“Over the fucking head, that’s how it’s done!”
—Orleans Parish Prison sheriff’s deputy
Tuesday night, 22 September 2015, PM
Mouse: Mouse numbly stares up at his cell’s ceiling. He tries not to move too much and bites his knuckles to stop himself from making any pained noises. His ass feels sore and raw with blood. He isn’t sure how long it’s been since his rapist left the cell, but restlessness and agitation gnaw away at him. Part of him wants to deny this even happened. He wants another smoke. He wants anything to help him forget.
Sleep finally overtakes him.
GM: Mouse’s dreams are gray and numb. He wakes up to find a thick and rough hand clamped over his mouth.
The lights are out. The jail cell and common area past the door are shrouded in darkness.
It’s far from quiet, though. Mouse can hear inmates breaking wind, babbling to themselves, masturbating, snoring, and singing mindlessly off-key songs. Iron doors slam and shake as crazies howl apocalyptic insights like dogs baying under a yellow moon.
Mouse: Mouse’s first reaction is to flinch with wide-eyed terror. He looks up at the shadow-shrouded figure clamping his mouth shut. It’s night, or so Mouse assumes. His yells for help weren’t listened to last time, would they be ignored again?
GM: The terrified inmate sees only darkness. A faint voice in the distance cackles, “That’s whaaaat sheeee saiiidd…” but his immediate cell is silent except for a loud and heavy snoring coming from the bunk above him.
He feels something slim and plastic-like being slipped into his hands.
Mouse: Confusion only adds to Mouse’s fear. He stays silent as his pianist’s fingers wrap around the plastic-like item, trying to figure out what it is. He strains his eyes against the darkness.
GM: Its depths are impenetrable, but his fingers brush against a sharp metallic edge. Metallic slamming, shaking, and screaming sounds in the distance.
The hand withdraws from his mouth.
Mouse: Mouse notices the sharpness and recognizes what he’s been given. Something to defend himself with. He mouths a silent thank you to the mysterious shadow.
GM: His only answer is distant farts, grunts, screams. and cackling laughter.
Loud, wheeze-like snoring continues to sound from the bunk above him.
The cramped cell smells of dried blood, bile, and semen. Pain stabs through his ass. He feels queasy and lightheaded.
Mouse: A dangerous, almost insane thought crosses Mouse’s mind as the smell haunts him. His eyes are still open as he waits for them to adjust to the darkness of the cell.
GM: The outline of his bunk bed becomes clearer. Loud, wheeze-like snores continue to sound from the upper bunk.
Mouse: The young man tries his best to remain quiet despite the pain. He lifts the sharp object closer to his eyes and wonders what he’s doing. He’s just getting up to pee, right?
His eyes, though, are wide. He knows what he wants.
GM: The hilt is a cylinder-shaped piece of plastic. A long and cruel-looking shard of chickenwire glass is fastened to the end by duct tape.
“My sooouulll is a paperrrr baaag… at the boootom… of your garbage, caaaaaaaaaan…!” a distant voice manically sings.
Mouse: It’s enough. It’s enough for Mouse to do what he wants to do. Doesn’t he?
It’s instinctual, the way his grip tightens around the shiv. His heart beats hard against his chest. His hands shake. Does he really, truly want this? Is this just… desperation? Maybe there’s another way. Some other way that doesn’t involve looming over his rapist’s bed and stabbing him repeatedly until he’s dead.
Mouse doesn’t have an answer to any of those questions. But his body moves on its own. His body knows what it wants, even if his mind is too scared to admit it.
It doesn’t want to be a victim anymore.
GM: The only response to Mouse’s dark thoughts is his cellmate’s steady, wheeze-like snores.
Mouse: It happens in a blur. The scared, wide-eyed young man soundlessly lifts up the shiv and plunges it down. It’s a blind, haphazard attack, but it still gorily punctures his cellmate’s neck with a thick spurt of blood.
It’s an almost out-of-body experience as Mouse watches himself undertake the grizzly deed like a floating spectre. His hair is a mess. He’s coated in bile and blood and filth. It’s surreal. It’s therapeutic. It’s utterly terrifying.
He doesn’t dare breathe as he pulls the shiv out and stabs down again, adrenaline pumping through his veins.
GM: The man screams as the glass-bladed shiv stabs into his neck with a sickening shk. Mouse doesn’t see what tattoo it punctures in the dark, but he feels the man’s lifeblood fleck over his face—warm, wet, and coppery.
The disoriented but equally adrenaline-spiked man reflexively grabs his sheet and half-drags, half-throws it across the air to entangle his still indistinct attackers. A thud hits the ground. Mouse pulls the bedding off himself just as the man’s grasping, tattooed arms grab for his scrawny shoulders—just like last time.
Mouse: It happens too fast. Mouse isn’t made for violence, and his chest hurts from its thumping. He loses track of where he is, what’s happening—it’s all a blur.
GM: His back hits the fluid-crusted mattress. His attacker pries at the shiv in his hands. It almost seems to happen in slow motion as Mouse watches him agonizingly tear the chickenwire glass blade from his grip. The man’s eyes are bloodshot and furious. He screams something in Spanish Mouse doesn’t understand. Couldn’t understand. He feels the man’s spit fleck against his face… and then a sudden stab of agony as the shiv sinks into his belly. A second warm flow of blood pools over the mattress he was raped on.
“¡Te alimentaré tus putas bolas!” his wild-eyed cellmate froths, blood and spittle flying from his mouth.
Mouse: Mouse can only a give a high-pitched, guttural scream. It almost feels like he’s been punched and had the air knocked out of him, but it hurts so much worse. He’s being stabbed. The man is stabbing him. He’s going to die.
“I’m sorry!” Mouse yells as his cellmate screams unintelligible obscenities. Tears run down his face. “I’m sorry! Please don’t hurt me! Please!”
Mouse can almost taste the man, he’s that close.
“Please don’t kill me!”
GM: There’s another stab of agony as the shiv sinks into his chest. Mouse feels blood welling up in his mouth. Everything is starting to go dark—and it’s not from the lights being out.
Mouse: Am I going to die in here? he thinks once again, gurgling pathetically as he continues to cry.
He tries to fight the man off of him, maybe he can make a run for it… but he’s not strong enough… he’s never been strong enough…
GM: His cries for forgiveness go unheeded as the furious-eyed, pain-maddened man howls like a demon and drives the shiv towards his throat.
Mouse: As Mouse cries, he reflexively ducks his neck out of the shiv’s path. It hits the bed’s metallic frame with a too-loud, too-brittle scraping snap that seems to sound several times at once. He continues to loudly wail for mercy and help.
“I will do anything! Please stop! Help!”
Wait. That noise. Mouse jerks his eyes towards the steel bedpost and sees shards of the shiv’s glass blade littered everywhere. He continues to scream, “HELP! HEEEEEELP!” while trying to squirm free of the man’s grip. He can make a break for the cell door. He hopes beyond all hope that whoever gave him the shiv left the door unlocked.
GM: His rapist’s grip is as iron as it was before. The profusely bleeding man bellows incoherently in Mouse’s face and clamps his fingers around the screaming boy’s neck. He clamps them tight, and squeezes. They blister like heated iron as Mouse’s head swims and his vision blackens.
Mouse: “HELP! HEEELP! HEEEEEEELLLPPP!!!” he continues to scream as consciousness fades. It’s difficult with his attacker’s iron-like hands around his neck, but it’s all he can do.
His mind continues to race. He remembers listening to Becca talk about a Women’s Studies class she took. That feels like a lifetime ago. The unbidden thought seems odd until he connects it with something she told him from that class: “It’s more effective to yell there’s a fire than it is to yell for help.”
Mouse didn’t pay much mind to that idea at the time. It sounded too pessimistic to be true. But it’s obvious by now, after all he’s undergone, that the world really is that self-interested and devoid of kindness.
“FIRE!” he screams at the top of his prodigious lungs. “FIIIIRE! FIIIIIIIRE! FIII-IIIIIRRRE! FIIIIIIIIIII-RRRRRRREEEEEEEE!”
And Fizzy always said his music practice was useless.
The sound of footsteps is the last thing he hears before darkness overtakes him.
GM: The door to his cell flies open and cacophonously slams against the wall. Three guards burst in, brandishing nightsticks overhead. Their faces are impossible to discern in the darkness, making them seem spectral apparitions of terrifying violence.
There are no shouts to break it up. No questions. No demands. The billyclubs simply descend—on Mouse and his violator.
The first nightstick smashes over the wounded man’s already bloody face. It shatters his nose with a hideous crunch and messy spurt of red.
The second nightstick descends towards the man’s biceps, but harmlessly clangs against a steel bedpost as Mouse’s gurgling, profusely bleeding cellmate lunges out of its path. The guard curses as the impact runs up his arm, causing him to actually drop the weapon.
The first guard barks a hard laugh. “My old man always said! Over the fucking head, that’s how it’s done! ‘Target nerve clusters,’ fucking pussies these days!”
The third nightstick descends towards Mouse’s biceps and quadriceps with two quick, snapping blows. The young man’s muscles scream with numb protest.
Mouse: A defeated gurgle escapes Mouse’s lips as the first hot strikes true. The first of many.
He loses his voice, his sense of time, and his whole body becomes heavy. He struggles for breath. It’s like his body forgets how. It’s terrifying. Beyond terrifying.
He knows what’s coming. It comes slow. But it comes.
He’s a powerless audience to it. To his own demise. To his own end.
GM: As the nightsticks descend upon Mouse in almost surreal rhythm, the last of the lies fall away.
They say your life flashes before your eyes when you die.
That’s not what Mouse sees.
There’s only one, seemingly impossible question that rings through his mind like a billyclub against the steel bedpost:
How did his life come to this?
To this, being raped and beaten to death on a jail cell’s vomit-, blood-, and cum-crusted mattress?
The past few hours, days, all seem like one nightmarish blur of beatings and threats and cops and everyone who can take a shit, finding some reason to take that shit. The crowd of gawkers at Tulane. The desk chick at Josephine Louise House, what was her name, calling the police over him. Bert Villars, extorting him for money and selling his debt. Bud and that evil little girl, Sue. Becca not returning his call. ‘Cat’ and ‘Giraffe’, those women who looked at him like he was so strange. His roommate disappearing. Maybe he could’ve helped against the cops. Bentley, hanging up on him. Ha ha, she still lives with her dad. Why does she even do that? They’ve got money. She could easily move out.
What happened? When did he cross the threshold, from a normal life as a normal college student with a bright future ahead of him, to… this?
There was Cécilia Devillers. He played that song and left flowers outside her apartment door. He thought it was sweet. She didn’t. She thought it was stalking. She was terrified of him. Did she call the building’s security on him? Or did they just show up? Who called the cops and sent his life flushing down the shitter?
It’s odd he was even there, come to think. Who left the door to her building unlocked? Who let a total stranger just wander down the apartment hall?
Then there was Emmett Delacroix, who asked for money, who he called Cécilia wanting to help. Fizzy always said he was a piece of shit. Fizzy spat on his card. He hasn’t thought about Emmett Delacroix in a while, come to think. Raising money for his legs just slipped his mind, after that first arrest and plea bargain and sentencing. He had other problems. Maybe Em was just using him all along anyway, like Fizzy said he was. Fizzy had beat up the man and called him a sack of shit.
Maybe that’s it.
He was always the sweet, dumb, harmless kid to Fizzy, his mom, and the RidaHoodz. He could never really do any wrong. Nothing on the level of stabbing a man to death in his sleep. He wasn’t capable of it.
His family sheltered him. He went to a good private school, the kind his brother never went to. The teachers who hovered over him so attentively, who were in constant contact with his mom and other helicopter parents, all knew what and who he was: just a sweet and harmless kid. Tulane was more of the same. Just because his professors didn’t send him emails about missed assignments didn’t mean he’d left the protective bubble that sheltered him all his life.
But the moment he did, the moment he stepped outside, he saw what happened. Cécilia Devillers, her building’s security guards, Officer May, Hector Berganza, Judge Boner, that acne-faced public defender, Judge Malveaux, all those cops: to them, he was Emmett Delacroix. A shark. A predator. A sack of shit.
The realization strikes him like the billyclubs raining down on his screaming, bleeding, broken flesh:
They were right.
All of the people who hurt him. All of the people he believed did him wrong.
His entire life was a lie. The world isn’t a fair or kind place. It’s a jungle ruled by the law of the jungle: kill or be killed. Eat or be eaten. Hurt or be hurt.
His family shielded him. Lied to him. All but told him he could be weak. That there was a place for the weak.
Blood-spattered nightsticks descend upon his fading vision in almost slow motion. He knows better now.
Innocence is weakness. Sympathy is a lie told by vipers like Emmett Delacroix. In the real world, no one plays romantic songs and leaves flowers outside unfamiliar girls’ doors. They only do that to get close to foolish victims—or foolishly reveal themselves, through their softness, to also be victims.
Victims get raped and beaten to death on a cum- and bile-stained mattress. That is the world. Being raped on a filthy prison mattress. Being beaten to death on a filthy prison mattress where you were raped. That is the real world. That is the entire world.
Bones crunch in Mouse’s ears as the billyclubs mercilessly descend. He supposes it hurts. That’s not particularly novel, so far as his last few days ago. He might be going numb from all the pain anyway. Blood flecks across the cell’s dark walls. Laughter sounds from the indistinct visages of his jeering tormentors. He knows they are but symptoms of the world’s sickness, helpless actors in a perverse and grisly cosmic drama that mandates but one law: kill or be killed.
Mouse’s time to exit stage from that drama fast approaches. The terminal black curtain already descends. There are but two roles he may play as he takes his final bow: victim or monster.
Mouse: It’s his last symphony. A bloody swan song.
“Ama… zing grace…”
How sweet… the sound…"
That save… a wretch… like me…"
It comes out in strained, fruitless gurgles. His eyes are wide with fear, but also dawned by understanding.
“I once… was lost… but now’m… found…’
“T’was blin… b’ now I… see…”
“T’was Grace tha… taugh… my heart… to… fear…”
He can’t remember the rest of the lyrics…
The only thing keeping Mouse alive for now is watching his rapist suffer the same fate. He can rest assured that for all the pain he’s suffered, and is currently suffering at the hands of the pen’s overzealous guards, the one who finally made him snap will likely die here, too.
It’s his sole solace as the blows descend and he hacks bloody pulp from his lungs. Perhaps the next world will be kinder. Perhaps there is nothing but darkness after this. Mouse doesn’t know.
He eyes the broken shrapnel from the shiv tried to end his cellmate’s life with.
But at least he can die knowing something else.
Electricity seems to surge through his veins as he wills his dying body up. He grabs at the biggest piece of shrapnel and ignores the edge slicing into his pianist’s fingers. He will make these final few moments his own. He jolts forward, lightning quick, to slash the glass across his cellmate’s throat.
At least he can die knowing the man who raped him is dead, too.
GM: And Grace, my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
Mouse can’t see much. Everything is going black. His rapist lies on the ground. The man’s face is a sheet-white, blood-smeared, smashed-in ruin as he feebly holds up his arms to ward off the guards’ merciless blows.
He doesn’t realize another one carries even less mercy.
He doesn’t even seem to notice as the chickenwire shard in Mouse’s hands stabs towards his too-red, ruined throat.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come.
The guards do. There’s more shouts. More noise.
T’was grace that brought us safe thus far
The billyclubs descend.
And grace will lead us home,
And grace will lead us home
Pain in his head. Something wet trickling down his temple. He’s getting used to pain. It’s an acceptable cost. That feels almost freeing, knowing pain isn’t stopping him anymore. That feels like it could open up a lot of things, not to be scared of pain.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
A warbling voice dimly sounds, as if underwater.
“Over the fucking head, that’s how it’s done!”
I once was lost but now am found
There’s more blood spurting across his face. Distant screams. Fire in his fingers. He doesn’t need them anymore. It wouldn’t matter now that Bud threatened to break them. This is his greatest work. His magnum opus.
He’s not Mouse. Fizzy’s little brother. He’s Mercurial Fernandez. Criminal. Killer. Dangerous man. Dangerous enough the guards are killing him. Dangerous enough his rapist is screaming now.
There’s worse things to die as.
but now I see
He does remember the lyrics.
but now I see…