Ray Garton exposes himself as a master storyteller in METHODS OF MADNESS, with six stories centered on the psychotic, twisted deviations in human nature. Anchored by the riveting short novel, "Dr. Krusadian's Method," Garton's style is so real, so believable, he could be describing people you encounter every day. The couple upstairs, your neighbors and relatives, maybe even your own husband or wife. What kind of madness is really played out behind their shuttered windows? Also features the stories "Fat," "Active Member," Something Kinky," "Sinema," and Shock Radio." This is Ray Garton at his terrifying best.
"Garton is on his way to becoming a major name in any field he works in." -- Joe R. Lansdale
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About the Author
Ray Garton is the author of sixty books, including horror novels such as the Bram Stoker Award–nominated Live Girls, Crucifax, Lot Lizards, and The Loveliest Dead; thrillers like Sex and Violence in Hollywood, Murder Was My Alibi, and Trade Secrets; and seven short story collections. He has also written several movie and TV tie-ins and a number of young adult novels under the name Joseph Locke. In 2006, he received the Grand Master of Horror Award. He lives in northern California with his wife.
Read an Excerpt
Methods of Madness
By Ray Garton
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1990 Ray Garton
All rights reserved.
One week after most of the excess fat had been sucked out of my body through three little holes—and the day after my mummy-like wrapping had been removed—I woke up in pain. But I woke up knowing that I would not, as I'd thought for so long, always be fat. This, in spite of my discomfort, was an improvement over the previous mornings of my life, and helped make the pain endurable, even a little enjoyable. Because it meant the fat was gone.
Finally and forever gone.
Actually, it wasn't morning; it was almost two in the afternoon, because I'd slept late, something Dr. Foster said I should do for a while.
"Your body," he said, "has been caught by surprise. It'll take a while for it to adjust to its new condition, and you'll need plenty of sleep."
To say my body had been caught by surprise was an understatement; it had been ambushed.
Groaning like Marley's ghost, I crawled out of bed and, naked, gingerly made the painful trek to the bathroom. I stood before the full length mirror on the back of the door, unable to open my eyes for a few moments. I was either savoring the suspense or genuinely afraid to look, I'm not sure which. Dr. Foster had warned me that the transformation would not take place overnight. There would be a lot of swelling and bruising that would linger for weeks, maybe months. But when I opened my eyes, my scrotum shriveled as my testicles crawled up into my stomach. Dr. Foster's warnings did not prepare me for the ravaged body that stood in the mirror before me.
The holes were covered with bandages on the outside of each thigh and the right side of my abdomen. But not the bruises.
They sprawled like rot just beneath the surface of my skin, the color of overripe bananas mottled with purple and yellow.
My head filled with helium and I bowed it, clutching the edge of the sink to keep from staggering.
The bruises alone would have been more than enough, but there was more: stretch marks.
I'd had stretch marks before; you can't lose weight, gain it back, then lose it and gain it again and again without collecting stretch marks on your body like notches on a hillbilly's shotgun. By the time I was thirty, I had as many stretch marks as a mother of four, maybe more. But they weren't like these.
These were trails carved into my flesh, jagged and interconnecting, some so deep that flaps of puffy loose skin hung down over them. Dr. Foster had warned me of that, too—"After the swelling goes down, you'll have a lot of loose flabby skin; exercise will help that."—but, again, I was not prepared for what I saw. Parts of my body appeared to be melting, the flesh liquifying and running off my bones toward the floor, where it would form a thick puddle at my feet.
I turned away from the mirror, gulping, and leaned over the sink to splash cold water on my face and into my sticky, foul-tasting mouth. As I dried my face, I vowed to avoid mirrors. For a while, at least.
I had been avoiding mirrors all my life; I could do it a while longer ...
Remember when you were a little kid first starting school and it was all new and scary, the teachers were tall walking buildings with wise voices and watchful eyes, and you felt small and insignificant and unwanted even by your parents because they'd brought you to this strange place full of strange people and things and they'd left you? Remember how scared you were of all those bigger kids in the grades ahead of you who were not strangers to this place because they'd been there before and gave you withering, ominous glances on the playground? Remember how that made you feel even smaller? And then—then!—remember how you—and all the other new kids like you, who were just as scared and small as you—discovered that one classmate—boy or girl, it could have been either—who looked even more scared? He or she was different, somehow, ugly, perhaps, but most likely ... fat You discovered something: there was someone less significant than you. And that made you feel better.
That kid was me.
Oh, it wasn't specifically me; I mean, I didn't go to the same school you did, chances are. But that was me.
I was fat.
I don't remember not being fat. Even before I started school, I vaguely remember my grandmother pinching the nubs of flesh over my chest, scrunching up her face, and saying, "We're gonna have to get you a little bra for your titties, you don't quit getting fatter, Benji." Wonderful woman, my grandma. She was the first person to point out to me that I was fat. She didn't just point it out, she rubbed my face in it. And after rubbing, she would laugh.
I remember one day in the summer before I entered junior high when Grandma came over and I was sitting at the table eating. Dad was working late and Mom was busy doing something or other, so I was at the table alone. Grandma came in and said, "So. Which meal is this, today? Number four? Five?"
I snapped. I stood so fast I knocked my chair over and started screaming at her, using words I'd never used before, words I didn't even know I knew. Grandma shrunk back and her lower lip quivered and she whimpered, "I-I-I was just kidding, is all."
That was the last time I ever spoke to my grandma—my parents who normally insisted that I respect my elders, seemed not to mind, perhaps even approved a little—and, unfortunately, it was also the last time I ever stood up for myself, the last time I ever demanded a little respect of my own.
I was fat; I knew it and everyone else knew it. I heard it every day at school, from both my peers and my teachers, and I heard it from my grandma and my cousins and uncles and aunts. After I blew up at my grandma, I changed, I think. Whenever my weight was pointed out to me, cruelly or otherwise, I simply did not respond. The things I said to my grandma, true as they might have been, changed nothing. I was still fat and she was still cruel. So, giving up, I took whatever those around me cared to dish out.
But inside, I reacted. Inside, I hurt. I bled. Inside, I wanted so much to hate them. But I couldn't. They weren't fat. I was. So I hated myself.
All through grammar school, I had only one friend. I was not lonely. Not as far as I knew, anyway. Does a child born into poverty know that he's poor? No, not until people start telling him he's poor. I knew nothing else. I had books to read and movies to see and television to watch and, as far as I was concerned, that was all I needed, that and my best and only friend, a boy named Tommy Fischer. He had a stutter so severe that listening to him comment on the weather was more suspenseful than the best Hitchcock movie.
Sometimes Tommy joined me after school in one of my favorite pastimes: watching television and eating. Tommy was one of those guys who could eat until the sun turned green and never ever get fat, so it had no effect on him, but when I think back on those days now and imagine myself sitting in front of the television eating licorice sticks and Pez and peanut butter sandwiches and barbecued potato chips, I can almost see myself getting fatter with each bite, with each crunch.
We'd watch Batman first; we took it very seriously and would discuss quite heatedly, after each episode, how Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder (whom we both thought was a sissy) would get out of their fix, which would be revealed tomorrow, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel. After a couple more pretty cool shows—Ultra Man and Lost in Space—we got down to some serious television: Star Trek. This ritual usually took place at my house, where the food was more accessible: Ho-Ho's and Ding Dongs, pretzels and Crackerjacks, Ritz crackers and braunschweiger, and anything else we could find in the 'fridge.
We were inseparable during those early years of our education, until the inevitable happened: we discovered girls.
Actually, Tommy discovered them first. And he discovered that girls had no interest in a guy who took ten minutes to introduce himself. So he started working on his stutter. I'm not sure what he did—read books, listened to tapes, maybe saw a speech therapist, I don't know—but he disappeared during the summer before our freshman year in high school and when we met again that fall, the stutter was gone. Worse yet, Tommy was cool He dressed cool, he talked cool, and he acted cool.
Fat was not cool. I was fat. Draw your own conclusions.
The spring of our freshman year, I literally ran into Tommy turning a corner in the hall. Our books went everywhere, but we just stood there staring awkwardly at one another. We'd hardly spoken the entire school year and I think I saw Tommy blush as we stood there. He looked at his shoes a moment, looked at the ceiling, then said, "Huh-huh-hi, B-B-Buh ... Buh-Buh-Bennnn ... ji. Howzzzzzz ... i-i-it g-g-guh ... guh-guh-goin'?" I think I flinched; his stutter had been dormant since the previous summer but now he was struggling with his tongue as if it were a piece of raw meat in his mouth. I finally made some dull response and tried to start a conversation, thrilled that he was talking to me after so long, but a gorgeous blonde girl wearing an enticingly snug sweater walked by and cooed hello to him and he immediately said, "Hey, Debbie, how's it goin'? Lookin 'good." When she was gone, he glanced at me, swept up his books, then hesitated before giving me a big grin, slapping me on the back and saying quietly, "I'm sh-shuh-showin' 'em Benj. I'm g-guh-gettin' 'em buh ... buh-back. F-f-for buh-both of us." Then he turned and disappeared down the hall. I didn't understand what he meant and never found out. We never spoke again.
Suddenly, without even Tommy to pal around with, I was on my own. I didn't handle that well. I discovered I was never truly alone as long as I had food. But even the food let me down; it only made me fatter.
Shopping for clothes was an ordeal, always had been. While browsing through the clothes on the rack, I was invariably approached by an adorable, perky female clerk who smiled and asked, "Can I show you to our Husky Department?" It didn't matter what store I went to, they always wanted to rush me into the Husky Department, like I was going to scare off all the thin guys by poking around in their department. And the husky clothes were always the stuff of nightmares. I had the feeling that designers throughout the world were conspiring to keep overweight guys like myself from looking good. I figured they got together late at night and huddled around their drawing boards—a bunch of skinny, limp-wristed, lisping types—and came up with all kinds of goofy outfits with ugly stretch fabrics and horizontal stripes, all the time clapping their hands together and giggling, "Oh, thith'll keep thothe doughboyth out of the dithco, won't it?"
After Tommy cut me off and I started to balloon even more, something awful happened. I went to the local mall for a pair of jeans and the biggest pair I could find, the huskiest pair in the whole mall, was too small. That day, that very afternoon, I did something drastic.
I went on a diet.
After leaving the bathroom—and the two mirrors which lurked there, eager to show me what had been done to my body—I put on my robe, put on some coffee, and turned on the television. It was an October Saturday and wind was blowing against the windows. As a picture formed on the television screen, I was taken back to my childhood afternoons with Tommy Fischer because, on the television, Burgess Meredith was quacking with a long black cigarette holder clutched between his teeth, threatening Batman and Robin with a fate worse than death. I checked my TV Guide to find that a local station was running a Batman marathon: twenty-four hours of continuous Batman episodes, back to back. I was in hog heaven.
I sat on the sofa with an idiotic grin on my face, sipping coffee as the day faded into evening. It didn't happen until about an hour later, when the Catwoman was taunting Batman in her skintight black suit, tempting him to leave that brat in the green shorts for a life of crime at her side.
My hands felt so empty. There was no licorice stick to slip between my lips, no crackling bag of chips in my hand. I wanted to snack.
No, I thought.
"Uh-uh," I said, "absolutely not."
The fat was gone, banished, sucked out of my body through a tube, disposed of like the trash that it was, and out of my life forever. I was not, under any circumstances, going to let it grow back, let it creep beneath my skin again, swelling me up like a cordless bruise, tightening my clothes, thickening my neck.
I would change the channel, watch something else.
But Julie Newmar was so luscious, so seductive in her black tights and spiked heels. She brought back so many familiar memories, good, pleasant memories. Comforting memories ...
... and the hum of the refrigerator in the kitchen was like a lover's bedroom sigh, like a slender, beckoning finger ...
But I was determined that I would not—would not!—allow myself to give in, as I had so many times before, to those familiar and enticing urges that I knew were no more than destructive habits. I could resist them, and I could do it without changing the channel on my television set. I had never done it before, but I would this time. This time, I would not allow the fat to come back and take me in its lover's embrace as it had before. I would fight it. I would.
The wind blew outside and there were sounds against the walls of my small house—restless, skittering sounds that grew and faded—and I tried to listen to them instead of that low, almost subliminal call from the kitchen; it sounded not unlike the tuneless humming of a winking, smirking woman as she stepped out of her clothes. But there was something odd about those sounds outside. It took me a moment, but I finally realized what was wrong ...
The sounds did not coincide with the angry gusts of wind beating against the walls. I frowned, blinked and stood, facing my front door. The sounds seemed to be coming from the screened in porch that surrounds the front of my house. I went to the door, opened it a crack and peered out as a gust of wind trembled the long rectangular screens. There was nothing out of the ordinary ... but I'd heard something ...
I returned to the television and tried to lose myself again in Batman. The sounds outside continued. So did the sound from the kitchen ... that steady, monotonous humming ...
I decided, as I settled myself again before the television, that I would fight it this time. I would ...
The first diet went very well because I was so determined to reach my goal.
My goal was named Mardee Russo. She was golden-haired with sky-blue eyes and a voice as smooth as babyflesh. She moved like a ballerina and left behind an invisible but oh-so-enticing trail of Ciara perfume—which, to this day, I cannot smell without swooning to thoughts of Mardee—and, for reasons that escape me to this day, she approached me in the school cafeteria one afternoon and asked to speak with me about something very important. We'd spoken before in classroom situations and sometimes we crossed paths walking to school in the morning—we lived only blocks apart; I was always fidgety and clumsy beneath her velvety gaze and said as little as possible for fear of making an idiot of myself, but we had spoken. This was different, though, obviously important to her and worthy of privacy because she took me to a corner table and leaned close.
"I know we don't know each other well, Benji," she began, "but you seem ... different. More ... mature than the others. And ... well, I have to talk to somebody. It's about ... my boyfriend."
And that's how it started, my reputation as a good listener, a confidant, and a source of sound advice in matters of the heart. I'd never had a date and the closest I'd ever come to an actual relationship was having a female lab partner with whom to dissect frogs in biology, but for some reason, this girl—this vision!—saw in me something she could trust, and poured out her heart on that cafeteria table.
I don't remember what her problem was or what advice I gave —it was simple common sense, I remember that much—but Mardee Russo, the most coveted girl on campus, seemed to think it was the wisdom of the ages, and after that brief conversation in the cafeteria, we became friends. I was honored and I cherished our friendship, but it was simply not enough.
I was in love.
Excerpted from Methods of Madness by Ray Garton. Copyright © 1990 Ray Garton. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
- Active Member
- Something Kinky
- Shock Radio
- Dr. Krusadian’s Method