The rope pulls taut around its neck.
Its earnest pleas for life begin to fade in my mind as I focus on restraining the struggling figure. All of the muscles in my arm work in concert as I pull the rope tighter.
Every fiber of it struggles for another gasp of air. Hands swat blindly at my face. It almost gives me pause as to what I’m doing. These movements have such cause, such determination, endowing — him?— (no “it” now, they would all be “its” from here on out) although briefly with a humanity I hadn’t considered. However, this only emboldens my actions. Snuffing out the fading life force of this derelict nothing becomes my everything.
Eventually, its muscles spasm. As the life in the homeless man fades to nothingness, a breath of fresh air enters my soul. I contemplate what it was; complicated, human, sentient. It used to be alive (something that has eluded me for so long) now it is a lump of flesh.
I feel comfortable in my skin for the first time in as long as I can remember. I stand over its corpse and smile once more.
I awoke from the dream in a panic. The joy of my dream state immediately drained. All of the mirth was robbed as I remembered his unkempt face, the crack of his windpipe, and the death rattle escaping his lips.
This was the first time it happened but sure as fuck wasn’t the last.
I keep dreaming that I am someone else.
I call it dreaming because it’s the only frame of reference I have. Something about these experiences are so wholly visceral and lucid, calling it a dream seems woefully inadequate.
After a fair amount of time reliving the insanity of the dream, my mind eventually returned to the real world. I surveyed my shitty, empty apartment with disgust. I checked my phone and Facebook and, of course, I had received no new messages. I looked at my alarm clock as a new dread filled me. I began to steel myself for another day at my dead end job that I am forced to trudge through because of my insurmountable debt (art history major at NYU, what a fucking great idea). I dressed in the mirror barely able to look myself in the eye, fucking disgusted with the pathetic loser I had become.
As I left my apartment, I prayed that the cavalcade of bums that surround my building would leave me alone for fucking once. Of course, they didn’t.
The train was late again, of fucking course. Like always, it’s as if all the elements in my miserable life are conspiring against me.
I arrived at work still in a daze. Luckily, I was able to enter my cubicle without having to run into my asshole boss. Whenever I tried to concentrate on my work, the sound and feel of the homeless man’s windpipe collapsing drowned my thoughts.
I decided to leave work early that day, pay be damned.
I made the sojourn home to my empty apartment. I microwaved a dinner for one and poured my first of many glasses of whiskey. Feeling despondent and lonely anew, I continued to drink. Eventually, the sting of isolation coupled with my intoxicated state became too much to bear. I spoke into the emptiness of my apartment.
“I hate my fucking life.”
This declaration reverberated throughout my desolate home. I drunkenly crawled into bed. My experience from the previous night just the background noise of my increasing isolation.
It happened again that night. I went to sleep with sullen and tear soaked eyes only to open them as the other man. All the mournful self-pity completely wiped from my mind.
My mind is brimming with confidence. I walk down the familiar street with my feet light and purposeful. My steps are motivated. I spot my next victim in the alley. Another homeless man, however this time it is sleeping. Before I could even realize there was a blade in my hand, the knife is plunged into its neck. Blood spurts from the wound. It is vivid and red.
It flaccidly struggles with me as the knife comes down again and again. I have lost count as the last strike of the blade pierces its eye and enters its brain.
(The energy of the murderer is infectious, his confidence like a line of cocaine.)
As I begin to move the body of the homeless man, I snap awake.
I laid in my bed for an hour in complete bewilderment. A million questions raced around my brain. Why did I have the dream again? Why is this man doing this? Why? Why? Why?
Though I was attuned to the raw emotions and feelings of pleasure of this man, his thoughts and motivations were a haze at best and eluding me.
Why is this happening to me? As if my depression wasn’t enough of a cross to bear, now I have to deal with these vivid and wholly disturbing “dreams.”
Another question materialized. This was the most important question of all, and one that occupied my mind with a vice-like grip of terror; why the fuck was the man in the alley behind my apartment?
I began my day by frantically researching if there had been any murders around my apartment building. The street the man had walked down was the street where I live, the alley visible from my bedroom window.
When I turned up nothing, I began to rationalize. I told myself it was a dream and just that. Of course the man would murder somebody near my apartment. The dream is originating from my brain, and it conveniently chose to set it in an alley that I walk through daily.
As I dressed myself that morning the fear began to fade and was replaced with the remnants of the intoxicating thrill I experienced in the dream. The feelings were so intense that they lingered beyond the initial terror I felt that morning. The hangover of confidence got me out the door and to work but did not last long after that.
I was called into his office that morning. As I entered the door, I immediately reverted back to the pathetic loser I truly was. My boss harassed and bullied me as I cowered and apologized for something that was completely out of my control. I thought about how the man from my dreams would reply to this onslaught. I envisioned my boss’s throat cut to ribbons. As I imagined bathing in his blood, a smile cracked on my face.
This gave me pause. The old me internalized hate. The only fantasy I would indulge was building up the courage to take a knife to my own throat never anyone else’s.
What the fuck is wrong with me?
What the fuck am I becoming?
I returned to my cubicle dejected and confused. I finished the day and returned home making sure to stop by the liquor store on the way. I walked through the alley behind my apartment. Curiosity got the better of me. I searched around the alley for any signs of blood to assure myself that nothing was amiss and that my dreams were just that, dreams. I found nothing. However, I was shocked when I did come across a piece of rope that looked exactly like the one from the first dream. Touching it excited me. Without fully contemplating or realizing what I was doing, I grabbed it and put it in my bag.
That night is very hazy as I drank even more than the obscene amount I normally do. The last thing I remember is, with inhibitions out the window, masturbating furiously with my right hand as my left caressed the rope I found in the alley. The next thing I knew, I was looking through his eyes again.
Its apartment is dingy and disgusting so I glance down at the whore’s face instead; makeup cheap and smeared, moans as fake as her misshapen tits. As I continue to penetrate it, I bask in the glow of the act, but I still seek more power. Once I’ve grown bored, I pretend like I finish and roll off. As I grab a fist full of hair, I almost laugh at the shocked and confused expression on its face.
I bash its skull into the brick wall numerous times with an indelible smile on my face. I stare into the cave in its face that used to be its nose as I pull off the condom and reenter it. Moments later I erupt into a thunderous orgasm.
I briefly reflect on the improved state of the apartment before leaving to hail a taxi. I tell the driver to go to 110 103rd St.
When I awoke, I shuddered anew. There was no mistaking it anymore. This was not a dream. Something supernatural was happening here. That morning it became crystal in my mind’s eye. The experience was, again, too real. The fact that it had happened three nights in a row coupled with the uncanny feeling that it left me with, there was no rationalizing it anymore.
My mind filled with ambivalence. Loving the newfound thrill and excitement I was experiencing, but terrified to my core by the fact that he was taking a cab to my address.
Did he know who I was?
Did he know I was seeing his murderous deeds and feeling his feelings?
Was he aware of the vicarious thrill it was giving me?
Is he coming for me next?
I just sat in my bed and cried as all of the stress of my life came crashing down. Under siege by my emotions, I did not realize the time. I was already a half hour late for work. I contemplated calling in, but I absolutely needed the money. I strolled into work an hour late. A minute after sitting down I was called once again into my boss’s office.
He started in on me immediately. His voice raised as he reprimanded me for my tardiness. He vilified my work quality and threatened termination. I had had enough.
I yelled back calling him the asshole he is. So much pent up rage spewed forth from my mouth. I envisioned his head bashed into the wall like the whore’s. Before I could fully comprehend what transpired, blood ran down from my knuckles as I was being thrown out of my office by security.
I was just relieved the rope I found in the alley didn’t find its way from my bag to around his scrawny fucking neck.
Or was I…
Though finally standing up to my boss felt great, it wasn’t enough. Not only that but the dread of being unemployed with so many bills began to sink in. I went and did what I do best, drink. I crawled into the nearest bar and drank nonstop until day gave way to night.
Blood trickled from my nose. Spitting on the bartender had been a really bad call, but fuck him for cutting me off. I have nothing to fucking lose anymore, and I’m not taking shit anymore from anybody or anything.
After the bouncer threw me out to the empty street, I began the long walk home. A voice called out to me.
“Can you spare any change?”
I ignored it and kept walking. However, the man followed me. He asked the question over and over again, refusing to leave me alone. As I turned to face the homeless man, my jaw literally dropped open as I saw the wild and unkempt face of the man from my first dream. I did a double take and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was him. There was absolutely no mistaking it.
Understanding washed over me.
As he continued to pester me a feeling of repulsion and disgust began to fester in my gut. As contempt for this… fucking subhuman overwhelmed me. He… it… grabbed my arm and my vision went white. I paused to contemplate my station in life for the last time.
What the fuck is wrong with me?
What the fuck have I become?
It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. I accept the implications of the revelation. I welcome what it means.
This world has been nothing but cruel to me. Now, it’s time to show it I can be crueler.
I reach into my bag and pull it out as a victorious smile cracks across my face. I position myself behind the bum.
The rope pulls taut around its neck.