Fission by Timothy Owen Davis

Thomas thought about the hospital. Thought about those who had fired him, thought about the car that had done what Thomas couldn’t do, and he wanted revenge. Most nights, before Tracey left for good, Thomas would be sweat-soaked and pacing; his thoughts a type of werewolf, which had cursed him and his loved ones. He had scrawled his plans using the kids’ art supplies in the unfinished basement. At the center of that madness was Charles Bell.

On one such night, when the world had seemed all atilt, Tracey finally called him on his bullshit. “What about your family, Thomas? Who’s going to look after us if you’re in jail?” She had asked, her brown eyes sharper and deeper than they had ever been.

He looked away as though her eyes, somehow, reflected his madness back at him, and he wanted to, but he couldn’t, admit he didn’t know, so he cleaned up the basement and thought he’d cleaned out the hell hound scrambling through his mind.

Charles Bell will pay for this had been scrawled in slightly smudged crayon on a tattered scrap of butcher paper; it was the last bit of his “plan,” and Thomas kept that piece in his wallet. But, now, Charles was dead. Thomas didn’t believe it. One moment he was awake and Charles was alive, and then he was asleep and Charles was alive, and then he woke up and Charles was no longer there. How could he be just gone, Thomas thought. Tracey had left, too. Packed her things, took his boys, and moved across town. She hadn’t left a note, but would text ever so often as mandated by court.

Charles had been Thomas’s supervisor; he was the man who stood there while the security goons walked Thomas out. Thomas remembered Charles’s face. It was slick, rubbery looking, pale. There was no bone in it. Thomas had wanted to stare into that putty face as he dug his tactical penknife into Charles’s chest until the gunmetal casing ran sticky red, but now, because of a slippery road and a missing guard rail, even that had been taken from him.

He’d gone out to that stretch of 311; tucked that butcher paper into the folds of a plastic carnation someone had tied to the crucifix jammed crooked into the red clay. Glass sprinkled like glitter crunched beneath his boots, but was slowly being absorbed by the earth and asphalt. The wind picked up, and the tattered paper waved to him like an old friend departing for a long journey or, perhaps, a final taunt from Charles.

Of course, Charles Bell and the hospital were not on his mind when Thomas drove out to Tracey’s house off Hamilton Street. He could feel that old werewolf itch in his gut, burning as he drove on, the .45 Taurus in the seat next to him.

It’s important the kids have a father in their lives, she had texted him.

Sitting at a flashing red light, his mind wandered. The light pulsated and bathed his truck in its harsh beam like a one-eyed demon winking at him from the void; daring him to make a deal. He thought of their bodies in the bed of his truck. How the spark in their eyes had faded slower than what he’d thought it would, and how it should have been Charles’s body instead. He grabbed the pack of smokes he kept in the glove box, shook one out, and mashed the cigarette lighter. His hands were sweaty, greasy against the leather wheel.  A train horn sounded off in the distance like the wail of a dying woman. Thomas grabbed the lighter, lit his cigarette, and drove on down the road.