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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Dark · #2319798
A man turns desperate
This story includes sensitive topics including mental health, gore, and self harm.

         I didn’t tell my mouth to rip the flesh off my arm. I didn’t even let myself think about it. Instead I concentrated on the muscles just below the cheek. I tightened them with no more expression on my face than if I were reading the newspaper. Dark red blood began to squirt into my mouth and onto my face. I could feel Brian panicking, but his voice was quiet, like a man trapped in a padded room about to be filled with gas. A warmth filled my mouth, and a texture like raw chicken sat on my tongue. Brian uselessly attempted to make me gag. But I’d been expecting that tactic. With one final squelch and a brutal tension of the muscles in my upper neck, my top and bottom teeth met. I let the raw chicken texture in my mouth linger there for a second, as Brian’s voice grew dimmer and dimmer into the back of my skull. I’d done it. Brian was dead. He will no longer control me.

         At first Brian had just been annoying. Forgetting the kids’ birthdays, accidentally eating breakfast twice and then bitching about who ate all the eggs, never remembering if he’d just entered the store or was just about to leave, that sort of thing. He'd been a real pain in the ass, but you could still live with him if you had enough patience and humor.
         When the doctor first diagnosed Brian I’d even felt sorry for the son-of-a-bitch. He’d get tired and we’d sleep. He didn’t feel like eating, so we would just sit there together with a hot pile of garbage on our plate and stare at nothing for a while. I am so fucking hungry Brian! Can we please just eat!
Sometimes Brain would forget he wasn’t hungry and would eat anyways, and later that night, Stephanie, on her hands and knees, wading through half digested spaghetti and some yellow liquid so caustic that it ruined the god damn towels, would reassure Brian that everything was ok - that she still appreciated him - his family still loved him - what’s a gallon of deep yellow bile between friends? She was sick too, but it's not like Brian cared.
         One evening, my daughter came over to give Brian a bath. A little yellow spittle had congealed on his lower lip and his shirt clung to his body like some sort of slimy octopus left out in the sun too long. My daughter gently pulled the carcass off his body and had to throw all her weight under his arm just to lift him out of that stupidly large recliner and into the bathroom. His armpit gunk put off some sort of dead animal smell. He looked like a stick figure with a shrunken head attached to the neck.
My daughter lowered him into the bath. Brian pulled his head back and looked over my daughter with a bit of a scowl. “Who the hell are you?” he demanded, which in his condition, just meant it was louder than his usual whimper. “Can’t you see I’m taking a bath?”
         The asshole didn’t even recognize my own daughter. He’d taught her how to ride a bike. He’d survived through all her break ups, and door slamming, and that stupid goth phase. He’d walked her down the aisle of that stupid little country church with that stupidly perfect white bell tower. And now here he was, threatening to call the police on her for trespassing.
         My daughter cooed something reassuring that immediately made me realize she was a better parent than I ever was. But Brian gave up listening because words to him sounded like screws in a blender. He grabbed a bottle of shampoo to bludgeon her, but it fell into the water and bruised his thigh instead.
         “I hate you!” he wailed as the pain shot up his leg. Brian saw the calmness on her face drift to slight sadness as the words punched her harder than any shampoo bottle would have. Brian seized on her weakness,
         “You stupid bitch! You are nothing! You mean nothing! You’re so pathetic! I sit here and hurl insults at you and you just keep cleaning with that stupid stoic face! God you’re stupid! Like when you totaled my car when you hit that light post! How do you hit a light post? They don’t goddamn move. They have a goddamn light attached to the top of them! How could you be so stupid?”
         Of course he could remember her now. Now that he was hurling insults at her. Asshole.
As Brian screamed, and bits of spittle flung around the bathroom, she dunked the sponge in the sudds from the bath and gently dabbed at Brian’s chest, humming something that eventually calmed him down.
         Later, she left some food in the fridge, told Brian she loved him, and left. Brain stared at the TV and said nothing, not even a wave.
         That night, I decided I had to kill Brian.

         Brain and I had grown up together. As a child, Brian liked to keep his blocks and toy cars close. He’d bitten more than one kid before I’d gotten a handle on how to control him. We’d both worked at this small road side ice cream store during the summers in our teens. We’d page through used car magazines when business was slow, and Brian would always find some old mustang he wanted or some firebird with the paint peeling off of it. We took a few test drives, but in the end I convinced him to go with an old four door pontiac with less miles. In turn, he convinced me to smoke my first cigarette at a party to impress a girl we liked. I don't think I, nor the girl were very impressed, but she slipped me a paper with her number on it before she left. He’d practically forced me to lean in and kiss Stephine in 9th grade. I’d probably still be a virgin if it wasn’t for him.
         But none of that mattered anymore. If it was only my life that Brian was ruining, perhaps we could have continued on the fumes of the past. But not my daughter’s life, not after that look I’d seen in her eyes as she walked out the door - pity, anger, relief that she was leaving, guilt that she felt relief, and pain - a deep pain that sits on your chest. A pain that can kill you if it goes on too long. That pain has already taken Stephanie. I won’t let it take my daughter too.

         There were, of course, an unlimited number of easy ways to kill Brian. But none of those ways were precise enough, and were just as likely to get myself killed. I could barely get Brian to the bathroom before he shit himself, so my options were limited. The sickness gave him some sort of power over me. The more it twisted and squeezed, the more confused he became. He used to just ignore my screams, but now he couldn’t even hear them. At this point he was nothing more than a foul mouthed stinking corpse well past his expiration date.

         Late one night, with the TV blaring because Brian had lost the remote again, I saw an old man in a red robe close his eyes and sit perfectly still. A narrator explained that this shriveled malnourished man, through years of meditation and discipline, had learned to control his own heart beat and had mastered his mind. Brian could have cared less, but that old man gave me the secret that I needed to finally kill him.
         I’d heard somewhere that you can’t take a bite out of yourself - Brian won’t let you. Apparently, no matter how hard you try, Brian will take you over and make you his bitch.

         To hell with Brian.

         In the years since that television show, as I soaked up Brian’s vomit and helplessly watched him cuss out my family, I’ve had all the time in the world to retreat inward and take control of my mind. Sometimes, when Brian is staring at a wall refusing to eat, I can feel his breath, no, the actual air inflating the lungs. If I twitch just right, Brian’s heart pumps an extra pump. I can feel it ever so slightly inflate my left arm. I move Brian’s finger by individually releasing and tightening each muscle in tandem. At first, like some clumsy apprentice who can’t tell his right from his left. But eventually, the finger moves in a way that almost looks natural. Like I’m putting together a complicated watch, gear by gear, just so I can watch the second hand tick for a brief moment. Or like a prisoner, slowly chipping away at a hole in his cell, day after day.
At night, while Brian dreams his nightmares, I slowly meld into his spinal cord at the back of the neck, feeling the chemical impulses. Trying to interpret them like an archaeologist might try to read ancient runes. Any day now, the sickness might squeeze the last drop out of both of us. I need to kill Brian today, before it's too late.


         Once Brian’s voice finally stops, I spit out my chunk of arm. The blood pouring out of the wound waterfalls into a swamp of already congealing viscera on the floor. Without Brian to bitch about the pain, I just slowly stare at it and watch the swamp grow towards the couch. I gasp, forgetting to breathe.
         I can remember all of it. Even better than before Brian got sick. The white chapel with the bell ringing; the strawberry scent of her hair as I walked her down the aisle; the warmth of Stephanie’s lips on mine in 9th grade; all the grandchildren. Dear God, I’d forgotten them all. But now they streamed past my eyes as if they were standing in front of me. All the kisses, the hugs, the laughter, rushing back all at once.
         I gasped, forgetting to breathe again.
         My chest felt ready to collapse. I felt no pain, at least, I had no reaction to it - that had always been Brian’s job. But I knew with Brian gone I couldn’t possibly keep up with willing my lungs to fill and deflate and pumping my heart in the correct rhythm. I had only a few minutes.
         I pulled my hamstring taught and concentrated on the muscles that would hopefully propel my foot and leg forward. I immediately stumbled and fell to the floor. With my left arm pinned under my body, I sporadically tensed and clenched different limbs until I ended up mostly going in the direction of the desk a few feet away from me. With a complex set of calculations and perfect timing, I eventually knocked a pen and paper onto the floor.
         With Brian gone, I had no innate sense of self preservation, which had the benefit of keeping me conscious, but also meant that my body was a mystery to me. I could feel myself dying. Most likely because I was operating some organ in my body incorrectly. I concentrated all my effort into my hands, knowing I only had seconds to finish what I had spent years planning.

         I scrawled in almost illegible handwriting, “I love you. I love you.”

         I wanted to write so much more. I wanted to tell her that I remembered everything - her birth, her wedding, her kids, her kindness. I wanted to thank her for all the years she’d put up with Brian and his tirades and his cutting words. I wanted to tell her that none of it was true - that she was perfect and amazing and wonderful. I just wanted her to know that I loved her - that I remembered her - that I would always remember her.

         I could feel the cascading effect of organs shutting down in my body and could see the darkness creeping in from the edge of my vision. I looked down at my arm, still gushing, and then peeked at the sticky swamp of blood now running under the couch.
I’d been so stupid. Next time she came to give me a bath she would see an old dead man covered in blood from gnawing off his own arm. She wouldn’t notice the barely legible note that I now realized was covered in bloody fingerprints. She’d scream. My wrinkly, dead body would haunt her dreams forever. Even if I had the strength to write more it wouldn’t matter. This is how she’d remember me - old, crazy, and dead. There are no remedies for this disease. In the end, it won’t just take my memories. It will poison the memories of everyone I love.

Author's note: I am trying to show that the narrator feels trapped inside his own body as Brian, his Alzheimer's alter ego, controls his life. Brian and the narrator are the same person, sort of. For your critique, does this come across? Do i need to be more explicit about it? At what point, if ever, did you figure this out from the narrative?
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