Soul Deficiency Syndrome

They’d given him drugs since before he was a teenager. But they’d never worked, those little round pills that cost enough of his father’s wages to constrain the amount of alcohol he could purchase. And so his parents had tried to beat it out of him, whatever it was that made him shiver uncontrollably in broad daylight, or cry and scream at walls and shadows whenever he was left alone for too long, or curl up in the fetal position before they even closed their fists.

None of it worked. Not the pills, not the beatings, and so by the time he was twenty, he furthered his family’s legacy, his father’s legacy. He spent his days doing odd jobs and his nights drinking. But even that didn’t stop him from shivering.

One day he found himself alone with a bottle of whiskey. In the first hour he drank a quarter of it, in the second he drank half, and in the third, he finished it. And then he was alone, alone with his thoughts, except for the shapeless gray rain and the occasional car that crossed the bridge above him.

And as he lay there shivering, his thoughts tormented him. He reflected on his wasted life, on how he had never slept with a woman, or had a friend, or received a pat on the shoulder or on the head, not even in his youth. He wondered what it would be like to be a normal person, tolerated and accepted and enjoyed by all those around him, instead of being rejected by even the lowest in society.

And the more he thought, the closer his hand crawled toward the revolver he kept under his pillow. The more he considered his life, the more he considered how painful it was to stay alive, how needless it was to be alive, and how quick and easy it would be to end the pain forever.

He looked into the rain for a reason to stay alive. But hope had forsaken him. There was nothing but dampness and chill for him in the world. Even the rain attacked him, billowing under the bridge, onto his face, even when there was no wind to force it.

He made his decision, then, and didn’t hesitate to execute it. He took his revolver into his hand and pressed the muzzle against the underside of his skull. And then, unsmiling, he pulled the trigger.

But at the last second, he shivered. And so his bullet, instead of cleanly entering his brain, blasted off the side of his jaw, shattering his cheekbone and his skull.

And yet he was left unmercifully alive. He couldn’t hear, couldn’t see out of one eye, couldn’t move his finger to fire another shot. He could only shiver and moan wordless agony as his brain started to slide out of his skull. He could only hope for something better after death, though he knew that after death, there was nothing left.

~

He returned to his body as it was nailed into its final prison, a coffin made of the most, warped, knotted wood the county could find. No friends nor family were present, as he had none. And no words were said over his burial other than idle chatter by the smoking workers.

He felt himself shiver as they interred him. And as he settled into his final resting place, he saw why. Most of the workers were beings of light, who shone so brightly that he had to look away from them. Several were not, but they were close enough to others that they were lightened as well.

But he was not a being of light. Nor had he ever been close enough to any light beings to keep the creatures at bay. They were ragged creatures that slunk around at the peripheries of humanity, occasionally clawing off off chunks of something more than flesh. Many of the wounds they inflicted were healed by the light beings, but not his. His wounds were raw, reeking, open sores, and then the creatures smelled him, they came forth in force.

They burrowed down into the ground, slobbering with appetite, and cut at him and bit at him and tore at him until he was left with nothing but agony and misery. And there they left him, dead and yet dying again. He hoped for something better after the second death, but after the second death, there was truly nothing left.

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