Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

It was a nice piece. The tattoo on the man’s forearm featured Elvis Presley and Ann Margret locked in an embrace, with Viva Las Vegas in flaming red letters above. Ace D’Angelo had a split second to admire it before the man whose arm it was attached to slammed him in the face with his fist.

Ace went down hard. He did not try to get up again. The man stood over him, his buddies laughing behind him.

“Next time I’ll kick the shit out of ya, faggot.”

The tattooed man and his buddies got back in their car and drove off, leaving Ace bleeding and wondering where his dog Buster had got to. Buster had been the cause of the altercation. The man hadn’t liked the dog peeing on his car tire, and so he had taken it out on Ace, the dog’s owner.

After a moment, Ace saw the dog coming for him, its head down, whimpering slightly. It came forward and licked his nose. The friendly gesture seemed to revive Ace, and Buster’s tail wagged, ever so slightly.

He slowly stood up and looked around, dazed. People walked past but showed no concern for what had happened. That was typical, thought Ace. People did not normally show him kindness, nor did he expect it from them. That was what the dog was for.

He was a small, skinny, mean-looking man. And he was ugly. Ugly as a rat, ugly as sin, ugly as no chin, beady eyes and a beaten old Fedora could make a guy. But there was a softness behind his eyes, an innocence, if one could get close enough to see.

“It’s okay, boy, I’ll live.” Ace patted the terrier’s scruffy head and walked on.

The rain came down, and Ace and the dog hurried through the dark dirty streets and alleys, past homeless people and large rubbish containers and dilapidated tenement blocks to reach home. Home, when they reached it, was one of those very same dilapidated tenement blocks. Before he went inside, Ace looked behind him. He had a feeling he’d been followed, that perhaps his unknown assailant was somewhere close by – but the roads were empty.

The elevator wasn’t working, so Ace led Buster up the four flights of stairs to his small roach-infested apartment. It boasted a radiator that only worked when it wanted to, a water system that barely got the job done, and cheap furniture that had been pre-stained by the previous owners. It wasn’t much, but it was all he could afford on his janitor’s wage, and it was better than nothing. After a dinner of pea soup and hot dogs, Ace settled down in front of an old busted up typewriter and rolled some paper in. He was not a computer kind of guy. The typewriter was an old Olivetti, and the r-key often slipped down, but it didn’t bother him; all things considered, it was just as broken down and crooked as everything else about his life.

He thought about the day he’d had and began to type out all his frustrations onto the paper, letting the meanness of his existence overwhelm him in an exhilarating rush of words that were pure Id . . .

Kill Wishlist

The following are people who, in my opinion, should be killed. They should be killed because they represent everything that’s wrong with society.

Rupert Murdoch – and sons

Barak Obama (crossed out)

Donald Trump

Terrorists

Tom Cruise

Adam Sandler

All the Kardashians

Vladimir Putin

Mark Chapman

Will Farrell

Rush Limbaugh

Justin Bieber

Worthless sacks of shit. Kill ’em all!

Looking at the list, which was in no particular order of importance, he frowned. Something was missing from it. Then he realized what it was, and slapped his forehead. Of course, it had clear escaped his mind! He added the offending item . . .

Oh yeah, also that tattooed bastard who hit me today!

Plus a supporting cast of thousands . . .

Now he grunted with satisfaction. It was a good list, a list for the times, a righteous list.

Enjoying himself, he added . . .

This is a work in-progress. We could organize this perhaps around certain successive ‘kill days’, where lists of specific targets are bumped off on those days. The plan is for the deaths of these people to create a vacuum in the world that can be filled by other people who can better contribute to the gene pool.

His work done, Ace gave Buster a tasty treat – a delicious Jerky slice, which the happy dog enjoyed on his favorite blanket – and watched some TV. First, it was the news and a disturbing story about a guy in Bakersfield who had set his wife on fire by pouring petrol over her. The report included footage of the man, a large, bearded dude who was heavily tattooed, being taken into custody. Then, Ace relaxed with an episode of the old TV show _The Outer Limits_, about some aliens visiting Earth and making controlled experiments. A guy had just shot his girlfriend dead, but the aliens had a device that could reverse time, and it saved her – and the relationship. It was a good episode. Ace had a soft spot for happy endings and relationships that worked out.

Presently, he fell asleep in front of the TV, the remote control slipping from his grasp onto the floor.

#

He awoke to the sound of Buster whimpering at something. Through fuzzy eyes he saw a shape, an apparition coming into focus. Someone was in the kitchen, sitting at the table.

His first response was fear at the presence of the intruder. But then, on looking more closely, he saw the intruder was a woman, a red-haired woman, and he became curious. She seemed intent on the sheet of paper still in the Olivetti.

She turned briefly as he came warily towards her, and said enthusiastically, “This is a really good list. I like it!”

Her voice was high and musical. She was wearing tight slacks, and a tight, green sweater. Her face and her body, well, she was beautiful, thought Ace. He was beguiled, but also disturbed by her.

“Who are you? How did you get in here?”

Now turning to face him, the woman smiled confidently and said, “I’m Valeria. And your door was open.”

That’s right, thought Ace. He hadn’t locked the door. It clear escaped his mind. “Well, that doesn’t give you the right-” Ace began, but was cut off.

“I saw what happened in the street back there,” Valeria said quickly. “That guy who hit you. I thought you could use a friend.”

She smiled again, but this time sadly, in sympathy. She got up and made ready to go. “I’m sorry, I’ll leave.”

At that, Ace felt a sudden disappointment, and realized he didn’t want her to go. Hell, he hadn’t had a real woman in his apartment – and one who looked so nice – since…forever.

“No, it’s okay,” said Ace, and the woman stopped. “You like what I wrote there?” He smiled uncertainly at her.

“Yes, it was very…primal. I like people who have the courage to voice their feelings that way. And you’re right. We need better people.”

“I didn’t really mean it, you understand. I mean, I’m not a psycho or anything. Just letting off steam.” Ace stood there awkwardly, wondering why he was confiding in this stranger who had let herself into his apartment. The situation was very strange.

“I get that,” said Valeria.

She came close to him and placed a hand softly on the side of his face, the bruised place where the tattooed guy had connected. The warmth of her hand sent a shudder of ecstasy through him. “Do you mind if I stay?”

#

Afterwards, in bed, she snuggled up to him and whispered, “That was nice.” She looked up at him in the darkness and asked, almost uncertainly, “Was that nice for you too?”

Ace put his arms around her and smiled. “It was…okay.” In fact, it was more than okay. Ace could not believe what had just happened.

“Because, you know, I don’t normally do this sort of thing,” Valeria said. “I usually like to get to know a guy…”

Ace let her ramble on, enjoying her bedroom talk, the warmth of her body and the smell of her perfume. But he wondered what would come next. He suspected there would be some kind of reckoning for this, that it would turn out she wanted something from him. Good things always came at a price. She was definitely a strange girl – but somehow, he didn’t care.

“…Like that list you wrote,” she continued. “If you could, if you had the power to do it, who on that list would you really want to get rid of?”

The question was framed innocently enough, but Ace detected a duplicity in Valeria’s voice. What was she driving at? Was she trying to get him to admit to something that would get him into trouble?

For all that, Ace idly considered the question. He couldn’t think of it in terms of killing people – despite the list he had wrote. But just getting rid of them, making them disappear, that sounded a lot better – almost harmless even. Who on that list did he want to disappear? Who, by their disappearance, would make the world a better place?

When he really thought about it, there was almost no one on the list whose disappearance would make any difference to the world, as far as he could tell. Most had done their damage already, and just taking them out of the picture might satisfy some revenge instinct, or just plain feel good, but it wouldn’t do much good in the long run. Chapman had already killed John Lennon. Bieber, Sandler, Farrell and the Kardashians had already polluted the pop culture world with their puerile music, films and TV shows. Admittedly, Cruise’s films could be pretty good – he had the star power to command good scripts and directors. But he was such a pain in the ass as a person – as far as Ace knew. Rupert Murdoch had already spread his hateful right-wing doctrine through his many media outlets all over the world, and with the help of toadies like Rush Limbaugh. Trump was cut from a similar cloth. Putin, yeah maybe getting rid of him would do some good (Ace favoured a slow course of irradiated food poisoning for that one). But really, the only likely candidates were the terrorists, and Ace wasn’t even sure about them. He only knew they weren’t all Muslims like they always seemed to be represented in the media, that they included a potentially big list of people – and governments.

No, the more he thought about it, the more he kept coming back to that guy who attacked him in the streets just before. The guy with the tattoo. There was something about him and his actions that had really got under Ace’s skin. With him it was very personal.

So he blurted out, “The guy with the tattoo who hit me tonight. I’d like to see him get his just desserts.”

“Ooh, good choice,” purred Valeria. She cuddled closer beside him and whispered seductively in his ear. “But I think you can do better than that, stud.”

“What do you mean?” Ace inquired.

“I mean, why stop at one? Why not get his entire gang, or others like him?”

Ace gave Valeria a strange look. She was definitely a weird chick. What did she mean by ‘others like him’? Perhaps she had meant the tattoo. It occurred to him that the other gang members were wearing tattoos as well. Come to think of it, maybe they all had the same tattoo – the Viva Las Vegas tattoo. He wasn’t sure, but if he was right, then that would really make them a gang – the ‘Viva Las Vegas gang’ perhaps.

He had to admit, that was a nice tattoo. But then he thought about all the crappy tattoo jobs he’d seen on people. And the dirtiness of the ink gun. They were all like junkies, sharing needles. He shuddered at the image. He thought about how much he really hated people who had tattoos: semi-literate thugs, all of them. They always seemed to be the ones you heard about in the news stories where some awful crime or act of violence was committed. And the worst thing was, they always seemed to have children, to carry on their tradition of stupidity.

“Yeah, why not?” he said thoughtfully. “Why not just get rid of all of ’em?”

“That’s what I’m talking about!” said Valeria with enthusiasm. “That’s my guy!” She leaned in close again and whispered in his ear. “Do you wish it?”

“Do I wish it?”

“Yeah, just say it out loud.” Encouraging him, she squeezed his arm, then reached down and fondled his genitals.

“Okay.” Ace laid there on the bed, filled with lust and thinking of how to frame his request.

Just then he heard a scratching noise from the bedroom door. It was Buster trying to get in. Ace could hear him whimpering outside the door and scratching feverishly. _What’s gotten into that mutt?_ he thought to himself. It almost put him off his intended course of action. The thought had occurred that perhaps he shouldn’t do this – that he was consigning to hell (if only in jest) a lot of people who he actually quite liked. There was Johnny Depp, and Masuimi Max the pinup girl. In fact, there were a lot of pinup cuties he knew who looked hot in their tatts. And there were people with tribal tattoos, and people who had them for religious reasons, and more. But he was too far gone now to care.

He suddenly saw in his mind’s eye the guy who had hit him – the hateful glare, the flashing tattoo of Elvis and Ann Margret, and he yelled with abandon, “I wish everyone with a tattoo just went to hell!”

Beside him, Valeria whooped in delight. She was ecstatic. So ecstatic, in fact, that she seemed to change into someone else right before Ace’s eyes. Suddenly she was no longer the attractive redhead he had bedded, but an ugly scar-faced hag who cackled beside him.

She raised herself from the bed, so that Ace could now see her shrivelled and sagging breasts, and her pale and withered body. Ace stared at her in horror and revulsion. The dread thought came to him: _I had sex with that!_

The hag named Valeria cackled again, and in a voice that was no longer musical, but that was grainy and coarse as sandpaper, said, “Oh, you’re the best one I’ve had in a long time, sonny! This vengeance demon will dine on all the souls of your wish-making.”

She raised her bony arms to the ceiling and with these words invoked her demon patron: “Viva Las Vegas!”

And Ace’s wish was fulfilled.

#

In the apartment next door a scream was heard. Ace’s neighbor, Deloris Melvoy, became apoplectic as she watched her husband Herman spontaneously burst into flames. He piteously held his hands to his face, as if to ward off the fire, but it was no use. Deloris saw the Love and Hate tattoos on his knuckles burn away until only bone and gristle were left behind.

#

On the outskirts of town, Ace’s tormentor and his gangster hounds were engulfed in flames even as their car sped down the highway.

#

In Hollywood, Johnny Depp was immolated whilst rehearsing his latest role, his skull and crossbones tattoo with the legend ‘death is certain’ flexing one final time.

#

In Las Vegas, Masuimi Max met a fiery death just as she was about to step into a fragrant bubble bath. Her colorful dragon tattoos on her back lit up as though they had come alive. With a shriek she tried to save herself by jumping into the bath, but alas, the fires consumed her from within.

#

Inside the Bakersfield county jail the man who had poured petrol over his wife was now experiencing what she had experienced at his own hand. The justice or irony of the situation was completely lost on him as he screamed, and his burnt and tattooed hands were held against the jail cell bars as flesh and metal welded together.

#

Across the city and over the entire country, people of all stripes and colors met a similar fate, brought on by the incriminating marks they wore on their skins. The famous and the not so famous, the strong, the smart, the stupid – especially the stupid – were doomed by their patronage of the great god Tattoo.

#

And finally, the last to die, was Ace D’Angelo in his roach-infested apartment on the fourth floor. The small spray of stars tattooed on the back of his neck had given him away. He had them done years ago and, like so many things, they had _clear escaped his mind_.

End

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