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November 1, 2015 / douglasnyback

Welcome to the Freak Show

By: Douglas W. Nyback

Swipe left, swipe left, swipe left, swipe right.

Even alone at 10:30 PM on Halloween Eric had a hard time figuring if this was effort or apathy.

You have to put yourself out there.” He thought.  “But I can’t help think of Nietzsche, can I?

Swipe left, swipe left, swipe left, swipe right.  

Having emerged on the wrong side of a bad breakup, Eric had slid all the way down the ladder of despair to the point of, what he called, “Utter Human Disgust”.  See, if you looked at the end of any relationship closely enough, he reasoned, you could find fault on both sides.  But more than that you found fundamental human flaws, cracks in not just the nature of the individuals, but in the nature of humanity itself.  The bottom line being:  We are simply the worst species.  We consume, intellectualize, search for purpose, find it lacking, pair up, and procreate.  Thus paving the way to start the whole thing again.

Post hoc ergo, proctor hoc.”  He thought.  “After this, therefore because of this.  A logical fallacy in every regard except when applied to the ugliness of humanity.

Still, sometimes you just want to be held, you know?


Well look at that, you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back.

“How the fuck do you start these things?” He asked aloud.

Eric:  Hey…

Backspace, backspace, backspace.

A quick Google of “how to Tinder” will tell you you should always open with a compliment, ideally calling a girl “cutie” or something equally non-threatening.

Eric:  Hey cutie…

Backspace, backspace, backspace.

A quick Google of “how to Tinder” won’t tell you that if you type “Hey cutie…” to a complete stranger you will immediately want to kill yourself.

Eric:  …Why 3222?

He hit send.

There is no darkness like the darkness of an empty loft on Halloween.  The sporadic, violent clanging of radiators echoed from surrounding units, bleeding in and out of the laughter of children as they threaded the streets, trick or treating.  Suddenly, his phone chimed, casting a eerie phosphorescent glow across the expanse of his living room.  For a moment he stared at the wooden beams flanking his couch, aged, pock marked with nails from the days when his building was a shoe factory.

How many shadows are there,”  he pondered.  “If I were to count?

He picked up his phone, unlocking it with a simple 1111.  “The password of champions.” Eric reckoned.


BEDMAS?  What’s a Bedmas?

As if reading his mind, his phone chimed again.

ANASTASIA(3*222):  Brackets.

ANASTASIA(3*222):  Exponents.

ANASTASIA(3*222):  Multiply or Divide.

ANASTASIA(3*222):  Add or Subtract.

ANASTASIA(3*222):  Brackets = What’s last is first.  What’s old is new again.  

He thought, “BEDMAS.  Do the math.  3 x 222 = 666.


Hmm…” he thought. “You can spruce up just about anything with a winky face.

Eric:  Cute.  Nothing like Tinder on Halloween to evoke sentiments of the Devil.

ANASTASIA(3*222):  My thoughts exactly ;D

Something about that winky face unsettled him but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.  He thought, “Am I doing this right?  …Tindering?  The hell do I say next?  Is it like… the rules of improv, always end in a ‘Yes and?’

Before he could move a finger his phone lit up again.

ANASTASIA(3*222):  Whatchu doing alone on a night like this?

Eric:  Depends.  Truth or Interesting?

ANASTASIA(3*222):  Hmm.  Interesting.

Eric:  Brain surgery on an impoverished baby while listening to Vivaldi.  

ANASTASIA(3*222):  Truth?

Eric:  Thai food alone after watching Cabin in the Woods for the sixth time.

ANASTASIA(3*222):  lol.

And now,” he thought, “we get to the question of the evening.

Eric:  What about you?

ANASTASIA(3*222):  What is any self respecting human doing on Tinder?

Eric:  Succumbing to their alcoholism?

ANASTASIA(3*222):  ;D Looking for trouble.

ANASTASIA(3*222):  Do you live alone? ;D

There it was again, the face with the too big mouth.  Staring at him, one eye closed with a capital ‘D’elightful smile, so mischievous it needed to show teeth.  The radiators kept going CLANG, CLANG, CLANG, CLANG as suddenly he thought again of Nietzsche.  Nietzsche and his Abyss.

ANASTASIA(3*222):  You still there, Cutie?

;D   ;D   ;D

ANASTASIA(3*222):  …Do you have snapchat?

While the intellect of his greater brain was still tied in the horrifying depths of that Capital D smile—“Why does it have to show teeth?  When has a person ever winked and shown teeth?”—the idiocy of his lesser brain (located just below his belt and somewhere above the knees) blinked awake at the mention of “snapchat”.

Eric:  What’s a snapchat?

And although Eric didn’t know, he knew.

ANASTASIA(3*222):  lol.  Do you have a phone number?

While his greater brain screamed “NO!” it was quickly shouted down by the demons of just how long it had been since Eric’s lesser brain had been sated.  For they had desires, his demons did.

Fuck it.”  He thought, “Welcome to the freak show.

So preoccupied was he, so split between his desires and the gaping maw of that winking face, he didn’t even notice that his radiators had stopped clanging.  As his fingers worked the keys of his iPhone he didn’t hear the twisting of the valves opening themselves.  As he thought, “Oh yes.  Yes.  That D has teeth.  IT HAS TEETH.” he didn’t even hear the valve rebounding off his concrete floor.  He was oblivious to the sickening hiss of steam rushing into his apartment.

Eric:  555.882.4870

The image’s arrival was instant.  Too instant.  He clicked the picture, exposing a beauty below the neckline, clad in black lingerie and nothing else.

ANASTASIA(3*222):  Well?

He stared as the snake in his radiator hissed and hissed and hissed…

ANASTASIA(3*222):  Well?  Well?  Well?  WELL?  WELL?  

His phone was relentless, a constant stream of light, like the unblinking eye of a devil.

ANASTASIA(3*222):  ;D  Want me to come over?

No.  That was wrong.  It wasn’t a constant stream of light.  It was the only light.  It was as if his phone were eating all other light in the room.  Suddenly he was aware that he couldn’t see the posts beside his couch anymore, they were gone, so was the TV in front of him and the couch all around him.  There was only the phone, the cushion he sat on and the radiator on the other side of the room whispering to him as a serpent.

It is hot in here or is it just me?”  the radiator seemed to hiss.  But loneliness is a powerful drug isn’t it?  It leaves a hole in you.  If that hole is dug deep enough it starts to look like a grave.

His fingers worked as if on their own, as if possessed.

Eric:  Yes.

There was a pounding on the door immediately.  Three sharp knocks.  Suddenly the door existed again, Eric’s world was expanding.  The couch cushion, the radiator, the door and the phone.  Always the phone.

ANASTASIA(3*222):  Aren’t you going to let me in?

His hands trembled, the phone nearly falling to the floor, but he clung to it the way we do, as though our lifelines are crashing to the ground.  He rose on unsteady feet, moved by the unrelenting pull of inevitability.

ANASTASIA(3*222):  Didn’t you see my picture?

His hand found the doorknob.

ANASTASIA(3*222):  Don’t you want me.  ;D

His last thought before throwing the lock and opening the door was:

Capital ‘D’elightful!

The door opened and there she was, as promised, her body clad in the same lingerie as her picture, the harsh angles of her hips and collar bones doing desperate battle with the curves of her womanhood.  As he traced his eyes from her bare feet to her long neck his phone slipped from his fingers and clattered to the ground. The screen shattered as it landed, face up, cutting the light with the veins of broken glass.  A scream ripped from his body, but it too was swallowed by the light of the phone.

On top of the slender neck was not a human face, but rather a winking geisha mask, makeup smeared atop wax paper and pulled tight over human bones.  One eye was perpetually closed, ripped from ear to nose and drenched in clotted mascara.  Her mouth was a gaping maw, lips a  bloody patchwork of cracks and sores, with lipstick applied as though by a seven year old playing dress up with mommy’s cosmetics.

She smiled and he screamed again, silent and helpless.  She laughed and in her mouth were not teeth but razor blades, sideways, rusted and yellow.

“Hey, cutie,” Lady Geisha said. “How bout a kiss?”

Her mouth descended onto his and it was The Abyss.

His last thought was:

Teeth.  She has teeth.


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