James Ward Kirk

The June Editor's Pick Writer is James Ward Kirk

Feel free to email James at: jameswardkirk@gmail.com


by James Ward Kirk

I grip the pistol and move from my bed silent, like a bad memory. The clock blinks, two red eyes of fear, in the dark: two A.M—the same time as last night. I feel heavy, as if inhabiting a dreamscape where even butterflies eat meat. My eyes adjust to the shadows like a raven.

Someone is in my house.

Naked from the waist up, my feet cold like ice, I do not hesitate. Heartbeat throbbing, blood pulsing I love it: the hunter, not the hunted. This is my nature. God made me like this.

Padding softly to the door of my bedroom, twisting the handle slowly and entering the hallway, sensing a presence on the main floor, I glide softly down the carpeted stairs, my Glock at my side ready like a spider prepared to bite. My ability to kill is not in doubt as I have killed many men, women, and children, collaterally in Iraq and on the nighttime streets of Indianapolis, without ever cracking the laws of man. I feel nothing.

Moving across the kitchen, it is too dark to see. My bare feet stick to the linoleum, making sucking sounds as I pad toward the living room. There is no place for a man or woman to lurk in this starkly furnished unlived living space. My space is uncluttered. I see nothing, so I float to the library, silent, a predator in the dark. I feel nothing.

The cellar door is cracked.

God, the boy is ten and I can’t get his brain back in!”

“Worry about your own brain, Private! Get in the rig!”

I am not a fearful man. Fear was ripped from me long ago, surgically, as if dread is an organ and may be cut from the body. I am bereaved.

It’s in the cellar.

What do I mean: It?

I pull fully open the cellar door. For the first time I need light. The switch is on the wall. Light stabs my eyes and illuminates the cellar.

“Who’s down there?” Before the cellar, I was the strong one, but urine pushes at the walls of my bladder.

I cannot go down there.

I send a round from the Glock down the stairs. I hear the bullet ricochet off the cement walls and strike the hot water heater. The swishing of hot liquid slithers toward the stairs as the cellar floor takes on water.

I experience solitude, but like the way a cumulus cloud grows black on the belly.

As the horror leaks from me, I hear knocking on the front door of my duplex.


Jack and Jack stand at the door in matching blue pajamas, robes, and fuzzy slippers, sharing the same expressions. What the fuck . . . Are you okay?

I open the door and let them in. They notice my bare chest. They make a point not to notice the dampness on the front of my pajamas.

“What the fuck?” Jack says.

“Are you okay?” Little Jack asks.

“Yes,” I lie, motioning them in with my gun. Recognizing the rather hostile image I must present to them, I reach over and put the Glock in the drawer of a table placed near the door.

Jack is an accountant, built like a question mark, shrouded in logic, and projects a sense of his security into the world and I envy him that. Little Jack is a general contractor and reminds me of a Tim Burton movie character, one that dies early in the film. He is weak, as if he exists on the margin of life; he is like a playing card, an Ace of Spades. Turn the card sideways and it almost disappears.

What binds these two together? Married in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts several years ago, they lease the other half of my duplex. I own the duplex.

Standing between the two men, the sorry image of the lineage of man comes to mind, from unthinking ape to what we are now.

“I accidently let a round loose and busted my water heater.” I shuffle my feet as if embarrassed.

“That’s the problem with a Glock—no safety.” Little Jack heads downward into the cellar. He reaches the bottom and looks up. “Are you coming down?”

“Sure,” I lie for the second time. “Just let me take a leak first then we can get together.”

I nod at Jack as I move past him, but he ignores me because I think I frighten him. I take my time reaching the second floor. I take my time washing my hands.

Little Jack emerges from the cellar as I reach the library.

“Yeah, she took a bullet. I turned off the water to the heater. At least the drain worked properly. There’s no flooding.” He stands there, his pajamas rolled up to his knees, his slippers in his right hand.

“Can you take care of it for me? I’ll deduct whatever cost from next month’s rent plus the cost of your labor.”

“No problem,” Little Jack replies. I’ll have it installed by the time you get off work tonight. Man, that cellar is a mess. I could straighten things up a bit, in case you decide to shoot the water heater again. There were some boxes of books that took some water.”

“That’s something I need to do.”

“Well, that settles it,” Little Jack says. He takes Big Jack by his free hand and leads him to the door as if leading a blind man from a burning building.

I shut the door behind them, lock it, and plod back to my library. A book juts from the top row, a complete collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s work, so I push it back into place.

I shower. The cold water hurts the way I want.

I lie down to sleep, certain I cannot but do, and I dream of a full moon. The man in the moon closes his loveless eyes to me and begins to turn away. Is love or hate provoking him? The dark side of the moon shows the face of a man too, and he is obsidian with red eyes like bloodstains. The dark man on the dark side of the moon says, “why didn’t you put his brain back in?” I do not remember the dream until it is too late.

When I awake to the beep-beep of the alarm clock, I am refreshed but nauseous. Is it the onion in my hand?


I choose the dark blue suit. I own eight of them. Blue works well for cops. Citizens recognize blue as the color of authority. Moreover, if it is just a few drops of blood, then I can get some more use from them. Blue absorbs blood well.

I get stuck on the tie. I used to own only eight blue ties but thanks to Jack and Little Jack. I have more than fifty ties of various colors and designs. I am drawn to Jack’s. They’re symmetrical in design, all squares, and rectangles and lines set in quiet but solid colors. Little Jack’s ties are boring. Boring isn’t bad, but I like people to focus on my tie and not my eyes. I need my eyes. I need to see.

The murder call blasts before I could even get downtown to the department.

On Interstate 465 at Meridian Street, I hit the off-ramp hard at Rockville Road. The apartment complex isn’t difficult to find and the murder scene even less so. Red and blue mix the twilight into a mendacious hallucination of hope. Figures move, distant and near.

I am sad, as if deprived of a vital measure, my humanity, or at least the part of me that combines with the world: but I am a singular entity in the face of madness that has broken free. I know what waits inside, a broken human—no, two shattered human beings; the murdered and the murderer.

My phone rings. I answer. A voice says, “It’s bad.” It’s always bad. Bleak, I end the call.

Groups of uniformed officers stand inside the living room and I follow their trail of cracked faces into the kitchen. Many are murdered in the kitchen, a room for sharing and nourishment, for laughter and good times. I learned to deal with the duality, the duplicity but I am bereft.

Allan, the coroner, says, “Hey, Big Guy. Here’s another for your photo album.” He cannot look me in the eyes.

The deceased lay prone on the floor, a man of about sixty. A butcher knife claims a home in his heart. A small area of the man’s skull is burgled. Brain matter fills a spoon near the old man’s head, half eaten. A peeled onion stands guard on the counter.

I look at the murderer. He is cuffed and in a seated position on the floor in front of the oven. He speaks to me through bloody teeth. “God and Satan are the same.”

I ask what his name is. He tells me. I ask him the name of the dead man. He tells me, “He’s my father.”

“Why did you kill your father?” I ask, not wanting an answer.

“If God is the creator of all, then he created Satan. If God created Satan, then God held close inside the evil needed to create Satan. God and Satan are the same. They are father and son. Why did God give birth to Satan? To defeat him; I killed father to kill Satan. I want God to kill Satan. This is how it’s done.”

I step back and say to Allan, “He’ll have to go to the hospital. The human brain is poisonous.”

“You’re the boss, Jack.”


The night is long. Blood tired, I drive home. I shower and dry. I eat something but I don’t remember what. My teeth are sticky when I lay down on my bed to rest, not sleep, but my will is weaker than my body. I dream.

This place is dark. My steady breathing climbs into my ears, putting me on notice that this state carried reckoning. I move my hands and place them upon my chest and over my heart: Thump-thump. I gag on the odor of onion. I move my right hand to the table beside my bed and I grasp the onion. I want to peel it, to tear it apart and I clinch my fist. Burden released; the onion in my hand breaks into three parts of a whole. Disgusted, I fling my hand but only two of the parts hit the far wall in front of my bed. One remains—the largest of the three parts, the most pungent. My eyes begin to water, but not from the onion’s sting. Weeping reigns supreme; the sound of my breathing dissipates.

My eyes burn as if two pillars of fire. Billowing flames skulk toward the door.

I move from my bed.

It is here.

I pad toward the door, open it and move into the hallway: I am blind, but I can see.

I creep down the stairs and float toward the cellar.

I creep down the stairs of the cellar.

Statuesque, I feel each hand taken, no, grasped.

God and Satan reveal Jack and Little Jack, dead, strewn in pieces—the two hemispheres of the brain here, the four chambers of a heart there. Eight limbs form two crosses—one upside down and one upside as intended.

I am alone and not alone.


“I am two now,” I tell Allan. “I am alive and dead. Like the man in the moon.”

“He needs to go to the hospital,” Allan says. “The human brain is poisonous.” He pauses. He glances at me and then looks away. “I don’t think he can be put back together again.

James Ward Kirk had his first novel published in January 2017, entitled Metamorphosis: A Monica McDowney Novel. He is also the proprietor and editor for James Ward Kirk Publishing (jwkfiction.com), a small horror press. He lives in Indianapolis with his lovely wife of twenty-six years, and Lucy the Chihuahua.