Why did I have to torment the old man? Donald repeated to himself, droning the recurring mantra in the darkened bathroom.
Earlier that day, Donald had waited down an alley for the old man.The man walked home from the grocery store this way every other week after paying with a wad of hundred dollar bills. Like clockwork. He was old and frail; Donald thought he had found an easy target.
All Donald wanted was some money. Having quit his job a few weeks prior, Donald was desperate for a few extra bucks. This seemed like a worthy investment of his time.
And now, here he was, head pounding, gums sore, struggling to stand up and look in the mirror. His tense breath came out in obscenities, and he swore his creator for the pain he was suffering.
Donald had approached the old man brandishing a small steel folding knife. A simple wrist motion operated a spring release system that made a satisfying click as the blade locked into place.
The old man was startled. He was weary with age, at least in his late seventies. The old man stepped back and laughed, a toothless grin spreading across his face, a twinkle in his sunken, wrinkled eyes.
“Ignorantia legis neminem excusat,” the old man chuckled.
The bacteria coursing through Donald’s mouth left black streaks through his gums, yellow stains on his teeth, and acrid odors emanating from his breath. He touched a tooth, but could not feel his finger on his tooth. It wiggled just a bit before falling straight out of his mouth, clinking down the sink drain. Donald stared wide eyed, his head pounding.
“You shouldn’t play around with people you don’t know, son,” hissed the old man. Drool dribbled down his face. “Sometimes, it can come back and bite you.”
“Whose doing the biting? You?” asked Donald. “It doesn’t even seem as though you’ve been able to bite anything recently.” There was an air of arrogance in Donald’s voice but something in the old man’s demeanor perturbed him.
The old man just smiled.
“You think it’s easy? You think it’s EASY being old, son?” Laughter escaped through the man’s dry, cracked lips.
Donald grabbed at his head now, incredulous at the loss of his teeth. Sweat dripped down his face in rivulets, and he bunched his hair in handfuls, which to his horror yielded much harvest. He gasped as he looked into the mirror; he was indeed balding rapidly.
“I’ve seen more things than you’ll ever know, boy. I’ve been to a lot of scary places. You think you’re tough because you live in Port Richmond? You haven’t even seen tough, son. You’ve never seen anything scary.” The old man was shouting. The neighborhood was uncommonly quiet for the hour, which was unsettling. “Think you can just take whatever you want, even things that don’t belong to you?”
The old man advanced.
“I’ve EARNED this money, kid. I’ve done things you wouldn’t half believe. With these eyes,” the old man pointed to his eyes, “these eyes have seen things that no person should.”
At this, he stuck a finger underneath each eyeball and popped them out. Pink liquid leaked out of the holes in the man’s face.
Donald had recoiled in horror, much as he was currently recoiling from himself; his skin was melting. There was no pain, but his flesh was becoming gooey, like pudding wrapped in leather.
“Boy, lemme tell you what. I’m gonna do something nice for you.”
He continued to step closer to Donald.
“Boy, I’m gonna make you see some things.”
He grabbed Donald, knocking the knife from his hand. He twisted Donald’s arm with alarming alacrity and placed him in a choke hold.
“You see Donald,” the old man’s tongue snaked out as he spoke, “not everything is how it seems.”
Donald had struggled to get away but the old man, by God, he LICKED him. Donald felt nauseated. The old man’s grip increased and Donald began to vomit.
“That’s it boy, you just take this for safe keeping,” the old man spat. With two fingers he plucked at Donald’s nose. Gasping for breath Donald opened his mouth. The man began forcing the eye down Donald’s throat.
And now Donald looked at the darkening brown spots on his balding head. He cowered at the sight of himself, teeth falling out, gray hairs protruding from his ears and nose, all sorts of liquids dripping from his body. His vision was blurring, and his eyes itched. He scratched at them, but when the itch remained he tore and yanked at his eyes, pulling them from their sockets, spilling blood all over the sink.
“You’ll see everything more clearly now.”