The first time I killed a man, the world had already gone to the dogs. So I didn’t exactly kill a fine specimen of the human race, no. Just one of the many shitheads walking around, like all other shitheads now do, mugging and maiming and murdering the poor souls who have yet to realize that decency belongs in the old world.
The guy was in his thirties, maybe forties. It’s hard to tell, because the grime makes us all look older. We cough and we wheeze and if my mom was here she’d drag me down to the doctor, but she isn’t here now, and I haven’t seen a doctor in a while too. Guess they’ll want to keep their wound-dressing, illness-treating skills to themselves and theirs, being that doctors are smart and all.
Whatever his age, the shithead’s hand was slick to the wrist from killing a girl. And I wasn’t too happy about that, because the girl was my daughter. And when someone kills your daughter, you have to hide behind a dumpster for a while, biting your arm so he doesn’t hear you bawl your shit out. And you wipe your tears with the blanket you found for her—a filthy thing, covered in soot or muck or snot or spunk or all of these. You beat it against a wall and when the shit-cloud subsides you see it’s got pink teddy bears in it, and so you bring it to your dead girl because you only left her for a minute and you don’t know she’s dead yet.
The man walked by, half-alert and half-crazy, his hair a wild, grey mane. Like a retarded Einstein. He babbled and called out for me, but he didn’t know my name so he just yelled stuff like “come out, man”, “I ain’t hurtin’ you”, “just wanna talk, ‘is all”, “your bitch bit me, I just wanted to talk”, cycling it with more honest interjections like: “show your face you fuckin’ son of a bitch”, “I’m going to fuck your eyeballs and cum in your brain if you don’t come out right in a fuckin’ flash sec”.
I tackled him from behind, almost pile-driving him onto the concrete, my cheek feeling the cold prickle of his ass ripping out of his jeans. He crashed and moaned and I stomped on his head and next thing I see the back of his neck was bent over the sidewalk and his teeth were sticking out of his lips like gummy graves.
It’s running a sprint, stomping someone to death. First you’re just like “that’s it?” and then you’re tired and thinking how it’s really that easy. Dead people don’t even look that dead. Not more than mannequins do. Or scientologists.
I sat for a while to bawl over my girl’s body. Everything is fuck-dirty, so I can’t see my reflection anywhere, but I must have looked like shit. We all look like shit, mainly because we’re often covered in it. That dead guy knows it. His body realizes he’s bitten the dust—literally—and his bowels don’t have any functioning muscles left to hold in the slow mush dribbling out of his asshole like some kind of shit porridge.
That’s the thing I would miss the most, if it wasn’t for that whole dead daughter thing. Shitting. Nobody ever thinks about that. Not in magazines or late-night TV shows or books. Guys and gals only take a dump in horror movies, just before Jason-Scary-Krueger-Monster makes splash-art of their entrails with a chainsaw or a pair of rusty hooks.
Here in the end-all shitting is wiping with old, wet newspapers, flakes sticking between your butt cheeks like it’s a statement about the media. It’s looking over your shoulder, because if you’re not careful some feral mutt or an idiot with a shotgun and two shells tries to steal your backpack or fuck you up the ass. And nobody is fucking my ass without my lubed-up permission; not now that I don’t have a daughter left. All I can love is my ass.
The two-shell shotgun guy couldn’t steal my backpack, but he saw me running and came after me all sweaty and holding his belt or dick. I didn’t have a gun, only a bent iron bar. So I moved behind a row of run-down cars and crawled under some kind of rust bucket. Probably a Corolla.
The shotgun guy was yelling and bonking the car windows with the barrel of his gun. I waited until his legs were right at my face. He was barefoot, feet scarred and dry-bloodied. A toe was twisted in a freak thumbs up, and I pulled it like a lever and he screamed and stumbled and banged his face on the car window. I slithered from beneath the car and coiled around him like a snake. We panted and grunted and struggled, like we were fucking. I grabbed hold of the Corolla’s side mirror and managed to stomp on his lower back. The pain must have reminded him he had a shotgun, because he reached for it and so I shattered the back of his head with the iron bar.
“No… Pl… please, stop”, he mumbled in a mouthful of blood and concrete.
“I don’t know, man.”
“Sorry I had to break your skull. I used to play baseball.”
That’s one of the few cool things about the end of the world. Bars and rebars everywhere. The whole world a big construction site. Or deconstruction. An invitation to play golf with oversized balls made of flesh, like this guy’s head. It’s not that entertaining, but it isn’t boring either. And I did get a shotgun.
He croaked a bit and then died. It’s only the second guy I’ve killed, but it already feels like routine. Picking up milk on a Sunday morning. Taking my daughter out for ice-cream, vanilla and stracciatella. Taking a dump in a real toilet.
Yeah. That’s what I’ve got left to miss, now that I can’t miss much. Nowadays people kill each other for all sorts of reasons. To protect themselves, to eat, to fuck asses… I’m going to kill again too, not that I really want to, but I’ve got a reason myself: I really, really want to take a decent shit in a decent place.
It seems silly at a glance, I know, but shitting was the ultimate mark of mankind’s supremacy. It’s saying we’re so on top of the food chain we can afford to make it a taboo. There’s a whole industry involved into the process of hiding the act of taking a dump. We cut tunnels into the Earth and give jobs to millions and millions of people.
Sewers are just bowels for our bowels.
So that’s the sum of my aspirations. Producing one long, wavy turd. Maybe two glistening twin-cylinders. Hope it wasn’t those small, hard balls, like breakfast cereal or bunny droppings.
Maybe I was thinking of my butthole like some kind of portable time-machine. Something to bring me back, give me some semblance of stinky, squishy normalcy. To feel like an old world guy again. Someone who doesn’t have to sit on the toilet with one leg out of the pants, like I learned in prison. My hands empty, no iron bar, no shotgun. Just the plastic-cold or icky-warm touch of a toilet seat.
Somewhere to go, finally. To make me forget this. This hurt, this pain, this exhaustion weighing down on my shoulders like a cape made of lead and my daughter is dead, and I won’t hear the word “dad” again, and other words don’t matter a splinter as much. Not hunger, or love, or all these fucking swears I spit, and my English teacher used to say it’s not literary. “You’re not literary,” she’d say. “You have a foul mouth”. And I’m not literary, and I don’t give a jumbled fuck about that. But I was a dad, and she was my daughter.
And that’s why I was there, in front of the five star hotel. Three of those stars had fallen down and there were corpses strewn among the wreckage, looking laid-back, like college students vacationing on a Greek island.
I never did get to stay in this hotel. Expensive as shit, back when shit used to have no value. Now it’s just expensive to shit in. I don’t have money and they don’t want money, but it’s going to cost me effort and time and my life, I guess. Because from down here, squatting behind a rickety, dry bush, I can see shadows moving from window to window. There’s bandits inside, and since they’ll probably fuck me up I’ll just call them bandits, to feel like a cowboy. A gunslinger of turds. There’s a whole fuckface hierarchy in there. They managed to shit all over this city even more than the cataclysm did. Not literal shitting, because I could accept or even understand that.
I frolicked to the back of the hotel, keeping my distance from the cigarette puffs coming out of a nearby window. Two dudes were inside, all dressed up in biker jackets and carrying big, stained knives. It would only take me a second to blow them up. I have a shotgun. Two bullets. I could unbirth them. Make a pretty picture, like they did to other people.
But I deserved more than that. I deserved my trophy, which was all the way up in the top floor, where at night I could see the reassuring, divine shine of actual light bulbs. A functioning room. Electricity. Comfort. Humanity. To have a daughter.
“Did you hear that?” one of the guys asked.
“I heard something.”
“Yeah, you just told me that, fuckface. What was it?”
“How the fuck should I know?”
“Then just fucking go check it out!”
“I fucking will!”
Did I swear that much? It sounded so forced. So non-literary. And I was swearing under my breath now, against the moaning of the fire escape. Should I hurry up like an ape or stay quiet and Batman this out?
I looked down, at the fat biker squinting at me with his mouth open. The skin of his head was all rolled up like a bulldog’s. I decided to climb onto the scaffolding, where bricks were still miraculously laid-out in an organized pile, the last gift of some construction worker with OCD.
“Who the fuck are you?” the biker barked. “Come the fuck down!”
“Why would I go there?” I asked.
He seemed to muse about that, so I threw a brick at his face and his skull split open.
The other guy ran out and stopped at his friend’s corpse. He was taller and stronger, with log-like forearms. “Fuck! Hey, fuck! What the f…” He girlyly jumped away to avoid my first brick, so I hit him in the leg with a second. “My leg!” I threw another. “My knee!” Another. “My arm!” He might have been psychic, because he seemed about to yell “my mouth!” before I wrecked his Hollywood smile with another brick.
He was out cold, but I threw a couple more bricks for good measure. His body squished out a bit of blood with each hit, and in death—or dying—he seemed more offended than scared. I guess it’s a sign of disrespect, pelting someone to death.
I climbed up to the next scaffold. There was a window, forced shut, or just jammed. I shouldered into it, half sliding and half falling inside. The carpet I landed on smelled like dust and mice droppings. There was a bed, covers jumbled up on top of the blood-stained mattress. A tissue box on the nightstand. A pair of panties and a crusty sock. A shower curtain shyly peaking behind a door. Banalities evolved into luxuries.
I popped my head out of the room. At the hand of the hallway was a guy, staring melancholically at a scratched painting on the wall. He had a ponytail and an oversized overcoat, a scarf around his neck. I could just barely make out the rims of his glasses. Vintage.
Maybe he was sensitive. Maybe it took the apocalypse for him to realize he was a hipster. Maybe we could have been friends, and I’d pretend to be interested in his ramblings about Nietzsche, stolen word for word from some millennial internet forum. Maybe, in a timeline in which my daughter was alive. Now I just moved with mute steps, and I saw him stiffen bit when I came near. And then I covered his mouth, grabbed the big knife out of his pocket and stabbed his throat a few times. I waited until he stopped choking on my hand to prop him down gently against the wall, beneath the painting.
To get to the top floor I could take the stairs or the elevator. The former wasn’t really an option, because of all the bandits and all. So I forced the elevator doors’ open and peered into the darkness inside. Long drop down, and a longer way up. I used to be terrified of heights, but all your other fears go away when your biggest one happens. And that’s what made me jump onto the cables, climb up with the knife between my teeth and the shotgun inside my jacket. A hobo Rambo.
It smelled like copper in here. Of mould, and a bit of road kill, like it did everywhere. We were on the second phase of the cataclysm. The first one was sound, the screaming and pleading and crying. The second was smell, the rotting the burning the shitting. The world was a big toilet now.
My body was covered in aches and sweat when I got to the last floor. Good sign. I was always careful about that. Hydration. After I managed to convince myself to live a few days longer after they offed my daughter. Saw a guy that had died of thirst, slumped up on his powered down electric wheelchair. Looked like a dry raisin. A sponge long lost behind the kitchen counter.
I got out of the elevator and someone started yelling right to my face. A tiny old man with an eye-patch. His voice was deafening, but also melodic. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me he’d been an opera singer. His screams were even in-tune when I threw him down the elevator shaft.
I was in the suites. Former home of fat congressmen and B-list celebrities. It was clean and fresh and it even seemed like someone had been sweeping the floor. It smelled like microwaved canned food, beans or chili or some other imported, apocalyptic cuisine. I headed towards the room from where all the lights came from. My mouth watered, my stomach rumbled, my asshole puckered. There were voices behind me, getting louder and louder and I didn’t much care.
I barged in, shotgun raised. He who must have been the big boss was standing there with one hand on his hip and the other holding the bobbing head of a guy slurping at his balls. He was scrawnier than I expected. Had a trimmed, combed half-moustache, cut off where the skin was stretched and burned.
“Nobody ever teach you how to knock?” he asked. His eyes were a liquid, onyx black.
The guy blowing him spat out his cock with a pop. “Who the fuck is this guy?”
“Right, like last time? Jesus, not even now can you keep it in your pants.”
“I honestly don’t know who he is.”
“Yeah, right.” Blowjob-guy held on to his boyfriend’s cock and thigh to hoist himself up. “You’re full of shit.”
“Not sure about him. But I am”, I said, feeling my bowels writhing and revolving.
“We’ll talk later, honey. If you haven’t noticed we’re in a delicate situation”, the boss said.
“You fucking deal with it.” The disgruntled boyfriend howled. “And you, out of my way.”
I moved aside to let him pass. Waited a couple of seconds till his steps died out and the voices grew louder.
“Thanks for that.” The boss-guy scoffed. “So, who are you?”
“Room service”, I said, laughing. Never really realized how weird the sound of laughter was. Like grit. Thirst.
“Hilarious. So what do you want? Loot or revenge?” He sized me up, appraising me, like a farmer looking at a bull. “I’m guessing revenge. Who did I kill?”
“A lot of people, I reckon. But I had my revenge already.”
“Yeah. First thing everyone does.” A drop of precum slid down his cock as he pulled up his pants. “What do you want, then?”
“Just want to take a dump, really.”
“You’ve got an entire world in ashes out there. Why take the time to kill my men?”
“How did you know I killed anyone?”
“That knife in your belt”. He nodded at it. “I gave it to my brother.”
“Oh.” I took out the knife, wiped the still bloody blade on my jeans and threw it at his feet. “Sorry about that.”
“It’s alright. We’re not good people.”
“Yeah…” I scratched at my chin. My ex used to complain that I couldn’t grow a decent beard. She should see me now. “I guess you won’t just let it go.”
“I figured. So, does the toilet work? Can you flush?”
“Yeah. Just don’t forget to turn off the valve. We don’t have a lot of water.”
I sighed in pleasure. Almost as if I was the one regularly getting blowjobs. “What about toilet paper, is there any left?”
“Yeah. And it’s scented.” Right then, I almost cried.
“Thanks.” I said in a croaky voice, wiping my eyes with the back of my hand. “Close your eyes, now.”
I fired and his head exploded like a burst melon. He stumbled backwards, hands raised like a zombie, before splashing the floor with brains and little pieces of bone.
My gun was still smoking as I ran into the bathroom, faster than the yells coming closer and closer. I lowered myself onto the sanitized white of my porcelain throne, eyes filled with tears and nose running at how clean it smelled; lavender-scented toilet paper, orange-lime freshener. I just wanted to lick the lid, wipe my wet eyelashes over it.
And my butthole contracted, gaped, like my ex’s lips when I kissed her the first time after a rock concert, in the back of my jeep. A cannon ready to let loose. A second apocalypse, acid rain or firestorms.
And it was like my soul travelled down my guts, dived into the water and swam down the pipes. And it would surface somewhere out in the sea and reincarnate me into someone who still had a daughter and lived where there were cars and people and electricity and I could lay down on the couch and watch TV and order takeout whenever I wanted. And it was just one, a lone, long, perfect turd that came out, just as the shitheads kicked down the door.
I pressed the trigger and it all happened at the same time. The bullet the blew the guy up, the bullets that blew me up, and then I was going down, like the shit and the blood and guts and sweat and tears and my smile like warm butter melting on the breakfast toast I used to make for her.
Mário de Seabra Coelho was born in Portugal on an uncommonly wintry day. He has published fiction in his native country and is now trying to entice English-speaking readers. You can find his multilingual ramblings on Twitter at @MSeabraCoelho.