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Peripheral Visions: Tiger by the Tail

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 15 MIN.

Peripheral Visions: They coalesce in the soft blur of darkest shadows and take shape in the corner of your eye. But you won't see them coming... until it's too late.

Tiger by the Tail

The voices seemed to be coming from a long distance. Or maybe the man and woman were talking in the next room?

She was saying something about a "men's adventure club," and he was answering in a jeering tone of voice. The murmurs of their conversation ebbed and flowed as Gerry drifted in and out...

Then he came to his sense with an abrupt, cold sense of fear. There were no voices now; just the sound of his own heart in his ears, standing out against a silence that seemed large – like it filled a great space. The air was cold and smelled of dust and oil. Gerry tried to raise an arm and found himself tugging against snug restraints. He realized he was bound – with rope? With tape? – to a chair.

It was hard to see much. The light was dim; the shadows were deep; the walls seemed stained. The room itself seemed weary.

Gerry felt weary, too, though he assumed that was the effect of whatever drug had been used on him. Looking down at his bound legs, he saw that the chair sat between the forked extensions of a hydraulic lift, the sort that hoisted cars to allow mechanics access to their undersides.

Gerry realized he was in some sort of garage, probably the service area of a disused gas station, or maybe an auto repair shop. He was facing a wall dominated by two large doors, the sort that rose up in folding segments. The doors had windows, but the windows were covered with cardboard. Looking to his right, Gerry saw more windows: High up the wall, they were not covered. That told Gerry someone didn't want passersby to see into the garage. That, along with the restraints that pinned his arms and legs to the chair, gave him a sick feeling of dread.

Someone was planning something terrible for him.

Gerry looked to his left and saw another hydraulic lift on the floor. A disused tool bench lined the far wall. Gerry supposed another must be behind him.

The light in the room flickered and changed. Sunlight brightened, seeping in through the high windows. The flicker of light faded again; clouds must be passing over the sun. Gerry fixed on one of the windows, craning his neck uncomfortably, wondering if he could get free of the chair and escape.

Twisting, struggling against his own stiff and corpulent flesh, Gerry managed to catch a glimpse of one of the garage's back corners. Just at the edge of his sight he caught a glimpse of reflected light. Another window?

A noise came to his ears. Footsteps, rustling, things being moved. His captor? The noises were close – very close.

"Hello?" Gerry asked.

There were more sounds: A click, a whirring. "Who's there? Who are you? Why am I here?"

No response.

"What do you think you're doing?"

The whirring continued. Still no response from the other man.

It had to be a man, didn't it?

"Do you know who I am?" Gerry demanded, his voice shrill.

There was a laugh. Then his captor stood before him, a large, dark shape in the dimness. He was wearing coveralls – dark blue or maybe charcoal gray. He was also wearing a mask with the face of a cartoon squirrel, an adult-sized Halloween mask that had once been popular with Gerry's followers. They had killed scores of antifa scum and burned the downtown districts of Democrat-led cities while wearing those masks. This guy must be mocking him, rubbing Gerry's face in the glories of the past...

"I know you, boss," a voice said, startling Gerry. His fingers clutched involuntarily at the arms of the chair, and his body stiffened with fear.

But through the fear, Gerry registered the man's voice. He sounded familiar.

"I know you for sure," the man said through the squirrel mask. "I used to look up to you. I used to worship you."


The whirring sound behind Gerry suddenly ceased and there was another sound now... one that seemed familiar, but he couldn't place it...

Wait. It was the sound of a VHS cassette being ejected from a video player.

"Be kind," the man said. "Rewind." With a laugh, he stepped out of sight again, and then Gerry was physically moved, the man turning the chair around in a series of short, jerky motions. A tall stand came into view. A television sat on the top metal shelf. Below it, the digital clock of the VCR shone numbers that didn't make any sense. 1:23? That had to reflect how long ago the unit was plugged in and powered up. Unless it was already afternoon?

Gerry tried to remember where he'd been before here. It was night, in a cheap motel... he'd been hiding out, waiting for his network of friends, what few friends he had left, to relay advice to him about where to go next. Gerry had been drinking, had been drunk, had been in a bad way.

He was in a worse way now.

The man was in front of the stand, doing something, his back to Gerry. A moment later the sound of a videocassette being drawn into the VCR echoed in the garage. The man turned, looked down at Gerry, and somehow, though his face was hidden, Gerry could sense his cold, malicious grin. The man moved away, out of sight.

The TV flared to life. The same voices Gerry had heard before started up again, but this time he knew who they were and what they were saying.

"You've been accused of leading a domestic terror group," the woman was saying. Gerry knew at once who she was... who she had been, anyway. She had been with a national news program, and she looked it: In her fifties, but with a sculpted face that was still beautiful. She had a sense of authority that Gerry had always hated to see in a woman. "But you say that the Promise Posse is a 'men's adventure club,' " the woman continued.

The image on the screen shifted and now the person she as talking to appeared. It was Gerry himself – Gerry as he had been six years earlier, before the woman had been murdered by one of kill squads that once cleansed America's cities and towns. The kill squads that had done Gerry's bidding and made him feel invincible.

Those days were done, Gerry reflected bitterly. He'd been in one spider hole after the next for a year and a half, constantly on the run from the new government... or rather, the same old government, the same freedom-killing government Gerry and his foot soldiers had tried to overthrow. The roots of the deep state had sprouted all over again, despite the fire and blood Gerry and his boys brought to the cause of wiping out democracy and toppling the rule of the old law.

The corrupt new government must have found him. They were always filling the airwaves with talk of "truth and reconciliation," but how could anyone think they honestly meant it? The government's tyrannical talking heads were the same as always: Faggots. Women who refused to know their place. Weaklings punching down at men like him and his Promise Posse boys... punching down on real Americans.

The tape played on and the image of himself responded to the lying media woman just as Gerry remembered he'd done: "What greater adventure could there be than reclaiming the country and restoring it to what it once was, and what it always should have been?"

"So you admit that you want to bring down the government," the media woman said.

Gerry's image smiled that cold, confident grin he missed seeing in the mirror. "We're not out to bring anything down. We want to elevate men – real men. We want to take back our heritage. We just want what belongs to us."

"Which is?"

Gerry's gaze didn't waver. "Everything. This is our country. Ours. White men, free men. Or at least, we should be free, just as God means for us to be."

"But are you really doing God's work when you talk about killing people in the streets?" the media woman pressed him disrespectfully. "When you talk about hanging 'gender traitors' from street lights and rounding up so-called undesirables for firing squads and death camps?"

Gerry's image laughed. The TV's shitty speakers turned it into a harsh, garbled sound, almost demonic. "Look," his recorded self said, "people keep saying that we're Nazis. We don't call ourselves Nazis."

"And you don't like being compared to Nazis," the woman said. "But the thing is, you use the same tactics and the same rhetoric the Nazis used."

Gerry remembered that day in the studio, sitting under the hot lights, hearing her say those words. He remembered biting down on the words he wanted to spit at her, saying none of those words but instead smiling and making a tremendous effort to keep his voice calm. Be polite, he always told his boys. Be polite, don't cuss, don't use insults... even when you're smashing their fucking faces in.

Gerry watched himself on the TV screen. His image appeared less calm than he remembered thinking he looked. "We don't' call ourselves Nazis," Gerry on the TV repeated. "Other people do. But you know what? They're right. We are Nazis. We're the men who should have won World War II and made this country the greatest on Earth."

Gerry remembered applause breaking out at that moment. But on the TV, all he heard were scattered moans and low murmurs of disapproval from whatever studio audience had been there that day.

The media woman tried to cut him off: "But the Nazis weren't Americans," she said.

Just like all stuck-up women: Trying to be smart, trying to score points. Missing the point.

"And you know what the nice thing is about being Nazis in 2036? Pretty much the same things that made it nice a hundred years ago," Gerry on the TV continued, paying no mind to the interruption, even though Gerry remembered that as being the moment he swore to himself that he'd make her pay. He'd make all the media enemies pay, all the libs... but especially her.

"The sheeple don't dare protest or talk back to us because we have license to kill them where they stand if they so much as look at us," Gerry on the TV was saying. "The courts protect us. The laws shield us. The cops back us up. And this time, there's no superpower global policeman, nobody swooping in to 'make the world safe for democracy.' We've won, and we're gonna keep on winning."

Again, Gerry remembered applause – but no sound of it came from the TV. MSM,/i>, he told himself. They edited it out.

But they didn't muzzle the media woman. Her words were loud and clear: "Your message is one of bloodshed and mass murder," she cut in, interrupting him yet again.

Gerry's image waved a hand. "So what? Who's doing anything about it? The liberals? the queers? We've been walking all over them for twenty years now, and who the hell cares what they think? Yeah, rough language, yeah, blah blah. You know what, I can say right now that I'm looking forward to putting the zip ties on your hands and letting my guys have their fun with you until you're dead. Why can I say that? Because, haha! It's nothing but a joke! Get it? Funny, right? We're just kidding!"

Gerry smiled at his television image, knowing what came next: His masterful speech. The speech he gave time and again, when he said what he meant, he announced exactly what he was going to do, and fresh recruits heard his message and flocked.

Moaning liberals heard it, too, and protested with their weak, mewling arguments about the Constitution and the "rule of law." Well, the law, Gerry smiled to himself, was on his side... or it had been, before America veered off course again.

"You and I know that underneath the smile and the wink, it's not a joke at all," Gerry of the glorious past was saying. "Everyone knows it. But the people who agree with us... even if they won't come out and say so... they aren't going to do a single thing to stop us. Preachers. Senators. Moms and Dads who just want what they should have had anyway – a better house. More money."

"And this is how they're going to get it? By playing weekend warrior and carrying long guns into blue-state towns?" the media woman interrupted, a frown on her face. She didn't look sacred up there on the screen. Gerry almost smiled when he remembered the day, a couple of years later, when he had had her zip tied as promised. Her screams. Her tears. She didn't look anything like she did up there on the screen, glaring at him... lording her fucking liberal garbage over him... laughing at him... "In fact, you're accused of deliberately attempting to bankrupt so-called 'blue' cities by repeatedly staging protests and demonstrations, forcing those cities to spend enormous sums of money to provide public security every time you show up. And then suing them for enormous sums when they try to keep you out."

"Any place we go to, there's a big crowd who agree with us. And yes, some of them come from out of town, but half the crowd already live there," Gerry's image told her, as Gerry of the present mouthed along, reciting the words from memory. "We have rights, too. Rights to speak our minds. Rights to assemble."

"Do you have the right to intimidate and attack other groups who are exercising their own Constitutional liberties?" the woman asked.

"That's what people don't get," Gerry's image said on the television. "They aren't Americans. They aren't us. Why should they have the same rights? Who wants to hear what they have to say? Only other traitors, that's who. We have every right to shut their mouths. We're the real Americans. We're not some 'other.' We didn't show up on migrant boats. We didn't besiege the border. We didn't parachute in from enemy planes flying high overhead. We grew out of American soil. And we will protect that soil!"

"And you'll water it with the blood of tyrants?" the media woman asked, probably thinking she was scoring something on him.

The camera cut back to Gerry as a nasty look came over his face. "With the blood of all you all!"

Gerry had said more that day, but of course MSM didn't show it. They never told the whole story. Instead, the video cut away to the media woman sitting on a high stool against a black background. Looking into the camera, she said, "That's my interview with Gerald Gerardia, the founder of the Promise Posse, who has said more than once that he and his followers are serious about the violent extremist rhetoric they spout, even if they like to defend themselves by saying they're just a bunch of guys having fun and talking the way men do in locker rooms. More than half of America seems to agree with their sentiments and their plans for a violent shift in our cultural values and priorities – an alarming sea change that's become clear in the latest polling related to this fall's election."

The screen went dark. Gerry snapped back to the dim, cold garage, the grim present moment.

"Seen enough?" It was his captor, who had moved back into Gerry's sight line. He carried a remote control in one hand.

"What do you want? Why are you doing this?" Gerry asked.

"I just want to remember the good times with my old friend," the hulking masked figure said. "We're just looking back on the good times, here, ain't we?"

Good times. Ain't we. The faint drawl his voice carried... Gerry knew it now.

"Bo?" Gerry asked.

The man reached up and took off the mask. Jason Graumann looked down Gerry, smiling a twisted, hateful smile. His nickname in the chat forums and in street rallies had bene Bo. In court, his real name had come out; the newspapers had called him Gerry's "right hand man," his "top lieutenant."

"And here we are," Bo said, throwing the mask to the side. "After it all went to hell. After all those people we said we were gonna kill decided to take us seriously and armed up, too. America's streets 'awash in guns,' remember all the op-eds? They all made it sound like the great deluge. Like Noah should be building another ark. But the real problem was those people you sicced us on. You sicced us on them like we weren't nothing but trained attack dogs. But they didn't just fold up and run, did they? They had guns, too. They had body armor, they had walkie talkies and stack formations and battle plans. We had the cops on our side, but they... well, they were seventy-five percent of America. That's how many people you turned off when things started to go sideways and you showed what a chicken shit you are. Up until then they were on our side. We showed them strength and order. And then it all went to hell... we were fighting each other instead of the enemy. Of course we were. You betrayed us! You and your plea deal. You and your skipping out."

"They were... it was all fake... no evidence... a hoax, a witch hunt," Gerry managed to stammer through his terror.

"Yeah, sure, boss. Sure. All that time, and you couldn't come up with anything better than that?" Bo grinned at him, his eyes deranged, his breath hot and stinking of rot. "You told us we were patriots. But what you made us... what you made us into was traitors. And you're the biggest traitor of all, you sack of shit."

Gerry squeezed his eyes shut and felt hot wetness leak from between his eyelids.

Then he felt hot wetness spreading between his legs as Bo leaned down, his hot breath hotter, the smell of rot overpowering.

"Been on the run a good while now, huh?" Bo breathed into his ear. It was an intimate moment, a lover's murmur... vile pillow talk just before the main event. "And I've been tracking you. And now, the time has come."

"For what?" Gerry stammered, turning his head away, keeping his eyes shut. He didn't want to look, not now that it was himself that was the object of Bo's gleefully murderous attention. He had seen the deranged look in Bo's eyes before – in the eyes of many, many others he'd mentored and exhorted and...

"Conned," Bo was saying.

Gerry forced himself to listen, though his heart was hammering louder and louder.

"Just like everyone else conned us," Bo was saying. "Just like they used us and abused us and laughed at us... so did you, and so did that crybaby president you were cozied up to. Not all of us got to fly on private jets or go to White House dinners. Most of us were working shitty jobs and paying everything we had into the great coming battle... the war that would make us free at last. But you didn't set us free. You just wanted to take our leash into your own hands. Right?"

Bo's voice grew louder and angrier with each word.

"We were young!" Bo screamed, as Gerry winced and crumpled back into the chair. "We believed you! And you... you smug user... you thief... you acted like we were broken toys. 'Oh, I'm sorry, I never meant for those guys to do all the things I told them to!' The killing! The burning! Dragging people out of their houses and shooting them in the streets... it was supposed to be easy! It was supposed to be fun! Just kill 'em – kill 'em all – take over their houses, take all their expensive shit. Live large! Live like American kings! That was what you promised with your stupid 'Promise Posse.' And we rode with you, you were our ride or die, and when things got hot you let us die. You let us take the rap. 'Where's Gerry? He was always the face, the voice the message. Where's Gerry, guys?' Gerry's gone. He's all over the TV one day, and it's radio silence the next. You fucking coward."

"I... you have to listen, it was..."

"Shut the fuck up!"

"Bo, I swear – "

"I said shut up, you liar!" Bo stomped away, and the sound of rummaging – clattering, banging, scraping, and more banging – came to Gerry's ears. Bo stomped back again, this time holding a drill.

"What – what are you – "

"What do you think?" Bo snarled. "Imagine everything you don't want to happen. Imagine everything you had us do to other people. It's all gonna happen to you."

Gerry struggled to speak, but the cold weakness that filled him grew colder and he became weaker. "You can't..." The words rolled back down Gerry's throat as Bo leaned forward, his eyes two pools of blackness. Faint glimmers of reflected light shone in the depths of his bottomless eyes. Gerry tried again: "You can't be so cruel."

Bo laughed. He hefted the drill and his face became a grotesque mask of sadistic delight. "Cruel!" he exclaimed. "Of course, boss. That's what it's all about. Cruelty is the whole goddamn point – you taught us that."

"No..." Gerry's eyes were wide with fear, his mind a frozen block of glacial horror.

"The targets change, don't they, boss?" Bo asked, his eyes glowing with a diabolical light. "But the fun... the fun stays the same!"

The drill screamed to life. Bo stepped forward. Gerry screamed along with the drill... until wet gurgles drowned out the sound of his shrieks and the wet, crunching blows of Bo's fists replaced them.

After the drill came the hammer, and then... then other implements.

Bo shouted in a rage about being betrayed, being deceived, being controlled.

"Who's in charge now, motherfucker?" Bo screamed, standing over Gerry an hour later. The chair had toppled backwards by then, and Gerry's bound limbs had been broken.

The pain and horror seemed far away by then. Everything was numb. None of it mattered or had ever been real. Gerry tried to smile, but the drill had done too much damage and the pocketknife Bo had deployed at some point during the mosaic of suffering and sadism had done yet more.

And the thing of it was, Gerry appreciated in those final few seconds – before the black shape of Bo's boot coming down on his skull blotted everything out once and for all – that the tiger he'd tried to tame could not be contained. But he'd held that tiger by the tail, directed its mindless violence for a while, and ... damn, if it hadn't felt good.

And now the tiger had turned.

Gerry saw with one last moment of clarity how magnificent it really was.

Next week we take an excursion to the strange side when we look in on a man whose favorite pastime is violent brawling. But what happens when his fists disappear finger by finger as his violent hobby continues?

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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