My name is Tony Meander, and I am a Columbineoholic.

Does that sound corny? Like I’m trying too hard to be clever? Aren’t all of these “-oholic” suffix words just a bit too cutesy? “Chocoholic.” “Shopoholic.” All quite benign, provoking an indulgent chuckle from others.

But what if the thing you’re addicted to isn’t just bad for your body or budget? What if you find yourself irresistibly drawn to a mass murder/suicide? What does that say about you, or communicate about you to others?

No tolerant half-smile, shake of the head, or shrug of the shoulders will be forthcoming, certainly.

No: tell people you’re obsessed with Columbine, and their eyes will cloud over. “Columbine? You mean the school shooting?” But no…they won’t even ask that. They already know. No one in the English-speaking world thinks of a “columbine” as a flower anymore. It’s as though the word never meant anything else besides a high school soaked in blood, sprayed with bullets, scorched with bombs.

And…can you believe that the school still exists? There it is…just around the bend, tucked away in its peaceful, affluent Denver suburb of Littleton, Colorado, just a cannon’s fire away from where I stand by the roadside, in a dazed, darkly ruminative state of mind…but forgive me; I’m getting ahead of myself…I often do. It seems I’m always either ahead of myself, or behind myself; never am I truly with myself. But that’s neither here nor there.

And neither am I.

In a way, of course, I am right here, on this sidewalk in Littleton, shivering in the Rocky Mountain air in my flimsy jacket with a zipper that doesn’t work, that always gets stuck, pacing, smoking a cigarette (a habit I’ve begun recently…what am I doing? I’m not a smoker!), furtively glancing back and forth, every now and then scribbling things in my little notebook tablet as the cars zoom by. I’m dimly aware that I must look suspicious. But I’m not suspicious, or am I? I’m here, but I’m there, and sometimes I feel like I’m nowhere. I want to find myself, but I don’t know if there’s anything to find.

Does this seem bizarre to you? Or merely pretentious, like I don’t know what I’m talking about? I know what you mean; I feel the same way.

Why am I here?

I don’t mean, why am I where I am, meaning physically, in this infamous Denver suburban enclave, drinking in the atmosphere, along with the vile nicotine from this cancer stick on which I rapaciously suck. I mean, why am I here, stuck in this peculiar state of mind? When people look at me like I’m crazy, like I’m a creepy and potentially dangerous freak, might they have a point? Perhaps it doesn’t bode well that a part of me—maybe even most of me—actually enjoys seeing this reaction in others. I want to blow their minds…blow them away, but not literally…or do I?…maybe…I think…(Oh God, I’m overusing ellipses now…how juvenile…)

If nothing else, I’m too old for this shit. I’m over 30, for the love of all things decent! 33 going on 16, apparently. I feel like I ought to add some stage directions now. (Puffs cigarette sullenly, throws it down and crushes it underfoot, a sneer rising to his lips.)

If there’s anything more irritating that an angry teenage boy, it’s an angry teenage man. Yet here he is: here I am. “I’m a freak, I’m a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here.”

Actually, I’m not from around here, not native to suburban Denver, not used to this mountain air. I don’t know anyone from this place. It’s pretty, I guess (yawn), but then what is there to see? My eyes focus again on that building in the near distance. I think to myself: kids still go there. Teachers still teach there. To them, it’s just another school. Not a monument to the tragedy of man’s inhumanity to man. Neither is it a metaphor for teenage angst, nor a microcosm of America’s unseemly upper-middle-class underbelly. Not a breeding ground for death, mayhem, destruction, or terror, either.

Just an American high school, like any other, I reflect, as the wind whips up and rattles the hood of my jacket and my nicotine-stained teeth begin to chatter from the April cold. A high school much like mine. Except I’m from Florida, not Colorado. Florida, where it’s warm and flat, but not too different for all that. People are people, after all. Everybody hurts. Everybody shits. Everyone sucks, except those who swallow.

Man! That kind of vulgar, pseudo-lyrical, cynical sarcasm belongs in a sullen kid’s journal, right next to his hand-drawn pictures of a big, muscular man with a giant machine gun, blowing away everything in sight, his face set in a hard, remorseless glare of de-termination, “Ich bin Gott,” in the thought bubble over his head…

I light another cigarette, and I feel a fleeting rush at the warmth of the lighter and the billow of my smoke-exhalation, and I momentarily enjoy the sensation of striking the pose of an iconic cinematic anti-hero of some sort, a man not to be trifled with, nor regarded lightly. So that’s the benefit of smoking! It gives you something to do with your hands, thus helping to ameliorate the dread disease of self-consciousness, the condition of feeling like an utter dork, someone who doesn’t fit in with his environment, who’ll be ruthlessly snapped up and devoured like a lamb who actually believes that shit from the Bible and foolishly tries to lie down with a pack of ravening lions…well, give that lamb a ciggy, and suddenly he doesn’t look so vulnerable. The badass factor.

Of course, give that lamb a gun, and nobody is gonna mess with him…“Yeah? Whatchoo lookin’ at, furry-face? You roarin’ at me? Didn’t think so, gazelle-breath. Not so tough now, are ya? That’s right, pussycat, go skulk away with your tail between your legs. Not so easy to be hard when you’re staring down the barrel of a rifle, is it? Not so inclined to strut and swagger are you now, you Aslan-wannabe! At least, not while you’re entertaining the fearful notion of bullets ripping through your spinal column, leaving your feline frame ravaged and useless, a lifeless husk of flesh and fur, to which your brain stays miserably attached, helpless, with paralysis setting in and vitality oozing out…

Puff, puff. Sneer. Scratch zit. Daydream about massacring your enemies, seeing their bodies lying in a pile, their now lifeless faces frozen with shock and terror, newborn buckshots nestled in their hearts, their wretched souls launched into the fire…glare wistfully into the distance. Hold onto 16 as long as you can…but why? You’re nearly 34, bucko! Why keep a hold of that mess? Let go of 16, you dope! Allow it to recede into oblivion…nope, can’t. Why not? Don’t know, just can’t. Retreat not an option. No way out but through…sneer boldly, you thirtysomething balding badass-wannabe. Suck that cig. Inhale the poison. Good, good. Release your anger! Slavery to hatred is your path to freedom. Grip the red-hot poker of your blazing rage, feel the burn, let it tear your flesh off, become the man you were destined to be! Burn down the world. Set off the H-bomb within you and incinerate all those zombies posing as humans…drag them down to Hell with you, make them feel the burn!


This is an excerpt from Andy Nowicki’s novella, The Columbine Pilgrim. You can purchase the book from Terror House Press here.