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Fantasticoe 2001 -  10th Anniversary Issue


"Never Close My Eyes"

Amber Shannan

Rueben Balise smiled vengefully as the steel rods to his cage clanged open. The guards with their sober faces and thick tongues instructed inmate number 00789 to stand. Rueben sat his grin unfazed, withholding any sign that he would so easily follow instruction. After a moment or so the fat guard named Peter nervously repeated the order. Rueben watched beads of sweat collaborate on the obese man's brow line; he still didn't move. Bowers, another guard who prided himself as a body builder, finally took Rueben's challenge by means of stepping forth to force Rueben to rise. It was exactly what the convict had been waiting for… as Bowers reached a close position, Rueben sprang up pushing his broad chest into the guard and nudging him backward. The two were face to face like raging bulls, seething at redness; Bower's wide veins pulsated with anger. Rueben opened his mouth wide, exposing his deteriorating teeth and blackened gums letting out a perverse laugh and smell that could match one's imagination of the vapors from Hell.

Peter and another guard reached for their weapons, but Bowers halted their proceedings.

"Don't bother boys! This here is a dead man. Yes sir, in a couple more hours he'll be walkin' through the fiery gates of Satan's door."

Rueben Balise, inmate number 00789, continued to laugh maliciously.


Adorn with a straightjacket, Rueben was led down the "mile-hall" at the end of which he would find his one-way ticket out of this joint. He strutted upon the scuffed tiles, in the cockiest way he could which was difficult due to the heavy iron cuffs that nearly cut off the circulation in his ankles and forearms. His eyes were transfixed on the door at the end of the hall, the door, when opened, would introduce the electric chair. The loud curses and cheers from the other inmates only made Rueben more delighted. Some of them banged upon their metal bars, others clung to the edge of the cell until their knuckles grew white, and the ones that really gave Rueben pride huddled in their dirty beds and avoided his glare by staring at the gray ceiling that blanketed their charcoal chambers.

He laughed wickedly taking satisfaction in the fact that half of the men in the prison had killed dozens of men, and he, Rueben Balise, had only killed one little whore and they were afraid of him!

Irritated by his slowing pace and his happy disposition, Peter poked Rueben in the ribs with his baton. Rueben responded with a sadistic growl. Some of the inmates cowered and some laughed along with Rueben. The other guards played deaf… or maybe they were just freaking ignorant, Rueben decided. Apparently unnerved Peter moved to the rear of the execution train and allowed Bowers to take hold of Rueben's chains to lead him further down the antechamber.

It had been thirty-five years and many court hearings since he had first been marched down that hall, the blood stains on his hands still fresh and burning.

Remembering the hearings he chuckled, arousing suspicion from the guards that surrounded him. All of those stiff collared pricks had always asked the same fucking question, "Are you a changed man, Rueben Balise?"

"God as my witness I am," he would always respond. Then he would adjust his posture so it was straight and even, take a long breath and subsequently would pop his dull blue eyes open and say, "Now I would make sure to rip the little bitch's eyes out!"

As their mouths gapped open and terror flashed across their faces, Rueben would stare all the jury members down so that they would know he was serious.

The first of the men to regain composure would expel some nonsense, "You are going to burn in Hell, Mr. Balise!"

Hell… why was everyone so afraid of Hell? They worried about sins and trespasses, threatening each other with the talk of devils. Rueben had his own theory on Lucifer. Satan wasn't an angel fallen into the mission of punishment… no he created a palace in Hell to welcome those who followed his rule of cruelty. Rueben's mouth creased upward. Just a few more hours and he would be walking into a paradise.


Rueben's gaze was transfixed on the clock. Only awhile longer… His eyes felt heavy and he yearned to close them, but he couldn't. He couldn't sleep. For thirty-five years each time he closed his eyes he saw hers… mocking him.

He clutched his fist to hit something, but the jacket constrained movement. Instead he closed his mind to his surroundings and slipped back to July 5, 1966…

Rueben was twenty-three years old on the night of his virgin kill. The day was damp and muggy with humidity that lasted even after the sun had set. The stars shining above were like great fireflies caught in the dark web of night, constantly illuminated by leftover fireworks.

He was sitting on a wet wooden bench that was on the border of the public park when he saw her. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever laid eyes on. He stared at her creamy skin and watched her throw back her midnight tresses, his concentration altering to the sleekness of her long neck. For the longest time he sat there, feeling his body react to the ramblings of his imagination. Then like a dance she twirled around to face the stare that ground into her soul. Her electrifying blue eyes met his and he smiled a wry smile. Her blue eyes widened and a faint hint of her deep blush could be seen through the dusk. Her eyes darted from Rueben to the ground and then back to his lustful eyes and suggesting smile. Giving him an uncomfortably weak attempt of a warm gesture, everything but her cheeks paled. She let her chin fall towards the ground again and the corners of her mouth followed a similar suit. One more swift movement and the young woman turned her back on Rueben Balise.

A moment of hurt surged into Rueben's heart, the rejection a constant reminder of the rest of his life. That feeling turned cold and anger heated his meditation- Rueben's world went scarlet.

Rueben didn't bother to think, he just waited. Waited until the girl… Jenny they called her- Waited until Jenny left her friends, unaware of the unaltered stare, and trotted to the dirt road in the forest. Rueben lit a cigarette and followed casually until he was hidden from the city's view.

Jenny sauntered calmly, ostensibly unaware of her predator's emerging footsteps. If it weren't for Rueben Balise's creeping shadow, the night would have probably been perfectly peaceful for Jenny. The clean scent of rain was thick in the air; magnificent heavens above peeked through the mask of sycamores and evergreens, the stars twinkling like a lovesick fool's eyes. The hiding moon gave off clues of its whereabouts by sending out trickles of moonbeams that gave design to the lushness of the emerald leaves; diamond drops of dew twinkled and shone with opalescent hues. The chanting of crickets called into the otherwise silent night; Jenny's own carefree, footsteps were hushed by the cushion of evergreens that blanketed the wet earth.

He gained on her easily with his long legs moving out of complete determination. His left foot stepped carelessly on a dry stick that broke with a tremendous crack. Jenny flipped her body around with a great gasp of air.

Those dazzling blue eyes met his, full of anxiety.

"Can't cha smile for me," his words slithered through great globs of saliva into the silence.

"Leave me alone!" she demanded with an attempt of bravery, to terrified to remember her normally friendly nature.

They were both dead bolted. Rueben desired her with every psychotic sense of his being and she was too careful to turn her back on him again. He took a step forward, his foot squishing in the mud. Jenny's anxiety turned to fear. She turned around so violently that her hair whipped the air.

They began to run simultaneously. Jenny was outnumbered by the length of Rueben's legs and by the oozing earth, which caused her to slip and fall. Rueben was on her instantly, pushing her to the steaming mire.

Her useless cries and whimpers excited Rueben's already throbbing male member. He fumbled with his brown slacks and pushed up her modest, yellow dress. Her muscular thighs closed, prohibiting Rueben's entrance. With urgency he slipped his knee through the crevasses of her legs and pried her portal open.

Her screams and wails were suffocated by Rueben's free hand, but as he moved it to guide himself through her tightness, she courageously choked, "For the rest of your life, so help me God, my eyes will follow you! I'll watch your every move and someday when you think your safe- these eyes will be there!"

Rueben laughed and pushed himself all the way into her moist warmth, breaking her innocents. All the while that Rueben thrust upon her, Jenny's eyes look intently into his own; it began to unnerve him. She had stopped being afraid- stopped fighting- all she did was stare. Those damn blues speared through him. Finally he couldn't take it anymore and he flung her body over, burying those eyes in the gruesome puddles of mud.

Again, Rueben, craving a physical response, mounted her from behind. When she refused to move he dug into his jacket and withdrew a pocketknife. He scraped her skin with its dull edge, wanting her to slither, to scream once more. She wouldn't move! He stopped his sexual assault and concentrated on furthering her pain. Lifting the knife high above his own head he aimed for her. The point pierced her skin and dug into the center of her spine creating the sensation of an air bubble bursting. There was an eerie crack before the blood started to seep from the puncture into the mud, creating a burgundy stream.

"See if you follow me now Bitch!" he cackled, not knowing that she had stopped breathing two minutes previous due to the soggy soil that clogged her nostrils.

He flipped her over to smile at his conquest and was startled to find himself at the mercy of her now lifeless, royal eyes.


"00789, Rueben Balise," a guard bellowed to the sweat-soaked death-row offender. "You have been sentenced to death by a jury of your peers. Do you have any last words?"

Rueben opened his eyes, closing out his only trepidation and gazed at those who considered him to be a threat. They studied him from behind a bulletproof glass as if he was a circus animal. He could almost agree with their curious stares as he examined his reflection in the glass. Centered in the small white room, he looked almost like an alien or a hospital patient. Sitting in an uncomfortable throne, Rueben was secured into position by taut constricting buckles that bracleted both of his wrists. The large pressure plate on his head was connected by a metal arm that could almost be confused with a bug's antenna, in the blurry vision of the glass. Red and blue plugs were taped to his chest and provided an electric current with which to calculate the beating of his heart. His heart was beating slow… heart- that was a surprise. Most people accused Rueben of lacking that compassionate organ.

"Pray for redemption!" a church fanatic screamed from the on looking crowd that was organized sufficiently along pews in the safe room facing Rueben.

"Fuck you!" were Rueben's last words, before a clonk from the lever sounded and a bolt of created lightening surged through his veins. His limbs quaked aggressively and his eyes momentarily bulged to the extent that Rueben was sure they would fly out and splatter on that damn glass. His teeth grinded together, causing a coarse piece to chip and stab into his tongue. Blood began to seep down to his throat where it was gargled by the tense muscles. His heart began to race, evidence of which could be heard echoing through the little room. Beep… Beep…Beep..Beep.BeepBeep..BEEP…BEEPBEEPBEEP… The vigor of the continual blows forced his eyes to close and Rueben tried to scream. Unable to open his eyes he was at the conviction of hers.

They bore into him- penetrated into a pocket of terror. They were wide with satisfaction and shone with every imaginable shade of blue. The obscurity of her pupils pulsated into his mind making it twist and distort horridly.

"I'll watch your every move and someday when you think you are safe- these eyes will be there!" the words echoed in Rueben's brain until his nervous system faltered and ceased functioning.

The pulsating of the tremors eased and Rueben's eyes were able to open, although the image of Jenny's eyes no longer plagued him. As his eyelids lifted, Rueben scanned his surroundings. He seemed to be in the middle of a narrow field, cut off by a forked stream. The grass resembled fire with various red tones and hues, and the sky was pitch black. The land seemed desolate, but an unexplainable light filled the area that Rueben stood in. The only smell he could identify was the reeking of his own breath. The entire aura of the place gave forth no human feeling except desolation and void. Rueben for once felt at place, a perfect piece for the puzzle of misery his vision beheld. The only part of him not at home was the hatred that had plagued him all of his life, it seemed like it should have been too intense to prevail in this unfeeling dwelling, nevertheless it continued to pound through his soul.

The sensation of being watched, an all too occurring awareness since he had encountered Jenny, made him look towards the sky. He noticed two men with their concentration fixated upon him. They were as different in appearance as the ebony and ivory of their attire, but both were more beautiful than any human could have ever dreamt of becoming. An impulsive knowledge hit Rueben and without being told he understood that these two gentlemen were comparative to God and the Devil, despite the fact that neither had the assumed appearance ranted about on Earth.

Rueben wanted to call out to them, but his tongue stopped movement with surprise. He was mystified by the apparent closeness of the two. This can't be right! Where is my palace, where will I get rewarded? What is God doing here? They are enemies! They must be, if not what will happen to me?

Confusion rustled like tissue paper in his boggled mind.

"Another one for me old chap," Satan said without moving his mouth.

God smiled a congratulating beam to his competitive friend. They nodded to each other about a communication unheard by Rueben.

His body was frozen and his senses weakened. All he could do was watch and wonder, as his body was swiftly and unexplainably yanked four feet into the air only to be scrunched and locked into a three foot by three-foot cage. He waited for more surprises, aware that his Hell's palace wasn't as luxurious as he had once imagined. A chill crept up Rueben's spine and conquered his neck, forcing it to turn to the left in an agonizing motion.

A blinding light soon converted Rueben's pupils to microscopic specks in his periwinkle ovals. His brain felt like it was being twisted, like a wet dishrag; with each rotation a memory of the forest became more vivid. Compelling Rueben to walk in the footsteps of the life he experienced first hand and the ruins he left behind for others to discover.

"It looks like there was a struggle over here, look at those shoe indentations," the sheriff called from the shadows of Rueben's torturing visual, that by the hand's of Lucifer was being broadcast in the dark velvet sky of purgatory.

"Oh my God," another officer called. "That poor girl!"

The battered body that was spotlighted in Rueben's haziness was beaten and bloody; her nude figurer contorted without cordiality. Jenny… Beautiful Jenny…

A blast of light sent Rueben back to the end of another beautiful woman… She walked away. "Get out of here you bitch! No good fucking whore! Get the fuck out!" Rueben heard his father yell. Standing at the top of the rotting staircase, Ruben watched his mother's blue eyes dart towards him… Right before she shut the door and disappeared in the green Mercury. Daddy was still yelling. "Mother Fucking Bitch!" Rueben watched his fist pound into the wall, carefully examined the bulging of his muscles in his arm and he was fascinated to watch his blue tattoo enlarge with the force behind the muscle… Rueben wanted a tattoo, just like Daddy's - baby blue cursive letters… D- E- V- I- L. "Get out of here, bitch," Rueben declared trying out the phrase; rewarded by a proud smile from Daddy's shining gold teeth.

Flash! Rueben again, plunged into Jenny. Her eyes daring him; derisive.

Flash! "That Bitch left me! We'll see about this!"

Flashing of light! The small pocketknife rose into the air… "See if you can follow me now Bitch!"

Flash! "This is all your fault! You made Mommy leave! No bitch will ever stay with you, Rueben! No one will love you!"

Blinding flash! "Cry bitch cry! Move! You love me you know it! You need me! Move! Move!"

Flashing! "Daddy no, please daddy!" The small child was thrown into the padding of mustard- yellow sofa. His Levis were pushed down around his ankles and his exposed buttocks were blotched with redness. A dark figure approached the boy from behind and the truth of Rueben's sexual fixation was relived again in his eyes from its conception.

Rueben howled internally and tried to close his eyes. Helplessly he stared into the deep blue ocean of eyes he had hoped were forgotten. This time it wasn't a dream. Jenny was hovering inches away from Rueben's terrified face.

With a strong voice she whispered, "Welcome to someday…"

As the words enveloped Rueben, a strange feeling overcame him. A sensation he had never felt while living circulated through his blood stream and centered in his heart. Remorse started nibbling away at him, becoming more intense every second. The pain made him squint his eyes with vitality, but Jenny's eyes were waiting for him in his darkness, doubling the pain. Rueben cringed and shaped his body into a tight knot, unable to find freedom from the misery.

It was Jenny's turn to smile, "Welcome to eternity…"

Acknowledgments- I would like to thank everyone in my class for all of their support and gentle criticism. I would also like to thank the class for sharing all of their well-developed and enchanting stories with me; you all are very talented. A special thanks goes out to Anna, Rob, and Jessica who helped me in editing this paper… if I have any mistakes left it's your fault (just kidding). I am extremely grateful to Terry for allowing us all to participate in his class… Oh, and on a final note; thanks to everyone in the computer lab that had to wait for all of my papers to print out… and thank them all for being so "understanding" after I was finished and seeing that I had used all the paper… and ink. Thank you!

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