‘Once Again’, Allen McGill

(Winner, Mirrormask/Flashes of Darkness Competition, 2005)

Artwork by Djibril

Brendan's chest muscles hurt from tightening them against the cold. His face was pained. Blinking back tears forced from beneath his eyelids, he trudged his way through slush and snow, as wind and sleet plummeted from a black sky.

 [ Madison Square Gardens: image (cc) 2005 Djibril ] Two more blocks to go. Jesus, he thought, I hate working nights at this time of year. New York winters are bad enough during the day, but nights are worse when you can't see where you're going.

He pulled the stocking cap farther down over his ears, grasping its sides with his knitted gloves. Christ, it's bitter! he thought, and grasped the lapels of his overcoat even tighter.

The coffee shop was on the right, so he shuffled toward it with a slight swagger, intended to counteract the wind's force. He usually stopped for coffee on his way to his job at Madison Square Garden, where he worked as a janitor. He could get it free there, but so many freeloaders milled about that it took too long. He didn't like being that close to people anyway. Didn't trust them.

"Big night, tonight, huh?" the counterman called, drawing coffee from the spigot. "All the political honchos in town." He nodded toward the tv.

Brendan looked. He never watched tv, except for nature shows. Didn't like watching people. The screen was a live broadcast from the Garden, a political rally in the main auditorium. He was about to look away when the announcer introduced the "Speaker of the Evening."

Brendan didn't hear who it was—his hearing died the moment he saw the Speaker approach the podium. He gaped at the screen, eyes and mouth wide. Him! No! Couldn't be!

He stared at the man's eyes, remembering when he'd first seen them, many years ago. Brendan had heard sounds from his sister's room and went to investigate. The man was on top of her, attacking her, mauling her naked body. Grunts and groans filled the bedroom.

The blood rushed to Brendan's face, heat supplanting the cold he'd brought in with him. Hot furious tears flowed, frenzied thoughts scrambling his mind.

This couldn't be the same guy—but it was! That other guy was dead. Brendan had killed him in a blind rage, stabbed him over and over with his sister's scissors while she shrieked and cried and begged him to stop.

Yeah, he'd killed him, all right, tore out his eyes and slashed at his face until he no longer looked human. Brendan had been covered with blood.

They'd sent Brendan away for what he'd done, for years and years. This couldn't be the same guy. It wasn't possible—but there he was, smiling, waving, making a show of himself. And not a scar to be seen.

The tumultuous thoughts and emotions began to sort themselves out. No scars. Well, I'll have to do something about that, won't I? Back home, us good old boys know how to handle fuckers who lay hands on our sisters.

He paid for the coffee and made his way around back to the Garden's employee entrance. His mind was awhirl with memories, thoughts, confusion, unmindful of the weather that beat at him with every step.

He waved his ID at the guard at the door, underwent a cursory frisking and headed through the maze of passageways and down the stairwells to the caretakers' locker room. It was empty. He sat to think, wondered about his sister again. He'd never seen her since that night, had been told she was afraid of him. But, why? He'd protected her. He wouldn't hurt his big sister. She was his angel. His parents were never the same toward him either. Hardly ever visited. Moved before he got released. He'd been on his own for years now, never staying in one place very long.

And it was all HIS fault! Son-of-a-bitch had ruined Brendan's life. How often he'd gone over that night, time and again, year after year. The stabbing, the gouging, the... He felt himself getting hard again. No. Not now. Plans. Must make plans.

Some of the early shift came into the room, changing into street clothes without a word, knowing he wouldn't answer them anyway.

"I'll take the rear section," he announced, as the late shift guys showed up. They showed surprise. Brendan rarely spoke and never had a preference as to where he wanted to work. They just nodded, or shrugged.

Brendan listened carefully to the intercom that fed all sound from upstairs. He'd been exposed to this type of brouhaha before and knew just about when to expect the meeting would normally break.

When the locker room was empty, Brendan checked the wall clock. Should be just about time. He went down the hall to the pay phone and dialed 911. A moment later, he hung up brusquely and returned to the locker room. As he dug into his toolbox, the sound from the auditorium erupted into what a volcanic eruption must sound like. "Stay calm," being yelled repeatedly over all the commotion.

Quite calmly, Brendan climbed a back stairway to a rear passage off the main floor, near the emergency exit. He entered a utility room, closing the door behind him, leaving it cracked so he could see along the corridor. This time, he thought, determined.

The Speaker's eyes showed terror as Brendan rushed him from the door, but just for a moment. They rolled back into his head as the screwdriver was jammed under his chin and up through his skull into his brain.

"Stay dead!" Brendan shouted, as he was dragged to the floor. "I've killed you six times now. Stay dead!"

© 2005 Allen McGill

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