Here’s my unsolicited and wholly unwarranted contribution, written impulsively just a few moments ago, because I like Brian and I like the Shirley Jackson Awards. Be sure to click over to Keene’s website, where there are plenty of entertaining alternatives by numerous twisted writers. All in good fun!
BRIAN KEENE MUST DIE
“And then his face caved in.”
Brian Keene leaned back in his rickety old chair and evaluated the sentence. The whole book had led up to that one line, and it was a damned good one. He couldn’t think of a better way to end his 42nd novel.
But he could think of a better way to end the night. He walked across his office, opened a file drawer labeled “research” and pushed aside a hanging folder of old comic books, till he found what he thought might still be hidden there, from many years ago. His fingers found the hockey puck-sized canister and he chuckled to himself as he pulled it out.
“Good old Kodiak,” he said, tapping the green can of snuff against his thigh. He went outside and enjoyed the night moon. The crickets. The hum of the world.
And he ran his finger around the rim of his ancient can of Kodiak chewing tobacco. The one he hid in a drawer many, many novels ago — when he had a full head of hair and enough spunk left in him to try to kick the habit. He’d hidden the chew in his files “just in case” he wouldn’t be able to endure the withdrawals. Instead, he’d gotten so drunk on Knob Creek that night he’d blacked out and forgotten it was there. It sat there for years — at least fifteen — and — aside from his nightly pull from a flask of Knob Creek — most of his addictions were long behind him. He’d totally forgotten the can of snuff was in the drawer until just a moment ago, when he wrote those final words to THE LOWERING and somehow it tripped a lightswitch on in the closet of his memories and he instantly remembered it.
He took a whiff of the can, like a wine critic sniffing a cork. Fifteen years old, but it smelt great, and memories of his snuff days came flooding back to him. It didn’t smell like chewing tobacco at all. More like a cross between fermented grapes and graveyard earth. The fact that it was still smelly at all surprised him, but then again, very little surprised him now that he was in his late 70s. He gently tapped a finger on the mound of black leaves and its tar stuck to the pads of his fingers. He rubbed the leaves between them and the tobacco leaves crisped into powder, but left a minty residue on his fingertips, which he sniffed one more time to check his senses. It smelled tasty. Chewable.
“Screw it,” he said and took the flask out of his back pocket. He poured Knob Creek all over the stuff to kill any bugs that might have grown inside. Surely something had grown in the festering can over the years, no? But maybe the can fermented the stuff like whiskey and was sealed so well that chewing it would be like drinking ancient wine. Who knew? So he took a healthy pinch and balled it up and packed it between his cheek and gum, just like he used to do it in the old days: testing the capacity of his cheek by pushing it down firmly with his tongue.
It didn’t taste rancid at all. It tasted better than he even remembered Kodiak ever tasting. Saliva pooled in his mouth and he spit at a crumpled Budweiser can on the grass nearby, which made a metallic “pop” when his spit hit it, like he’d shot it with a pistol.
He sat on his steps and wished he had one of those great ornate spittoons from the old west. He spit again, and felt like Josey Wales when the can not only “popped” but leapt up in the air from the impact. He watched the blackened spit crawl down the BUD label, glimmering in the moonlight, leaves of old Kodiak sticking to the aluminum.
In fact, the moonlight glimmer of his spit seemed too familiar. The drool was too white. It reminded him of something he couldn’t quite place.
He swirled more spit around in his mouth. The chew was beginning to sting a little, to sour his gum tissue up. Almost as though the “pinch” were pinching back. He could feel the stems poking him.
He spit again, to get some of it out of his mouth.
It pinged the can like a bullet, and it rattled across the grass, smeary with his saliva.
And the he saw what was so shiny in the spittle.
It wasn’t the shine of the moon. It was a different kind of whiteness. At first he thought it might be paint on the tin can, flecking off from impact of his sharply shot acidic spit. He stood, picked up the can, and held it up to the moon to get a better look.
And he saw teeth. Little tiny teeth.
And he knew that the pinch in his lip was not old stem and acidic tobacco at all, but the manic chewing of those tiny teeth — a least a hundred of them. Ancient microbial teeth, mature and angry from being locked inside the Kodiac can over all those many years. He had to laugh, as the image of microscopic little Kodiac bears popped into his unflinching dark imagination: tiny grizzlies, gnashing their muzzles into the field of pink tissue, tearing bloody chunks of the stuff out with a snap of the neck and the claw of their heavy feet. It seemed preposterous, and the wounds would surely be minimal, since this was all in the close-up magnification of his mind. But the image wouldn’t go away and he could feel the chewing tobacco chewing and it began to make him more than a little uncomfortable, so he tried to probe the wad out with his tongue.
But it wouldn’t let go. The wad of Kodiak kept chewing and held firm, gripping the pink muscle with its nasty claws and it wouldn’t let go no matter how hard he tried to plunge and spit it out…and the monstrous teeth gnashed and clawed and the orgy of writhing little animals — not bears at all — not even animals of this world — but no less grizzly, and no less hungry — pulled the bolus of themselves down into his gullet…and as he choked and snortled and fell to the ground beside the beer can, he could feel them grinding their way down his throat, eating him inside out, eating right through his larynx, and the blood was spewing both up and down now — he could feel it spritzing from a torn artery and shooting against the walls of his esophagus, streaming up his windpipe and into his nasal cavity while also flooding down into his lungs, and he needed air, he needed air, and he tried to scream for help but his larynx was gone and the motion of his jaw just unhinged what was left of his lock on life. And the chewing tobacco chewed. It chewed its way into his ribcage, then his stomach lining, where it found the whiskey flavor it hungered for.
And then his face caved in.
This silliness was written for the Shirley Jackson Awards. May Jack Haringa and Brian Keene rest in piece.
Read all the other great contributions to the Brian Keene Must Die project on the dead man’s weblog.