My name is Tony Meander, and I’ve got Columbine on my mind.

Many minutes have passed, perhaps an hour. I’m still standing here: smoking, pacing, waiting. I want in.

I’ve read the books, joined the websites, posted on the blog pages…but I’m hungry for more. I need something real, substantial, tangible, effable. I’m tired of living inside my head, sick of looking at words on a computer screen. I’m a man, not a username. I’ve got to find the key to the real world, to relief, catharsis, explosive escape.

Escape: to what? To fulfillment? To enlightenment? To nothingness? Whatever. Choose the label you prefer and stamp it to your forehead, wear it like the mark of the Beast.

Yesterday, I boarded a plane. I flew nonstop from Tampa, Florida to Denver, Colorado. All the while, in the cramped aisle seat, my body vibrated in anticipation under the hum of the plane’s engine, as if I were the string of a guitar that had been plucked by some giant, divine—or perhaps infernal—finger. I felt that I was edging towards my destiny, like I was being flung through the air as if from an enormous catapult, into the very navel of the throbbing, maddened, fevered world; I sensed that the trajectory of my plane wasn’t that of a typical, everyday flight, but instead a mystical launch into a nether dimension, an undiscovered country.

When we landed in Denver three hours later, I was sure that I had passed through a vortex into a different place, a place where things looked, smelled, tasted the same as they do in the world I’d known, but were really, truly, at essence fundamentally changed, were no more like the things in the world I’d left than ash is like its former substance, prior to being ravaged by fire. I had a sense—a clear, sure sense—that all I’d previously encountered in my life had vanished, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. This place where I’d touched down, seemingly the Denver airport, was really a site of infinitely greater significance. And I felt that the stupid zombies in human form who sat all around me—the old lady in the window seat next to me rapt in her romance novel, the bratty kids sitting behind me, kicking the back of my chair and sniggering to one another while their mother slept, the overly-rouged stewardess who’d handed me my peanuts and Sprite with an ever-unchanging bored and haughty expression stuck to her face, the pilot, who in his obligatory sleepy-pilot’s voice had told us over the plane’s speaker about our current altitude and our adjusted time of arrival and the current weather in Denver (cloudy, lows in the high 20s, a 30 percent chance of snow flurries), the co-pilot who no doubt slouched in the cockpit and traded bland small talk with the equally pleasantly dull owner of the pilot’s voice—I was possessed with the unshakable conviction that all of these “people” were useless, soulless, shallow walking dead, that they had no real substance, no way of understanding the momentous journey we all had taken. Only I knew the significance of our trajectory through the vortex into the New Place. I felt both smugly superior to and intensely frustrated—enraged, even—at the thickness of all these oblivious fellow-traveling zombies, who just had no clue whatsoever.

Would it really be so bad, I wondered, if this entire plane blew up, and if all of this excrement in the guise of humanity were vaporized, incinerated, leaving me alone the sole survivor, the mythic Ishmael of this doomed flying Pequod, emerging unscathed through the flames like gold through a refiner’s fire?

What if I’d managed to sneak a machine gun past one of those dumbshit security guards at the Tampa airport, and onto this plane? Would it really be any great loss if I were to mow down this bunch of fucking losers breathing my air in this artificial environment, this annoying gaggle of living corpses stuffing their smelly mouths with cheap nuts, jabbering too loudly, smiling idiotically, laughing their insipid laughs, stinking up the lavatories with their wretched crap?

Then: thud! We alighted, touched earth, and I was jolted from my murderous reverie. As we screamed down the runway, with the momentarily terrifying breakneck speed of a just-landing plane, I wondered what was becoming of me that I was thinking such thoughts. I wondered if I would die at that moment, if the plane wouldn’t be able to stop, would crash into the airport and explode, and if my soul would be consigned to a dark, musty corner of Hell for entertaining such awful fantasies. Reflexively, I crossed myself, horrified at the notion of meeting my Maker at such a juncture.

Then the plane’s brakes kicked in, our forward progress eased, and I knew that I wasn’t going to die. And once more, it dawned on me: this wasn’t actually Denver; it only looked like Denver. This was an undiscovered country. And now that I was here, I would never return to the place I’d known before.

Everything was different. I had entered the realm of the godforsaken. I wasn’t dead, but I wasn’t really alive anymore, either, at least not in the way that I’d always conceived of living. But then my concept of life, I began to discern, had always been somewhat limited. Now I was beginning to see things with a new, and perhaps superior, pair of eyes. I was another man. I’d sloughed off my previous soul like a snake sheds its skin. What was my new soul; what did it look like?

I pondered this absurd thought—what could it mean? What does anyone’s soul “look like?”—as I unbuckled my seatbelt, stood, and reached up to grab my carry-on bag from above. For this trip to another dimension, into this new, higher state of being, I’d packed light. You can’t take it with you. Everything that smacked of “it” had to be left behind, like the unfortunate unsaved refuse of mankind who remain earthbound after the rapture strikes…

I stalked through the Denver airport in a kind of trance. I must have made a few people nervous, grinning weirdly, hands jammed into the pockets of my cruddy, worn jacket, strange and perverse thoughts racing through my mind, causing me at times to chortle uncontrollably. I think I even once, obeying a sudden and irresistible whim, punched myself in the face, hard, then chuckled as I winced at the pain I’d caused myself. I unselfconsciously skipped around, darted up and down an escalator several times, sashayed ridiculously, then I strode into the airport bookstore and tucked an issue of GQ under my arm and promptly left, surprised and a little disappointed when no alarms went off and no distraught store clerk or airport cop gave chase.

It was the first time in my life that I’d ever stolen anything. But then, it wasn’t “me” who’d taken that issue of GQ, featuring a cover with one of those pretty new actors from some movie or other wearing a tuxedo and smiling the assured smile of one who’s got it made in the shade with the maid, like the cat who’s eaten the canary and who’s now eyeing the parrot. No, it wasn’t “me” at all; “me” was gone, he’d died on the plane of a heart attack…or was it a soul attack? Not “I,” Tony Meander, but something else in his form was cavorting around this airport, playing the fool, the madman, the prankster, the thief. I felt like I’d entered a dream, one of those best kind of dreams where you know you’re dreaming and thus know you can do whatever you want, with absolutely no consequences. That wild, raucous sensation, like being in a playhouse, only as a grown-up, with grown-up desires. You can grab every pretty woman you see and kiss her, fondle and grope her, and what’s she gonna do? Nothing but submit, of course, because she’s a part of your dream, an extension of your created reality.

“Du bist Gott!” I whispered excitedly to myself.

I didn’t grab anyone, feel them up, or force my tongue down their mouths, but I felt like I could, if I chose to. What could they do, these passing airport babes, these businesswomen, these cellphone-chatting wenches in their stockings and their high heels? What choice did they have but to give in? What choice did Mary have when she was raped and impregnated by God? To the victor go the spoils.

My eyes roamed everywhere, to their legs, their breasts, their faces. I caught their eyes, shamelessly, and smiled the way a wolf might smile to his prey before tearing them limb from limb with his teeth. Some of them ignored me, but I didn’t let that bother me; I only smirked at their standoffishness. They might affect the appearance of being coldhearted bitches, but I knew, deep down, that they truly were mine, and that they could no more resist me than Moses could have turned down Yahweh once He flung the burning bush in the midst of his chosen Israelite. You don’t wanna be my prophet? Yeah, right. You really think it’s up to you? I own you, fool! You don’t want to do my kinky will, you pretty bitty? Good luck with that. You belong to ME.

Yes, some of the more self-possessed of the airport honeys, striding purposefully to their connecting flights, paid me no mind, declined to meet my eyes. However, many others did return my wolfish leer. Of these, some looked shy, some faintly fearful. My inhuman grin broadened as I considered them quaking before me, filled both with apprehension and undeniable desire, about to be ravaged by the great I AM, der grosse Ich bin, comely little winged moths to be scorched, seared, incinerated by my giant, godlike, leaping, roaring flame, brought to the fulfillment of death, utterly consumed, yet still on fire; little burning bushes.

And then there were those—yes, oh yes!—who were not afraid, who looked back at me and brazenly returned my smile. These, it seemed, were the true believers, who recognized my divine fire and welcomed the spurt of my life-giving, life-taking spark. These were mine, and they knew they were mine. I could have had any of them on the spot, there in the midst of the airport terminal. They would open their arms in ecstasy as I blasted them, blew them to pieces, and in so doing, brought them up to my higher state, to serve me in my own divine realm. Little children of God. Foxy little children, ready for my special brand of murderous, salvific love; they, the foxes, me the hunter; they the does, me the wolf; me, me, me, their divine, deathly destiny…

And again, I shook myself. What had happened? Where was I? I’d wandered out of the airport, through the parking lot, and found myself in the middle of the street, a taxicab zooming towards me, the driver blasting his horn fiercely. I froze; he came to a stop just inches from my body, then rolled his window down and shouted furiously in his native tongue, no doubt calling down upon me the wrath of Allah.

Recovering, I hurried to the other side of the street and kept walking. It was then I became aware of the snow flurries and the chilly breeze. April in Colorado wasn’t necessarily springtime. In Florida, it was always balmy in April, and usually shorts-weather year round. But then, Florida was flat, and the grass grew thick, and palm trees lined the streets; in Colorado, by contrast, there were no palms, only pines, and the mountains loomed in the distance.

I was in a different place, indeed. There was no going back.

I stopped, stood, and shivered. What had come over me back there in the airport? Who, or what, had possessed me? What force was periodically seizing control of my being, making me think thoughts that were alien to my human consciousness? Things that, until recently, I’d never considered, nor dreamed of considering?

“Take stock,” I muttered. “Take stock of yourself. Tell me who you are. Tell me why you are here.” The snow began to fall harder. “Take stock, take stock, take stock,” I repeated, louder this time. A passing group of skateboarding teenage boys in ratty skateboarding clothes turned around and looked at me, smirked, elbowed one another, whispered among themselves. “Look at the loony bird. What asylum did he escape from? Silly fool. Queer-bait…”

I didn’t actually hear them say these things, but I heard them, as it were, in my mind’s ear. Their heard-yet-unheard insults burned in my cranium, and I felt myself transforming again, saw myself once more metamorphosing into that fiery beast. I turned, without thinking, and ran right up to them; their smirks quickly evaporated as I grabbed away the pack leader’s skateboard and brought it down hard upon his head. He screamed, cried, blood flew from his mouth; as one, the gaggle of boys turned and ran, stumbling and yelling “Oh shit!” and “What the hell?” and moaning pitifully, like they feared for their tender, young lives. I hollered after them, screaming something incomprehensible and terrifying, an unknown demon’s language, and kicked the skateboard into an embankment.

“Fuck you, fuckers!” I shouted, as they disappeared down the bend of the road. “FUCK YOU! FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!”

I don’t recall much about the next few minutes. It seems that I continued to wander down the street, through the falling snow, barely aware of myself or my surroundings. I must have hailed a cab, because the next thing I knew, I was sitting in the back of one. The driver had his head turned and was asking me something. I stared at him. He was short, dark, greasy, and smelly, either a Mexican or a Middle Easterner; I couldn’t tell which.

He looked at me, questioningly, with a searching, concerned countenance, then spoke again:

“I said, where you goin’, amigo?”

He must be Mexican, I thought, dully. I glanced at the dashboard and saw that his name was Jesus Something or Other. I heard myself reply to his question, in the drained, laconic voice of one who’s lost his way and just doesn’t care anymore:

“Take me to Columbine High School.”


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