Here is the first chapter from my Bram Stoker nominated first novel I WILL RISE



I Will Rise
By Michael Louis Calvillo



Chapter 1 I’ve got the Whole World in My Hand

Goddamn the pain! This time it hurts more than ever. No playing. My left hand, gimphand-fuckup-ruiner, arches and contorts wildly. Mind of its own that hand. Autonomous motor control. Spastic just to spite me, and in seconds I’m on my knees, left arm raised to the heavens, traitor palm up, fingers twitching this way and that. The world around me blurs, rainbow streaks, everything tangible to mushy, muddled trails of color. I crane for a better look at my upraised palm and, carved within its surface I see a perfect, ravaged circle — bloodless, but dark and deep. The backside of the hand, despite the apparent chasm, is intact, run through with vein trails and the inline of bone. I crane my neck for a second look at the palm’s surface. Deep. Dark and endless. A vast, abysmal crater.



Some illusion, I think as I re-examine the unbroken backside. I try to pull my hand down, but as usual the little bastard refuses. From day one, the very moment I came screaming into this world, the hand has been a problem. Doctors and doctors and more doctors scratched their collective heads as they labored over the x-rays. They found that, dead center amongst the bones and muscles and tissues of my left hand sat an odd collection of nerves. Unidentifiable biology. Spindly. Wormy. An aberration. The hand itself however, worked fine. It shouldn’t have, what with that abnormal clump gunking up the works, intertwining with and suffocating the hand’s innards, but it did, and for quite some time all was well. The first time I can remember my hand acting up was in kindergarten. It spazzed and threw a cup of paint. I dropped to the floor convulsing in what was to be the first of many, many — we’re talking uncountable — seizures. In the beginning, my five-year-old brain didn’t know what to make of it. The doctors said the two — the seizures and my paroxysmal hand — were unrelated. Seizures were a neurological disorder and there was no way a spasmolatic hand such as mine could be the source. Even though I was an extremely stupid kid I still knew what was what with my body. The hand triggered the seizures. The doctors argued otherwise, they said my seizures were psychosomatic, anomalous. Despite, the hand-seizure correlation could not be ignored and from that moment on I lived in fear of my hand — and my hand, embracing maniacal, body-shaking power, took full advantage. It fucked me up good over the years. It knew precisely when and where to strike. Running like clockwork on a day-to-day basis, performing menial, necessary tasks, it acted and functioned as any normal hand would. But, when one of those crucial, critical moments arrived — say the final, accurate



cut on a woodshop project, or the behind-the-wheel driver’s test at the DMV, or worst of all, making good on that internal promise to approach a girl you think you like, it was all over. When one of those moments surfaced and begged for poise, for grace, for normality, well you could forget it because that little fucker was just waiting to screw things up. And so it goes, on and on and on, world without end — the hand would have its way. The disability affords little condolences, of course. One can milk sympathy for all it’s worth. One can develop excuses. One can blame the world. Curse the heavens. Wish everyone dead in a crushing wave of despair. “It’s not that bad,” most could console. “You’ll live,” most could console. And they’re probably right. I will live. Things could be worse. I mean, I’m not retarded. I’m not missing the lower half of my body. I don’t have to walk around on my hands. Oh yeah, it could be worse, but again I’m not without affliction. I’m not wholly sound. And thank God there are people who understand this. The Mother Teresa gene lives on. Plenty of times my hand goes ape-shit and a throng of compassion police close in: “Are you okay?” Concern. Something akin to love. And it feels good. And fuck it, I deserve it. I need it, as wrong as my life has gone. So who can blame me if I lay it on thick? Who can blame me if I’m prone to faking it? It’s happened so many times over my thirty-three years that the world owes me. Me.



I’m not cool. I’m not rich or hip. I’m not some wink-wink-nod-nodantihero all cold and crazy on the outside, but hyper-attuned within. I’m not disaffected youth. I’m not a John Hughes movie gone wrong. I’m not made of ink or dreams, stepping down from the pages of the subversively-penned literature you used to think was cool when you were young and angry. I’m not nice. I hate life. I hate you and most likely you hate me. I’m ugly, potbellied, acne-scarred and media-twisted. I’m real and I’m fundamentally fucked up. I’m real and I really need. So forgive me for making you feel uncomfortable or for tugging at your heartstrings. Forgive my shameless attempts at winning your empathy. Forgive my twisting, crying body as it writhes before you. Besides, it’s not like when I’m faking a freak-out I get money or friendship or anything of value. I don’t. People care, but they don’t care that much. All I generally get are kind words, a little human contact, a hug or a pat on the back — and that’s fine by me. That’s enough. A little, fleeting surge of unconditional love every now and again really picks me up. Right now however, it’s the real thing. No playing. The worst by far. Here I am in the public library on my knees waiting for my hand to relent and by God I am starting to worry. It’s never gone on for this long. It’s never been this intense. The world is still a blur and everything still hurts. Weak illumination pours upward in a thin, steady stream from the dark pit in my palm. I follow the stream of light with my stare and it blends with the smudgy coloration



entombing me. The light begins to deepen and the stream thickens. My eyeballs burn and feel as though they’re wilting. Suddenly, in a flash of brownish red, countless tendrils, branches, black and brittle, explode from my palm. They launch skyward and spin slow mesmerizing revolutions within the beam of light. A shower of dirt comes next. Then a river. Then millions upon billions of long, leafy vines. And then the bones; every variety in every state: — decrepit to the point of crumbling, fresh and slick with fat, sweating life, dust to death. And then the flesh. The flesh hungry for the flesh. A riot of color and smell, texture and taste, racing from the hollow in my palm. My eyes feel beyond dry. They feel ashen. And my body feels as though it’s been turned inside out, as if it’s being pulled through itself and pumped out of my palm. The world through my palm. I collapse, but my hand remains fixed. I dangle and loll from side to side and pray for the end. And then the sun. Big as life. Bright as death. An atom bomb of light. I see it climbing my arm, passing my wrist and breaching the palm. The burning planet ascends, melting me down, and finally the blur begins to let up. An outline appears, gestures familiar gestures. I’ve seen it a million times. The moment I fall and freak, one or more of the concerned souls rush over. I can’t hear just yet, but I know exactly what the outline is saying: “Are you all right?” Or some variation thereof. Sound returns.



“Are you okay?” See, I’m close. And at last it’s over. “Charles?” I look up and the world has resumed shape. I’m back in the library, laid out fetal, covered by a pile of musty books. Apparently I pulled a good size stack down with me. Bringing my left palm level with my eye I have look. Nothing. A little redness from all of that gesticulating and contorting, but no hole, no pit. “Charlie?” Looking up I expect to see Bidge, the bird-nosed librarian. She’s always giving me the stink eye and huffing at me and shit. It’s not her fault, I’m ugly — did I mention I was ugly? — and this tends to draw out the worst in people. Anyhow, I go a little flushed with surprise when I lock gazes with a young woman I’ve never seen before. “Charlie?” She’s one of those freaks. One of those whack-jobs living in Never-Never Land, forgetting how to grow up. Hit any major metropolis, search out any hip, trendy, independent record shop, or the same, only a bar-club-clothingstore and ‘Bingo!’ millions of individuals that look just like her: bright red hair, out-of-control make up, checked bondage pants and a ripped, faded, baby tee. The slogan of the day, written in bold, black letters across her ripped, faded, baby tee reads ‘FUCK YOU’. Honest. All caps and everything. A small part of me wants to applaud. I’m all about anarchy. ‘FUCK YOU’. For sure. I can really relate. But these kids, these adults pretending to be kids, try much too hard and the effect isn’t rebellion, it’s nausea.



Shaking my head, clearing up, I stand. The girl crosses her arms and makes a tsking sound. I look at her closer and wonder how and why she knows my name. She knows my name? This girl knows my name? I’m about to ask when it dawns on me that behind all of that jacked-up make up she’s really dazzling. Not dazzling as in beautiful, but dazzling as in a weird, breath-taking sort of way. I’ve never seen her before, but she seems somehow familiar. Something awe-inspiring spirals about within her pupils. This woman knows my name? Everything inside shrivels and language dies in my throat. For a few seconds I stammer like the idiot I am. I freeze. I ignite. “Charlie?” Again with the name. Do I know her? I must. Why else would she be talking to me? But I’ve no idea who she is. I have no idea. The room’s getting hot, too hot, so I bend and quickly root out the book I came for, The Many Dangers of Food Poisoning. Mumbling something like ‘Good day’, I reclaim the book, rise, and push my way past her. She calls after me — yet another name check — but I pretend not to hear. Sweating and nervous, nervous, nervous, I rap my fingers on the countertop while bird-nose Bidge gives me a glance flavored with distaste and checks the book. On my way out the door I glance back, but the girl is gone. By the time I get home to my roach-infested studio I have a raging erection and I am freaking out. I haven’t been aroused like this in over ten years and the panic amping through my blood stream is only making things

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worse. I toss The Many Dangers of Food Poisoning onto the bed and strip away my clothing. God, I hope this still works. Standing before the mirrored, closet door I stare hard at my naked body. It doesn’t take long. Just like old times. My penis flops, shriveling in disgust and I cry myself dry. And so it goes, on and on and on, world without end. I’m not a freak. There’s nothing super wrong with my body. It’s about forty pounds overweight, a little shorter than I like, sickly white, pimply, and kind of hairy. Unsightly details aside, it’s not that much different than that of your regular Joe American. The staring bit, followed by the subsequent dearousal, has nothing to do with what’s on the outside. I see more I’ve trained myself to do so. It’s all about the little trick I taught myself eons back. In case it’s not apparent I’m a virgin. A true virgin. Not even masturbation. Not even impure thought if I can help it. Puberty and hormones hit me as hard as any budding young boy and yes, like all teenage males I wanted sex. I wanted to do it so bad it hurt, but when you’re ugly — did I mention I was ugly? — its not so easy acquiring a partner. I suppose I could have had an ugly chick, a physical equal, but where’s the excitement in that? In any case, during those formative years when I would have considered sleeping with someone, my personality just wasn’t strong enough to transcend unsightly physical appearance. Besides, alongside the constant threat of my hand, there was God and religious doctrine gumming up the insides of my skull with guilt and fear. Even if I had the opportunity I may have backed out.

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The sweat-inducing temptation to masturbate — all of my peers were doing it and advocated its healing wonders loudly — surfaced from time to time, but again with the God issue. There was no way I was going to do that while our heavenly Father who art in heaven was staring down at me. I had a tough enough time getting dressed and undressed, what with those celestial eyes glued to my every move. Despite God or my homely countenance, fevered fantasy still spun Xrated cobwebs about the dream centers of my pre-teen mind. Blame the TV. Blame weakness. Whatever the case, I fought and fought, but still those naughty reveries surfaced. With no outlet, frustration mounted. Frustration hurt. Frustration incarnate and there was no escape from a world obsessed with sex. Selling sex. Buying sex. Breeding sex. Teaching sex. Lipstick and moaning, condom ads and innuendo everywhere, in everything. There was no escape. Or so I thought. Every time I got horny or hard I closed my eyes and began to develop the trick. I began going deep. If it was flesh I craved, it was flesh I would have. At first I remained clothed and only imagined my naked body in my mind. A few years in, once I began to realize that God didn’t play such a personal role in my day-to-day life, I discovered that getting naked —not really necessary as I’ve used the trick fully-clothed hundreds of times in public — generally helped to speed up the process. What I do — like I did today for the first time in ages — is train my gaze upon my pocked, pimply, greasy derma and travel inward. I stare and stare and stare and before long my pasty hide responds. Every pore yawns and maws, hungry like fleshy, little mouths, revealing rows upon rows of

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yellowish corpulence. Elastic to the point of rupture, clumps of fat falling away, splattering milky at my feet, wide, wider, widest, until skin is no longer skin but an army of thin, round frames showcasing the glorious bulk of red and white muscle beneath. The skin frames stretch to their limits and fall around my body, settling atop the already congealing pool of fat at my feet in a moist, pink heap. The beauty of my musculature is almost counterproductive and before disassembly begins I am able to take a split second and marvel at what I am minus the gross fat and oily skin. Hard. Rock solid. Lean. Like sculpture. For a moment I’m attractive. Red-rimmed, slick, raw and laid bare, I am the closest I have ever been to being exquisite. At this point, my enemy, the erection, mounts a counterstrike. No chance though. The sudden rush of blood to groin is short-lived. A last gasp if you will, for piece by perfect piece my muscle groups begin dropping to the floor with wet, loud smacks. Then the real fun. Then the mess. Then the ultimate passion killers — organs. Every kind, real or imagined, slimier and more grotesque than need be, spew and wretch from my body. A bulbous, brownish stomach. A spongy set of light, pink lungs. A blackened liver. Porous, gray kidneys. A particularly disgusting, seeping, creamy gallbladder. A million, alien chunks of goop. I know nothing about biology or anatomy and I hope to God the things I see exploding from me don’t exist. I hope, but for now they do and wouldn’t you know, I’m no longer aroused. In fact I’m sickened and tears are stinging my eyes and my genitalia are receding and here I am, there I am, returned and

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every bit as ugly, every bit as stupid, hunched-over naked, nearly glowing white — boy do I need a tan — shivering and wanting nothing more then for the world to end. Though it took me nearly ten years to master, by the time I hit my early twenties I had eradicated every ounce of desire. All sexual impulse, instinctual or purposeful, had been subdued. All I had to do was close my eyes, or if convenient, strip down. Over ten years without the teeniest, tiniest sexual inkling. And now today. What gives? Physicality disgusts me. Put a naked supermodel in front of me and I’m liable to barf, but goddamn there was something going on with that girl in the library. Something wrong. There I was fighting thoughts and imagery as if I was fourteen years old all over again. There was definitely something wrong going on and it scared me. This wasn’t sympathy attraction. This wasn’t a girl drawn to my dysfunction. She wasn’t making a pass at me; she was trying to tell me something. Something crucial no doubt, but why the arousal? I wasn’t attracted to her. I can’t get attracted anymore. And — okay, last time, I promise — how did she know my name? Fuck it. Best to just let it go and be thankful the trick still works. With any luck there was nothing to worry about, probably just a side-effect from my hand’s bravo performance. Now, if the trick had failed, then there would be some cause for alarm, but it didn’t, so again, fuck it. Put it to bed. And the girl? The girl nothing. Coincidental. Hand tricks. The Many Dangers of Food Poisoning does me absolutely no good. I don’t know why I bother. Books never answer those questions burning inside of my mind. Sometimes they come close, but they never give me what

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I need. Maybe I only go to the library because it feels good to anticipate things. It feels good to think there is this whole world of untapped potential. Or maybe I go because I like the quiet and the smell. I don’t know; I guess I just like the idea of a library, a house of knowledge, and for a long time my stupid head bought in. Over and over, I keep forgetting that books aren’t written by some grandiose, omniscient think-tank, they’re written by people. Yet, over and over, I find myself hunting down truth and promise. Searching and searching I get excited, list upon list of fantastic titles and interesting subject matter, but more often than not, after investing time in some book or another I come away dissatisfied, disappointed, struggling with more questions than I had before I started. I should stick with fiction. I have no expectation when it comes to reading fiction. People are good at lying. It’s truth that presents the problem. When I was a kid my Dad used to go to the library every week. He loved books on war and fighter planes and assorted manmade evils. It was his escape from my mom and work and me. One day, out of the blue, my mom thought it would be a good bonding experience for him to take me along. After a bit of coercing he forced a smile and agreed, but even as an idiot eight-year-old I could tell that I wasn’t wanted. First thing, my dad ditched me at the entrance, trailing ‘Be good’, behind him as he headed for the non-fiction racks. Wandering, I felt my way about, pulling various titles, looking at their covers and then pushing them back. Eventually, I stumbled upon a copy of T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. The cover art intrigued me so I sat on the floor and began digesting sentences. I’ve never liked reading, I still don’t, but before I knew it an hour had passed and I had become absorbed. I couldn’t understand how an outcast,

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one nicknamed ‘Wart’ nonetheless, would one day become king as the title had promised. I had to find out. I had to know how somebody who was ridiculed and pitied on a daily basis could turn his life around and become the great King Arthur. About thirty pages in my Dad came around and grunted it was time to go. I was so enrapt in the book the interruption startled me. My hand began buzzing and shaking uncontrollably and I went into an intense seizure. The next week my Dad refused to take me with him. My mom protested and despite the seizure issue, got her way. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have wanted to go, not after the last fiasco, but The Once and Future King had gotten under my skin and I was willing to risk it. This time I was afforded the chance to read almost thirty more pages of White’s book. Again, I was completely enthralled and again, when my dad came to get me, I went into another full-on seizure. This time, subconsciously I suppose, I held on to the book for dear life. When I came to hours later, the book was still clasped firmly in my hands. My dad declined to take me with him ever again. My mom fought him tooth and nail, but he wouldn’t budge. He said I was too much of a ‘liability’ and when their fighting escalated into an all out shouting match he added that I was a ‘fucking nut job’. I didn’t care. I didn’t even know what liability meant and I thought nut job sounded kind of funny — besides I had my book, my hopes and dreams in typeset text, and I didn’t want to go anywhere near the library for fear they’d make me return it. I suppose I still go to the library today because my dad went to the library and it’s in my genetic make-up to do so. Or maybe I go because T.H. White’s words helped me to feel like less of a fucking nut job and more like a little boy with dreams.

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Regardless, The Many Dangers of Food Poisoning is a bust. It is the exact opposite of informative. Big surprise. No handy recipes or how-to info, just documented cases, vague details, glimmers, nothing concrete. I had my doubts in the first place. Books that blueprint destructive technique are rarely found in public libraries. There are ways I suppose: the Internet or mail order or whatever, but I have neither the time, the patience, nor the drive. It looks like I’m on my own with this one. How hard could it be? Sprinkle a little something here or there that doesn’t belong here or there. I’ll manage. I’m stupid, not incapable. Shit, stupid people are extremely adept at destruction. It takes a stupid person to go where a reasoning, logical person wouldn’t. In case you were wondering I work as a line cook in a ritzy seafood restaurant. In case you were wondering I hate working as a line cook in a ritzy seafood restaurant. I fucking hate it. I fucking hate my job. I know. Chances are you do too, but listen to me. Slowly now: I really, really, really, hate my job. That’s three ‘reallys’, slow and exaggerated and painfully drawn out. I hate it. But it’s necessary and I can’t afford to lose it. It‘s not like I can pay the bills with my good looks — did I mention I was ugly? In a nutshell: I’m stuck — aren’t we all? No college. Go ahead, try and teach me. No career goals. No ambition.

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But goddamn, without a stable, steady career you’re nothing. No car, no home, no clothes, no real food, just Top Ramen, apartment living and shopping at Ross Dress for Less every two years when the holes in your jeans get too big to patch. In a nutshell: I’m stuck — aren’t we all? Nut job. I’m hanging in there though. Getting by. Some days feel better than others and I’m almost able to forget how worthless I am. I steal what I can. Nothing huge, nothing commandment-breaking, just the basics, the things my conscious can justify. It sure makes work a lot more interesting. Puts a little much-needed joy in a place where joy doesn’t exist. Everyday it’s like a game: cautious, careful, shifty and nervous, stuffing all I can into my super, deluxe Jansport backpack. One day I’ll work up the nerve and snake a couple pounds of shrimp or some salmon, but for the time being my spice rack is mighty full. The bland shit I eat everyday tastes all the better for it. Also, fantasy helps. Thank God for our lovely, image-heavy brains. Thank God, because my life sucks, and fulfillment only comes in wispy, fractured waves of dream pattern. Sleep, sleep, sleep. Escape, escape, escape. All day, all night. Sleeping with my eyes open. Here, but not really here. Here, but not really here. And get this: even if I went to college, even if I had a career, even if I had the money and the respect and the power we were all programmed to crave, even then, American Dream be damned, the majority of my time would be

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spent in my head wanting more, dreaming more, fantasizing more. It simply can’t be helped. Our personal dreams, tainted and twisted by the collective, shaped by television and film and print, molded, plastic-wrapped and homogenized, have become demons. They’ve become hungry, insatiable, material monsters. The ego reigns supreme. Vanity is our new religion. I’m not proud, but here I am. I’m not proud, but I spend an inordinate amount of time fantasizing about money and respect and power. My wish list is much too long, but here’s a taste: Symmetry. Harmony. Security. Vitality. Charisma. Control — revenge, rule, regulate, shape. In quick summary, I believe Thom Yorke said it the best when he warbled the line: “When I am king you will be first against the wall.” Indeed. So naturally, along with the money and the power and the respect, I imagine bringing my work down. Destructive fantasy, that’s what The Many Dangers of Food Poisoning is all about. But The Many Dangers of Food Poisoning does nothing for me and I’m starting to think I should focus this frustrated need to act out upon the library. Maybe check out an uninformative, useless book on explosives and dream up ways in which to incinerate condescending Bidge and her library’s exhaustive collection of wasted paper.

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But then again, how hard could it be to sprinkle a little something here or there that doesn’t belong here or there? I don’t really need a book to work this one out. No, this is very easy and very doable and once I get a plan hammered down it’s as good as done. My prick boss deserves as much. I don’t hate him. I don’t think he hates me. But, then again, I could be wrong. Regardless, he still deserves it. He is soooo deserving that each and every moral issue raised by my decision to destroy him instantly, painlessly, becomes a non-issue.

To continue with the weird and warped adventures of Charles Baxter, destroyer, seizure-king and all round nutjob malcontent, visit,,, or any other web retailer of fine books and order up a copy!

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