By Shadrick Beechem
And then, I was awake, in my apartment and with a throbbing headache, my eyes feeling like they were going to bulge from their sockets. As I got up I noticed the muffled quality of my foot steps and the odd internal amplification of my breathing. I put both hands to either side of my ears and discovered a thin drying crust of blood running down the lobe of both ears. Both ears felt full and compacted, and the realization that I was deaf coalesced with my burgeoning memories of the night before, and I felt a sense of confused terror wash over me.
I tried to tell myself that it was only a dream, that I hit the whiskey a little too hard last night and sometimes I underestimated my cocktails of booze and pills. Yet I remembered everything too clearly, the symbols, the cats, the artwork, and … that thing. That feline abomination who’s breath I can still smell in my nostrils. Then I remembered my phone and documenting the nights adventures. I hastily grabbed it and saw to my growing fear and confusion that all my pictures had been deleted. Not just the ones from last night, but all 300 or so pictures I had stored on my phone. I had one text message though, from a blocked number.
“You were not ready, but soon you will be.”
Ever since awakening that morning, my life has only spiraled downward. I had to take a sabbatical from the studio while I went to a doctor and got my diagnosis. Rich was a very nice man, and understanding, but he was also a busy man, and had been in the music industry long enough to develop the cut throat attitude of sink or swim. I explained how I had managed to take a nasty fall and somehow burst one of my ear drums and that I don’t know when I would be able to get back in. He nodded amicably at this and told me to take my time and recuperate.
But then the weeks dragged on, and being an uninsured starving artist, there was simply no way I could afford the two surgeries necessary to remove the abscess in my ear. I tried in vain to work through my newfound disability by showing up to a few sessions and attempting to track some simple rhythm parts for a local indie rock band who had booked time with Rich and needed a session player. But no matter how loud the volume was, no matter how hard I tried to fall in line with the metronome, my playing just seemed to degrade from the once finely honed chops of a seasoned pro to some amateur high schooler who was still trying to fumble his way through ‘Smoke On The Water’.
It was humiliating, and after a few days of disheartening sessions, Rich pulled me aside and told me that maybe I needed to go take some time off, perhaps get a good paying manual labor job so that I could afford the surgeries that would restore my hearing. This was something I tried to do, but I was a tough sell, a greasy looking hippie with hardly any sort of job experience that wasn’t music related, and in places where piss tests were mandatory, I would of course, failed. My carefully disciplined regimen of psychedelics, pain pills and uppers that had kept me on a functioning track spiraled out of control as I tried to escape the black wave of depression, rage induced fevers and seemingly unending suspicious tension that followed me everywhere I went.
As my drug abuse worsened, these visions of unrequited violence and paranoia grew more intense. Someone will randomly bump into me in the street and I would have the sudden vision of bashing his or her head with a piece of rebar. People who give me irritated glances as I ask them to repeat what they had said to me over and over, trying to explain that I was mostly deaf while simultaneously envision myself on top of them, choking them or caving their skull in. By far the worst of these manifestations of black rage occurred when I attempted to listen to some of my favorite music, a past time which had helped me through some of my darker moments of self doubt and anxiety before. But when I tried to put on some Pink Floyd or Frank Zappa, or any other artists I loved, I only got the faintly distorted warble of dissonance as their melodious vibrations tried and failed to work through my corrupted auditory bones. One of my life’s true pleasures, torn from me. I would sit there, trying in vain to absorb those soothing waveforms, and I would brood with the blackest rage imaginable as I thought of those people who had done this to me. A rage that bounced and circulated in my head, gathering momentum in my mind to the point where I would tremble, making fists so tight that my neatly trimmed and playing hardened fingernails would bite into my palms, leaving bloody half crescents in their wake.
After three weeks I was evicted from my apartment, unable to pay rent as I drank and smoked away the last of my performance royalties that Rich had so generously payed out. I had two guitars and some old vinyls to my name, and without a place to keep my guitars or any foreseeable hope of being able to play them with any enjoyment in the future, I had begrudgingly made my way down to one of the many music stores on the loop, where I fetched a measly two grand for the ’85 Les Paul and Ibanez Prestige. I felt the last remaining piece of my soul slip away as I handed the two instruments that had been my life, blood, and talismans of sanity over to the apathetic looking man who appraised them. Numbly, I then walked over to a place called Vintage Vinyl, where I fetched a meager hundred for the fifteen rare limited edition prints I brought in.
With my money in tow, I stopped by Rich’s to ask if I could use his phone, as my cellphone had ran out of minutes some time ago. On the way there I stopped by the corner store for some food, where I saw the front page of the latest issue of the Post Dispatch, with the screaming headline ‘RIVER CITY BUTCHER STRIKES AGAIN!’ I got to the studio and placed a call to my doctor’s office, asking for the estimated quote of the surgery again, a figure I couldn’t recall, but I was sure the 2k I had in my hand would be enough to cover it. But it wasn’t. The nurse informed me, that without insurance it would be three grand. Of course. I hung up.
I tried to leave then, defeated and numb, but Rich pulled me aside before I got out the door.
“Hey kid, listen. I don’t know what’s going on with you, but you’re a bright soul. One of the most talented mother fuckers that has ever walked through this door. I don’t know what you gotta do to get your shit together, but get it together man. Go back home to your folks or something, get some help, take care of your ears and come back to me. You’re too goddamn talented to be another burnout.”
I desperately wanted to tell him about my surreal encounter at the Powell building, but as my drug use became more conspicuous and prominent, I was sure he would write it off as some sort of fucked up junkie hallucination. I desperately wanted to tell the police, or someone, but who would believe me?
So, with nothing else left to lose, I decided to get my shit together in the only way that seemed plausible. I have been homeless for weeks as I write this, and have been staying near one of the soup kitchens by the train yard, ever so close to where I had inadvertently changed my life for the worse. I have become one of the homeless interlopers who I so recently cast pity upon.
I decided to buy this cheap notebook and pen, which I have been writing in for the past hour. I don’t know if this is a pointless gesture or not, but I decided to transcribe these events, not only for my own piece of mind, but so that if I get killed in the next few hours, which seems inevitable, that someone will find this and perhaps have an open enough mind to accept it for the truth. The second thing I bought was a Sig Sauer p320, a cheap handgun I had used before in my country days. Along with that, I bought two extra magazines and two boxes of .40 caliber shells. High velocity, full metal jacket hollow points. God bless America, home of the second amendment and land of apathetic pawn shop dealers. The weight of my purchase feels good in my pocket. Night approaches, and as I write, hordes of cats are lined up outside the empty grain car I am in, silent spectators to my fate. I was not ready before, but now I am.
Citizens of Saint Louis, as of tonight, August 25th 2017, I will be doing battle with a force that I believe has taken over and corrupted this once majestic city. There is no single killer responsible for the gruesome deaths that have stained this place. Whomever may find this, I have discovered what I believe is at least one of their hideouts, a strange group whom I do not know much about, but know that they possess within them some corrupt energy that I was unfortunate enough to bear witness to. An energy that has corrupted my life. The Powell building in Midtown, this is where I am headed. I know they are waiting for me, eager to consume whatever mortal city dweller who enters their realm. Anyone who decides to believe this insane tale and follow in my foot steps must proceed with extreme cau-