By:  Matt R. Konopka

Humanity.  Full of filth.  Putrid souls walked the street everywhere, clean on the outside, dirty under the
skin, like a polished apple that has rotted at the core.

"Why did he do it?"

Lieutenant Lanfirth's voice played through his head while he waited patiently for Herb Easton.

He didn't know why Herb had killed his wife in cold blood, but it didn't matter.  Once a man went bad,
that was it.  Over with.  No more walking the streets so they could tear the life from someone else.  He’
d find out though.  That’s what he was good at.

Detective Charles Samlin turned as the door to the interrogation room slammed open behind him.  He
squinted, observing two young officers as they dragged Herb into the room.

Blood covered the man's ragged clothing.  Charles grimaced at the sight of it.  The things that human
beings did would never cease to disgust him.  He couldn't see enough blood in a lifetime to ever
become used to it.

The two officers led Herb to the steel table in the center of the room.  The youngest officer, suffering
from a terrible case of acne, pulled a chair out and shoved Herb down into it.  His shackles clinked
against the steel underside of the table, but other than that he made no sound.  

"All yours," laughed the pimply officer.  The two officers left the room, shutting the heavy door behind
them.  The bang echoed in the tight space.

Charles shook his head.  Youth had lost its innocence somewhere.  Now there were snobby young
cops, children selling drugs, and little girls walking around in skimpy outfits better suited for hookers.  

Dirt, scum, human waste; it was everywhere.

Even now it sat at the table in front of him.

He rubbed an itch in his eyes and stepped forward to the table.

Herb kept his head down.  Long, blood crusted hair shadowed his face.  Charles imagined what he
would see under those thin, bloody drapes.  He knew already though.  He’d see the simple face of a
man, someone he’d known before and joked with.  Someone who had smiled before.  And that was the
fear in walking down the streets, no matter where you went; You’d never know that a killer walked by
you, his shoulder brushing lightly against yours.

He slid a chair out from under the table, it's metal legs squealing across the floor, and sat down.  His
gaze never left the murderer sitting across from him.  Charles removed a tape recorder from his pocket
and set it on the table.  He tapped a large yellow folder, arranging the contents neatly, and set it down
also.  Through all of this, Herb remained immobile, still as a gargoyle statue.

It was strange, how after such a violent act, this man could wrap himself up in such a calm costume,
veiling the incessant rage beneath.

Charles' fingers drummed on the table, nails clicking against the surface.  The process never began
easy.  It took time.  Since he knew this man, had worked with him for years up until last night, it
wouldn't be any easier.

He cleared his throat.

"I am detective Charles Samlin.  I'm going to ask you a series of questions, and you are going to
respond with your most honest answer.  This is going to be recorded for the sake of evidence.  Do you

Herb stayed silent.

"Alright," said Charles, clicking on the recorder.  "What is your name?"

The man across from him spoke low, as if unaware of what he was saying.  "Herb Easton."

"What is your occupation?"

"I'm a cop.  You know that."

Charles cleared his throat again, moving his mental finger along through the standard questions.  

"Have we ever met before?"


"Do you know why you're here?"

"Yes".  The word hissed from Herb's lips.


"I'm here because of what you think I've done."

"I don't think you've done anything.  I have evidence here with me that says you murdered your wife.  
Do you understand how serious this is?"

"You don't know what you have."

Charles grunted and opened the folder.  Inside was a written report of the crime, a blood streaked knife
in a plastic bag, and a collection of photos from the crime scene.  He grimaced at the sight of them and
spread the pictures out on the table.

"I have photos of your wife's body."

"It's a little hard for a blind man to look at photos."

Charles ignored him and continued.  "The knife used to murder her has your fingerprints on it.  Officers
arrested you at the scene of the crime.  For God's sake, your clothes are covered in her blood."  Boiling
stomach acid rose to his throat, the ulcer deep inside him growing restless.  He composed himself and
relaxed.  This was being recorded.  It wouldn't do him any good to lose his temper on record.

And someone probably watched them from behind the two-way mirror situated at Charles' back.

"I didn't kill her," Herb snapped.  The corner of his mouth curled.

Charles itched at his eyes and sighed.  Sweat cascaded down his brows.  The dim room felt like the
oven at a pizza parlor.

"Alright, then who did?"

"You won't understand.  Not yet, anyway."

He cracked his knuckles.  "Well, you had better start explaining, because you're in a lot of trouble.  So

"Why do you still wear that stupid tie, Charles?"

His heart paused.  Muscles clenched through his body.  He reached down and ran his fingers over a red
tie sporting images of Santa Claus in white underpants.  A gift from his wife that he didn't have the
heart to return.

Herb shouldn't be able to see it.  The man couldn't see anymore after last night.

"How did you know I'm wearing it?"  The words crept out of his mouth.

Amused laughter sounded from across the table.  "Just a lucky guess.  You used to wear it so often."

"Are you going to tell me what happened?"

"I already said you won't believe me.  You'll think I'm crazy."

"Why do you assume I'll think you're crazy?"

"Because of them..."

Charles leaned back in his chair.  

Here it comes.

"What them?"

"I can already here it in your voice.  You're not going to believe it.  Have you ever noticed that every
crazy person either has a them, an it, or a they?  They all imagine that something is driving them to
what they do, that they're not really mad at all.  But mine are real."

A chill crawled down his arms.  The hair there bristled.

"What are they?"

A pause.  Herb sat still.  His body went rigid.  He lifted his head slightly and looked over Charles'
shoulder.  A hint of the black sunglasses that he wore shone through his bloody hair.  

Charles glanced behind himself.  Nothing there but his own reflection.

Herb lowered his head.

"I don't know what they are.  I only know what they do."

"And what do they do?"  He was becoming impatient.  Herb could be toying with him, dragging him in
circles.  They enjoyed doing that sometimes.

"Drive you to madness."

"Like the other crazies.  Like you said."

Herb smashed his fists onto the table.  "I'm not crazy.  You need to LISTEN to me."  The chains that
bound him slithered and clinked on the table.  He clenched and unclenched his hands, struggling
against the restraints.  

Hissing static filled the room.  The tape recorder waited patiently.

"I'm trying to listen to you, Herb.  But you have to either start making sense or start telling me
something, because you're not doing either."

"They're like living shadows.  Shades."

The itch crept back into his eyes.  He scratched it.

"How do you mean?"

"I don't know how I mean," shouted Herb.  "I can see them, all around me.  Tall and dark.  They have
the shape of people, but they're much bigger.  There's something monstrous about them."

Charles rested his chin in his hands.  "But you're blind.  How can you see them?"

"I think they're demons.  They want to drive us all crazy, one by one."

"You didn't answer my question."  He cleared his throat.  This was becoming a habit.

Whether it was the heat or the frantic conversation, the room tightened around Charles.  The air felt
thinner and looked as if it were wavering like gas.

"I found out about them through a man I met only a few days ago."

He decided to let Herb continue.  There wasn't any use in asking him anything really.  His brains had
probably seeped out with his wife's when he had killed her.

"I thought he was just a raving bum in the city.  What was I supposed to think with him telling me that
there were shadows all around us, waiting for us to see them so that they could drive us mad and turn
us against each other.  I thought the same thing that you do.  He was crazy."

"Are you saying this man was responsible for giving you your own fantasies?"

"They're not fantasies.  I found that out the next morning, before I went blind."

Charles nodded.  The story intrigued him, even if it were madness.

"Go on."

"I started to see them.  They haunted me.  I couldn't escape.  They are everywhere.  I heard them even
when I closed my eyes, whispering nonsense into my ear.  They have voices like sandpaper that dig
into your mind.  I didn't know what to do, so I went back to him."

Something moved in the corner of his eyes.  Charles turned his head towards the right side of the
room.  Empty space.

"I found the place that I'd met the bum at, some filthy alley near thirty second street.  He was dead.  
Ran a knife across his wrists."

Charles frowned.  "You didn't report this?"

Herb shrugged.  "What was the point?  The man was a bum.  No one would have cared.  Besides, they
wouldn't let me touch him.  A group of shadows were gathered around him when I got there.  They
clawed at me when I tried to touch him."

"And these shadows, they can hurt you?"

"No.  Not physically."

Charles stuck a pen in his mouth.  He gnawed on the end, a nervous habit he'd developed after so
many interrogations.  He wanted to see this man locked up for good.  The sight of him drilled holes in
his stomach.  But he did his best to kindly urge him forward.  The world would want to know, as it
always so revoltingly did.

"What did you do after you found him?"

A choked sob blurted out from Herb.  Flecks of spit stuck to his chin.  "I went home."

"Then what?"

"I took a knife from the drawer.  I couldn't take them anymore."

Charles' hands trembled as he reached out for the sunglasses that Herb wore.  They were smooth
against his fingertips.

"Do you mind?"

Herb made no protest.

Charles eased the sunglasses off and set them onto the table.  

"Tell me, why did you cut out your own eyes?"  

Chains rattled as Herb quivered in response.  "I didn't want to see them anymore."

"But you did?"


Whispers licked the back of Charles' ear.  He leapt from his seat and turned around, meeting his own
figure in the mirror.  Herb continued with his story.

"They were worse.  They laughed at me for what I had done.  They grew more ferocious.  And then one
of them did touch me.  I lashed out at it with the knife, stabbing it over and over again.  It felt good to
hear it scream.  I'd never heard one of them scream before."  Herb's voice deepened, troubled.

A dull heat burned in Charles' eyes.  He dug his fingers into them, pushing the relentless itch away.

"When I stopped I felt the blood on my hands.  It felt...human.  It's amazing, the images that thought
can produce.  When my hands found Kaitlin's face, I remembered every time I had ever held her.  I
took her into my arms.  It's miserable, wanting to cry when you have no eyes.  Someone must have
heard her scream.  I only got to hold her for a few minutes before the police were breaking down my
door..."  Herb dwindled off, on a voyage into painful dreams.

Charles couldn't hear him anymore.  Angry whispering sizzled around him.  The voices shouted in his
ears, puncturing his ear drums.  He squinted, his brain pulsing as if it were about to blow.  

"I've realized now how it works.  It's a disease.  One that chooses its victims.  Can you imagine, a
contagious madness?"

"Be quiet."  Charles stumbled around the room, closing his hands around his ears.

"It likes to taste its victims I think.  It wants to know how much fear it can feed off from them."

The fire swelled in his eyes.  He scraped his nails against them.  Agonizing pain coursed through his

"It uses us up, one by one.  When it's finished with one, it moves onto the other.  I guess I should
refer to it as them."

Charles whirled around, facing Herb.  "Shut up."

Herb stared at him.  A grin spread across his face.  His hair had parted, and through it Charles could
see the two empty, black holes that gazed directly into him.  Dried, red crust encircled the dark orbs.  
Tall shadows lingered eagerly behind him.

"It starts with an itch."

He flung himself at the desk and grabbed Herb by the collar of his gore streaked shirt.  

"Shut up.  Shut up.  SHUT UP."

Herb made no attempt to struggle.  He let Charles shake him like a magic eight ball.  Charles wanted

"Why are you telling me this?  Why?"

A soft chuckle fell out of Herb, beginning quietly then turning into maniacal laughter.

"It starts with an itch.  A simple little itch."

In strangling Herb, Charles caught a close glimpse of those dark, empty sockets.  Blood crusted around
the edges.  Disgusted, he flung Herb back into the chair.  It banged against the floor.

Herb rolled his head as if it were loose on his spine, continuing to giggle.

A cold hand clasped onto Charles' shoulder.  He whirred around, finding nothing there but his own
shadow on the dirty floor.

"Something wrong, Charles?  You look nervous."  Herb had ceased his laughter.  Now his coal black
sockets looked in Charles' direction.

Hot sweat rolled down his forehead.

"How can you know that?  For Christ's sake."

Herb held up his hands, the chains from the cuffs clinking against the table.

"Do you think you could loosen these?"

It was pointless.  

"I'm going to be there to watch you fry."

A smile spread over Herb's lips at that.  

Charles headed towards the door, sensing something following him.  The itch came again, searing both
eyes.  Tears formed like watery sheets under his lids.  The pain was almost too great to bear.

From his seat in the room, Herb watched Charles leave with eyes that shouldn't have been able to see a
thing.  They had made sure he could see it all.  And now, seeing with those eyes, which were like
watching a film through a hazy viewfinder, he saw the way Charles' shadow danced along the floor
behind him, carrying a life of its own.

Herb grinned, because grinning was the only way to stay sane.  "Take care, Charles."