Thursday, January 11, 2018

THE JOHN BRUNI MUSEUM OF MEDIOCRE (AT BEST) SHIT #47: MIDNIGHT SPIDER






[As I’ve said before, I am not that good at poetry. To put it plainly: I suck at writing poems. I’ve recently found a way to be—not a good poet—but an interesting one. I’m sure no one will ever want to publish them, but who knows? Maybe someday. Anyway, this is without a doubt the best poem I ever got published. That still doesn’t make it good. I’d say it’s a smidge above mediocre. It was based on one of my late-night walks from a while back. It was in issue 69—tee-hee!—of The Nocturnal Lyric. Hey! Look there! You can still buy this issue from the publisher. Only 9 copies left, though.]


I walk these dark suburban streets
and the houses move at my sides
like identical conveyor belts
and I am caught in a camera flash
every few yards.


I gaze up into the spotlight like a stage actor to see
the perfect spider web
silhouetted by the stark white above it
suspended between a street sign
and a bus sign.
It is like you see in cartoons
or award-winning photographs
gossamer strands in faultless curves
stuck to ideal lines straight from a geometry book.


At the very center sits
the king of his domain
a fat, hairy spider
with spindly legs resting lightly
on his art, feeling the struggle
of his burrito-wrapped prey
waiting for the inevitable
ignoring the pain of hunger until
all the players hit their death-marks.


It is nature at its finest.
Deadly beauty.


The next night, on my late walk
I look up to see my companion
only to find nothing but loose strands
flowing in the gentle breeze.
I think of the children in my neighborhood
and how they feel the need
to destroy out of mere curiosity
and I mourn the passing of my midnight spider.


And on the third night, it is risen.
There it walks, just like me
around and around the straight lines of its web
spinning from its back a new spiral of death
glistening and fresh
waiting for a new fly.


I watch a moth flap too closely
and the web dances and jiggles
and the spider comes closer
and fate, like a cocoon, is sealed.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

THE JOHN BRUNI MUSEUM OF MEDIOCRE (AT BEST) SHIT #46: LETTER TO SHROUD #2






[I fucking loved SHROUD when it first came out. I was so happy to get a letter into issue two. I even got a story published in it once, and it’s one of my favorites of my own work. It barely missed the cut for inclusion in TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE. I think if I do another collection, it will certainly go in there. Sadly the magazine has shut its doors. It really was a great publication. Funnily enough, you can actually read this letter on Amazon when you “look inside.”]


Tim,


I just wanted to let you know, I finished issue one of SHROUD about three minutes ago, and you have a hell of a magazine on your hands! Of course, I’d say that about any magazine with Tom Piccirilli in it (to say nothing of the interview with Brian Keene), but as fantastic as “Circling” was, I liked Michael Laimo’s “Layover” better. I also enjoyed the article about Burke and Hare (a favorite subject of mine) and Indio’s “Lobotomy Screen” is a ghastly work of art.


So, uh . . . [scratch my arm and jitter] when’s issue two coming out?


--John Bruni


[If you were wondering about the story they published, the cover is below. It’s not on Amazon, but if you can find it, it’s worth the while.]



Tuesday, January 9, 2018

THE JOHN BRUNI MUSEUM OF MEDIOCRE (AT BEST) SHIT #45: A PERFECT SPECIMEN



[Because of my success with VAMPIRES 2, they invited me to take part in their sister pulp magazine, MAN’S STORY 2. They sent me a writing prompt and asked me to write whatever story I wanted involving a naked woman on a torture wheel and Nazi wannabes getting amorous. Because I got a decent paycheck for “Endless Night,” I was ready to charge into this. They liked what I wrote, so it appeared in MAN’S STORY 2 #13, along with the picture that inspired it. I got a pretty good paycheck for that one, too. It kind of made me feel a bit queasy, though. I felt like I was doing work for hire, and I just didn’t want to continue down the path. Not that I needed to tell the publishers anything. I tried my hand at another story prompt, and they did not want it. My path was clear. This story is ridiculously bad. Imagine the cheesiest he-man type pulp, and this is what you got, six-pack and all. As with VAMPIRES 2, they requested that the story not be pornographic, but it had to have as much classy sex as possible. If Nazi rape can be considered classy. Probably not.]


I felt something gliding across my head, and my eyes popped open to see the biggest pair of breasts I’d encountered in a long time, barely contained within a black leather bra. Had I gotten lucky last night? I didn’t recall hooking up with anyone. All I remembered was the vacation I was on with a couple of friends . . .


Then it all came back to me, and I wanted to cry.


The woman’s hand continued to slide against my head, and I realized there was no hair up there. The last time I’d been conscious, I had a full mane flowing down to my shoulders. I don’t know if I would have gotten laid so much as I have without it, and now it was gone. My pate was shaved so smoothly it no doubt shined.


I tried to push her away from me, but my hands moved less than an inch from where they were tied to the bed posts. When I looked down, I noticed my feet were bound in a similar fashion.


And I was naked.


“I see you’re awake,” the voice above the breasts said. “Don’t bother struggling. Gunter tied those knots, and he was in the Navy.”


“Let me go!” I tried to say, but when I heard only a muffled groan, I knew I’d been gagged too.


“Shh,” the woman said as she backed away, revealing a body feminine and curvaceous, yet also hard and muscular, as if she worked out every day. Her face was framed with luscious blonde curls, and her lips were slashed with red lipstick below a sharp nose and two eyes pitted with admiration.


“Your name is Cal Schmidt, yes?” she asked. She picked a bullwhip off the bed and started running it between her fingers.


When I didn’t answer, she snapped the whip on the floor and repeated the question, snarling with her perfect white teeth.


I nodded.


She discarded the whip and started doing what I liked to see every woman I’ve ever been with do: she reached behind her back and started unhooking her bra. To watch this one do it, however, turned my stomach because I knew what she was.


Her top popped off, freeing the breasts that had been nearly against my face mere moments ago. I tried to turn away, but there was nowhere to go, so I closed my eyes.


When her bra landed on my chest, I involuntarily looked at her in time to watch her push her tight leather skirt down her hips and to her ankles. As she ducked down, I noticed a picture on the wall behind her. It was a photograph of Adolph Hitler, a German flag on one side and a Nazi flag on the other.


When she straightened up, she was just as naked as me. Just above the cleft of her sex was a tattoo of a swastika.


She saw what I was looking at and petted the symbol. “Do you like it? My brother did it for me. I learned all about mein Fuhrer from him. He gave me books to read about the Zionist plot, so I’d know my enemy. You’ll read them, too.”


I shook my head, and she smiled, cracking her knuckles. “You’ll learn to love our ways,” she said. “You are to be my husband, you know.”


She brought her knees up on the bed and placed her hands to the sides of my legs as she slowly slid along the length of my lower extremities.


I rolled my eyes up, trying not to watch as her body slithered against mine. It took all my willpower not to look back down as she moved her hands against my chest, slipping her fingers in the valleys between the muscles of my six-pack.


“You are a perfect specimen,” she whispered. “You are surely of the master race.”


Her hands moved farther south.


“Think of the flawless children we will have.”


She grasped me, and I couldn’t help but glance down. I gritted my teeth around the gag and tried to think of dead babies. I tried to think of my grandmother. I tried to think of multiplication tables.


None of this would stop my traitorous body from reacting.


“Good,” she said as her hand glided up and down, sparking up pleasure as it went. “I was starting to worry that you weren’t the perfect specimen, after all. Or worse.”


It was as if she’d released a bolt of lightning from her hand. My face flushed, and my brain felt like it was on fire, but still I tried to resist.


I expected her to taunt me more, but when I looked down, I realized she couldn’t speak. Her mouth was stuffed with me, and I felt like I was going to detonate.


But I can’t, I reminded myself.


There was only one thing I could think of that might stop myself from giving in to her unquenchable desire; I cast my mind back to the previous night, hoping my anger would quell my more primitive nature.


I’d been in a rut for a long time. My life was usually full of excitement and women and all kinds of things, but of late it seemed that I was working more and partying less. My girl was turning into a real yawner, since she didn’t want to try new things in the sack. I was becoming a downer.


My closest friend, Chad Goldstein, noticed my depression and had an interesting suggestion: “My wife and I are going on a vacation, and since you’ve been in the dumps lately, we thought we’d invite you along.”


At first, I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to be a third wheel, mostly because I knew what it was like when I was trying to get laid and there was another guy hanging around.


“Well, I wouldn’t want to share a hotel room with you,” Chad said, “but I’m willing to share the rest of the trip. You could use a vacation.”


I thought about the blah of my life and said, “Sure.” The next day, I took the time off work, told my girlfriend I was going on a business trip, and that was it. Party time.


Chad owned an antique, cherry-red Chevy convertible, so we decided to travel America in style. We piled in and started what was supposed to be a sea to shining sea vacation.


We’d never make it to the other coast.


According to Chad’s route, we were supposed to be in Memphis, but we had made good time, and we’d made it all the way to Chattanooga. Since we had all this extra free time, Chad and Betty decided they wanted to visit the Chickamauga battlefield, but it was kind of late, so we thought we’d stop at a cheap motel for the night. We’d see the Civil War monuments the next morning, or at least that was the plan.


I should have been suspicious of the motel clerk. He might as well have come from central casting for American History X, he was that obvious. His head was shaved so well his pate reflected the neon light from the sign outside as if it was a mirror. Though he wore a wife-beater, I could see through the cloth to some kind of tattoo. It looked like a cross, but I’d wager anything, now that I know what he was, and that it really was a swastika.


“Cash or charge?” he asked.


“Do you take Visa?” Chad asked.


The clerk nodded and grabbed the credit card from Chad’s hand without looking. He swiped it and started punching buttons, but he didn’t say anything until the receipt had printed up. The clerk examined the paper when his brow furrowed. Finally, he looked directly at Chad.


“Goldstein, huh?” he asked. “That’s your name?”


Chad smiled. “Yeah, that’s me. You need a driver’s license for proof?”


The clerk looked away. “Naw. That’s okay. I just needed to know for our, uh, records. And your name?” He looked at me, and I told him.


He gave us our keys, and we went to Chad and Betty’s room to hang out for a while. We had a few drinks, watched some TV, and Chad started dropping hints for me to get lost. Before long, I could hear them through the paper-thin walls as I tried to drift off to sleep.


I couldn’t have been dreaming for more than an hour when I heard the sound of the lock on the door clicking open. I snapped to attention, wondering who the hell it could be. Chad would have knocked, so it had to be someone else.


My stomach went cold as the door opened, revealing five men on the other side, all wearing ski masks despite the choking summer heat. They were all muscle-bound hulks, probably fresh off an Olympics weightlifting contest, and they all wore camouflage jackets and pants. I could see a swastika tattooed on one of them. Another had two eights on the back of his hand, whatever that meant.


“Dammit, he’s awake,” the one in front said to the others, and I knew I was doomed. The only weapon I had at hand was a pocket knife, which was on my night table.


When I lunged for it, all five men stormed the room. Before I could open the blade, they were on me, holding my arms and legs down while another man shoved a hood over my head, cinching it shut with a drawstring. I tried to free at least one of my arms, but before I knew it, there was a savage pain in my head, and I was out.


When I woke up, I was in this nightmare, trying desperately not to give the Nazi woman satisfaction, but I’m a man. There is only so much one can do to resist a forcible mouth, and I was running out of options. Hate wasn’t going to save me.


My body started to writhe, and I shook as I exploded into her, over and over. She was like a vortex, sucking all my power away, pulse by pulse, leaving me a shivering, pathetic husk, devoid of any life that mattered.


And she kept going.


“Stop,” I tried to say through the gag, but the repulsive pleasure she made me feel didn’t end, not so long as she still had my flesh between her electric lips. “Please,” came out as “puhz,” and it did not merit an answer from her.


Finally, after I’d been rendered useless by her hypersexuality, she lifted her head, wiping her mouth. She smiled, but her eyes remained stone dead. “A perfect specimen,” she said again, like the refrain of a loathsome song, and she eased up my body. I turned my head away, but her hands, so much stronger than I’d expected, grasped both sides of my head and dragged my face toward hers. She jammed her mouth against the gag so hard it hurt my teeth. When she pulled away, I could feel the residue of her lipstick smeared all over my mouth, and I wondered if I looked like a clown.


“Fuh ew, cuh,” I tried to say.


All this elicited was a half-smile. “It doesn’t matter what you think,” she said as she touched my bald head. “We know you’re not the sharpest tool in the shed. Your closest friends were a Jew and his whore. But you’ll come around. Get used to these four walls. They are your new home.”


I felt her tongue against my pate like a slug. The trail of saliva it left made me want to puke.


She kept coming back to me, day after day, until I stopped fighting her efficacious oral abilities. At least then, she stopped using the whip. When I wasn’t being used or abused, Eva (as I’d come to know the Nazi woman) took to keeping me shaved and fed. I worried that I might be giving in to these skinhead bastards, but I knew I was just giving up. There was no way I would ever be free, and I thought I might as well get used to it.


I don’t know how long it was until they thought it was safe enough to remove my bonds. They still kept the door locked, but I was at least free to stand and walk around. I was encouraged to exercise so my flawless body wouldn’t atrophy, mostly because they hated to see a perfect Aryan go to waste.


So, I started doing push ups and crunches. I don’t know if the action revitalized my brain or something, but I started thinking like a human being again. I started wondering about my friends.


Eva came back to me for our usual appointment, and as always, she came to me naked. She liked to sit on the bed and make me kneel before her, and this day was no exception. As soon as I was on my scabbed-over knees, she spread her legs, revealing what would have been a tender flower on any other woman. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a thing of ultimate beauty, but it was a damn shame it was attached to someone I wanted to murder with my bare hands.


“Kiss the swastika,” she said, grabbing my head and pulling me between her thighs. She started whispering in German as I followed her orders.


Her fingernails dug into my scalp as I slipped farther down, tasting the sweet nectar dripping from her delicate petals. Normally, I would feast at such an altar like a dog at a dish, eager to reach the pit of the peach, but with Eva, I wanted to vomit.


When I was done, and she was lying back on the bed, I looked up at her and finally asked the question: “Where are Chad and Betty?”


Her heavy breathing paused, and she returned my gaze, as if she couldn’t believe I had the temerity to ask her anything. “Do you really want to see your so-called friends?”


Though she was being sarcastic, her words filled me with hope that it just might be possible to see them. “Of course,” I said, suddenly full of energy. “I have to see them! Please, I’ll do anything you want, just let me see them!”


She stood and pushed me to the floor with her foot against my chest. “I’ll send your Jew in later today.” And she was gone.


An hour later, the door opened, and they threw something into my room. The object landed in a heap, like a giant bean bag chair. It was wrapped in a blanket, and when I untied the misshapen burrito, I found Chad Goldstein, but I was only able to identify \him because of a birthmark on his forehead.


I don’t know how long it had taken them to kill him, but the agony of his passing was burned on his face, or what was left of it.


After that, I turned into a statue and wouldn’t respond to Eva’s sexual attempts, no matter how mercilessly she beat and whipped me. They started thinking I was broken, and they were right until they showed me the wheel.


That was their biggest mistake.


Eva had me on my knees, snapping the whip against my back time and again, burning trails of pain into my flesh, when she told me to say the words. After so many identical sessions, I knew which words she meant. I’d been able to resist her, but it was slowly becoming apparent that I would spend the rest of my days in her clutches, and she would never kill me. No, she wanted me alive and willing to surrender my seed.


I couldn’t take the pain anymore. Very quietly, I whispered into the floor, “Heil Hitler.”


Eva paused, and I could hear the tails of the whip slither across the concrete floor. The anger brewing within her could be felt even from a distance, like a burning furnace. Before she lashed me again, the hardest lash she’d ever given me. She screamed, “SAY IT AGAIN!”


With all the energy I could muster, I howled, “HEIL HITLER!”


My hip exploded in agony as she kicked her high-heeled shoe into the bone, dropping me to my side. Her warm, solid thighs straddled me, and her lips forced themselves onto mine.


“You are ready, mein ubermensch,” she said to me.


I was suddenly on my feet, and she was leading me out of the cell that had been my home for I don’t know how long. A half a year? I hoped I could see the outside world again.


I was disappointed to see only more of the dungeon, and then she showed me the torture chamber. It was the kind of thing you’d expect to see in old Hammer films: cobwebbed iron maidens, chairs with spikes in the seats, thumbscrews, stretch racks, cages, and . . .


I nearly choked when I saw the pit filled with water. Set into the stone at the edge was a gigantic wooden wheel, complete with shackles. Bound to this wheel was Betty, naked and gagged.


I didn’t see any signs of torture, but she was a bit thinner than I remembered, and she looked just as lost as I felt. I wondered if she knew what had happened to her husband. Her eyes were empty, so I assumed that not only did she know, they’d probably killed him in front of her.


As soon as she saw me, her face lit up, as if the sight of me had brought hope back into her heart. It was at that moment that I knew I was no longer alone in this, and I couldn’t let Betty down. I had to get us out of this mess.


Something cold slipped around my bald head, and when I reached up to find out what it was, I felt a surface even smoother than my pate.


“It’s a helmet,” Eva said. “It belonged to my grandfather. He fought for the Fuhrer himself, and now it is a family heirloom. I demand that you wear it when you impregnate me with our perfect child.”


I felt her cold hand encircle my sex, and as always, I sensed myself begin to extend despite my disgust for Eva. She turned her back to me and pressed against my front, guiding me inside of her. When I was in place, she forced my hands around her sides and roughly pushed them onto what felt like ripe melons with pencil erasers sticking out at the ends.


I saw another skinhead, this one dressed in full Nazi regalia, approaching the wheel, approaching Betty, while rubbing the front of his stiff pants.


“Do it!” Eva snarled.


I thought she was talking to me, so I began moving my hips against hers, but she must have been talking to her friend, who knelt down next to Betty and squeezed one of her breasts like a shopper testing a tomato. She tried to scream against the gag, but all it did was produce a jagged laugh from the bastard. He grabbed the wheel and spun it as hard as he could. Betty’s head disappeared beneath the water’s surface, and only reappeared after her legs had exposed themselves, showing that she really was completely naked.


“Harder,” Eva said, and this time I knew it was me she’d meant.


Enraged, I bit the side of her neck where it met the shoulder, as if I was a vampire. I’d meant to hurt her, but despite the blood that ran down both sides of her body, she pressed harder against me, moaning as I vanished deeper inside of her.


The other Nazi pushed Betty’s head down again, but this time, he didn’t allow her to come back up.


It was this that finally made me snap. I reared my head back and grabbed her jaw. I twisted Eva’s face so she could see me and brought my helmeted head forward, directly into her temple. I heard something break under her flesh, and she sagged as I’d hoped. Not one to waste a moment, I continued turning her skull until I heard a satisfying crack in her spine.


I pulled myself out of her, like a knight pulling a sword out of his conquered enemy, and rushed toward the other Nazi, who was too busy entertaining himself to notice me advancing on him.


He saw me coming at the last second, too late to do anything about it. I tackled him to the floor, jamming my knee into his groin. The air rushed out of him, and he was unable to inhale for a scream. He couldn’t even resist as I grabbed him around the throat and began to squeeze. He tried to pull a Luger on me, but he didn’t have the strength to point it.


As soon as I saw the life fade out of his eyes, I went to the wheel and turned it as soon as possible, begging to whatever god there might be that I wasn’t too late.


Betty’s head lolled to the side, and I knew she was gone. But she couldn’t have been dead for long, so I grabbed the Nazi’s keys and took her off the wheel. I dragged her out of the water and began giving her CPR, praying as I breathed air into her body with a kiss that she come back to her body.


My hands were a knot between her breasts, trying to jump start her when I heard a sudden cough. I turned her head to the side and watched as water gushed out from her mouth.


When it was all out, she looked up to me and said, “Cal?”


I smiled down at her and took her into my arms. “Don’t worry, Betty. Everything’s going to be all right.”


She began to sob, and it would be a long time before she was okay again. There were other Nazis in the dungeon, but we had a Luger and a lot of hatred to work out, which turned them into short work. The most important thing was, Betty was alive, and we were free.