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  Table of contents Issue Fifteen DRAW THE SCREAM



t sixteen he was an Artist, even if those who sat beside him in Chemistry had poor taste. But he knew more than doodles: the human body came alive under his pencils. Graphite hands appeared ready to reach up to him, the fingers grasping for contact. He only drew men: the shaggy hair playfully obscuring a single eye, tattoos of band logos gracing their muscled arms and backs, all of them in various states of undress.

He preferred to watch crime dramas and serial killer documentaries. With his materials before him, he’d sit on the floor in front of his bed, sketching all of the men who caught his eye. He never missed an opportunity to recreate a male victim, always looked forward to photographs of those who had been dead for decades: the sepia tone, the carefree smile, the knowledge of a time that he could never know. Corpses were his specialty; he never tattooed these victims, only the men he daydreamed about while in class.

When he watched a documentary on John Wayne Gacy, he noticed the paintings as much as the victims. After a week of making sketches based on these photographs, he realized he could make a profit. Instead of doing homework, he began creating a comic book that outlined the rapes, the murders, the trial, the artwork, the execution. He developed carpal tunnel after making the first ten copies, so he had the more copies reprinted at Kinkos. He made sure to fold and staple each comic book with the utmost care; he was a professional.

In between classes and in the cafeteria, he sold the comic books, feeling like a sordid hustler with a trench coat of stolen watches in an alley. Until lunch, he questioned his motives. Many of the buyers didn’t know who Gacy was but were curious enough to pay two dollars for what the Artist was up to. Although there were no superheroes, no KA-POWs in bright yellow, the comic books were a minor hit; there grew a macabre following who began wearing Acid Bath t-shirts with Gacy’s clowns on the front and back. No one in the group listened to heavy metal. No one remembered who had started this trend; by the end of the semester, they went back to wearing American Eagle t-shirts. The Artist still sat in the back of the room, now drawing victims of Jeffrey Dahmer. Now I can truly appreciate the male body, he told himself as he drew a severed arm, the tendon at the elbow grasping at air.




Justin Holliday has been published in Up the Staircase Quarterly, Collective Fallout, and Main Street Rag.

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