The Cost of Freedom
At what point do you know what fear truly is? And what I mean is, fear in all of its means and iterations. Terror, horror, dread, creep, anxiety, and all possible ways of describing one of living nature’s most primal senses. Most attempts at understanding fear only go so far as to cheaply replicate its effects by cheaply imitating its triggers. Drawn up pictures of grotesque beings, fiction written from the point of view of corrupted minds, numerical statistics of cancer likelihoods and death tolls. Even as these come close to the true root of fear, many choose to walk free of them, the societal machination in which they are born in offering many avenues to turn away from their natural calls to the void. To them, fear stems from the pettiest of life’s wants. Are they going to find love, a successful job, live a long life, understand the vast complexities of the universe. All basic things that make it seem that fear only stems from the absence of want.
These fears bore me. Nothing but another speck of dust in the very blowing dunes of existence to a collector such as myself. What someone like me is after are the fossils. The remains of the dead buried in life’s blowing wind, their suffering forever memorialized in a set cast of their misery. Aren’t they just the most magnificent things to behold? Pain woven right into the foundation of where we lie today...
My apologies, it seems that I’ve gotten ahead of myself again. I find it hard to contain myself when talking about such… visceral material. My position has allowed me ample time to find the beauty in decay, a fascination that I hope to share with you all now. Because understand this. Suffering is an inspiration that many of us jerk and stray away from. It seems everyone now is far too eager to numb all of their senses, especially fear, for the minuscule net grain of pleasant contentment. You all don’t get to see what I see. Feel the lifetimes that I have walked through. But now you will learn not only my name but what my own experiences have brought me. I’m here to awaken you, to widen your eyes, make you focus, and feel the pain all around you.
My name is Graven, and these are my accounts.
This was one of the first stories I collected, a fitting intro for my volumes. It’s a personal tale, one of a young boy who simply wants some independence in his life. A coming of age story if you’re an optimist or eyeless romantic. And like all inspiring stories, it blossoms from a dying prostitute in a crack house. In the arms of one Tyler Bindweed.
Before you go casting judgment on our young boy here, one must understand how hard it would be to be your own man at sixteen. But young Tyler was actually handling it well. Of course, the normal connotation of well is not exactly the best fit for the situation here. No one could be well after running away from their orphanage. Or having an abusive drunk father that threw more bottles than the number of times his checks bounced. Or having survived a religious nut mother tried to gore out the demon in their soul. No one could say anything was well in that scenario. The connotation of Tyler’s entire life is needed to make sense of all this senselessness and for that, one has to start at the very beginning.
Tyler had never felt truly free. From his birth, he felt controlled. His cage was the clogged up heartland of the American east coast, Kentucky bluegrass country, the sentencing date being April 13th, 1973. It was directly from the maternal womb of his mother to the whipping belt of his father. What had once been a hard-working family man was now a violent drunk. The long-standing family business was going under and his father was handling it about as well as he did apple pie moonshine. A man at his kind of low point just wants to put hurt out into the world, and too often Tyler was the closest outlet. That was only because the mother was out bible thumping.
Carrying Tyler had been a labor of love for his mother starting out. Then by month eight it had turned into a labor of unspeakable anguish. Tyler was a late arrival and his actual delivery was difficult. To come out of all of that to return to a crumbling home and drunk husband, reasonable to see why she went as mad as she did. Her sudden discovery and devotion to Christ from a dream was considerably less so. Her rare atheist upbringing made it all the more special and unhinged. But when the ground below your feet falls away, there’s only one place to look toward and that’s up into the sky. And people love pulling things out of clouds. The clouds seemed to have told her to start badgering her neighbors and calling her only son a relative of Satan. The reason for all of the family’s troubles. A burden put on earth for her by God to test her newly found faith. Parents usually put a lot on their kids though so that was par for the course.
This all came to a head when the father was somehow even more sloppy with his drunken beating and hit Tyler in the face. One good shiner was all that was needed to confirm the long-held suspicions of Tyler’s school teachers. Soon Tyler was pulled aside, interrogated, and put in a little safe room while the teachers called the police. They had always worried for Tyler, his more-than-quiet behavior and odd ticks were a point of concern between them. Now their nativity was leading them to believe that local authorities would be enough to stop the anguish of this poor boy. It would soon turn out to be the subtle flap of the universe's butterfly wings.
The cruiser pulled up to the lonesome house, not even bothering to see if anyone else was around the property. The two cops on patrol that day were very aware of the Bindweed family, their father causing more than enough scuffles in the town bar to warrant his own corner in the stations holding cell. They expected the father to be out on his ass drunk watching something on T.V. An easy arrest. However, by the time the officer had arrived, the school was already let out. That meant Tyler should have been home. His father was not one to miss out on time spent with his favorite punching bag, so he knew something was up. The sound of car tires pulling up on the dirt road was all he needed to get out his shotgun.
The police sauntered up the dilapidated porch, not prepared for the double-barreled welcome waiting for them. They were chuckling to themselves, taking guesses at what slurred excuse the father would have for them this day. It was their own snickering that covered up the sound of two shells being loaded into the father’s break action. The senior officer’s knock was the opening sting to the orchestra of buckshot being fired through the door and into the policeman. His partner deafened and stunned at the sight of his mentor being torn apart like apple mash. He stumbled out of the way of the second spread of red hot pellets. The father’s aim, unlike his paranoia or rage, was not helped with whiskey. Neither was his footing, as the father tripped over himself trying to swing his spent weapon at the remaining officer. The opening let the remaining officer take out his revolver and fire right into the father’s chest, followed by three more as the rabid drunk’s body dropped to the ground. As the downed man’s blood seeped into the rotting poach wood, he reeled thinking he had ended the evil of the damned home.
A returning matriarch would cut short any chance of closure. She was right outside, returning from yet another failed conversion session when her new reality soon hit her. Instead of the usual treat of another bill taped to the front of the home, what was there was her deadbeat husband truly dead and beaten. One in the shoes of a long-abused wife might find this sight horrifying yet relieving to a certain extent. Yet this woman had one thing she hated more than her drunk and now dead husband: Police. Men and women acting as the arms of a long and corrupt creature of sin. Just the mere sighting of one meant that more godless creatures would come into her home. It would be like a plague. One that could have only been brought on by a wicked curse. One that was created inside of her. One who too conveniently did not seem to be there at the house at the very moment.
If the policeman thought to see his partner get shot was the low point of the day, I’m sure having his cruiser jacked by a screaming lunatic of a woman was at least the strangest one.
The mother peeled away from the house, determined to rid the world of her own perceived demon. Meanwhile, the secretary leaving Tyler’s school was probably just determined to call a plumber to finally fix that leaky pipe under her sink. It would be the secretary leaking out on the pavement after the mother arrived and plunged her dagger deep into her chest. That sacred dagger mimicking the spearhead that stabbed Jesus finding its way into the chest of a secretary called Mary. What was once a powerful example for the mother to pull out and show others the personal sacrifice Jesus had made for humanity, now a great image of irony.
Those teachers witnessing said stabbing probably didn’t have the clairvoyance to appreciate the coincidence however. The mother hadn’t any mind for it either as she broke through the front door of the office. Her eyes snapped toward and her feet stomped right over to her terrified little hellspawn. Tyler was in the back of the room, chair facing what was sure to be his death. But as the mother made her charge toward Tyler, the football coach of the school had come up from behind and tackled her to the ground. Soon everyone rushed to dogpile on the crazy mother who was now screaming and flailing around, all the while in a locked stare down with her boy. Her bloodstained face and howls forever etching themselves in the heart of Tyler.
Was it any wonder why then after all of the death and screaming and demon-labeling that the kid didn’t turn out to be quite the talkative type? Tyler became a practical mute after the incident, the entire country soon being made aware of this crazy family. The people ate it up. The perfect American town turned upside down. Nothing gets the masses more wound up from the comfort of their couches and air conditioning. Tyler, on the other hand, was being passed around from psych office to psych office, any therapist worth his salt wanting the fame of helping the most troubled boy in all of America. But Tyler was a clam, not even offering so much as a crayon drawing to show the things he was put through. The world asking for your story when all you want to do is to try and process it all is a tough thing. Eventually he was shipped off to some orphanage on the other side of the state. Some people realized all the microphones and cameras might hurt the poor boy’s mind. But trying to save it was a lost cause.
Tyler was once again thrust into a horror house with strangers that should have been caring for him but instead were just causing him pain. So, he decided to fall back on what his dad had taught him best to do. Run. Run and hide. In the dead of night, he escaped the orphanage and just ran with some granola bars and water bottles all to his name, carrying in the same backpack he had when his mother tried to kill him. The next morning, of course, there was another roundabout the news circuit on the disappearance of America’s favorite trauma boy. There were search parties sent around the area, though the local police were well and truly tired of this whole Tyler fiasco. Still, they tried with some measurable amount of effort to find him but to no avail. But it was because he was not in the town dumpster or lost in the woods huddled in a cave somewhere as everyone presumed. Tyler was in a long thought abandoned house full of local drug addicts and dealers.
The ’70s were a great time to deal heroin. It was as popular M*A*S*H. Even with the colorful characters drugs usually tend to attract, it can be said with certainty that the people dealing heroin did not expect a 10-year-old boy to show up on their doorstep. Tyler had only come there because it was the only place the caretakers at the orphanage told him not to go. Installing the fear of a creepy and decrepit house would have probably worked on any other child. Home didn’t carry the friendly and inviting connotation in Tyler’s mind so busted out windows and dangerous people were just par for the course. He knew it’d be the last place anyone would look for him so it was a fantasy land in his eyes. All he had to offer, however, was his hands for work and some of his stolen granola bars. Thankfully the happy heroin dealers took him, mostly because they were high at the time and thought it would be cool to have a “celebrity” in their dilapidated home.
So for the next five years, Tyler’s life was that old home. He started out as just a lookout for the dealers. He was still a mute at this point, so he carried around an old cowbell as an alarm. That soon became his calling card among the dredges of the town, calling Tyler the name Bell instead of his own. He didn’t mind of course. If anything it was another thing that put him away from his past. He would be Bell and that would be it. No more questions. No more demands. No more family ties besides the nightmares in his head.
But he would see a whole lot of other family troubles. In the ever disintegrating shack he now called home, the dealers would bring in buyers to “sample” products. These interested investors ranged all over the moral spectrum. Some defunct workers from local coal unions faced the hardest of hard times while others were widowed wives seeking an escape from all of life’s troubles. And some were just completely corrupted shitbags you could not believe were once human.
It’s why Tyler would never touch the product. Despite the near-constant egging on from his dealer counterparts, Tyler would simply shake his head at any pass of the needle. Same thing for liquor or marijuana. His dad would say he drank to change, to get rid of all the pain in his life. Tyler had seen that experiment fail in front of his eyes. He figured people were just meant to carry heavyweights in their hearts. Just like himself, everyone in the house had already given up and was beyond redemption in their own eyes.
But one always stood out to Tyler: An older girl in her 20’s, who was simply called Tink. That’s because whenever she was high any can or light metal object would be subject to her finger pecking. That sound was the only thing she would make when she was strung out. Soon one day when Tyler was just hanging around, Tink got a good look at his bell and fell in love. At least when she was strung out. And Tyler didn’t mind because Tink, even whacked out of her mind, was easy on his eyes. Plus she never asked questions unlike everyone else. It was just about the only relationship Tyler could ever think of having long since given up facing the general public. He didn’t care if she was a prostitute or higher than a weather balloon. It was nice for the two months they knew each other… until it wasn’t.
One day Tink entered the home crying. She fell into the arms of Tyler, going on and on about how her most profitable client had given up on her: That client being a hot-shot mayor of the county and a soon-to-be candidate for Kentucky governorship. A younger man who was quickly climbing the political ladder, was using Tink as a human stress ball, giving her most of the money she would spend on heroin. However as the races finally started to heat up, he decided it best to leave his golden girl. It was a loose end he could not afford in his mind. This left Tink devastated. Once feeling like a princess picked out of poverty was now thrown back into the common, plebeian gutter. Cut off from her source of happiness. This tragedy, of course, all took place on top of a 20-year old mattress, covered in more human fluids and sadness than a handkerchief in the pocket of the world’s busiest funeral director.
But her bawling would stop when one the dealers found out she still had enough money for another shot of her medicine. After the initial high, she was soon in a familiar stupor. The other dealers told Tyler if she couldn’t pay for another round to just dump her somewhere. Before they left, however, Tink looked deeply into Tyler’s eyes and asked him to get more money for her; the man who wronged her would be at a nearby trailer home visiting his grandmother before going off on the campaign trail. And, if nothing else, maybe just a few more minutes with his Bell. Tyler simply looked down at her completely glazed face, planted a kiss on her lips, and left his cowbell at her side. He then stepped out of the home with only an aluminum baseball bat.
Tyler walked seven miles needed to reach the trailer home’s location. For the entire walk, Tyler seemed to be in a trance. The way he dragged the bat behind him left a clear trail in the dry dirt road for anyone to follow. But no one was around on this road. It seemed to be clear for this day’s walking manifestation of rage and revenge.
Eventually, Tyler reached the park that seemed to match Tink’s vague description. He moved through the seemingly abandoned park till he reached the mobile home farthest out from everyone else’s. There in the front was a campaign lawn sign of the offending politician. Tyler studied the grinning face on it for a while until his focus was drawn to the mobile home door. There was a sweet-looking old lady who smiled down at the disheveled Tyler. She was none the wiser to Tyler’s murderous intent. Hard to be observant when you’re partially blind. Instead, she started to talk about how the politician was her grandson and that she was so proud of his progress in the polls. Proud grandma jabber. She would have talked Tyler’s ear off for the next hour about the politician’s plan to reform schools, a crackdown on drug users, and the promise to return the state to the center of the American spirit if Tyler hadn’t cracked her head wide open.
Now while he was by no means a tactician of a superior strategic mind, Tyler had seen enough sketchy drug deals go down to know the meaning of the word bait outside of a fishing context. Not taking mind of the blood trail, he dragged sweet nana’s corpse back into the trailer home and waited for his real target.
Through the window blinds after an hour’s worth of waiting, he saw a truck seemingly ready to rally a march onto Washington pulled up to the mobile home. It was covered with campaign stickers and posters, all containing the blinding grin of the politician Tyler was set to kill. Soon the man himself stepped out of the truck in boots too nice to have ever been worked in, wearing a button shirt that was exactly the kind Nashville country would eventually kill. All topped off with a grin more plastic than the buttons pinned to his chest. It Seemed Tyler guessed right on what a politician would look like.
This politician in question slowly strode up to the home, calling out for his grammy when he was only a few steps away from the door. He had gone there alone, wanting some quality time with her after being gone for so long at the state capital. He wanted to pay respects to the woman who raised him when his own parents couldn’t. When the vacant rocking chair on the small porch finally caught his eye, something deep inside started to sense the off nature of the situation. When he neared the front of the home, the blood trail leading to the door sent him into an immediate panic. Reason would dictate that the last thing one should do is follow a blood trail into a confined space but family wasn’t a rational matter for this all too honest man of the people. He quickly rushed to the door, arm stretched out and reaching to fling the door open. Before he could see any more of his grandma’s spilled blood, he was subject to the spilling of his own.
Tyler barged through the trailer door, completely catching the politician off balance. He fell to the ground with a dirty thunk, catching a momentary glimpse of Tyler’s face before his eyes were thunked into the back of his skull. It was a gruesome scene, involving enough bat swings to kill a bison let alone a pencil-necked politician. But Tyler would not let up, keeping up the pounding to the face, body, and eventually the truck of the now firmly deceased campaign runner. It was just a whirlwind of rage finally coming out of Tyler. He released every ounce of hatred he had for his father, mother, therapists, dealer bosses, and the entire world all at that moment. His guttural scream was the first thing he vocalized ever since being damned by his mother so long ago in that school. It was one based on the feeling of anger and then release. Release of all that controlled him. For so long he had felt tied to the sins of his family: Always being told what to do by his father, what to believe by his mother, how to feel by the therapists, how to live by the dealers. Him taking that bat to the temples of that old shitbag politician was just about the most freeing thing Tyler could have ever felt. Because it was he who was spilling the blood now. He who was giving out pain. He who was doing things for the one he cared about.
As all of this was finally channeled out, Tyler caught a glimpse of himself in the reflection of the shiny truck door he was smashing. He saw a glimpse of what had become of his face. He rushed to one of the side mirrors to get a clear picture. It was sunken in like he was an understuffed teddy bear. He had a scraggly beard that demanded to be shaved. His eyes as red as the blood splattered across his face. It was the epitome of a nightmare state of being. But Tyler didn’t feel shame at all for his look. One sentence slipped through his dry and cracked lips.
“No one will recognize me…”
With that, he stopped his assault on the truck, looked back down at his previous handy work, and walked off into the open road. Some say he was never caught and just kept walking until he dropped from dehydration. Others claim they saw him as an aimless drifter, still carrying that bat of his. The police claim they shot him down while he was trying to rob a convenience store. Any of these tales simply aren’t worth noting down in detail. It changes nothing of what Tyler did. None add clarification to the meaning of all this unholiness. And it’s not like it should. Not in my eyes at the very least