"Jimmy."

The Black and Decker came to a stop, the decelerating rotor filling the garage with mournful echoes.

Jimmy looked up, shielding his eyes from the glare of the overhead lamp. "What?"

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

He glowered at her. "How else am I going to get the probe out? Honestly, Sheila."

Sheila sniffed briefly. An eternity seemed to pass as her eyes swept the garage. Then they hardened. "Suit yourself," she said crisply. "I just think-"

"I know what you think! Just...just let leave me be, OK? We've talked about this."

"Fine." The door slammed. Jimmy heard the sound of the TV turned up to deafening levels. The walls shook.

He turned back to the workbench. Hammers, boxes of nails, rusty saws, and the odd screwdriver or two lay strewn on the ancient, battered wooden counter. I have so many tools, he thought, and I've built nothing. But that's about to change.

He whistled jauntily as he worked on his contraption. It was simple, really: a vise mounted onto the counter firmly held a wooden dowel in place. Around that dowel Jimmy had affixed a clamp, the kind that had held bubbling crucibles in place in his old orgo labs. He shuddered at the memory. The clamp was industrial-strength, holding the cordless drill firmly in place.

He scratched eagerly at his head. Soon enough, that probe was coming out. There was nothing else to be done. He knew that he couldn't just hold the drill to his head, no--the shock would make him drop it, and this was the kind of thing that needed quick, swift action. Just a straight-ahead punch, and he'd be home free.

To that end, then, lay the last bit of it. A wire encircled the trigger of the drill and ran through a series of pulleys, before ending at the old organ pedal that lay at his feet. All he had to do was push down. Not unlike a sewing machine, now that he thought about it.

That left just the drill bit. He frowned, thinking of whether to use a 5/64" or a-

"Jimmy!"

Christ. "WHAT?"

"Arturo's here."

"Oh. Send him in."

"Thanks, Mrs. B," said Arturo, shuffling his way in. He studied his reflection in the window of Jimmy's old Sonata.

"Anytime, Arturo. And it's Sheila. Mrs. B was his mother's name." The door closed and the TV went back on.

Arturo, apparently finding his moustache acceptable, looked up from the car. "Jimmy, you sure you want to do this?"

"Don't you start as well."

"It's just, uh..." Arturo kicked the ground uncomfortably. "People around the office have been talking. They say, 'Jimmy's crazy, man. He keeps talking about that probe and-'"

Jimmy cut him off with a wave of his hand. "I want to show you something." He gestured to the workbench and started shifting through the piles of tools.

"Do you have the stuff ready, man?"

"Of course," said Jimmy, overturning a Mason jar full of nails, which he hastily covered up. "Look, I'm not stupid. The EKG's over there." He waved in the direction of a box he had never unpacked since they moved in.

Arturo wheeled the monitor out. "Uh, does the office know you took this?"

"Does the office know you play 50 Cent's 'If I Can't' when you're giving old ladies CPR?" he asked testily. "Ah. Found it." He extracted a spoon from under a folded set of stereo instructions.

"Look, we've been riding round the same ambulance for three years. I just...I think this is crazy. I don't know if I can do this."

"Oh," said Jimmy, turning to face him. "So you think I'm just imagining it. You think I just dreamed up this probe."

"Well I-"

"How do you explain...THIS?" Jimmy put the spoon to his temple, and pulled his hand away. The spoon stayed, magnetically clinging to his skin.

Arturo's eyes almost popped out of his head. "Holy shit! How is that...so I guess it's really...shit man that's fucked up."

"Yeah," said Jimmy quietly. Soberly. "Yeah it is. It beeps sometimes, too. I hear it at night."

"So aliens took you then? They put that there, is that what you're saying?"

"Damned if I know," said Jimmy. "Just woke up one day and there it was. Metal objects fly at my head at close range. Not screwdrivers and hammers, thank God." He gestured to the workbench. "The fork was bad enough." He brushed back some of his hair, revealing four tine-shaped scabs.

Arturo remained nonplussed. "Shouldn't you go to a doctor, man?"

"At our hospital? Are you kidding? Better off doing it here."

"Fuck, man. How is that going to get it out?"

"I know it's here." He tapped his temple. "Once I'm in, I'm going to fish it out with these." He held up a pair of forceps.

"I don't know man. This is some fucked up shit. How are you supposed to get that out? Shouldn't I just knock you out and do it, then? It'd be less painful."

"No. I want to do this. It should be me who shows whoever the hell it is that put it there that I won't stand for it. It says, 'Don't do it again.' It says, 'Old Jimmy here's a badass, maybe you should abduct the sucker next door.'"

"It says, 'Jimmy is a crazy nutcase.'"

Jimmy sighed. Enough was enough. It was time to get this over with. Time to get that fucker out of there. He could feel the pressure in his head, and pictured a metal egg buried in there, stuck to his dura mater, just pulsing, pulsing, pulsing, beating away, second after second, minute after minute, and, well...just thinking about it made Jimmy tired and anxious. More so than usual.

The TV turned off, the den falling silent. Jimmy looked up anxiously, waiting for Sheila to open the door, but it remained mercifully shut. "Well," he said, turning to Arturo. "Let's start." He unbuttoned his shirt and spread the electrolytic jelly on his chest.

Arturo just kept shaking his head. "I don't know, man, if I can do this-"

Jimmy picked up the spoon.

"All right, all right!" said Arturo hastily.

They finished attaching the leads. Jimmy observed his heartbeat, tracing the lines on the screen. His pulse. His life. Maybe he shouldn't do this. Maybe it was folly. But the more he stared at the EKG, the more he could feel the pulsing in his brain matching it. It was quickly becoming unbearable. He tore open an alcohol swab and rubbed down the bit, holding a lighter under it. There. That ought to do it.

"Arturo!"

"Yeah?"

"Get ready."

He cocked his head, temple facing the drill. He pressed down on the organ pedal, and immediately it started whirring, the grinding sound filling up the whole garage, blotting out everything else-the sound of Arturo's swearing, the sound of the EKG bleeping fast and out of control, the sound of the door opening, the sound of Sheila screaming, the sound of tiny pieces of his skull catching in the bit.

As the drill poked through his squamosal suture and punched into his brain with the exquisite ease of a katana through heated butter, Jimmy swore he could hear laughter.


Rescuing nodeshells and waiting for my girlfriend to get ready, all at the same time. I love e2.

Also added to I Will Show You Fear in a Handful of Text: The 2005 Halloween Horrorquest.

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