The braying voice and undisguised hate of Lou Carmody that was coming over the radio were so offensive to Tyler Feasel that he almost went for his hammer in order to smash the radio to bits. But the moment of anger quickly passed. There was no sense in taking it out on his radio when the problem was Carmody. Fists clenched, Tyler forced himself to continue listening to the miserable dirtbag, certainly not because he wanted to hear what the so-called “Most Influential Man in America” had to say, but in order to derive information about the man. Man; that was almost funny.
The fact that Carmody was considered “influential” by the puppet media instead of castigated for being the treasonous, loud-mouthed hate-monger that he really was only proved that the world was plunging headlong into its final days, Tyler thought. Unless, of course, something could be done about it. Tyler was not certain at what point he had become convinced who Carmody really was, not just some extremist blow-hard out to get ratings, but something far, far worse.
Lou Carmody was the Antichrist, come to destroy the world.
Tyler Feasel knew that as well as he knew his own name. He had even tried to call in to the show to warn other listeners what he had just deduced, but they would not put him on the air. It was a conspiracy, just like the other factor in his life he had to deal with: Tyler Feasel was invisible.
The realization that no one ever saw him – not his co-workers at Home Depot, not waiters in restaurants, not clerks in stores, not even people in bill-paying offices – used to be a source of despair for Tyler. But now, for the first time, it was going to become useful, since no one ever would see him as he murdered Lou Carmody in broad daylight, out in the open, and thus saved the world from descending into Hell. But first he had to find the man and get close enough to him, which seemed like another nearly insurmountable problem.
But then Tyler heard something on the radio that made him believe Fate was looking out for him: Lou Carmody announced that he would be replaced by guest hosts for the next two weeks because he was about to embark on a nationwide book tour for the latest river of liquid dung that he (or, more likely, a ghostwriter) had committed to paper, and one of the towns would be Salem, Michigan…Tyler’s home! It was a miracle, a miracle from God, who had chose him to do His bidding. It had to be! And once Tyler had killed the Antichrist, maybe God would smile upon him even further and make him visible.
* * * * *
Waiting for Lou Carmody to arrive in Salem, which was the sixth city on the book tour, was agony to Tyler, but when the day came he was ready. He had gotten to The Reader’s Place, the bookstore that was hosting the event early. He had never been in the store before, since he had little interest in reading, so it might have been a challenge for him to blend in with the other customers who were browsing the shelves, were anyone actually able to see him. After a half-hour others began to arrive and a line started to form in front of a table at the back. Finally the Antichrist himself came in to a round of applause and took a seat. He was strong-looking, like a football player, and had blonde hair starting to go gray. Tyler made no attempt to get in line, but instead hovered around listening.
Carmody was actually quieter and more thoughtful than he seemed on radio, but that was the way of the Antichrist, wasn’t it? To lull the blind and ignorant into a false sense of comfort through cunning and charm? The crowd (most of them anyway; a few left earlier) rewarded Carmody’s comments with laughter and applause, and Tyler joined them, not because he thought anything Carmody had to say was worthy of consideration, but because he knew this would be the “man’s” last audience.
It took another hour for everyone standing in line to filter past the table and get their filth signed. When the line was down to two misguided people, he moved closer and heard Carmody tell the bookstore manager that he would love to sign more copies of his book for the store, but first he had to use the restroom.
Tyler stayed three steps behind, following him into the bathroom. While Antichrist stood at the urinal, Tyler snuck up behind him and plunged the Bowie knife he had brought for the occasion into the nape of his neck. Blood gushed out but Tyler managed to avoid getting sprayed. Carmody slowly sank down on the crimson floor of the bathroom, his head catching on the edge of the urinal, which was fitting. Tyler thrust the blade into his back four more times, just to make certain he was dead, then ran out of the restroom, out of the store, and down the street, not slowing until he got to the bus stop, exhausted and panting. Nobody followed him, of course, because nobody had seen him. Once home, he switched on the radio, knowing the local stations would be the ones best in position to get the news of Carmody’s shocking and violent murder out to the public, but he heard nothing. Well, even radio takes a little time, he thought. But after an hour of streaming, there was no breaking news.
Could the Carmody media machine really be so powerful that it actually controlled the regional press?
Going to his television, Tyler saw only regularly scheduled programming. Switching from channel to channel produced absolutely no news about the killing. Tyler could not understand it. He continued watching, convinced the news would break at any second. But by the start of the eleven o’clock news, not only had no special bulletins appeared, there was a live…live interview with Lou Carmody, talking to the clearly fawning local reporter about the success of the book signing!
How could it have gone wrong? He had shoved the blade up to its hilt into the man’s neck, for heaven’s sake! That should have severed his spinal cord! Yet here was Carmody, not only not dead, but not even scratched.
That was when Tyler realized what he should have known all along: not being entirely human, the Antichrist could not be killed so easily. He would have to try harder. Much harder.
* * * * *
Two days later, Lou Carmody was scheduled to appear at a bookstore in Tushkeneque, which was a city about forty miles away from Salem — easy driving distance for anyone who drove. Since Tyler did not, he carefully plotted out the bus routes to get him there. It would be costly, particularly the lost wages from the missed day of work, but what did that matter if Tyler could save the world?
Inside the mall, Tyler waited for Carmody for more than two hours. When he finally arrived, Tyler watched him make his way to the mall elevator and press the button. There was a small crowd of people standing around him, but only three others got in the elevator with him. Racing up the nearby escalator, Tyler ran to the elevator to await the Antichrist’s emergence. When the door opened, Tyler took the two metal shish-kebob skewers he had brought from home and jammed them into Lou Carmody’s eyes, shoving them in until they reached the back of his skull, piercing his brain. Eye jelly squirted out onto Tyler, but he didn’t care. Leaving the skewers in the Antichrist’s dead head, he turned and ran, escaping without being seen. Obviously.
It was after ten when Tyler got home, and the first thing he did was turn both the radio and the television on, awaiting the news. But there was none. This had not worked either. Tyler could not understand it.
In the next city on the book tour – which required a half-day bus ride – Tyler followed Carmody into the parking garage and fired his Aunt Ella’s ancient pistol directly at his head, watching with satisfaction as the bullet tore through it, before running off.
But it did not kill him.
“Why won’t you die?” Tyler screamed at his radio the next day, but by then Lou Carmody had left the state to continue his book tour elsewhere. Tyler could not afford to follow him across the country, but neither could he afford to abandon his plan, for the world’s sake. And, truth be told, for his own.
There was little option for Tyler but to wait until Carmody’s book tour had ended and he was back on the radio. His first attempt at trying to call in to Carmody’s show, months ago, had not worked, but now that God was looking out for him, things might be different.
That Friday, Tyler dialed the number given out on the air and heard a bored voice at the other end of the phone line say, “Lou Carmody Show, hold on, please.” After a few minutes on hold, the voice came back. “What’s your name and your reason for calling?” He had made it to first base! God was watching over him!
“I’m Damien Karras,” Tyler lied, tickled by his own wit, “and I want to tell Lou that I’m starting a petition to encourage him to run for president.” In truth, Tyler would have rather seen the ghost of Adolf Hitler run for president, but he knew it was what he had to say to be allowed on the air.
“Where are you calling from?”
“Oh, Lou was there not long ago.”
“Yes, I know. I, uh, saw him.”
“Hold on please, there are five people ahead of you,” the voice said, “and please turn your radio down so we don’t get an echo.” Then the sound of the broadcast filled the phone.
After several long minutes the line cleared and Tyler heard Carmody’s voice boom, “We have someone from Salem, Michigan, a lovely little town I was in only a few weeks ago. Okay, Damien, you’re on with Lou, talk to me.” Tyler was so surprised at the suddenness of being put on the air that he could not speak.
“Hello, anyone home?” Carmody asked. “I guess he hung up––”
“No, I’m here,” Tyler said.
“Did we meet in Salem?”
“Okay, well, I’ve been told you’re starting some kind of petition.”
“I know who you are.”
“Of course you do. Everybody knows who Lou Carmody is, even that traitorous excuse for a president we have currently.”
“But I really know. I know who you really are. You’re the––”
The line went dead and the program suddenly cut to a commercial for exercise equipment. Tyler hung up with a smile. He knew who Lou Carmody really was, but the fact that he had been thrown off the air before he could make his accusation meant that Carmody knew he knew. He was afraid of him. Lou Carmody was afraid of Tyler Feasel.
It was now or never.
Tyler knew there was no way he could make it all the way to New York, where the Carmody show was based, to kill him, but he could do the next best thing. Tyler had argued with himself over this solution, because it might harm other people, but he had to take that chance. It had to be done.
Sitting down, Tyler wrote out a letter to Carmody explaining that he knew exactly who he was and was prepared to tell everyone else, and he furthermore hoped Carmody would go back to Hell and burn until the entirety of time turned to ash. After folding the paper and slipping into the envelope, Tyler went to the kitchen and dug out the rubber gloves he kept under the sink. Then, holding his breath, he went and got the white powder and sprinkled it into the envelope, after which he dampened the glue strip with a kitchen sponge, addressed it, and placed a stamp on it. Still wearing the gloves, Tyler left his apartment and walked down to the mailbox and dropped it in, praying that no one who was innocent died from the anthrax.
* * * * *
The Salem police arrived at Tyler’s home four nights later. “Are you Tyler Feasel?” one of the officers asked.
“Yes, I’m…wait, you can see me?”
The policemen exchanged glances, then one said, “Yes, sir, we can see you quite clearly. Would you mind answering a few questions?”
“He’s dead, isn’t he?” Tyler blurted out excitedly. “I killed him, didn’t I? I must have, because you can see me! I’m visible! God is pleased!”
“Killed who, sir?”
“Lou Carmody. He’s dead, right? That’s why you’re here?” The two policemen looked at each other uncertainly, then one said: “I think you need to come with us, Mr. Feasel?”
“All right,” Tyler said, smiling. “He was the Antichrist, you know.”
“Um…I think you need to talk to our lieutenant.”
The two officers accompanied him out and downstairs, where their cruiser was waiting. Tyler smiled all the way to the police station and was still smiling as he was ushered into a small interrogation room. Tyler had heard that the police were mean, but now they seemed to be going out of their way to be nice to him, bringing him a package of Twinkies and a can of root beer while he waited. Before long, a man Barrows came in to talk to him. He was friendly and comforting, so much so that Tyler felt he could tell him everything: why he was there, what he had tried to do so many times unsuccessfully, and how he had finally managed to destroy the Antichrist and save the world, even if he did not yet know the particulars.
“You realize that you have just confessed to murder, don’t you?” Barrows asked.
“But is it really murder if the victim isn’t really a man?” Tyler countered. “Can you look me in the eye and tell me that I’ve killed a man?”
Barrows did not, in part because he knew that Tyler Feasel had killed no one.
“I thought not,” Tyler said, and then smiled.
“What are you going to do now?”
“Nothing. My job is done. The world is safe. God made me visible. But can you tell me how he died? It was the anthrax, wasn’t it? I hope the rotten creep snorted it like cocaine and his head exploded.”
“I…don’t know the details,” Barrows said. “I’ll try to find out. Don’t go anywhere.” He got up and left the interrogation room.
Outside, Dr. Phillip Barrows asked whether Lieutenant Stan Ford, who was peering through the two-way glass at the placid, grinning figure of Tyler Feasel, had heard everything.
“Yeah,” Ford replied, “and the fact that people like this are walking around on the streets here in town scares the hell out of me.”
“Well, I don’t know that he’s dangerous,” Barrows said. “He’s delusional, of course. To use the nonprofessional vernacular, he’s delusional as hell. He genuinely believes that Lou Carmody is the Antichrist and that he killed him several times over instead of fantasizing it all. Furthermore, he believes that the kitchen cleanser he sent in an envelope to Carmody really was anthrax powder, and that he had been invisible but was turned visible again by God for killing Carmody.”
“How does one get that crazy?”
“Well, causation is a whole separate issue, and there’s no way we can know without studying him. But I’d say you lucked out with this guy.”
“Sure could have fooled me,” Ford said.
“I mean it. What I’m hearing from Feasel is a variation on the obsession a lot of assassins possess that if the only way they can derive attention is by committing a big, high-profile murder. They think they’re normally invisible, see, but usually in the metaphoric sense. By carrying out the crime, trying to kill a president, say, they suddenly become visible, again, metaphorically. They’re all over the media. Your guy, though, only committed the murders in his head, and since he thinks he’s no longer invisible, I doubt you’ll have a problem with him.”
“So what do you think we should do with him?”
“Ideally I’d like to see him admitted to a hospital where I can keep him under surveillance, but I have no legal authority to do so. I don’t suppose you could keep him here for a day or so while I try and figure out the legalities, could you?”
“For that we’d have to charge him with something and he hasn’t committed any crime,” Ford said. “Even if we did charge him, a lawyer would get him out.” The policeman sighed. “Doctor, can you absolutely guarantee that he’s not a danger to anyone if we just let him go?”
“Guarantee is a strong word,” Barrows said, “but I’d stake my professional reputation on the fact that he will not actually turn violent.”
“Okay,” Ford sighed, ordering that Tyler be released.
It took a while because Tyler still wanted to talk, but he finally agreed to leave. Once he had exited the building, accompanied by a uniformed officer, Ford told Barrows: “I suppose I’d better get back to Carmody’s people and let them know what’s going on, and that Feasel had to be released.”
“It sounds like a task you’d rather avoid.”
“My brother-in-law thinks Lou Carmody is the greatest American patriot since George Washington,” Ford said, “but I think he’s a professional rabble-rouser making a fortune from whipping up lynch mobs. Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me if he someday ends up paying for it at the hands of some nut like Feasel. It wouldn’t surprise me if he thought so, too, and that’s why his office called us and demanded we check this guy out.”
Barrows smiled. “It would be interesting to conduct a study on how someone like Lou Carmody attracts so many devoted followers.”
Ford was about to answer when his desk phone range. “Yeah…what? Where? How? Oh, Jesus!” Hanging up, he turned back to Barrows. “Doc, I think your reputation just got staked through the heart.”
“What are you talking about?”
“One of my men just found a body in the dumpster behind the bookstore in town. He been stabbed through the back of the neck and repeatedly in the back.”
“Good god, just like––”
“Just like Feasel’s description of his first murder attempt on Carmody.”
* * * * *
As a courtesy, the policeman drove Tyler home, and he had asked him to turn on the radio in the cruiser so he could hear the news, but they didn’t. Maybe they couldn’t. No matter; once he was out of the car he ran up to his apartment and turned on the television, to finally see the results of his efforts.
The smiling newscaster with the weird hair was talking about problems over in the Middle East, which might even have escalated now that the Antichrist was dead, and some kind of sports scandal, about which Tyler cared nothing, but no news on the death of Lou Carmody. Maybe it was being covered up until the media could figure out how to report who the “man” had really been. In any event, Lou Carmody was dead.
Tyler turned off his television and was about to switch off the radio, when he suddenly heard: “We are cutting away to our national news desk for a special report.”
This is it! Tyler thought.
“Good evening,” a voice said, “this is Lou Carmody.”
No! It couldn’t be!
“I’m here to speak to one man, and one man only: Damien Karras. Very droll, Mr. Feasel, using the name of the priest from The Exorcist. I’ll bet you thought I didn’t know what you were up to. But I did.”
“But…everyone can year you…on the radio…”
“No, only you. This is an exclusive broadcast, for your ears only. And speaking of ears, I command that you go get your fancy Bowie knife and cut yours off.”
As though someone else was in control of every aspect of his mind and body except fear, Tyler Feasel turned and walked into the kitchen. He opened the drawer where he kept his knife, and then sliced off his left ear, feeling the while hot pain and the gush of warm blood cascading down his cheek and onto his shoulder. He threw that ear into the sink and then laboriously sawed off his right one. Surprisingly, though, he could still hear.
“Very good,” Carmody said. Now your penis.”
“It’s not like you’ve been using it lately,” Carmody’s voice said, with a guffaw. “Now do it.”
Even as the sense of horror rose inside him Tyler was unable to prevent himself from loosening his belt, letting his trousers fall, took down his shorts, and slicing off his dick, which he tossed onto the floor.
“Too bad you don’t have a cat,” Carmody sneered from the radio. “Now, then, I happen to know that you’ve got a can of paint thinner under your sink. I want you to go get it, pour it over your head, and then take a match and ignite yourself. Got it?”
“Please…God…” Tyler blubbered.
“Oh, cut the crap,” Carmody ordered. “You think a God that would allow innocent children to get run over by drunks or hit by crossfire in a drive-by shooting gives a fuck about the likes of you, or anyone else? Why the hell do you think I’m here? Now do it.”
Shuffling painfully to the kitchen, leaving a trail of blood behind him, Tyler found the can of thinner, opened it, and poured it over his head with his right hand, still holding onto the knife with his left. The solution stung the open holes where his ears had been like a million wasps, but Tyler swallowed the pain. Since Tyler didn’t use matches, he turned on a stove burner. He started to lean toward it, but then heard a pounding on his apartment door.
“Police, open up!” a voice cried.
“You know what to do,” Carmody’s voice said, then it bid Tyler Feasel goodbye.
The pounding resumed. “I said open up or we’ll break it down!”
“God, why have you forsaken me?” Tyler whispered as he lowered his face toward the burner until his head exploded into flame.
With a loud crash the door to the apartment flew open and slammed against the wall. The policeman who kicked the door down rushed in to find Tyler standing in the kitchen like a mannequin, his entire head ablaze and crackling.
Oh, Jesus God!” the officer cried, looking for something with which to beat out the flames. By then it did not matter, though. Tyler Feasel, his head blackened and charred beyond recognition, sank to his knees and fell forward, onto the Bowie knife that was clutched in his hands.
* * * * *
Lou Carmody was sitting in his office at the radio station and listening to the air check of that morning’s show, paying particular attention to the voices of the callers. His people. A man appeared at the door. “Got a second, Lou?” he asked.
“Yeah, come on in, Ben,” Carmody said, pausing the air check. Ben Stevens had been Carmody’s producer for the last six years. “Jesus, Benny, you look like you’ve just seen a Mexican in the Oval Office. What’s up?”
Stevens took a chair and dabbed his upper lip with a handkerchief. “I wanted to let you know that I got a report from the police in Salem, where that whack job that sent you the scouring powder is from.”
“Oh, him. The little pussy’s in jail, I hope.”
“They had to release him––”
“Of course they did,” Carmody said, derisively.
“But he’s dead now.”
“Dead? What happened?”
As Stevens related what the police had told him, it was Carmody’s turn to blanch. “And guess what else?” the producer went on. “It seems he really did kill three different people in three different cities, each time thinking they were you.”
Carmody sighed. “I’m telling you, Dan, something has to be done about the mental health crisis in this country. We should do a show on this. See if we can get somebody from Salem, like the idiot cops who turned him loose. I’ll take ‘em apart live on the air!”
“I…I think maybe we need to let this one rest, Lou.”
“Are you kidding? We could make national headlines with this! Wait, were any of them shot?”
“That’s great! Everyone’s screaming about gun control, but out of three victims, only one was shot! So what are we going to have now, skewer control?”
“For God’s sake, Lou, three innocent people are dead, horribly murdered by a nutcase who thought they were you! We can’t politicize that!”
“We can politicize everything,” Carmody said. “How do you think we got where we are? Besides, how do we know they were innocent? Every man has something to hide.”
Dan Stevens rubbed his forehead. “What do you have to hide, Lou?”
“Me? Hell, I’m an open book, you know that.”
“Well, I thought I did, but––”
“But nothing, Lou. Sorry. I’m just shook up about this.”
“Well, don’t get too shook up. I can’t afford to lose you.”
“Right.” Stevens got up and started out.
“Hey, Dan,” Carmody said, catching him at the door, “look, I apologize if I seem callous about this. I’m not making light of those three guys who were killed. It’s just that our mission and our message is bigger than individual tragedies, and if we can somehow manage to use a tragedy to help get that message across, well, then the person who died won’t have done so in vain. Okay?”
“It’ll be okay if you answer me one question, Lou.”
“How did you know one of those guys died from having skewers shoved into his brain? I never mentioned that, I just said he’d killed three guys.”
“What are you talking about? I didn’t know about any skewer.”
“You said, ‘skewer control.’”
“Balls, I did.”
“You also said only one had been shot. I didn’t mention that, either.
“Dan, you’re distraught. You’re not following the conversation. It’s all right. Not your fault. Go home and get some rest.”
When Stevens was gone, Lou Carmody pulled out a cigar and unwrapped it. He hoped he didn’t have to start worrying about his producer now. He liked Dan. It would be a shame to have to kill him.
Dealing with that crazy little shit Feasel was bad enough. It hadn’t been a particular challenge to morph his human face onto those three unfortunate bastards in the bookstores, or even to get those on the scene to take care of the bodies; clouding peoples’ minds was a snap when the minds in question are already defective.
The real question was how the dumb little asshole had recognized him in the first place! Maybe he should have asked that while doing his exclusive radio broadcast inside the asshole’s skull, just for future reference. Well, he couldn’t worry about it now. He had tomorrow’s show to think about; he had to concentrate on how to best to reach all those lost minds and souls and convince them to follow him into the final battle that would be coming soon.
Biting off the end of his cigar, Lou Carmody took a puff (his cigars always lit themselves) and then unpaused the air check and continued listening to his people.
Michael Mallory is a Los Angeles-based writer, journalist, and occasional actor. His most recent mystery novel is Eats to Die For! from Wildside Press.