Chapter One


It was the Internet that reacquainted Calvin with his death obsession. He thought that was a chapter left behind in his oblivious days of teenage confusion, but there it was again, silently waiting for him like some dormant plague buried for years, festering amongst the remains of its last carriers.

It began with a video clip that was having its fifteen minutes: two cage fighters in a match. One of them kicked the other and broke his leg quite grotesquely. There were plenty of similar clips on YouTube of other such limbs snapping in unimaginable ways, but this particular clip was the current buzz on the national news outlets and social media sites. Something light in the wake of terrorist attacks and sickos molesting children.

Calvin laughed at Ronnie’s repulsion of the video. It wasn’t a mean sort of laugh, or at least he didn’t think so. She grimaced as the cage fighter took a step back on his newly broken leg only to have it bend ninety degrees, dropping him to the mat. The break was just below the knee, his lower leg lying there in an unnatural angle like an unfilled sock. The tight clenching of his teeth said more than his pained screams, which were muffled under the gasps of the crowd.

“Oh god!” Ronnie said. “That’s awful.” She shrank away and clutched her arms as if trying to comfort herself, like a child who’d been crushed by some ugly life reality.

“Let’s see it again.” Calvin hit the replay button and the nine seconds of visual torture played out quick and wrenching.

“That’s it, Cal. I’ve seen enough. Can you imagine the pain he must have felt?”

Calvin shrugged off her repulsion, ran his hand through his hair, which always got a bit sweaty in his stuffy apartment. “His body went into some sort of shock, maybe numbed the break. I don’t think there’s enough numbing to not feel that kind of break, though.”

Calvin chuckled like it was funny, but Ronnie was clearly perturbed. She shuffled into the kitchen. It was either that or go into the bedroom. They weren’t living together, so she wasn’t comfortable escaping to his bedroom. Not yet at least. Calvin’s bedroom was a bachelor’s bedroom with plain white walls and clothes littering the corners like afterthoughts. When he finally asked her to move in (or, who knows, asked for her hand in marriage), she would give the room a woman’s touch.

The tinny roar of the crowd broke the silence, and then the “OHHHH” after the fighter’s leg snapped.

“You’re watching that again.” Ronnie’s voice echoed from the kitchen with a sickened tinge as if Calvin was watching a stag film.

“It’s only nine seconds. It’s not like the guy died or anything. Besides, it looks like there are other videos like this. It’s not the first time this sort of thing has happened.”

“You know, I don’t think the news should make such a big story about a video clip like that. All it does is draw people to that site to view it, and really, I think that’s just morbid.”

The sound of the clip issued from the living room once again, all nine seconds of it. Ronnie sighed.

“It’s has over three-hundred thousand hits,” Calvin said as Ronnie re-entered the living room, his voice thick with glee.

“That’s sick.”

“Not really.” Calvin crossed his arms and leaned back in the chair at his computer desk. He had a smirk on his face that Ronnie may have once found charming. Once. Now it was condescending, although that was certainly not Calvin’s intention. “People slow down at a car wreck. Everybody. And what for? To see a dead body or an injury, that’s what. It’s a reminder of our mortality to see this kind of stuff. That’s why it’s so popular.”

“The only reason I slow down at an accident is because I have to, because traffic slows down.” Ronnie grimaced. “I don’t want to see a dead person.”

“I’m sure you have, though, at one time or another. On TV or the Internet or something.”

“In the movies.” Ronnie fingered a piece of long blonde hair behind her ear. Her eyes had softened into something like worry. “I’ve never seen a dead person before and I don’t want to.”

A light flickered in Calvin’s mind, something remembered from those curious days when he had been so fascinated with the very concept of death and mortality. He couldn’t believe Ronnie had never even seen a picture of a dead body. Hadn’t everybody? It wasn’t that taboo, was it? Not in this day and age. Not in the Internet age.