A NEW MAN
by E.C. McMullen Jr.
Gumoc nodded. At 43 he was old enough to know of the catches and fine print with any transaction.
“What’s the total cost of the deal?”
The saleswoman began itemizing. “Well, with the three weeks of induced coma, round the clock care -”
“I asked for the total cost,” Gumoc repeated.
“You’re looking at $150,000 complete out of pocket.”
Gumoc held the skull up to the light. He held it with both hands, nearly caressing it. For a moment in the world there was only Gumoc and this skull. He’d admired this head for months. This was the skull that Gumoc felt best represented his mind, his character, his essence. Finally his brain, his eyes, everything he was would be within this skull.
Okay, not this skull, it was just a Showroom model, but this design, grown especially for him and free from the bone disease closing his throat, pushing out of his face and into his brain.
He would kill to be free of the pain. ‘I have killed to raise the money for the operation and will kill again if I have to.’
‘Well,’ Gumoc amended to himself. ‘Within reason.’
Gumoc felt guiltless in committing murder as his victims were as vicious as he, only without his moral code, his personal empathy. Gumoc drew lines he would not cross. His two victims had no such barriers.
They brutalized people for money but also because they enjoyed the suffering of others. Gumoc killed only for the money to preserve his life and cure his agony.
He turned the skull around in his hands, getting to know what would soon be a part of him.
The saleswoman stayed silent, as this was part of the sale, allowing the customer to sell themselves on the product.
Gumoc stole money from only two well-heeled criminals, but such people have their walls of security and Gumoc was required to murder 14 to rob two.
With so much death, Gumoc, in his single minded zeal, came to enjoy murdering people. Death after death, there grew a sense of accomplishment and pride in the work ethic of it all. This enjoyment was tempered with a casual sense of justice: these were brutal thugs who harmed innocent people. They were the only two truly bad people he knew, though the city must be full of them.
‘No, wait,’ Gumoc thought. He set the skull on the saleswoman’s desk.
She looked up to him ready to finalize the deal, only to see that Gumoc’s expression was unreadable.
‘I don’t enjoy murder.’ Gumoc told himself. ‘It’s the disease talking. The bone squeezing my brain like a sponge, crushing me into cruelty.’
A part of him didn’t want this skull anymore. It no longer represented his true nature.
Gumoc scanned the other skulls in the case behind the Saleswoman. He looked for something, something… tougher. Hard set. Something to match the face reflected in the glass.
‘No,’ he self-corrected again. ‘That face is not mine. That face is the disease.’
The bone of his thickening skull was fractioning his personality, making him work against his better judgement.
“I’ll take it!” Gumoc nearly shouted. The saleswoman nearly jumped. “How soon can we begin?” he asked.
“If you sign today we can set the surgery for two weeks from now on the…” she double checked her calendar. “18th.”
Gumoc pounded his fist on her desk. “No! It must be sooner!” He was a human being, damn it. Not a cog, not a piece of equipment to be fitted in at the “right time”.
The saleswoman was clearly taken aback. “It can’t be any sooner,” she protested. “You’ve only now made your choice. We have to take your tissue sample to grow your DNA for your new skull. Even with accelerated growth you can only push human biology so far.”
Gumoc, breathing heavily, worked to calm himself.
“Of course,” he said. ‘Of course,’ he repeated in thought. ‘What the saleswoman said made sense. Perfect sense. All the sense in the world but, holy shit! Two more weeks!’
His emotions were all over the place and he rested his gnarled hands upon his knees to contain himself. He wanted to curl up right there on the salesroom floor and cry. He wanted to cry because a frightening ugliness was growing in his head. An anti-Gumoc ugliness that was becoming him. This Gumoc that once stood in the shadows was confidently stepping into the light. It mockingly looked upon Gumoc’s sense of self, his personal code of honor, with smirking disdain.
This new Gumoc, emboldened by so much murder, didn’t draw the line between the innocent and the guilty. Such matters were arbitrary facades to him.
Where old Gumoc was a massive but gentle giant of a man, this new Gumoc reveled in his power over others. He noted the effect that slamming his fist on the desk had on the Saleswoman. He saw how she went from fixating on her sale and commission to shrinking back in her chair and just wanting him out of there. He made her remember that she was a small frightened animal of the woods, hiding in silence, and he was the bear approaching.
This Gumock fantasized about holding the saleswoman’s neck in his powerful right hand. Enjoying her helpless terror, her delightfully agonized awareness of her approaching death, as he slowly dug his thumb into her throat until he pinched her head like a mushroom cap right off of her body.
Real Gumoc virtually punched the anti-Gumoc back into waiting in the shadows. He forced away the hungry smile curling upon his deformed features. Steadying his hand he signed the paperwork.
‘Two more weeks. My God! Two more weeks!’
– E.C. McMullen Jr.
Inspired by the Jusepe de Ribera painting, Man With Skull
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