This article is part of the That Insidious Beast series.
"God help us all!" a man is screaming over and over.
The pounding in my head, the monstrous, overbearing tone, is joined by the cacophony of a madhouse. A lunatic asylum. A woman is screaming unintelligibly. Someone is beating a chair against the wall.
"This way," Fatso grunts and navigates through the wailing mass of uniformed bodies.
The windowless bunker is sweltering hot and packed with people. It stinks of every fluid a human body can produce.
I step over a dead man on the floor. He's blown his brains out and left a sticky pool of blood marked by a thousand footprints. A dog is licking at the jagged edges of the corpse's wound. It growls and bares red teeth at me.
I can't even fully comprehend the squalor. Too many details competing for my brain's limited power.
I lose sight of Fatso in the scrum. Some of the soldiers here seem to be moving with purpose, following orders, but most are just mindlessly swirling in the huge main room. A slow-motion mosh pit.
The low ceiling adds to the press of bodies to create unbearably claustrophobic conditions. I'm so lost and overwhelmed I feel relieved when Fatso's good hand reaches through the crowd and grabs me by the wrist. From that point on he pulls me along like I'm a child.
We pass a teenage preacher from Holy Hand leading kneeling soldiers in prayer. We step gingerly among sleeping bodies.
Fingers dig into my arm and pull me away from Fatso.
"Have you seen them!?" a woman screams at me as I turn to face her. "Have you looked at their faces?"
"Them!" she shouts uselessly and pulls me to her.
"They're not there!" she screams and savages me with her fingernails. "They're not there! They're not-"
Fatso slashes her across the cheek with one of the knives hanging from his belt.
"Go 'way," he says.
The woman releases me and covers her cheek with both hands.
"Ow!" she cries out and retreats into the crowd.
Fatso grabs me again, roughly, and shoves me ahead of him. He presses the knife into my back and prods me forward.
Are you concerned that you may be a character trapped in a Tom Waits song? Be smart and learn the warning signs before it's too late. Also, it's too late. It has always been too late.
I'm haunted by a recurring vision of a skeleton flipping me off. To avoid seeing this terrifying image in bumper sticker form, I pay someone with a blank bumper to drive in front of me at all times.
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