“Well um I guess I’m kinda sad um I dunno.”
Matt really didn’t know why his mom had dragged him in here to see a psychiatrist. Besides the fact that he never spoke at the dinner table, he really didn’t know what he had done to deserve this. “Sullen,” she called him.
Matt’s mom was such an airhead! The reason he didn’t speak at the dinner table was because she was always prattling on about stupid shit that he didn’t care about. He just ate his food (overcooked, usually), went to his room, did his homework and got in bed. Was that such a crime?
“Clinically depressed,” the psychiatrist wrote in his notes.
“We’ve got a pill for that,” he said cheerily, producing a bottle of Effexor from his desk.
The big drawer in his desk was so full of Effexor bottles that he could hardly get it to close. The Wyeth salesman had made sure of that. All the pharmaceutical companies offered kickbacks to psychiatrists who prescribed their drugs, but Wyeth was especially generous. The doctor was seriously putting his kids through college on Wyeth kickbacks.
“Don’t forget to read the instructions!” the psychiatrist called out to Matt and his mom as they left his office.
“And the warning label,” he added, but by then the door had already shut behind them.
“Take your meds!” Matt’s mom shouted at him.
“But Mom, I had the strangest dream last night. I dreamed about the devil. He was
“I don’t care,” his mother snapped, before he could even tell her about the vomiting that had plagued him since he began taking Effexor, “I paid $400 for that doctor’s visit and you WILL take the meds he gave you.”
Matt obediently popped the Effexor pill in his mouth and washed it down with a glass of orange juice. He stumbled out to the bus stop and stood watching as the world slowly revolved in a big circle. The image steadied and he observed an ankylosaur walking towards him, casually swinging its club-like tail left and right, bashing in the sides of parked cars. Its hooked beak reminded him of his mom’s parrot and, oddly, the ankylosaur was the same orange color.
Mr. Spencer, Matt’s science teacher, had said that nobody really knew what color dinosaurs were because pigment doesn’t fossilize.
“I’ll have to tell him,” Matt resolved, “Orange. Dinosaurs were orange.”
Matt blinked and the ankylosaur disappeared and was replaced by a big, orange school bus, its door open to reveal cantankerous old Mrs. Garrett glaring at him from the driver’s seat.
“Care to join us?” she asked, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
Matt got off the bus and headed straight for the drinking fountain. His mouth was so dry! That orange juice hadn’t done anything for him. His head hurt and he felt sick to his stomach; the vomiting came at all hours now.
Matt hadn’t pooped in three days and was sweating in spite of wearing only a light t-shirt, while all of his school mates were in sweaters and wind-breakers. He felt like he was burning up, in spite of the chill wind that swept the school yard.
“Matt! Come here! Check this out!”
It was Luke, Matt’s best friend, waving to him from the parking lot. Luke had his learner’s permit and drove to school in a totally rusted-out Ford Fairlane. Talk about dinosaurs!
Luke jiggled the key in the trunk lock until it popped open with a rusty creak. In the trunk was a plastic gun case with a revolver resting in a fitted foam insert.
“Your dad gave you that!?” Matt gasped, “I am soooo jealous! What is it?”
“It’s a Smith & Wesson 686 with an 83∕8" barrel; .357 magnum. And check this out! See these little holes in the end of the barrel?”
“That’s called porting. It makes it kick less but it’s super loud.”
“Have you fired it?”
“Hell yeah! I spent all weekend at the target range. Check this out!” Luke said, proudly displaying a target with a bunch of holes in the bull’s eye and a few around the edges, “That’s from 25 yards. Pretty good, huh?”
“Don’t let the teachers see that. They’ll suspend you.”
Matt sat in his bedroom closet, curled up into the fetal position, whimpering. He held a kitchen knife in both hands, its tip pressed into the center of his chest.
He’d had that same dream again. He’d had it for weeks now, ever since he had started taking Effexor. Matt could see it very vividly: the texture of the devil’s skin, the scent of his foul breath, the feeling of moisture in the air almost sticky, like he might expect of evil. He could hear the wails of a trillion souls calling out warning and he tried so very hard to take heed; but all the while the devil’s voice was overriding those voices of warning. Matt could see the calculated terror, the intelligence, the charisma, and the color of the devil’s eyes; they were gray, not red like in cartoons.
The devil came to him at night; trying, trying, trying to get into his head. Matt didn’t think he could hold out any longer. The devil was inside him and there was only one way to kill the Beast.
Matt pressed the knife harder and it pierced his skin, the tip coming to rest on his breastbone. A trickle of blood ran down his stomach. He tensed his muscles, ready to plunge it all the way in.
Matt just about jumped out of his skin when the alarm clock rang. He stared at it for many minutes, listening to it ring again and again with increasing urgency.
“Matt! Get out of bed! Turn that damned alarm clock off!” his mother shouted from the kitchen.
Matt hastily hit the alarm clock’s button and shoved the knife under his mattress. He sprinted to the bathroom and pressed a wad of toilet paper into the wound on his chest until it stopped bleeding. Then he squirted a bunch of antiseptic on it and slapped a big 3" square bandage over the wound. By the time he finished, there was no time to shower, so he pulled on his clothes and ran downstairs.
“Don’t forget to take your Effexor,” Matt’s mom reminded him.
“Yes ma’am,” he said, being more polite than was typical for him.
He popped the pill into his mouth, brought his glass of orange juice up to his lips and made a gulping motion. Then he went to the sink and washed his glass, discretely spitting the pill into the garbage disposal when his mom looked away.
“That Effexor is really working,” she thought, noting her son’s use of the word ma’am and his washing of the glass instead of just leaving it on the table as he used to, “it’s turned him into such a nice, well-behaved boy.”
Matt sat in his science class listening to but not hearing Mr. Spencer talk about dinosaurs. Matt’s hands gripped the edge of his desk so hard that his knuckles turned white, images of bloody murder appearing faster and faster in his mind’s eye. He saw his classmate’s heads exploding, splattering blood all over the walls, even onto the ceiling. It was like a horror film; pulled through the projector faster and faster until the images were just a blur of splattering blood.
On his lunch break, Matt googled Effexor:
Call your doctor at once if you have any new or worsening symptoms such as: mood or behavior changes, anxiety, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, or if you feel impulsive, irritable, agitated, hostile, aggressive, restless, hyperactive (mentally or physically), more depressed, or have thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself.
“Why didn’t that doctor tell me?” Matt thought, “He should have warned me.”
But then the lunch bell rang before Matt had time to read the next paragraph:
Do not stop using Effexor suddenly, or you could have unpleasant symptoms. Ask your doctor how to avoid these symptoms when you stop using Effexor.
That afternoon it got worse – much, much worse. Matt could not get the images of murder out of his head. There was blood splattering everywhere and the crack of rifle fire – the rifle in his hands. And he could hear a voice in his head.
“Kill! Kill! Kill!” the voice urged.
And the voice told him how to do it, too. Luke’s dad kept his firearms in a gun safe bolted to the floor of his garage. The combination was 20-40-60. The voice told him the combination, or maybe he had just seen Mr. Whitman open the safe and the information had been recorded in his subconscious.
Either way, Matt knew what he had to do.
Matt had to dial the safe combination three times before he got it open. His muscles were so stiff and rigid! He had a high fever and was sweating. He could feel his heart beating fast and uneven in his chest; he was having trouble breathing and thought he might pass out.
Matt grabbed the AR-15 and scooped up a handful of 30-round magazines. The keys to Mr. Whitman’s SUV were hanging on a hook by the front door. Matt had never driven a car before, but it wasn’t hard. You just put it in drive and stepped on the gas pedal.
As he drove to the school, Matt tried to load a magazine into the rifle. But it wouldn’t go. He pulled over to the side of the road so he could focus on the task. He was having trouble concentrating. His chest felt tight and his breath was shallow a couple of time it just stopped and he had to remind himself to start breathing again.
But try as he might, he could not get the magazine to go into the rifle. What he did not realize was that he had scooped up Mr. Whitman’s Mini-14 magazines. They were the same caliber but are rectangular while the AR-15 magazines have a ridge on the back not interchangeable.
“Kill! Kill! Kill!” the voice urged.
Matt couldn’t stop now. The SUV was an effective weapon too. Matt tossed the rifle onto the passenger seat and hit the gas. He headed for the school, tires squealing as he went around corners. When he got to the school parking lot, he didn’t even slow down.
Susie’s head exploded as she bounced over the hood. It was just like the images that had been in his mind all day. He aimed for another girl whose name he didn’t know, but she leapt over a parked car in the nick of time. There was the shriek of tearing metal as his bumper scraped the side of that car and then Matt spun the wheel and aimed for the front of the school.
Just then the bell rang to release the kids from class. Dozens of children poured out the front door, laughing and joking, oblivious to the danger. Matt’s face twisted into a hideous grin. This was WAY more effective than the rifle. He could get dozens! Hundreds! Millions! It would be a bloodbath of unimaginable proportions!
Matt put his foot to the floorboard and the rear wheels spun out in the gravel. But then, just as the wheels got traction, there was the crack of a single pistol shot. The SUV lurched forward but then slowed and stopped before ramming into the crowd of children.
The horn blew continuously until a teacher reached in and pulled Matt’s lifeless body off the steering wheel where it had been pressed against the horn. There was a tiny .357" bullet hole in his temple. The other side of his head was blown completely out, blood and brains and hair all over the passenger seat.
Thirty yards away, Luke dropped his pistol and then fell to his knees to pray.
“I had to shoot him. I had to,” he sobbed, pleading to God for forgiveness, “He was doing to run over all those kids.”
“Another school shooting with a military-style assault rifle!!!” the TV newscaster announced as the camera zoomed in on the blood-splattered AR-15 on the floor of the SUV, a half dozen 30-round magazines lying scattered around it.
“Police reveal that the shooter was Luke Whitman,” he reported breathlessly, “The weapons used have been traced to his father, Arnold Whitman, the leader of an armed militia!”
The scene shifted to Mr. Whitman’s house, which was surrounded by a dozen police cars and a LAV-300 armored personnel carrier with the words “Rescue Vehicle” printed in large letters on the side. Mr. Whitman, however, was not coming out.
“Today, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California introduced a crucial bill banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. An overwhelming majority of Americans agree! But the gun lobby has done their best to convince lawmakers that their extreme agenda reflects public opinion,” the newscaster intoned as dozens of flash-bang grenades were fired through the windows from the LAV-300’s Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher.
A fire started in the living room and burned brighter and brighter, uncontested by the fire engine parked a block away. Soon the whole house was engulfed in flames. Mr. Whitman died in the attic, still demanding of the SWAT negotiator on the phone that they tell him what his son was charged with. His screams could be heard faintly over the crackle of flames as the TV reporters interviewed people on the sidewalk about the need for common sense measures like background checks for all gun sales or banning military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The column of police cars followed the SWAT team’s LAV-300 through downtown on their way back to police headquarters. Mr. Whitman’s burnt body was stripped naked and tied spread-eagled on the glacis plate of the LAV-300; a gruesome display meant to warn off anybody else who would dare to defy the SWAT team’s order to surrender, as Mr. Whitman had.
The LAV-300’s grenade launcher, now loaded with anti-personnel rounds, and its coaxial 7.62mm machine gun were cranked up to their highest elevation, aimed at the balconies of the tall apartment buildings on either side of the street. The LAV-300 had a two-man turret and the other gunner swept the anti-aircraft gun back and forth, looking for targets. Every police officer had his M-16 aimed upwards. There were sporadic bursts of automatic weapons fire as the nervous cops shot at shadows on the balconies.
They had all been warned of the heavily-armed militia that Mr. Whitman led had led. If there was anywhere that those crazy gun-toting militiamen would ambush them, it was here, downtown, as they passed between these tall buildings. It was like one of those steep-walled canyons where the Apaches were always hiding behind rocks in spaghetti westerns.
Finally, they passed the gauntlet of tall buildings. The LAV-300 led the column of police cars out onto an elevated freeway. Safe at last!
“We made it!” whooped the cops, slapping each other on the back and laughing, “Those militia pricks aren’t so tough after all.”
It was then that Whitman’s militia fired a volley from basement windows a quarter of a mile away. They had measured the height of the LAV-300 from the ground to the top of the hull at five milliradians. They didn’t have to put their rifles down to calculate holdover; they had memorized the chart for rifles zeroed at 300 yards and knew to hold on the first mil-dot.
The LAV-300, from its position on that elevated freeway, could not depress its Mk 19 enough to hit the militiamen, who were firing from below the horizontal. And the cops, who had all been looking upwards only moments before and had then mentally relaxed, thinking they had made it to safety, were befuddled by an attack from below. Anyway, the range was too far for their M-16s.
The SWAT team called for an artillery strike on the militia but it was aborted because they were too close; the artillery men back at SWAT headquarters were afraid of an errant shell causing a friendly fire incident. Helicopter gunships were called in, but by that time a dozen cops were dead and the militia had exfiltrated on their motorcycles.
War had come to America.