I’ve been holding on to it all for what feels like a generation, but I believe that today may be the right time to finally talk about Bed-Man.
As a child I was no stranger to medication, prescribed of course, I had a tendency to act up during classes which left the school board little other choice than to turn to the disciplinary power of narcotics. It started up rather slow, a pill with breakfast, a blur of color and time for the next two meals. Still though, I remained defiant in my need to lampoon the lectures of my teachers as if on a holy quest to prove I was a child. To therapy I returned, neither kicking nor screaming though, the whole thing was a little interesting to me. The attention, the questions, the notion that something may be brewing somewhere deep inside me that even I was not aware of. So I gladly interpreted their blotted inks and fed them colorful word associations whenever they deemed fit to request such things of me, all the while basking in the imagination they alternatively berated me for and urged me to let myself sink back into.
I never noticed, but my parents did, the way I sat and stared at the floorboards for hours on end. My prepubescent mind cranking out thought after sprawling thought, propelled on a wave of medical-grade amphetamine that lifted me into a meditative higher-plane of whim while simultaneously severing any conscious connection to the motor skills I wouldn’t need when navigating dreams. Simply put, I never moved, just thought, and my nose had started to twitch in the same exact way every forty-five seconds or so. It was all aliens and superbeings inside my head, but a statuesque stillness on the physical level that seemed to suck any air out of the room that wasn’t helping to flame the “Our son might be psychotic” fires in my parent’s heads. Whether I felt it on the inside or not, the imbalance was clear, and my parents had no desire to live any longer under such an ominously black cloud. So back again to the psychiatrist, more pills, more ink, more cold yet expectant stares.
The first night taking my new prescription, my brain seemed to drop significant velocity, the world stopped spinning, and the silence hung heavy as slate in the midnight air. That was the first time I met him, in the reflection of a pocket knife my grandfather had bought me not three weeks before for my birthday. I loved that knife, it was the tool of a man, a testament to the unyielding nature of he who will not be swallowed by the world, but it had been my face I saw reflected in its blade before, not this new one, all empty and smiling that joined mine that night. He spoke through it, commiserated with me in loneliness, told me it wasn’t my fault. To break the chains, to find my place and make a purpose for myself in this wild mess of a civilization, I would first have to learn to break its hold on me. He told me it was pain that kept a person down, the hurt a stone wall against which dreams are dashed and before which the shuddering masses fall to their knees in forgiveness. Pain is in the head though, all thought, and I had become quite the master of that. I could cut myself strong, he said, bleed the fear from my veins that none among the sharp edges of society might ever be able to bleed from me again; this was his promise, and for the rest of the night, he guided my hand.
Long sleeves for school the next day, no need to flaunt my vivisectional strengthening of spirit, they’d not understand and I didn’t need anymore therapists gorging themselves on the time I had reserved for him. The less they saw, the more I could work, and I was far from finished. As the bell rang that day, and the first smearing of chalk began to flow across the blackboard, I scanned across the faces of those so unfortunate to have never met Bed-Man. I laughed inside and they whispered among each other, I had changed and they took notice. I strained myself to catch a loose noun or verb straying from their conversations, but all I heard was bleach, and then again, and again. It seemed all they wished to talk about, and before long I don’t remember them saying anything else. Full monologues composed of just one word, and with each passing sentence it was growing so very much louder. BLEACH they cried in unison, and by now the teacher had joined in too, her wizened face twisting into that toothy smile he showed me the night before. He was her, and everyone else too, and his chorus still hadn’t gained another word, just BLEACH BLEACH BLEACH BLEACH. All so sharp, so piercing were their words, all at once I leapt from my seat and his gaze and kicked the door clean from two of its three hinges as I stumbled from his classroom out into the main hall. What he meant, I couldn’t be sure, but I had been drawing much larger breathes since the cutting, and if bleach was today’s theme, I’d need to buy my chemical ticket to his ride. The janitor’s closet, the nurse’s office, two more pills then back on home.
Inside my suburban walls, I am greeted with what could easily have been confused with silence, had I not taken the time to notice the strange breathing underneath it. I fall into the couch, tossing the economy-sized bottle of high-strength cleaner onto the cushion next to me, and waited for his face to manifest in one of the shadows hanging around the corners of my bedroom. This time he came in a formless way, no voice to carry his words, only heat, a slow building kind that started in the back of my head and worked its way through to every crevice of my being. A hunger it was, a pit growing inside me, and only one thing came to mind when searching for ways to stem the mental erosion: bleach. He wanted me to know what it tasted like. Bitter? Just as like to be a symphony of flavors for all I knew, like a fine wine reserved for those ready to look beyond the caution labels written out by so many generations of people all too unwilling to think for themselves. I knew it was poison, but did I really? How did I know? How do you? Because they’ve told us, but they don’t know either, and I was tired of living how those before me determined I should. The burning was stronger now, all consuming, it pained me not to sample the solvent, in a way that told me I would only hurt more if I didn’t. Popped the top, peeled back the thin plastic over the opening. I felt his grimace stretching inside me as I poured the cup, just a taste, but as I would soon learn: you give Bed-Man an inch, he’ll take the whole damn world.
When I entered the classroom the next morning, my bizarre actions the previous day had left the other students with a rather sour taste in their collective mouths. Maybe fear, maybe jealousy, whatever it was they had noticed my changing and had enough of the circus I was becoming. Having spent so much time with Bed-Man the previous day, both in my own head and out, I hadn’t managed the time to take a shower and was still wearing the black t-shirt spotted with the brownish-gold patches left behind from assorted splatterings of the bleach. My appearance provided the more extroverted of my peers ammunition to criticize my personality, a not-at-all uncommon tactic employed by malicious elementary school students as a method of climbing the social ladder. Some words at first, hateful ones which meant little to me, but seemed to catch Bed-Man’s attention. I felt his presence in the increasing constriction of my throat muscles, accelerated by the shoving and threats my classmates had moved on to. He smiled again, so much bigger this time, spying the window of opportunity, he urged me to seize the chance to show them all the pain he had taught me.
A cracking, that’s all it was, then a warmness cascading down both cheeks. I saw their eyes grow wide one at a time, all around me, and felt the drop in atmospheric pressure as they all at once filled their lungs and stopped exhaling entirely. No words now, how could you hurt someone who would break their own nose? Bed-Man laughed and urged me to do it again. I balled my fist and let loose, not but floppy cartilage left at this point, but oh so much more blood. He cheered me on from behind my eyes, drooling over the hapless expressions of those who for the first time were watching a child smear his own blood across his face while laughing in theirs. Three of them fainted while the others ran for help, but Bed-Man was not finished with me yet. He took hold of my tendons, yanking them about like the strings of a sentient marionette, and forced my hands to hot-wire the gym teacher’s Nissan Maxima and toss the three unconscious students in the trunk. For the rest of the day the police searched for a kidnapper, the sort of monster that would abduct four innocent kids, all the while me and Bed-Man prepared for that night. There was to be an induction, three new members for our fantastic club. We made them each a special room, one for each of the primary colors, matching suits and lighting too, thick walls to hold in the screaming. They would be the realization of his world beyond these walls, the extra limbs wielding his influence in every conceivable direction. Tonight their pain was paramount, but the bleach would flow like water.
[With Bed-Man there is no End]
As always, I thank you all for taking the time to read my story, and I truly hope you enjoyed it. Remember to follow for a new short-story every Thursday, as well as a new edition of my ongoing art experimentation series Epically Art every Tuesday, and a new episode of my new webcomic So Fantastic every Sunday. Follow me on Twitter: @ItsMrGChris for daily flash-fiction and the occasional poetry. Thanks again for reading, see you next time.