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Cubicle 1

by Jim Pendrick

Man! Francisco didn’t like them goddamned toilets. They were like the usual subway piss holes. Full of junkies, freaks, winos, fruits, drag queens. Workaday Joes would go in and then run out with the crotch of their pants wet. That was during the day. But at night it was always empty, just like a morgue. He had to use the john or he was going to burst.

The street this place was on always seemed to be empty when it was dark. Strewn with litter and void of life. But then when you walked around the corner you were back in downtown Coney. Filled with people from the strip and Astroland. It was an evil place. Loads of people had been blanked there. Stabbed, strangled, filled with lead. Others took hot shots and ended it all, while the trains rumbled past.

One time a woman’s head was found in a garbage can. No one knew who she was or why her head ended up there to get chewed by the vermin. Voodoo. Usually all you saw that was alive was seagulls, roaches and freaking rats.

Hell! Why didn’t he just shoot a hot streak of yellow up the wall? There ain’t never any cops in the block. Not enough rich folks’ apartments for them to watch out over. Frank took a gulp out of his bottle of fine malt liquor. He didn’t feel drunk or wasted enough to go in just yet. Not just yet.

He was a pussy. The bitch had messed him up, man. When she done that thing to him and he went loco, the drugs had become the main reason for him hauling his ass out into the light of the morning. But her voice was always in his head, dissing him. Reminding him why he couldn’t satisfy her. Making him a pseudo-man.

Then there were the nightmares. He looked around the street; it was like one from one of them holocaust movies with the zombies: deserted, garbage dancing in the hot wind. No automobiles, no buses, there weren’t even any trains rattling and rolling up on the bridge.

Ave Maria!” Frank intoned as he slugged down the strong malt liquor into his rotten guts. He tossed the bottle behind him. It smashed to pieces still in the brown paper bag. He staggered over to the entrance of the toilet. It looked like a big mouth on a Halloween mask.

The lights always flickered in a strange way in this john. And they buzzed and hummed. It gave him a freaking headache. Once he got out of the place he knew he would have to go and score some gear to take the pain away. It was a weird pain like he had eaten too much ice-cream.

The toilet stank as well. Sure, every john in this city did. But this joint had its own smell. It reminded him of the aroma that came from the pit where they dumped the bodies back in Colombia.

That was when he was just a glue-sniffin’ kid in the barrio. The police gunned down a whole load of cocaine selling gang-bangers and then just dumped them in a big pit. They filled it up with earth. But the smell was bad. It was always crawling with rats, pigs, wild dogs and vultures. Same kinda stench from this place. Could be it’s from all the pollution out in the bay?

If Frank wasn’t a low-down Latino hood on skid row, he would have went straight to the cops and told them all about it. Someone had been blanked in that joint. Not that long ago either. That much was true. Probably a fruit. He knew that old smell of death and evil, just like about as well as his mamma.

Nasty things had occurred in that John. Bodies had been chopped up and flushed down the pan. Frank pictured himself talking to a big bull cop, telling him about all the killings and trying to claim a reward. They would bust his ass. He giggled.

Frank almost pooped his pants when someone or something brushed past him. He turned, half-scared, half-angry. A crumpled guy in a suit glanced at him. He looked scared. He weakly smiled then ran into the john. Dumb ass looked like a Long Island commuter who had too much to drink in a titty bar and got lost. But if you gotta go you gotta go.

Frank didn’t feel as scared now, knowing that there was another human being in close proximity. Not that close though. He was a lot of things, but he wasn’t no fruit. Not yet at any rate. He’s fast running out of options ’cuz of that puta.

The only other living thing he bumped into near here, apart from the water bugs, rats and gulls, was Irish Sam. He was an old Bowery type of a bum with long red lice-filled beard and straggly hair. He shuffled about talking to himself. Frank hadn’t seen him in a long time.

The last time had been creepy. He’d found Irish Sam lying in his own piss on the sidewalk outside the toilet. The streets were post-apocalyptic yet again. He was mumbling stuff in a kind of Hells Kitchen, County Mayo brogue. Loco stuff. Frank went to him.

Ave Maria, check this out. He’s right outside of the john and he’s pissed his pants. He’s done more than that Yuk! Better get him on his feet before he pukes. Aw man, he’s been drinking the industrial spirits again! Still it’s kept the roaches off him. Those monsters eat your eyelashes man. Hey his eyes are open, he’s going to speak.

He looked Frank in the eye, suddenly lucid.

“I saw it. The Peiste. Sure as if it was my own mother. God rest her. Like a giant knot of seaweed. Came after us so it did. Like a big tentacle. Face of the devil. I prayed to sweet Mary... I saw it again this night! It looked like a handsome young man. But he was all wet, like he just came out of the sea. Greenish skin. A young fella went into the cubicle and never came back out. Ate him right up... I saw the blood in cubicle 1.”

Frank didn’t think anything of it. When you’re a wino or a junkie, you get the horrors when you kick. Or sometimes just ’cuz your head is all messed up. Hallucinations. It’s part of the nature of things.

He knew through personal experience. He had spent a couple of nights in Rikers screaming about the land crabs that kept scuttling up to him. Pincers raised. Thousands of them in his cell ready to eat him. The sound of their legs on the floor made his skin crawl. Damn near scratched himself down to the bone. A real freak-out.

Then when he had coke psychosis he thought this big blue-skinned zombie was following him. Always just out of his vision, in the shadows. A big brother with yellow monster eyes grinning at him in the sick night. Coming to chew his flesh up like he was a Vienna sausage. Old Sam was gone now. Sweet Mary only knows where.

The piss was about to burst out like a busted fire hydrant. Frank held onto his crotch and went into the creepy john. The lights flickered as if they wanted to greet him. But like they were mocking him. The same old, icy arctic buzz sound was throbbing away. It was an alien sound, like from the Outer Limits.

Weird toilet this; no tags, no graffiti. Nothing. But it was unclean. Filthy. And straight outa the air came that Bogotá death-pit stench. Like an old friend you don’t like no more but keeps coming back to bug you.

Frank went to piss. The release made him sigh out loud. Damn that was good. He hoped Long Island wasn’t looking out from a glory hole, thinking he was jerking off. He would kill the mother...

From the corner of his eye he noticed that something was wriggling about. Like a big snake. What the hell? He zipped up and spun around. It was a trouser leg in a spasm. Sticking out of under the cubicle door. Cubicle 1. It was the businessman. Mr Long Island. The leg was joined by its cohort. Looks like the fella had went on the nod on the pan. White-collar drunk. Maybe he was having a stroke or an epileptic seizure. Drug overdose? These suits were big snow heads.

Frank realised that he could roll this asshole. He was probably dripping with money, rings, credit cards, watches, drugs. He kicked the door open greedily licking his lips. Ave Maria! He had expected to find a zonked out guy on the floor. But he didn’t see that. No man!

He saw this big creature like a slug or a sea worm. But with teeth and bristles. It was chewing on something. It gurgled and munched. Francisco knew precisely what it was eating. His eyes went down to the ground. The lower part of the man’s torso was twitching away. Vomiting up blood from the torn veins and arteries.

The thing was coming out of the toilet bowl. It looked like a massive demon plant in a big pot. It rose up to the roof then began to gag and sicked up a heap of bloody ribs and guts which slid to the floor. Frank backed off. But the thing bent over and faced him.

It was thick as a man’s leg and kinda sea-coloured; grey, green and blue. As it bent forward it showed its face; if you could have called it that. A big, ugly, locust, roach face. The eyes burned deep into Frank’s brain. Black-lit compound eyes. The bristles around its savage maw wriggled like the land crabs legs of his drug horrors.

The torso of the businessman began to twitch. The creature sensed this and done a vertical u-turn and gobbled up the rest of its meal. The legs rhumba-danced down the creature’s maw, torso first. They twitched all the way inside. Frank stood stock still as he watched the thing gulp down the torso, chew it up and swallow it. It went down the u-bend still in the monster’s body all cut up.

That thing’s got more teeth inside it. It’s like a freaking waste-disposal unit.

Frank walked backwards to escape. But something cold and wet was blocking his way. He freaked, screaming like a bitch. Oh shoot! He turned to see Soledad. His babygirl. His ex-babygirl. She looked so sweet. Why did she go and screw her cousin? Frank had had to punish him for that. Stabbed him to death with a screwdriver when he was high on rock. Stuck it right into his freaking brain, till his eyes turned up white. You shoulda seen him.

If she hadn’t done that, they would have been together today. And Frank wouldn’t be a bum on the lam, hustling about Coney Island. He wanted to punch the bitch out. But she looked sexy, man. The curves, the lips. Those eyes. She had her hair tied back the way he liked it.

But she was kinda greenish. Even her black kinky hair was kale green. The Outer Limits sound emanated from her, sounding like a bus station at night.

Her lips puckered to kiss him. He wanted to kiss her again. Taste the inside of her mouth. Just like the old days. Some force made him back away. But if he backed away the creature would get him. Frank pulled his shank out.

Soledad’s head suddenly split. Exploded like a flower opening to the sun. Or a moth bursting from a chrysalis. And that locust face was leering at him. The bristles around the mouth wriggled. It made him squeamish. They made the crab leg noise on the cold prison floor.

Frank began to scratch feverously. He had the horrors. The scratches to his flesh began to bleed. The face was right up at him. It looked at his wound with alien intelligence.

The maw opened up quick as a flash. Francisco managed to glimpse a slimy tube filled with a thousand razor-sharp teeth. Just like sharks’ teeth. Farther than that, what seemed like a million miles away he saw a vista: a place with a pinkish purple sky. Another planet?

He thought it was Hell. Where he was going. Born to lose. From inside he could swear he could hear Old Sam screaming. The mouth swiftly closed around his head and pierced it with its many fangs like it was a pin cushion.

Copyright © 2009 by Jim Pendrick

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