Wicked wasn’t one for flourish, or at least he wasn’t deliberately fancy about his killing technique. This fact was painfully sounded out in his approach to TV Head, who apparently didn’t find it prudent to take any special precautions against the grinning killer.
Wicked treated the gaze of the nightmare thing as if it were a solid stream of blazing fire, giving it the widest berth but at the same time closing on the creature through the most bizarre series of leaps and feints. His movements were supremely primitive, every muscle outlining the prehistoric past, each growl and giggle exhaling the breath of his ancestors at the hunt, his entire body focused on the kill.
As he drew closer to the monster, the deadly killer’s laughter took on a strangely ridiculous volume, more than likely due to the unearthly environment in which we found ourselves. It was constantly surprising us with its ludicrous departures from the waking world. The sound rose ten decibels for each short-lived second, yet the quality of the laughter never changed—like a speaker getting slowly cranked to eleven.
In moments, Wicked was right on top of the thing, staring down the length of his ruddy blade. This was a trick of his I’d seen before, so I was none too surprised when Baron appeared behind TV Head in that signature out-of-nowhere way of his. The huge man wrapped his tree-trunk arms around the creature, lifting it with little difficulty and proffering its undefended parts to his manically cackling friend. Wicked was all too happy to accept the flailing gift, tearing open his present with gusto, showcasing the glitter-drunk, Christmas-morning child at heart he really was. Rusted TV parts and glistening half-human organs came out at his knife’s beckoning, clattering and splattering to the dirty floor. Yet the monster wasn’t so easily undone.
The demon spun its TV head in a circle, colliding with Baron’s jaw and sending the giant stumbling backward. The nightmare turned and crouched in front of Wicked, seething with renewed strength. It moved with impossible speed, catching the killer at the center of its televised gaze, fixing him to the spot as if by nails. Once again, the terrible things that had been done to one of the most dangerous men on the planet began to fill up TV Head’s face.
“Grummy do so love the gristle, don’t she?” said the shambling thing that was Wicked’s grandmother as she flung a gnawed pig’s leg from a filthy plate. It landed on the floor and a shivering Dillan Wicked, flanked by several mangy dogs, dove on the rotting limb. “Now Dilly, don’t you go bitin’ any o’ them dogs, or by the Jesus I’ll hang ya up inna smoke house agin! You git me, boy?” The dogs trampled Wicked and seized the meat, snarling and snapping while he looked on with eyes holding back a dam of tears.
The channel changed, revealing a slightly older Wicked, maybe eight or nine. He wore a severed, hollowed-out head and stood posed on a bloody ottoman. His grandmother seemed to be using him as a stand-in for the once living thing. “Now, don’t ya try and lie ta ol' Grummy, ya useless bag o’ guts! Ya done tried ta git into my meat house, din’cha?”
The little boy responded with an attempt at an older man’s gruff voice. “Ya done nailed me to the wall, Grummy. Yer too smart fer me. I did it. I’m ta blame, I is.”
Another change of the channel. This time the scene was filled with physical pain. “Ya bin out runnin’ with them damn coy dogs agin, aint’cha boy? How many times I gotta tell ya to stay away from ‘em?” Grummy bellowed. She was whipping the boy with a bicycle chain, raising bloody lashes across his skin.
The next channel showed Wicked as a toddler, bruised and beaten, getting thrown into a pen of dead and dying pigs. “If’n ya wanna shit yer pants, then ya kin stay out here with the rest’a yer ilk, ya little mongrel!”
I couldn’t watch anymore and simply threw myself at the nightmare appliance, sinking my knife as deep as I could, aching bitterly for my madman. The television raised up a rusty antenna from the top of its vintage head, making a small whirring noise as it went. I could instantly feel my past getting yanked out of me again, my own personal horror show of deepest fears and regrets getting prepped for primetime. The creature rotated its head to lock its revealing stare upon me—
Rover exploded from the shadows, roaring and slobbering and stinking of death. It seized TV Head in its cave of teeth, nearly swallowing it whole, and stole it into the shadows. They were gone in a blink. It was over so fast it almost felt like it hadn’t happened at all.
I looked over at Wicked. He was sitting on the ground cross-legged, his eyes a familiar dam of tears. He looked away from me as if my gaze were as painful as the TV’s. I was about to speak his name, having no idea what I was going to say but wanting to say something.
Baron broke the solemnity of the moment. “Now I know why you don’t eat pork, Dillan.” The air seemed to cringe beneath the tasteless joke. I wondered what effect such a heartless thing would have on the two of them. I should have known better.
Wicked burst into laughter, falling to his back as it overtook him. He rolled across the floor, his hilarity echoing through the corridor, his tears now those of joy. He wiped his eyes as he tried to regain himself. “Baron, you monstrous thing, you! You’re a chuckle at a funeral, you know that? A regular fart at teatime!” Baron’s cold exterior cracked, hatching a crooked smile. I was laughing so hard I nearly pissed myself.
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