away from the shadow as it came toward me. My feet tripped over themselves and I fell back against my front door. I curled up into a tiny ball and cried for help. The shadow halted and stared. He opened his mouth but no words came. Then there was a hissing. A soft murmur that sounded like a snake was in the room.
"Turtles!" it hissed again.
I gasped and grabbed the sides of my head and then shook it violently.
This will take care of that voice! This will make it go away!
I fell to one knee and let my head go. The room was silent once again. No sounds except for my heavy breathing.
"He's ... he's gone," I said to myself. "It's gone!"
Then, like a rising wave, the voice came again with swelling anger, "TURTLES!"
I cursed the voice and shook my fists at the air. I screamed, "Shut up! Just shut up!"
I sprinted from my lonely corner by the doorway and into the kitchen. Where ever the intruder was, I was going to kill him. His taunting had gone on far too long and it was time to end his life before I ended mine.
I don't even like turtles!
The intruder was trying to break me down. He was trying to drive me insane. I wouldn't let him. But had he already succeeded? There was no one in my apartment but me, yet I was hearing voices, seeing shadows, and imagining an intruder.
I've already gone insane ...
"I'll get rid of you for good!" I shouted.
Tears poured down my face and mixed with the sweat that I had accumulated. I felt exhausted from the sleepless nights, but my body moved with strict purpose; moving only to find the man inside my house so I could slice his throat wide open.
I rampaged into the kitchen with my fists clenched. I grabbed the nearest cabinet door to me and pulled as hard as I could. The wooden base tore from its hinges and hung in my hands. I tossed it to the floor and quickly grabbed the next cabinet door. I ripped each door off of its metal hands and threw them to the ground, hoping to find something inside.
Cups, plates, and bowls stared blankly back at me, as if asking, "What the hell are you doing?"
Frustrated, I shoved my hands into the now open cabinets and grabbed all the glass dishes I could hold. I pulled them all out and let them crash to the floor. The glass shattered and pierced the eerie silence that once was. As the glass settled around my feet my rage only grew. I would find no comfort until I found this intruder.
I continued ripping off the rest of the cabinet doors and screamed warnings to the intruder that I would tear my entire apartment apart to find him.
Then I heard him. A soft cackle rose from my bedroom. I froze. The laughter continued and a voice finally whispered eerily, "I'm in here!"
I walked out of the kitchen, my face glistening with tears. The bastard was in my room. He was hiding in there somewhere, and I was going to find him.
The bedroom door was closed and locked from the inside. I hadn't been in there for the last week for fear the intruder would beat me to death with his crowbar, but this was enough. I was finally going to face him.
I kicked the center of my bedroom door and watched as it flew open. Inside, something darted deep into the darkness, desperately trying to find a place to hide. I could see a pair of red shoes scrambling across the floor. This was it.
This bastard is as good as dead!
I cautiously reached inside my bedroom and blindly grabbed at the dresser that was against the closest wall. I grabbed the handle to the top drawer and pulled until it fell out. I brought it close to my chest and searched through the contents inside, my eyes never leaving the entrance to my bedroom. My hand sifted through year old papers, and long lost keys until I reached the true treasure of the rectangular box.
I grasped a shiny metallic handle of a large shimmering revolver that was loaded with six fine hallow tip bullets. I dropped the drawer to the floor, the contents spewing around my feet. I stood tall and proud with my new found friend inside the palm of my right hand. My finger began to wrap around the trigger as I pointed the gun at my own face. I stared down the metal tube and blinked in confusion.
What am I doing? Never mind that, just do what you have to do!
"I've got a gun!" I yelled into the room as a warning.
With one motion I stepped inside and flicked on the light switch. I aimed at every shadow on the wall, hoping that one of them was the intruder, but none of the dark blotches made a move.
My room was untouched as it had been when I locked it two weeks before. The bed was neatly made, the floor was spotless, and the blinds were pulled shut.
No one is here? This can't be! He's in here somewhere. The man who's responsible for destroying my life, the man who took everything away from me is here!
I flipped my mattress off of its bed frame and aimed down. Nothing but the floor, nothing but the damn floor.
The closet! He must be in the closet!
I jumped across the room and grabbed the handle of the closet door.
Do or die!
I yanked the door open and there he was. He made no move to attack me, he was too slow. I grabbed his shoulders and threw him to the floor. He hit the ground with a thud and I jumped on top of him, my gun raised above my head. I shouted something indistinguishable and brought the butt of the gun down. The revolver smashed into the hardwood floor that lined my apartment and popped out of my grip.
My eyes grew wide as I took a closer look at the bastard underneath me. Pinned beneath my two knees was my favorite black leather jacket that I received for Christmas two years back, nothing else, just a hollow jacket, no bastard inside.
What? This is ridiculous, I saw him in that closet!
I turned my head and looked inside the so called "hiding spot." Shirts and sweaters hung loosely, swinging back and forth from the commotion I had just caused. Just clothing inside the closest and just a fucking jacket beneath me.
"Turtles!" the voice mocked.
I leaned forward and buried my head in my hands. My mind was already gone. Any sense that was gripping to my brain had suddenly left. Things weren't as they seemed, and the seemingly real wasn't reality at all.
What is reality? Is it something I can taste or touch? Something I can feel? And what happens when my imagination becomes my reality, does it qualify as truth? Truth is a mere assumption based on facts the mind creates, based on the imagination. Nothing is true anymore when man touches it. Man distorts things, just like I distorted my life. Just like I distorted my apartment. But I'm not responsible for any of this, the bastard is. The bastard in my house is responsible for all of this!
I stood up slowly, my face red with anger and sadness. I was trying to prove to myself that I had some form of intellect left but it had vanished long ago.
I bent over and picked up my revolver, the voice repeating over and over inside my ears. As long as I stayed inside my apartment he wasn't going to cease.
I give up ...
My feet slugged out of the room with my gun hanging loosely in my hand. The weapon that moments ago gave me great power and pride now shed little comfort. I shut the bedroom light off and moved to my place in the living room.
I plopped on the couch and stared at the wall across from me and there the shadow appeared. He was looking back at me. I made no attempt to scare him off or hide from him. It was useless. He knew what I was going to do before I even did it.
The tears started again. This time they were coming slowly, and this time they were coming from a deep sadness that could not be quenched. They traveled down my cheeks and hung on the edges of my face.
I give up ...
I was filled with great pain: the kind of pain that stretches throughout your entire body, the kind of pain that lets you know you're dying on the inside, the kind of pain that only the devil can give.
I needed to let it out. I needed to let all of it out, I just didn't know how.
Life is tough, deal with it. No one has time to listen to you cry and whine about your problems. They have their own, and they sure as hell don't want to listen to anyone else's. But what do I do now if I can't say anything to anyone?
"I have an idea," the shadow answered my thoughts.
I crooked my head in confusion. I had been hearing that voice for weeks and all he had been saying was the name of that stupid reptile. Now he was beginning a conversation.
"It's an excellent idea. It has to do with those turtles," he continued.
I was reluctant to converse with him. If I said anything, that would only solidify my insanity. I'd be talking to a shadow. I opened my mouth but no words came. I wanted to finish this. I wanted this shadow out of my apartment and out of my life. I needed him gone once and for all.
"What is it?" I whispered.
"Very good Ben!" I could feel the shadow grinning at me.
I shook my head with disgust. He knew my name. The damn shadow knew my name. "That's enough!" I told him.
"You're absolutely correct Ben, that is enough," he agreed.
"Enough of this shit. You're done with all of it aren't you?"
"Of course I am, I said. "Now tell me what I need to do ..."
"We both know the only way you can get rid of me," the shadow said sternly. "I don't have to tell you to look at the gun in your hand."
As if controlled by some unseen force, my eyes moved to my right hand and locked on the revolver. Its shiny body gleamed in the light.
It is pretty, isn't it?
"That's it, do you feel it? The urgency to take that pistol, place it between your two lips and blow out the back of your skull! I can't begin to explain to you how much nobody cares. How much they hate you. You know all that already."
I couldn't argue with the shadow. Everything he was saying was absolutely true. I was less than man with no one around. Anyone I came into contact with only suffered.
I struggled to think of something to say that would defend my honor but I was speechless.
"Look," the shadow said faintly, "there in your lamp stand. There's your answer. It's all in there."
Without hesitation I reached over to the lamp stand with the flickering lamp atop its surface. I opened the drawer and found a single black film container waiting inside. I grabbed the cylinder object and held it in front of me.
"This?" I examined the outside of the container.
"That's right!" the shadow chuckled. "Open it up."
With my thumb I popped off the grey top and dumped the insides onto the coffee table in front of me. Red pills spilled across the table, some falling onto the floor. Each red pill had an "R" and a "D" imprinted on their bodies in italicized writing. I had seen these pills somewhere else before but I couldn't remember where.
"Put them in your mouth," the shadow commanded. "Put those fucking pills in your mouth, right now!" The shadow commanded, its body suddenly beginning to grow into a massive figure on my wall. It hovered over me, its hands reaching at my neck.
I scooped the Red Devils off the coffee table and jumped off of the couch. I sprinted to the kitchen for the second time that night, and stopped in front of the sink.
"I don't know if I can do this," I admitted.
"It doesn't matter, because you're going to do what I say!" the shadow snapped, his voice now deep inside my head. "You're going to shove those pills down your throat!"
Hesitant and sweaty, I let my head slump back and tossed the pills into my mouth. I did my best to swallow but only a few managed to slip down into my stomach while the others danced on my dry tongue.
Water, I need water!
I grabbed the water faucet and flipped it on. Water poured from the spout and splashed into the sink. I placed my head directly into the water flow and opened my mouth as wide as I could. The red devils swished around and then traveled deep down into the darkness of my stomach.
I gulped and took in some air as I switched off the faucet.
How many did I take? This can't be good!
"Forget about that," the voice told me, "just listen to me."
I nodded to the no one that spoke.
"Red Devil," the voice began to chant, "Red Devil, Red Devil, Red Devil, Red Devil, Red Devil, ReD DeViL, RED devil, REeeED DDeVvIIL, RRRREEEEdddd devil, rrrRed DeVViLL ..."
It trailed off, repeating the same words over and over again like a broken record inside my head. I wanted to yell and shout to try and shake the stupid little voice out, but I knew it wouldn't be any use.
"How long?" I asked. "How long is this going to take?"
As the phrase was repeated in my head, I could hear him answer in the background, "Soon ..."
The gun was still in my hand, but I noticed that my knuckles were now griping the handle so tight that they were turning white. I tried to let go, but my hand was glued to the end of the piece, as if it had turned into stone and become apart of my own body.
"Red Devil," I squeaked out.
What? Don't say that. That's exactly what he wants you to say. Keep your mouth shut.
"Red Devil," I said again.
Hey! Quit saying that!
"It's no use," the voice said with a hint of laughter behind his words. "You're going to do and say whatever I tell you to do. Say it! SAY IT!"
"Red Devil!" I shouted as loud as I could. "Red Devil!"
Exactly two weeks ago I was waiting inside a hospital lobby, clutching a dirty phone receiver and dialing numbers rapidly into a pay phone. I had been at the hospital for days without any sleep or food to eat. Weariness was finally catching up to me, and I felt as if I was going to collapse any moment, but I couldn't leave. I had to see her. I had to make sure that everything would be okay.
On the other end of the phone there was a low ring with no answer.
My wife wasn't home. She was no doubt off with her other man; lying in his arms. She was with someone who could protect her and make her feel whole now. She was with someone who could support all of her wants and needs. I wanted to care but I didn't have the energy. She had left me a long time ago inside her heart. She wasn't apart of me anymore.
Excerpted from Red Devil by Daniel James Franklin Copyright © 2012 by Daniel James Franklin. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted March 10, 2012
It was genius. One event happening after the other! This book was perfectly written to get the reader determined to find out what happens next. I definitely recommend this book to anyone. Im looking forward to purchasing author, Daniel James Franklin's future novels!
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Posted March 20, 2012
Mr. Franklin paints such vivid scenes, it is almost like there is a movie playing in one's mind. The plot is rather dark but there is a message of hope; despite the hell life has dealt, we can choose to overcome our own demons. Kudos, Daniel Franklin!
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