Black Petals Issue #92, Summer, 2020

Vincent's Warning

BP Artist's Page
Mars-Chris Friend
Misty Page-A Game of Chess
Sean M. Carey-Chilled Bones Under Lovely Skin
Roy Dorman-Death in the Round Room, Part IV
Lael Braday-Magical Perspective
Matt Spangler-Master Smasher
Lena Abou-Khalil-The Nowhere Man
Grace Sielinski-'Port
Gavin McGarvey-The Black Petals
Marc Dickerson-Theater is Dead
C. S. Harbold-The Whispering
Dean Patrick-Vincent's Warning
Doug Park-We Get Him Together
Joseph Hurtgen-Worlds to Conquer
Mickie Bolling-Burke-The Bringer of Darkness
Aaron Hicks-The Last Days
Cindy Rosmus-Out of Juice
Matthew Wilson-Endless Men's Hate
Michael Steven-Hell Rift
Sean Goulding-Hypnagogic
David C. Kopaska-Merkel-In the Land of Giants
Loris John Fazio-The Thing in the Woods
Loris John Fazio-The Beggar Knows
Richard Stevenson-Peg Leg
Richard Stevenson-The Alkali Lake Monster
Richard Stevenson-The Green Man

Art by Kevin Duncan © 2020

“Vincent’s Warning”

By Dean Patrick © 2019 – 2020



Listen to me. Please. I beg you to know what I saw, but more importantly, I must tell you what I know. My name’s Thomas Springer, and, of course, you don’t know me from Dick. No reason to trust me. I know this. But I’ve a story to tell that’s required of me. I have no choice. I’m dead, you see. On hold. A pause if you will. A waiting period. I have no idea how long, but what I do know is this: it’s a story that must never be forgotten.

     Late one weird and creepy evening when things are far too silent in Manhattan, I'm minding my own business at 18th Street, waiting for the IRT Lexington Avenue Line. There I am, just smoking a cigarette, trying to mask the stench of whiskey that’s soaked my breath, when the Lexington subway murders me, knocking me into another world. Or another place in the world, actually.

     I’m exhausted from the all-night drinking and drugging. Coke. Crown Royal. A Xanax bar, maybe two. Had just ended a relationship with woman number...well, only God knows. And He does; of that I'm certain. This one’s name is Cecilia. It ends in the same fuckshow they all end in with me wrecking shit to an impossible, irreparable state. The screams. The endless arguments. She throwing dishes into the walls and slapping my face cold. Raking my face with razor nails. Tearing the skin. Shedding hot tears of shame for the hatred I caused. My leaving over and over to the bars to drown in ethanol, and leer sickly in porn-driven dance clubs. I am clueless, of course, that this particular night will end. Literally. That I’ll be knocked into another dimension feeling nothing but the cool blast of SWOOSH! right into the next life. The After Life.

Immediately I know why it’s called the After Life as it’s the very split second you channel from this life… after this life, to the next… whatever that is. Probably a shitty way to explain it. Think of a dream. A graphic one. Where you can taste the very tang of an orange, see into the beauty of a mirrored lake the purple light swirls. Then you awaken in a flash second to see and smell those same things exponentially more surreal.

          The moment my body feels teleported – not blasted, into Never Never Land, I find myself walking…well, not walking, but wisping I guess you can say…or shifting…across the backyard of a small ranch I’d never seen before. Never in my previous life did I know such places existed, other than what I know, of course, from books and film. Reality’s different, especially this reality, this obscure and uncanny visionary landscape that I can’t touch or feel, but envelops my being as a living, breathing auditory and visual hallucination brought on by death, not acid. Music is swimming in and out of the visuals like an endless scarlet ribbon so wide and so long that eternity becomes tangible.

Here I am in this ranch setting alarmingly aware that not only do places like this exist all over the earth, but also knowing more of literally everything. I have keen awareness of each sound I see in the ribbon, each light I smell…every aroma ever conceived in every gourmet Chef’s mind, every chemist’s creation in madhouse laboratories. I see a rush of endless understanding, much like I imagine a prodigy in math can see the answer to any equation long before a single step is worked through to find a possible solution.

I know who lives here, that he’s a man somewhere near my age – or the age I am just as the Lexington Line kills me. His name is Daniel and he loves his live-in partner more than he’s ever loved anyone, or anything for that matter. Daniel’s a selfish man. He’s an alcoholic, but one who’s found sobriety of many years. He’s an addict. A fierce one who fights just about everything. A man in constant turmoil. I know this because he’s telling a story to his partner, Bethany, about his uncle. An uncle who died in obscene loneliness. An uncle who was also an addict and alcoholic, but his true addiction – his drug of choice, pornography. Sick shit, Daniel says.

Really sick. And Daniel’s angry about it. Ragingly so. But controlled.

          I decide to go into their home and listen in more closely, get a view of the story in real time. Daniel’s anger is more a cauldron, to say the least. He’s speaking faster than he wants when suddenly, quite startled, he looks over his shoulder toward me. So does Bethany. She, too, looks in the same direction. It takes a moment before I realize it’s me who they notice in the same room watching them. Why wouldn’t they notice. Ghosts are real, this I’ll tell you now. And they’re everywhere. This is one of those instant pieces of knowledge I just mentioned. I don’t move even though I can move with the same instant of a camera’s flash. I’m in a state that defies mortal physics, you see.

          “Did you see that” Beth says in alarm, whisper-shouting it. “It’s our ghost. Did you see it?”

          “I felt it more than saw it, but yeah. I think so. Seemed different than before.”

          “Right!?” Bethany says.

          “Yeah. Pretty creepy. Let me finish the story real quick, you still okay?”

          “Of course. I wanna know. Just try to keep it together, okay?”

          They’re both looking directly at me still…concerned I guess you can say, when Daniel turns back around and continues his tale facing Beth again.

          “Yeah, well, it doesn’t help we just maybe saw the ghost. Anyway, the only thing I can imagine is my uncle’s lying there on his back, not able to get to the oxygen machine because he’s too fat. Or not able to operate it. Something like that, I guess. A complete disaster. He’s wrecked up on I don’t know what and has surrounded himself with a shitload of porn because that’s all he’s ever cared about anyway. He’s so obese it’s disgusting. Maybe he can’t reach the devices on the air tanks. Maybe his heart gives out trying to reach the knobs, or whatever. Then his lungs just give out and collapse. Dies alone suffocating in his own breath, or chokes on his tongue. Maybe it was more. Who knows. No one really knows anything. Not his girls. Not his son. My own mother has no clue.”

          Daniel pauses for a bit, almost for effect.

          “God, that’s awful,” says Beth, really meaning it.

          “Yeah, it is.”

          “It’s sad, too. Don’t you think it’s sad?” she says again, her eyes swelling.

          Daniel looks at her puzzled. “I never thought of it as sad. Desperate and pathetic, but not sad.”

          “Oh come on, where’s your compassion?” Beth says. She looks at Daniel with more sincerity than I’ve seen in a long long time come from anyone, living or dead.

I know. I know what you’re thinking. I’ve only been dead since just recent. But how long have I really been here is anyone’s guess.

          Of course, I don’t know the full story of Daniel’s uncle’s death. Don’t know anything about it other than what he just told Beth. But as Daniel’s finishing up, what I do know as he’s talking about the uncle’s addiction is something far more severe than I could have ever expected: a fierce and sudden understanding of addiction at the genetic level, and the same understanding of withdrawal pain. A pain that is an ear shattering pitch of insanity; a cooked vein ripped right out of the arch of your foot; a slashing howl...deep…throaty…

And I’m the very nature of it.

I am everything and anything that addiction ever presents itself to mortality…the aching endless dilemma of an incurable illness. Or at least my core is. And with who or what I am now, it’s all core. As I’m watching this couple talk about this sad and sickening death, I am nothing but a craving, gnawing, piercing, acid prick of frightful shock that IS endless withdrawal. I also know there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t drink. I can’t chug. I can’t smoke. I can’t slam my own vein which of course will give me the quickest relief. I’m helpless to its torment. A spiritual torment. As much as I must drink, must use, must devour anything that’s the cheapest fix, it’s impossible on that same genetic level of understanding I have of addiction itself.  

Because I have no cells. I have no bones. I don’t know what I am but a spirit. Maybe this is the story. The requirement I feel so pressed upon me to complete. Because after hearing Daniel spew out the horrible story so viciously, all I want to do is absorb whatever it is I’m made of in something that will stop the insane thirst I cannot possibly quench. As I said before, who knows how long I’ve really been here. How would I really know. What benchmark is there available to measure such time?

          I don’t wait for anything further from the couple as I shift instantly away from them in a shame I’ve never known. I shift across their living room area, across the kitchen floors, through the back French doors, and into the back yard looking all around me to find some sense of understanding, even praying for some hint of relief. The deeper the ache of withdrawal burrows into whatever it is that I am, the greater the fear awakens in me that the endless steel trap of withdrawal will never end. The word “never” takes on an entirely new meaning, gives me a frightening realization that it means exactly its intended definition: something – in this case, withdrawal – that will last for eternity without any hope. How is this possible? Doesn’t the Bible teach the After Life is a place of rest? A place where everything’s relieved?

          While I’m scouring in perusal of such torment, I look ahead of me to the left to what I instantly know is another spirit who’s sitting over, not on, a large oak log that sits between two massive trees in Daniel’s and Beth’s back yard. The spirit looks more like a black ink blotch that bleeds into a shape-shifting shadow than a human apparition. It has branch-like filaments, also black ink, in place where there should be arms. It turns its stump of a head around, and over its shoulder, toward me clearly feeling my presence and panic. Maybe it’s fear. I don’t know because I can’t tell what feelings I’m experiencing other than the ones I used to have as a mortal. Or what I think I had.

          It’s a massive face of a man who looks hundreds of years old. Maybe thousands. His face is stacked with scarred, ancient crevices, deep cracks that look more like inverted burnt wood chunks. His body is covered in a tattered shroud just a shade different, a shade lighter than the heavy ink of his dark shadow frame…a massive frame that matches his face. To hold it. I can’t see his feet as the tattered shadow rags cover them. That is, if he has feet. I have no idea what to say, of course, when he breaks the shivering silence of the lone ranch back yard.

          “If you’d like to mull over your dilemma, have a seat here. We can go over it; I’ll tell you everything I know.”



“Name’s Vincent,” says the shadow spirit as I instantly move to the oak log we’re both now hovering over.

“Thomas Springer,” I tell him as if to cue his last name, but no such luck.

“You figure out why you’re here?”

I answer him way too fast. “Clearly, I’m dead because a train hit me –“

“That’s not what I’m referring to and I think you know it.”

 I look over Vincent as carefully as my eyes have ever looked over anything. Never have I seen anything so serious. No person. No place. No thing. Vincent’s ancient face is more the very definition of death than anything else. Even though literally every one of the five senses I was born with – adding a few others I never knew possible, what I do know is Vincent understands more of everything than I’d ever thought possible. Even though I just met him, it is the newly keen sense of understanding I have myself that tells me he understands everything at a new level.

He tells me I’m here because I’ve not been told exactly what I’m supposed to do in order to move on. That I have to figure it out as he’s been doing. As he’s been doing for longer than he can remember, which of course triggers in me even more fear. I think things over before just blurting out nonsense. Thinking itself also has new meaning as I realize a panic attack now begins to overcome me. It’s overcoming every thought with a sense of dread that is more than just paralyzing. More than just my heart beating fast enough to burst apart into fleshy shards that can penetrate nearby bones, like my sternum or ribs. Except I have no bones or heart. I’ve suffered through panic attacks my entire life, especially when needing a drink that I couldn’t have. This is not that. What’s now clinching my breathing, strangle-holding every last breath, is both an endless pain of withdrawal, and a soul-crushing panic attack just as endless. If a human being can die twice, certainly this is how it feels.

Vincent shifts closer to me in what I know is a comforting gesture. With what I’m going through, how could it not be?

“Thomas. Listen to me. You’re going to need a lot more effort now than you’ve ever needed before in order to maintain any kind of sanity. Any kind of wherewithal to function. You’ll have to learn to relax in ways you never learned. It’s more of a must than a need, actually.”

I look at him incredulously. “What is this? What am I feeling? Why is everything so overwhelming? I feel like I’m in some massive funnel being sucked downward into …What? What am I being sucked down into?”

“Try to settle down, okay? Try to settle in, that is. I’ll help you. I have to help you, that seems obvious now.” He’s looking upward and around as he says this more to himself than anything else when he turns into me, looking into me with a depth of genuine empathy that one may see in presidents or prophets who haven’t yet turned to the dark side. “For whatever reason, this is the place you’ve landed. This ranch. These people. Person, actually. I believe it’s Daniel in there where your next move lies, if you want to call it that. The story you just heard him tell the woman. I believe that’s the story you must follow in order to tell your own.”

“Then why are you here?” I ask, finding myself with the same empathy he shows me.

Vincent looks upward again as if to take a deep breath. “I wish I had an answer for you. Maybe it’s to meet you. Help you in some way so I can find my way. There’s no manual for this. No instructions. I know there’s plenty to read about regarding death and dying, but when it actually happens it’s so unexpectedly different that everything you’ve ever read or studied vanishes. So, since it feels right, since helping you may indeed help me, I suggest you follow Daniel’s story about his uncle.”

“His dead uncle? How do I do that? If he’s as dead as you or me, how does that even make any sense?”

What Vincent says next cripples me more than the withdrawal. “Maybe you need to see him die, much like I did you.” He raises his voice and says it again. “Maybe you need to see him die.” He says it once more in literal thunder as he stands up and over me. “MAYBE YOU NEED TO SEE HIM DIE!”



Vincent’s bellow then turns into an echo. An echo that seems to chase after itself, but with the volume being turned down lower and lower until the bellow turns into a distant chime. A forgotten ring tone that sounds off from a forgotten cell phone.

I’m no longer with Vincent. No longer at Daniel’s and Beth’s ranch. In fact, Vincent and the ranch seem as far a distant memory as the forgotten ring tone that loses all volume. I feel like I’ve moved through a vast tunnel in what I believe a worm hole must look and feel like, if such things even exist. Then again, maybe it is a worm hole. Maybe such physics certainly do exist, but that in mortality we have no access to them. I can’t actually see details of any such movement, can’t feel any sense of time or space. It’s much like the camera-flash movement I possess, but on a scale of some designed transportation system for such movement that’s beyond anything architecturally possible.

Suddenly, I’m walking around the yard of a small house that sits on an acre or so of land. It’s a rundown place. Very old. A few broken concrete steps lead to an entry door that’s just as broken and ruined. Door falling off its hinges. Screen torn in so many places it looks more like patches of smoke. To the left of the entry door is a large cherry tree that’s more a fusion between a weeping willow and a massive cactus that’s bled its last drop. I see there’s a dim light on from what I gather is the living room area. Maybe it’s a bedroom. Before going in, I move around to the back of the house where I find a large shed. Quite large, with a huge single panel, sheet metal door for multiple vehicle entry, and one small entry door clearly custom built for easy human entrance. Mountains surround the entire area. The yards, both front and back, haven’t been tended to in ages. Thistles have overtaken any grass. Weeds are more like vines the size of large snakes.

Are they moving around like snakes?

Are they snakes themselves that have turned this entire place into some heartbroken, yet fierce living tomb?

I hear movement inside that draws an instant summoning to see what’s going on. To see who’s there, or what. Before entering, I move around the house further to get an overall perspective of what I’m dealing with since being here must have a direct correlation with what Vincent shouted to me in terror. If I’m going to watch someone die, I want a detailed prevue for better understanding because I clearly don’t know shit. My greatest confusion being that Vincent watched me die. Why would he tell me that?

I move into the house much as I did Daniel’s and Beth’s just moments ago. Moments, however, that seem to have stretched into such an achingly slow motion film strip that, once again, prove to me that I really have no idea how long any of this has been going on. Death that is.

Once inside I’m just as shocked stiff at the stench as I am the frightening amount of filth and hoarder mongering that’s been going on here for God knows how long. I’m in a living room area that’s no larger than a few hundred square feet. Yet with piles of trashy trinkets, broken dishes, stacks of broken picture frames, hundreds of soda cans and plasticware thrown all over the floors, stacks and stacks of thousands of papers…receipts, torn bills, note pads – and nearly as many stacks of pornography. The room is so crammed and stuffed with garbage, surely no one can actually walk in such a place. There are hundreds of broken record albums, an old guitar case, heaps of heavily stained pillows. Coins and old bills look like they’ve been thrown into the room by a random dirty farmer with an angry shovel. It is a stench that is a biting, fierce acidic blast of ancient piss and shit. Probably animal and human.

However, it is the smell that’s so striking, because it is smell, I just realize, that’s still with me. Just like hearing. I can’t feel anything with any sense of touch, but my sense of smell must be as keen as a black bear’s. There are odors here decades old. I’m able to make out aromas of rotted foods and drinks, different greases and perfumes and foul air filters never changed. But it is the human and animal waste that is so overwhelming. It is this kind of stench that must have swarmed around with the physical torture in Auschwitz, Belzec, and Dachau.

Sitting in a tattered and ruined blue cloth recliner that hasn’t been moved since the house was built, is an entirely new being who greets me in a voice that croaks more than speaks, clearly female.

Her legs are crossed ever-so-seductively the way women do when they know men cannot possibly turn their heads. I can see all of her legs, all the way up, perfectly sculpted, her feet cradled in some bizarrely twisted Dior pumps with heels at least three inches, her feet knurled and broken. Yet her body is porn perfect, long boney fingers, nails even longer. Like talons painted in a purple I’ve never seen. A royalty I’ve never known. But it is her face that is most astonishing. She possesses wrinkles that seem etched inside her hollow cheek sockets she surely has carried with her thousands of years. Her eyes are a death blue, her pupils dancing in a wigged-out trance, her hair so wired and grayed and rotted I’m not even sure it’s hair.

I take a deep breath as my eyes continue straining in focus to catch even more detail of the horror that sits before me. Her ancient, death-shrouded face that is somehow placed on the body of a Greek Goddess just as ancient. Is the head sewn on? Are those hundreds and hundreds of stitches I see wrapped around her leathery neck? So leathery it looks more like ripped bark than leather straps.

To each side of her, to each side of the chair, within her finger-length distance stands—or hovers—a pillar-like structure, an obscene hologram designed to the perfect shape of an engorged erection. Massive veins more like wet ropes are wrapped around each hologram with such definition and striking color they look to move in unison to strange and haunting musical rhythmic thumps (or is the music pumping?) that suddenly come from the corners of the room more intense and majestic than any Bose OmniJewel Satellite system one might hear in the finest concert halls.

This ancient priestess, or whatever she is, strokes each of the swollen holograms in slow… up-and-down motions… a foot or so up… a foot or so down – her hands inside the holograms as if to tantalize from the very cores of this façade pleasure vision. Racing up and down and in and out of the holograms are hundreds of thousands of brightly colored insects – blues, pinks, oranges, reds. A rainbow of gore-ish dancing bugs that feed on every inch of the fascinating and kaleidoscopic holograms of male sexuality taunted by what must be some demon whore who’s come to harbor in this hellish mountain house. To top off the greeting, resting at the demon woman’s dangling right foot sits another hologram hovering about a foot above the destroyed carpet, is a massive, oozing, hugely ribbed single gray maggot the size of a large Dachshund. The maggot hologram shifts at her foot as if any domestic pet purrs in love with its master.

Oddly, I have little fear, but still want to scream in what I know is a defining moment of pure terror.

“Who are you, and why are you here? What is your name?” the demon speaks in a voice so shredded and raspy it sounds like she’s clearing her throat with a razor blade.

I don’t really know what to say, so I challenge her.

“Does that matter? If you’re here and I’m here, isn’t that what’s supposed to happen?”

“I don’t like your arrogance! This is my domain for now. Who sent you?” She whisper-shouts it.

“No one sent me. At least I don’t think so. It was more like a suggestion of what I need to see rather than a send-off, or a request.”

“Does the owner of this suggestion have a name?”

“Said his name is Vincent. Nothing more. I’m Thomas Springer. At least I was.”

She laughs at this. More of a thick, syrupy cackle, actually, when I ask her, “Who are you, or what are you?”

She looks at me with those dead blue eyes and wigged pupils in such a stare I feel yet a new fear on top of the agonizing withdrawal that’s done nothing but increase its endless vice grip. She begins speaking in tongues, or some awful, terrible death chant that turns to howling. The obscene holograms start changing colors in rapid fire strobe beams as she looks up to the rotted ceiling, her eyes now literally busting away from her forehead. I feel paralyzed in such a trance that only God can slap me out of, when her head snaps back into a position to face me. Her seductive, leg-crossed posture never moving. Not even a shift. Not even to the increasingly intense pulse music that mercilessly pounds the walls and floors.

“I am here only because I was invited. Only because this dying, sickly man could never refuse me. Because he turned his soul over to me. He is my slave, my fleshy toy to wreck and slash to pieces any of his last hope. I’m here now to dash apart everything he ever was, and certainly is now. But I will tell you this, spirit Thomas, if you’ve landed here, you’re exactly right. This is where you’re supposed to be. Slave’s in the room to my right, down the small hallway. There are a few others like me in the room with him, as he’s their slave as well. Go ahead to him. I’m going nowhere until his death is sanctified.”

I do what I can to keep her stare, tell her with as much courage as I’ve ever mustered, “That wasn’t what I asked. I asked your name same as you asked mine.” Once again, the demon whore looks upward with that same horrible chant, then snaps her head back again, this time far more violently. Violence that would break any neck into shards of marrow.

“Such bravery. Perhaps that’s why you’re here. I’ve been called Min by some. Others… Pothos. Mostly, I prefer Qetesh. But what is a name other than a label, and surely a label doesn’t have such control as I’ve over the pathetic and silt ridden slab that lies on his bed in sweaty gore. Surely such obesity that writhes like a larva in heat could never succumb to a label or a name, yes? Best for you, Thomas, to know me as Harlot or Trollop. Again…does that matter? I was invited here and there’s nothing you can do or say about it. You’re here as a conscientious observer, isn’t that what you said?”

I nod to her question truly not wanting her to continue. Of course, what I want means nothing. “Go to him, Thomas, before I change the rules here. Because no matter who told you what, this is still my domain.”

The Harlot then smiles with her mouth completely open, her smile turning into a freakishly oversized, upside down crescent moon. A four-pronged lashing tongue fires out of her mouth in such a frenzy, with such nauseating lewdness, I feel I could vomit endlessly, even though that’s impossible.

“Go, go, go, Tommy Boy. Run away now, and play!” she says to me in a shriek of hissing finality.



I have no idea his name, of course. Only that he’s Daniel’s uncle.

He’s lying on his back as if he’s been shot by a 10-gauge rubber slug that’s pummeled him against the surface of a soiled king size mattress, arms stretched across to each side of it as if the mattress itself can somehow save him. His hair is a mass of curly brown blotches pasted to a brassy forehead. Same blotchy brown mustache overgrown and greased. I see eyes that perhaps were once golden brown, but now a charcoaled orange. Massive stomach that must weigh a hundred fifty pounds on its own has busted through a tattered white T-shirt as effortlessly as rising dough bursts the seams of those paper cylinders that contain chewy delights. The store-bought kind. He’s wearing boxer shorts perpetually soaked in human stains. His arms are the size of small logs, fingers more swollen and ripe than breakfast sausages. Legs are gushy tree trunks. Feet so sickeningly fat I’m sure the veins will blast out in a bloody mist spray. His head is propped up on six or seven extra-large pillows. To his right side is an oxygen machine that’s hooked up to his nose. CPAP mask halfway falling off his twenty-pound slab of raw face. Also, to his right stands one of the two demons the Harlot mentioned. To his left, the other. Twin demons dressed in scarlet robes with charcoal hoods. Twin faces that are oblong to such a distortion they look more like inverted beaks. Their skin marbled and laced with rusty wires that thread in and out of their lips, nostrils, and the far corners of their hollow black eye sockets.

They turn to me in unison. Each of them raises a grotesquely long, crab leg index finger to their blackened, tortured lips signaling absolute silence. Also, again in unison, is their hissing “sshhhhhhhh” at such an insane frequency I’m sure it is this that will finish off Daniel’s uncle. A searing, slashing cut through silence. But my alarm is short lived as I realize the uncle can’t hear the dead or demonic with any such clarity I must suffer.

The bedroom itself is just as tossed and wrecked as the living room. All carpet is torn in large shredded patches exposing rotted wood and foundation rubble. The hoarder mongering that’s taken place in this room, however, is primarily…and I mean this quite literally…thousands of porn mags piled around each other in exhaustive stacks that lean and fall into tatters of ragged and dogeared volumes. Cracked and faded covers of made-up velvet whores anywhere from 13 to 80 years in age. Every form of hedonistic, animalistic, bombastic, ritualistic sexual depravity done in every imaginable position of sickness and perversion is spewed all over the entire room like one shattered orgasmic dump of semen carnage. A dumping ground of ruined flesh holes. Human juices look sprayed and saturated across every inch of the walls and floors like a maggot infested web of yellowed cornstarch paste. To the left of the bed is a sickly and sunken kitchen area with dozens of dishes, broken cups, rusted silverware heaped and piled in such a catastrophe I cannot see any faucets or even the countertop.

My throat is a gob of vomit that I cannot hurl no matter how aggressively the need. Here I am dead, yet it is the living, for whatever reason, that’s shaken me the most since the subway train knocked me into this fucked up reality I never asked for, never wanted, certainly never believed possible. I don’t understand any of this. I’m also powerless to leave, so understanding it means nothing. I have to endure it. But being forced to endure it doesn’t mean I can’t question it, which I should have done the very instant I heard The Harlot’s first croak.

“What is my purpose here?” I shout at the two scarlet-robed demons. “What does any – “

“Silence!” they both shout in return, in unison, of course. I now understand that everything these two do is in perfect terrorizing harmony. Their voices together make the sound of a deep resonance that is hollow, yet pure rage. A sound that’s as much heavy bass, as it is a crunchy howl that’s under a few inches of water.

“How can you, the addict you once were, the addict now who still suffers in your own death…how can you not know your purpose here?! This IS your story! Were you anything more than he has ever been? Did you ever reach for anything deeper, anything more poignant, than what this dying mount of sickness has ever done? Did you do more than he? Did you ever prove more valiant or worthy? Ever pursue anything better or grander? Doesn’t matter how death took you, what route death took to find you. This was you, nothing more, nothing less. To think differently will only cause your pause to draw out longer and longer until you’ve been at it at such length, you’ll forever fade into an eternity of hopelessness. A decay that forever rots. An open blood wound that never heals, that perpetually oozes in an awful state of eventual drainage – that never drains! THIS is OUR slave whose soul itself has become slavery. Watch now as he gives his life over the same as you did yours!”

I try to absorb everything the twin demons have rattled into me in a merciless yawp. I want to debate them, to hush them and demand a chance to speak. A chance to justify. I want to scream in blood curdles that I was hit by a fucking subway train! That I am NOT the same as what’s dying in front of me. I am not this Neanderthal who’s helplessly strapped down on a filth-ridden mattress by his own frightening weight.

Just as I’m about to begin my retort, the demon twins turn their backs to me and face the back wall of the head of Daniel’s uncle’s bed. They look straight ahead, then upward to yet another ruined ceiling. I immediately understand that it’s their way of leaving me alone with him.

It is a loneliness that’s absolute.

A loneliness more empty than space, yet even darker.

It is a place where no Savior’s found, where no phone will ring, no child will ever walk, no movie ever to be watched.

I’m at the foot of the bed looking down to his face. The music from the living room has now danced into this fuckery den I now stand in, louder, harsher. Vulgar and crude. I can see he’s been savagely struggling to get his oxygen machine to work. Even just to turn it on. His failed CPAP mask hangs even more pathetically useless. His eyes are the defining vision of fear and exhaustion, bugging sockets that stretch to threads of repugnancy. All hope is vanishing. I watch his chest attempt its last forceful upward motion in a desperate aching search for one final morsel of air. His entire body rumbles in heaves and tugs that weakly roar through a parched and extinguished throat. I do, because I cannot, absolutely nothing when his last grotesque movement is a useless slap to his sternum followed by a cracked and thick chug sound that slurps through his nostrils and ends with a final fling of dead mucus that lands in shock on his unwholesome and repellant exposed gut. His body looks now to weigh a thousand pounds.

The demon twins quickly shift back toward me, then just as quickly leave the room. I follow them back to The Harlot. Surely that’s where they went. But she, too, is gone, leaving the living room even deeper in upheaval and catastrophe. The single light that was on when I entered has been switched off as if to signal the death of anything that’s ever lived here, leaving a darkness where no light can ever escape.

As I turn back for one last glimpse of Daniel’s uncle, I am shocked still in fright as Vincent stands in the entry way to the bedroom.

His bedroom.

His house.

His mountain bog of addiction.

I race away and out of the house in spiritual hysteria as Vincent bellows that same thunderous voice before The Harlot greeted me: “Go to my nephew. Go to Daniel. Go to him. Warn him this is exactly what awaits him! It’s what awaits every slave…”

Dean Patrick, with the publication of “Vincent’s Warning,” is now a five-time published horror author. Dean is a professional technical writer and editor with Masters’ Degrees from The University of Houston. He’s loved horror his entire life as he finds it the purest form. His greatest achievement he says his is sobriety (nearly 4 years) as he’s battled alcoholism for decades. Dean’s hometown is Houston, Texas, but now resides on a small ranch in Morgan, Utah, with the love his life, Lisa. 

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