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John Dies at the End,9780312659141

John Dies at the End

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Edition:
Reprint
ISBN13:

9780312659141

ISBN10:
0312659148
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Paperback
Pub. Date:
9/14/2010
Publisher(s):
St. Martin's Griffin
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Summary

STOP.You should not have touched this book with your bare hands.NO, don't put it down. It's too late.They're watching you.My name is David Wong. My best friend is John. Those names are fake. You might want to change yours.You may not want to know about the things you'll read on these pages, aboutthe sauce, aboutKorrok, about the invasion, and the future. But it's too late. You touched the book. You're in the game. You're underthe eye.The only defense is knowledge. You need to read this book, to the end. Even the part with the bratwurst. Why? You just have to trust me. The important thing is this:The drug is calledSoy Sauceand it gives users a window into another dimension. John and I never had the chance to say no. You still do.Unfortunately for us, if you make the right choice, we'll have a much harder time explaining how tofight off the otherworldly invasioncurrently threatening toenslave humanity. I'm sorry to have involved you in this, I really am. But as you read about these terrible events and the verydark epochthe world is about to enter as a result, it is crucial you keep one thing in mind: None of this is was my fault.

Author Biography

David Wong is the pseudonym of Jason Pargin, online humorist, National Lampoon contributor, and editor-in-chief of Cracked.com.  

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1
The Levitating “Jamaican”
THEY SAY LOS Angeles is like The Wizard of Oz. One minute it’s small-town monochrome neighborhoods and then boom—all of a sudden you’re in a sprawling Technicolor freak show, dense with midgets.
Unfortunately, this story does not take place in Los Angeles.
The place I was sitting was a small city in the Midwest which will remain undisclosed for reasons that will become obvious later. I was at a restaurant called “They China Food!” which was owned by a couple of brothers from the Czech Republic who, as far as I could tell, didn’t know a whole lot about China or food. I had picked the place thinking it was still the Mexican bar and grill it had been the previous month; in fact, the change was so recent that one wall was still covered by an incompetent mural of a dusky woman riding a bull and proudly flying the flag of Mexico, carrying a cartoon burrito the size of a pig under her arm.
This is a small city, large enough to have four McDonald’s but not so big that you see more than the occasional homeless person on the way. You can get a taxi here but they’re not out roving around where you can jump off the sidewalk and hail one. You have to call them on the phone, and they’re not yellow.
The weather varies explosively from day to day in this part of America, the jet stream undulating over us like an angry snake god. I’ve seen a day when the temperature hit one hundred and eight degrees, another when it dipped eigh teen degrees below zero, another day when the temperature swung forty-three degrees in eight hours. We’re also in Tornado Alley, so every spring swirling, howling charcoal demons materialize out of the air and shred mobile homes as if they were dropped in huge blenders.
But all that aside, it’s not a bad town. Not really.
A lot of unemployment, though. We’ve got two closed factories and a rotting shopping mall that went bankrupt before it ever opened. We’re not far from Kentucky, which marks the unofficial border to the South, so one sees more than enough pickup trucks decorated with stickers of Confederate flags and slogans proclaiming their brand of truck is superior to all others. Lots of country music stations, lots of jokes that contain the word “nigger.” A sewer system that occasionally backs up into the streets for some unknown reason. Lots and lots of stray dogs around, many with grotesque deformities.
Okay, it’s a shithole.
There are a lot of things about this undisclosed city that the chamber of commerce won’t tell you, like the fact that we have more than quadruple the rate of mental illness per capita than any other city in the state, or that in the ’80s the EPA did a very discreet study of the town’s water supply in hope of finding a cause. The chief inspector on that case was found dead inside one of the water towers a week later, which was considered strange since the largest opening into the tank was a valve just ten inches wide. It was also considered strange that both of his eyes were fused shut, but that’s another story.
My name is David, by the way. Um, hi. I once saw a man’s kidney grow tentacles, tear itself out of a ragged hole in his back and go slapping across my kitchen floor.
I sighed and stared blankly out of the window of They China Food!, occasionally glancing at the clock sign that flashed 6:32 P.M. in the darkness from the credit union across the street. The reporter was late. I thought about leaving.
I didn’t want to tell this story, the story of me and John and what’s happening in Undisclosed (and everywhere else, I guess). I can’t tell the story without sounding as nuts as a … a nut bush, or—whatever nuts grow from. I pictured myself pouring my heart out to this guy, ranting about the shadows, and the worms, and Korrok, and Fred Durst, babbling away under this wall-sized portrait of a badly drawn burrito. How was this going to turn into anything but a ridiculous clusterfuck?
Enough, I said to myself. Just go. When you’re on your deathbed you’re gonna wish you could get back all the time you spent waiting for other people.
I started to stand but stopped myself halfway up. My stomach flinched, as if cattle-prodded. I felt another dizzy spell coming on.
I fell hard back into the booth. More side effects. I was already light-headed, my body trembling from shoes to shoulders in random spells, like I swallowed a vibrator. It’s always like this when I’m on the sauce. I dosed six hours ago.
I took slow, deep breaths, trying to cycle down, to level off, to chill out. I turned to watch a little Asian waitress deliver a plate of chicken fried rice to a bearded guy on the other side of the room.
I squinted. In half a second I counted 5,829 grains of rice on her plate. The rice was grown in Arkansas. The guy who ran the harvester was nicknamed “Cooter.”
I’m not a genius, as my dad and all my old teachers at Undisclosed Eastern High School will inform you with even the slightest provocation. I’m not psychic, either. Just side effects, that’s all.
The shakes again. A quick, fluttery wave, like the adrenaline rush you get when you lean your chair too far past the tipping point. Might as well wait it out, I guess. I was still waiting on my “Flaming Shrimp Reunion,” a dish I ordered just to see what it looked like. I wasn’t hungry.
A flatware set was wrapped in a napkin on the table in front of me. A few inches away was my glass of iced tea; a few inches from that was another object, one I didn’t feel like thinking about right then. I unwrapped my utensils. I closed my eyes and touched the fork, immediately knew it was manufactured in Pennsylvania six years ago, on a Thursday, and that a guy had once used it to scrape a piece of dog shit from his shoe.
You’ve just gotta make it through a couple of days of this, said my own voice again from inside my skull. You’ll open your eyes tomorrow or the next day and everything will be okay again. Well, mostly okay. You’ll still be ugly and kind of stupid and you’ll occasionally see things that make you—
I did open my eyes, and jerked in shock. A man was sitting across from me in the booth. I hadn’t heard or felt or smelled him when he slid into the seat. Was this the reporter I spoke to on the phone?
Or a ninja?
“Hey,” I mumbled. “Are you Arnie?”
“Yeah. Did you doze off there?” He shook my hand.
“Uh, no. I was just tryin’ to rub somethin’ off the back of my eyelid. I’m David Wong. Good to meet ya.”
“Sorry I’m late.”
Arnie Blondestone looked just like I imagined him. He was older, uneven haircut and a bad mustache, a wide face made for a cigar. He wore a gray suit that looked older than I was, a tie with a fat Windsor knot.
He had told me he was a reporter for a national magazine and wanted to do a feature on me and my friend John. It wasn’t the first request like this, but it was the first one I had agreed to. I looked the guy up on the Web, found out he did quirky little human-interest bits, Charles Kuralt stuff. One article about a guy who obsessively collects old lightbulbs and paints landscapes on them, another about a lady with six hundred cats, that sort of thing. It’s what polite people have instead of freak shows I guess, stories we can laugh at around the coffee machines in the office break room.
Arnie’s gaze stayed on my face a little too long, taking in my beads of cold sweat, my pale skin, the thatch of overgrown hair. Instead of pointing out any of that, Arnie said, “You don’t look Asian, Mr. Wong.”
“I’m not. I was born in [Undisclosed]. I had the name changed. Thought it would make me harder to find.”
Arnie gave me the first of what I assumed would be many, many skeptical looks. “How so?”
I half closed my eyes, my mind flooding with images of the 103 billion humans who have been born since the species appeared. A sea of people living, dying and multiplying like cells in a single organism. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to clear my mind by focusing on a mental image of the waitress’s boobs.
I said, “Wong is the most common surname in the world. You try to Google it, you’ve got a shitload of results to sift through before you get to me.”
He said, “Okay. Your family live around here?”
Getting right to it, then.
“I was adopted. Never knew my real dad. You could be my dad, for all I know. Are you my dad?”
“Eh, I don’t think so.”
I tried to figure out if these were warm-up questions to prime the interview pump, or if he already knew. I suspected the latter.
Might as well go all-in. That’s why we’re here, right?
“My adopted family moved away, I won’t tell you where they are. But get out your pen because you’ll want to write this down. My biological mom? She was institutionalized.”
“That must have been hard. What was the—”
“She was a strung-out, crank-addicted cannibal, dabbled in vampirism and shamanism. My mom, she worshipped some major devil when I was a toddler. Blew her welfare check every month on black candles. Sure, Satan would do her favors now and then, but there’s always a catch with the Devil. Always a catch.”
A pause from Arnie, then, “Is that true?”
“No. This, this silliness, it’s what I do when I’m nervous. She was bipolar, that’s all. Couldn’t keep a house. Isn’t the other story better, though? You should use it.”
Arnie gave me a practiced look of reporterly sincerity and said, “I thought you wanted to get the truth out, your side of it. If not, then why are we even here, Mr. Wong?”
Because I let women talk me into things.
“You’re right. Sorry.”
“Now, since we broached the subject, you spent your se nior year in high school in an alternative program …”
“Yeah, that was just a misunderstanding,” I lied. “They have this label, ‘Emotionally Disturbed’ that they put on you, but it was just a couple of fights. Kid stuff, no charges or anything. Craziness is not hereditary.”
Arnie eyed me, both of us aware of the fact that juvenile records are sealed from public viewing and that he would have to take my word for it. I wondered how this would end up in his article, especially in light of the utter batshit insanity of the story I was about to share.
He moved his gaze to the other object on the table, from his perspective, a small, innocent-looking container. It was about the size and shape of a spool of thread, made of flat, brushed metal. I rested my fingers on it. The surface was icy to the touch, like it had spent all night in the freezer. If you set the thing out in the hot sun from morning to night it would still feel that way. You could mistake it for a stylish pill bottle, I suppose.
I could blow your world away, Arnie. If I showed you what was in this container, you’d never sleep another full night, never really lose yourself in a movie again, never feel at one with the human race until the day you die. But we’re not ready for that, not yet. And you sure as hell won’t be ready for what’s in my truck. …
“Well,” Arnie began again, “either way, mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. We just get sick from time to time, part of being human, you know? For instance, I was just talking to a guy up north, a high-priced lawyer-type who spent two weeks in the psych ward himself a little while ago. Name of Frank Campo. You know that name?”
“Yeah, I knew him a little.”
“Frank wouldn’t talk to me, but his family said he was having hallucinations. Almost daily, right? Guy had this car wreck and from then on he just got worse and worse. He freaked out at Thanksgiving. Wife brought in the turkey, but to Frank, it wasn’t a turkey. Frank saw a human baby, curled up on the platter, cooked to a golden brown. Stuffing jammed in its mouth. He went nuts, wouldn’t eat for weeks after that. He got to where he was having incidents every few days. They figured it was brain damage, you know, from the accident. But the doctors couldn’t do squat. Right?”
“Yeah. That’s about it.”
You skipped over the weirdest part, Arnie. What caused the accident in the first place. And what he saw in his car. …
“And now,” said Arnie, “he’s cured.”
“Is that what they say? Good for him, then. Good for Frank.”
“And they swear that it was you and your friend who cured him.”
“Me and John, yeah. We did what we could. But good for Frank. I’m glad to hear he’s okay.”
A little smile played at Arnie’s lips. Acidic. Look at the crazy man with his incompetent, crazy-man haircut and his crazy little pill bottle and his crazy fucking story.
How many de cades of cynicism did it take to forge that smirk, Arnie? It makes me tired just looking at it.
“Tell me about John.”
“Like what? In his midtwenties. We went to school together. John isn’t his real name, either.”
“Let me guess …”
The images start to rush in again, the mass of humanity spreading across the globe over centuries like a time-lapse video of mold taking over an orange. Think of the boobs. Boobs. Boobs. Boobs.
“… John is the most common first name in the world.”
“That’s right,” I said. “And yet there’s not a single person named John Wong. I looked it up.”
“You know, I work with a John Wong.”
“Oh, really?”
“Let’s move on,” Arnie said, probably making a mental note that this David Wong guy isn’t above just making shit up.
Holy crap, Arnie, just wait until you hear the rest of the story. If your bullshit meter is that finely tuned, in a few minutes it’s liable to explode and take half a city block with it.
“You guys already got a little bit of a following, don’t you?” he said, flipping back to a page in a little notebook already riddled with scribbles. “I found a couple of discussion boards on the Web devoted to you and your friend, your … hobby, I guess. So, you’re, what, sort of spiritualists? Exorcists? Something like that?”
Okay, enough farting around.
“You have eighty-three cents in your front pocket, Arnie,” I said quickly. “Three quarters, a nickel, three pennies. The three pennies are dated 1983, 1993 and 1999.”
Arnie grinned the superior grin of the “I’m the smartest man in the room” skeptic, then scooped his coins out of his pocket. He examined the contents, confirmed I was right.
He coughed out a laugh and brought his fist down on the table, my utensils clinking with the impact. “Well I’ll be damned! That’s a neat trick, Mr. Wong.”
“If you flip the nickel ten times,” I continued, “you’ll get heads, heads, tails, heads, tails, tails, tails, heads, tails, tails.”
“I’m not sure I want to take the time to—”
For a brief moment, I considered taking it easy on Arnie. Then I remembered the grin. I unloaded.
“Last night you had a dream, Arnie. You were being chased through a forest by your mother. She was lashing you with a whip made of knotted penises.”
Arnie’s face fell, like an imploded building. As much as I hated the expression on his face a few minutes ago, I loved this one.
That’s right, Arnie. Everything you know is wrong.
“You got my attention, Mr. Wong.”
“Oh, it gets better. A lot better.”
Bullshit. What it gets is worse. A lot worse.
“It started a few years ago,” I began. “We were just a couple of years out of high school. Just kids. So that friend of mine, John, he was at a party …”
JOHN HAD A band back in those days. The party was happening Woodstock-style in a muddy field next to a lake in a town a few minutes outside of Undisclosed city limits. It was April of that year and the party was being put on by some guy, for his birthday or what ever. I don’t remember.
John and I were there with his band, Three-Arm Sally. It was around nine o’clock when I strode out onto the stage with a guitar slung over my shoulder, greeted by a smattering of unenthusiastic applause from the hundred or so guests. The “stage” was just a grid of wooden pallets laid together on the grass, orange drop cords snaking underfoot from the amps to a nearby shed.
I glanced around, saw a set list taped to one of their crackly old Peavey amplifiers. It read:
Camel Holocaust
Gay Superman
Stairway to Heaven
Love My Sasquatch
Thirty Reasons Why I Dislike Chad Wellsburg
Love Me Tender
We took our places.
It was me, Head (the drummer), Wally Brown (bass), Kelly Smallwood (bass) and Munch Lombard (bass). John was lead guitar and vocals, but he wasn’t on stage, not yet. I should let you know that I had no idea how to play the guitar or any other musical instrument, and that the sound of my singing voice could probably draw blood from a man’s ears, and perhaps kill a dog outright.
I stepped up to the mic.
“I want to thank you all for coming. This is my band, Three-Arm Sally, and we’re here to rock you like the proverbial hurricane.”
The crowd muttered its indifference. Head hammered the drums for the intro to “Camel Holocaust.” I slung the guitar around and got ready to rock.
Suddenly, my whole body wrenched in a display of unbearable pain, knees buckling. My hands shot to my head and I collapsed to the stage, screaming like a wounded animal. I scraped the guitar strings to throw out some painful, spastic feedback on my way down. The crowd gasped, watching as I flew into a series of exaggerated convulsions, then finally lay still.
Munch rushed over, studied me like a paramedic. I lay there like a dead man. He touched my neck, then stood and turned to the mic.
“He’s dead, ladies and gentlemen.”
A rustling, drunken panic in the crowd.
“Wait. Please, please. Everyone. Pay attention. Just calm down.”
He waited for quiet.
“Now,” he said. “We have a whole show to do. Is there anyone here who knows how to sing and play guitar?”
A tall man stepped out of the crowd, a head of curly long hair like a deflated afro. This was John. He wore an orange T-shirt with a black stenciled stamp bearing the logo of VISTA PINES FACILITY FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE. The last two words had been crossed out with a black Magic Marker and the words NOT INSAN were scrawled crazily over it. The whole shirt, logo and all, was John’s handiwork.
Excerpted from John Dies at the End by David Wong.
Copyright © 2009 by David Wong.
Published in 2009 by Thomas Dunne Books.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

Excerpts

CHAPTER 1
The Levitating "Jamaican"
THEY SAY LOS Angeles is like The Wizard of Oz. One minute it's small-town monochrome neighborhoods and then boom--all of a sudden you're in a sprawling Technicolor freak show, dense with midgets.
Unfortunately, this story does not take place in Los Angeles.
The place I was sitting was a small city in the Midwest which will remain undisclosed for reasons that will become obvious later. I was at a restaurant called "They China Food!" which was owned by a couple of brothers from the Czech Republic who, as far as I could tell, didn't know a whole lot about China or food. I had picked the place thinking it was still the Mexican bar and grill it had been the previous month; in fact, the change was so recent that one wall was still covered by an incompetent mural of a dusky woman riding a bull and proudly flying the flag of Mexico, carrying a cartoon burrito the size of a pig under her arm.
This is a small city, large enough to have four McDonald's but not so big that you see more than the occasional homeless person on the way. You can get a taxi here but they're not out roving around where you can jump off the sidewalk and hail one. You have to call them on the phone, and they're not yellow.
The weather varies explosively from day to day in this part of America, the jet stream undulating over us like an angry snake god. I've seen a day when the temperature hit one hundred and eight degrees, another when it dipped eigh teen degrees below zero, another day when the temperature swung forty-three degrees in eight hours. We're also in Tornado Alley, so every spring swirling, howling charcoal demons materialize out of the air and shred mobile homes as if they were dropped in huge blenders.
But all that aside, it's not a bad town. Not really.
A lot of unemployment, though. We've got two closed factories and a rotting shopping mall that went bankrupt before it ever opened. We're not far from Kentucky, which marks the unofficial border to the South, so one sees more than enough pickup trucks decorated with stickers of Confederate flags and slogans proclaiming their brand of truck is superior to all others. Lots of country music stations, lots of jokes that contain the word "nigger." A sewer system that occasionally backs up into the streets for some unknown reason. Lots and lots of stray dogs around, many with grotesque deformities.
Okay, it's a shithole.
There are a lot of things about this undisclosed city that the chamber of commerce won't tell you, like the fact that we have more than quadruple the rate of mental illness per capita than any other city in the state, or that in the '80s the EPA did a very discreet study of the town's water supply in hope of finding a cause. The chief inspector on that case was found dead inside one of the water towers a week later, which was considered strange since the largest opening into the tank was a valve just ten inches wide. It was also considered strange that both of his eyes were fused shut, but that's another story.
My name is David, by the way. Um, hi. I once saw a man's kidney grow tentacles, tear itself out of a ragged hole in his back and go slapping across my kitchen floor.
I sighed and stared blankly out of the window of They China Food!, occasionally glancing at the clock sign that flashed 6:32 P.M. in the darkness from the credit union across the street. The reporter was late. I thought about leaving.
I didn't want to tell this story, the story of me and John and what's happening in Undisclosed (and everywhere else, I guess). I can't tell the story without sounding as nuts as a ... a nut bush, or--whatever nuts grow from. I pictured myself pouring my heart out to this guy, ranting about the shadows, and the worms, and Korrok, and Fred Durst, babbling away under this wall-sized portrait of a badly drawn burrito. How was this going to turn into anything but a ridiculous clusterfuck?
Enough, I said to myself. Just go. When you're on your deathbed you're gonna wish you could get back all the time you spent waiting for other people.
I started to stand but stopped myself halfway up. My stomach flinched, as if cattle-prodded. I felt another dizzy spell coming on.
I fell hard back into the booth. More side effects. I was already light-headed, my body trembling from shoes to shoulders in random spells, like I swallowed a vibrator. It's always like this when I'm on the sauce. I dosed six hours ago.
I took slow, deep breaths, trying to cycle down, to level off, to chill out. I turned to watch a little Asian waitress deliver a plate of chicken fried rice to a bearded guy on the other side of the room.
I squinted. In half a second I counted 5,829 grains of rice on her plate. The rice was grown in Arkansas. The guy who ran the harvester was nicknamed "Cooter."
I'm not a genius, as my dad and all my old teachers at Undisclosed Eastern High School will inform you with even the slightest provocation. I'm not psychic, either. Just side effects, that's all.
The shakes again. A quick, fluttery wave, like the adrenaline rush you get when you lean your chair too far past the tipping point. Might as well wait it out, I guess. I was still waiting on my "Flaming Shrimp Reunion," a dish I ordered just to see what it looked like. I wasn't hungry.
A flatware set was wrapped in a napkin on the table in front of me. A few inches away was my glass of iced tea; a few inches from that was another object, one I didn't feel like thinking about right then. I unwrapped my utensils. I closed my eyes and touched the fork, immediately knew it was manufactured in Pennsylvania six years ago, on a Thursday, and that a guy had once used it to scrape a piece of dog shit from his shoe.
You've just gotta make it through a couple of days of this, said my own voice again from inside my skull. You'll open your eyes tomorrow or the next day and everything will be okay again. Well, mostly okay. You'll still be ugly and kind of stupid and you'll occasionally see things that make you--
I did open my eyes, and jerked in shock. A man was sitting across from me in the booth. I hadn't heard or felt or smelled him when he slid into the seat. Was this the reporter I spoke to on the phone?
Or a ninja?
"Hey," I mumbled. "Are you Arnie?"
"Yeah. Did you doze off there?" He shook my hand.
"Uh, no. I was just tryin' to rub somethin' off the back of my eyelid. I'm David Wong. Good to meet ya."
"Sorry I'm late."
Arnie Blondestone looked just like I imagined him. He was older, uneven haircut and a bad mustache, a wide face made for a cigar. He wore a gray suit that looked older than I was, a tie with a fat Windsor knot.
He had told me he was a reporter for a national magazine and wanted to do a feature on me and my friend John. It wasn't the first request like this, but it was the first one I had agreed to. I looked the guy up on the Web, found out he did quirky little human-interest bits, Charles Kuralt stuff. One article about a guy who obsessively collects old lightbulbs and paints landscapes on them, another about a lady with six hundred cats, that sort of thing. It's what polite people have instead of freak shows I guess, stories we can laugh at around the coffee machines in the office break room.
Arnie's gaze stayed on my face a little too long, taking in my beads of cold sweat, my pale skin, the thatch of overgrown hair. Instead of pointing out any of that, Arnie said, "You don't look Asian, Mr. Wong."
"I'm not. I was born in [Undisclosed]. I had the name changed. Thought it would make me harder to find."
Arnie gave me the first of what I assumed would be many, many skeptical looks. "How so?"
I half closed my eyes, my mind flooding with images of the 103 billion humans who have been born since the species appeared. A sea of people living, dying and multiplying like cells in a single organism. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to clear my mind by focusing on a mental image of the waitress's boobs.
I said, "Wong is the most common surname in the world. You try to Google it, you've got a shitload of results to sift through before you get to me."
He said, "Okay. Your family live around here?"
Getting right to it, then.
"I was adopted. Never knew my real dad. You could be my dad, for all I know. Are you my dad?"
"Eh, I don't think so."
I tried to figure out if these were warm-up questions to prime the interview pump, or if he already knew. I suspected the latter.
Might as well go all-in. That's why we're here, right?
"My adopted family moved away, I won't tell you where they are. But get out your pen because you'll want to write this down. My biological mom? She was institutionalized."
"That must have been hard. What was the--"
"She was a strung-out, crank-addicted cannibal, dabbled in vampirism and shamanism. My mom, she worshipped some major devil when I was a toddler. Blew her welfare check every month on black candles. Sure, Satan would do her favors now and then, but there's always a catch with the Devil. Always a catch."
A pause from Arnie, then, "Is that true?"
"No. This, this silliness, it's what I do when I'm nervous. She was bipolar, that's all. Couldn't keep a house. Isn't the other story better, though? You should use it."
Arnie gave me a practiced look of reporterly sincerity and said, "I thought you wanted to get the truth out, your side of it. If not, then why are we even here, Mr. Wong?"
Because I let women talk me into things.
"You're right. Sorry."
"Now, since we broached the subject, you spent your se nior year in high school in an alternative program ..."
"Yeah, that was just a misunderstanding," I lied. "They have this label, 'Emotionally Disturbed' that they put on you, but it was just a couple of fights. Kid stuff, no charges or anything. Craziness is not hereditary."
Arnie eyed me, both of us aware of the fact that juvenile records are sealed from public viewing and that he would have to take my word for it. I wondered how this would end up in his article, especially in light of the utter batshit insanity of the story I was about to share.
He moved his gaze to the other object on the table, from his perspective, a small, innocent-looking container. It was about the size and shape of a spool of thread, made of flat, brushed metal. I rested my fingers on it. The surface was icy to the touch, like it had spent all night in the freezer. If you set the thing out in the hot sun from morning to night it would still feel that way. You could mistake it for a stylish pill bottle, I suppose.
I could blow your world away, Arnie. If I showed you what was in this container, you'd never sleep another full night, never really lose yourself in a movie again, never feel at one with the human race until the day you die. But we're not ready for that, not yet. And you sure as hell won't be ready for what's in my truck. ...
"Well," Arnie began again, "either way, mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. We just get sick from time to time, part of being human, you know? For instance, I was just talking to a guy up north, a high-priced lawyer-type who spent two weeks in the psych ward himself a little while ago. Name of Frank Campo. You know that name?"
"Yeah, I knew him a little."
"Frank wouldn't talk to me, but his family said he was having hallucinations. Almost daily, right? Guy had this car wreck and from then on he just got worse and worse. He freaked out at Thanksgiving. Wife brought in the turkey, but to Frank, it wasn't a turkey. Frank saw a human baby, curled up on the platter, cooked to a golden brown. Stuffing jammed in its mouth. He went nuts, wouldn't eat for weeks after that. He got to where he was having incidents every few days. They figured it was brain damage, you know, from the accident. But the doctors couldn't do squat. Right?"
"Yeah. That's about it."
You skipped over the weirdest part, Arnie. What caused the accident in the first place. And what he saw in his car. ...
"And now," said Arnie, "he's cured."
"Is that what they say? Good for him, then. Good for Frank."
"And they swear that it was you and your friend who cured him."
"Me and John, yeah. We did what we could. But good for Frank. I'm glad to hear he's okay."
A little smile played at Arnie's lips. Acidic. Look at the crazy man with his incompetent, crazy-man haircut and his crazy little pill bottle and his crazy fucking story.
How many de cades of cynicism did it take to forge that smirk, Arnie? It makes me tired just looking at it.
"Tell me about John."
"Like what? In his midtwenties. We went to school together. John isn't his real name, either."
"Let me guess ..."
The images start to rush in again, the mass of humanity spreading across the globe over centuries like a time-lapse video of mold taking over an orange. Think of the boobs. Boobs. Boobs. Boobs.
"... John is the most common first name in the world."
"That's right," I said. "And yet there's not a single person named John Wong. I looked it up."
"You know, I work with a John Wong."
"Oh, really?"
"Let's move on," Arnie said, probably making a mental note that this David Wong guy isn't above just making shit up.
Holy crap, Arnie, just wait until you hear the rest of the story. If your bullshit meter is that finely tuned, in a few minutes it's liable to explode and take half a city block with it.
"You guys already got a little bit of a following, don't you?" he said, flipping back to a page in a little notebook already riddled with scribbles. "I found a couple of discussion boards on the Web devoted to you and your friend, your ... hobby, I guess. So, you're, what, sort of spiritualists? Exorcists? Something like that?"
Okay, enough farting around.
"You have eighty-three cents in your front pocket, Arnie," I said quickly. "Three quarters, a nickel, three pennies. The three pennies are dated 1983, 1993 and 1999."
Arnie grinned the superior grin of the "I'm the smartest man in the room" skeptic, then scooped his coins out of his pocket. He examined the contents, confirmed I was right.
He coughed out a laugh and brought his fist down on the table, my utensils clinking with the impact. "Well I'll be damned! That's a neat trick, Mr. Wong."
"If you flip the nickel ten times," I continued, "you'll get heads, heads, tails, heads, tails, tails, tails, heads, tails, tails."
"I'm not sure I want to take the time to--"
For a brief moment, I considered taking it easy on Arnie. Then I remembered the grin. I unloaded.
"Last night you had a dream, Arnie. You were being chased through a forest by your mother. She was lashing you with a whip made of knotted penises."
Arnie's face fell, like an imploded building. As much as I hated the expression on his face a few minutes ago, I loved this one.
That's right, Arnie. Everything you know is wrong.
"You got my attention, Mr. Wong."
"Oh, it gets better. A lot better."
Bullshit. What it gets is worse. A lot worse.
"It started a few years ago," I began. "We were just a couple of years out of high school. Just kids. So that friend of mine, John, he was at a party ..."
JOHN HAD A band back in those days. The party was happening Woodstock-style in a muddy field next to a lake in a town a few minutes outside of Undisclosed city limits. It was April of that year and the party was being put on by some guy, for his birthday or what ever. I don't remember.
John and I were there with his band, Three-Arm Sally. It was around nine o'clock when I strode out onto the stage with a guitar slung over my shoulder, greeted by a smattering of unenthusiastic applause from the hundred or so guests. The "stage" was just a grid of wooden pallets laid together on the grass, orange drop cords snaking underfoot from the amps to a nearby shed.
I glanced around, saw a set list taped to one of their crackly old Peavey amplifiers. It read:
Camel Holocaust
Gay Superman
Stairway to Heaven
Love My Sasquatch
Thirty Reasons Why I Dislike Chad Wellsburg
Love Me Tender
We took our places.
It was me, Head (the drummer), Wally Brown (bass), Kelly Smallwood (bass) and Munch Lombard (bass). John was lead guitar and vocals, but he wasn't on stage, not yet. I should let you know that I had no idea how to play the guitar or any other musical instrument, and that the sound of my singing voice could probably draw blood from a man's ears, and perhaps kill a dog outright.
I stepped up to the mic.
"I want to thank you all for coming. This is my band, Three-Arm Sally, and we're here to rock you like the proverbial hurricane."
The crowd muttered its indifference. Head hammered the drums for the intro to "Camel Holocaust." I slung the guitar around and got ready to rock.
Suddenly, my whole body wrenched in a display of unbearable pain, knees buckling. My hands shot to my head and I collapsed to the stage, screaming like a wounded animal. I scraped the guitar strings to throw out some painful, spastic feedback on my way down. The crowd gasped, watching as I flew into a series of exaggerated convulsions, then finally lay still.
Munch rushed over, studied me like a paramedic. I lay there like a dead man. He touched my neck, then stood and turned to the mic.
"He's dead, ladies and gentlemen."
A rustling, drunken panic in the crowd.
"Wait. Please, please. Everyone. Pay attention. Just calm down."
He waited for quiet.
"Now," he said. "We have a whole show to do. Is there anyone here who knows how to sing and play guitar?"
A tall man stepped out of the crowd, a head of curly long hair like a deflated afro. This was John. He wore an orange T-shirt with a black stenciled stamp bearing the logo of VISTA PINES FACILITY FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE. The last two words had been crossed out with a black Magic Marker and the words NOT INSAN were scrawled crazily over it. The whole shirt, logo and all, was John's handiwork.
Excerpted from John Dies at the End by David Wong.
Copyright © 2009 by David Wong.
Published in 2009 by Thomas Dunne Books.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.


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