Madness & Mayhem: 23 Tales of Horror and Humor, page 1
Madness & Mayhem
Also by James Aquilone
Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device
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Published by Homunculus House
Staten Island, New York
Copyright © 2016 by James Aquilone
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Cover image: IXIES / Shutterstock.com
Cover design: James Aquilone
6 Attempts at Winning Jennifer’s Heart
Head to Head
Simon Clash: The Galaxy’s Greatest Hero
Bad Poets Society
Princess or Poison
No Place for a Hero
The League of Lame Superheroes
My So-Called Life in Reruns
Do Stand-Up Bots Dream of Electric Hecklers?
So You’ve Metamorphosed Into a Giant Insect. Now What?
The Zombie Who Had a Name
Google News Alerts for the End of the World
Teatime With Mrs. Monster
The Baseball Gods
A Day to End All Days
Circle of Power
The Great Work
She Will Be Home for Christmas
The Grimlorn Under the Mountain
The Case of the Amorous Ogre
Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device
About the Author
Welcome to my collection. Here you will find all of my published stories to date as well as two—“Google News Alerts for the End of the World” and “Circle of Power”—that have never been published before. Lucky you!
Going through my collection I found that most of the stories either fell into the horror or humor category. Thus the title, Madness & Mayhem. You’ll find the humorous stories in the Madness category and the horror stories in Mayhem, though you’ll probably find some humor in the Mayhem section and horror in Madness. But as the Kinks say, “It's a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world.” Either way, I hope you enjoy the yarns.
– James Aquilone
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat; “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
– Lewis Carroll, “Alice in Wonderland”
6 Attempts at Winning Jennifer’s Heart
(Originally published in Flash Fiction Online)
Attempt 1: Talk to her.
“Hi,” I say in the break room at Innovations Worldwide, though this is debatable. I might have only cleared my throat. Regardless, I am counting this as the first word I have uttered to Jennifer.
She looks up from her tablet. Her green eyes sparkle in the fluorescent light. She’s most likely reading Stephen King. That’s her favorite author. She’s been listening to the Misery audiobook in her cubicle (which is next to mine) every day this week. I want to tell her he’s my favorite writer too. (But one thing at a time.)
“Do I know you?” she says.
“Hi,” I say. My brain has run out of words. An invisible hand tightens around my throat.
I do the only thing possible: I run away.
Note: Technology is your friend.
Attempt 2: Try again using Dr. Tomokats’ TimeTripper©.
“Aren’t you Dr. Tomokats’ quality-control officer?”
I think I nod.
Then I run away.
Note: Time travel solves nothing.
Attempt 3: Impress her.
I reprogram Dr. Tomokats’ BattleBorg©.
It enters the break room. “Destroy! Destroy!” the cyborg screeches as it lumbers toward Jennifer. Klaxons blare from its head, its eyes flash red and yellow. (That’s all I programmed it to do; it’s harmless.) I swoop into the room, ready to “save” my co-worker from the “killer” cyborg.
Jennifer taps on its head three times. It deactivates. I had no idea.
I make myself a tea and slink back to my cubicle.
Note: Recommend Dr. Tomokats configure more difficult deactivation protocol.
Attempt 4: Seduce her.
I sit at the bench that Jennifer passes every morning on her way to work. I had placed Dr. Tomokats’ Pheromone Amplifier Cologne© on all my pulse points. For good measure, I placed it everywhere else.
I try to keep calm by humming softly to myself, but my nerves kick into overdrive anyway and in time I’m soaked with flop sweat.
Before she turns the corner, I vomit.
Then I run away.
Note: Recommend issuing warning label for Pheromone Amplifier Cologne’s possible toxic reaction to perspiration.
Attempt 5: Write her a romantic song.
Words often fail me. So I use Dr. Tomokats’ AutoHitMaker©, which creates and then streams ten thousand songs about Jennifer. Among them: “Jennifer in the Sky With Diamonds,” “Jenny, I Need Your Loving,” and “This Guy’s in Love With You, Jennifer.” I play them all day long in my cubicle. I even sing along. (Under my breath.) I think I’m being pretty overt; in fact, my boldness is giving me a heart attack. But she doesn’t seem to notice.
It’s not until an hour before quitting time that I learn she is being transferred to our downtown facility after only two months here, and she had spent most of the day with her friends on the third floor saying goodbye.
When she returns to her cubicle, she listens to the Watership Down audiobook. It’s breaking my heart. I love that book too.
Note: You’re an idiot.
Abort Mission: Move on. Drown yourself in work.
It obviously wasn’t meant to be. I turn my focus on testing Dr. Tomokats’ latest invention, the Multiverse Viewer©.
The first thing I do when I enter Earth-Beta is look for my alternate self. You kinda have to do that, right? I’m living in the same Brooklyn, New York apartment. I pass through the door like a ghost. The place smells like potpourri and the decor is nicer. My Earth-Alpha apartment smells like a warm Ham & Cheese Hot Pocket. I enter the living room and my stomach drops.
Earth-Beta Jennifer and Earth-Beta me are snuggling on the couch watching Jay Leno. (On this Earth Jay never leaves The Tonight Show. It’s classified as a Grade-2 dystopia.) I exit the parallel dimension even more depressed. I’m totally jealous of my alternate self.
I jump into Earth-Tau, where the world is ruled by a werewolf-Hitler. Soon I discover that Jennifer and I are married and lead a band of resistance fighters against Nazi shape-shifters.
In Earth-Zeta, I watch as we board a generation starship that will eventually carry our great-great-great grandchildren to a habitable planet to ensure the co
On Earth-Omega, a zombie apocalypse has turned us both into the walking dead. I look closer and notice we’re holding hands—and maybe it’s my imagination but our undead faces look kinda happy.
I visit one dimension after another, and we’re always together. So why aren’t we a couple on Earth-Alpha? Is this the one world in an infinite number of possible realities where we are not meant to be together? Am I the unluckiest of all the iterations of me? God, I hate being shy. But Dr. Tomokats hasn’t invented an anti-introvert pill.
Technology has failed me. What now?
It hits my Rube Goldberg of a mind like a ball-bearing that has dropped into a tiny basket, fallen down a length of string, and landed on a tiny bell. It’s so simple. It’s so damn terrifying.
I take a deep breath, I think of those brave bunnies in Watership Down. Then, my heart pounding like mad, I pop my head over the cubicle wall, and I–
Attempt 6: Ask Jennifer on a date.
Note: I don’t run away.
Head to Head
(Originally published in Triptych Tales)
The voice of God spoke inside Walter’s head. He had his doubts, of course, but eight years of Catholic school are hard to shake off. So he played along—just in case.
He had confessed to five of the seven deadly sins before finally calling the voice’s bluff. “I don’t think God would say Dang’!”
“Dang, you got me!” said the voice, which dropped its bad James Mason impression and now sounded like a cross between Larry the Cable Guy and Kermit the Frog. “But I had you going, didn’t I? I mean, I feel you were starting to really believe me, and then—dang—literally, dang! Oh, man, I really needed that.” The voice’s laughter sounded like a rapidly dripping faucet. A migraine bloomed behind Walter’s left eye.
“Why? So you can fool the next poor guy?”
“As far as I know you’re the only person I can communicate with.”
“Lucky me. And just who am I communicating with, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Oh, you want my name? It’s Satan!” The voice laughed and it felt like a chainsaw ripping through Walter’s medulla oblongata. “But my buddies call me Beelzebubba! Heh-heh-heh. Get it? Beelzebubba? I just made that up.”
Walter pressed his index fingers into his temples. “No, I don’t get any of this. How is it that you’re talking to me inside my head? Am I going insane?”
“Ain’tchu the dummy. Never heard of telepathy? I’m telepathic.”
“More like pathetic.”
“You making fun, friend? You don’t want to make fun.”
The voice exited Walter’s brain. It felt as if a tooth had been yanked from his mouth.
Walter told himself it was a figment of his imagination; that he was just stressed out after another miserable day at the office. It had been twenty years of miserable days at the office and it didn’t seem to be getting any better.
The board meeting had been a disaster. As he’d expected, his manager, Thom, asked about the revised claims report. Walter had been rehearsing his answer in his head all day. He had even written it out on a Post-it note. But when the big moment came, Walter choked. The words got stuck in his throat and then came hurtling out like a dyslexic shotgun blast. He never completed a sentence. After what seemed an eternity, Thom cut him off and said, “We’ll get back to Walter when he remembers how to speak.”
Walter returned to playing Tetris, which was what he had been doing before the voice appeared, and after the twentieth game he forgot all about the bizarre incident.
The voice returned three days later, as Walter was about to propose to his online girlfriend.
He’d met Katherine on a dating site a few months ago. Walter was in Oneonta, New York, and Katherine was in Pueblo, Colorado, but they Skyped three nights a week, on what they called their “date nights.”
Walter knew it was weird to propose to a woman he had never met in person. But he felt in his heart that Katherine was the one. She laughed at his jokes. She was fanatical about 1930s movie serials, just like him. She beat him at Tetris and he was at Level 74 now. But most important, he always felt comfortable with her and he didn’t think it would be weird at all when they finally met in person.
Each “date night” since he bought the engagement ring, Walter had tried to work up the courage to pop the question, but the moment never presented itself. Then he got an idea. He’d put the ring on a shelf behind him. Beside the ring would be a bouquet of yellow roses and above it a sign reading, “Will you marry me, Kat?” He’d excuse himself during their Skype session, start playing Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved,” and then zoom in on the shelf. After a bit, he’d pop back on the camera and get the (hopefully positive) answer. That had been the plan, anyway, until the voice returned.
“Walter! Hey, Walter. It’s me,” the voice said. “Hey, man, what’s going on? Long time no hear, huh?”
Walter clenched his jaw.
“Do you need to pass gas?” Katherine asked.
“Walter, my man. Wassup!” the voice said.
“You look like you have to pass gas.”
“Walter, hey, Walter! Are you there, man?”
“I’m fine,” Walter said. His right eye began to twitch.
“Are you sure?” Katherine said. “You don’t look fine.”
“Don’t ignore me!” the voice shouted. “You ignore me and you’re gonna be in a mess of doo-doo! Trust me, friend!”
“Shut up!” Walter shouted.
Katherine flinched. “Excuse me?” she said.
“Sorry, sorry, I wasn’t talking to—I mean, I don’t feel well. Maybe we should call it a night.”
“You can just pass the gas off camera and come back. It’s okay. I get it, guys fart.” She giggled, but Walter didn’t laugh.
Now the voice began to sing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” in a monotonous, nasal voice.
“I have to go,” Walter said, and slammed his laptop shut. “What the hell was that?” he asked the voice.
“That one is on you, friend. I told you not to ignore me. Come on, let’s play Questions. I’ll go first.”
“Why would I want to play with a voice in my head when I could have been proposing to my girlfriend?”
“You have a girlfriend? Nice! OK, I’ll go first. What’s your favorite Bruce Lee movie?”
Walter was convinced he was losing his mind. The voice spoke to him every day, all day long now. He talked about slasher movies (he liked Friday the 13th, hated the Saw franchise); beer (Pabst Blue Ribbon was his favorite); muscle cars (he was partial to the 1968 Pontiac Firebird Coupe); and women (he had a thing for heavyset redheads). He asked Walter stupid questions: “What would you rather eat: chocolate-flavored poop or poop-flavored chocolate?” He made up stupid songs involving Walter’s name: “Walter-ter-ter-ter. Ter-ter-DA. Da-DUM-da-DUM. Wall-TAH!”
Walter called in sick to work for five days straight. On the sixth day, after guzzling a forty-ounce beer, he saw a psychiatrist.
“Does this voice tell you to do anything? To hurt yourself?” Dr. De Graat asked. He was a bald, bespectacled man with a penchant for polka-dot bowties and sweaters that reeked of mothballs.
“Not really,” Walter said. “When he’s mad, he’s the one threatening to hurt me.”
“I see,” De Graat said, and scribbled on his legal pad. “And does he hurt you?”
“Yes. All the time. He’ll scream. He’ll sing off-key for hours.”
“Does he influence your behavior?”
“He makes me drink and I had been sober for two and half years. He gives me headaches.”
“Are you getting enough sleep?”
“Not at all.”
Scribble, scribble. “Walter, I’m going to prescribe you an antipsychotic drug.”
“Do you think I’m psychotic?”
“Let’s not jump to conclusions. The drug I’m prescribing is extremely effective in treating hallucinations and delusions. L
“Well, things at work haven’t been the greatest and my relationship with my girlfriend has been strained.”
“The imaginary girlfriend?”
“No. She’s my online girlfriend.”
“Uh-huh.” He made a long note. “Take the medication and come back in two weeks.”
The antipsychotic drug didn’t help.
“Walter! Walter! Walter!”
He was in a meeting when the voice started. He bit his lower lip hard enough to draw blood. As Walter reached for a napkin, he knocked over his mug, spilling coffee onto the conference table.
“Walter! Walter! Walter! Guess what? Guess what?”
All eyes turned on Walter. He dabbed at his bloody lip.
“Are you okay?” his manager, Thom, asked. “I didn’t even call on you yet.”
“Just have to pass some gas,” Walter said, and immediately had no idea why he’d said that. He bolted out of the conference room, hoping no one had heard him. The laughter erupting from the room told him otherwise.
“Walter! Guess what?”
“Chicken butt! I can’t believe you fell for that! That’s such an old joke.”
A laugh, like glass grinding against stone, tore through Walter’s head.
He bought two bottles of Jack Daniel’s on the way home. He drank half of one in the car. It worked better than the psycho medication. The voice was still there when he drank, but it was muffled, as if covered by a hand.
After Walter finished the Jack, he started on the champagne he had planned to drink after proposing to Katherine. He had sent her a bottle of the same Dom Perignon 2006, but didn’t tell her what it was for. He’d said only that one day they could drink it when they had something to celebrate.
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