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If Mine Eyes Offend Thee

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Afterward, the thing that saved him was that he had no fight left in him. He moved when he was nudged and ate when someone slipped a fork between his lips. He survived. A husk of a man, but still.

Cornhusk of a man, he thought inanely.

Before Harvest Home, he'd been so loud and thoughtless, quick to move and fight and insist on things. So easy when he had eyes to see and a tongue to speak with. Too easy to ignore the warnings he was given.

He knows better now, after it's all over. Consequences are a bitch.  photo corn4.jpg

His book on tape keeps playing. His fingers stretch over the top of the portable cassette player. A thought occurs to him, and he feels around on the table for extra batteries. There's a pack of them behind the player, unopened, so that's all right.

One time Beth left him alone in the house, and the batteries in his player died. The power cord wasn't where it was supposed to be. He tore the kitchen apart, looking - or he supposes he should say feeling – through every single drawer for batteries.

He was recovering from a bout of the flu. His body was achy, he felt tired and sore and childish. He was making noises, pawing through the drawers, breath sobbing in his throat. He should stop, calm down, but

where are the goddamned batteries, I need just ONE thing, just one while she's gone, is it too much to ask, where ARE—

He stopped short.

Wait. Wait. The Widow came by earlier. Because Beth had told her Nick was losing weight again.

"Do I have to fatten you up, Nick Constantine?" the Widow had asked. "Your family's worried about you. Eat!" She'd put soup down on the little table in front of him. He'd smelled chicken and onion and garlic, a pinch of thyme.

He'd shoved the bowl away. She'd made a sound, breathless old-woman squawk, and jumped up. He'd spilled the soup on her.

In his head, Nick replayed the squawk. It was funny, the Widow taken by surprise. He'd laughed and it sounded loud and glad and just like a man who still had a tongue in his head. Exactly like that. When he stopped laughing there was silence in the room.

And afterward he had no batteries, no power cord, and no matter how he clenched his fists and ranted in his head, called her names

thieving whorebag witch

his batteries were still gone.

His body hurt and his eye sockets ached as if he still had eyes, exactly the way they always did when he had the flu. There was nothing to distract him from it.

He lay on the floor and curled up, hugging his non-functioning tape player to his chest. When Beth came in three hours later, he was asleep on the kitchen floor.

The next time the Widow brought him soup, Nick ate every drop as if it weren't battery acid dissolving his insides.

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Nowadays, he and Robert, his blind neighbor (a lucky man, only lost his eyesight), borrow each other's tapes. It's funny in a desperately grim sort of way.

Nick's selection of books gives Robert pause, he knows. Nick likes that it does. His latest acquisitions are Rabbit, Run and Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders. Which might be a little bit much even for him. He's listening to A Clockwork Orange now.

The doorbell rings. Nick doesn't move. He hears Beth in the hallway, moving toward the door. She opens it and cold air flows inside. It curls around Nick's shoulders and settles in. The Widow's decisive, no-nonsense (crackling, dried monster hag bitch) voice comes next, asking how Nick is doing.

None of your fucking business.

So polite and concerned. Why, you'd never guess she dug out his eyes and cut off his tongue because of what he'd seen during Harvest Home.

Justin, naked on the ground. Penis engorged, jutting from his body. He's gleaming with sweat in the torchlight. They gave him something. Something that lets him fuck as long as they want him to fuck. Fuck Beth.

Fuck my wife.

Make thee the corn.

Nick squeezes the image out by squeezing his eyelids shut over the prosthetics nestled in their sockets. It still hurts if he squeezes too hard.

Something in his brain makes a leap, connects images in his brain to red shadows and yellow flashes of light, as if he still had actual eyes that saw light behind his closed lids. Sometimes he sees spots, too, as if he still had eye floaters.

He knows it's his mind, faulty thing that it is, seizing up, sending roiling colors of wordless rage outward. Not light he's seeing, but hatred. It doesn't have anywhere to go. It tries, though. Screams out all kinds of curses at the Widow Fortune and Beth and everyone else. He’s lucky they can't hear. He depends on them, now. Just more spoon-fed battery acid.

He hears the rustle of the Widow Fortune's black dress as she enters the room. He nods her way. Beth brings in chopped up pieces of beef pot pie on a plate, and he manages a couple of bites. Beth says, "I wish you'd eat more, Nick, but I know I can't force you."

"But I can," he hears. Did he really hear that? The Widow? Did she say -

Nick drops his fork.

Beth sighs and takes it away to the kitchen. Nick scrabbles for a scrap of paper and pen he’d left out earlier. Waiting.

You watched Justin fuck my wife, he wrote.

The widow harrumphs in disgust. She walks out of the room, and Nick tears the paper up into tiny bits.

They leave and he’s alone. He's always alone. He listens to his tape. He drops his head and dreams while Alex ponders choosing evil versus having it thrust upon him.

Justin's in his overalls, same as always, blond hair blowing in the wind and cornflower blue eyes crinkling at the corners. He's posing for Nick, out in front of his house. Nick's painting his portrait for Sophie.

Except of course Nick can't see so he can’t paint anymore, and both Sophie and Justin are dead. Beth killed Justin. Sliced his throat on the night of Harvest Home. And Sophie killed herself rather than fuck Justin and then slit his throat on the night of Harvest Home.

Beth was Sophie’s second, then. Nick hates the memory of her dear, sweet face just a little for that.

"You lied to me, Justin,” Nick says. “Gracie Everdeen didn't throw herself off the bridge."

Justin's smile grows wider. "You don't need to keep asking about her. You found out everything, remember? It's the reason the Widow took your sight and voice. It's a pity, Nick.” He moves to stand in front of the portrait, examining it. “You weren't half-bad.” His smile grows sad. "Wish you could have let it go. I hoped for better things for you here. Do you believe that?"

Nick looks up at Justin from the corner of his eye, still putting paint to canvas. "Of course I do. We're friends, aren't we?"

Justin’s smile glows. "Pleased to hear you realize it. Or maybe," he drawled, "you're just hoping some of my Harvest Lord's luck will rub off on you."

Nick dips his brush in paint. "Yeah, sure. That’s it.”

Justin throws back his head and laughs, then almost chokes at Nick’s next question.

“Tell me why you slept with my wife.”

Justin coughs, slams a hand onto his chest. His fair skin turns scarlet.

“Justin?”

“I couldn't blight the corn," Justin manages. “I'm sorry, Nick. They ... I couldn't go against the ways.”

Nick sighs, nodding. “Not even when the ways killed you.”

Justin bends over, picks a dried weed stalk and chews on it. He looks at Nick, considering. “Ayup,” he says.

Nick rolls his eyes.

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Jimmy Minerva tries to fuck his daughter with Nick right there, down the hall. He hears the heavy breathing, the squeak of the bed. He pulls off his belt and walks into Kate’s room, listens a half-second and then slaps the belt hard onto what turns out to be Jimmy’s apparently bare ass.

Jimmy cries out, falling off the bed.

Kate screams, “What are you doing, Dad!”

Nick strikes the bed, a flat slam into the mattress again and again. He's screaming wordless things. Together, he and Kate are kicking up quite a fuss.

There’s stumbling and crashing along the wall. Jimmy, trying to get his pants over his ass. Then Jimmy flees the room.

Nick points a shaking finger in the direction of his daughter, stabs it at her again and again.

He feels them before he hears them. The Widow and Beth walking up behind him. Nick peels his lips from his teeth, hissing. He wants to kill them, wants to laugh. It feels good. It feels bezoomny good.

“Nick!” Beth says.

Nick walks out the door and down the stairs to the living room. He picks up his cassette player, hands shaking so hard he can barely press the PLAY button.

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He wakes up on the couch. By the chill and stillness in the air, it’s late. He can’t remember what he was dreaming or if he’d dreamed at all, but he has the beginnings of a hard-on tenting his pants. It’s happened only a handful of times since his recovery.

He rubs over it idly, hardly knowing what to do with it.

Plow the furrow. Make thee the corn. It comes out of nowhere, and he doesn't know if he'll laugh or cry. Since he can't cry anymore, he brays out a laugh.

“Dreams are all I have left, Justin,” he says. Dreams are where he can still speak and see and talk to ghosts. “Where are you?”

“I know.” Justin appears, nodding. Nick can see through him to the furniture behind.

“Do dreams have power, do you think?”

Justin cocks an eyebrow at him. “Power enough to go against the Mother?” He shakes his head. “You know better than that, I’ll warrant.” He looks off into the distance. “Do you ever think about trying to move on with what you have left?”

Nick snorts. “What do I have? You tell me.” He patted his dick. “Besides this, I mean.”

Justin frowns, disapproving. “A wife. A daughter. Another on the way.”

“They're hers and you know it." And the baby's yours, which you also know. "If I had the courage, I'd do what Sophie did, Justin. There's nothing left.” Nick pauses. “Have you seen her? Sophie?”

Justin closes his eyes, shakes his head no. “If you kill yourself, I won’t see you again. Just like with Sophie.”

“You don’t know that,” Nick says. "It's time for me to leave. It's shit here."

Justin doesn't bother to respond to the curse, though Nick knows he hates it. “Wait a while longer, Nick,” Justin pleads.

Nick nods his head, not knowing why. Then he does. Justin's the only person left that cares.

And he's a ghost.

Nick laughs, soundlessly at first, but then he's beating the cushions and stamping his feet on the floor until he can't catch his breath. He only stops when Beth comes to see about him.

Her hand is on his face, her voice soft in his ear. She takes him to bed.

He lies on his back and thinks of Justin, naked and bleeding in the fields.

Then he turns to Beth, curving a hand around her swollen belly, sliding it back to her hip. It's the first time he's reached for her since Harvest Home.

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The movie on youtube. There is no official DVD release, so the quality is what you'd expect: bad.