I encountered the old man in a sketchy bar attached to an unassuming highway motel, clean tables and seats with torn naugahyde. March had arrived in northern Ontario, fields covered in melting dirty snow and water pouring off roofs. Vegetation brown in colour. He looked perhaps sixty, with a face lined more deeply than one might expect for those years. His eyes were blank and haunted. He finished his story and his final drink and headed into the maw of the night. I walked to my room, spicy chicken wings and draft beer resting uneasily in my stomach, and I slept but little in my room. His tale had settled into some dark corner of my brain. When I tried to retell, it took this form:
I once was a salesman; commissions were grand.
My face like an actor could play
Any part, any heart. Any string I could pull
And indeed—that was how I won May.
For a few years we lived like an advertisement:
Former beauty queen, salesman, and son.
I might dally a bit, but I'd always come home;
Studied eyes told her she was my one.
The glow did not last, and she woke from the dream
And their leaving left nary a scar.
I know my cool heart played some part in her death:
Though in truth, one more drunk and her car.
The boy was just five when he came back to me
And by then, things had changed in my life:
The bachelor ways and the martini lunch
(I lived happily without a wife).
I put him to bed, where he shivered awhile
"I hear things in the walls," he told me.
I assured him he'd been through a lot, but if he
Could just rest, fear would pass, he would see.
He finally went down and I thought just this once
with my home bar bare (over the sink)
I could quickly head out to the place down the road
And as quickly, just grab one more drink.
And yet as I drank there my folly grew plain;
I felt something that you might call guilt,
And I settled my tab and I walked out the door
As my sense and the world went atilt.
Inexpressible shudders my stomach assailed
As I passed down the street in between
The place where I was and my home where I saw
Spread before, an impossible scene.
The boy wasn't alone. That thing crouched at his bed--
A bogeyman, needle-nosed, thin.
From where he was chewing he looked up at me:
cartoon eyes and obscene rictal grin.
His flesh had the pallor of maggots that crawl;
That grin had the turn of a skull.
His teeth they were razors and ribbons they tore
Off the flesh of my child they pulled.
The face of the young one was frozen in fear
He'd been dying afraid and alone.
I caught the last glimmer of life in his eyes
As the fiend, as he dined, cracked a bone.
He leaped like a dancer, then leapt at my eyes
I am certain my heart's beating ceased;
Then he breathed meaty breath as he laughed in my face
And ran out on all fours like a beast.
The police thought me mad. Who could credit my tale?
And I knew I was suspect, by Christ!
Alone with remains that would chill any man--
And a card that read Jeremy Vice.
They questioned for hours, while I, filled with grief,
Tried to tell them I knew nothing more.
The card they could trace but it shed not a clue
(printed up at a novelty store)
They found bloodied footprints, and clearly not mine
(Though they noted my breath's taste of beer).
The thing I described had them shaking their heads--
Written off—a creation of fear.
But I tell you the nightmare was real. Take advice
And beware of the demon named Jeremy Vice!
The singular death was the talk for awhile
And everyone had words to say
Sympathetic and kind; all my friends shared my pain--
Though my friends soon all drifted away.
A year came and went; I lived modestly now
While suspicion and pity did lob
Dark shades on my person wherever I went:
Each bar, each apartment, each job.
I turned my head often; more often at night
Convinced I would see that cruel smile.
Then the sound of a passerby drew me to draw
Back my curtains. My throat filled with bile.
He looked up and cackled and made by blood ice--
That dark apparition named Jeremy Vice.
He shook my front door, and I trembled in fear
Unable to act or pursue
I didn't phone the police, but I soon packed my bags
With morning I knew what to do.
I travel quite often to places remote
I've lost track of the towns and the streets
I've not seen him in years, but I know he's about
I know some day he'll catch up with me.
"Yet surely he's human, a monster in mind
But assailable"— that's what you'll say.
But if you had seen him, like me, you would run
And like me, die again, every day.
He's out there, still looking, demanding his price--
That lost apparition named Jeremy Vice.
For March of the Monsters