Thomas hears voices, and the worst of these voices belongs to a demon called Dinn. In a series of increasingly horrific rants, the demon re-frames Thomas’s declining mental health as a part of a secret training program, an occult procedure designed to cultivate the demons of tomorrow.
In the distorted world depicted by Dinn, gateways to hell lie behind every door. Friends and family are the enemy. And the only way for Thomas to survive his training is to dedicate himself to the demon’s prescribed rituals of loneliness, ill health, and pain.
Equal parts ferocious and seductive, Mutilation Song is a boundary-shattering horror novel that uses a hallucinatory narrator to explore the extremes of mental illness.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.60(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Jason Hrivnak was born and raised in Toronto. His first novel The Plight House was published in Canada in 2009, and had since been published in France. Mutilation Song is his second novel.
Read an Excerpt
All through the night I'd stood by the bed, watching him while he slept. Every fleeting little twitch that passed over his face helped stimulate my desire to hurt him. I woke him an hour before dawn and ordered him to report for duty outside, told him to move in double time or else feel the force of my wrath. He'd been sleeping fully clothed, shoes and all, and he rose from bed wearing a haggard expression, the crestfallen look of one who's failed to awaken and instead moved laterally between nightmares. I began my assault by showering him with abuse, adhering to him like a malignant shadow as he crossed the darkened room. I told him that his face looked like roadkill. I told him that an intellect as puny as his own could only be the product of severe organic brain damage. In a kind of waking dream I showed him high-speed film-footage of a neocortex undergoing the process of ischemia, lesions flowering like scrollwork where the grey matter had necrosed. "Pretend that the building is on fire," I said. "Pretend that the floor is crumbling. Pretend what you like, but shake off your torpor lest in some spontaneous outpouring of disgust I eviscerate you where you stand."
He rushed from the roominghouse and stepped out into the street, a desolate early-morning calm hanging trucelike in the air. Down the block, past islets of late snow, a last few members of the local drug-dealing syndicate stood idle in territories of shadow, and a last few desperate users hurried to trade, seeking the doses of crack cocaine that would carry them through the dawn. I told him to make for the rail yards. "Total time elapsed," I said, "from reveille to your arrival at this first designated vector was more than twice the figure required in order to achieve a passing grade. If this represents your very best effort then I advise you to vanish down one of these alleys and open your veins this instant, for in that case you stand no chance whatsoever of surviving the ordeals to come." I'd warned him countless times already that down in the installations his dawdling would prove fatal, ensuring moreover that he was broken to pieces before attaining the comforts of the grave. "Trust that death by your own hand," I'd assured him, "will be gentler than death by mine."
I watched him closely as he shuffled down the street. He'd abandoned weeks earlier his last concession to hygiene and his appearance was darkening, assembling itself scabwise around an archetype of the common derelict. He was dirty and ragged and bleak of eye, discharging on all frequencies the despondency of a pariah, but despite the extent of his accumulated filth I still found him deeply disappointing. By such an advanced stage of the program I expect to see a trainee disfiguring himself both in body and in mind, auto-perverting so as to confront the day's torments with some black approximation of joy. I expect to see a flesh grown heavy with deformities as it sickens into its new vocation. His refusal to incorporate the available corruptions made him a bottom- tier candidate, worthless and almost certainly destined for the cull, but I drew little consolation from that fact. His unscarred flesh was a brazen insult to everything I held most dear, proof that the methods I'd employed to that point had not been sufficiently brutal. Throughout his journey across the darkened precinct I filled his ear with threats of annihilation, vowing anew to crush everything within him that was decent or commonplace or mild. I told him I that should not be at all surprised if he perished this very day.
As he emerged from the tangle of residential streets he put his hands in his pockets and leaned forward into the wind, a cold air scouring the deadlands that lined the western perimeter of the rail yards. The pedestrian bridge that spanned the tracks loomed gantrylike up ahead and he homed upon it without lifting his gaze as if preprogrammed in a dream. "You will suffer terribly today," I said. "Always remember that the ruptures I aim to induce are not ends in themselves but rather prerequisites for securing your entrance to yet higher levels of ordeal. Picture me opening your ribcage like a drunken surgeon. Picture me drawing out your bone marrow and replacing it with novel alloys of molten steel and slag. I know you still believe that you can fail your way back to the life from which I plucked you, but attachment to such fictions will only compel me to keep raising the index of your torments. Thus far you have failed me as no trainee has failed before you and the fault for everything that befalls you now is therefore entirely your own. Know that I consider your every misstep to be a plea for harsher treatment. Merely by waking in the morning, by continuing to draw breath, you acquiesce to a domain shorn of limits," I said.
He had not yet wept and I noted this with consternation, for it seemed that only yesterday I'd been able to break him within minutes of reveille, maintaining him for however long I pleased in a state of sobbing desolation. I closed my eyes and imagined myself standing over the broken bodies of all the trainees I'd murdered over the years: the corpses were piled thigh-high all around me and hidden beneath them a stream of warm decomposition ran silklike over my feet. I drew strength from this image and from the notion that his body might soon join these countless others, yet another piece of worthless refuse thrown atop the mouldering pile. When I opened my eyes the vision of carnage hung momentarily before me like muscled steam and through its dissipating substance I watched him climb the stairs to the surface of the bridge proper. As he crossed the span into the penumbra of the rail yards I felt a brief and delicious tension like the frisson before the kill, and once the darkness had swallowed him completely I smiled and breathed deeply of the polluted air, for he now stood within my domain. I knew that if I unleashed upon him the ordeals then dancing in my imagination he would last for only a few months, a half-year at most, but the prospect of his imminent destruction was one I found delectable nonetheless. Call it a measure of my own obsessions, my enslavement to a nightbound ideal. Given free rein I would cleanse this program of all rhythm and restraint and periodicity and instead submit every single trainee to an unremitting stream of horrors. I would devise an assault of dazzling ferocity — better to let the legion go unreplenished than admit even one candidate who bears the taint of the mundane — and exterminate them all.CHAPTER 2
"Pretend that the building is on fire," I said. And as he rushed outside into the early-morning dark, I flung into his eye bright lifelike visions of conflagration and ruin, scenes of inferno that stood superimposed like phosphenes upon his physical environment. He saw the roominghouse roaring in its grimy socket like kindling set astride a hellmouth. He saw his fellow tenants awakening in flames and watched in horror as they burned alive, transmuting through a protracted process of immolation into blackened effigies of themselves. "Do not weep for these layabouts," I said, "and do not mourn their passing. And when they haunt you in the years to come, always stand defiant and hold fast to the line that this holocaust was for the best. Remind them that in life they were worthless urban trash and that nothing short of incineration could return them clean to the void."
Throughout his journey down the darkened streets I regaled him on the subject of fire. I explained that since burning was one of the canonical torments he would eventually, in the more advanced modules of the program, need to learn its every nuance from both the victim's side and the torturer's. I described to him the process by which I would plunge him every morning into the belly of a white-hot furnace, then remove him at dusk in order to graft a new flesh piece-by-piece onto the loom of his cindered remnants. I'd hoped that this glimpse of future agonies might produce at the very least some brief outbreak of sobbing, but his face instead remained fixed all the while in a dead bovine neutral mask. I wondered if I'd driven him to that stage of deep trauma where the face ceases to register any emotion at all, the raceways between mood and manifestation obliterated like common detcord. The dismantling of a trainee's affect is always a bittersweet milestone, for in the phases that precede it I gain from his expressions of anguish not only my most vital source of technical feedback but also the motivation to keep harming him. Vacant eyes might well be a sign of progress, but they do nothing to arouse me, nothing to keep me inflamed.
Once he'd crossed into the area known as the junction triangle, I ordered him to march the rail lines that formed its perimeter until issued with further instructions. Though I advised him to commit tenaciously to this assignment the march in truth had no point save to deplete his vital energies, inducing an exhaustion that would haemorrhage forth a portal unto crueller forms of ordeal. I spoke to him constantly as he walked along the tracks, mocking his every step. I employed a combination of threats and degradation to ensure his forward progress. The sun rose and under a brightening sky his surroundings began to awaken and stir, early-morning traffic blooming viral on the thoroughfares about. A sequence of city-bound commuter trains thundered past upon the rails and as he watched the smear of passing faces his sense of isolation festered into a wound both painful and ripe for aggravation, the proximity of all these mundane lives reminding him of his severance from the herd. I assured him that his old life was gone forever, that there remained not one soul in the workaday world that still cared whether he lived or died. I encouraged him to take pride in his newfound friendlessness, if not for its own sake then for the power and self-mastery it made possible. "To have potency is to be alone," I said. "Kinship is a garment of pig-iron and slag and he who lacks the fortitude to cast it off sinks drowning into the abyss."
Midmorning he encountered a section gang performing maintenance upon the track. And although he was a trespasser upon this ground, the workers had removed him enough times already to know the pointlessness in doing so yet again. Once having apprehended his approach they paused in their work and watched him in silence, their collective gaze fixed and inscrutable as if linked together by hivemind. He'd drawn abreast of them, had even begun to entertain a hope that he might pass them by without incident, when the foreman uttered a crude remark about the fashion sensibilities of madmen and by way of response the entire team of drudges roared with moronic laughter. "How pathetic you are," I said. "Openly mocked and yet you walk away in silence, gentle as any common lobotomite. Were you worth the merest part of my investment in your training you would turn back this instant and tear every member of that wretched work-party limb from witless limb. You would murder them all save the weakest in the group, then force that lone survivor to go the rest of his days wearing a garland of his fellows' tongues. You are a coward and you are vile," I said. "Vermin Ichor Lethal Ever: Vile."
By noon I'd grown dissatisfied with his rate of deterioration and ordered him thereafter to carry a fragment of broken cinderblock while he marched. This deadweight helped to accelerate his decline, pulling his balance out of true and denying him simple comforts like that of warming his hands in his pockets. He collapsed several times throughout the afternoon and although on each occasion I harrowed him back to his feet I found myself employing advanced punitive measures that I'd hoped to hold in reserve. Where he fell I made the ground beneath him formicate and crawl as if composed of swarming insects. I rendered the path transparent so that in spells of sudden and debilitating vertigo he could glimpse the blood- slicked infernal subterrains into which further loss of footing would plunge him. Late in the evening he fell into a faint from which even my most vitriolic words could not rouse him and since he was genuinely unconscious, not faking or simply wanting for willpower, I decided to let him drowse. I went out killing and when he finally awoke it was to hear me recounting for him all the murders I'd committed while he slept. "These deaths are on your conscience," I said. "If not for your insistence upon indulging your own laziness I would have been by your side these past forty minutes and all the hapless victims I've now left in my wake would still be alive, still breathing." As I began to detail for him the minutiae of my rampage he leapt as if scalded from the spot on which he'd lain and in resuming his march he picked up not only the cinderblock he'd dropped prior to collapsing but also a second that lay snow-eaten off the path, such was the great intensity of his sudden desire to appease me. He wept openly throughout his next circuit of the yards and though I found the violence of his sobbing to make poor compensation for its tardiness, I sensed that he was incapable at that particular moment of supplying a more worthy tribute. Like the god of some rapidly dwindling faith I made do with the pittance offered.
Darkness had fallen by the time I judged him to have reached a workable state of exhaustion. I wanted to keep him walking for a few hours longer yet, but the flecks of dry spittle that ringed his mouth spoke of advanced dehydration and I knew that the lacklustre momentum of his training would not survive a hospitalization. I led him down from the rails into a brambled hollow where nightly gatherings of local drunks had convened throughout the previous summer. Around a firepit glittering with broken glass stood a ring of ragged seating and under the cold late- winter sky this entire configuration gaped arctic and bereaved like the playthings of a dead child. I ordered him to rest and after collapsing into the remains of a slashed and mouldering easy-chair he slouched over onto his left side and quickly fell asleep. I then set to work assembling the equipment that I would require in order to perform the implantation: I improvised a table from a door and two trestles and I fashioned a set of surgical implements from pieces of rusted scrap. When all my preparations were finally complete I seated myself across from him and gazed into the blightscape of his sleeping face, imagining that I could read the future of the universe in the random twitching of his features. I saw worlds shuttered like abandoned homes, suns reared and expended in the sweep of a dreaming eye. It occurred to me yet again that for all the different emotions he inspired in the course of a given day — loathing, disgust, hatred, contempt — the most consistent of them all was jealousy. I envied him all the strange and left-handed virginities he stood to lose in the torments to come. What I would give to be whole again and to undertake once more, with unscarred flesh, the process of being broken.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Mutilation Song"
Copyright © 2018 Jason Hrivnak.
Excerpted by permission of ChiZine Publications.
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What People are Saying About This
Praise for Jason Hrivnak
“Jason Hrivnak’s Mutilation Song is without question a poison but it is also a kind of scripture. This steady incantation of depravity and suffering will not make you a better person but it will, if you find yourself within ten feet of it, entice you to despise all life in an exquisite and elaborate way. . . . You’re gonna love this one.”
Tony Burgess, author of Pontypool Changes Everything and People Live Still in Cashtown Corners
“Reading like the occult love child of Georges Bataille and David Lynch, Hrivnak’s Mutilation Song is an unnerving and surreal meditation on the demons that haunt us and on the nature(s) of evil. Compelling and unsettling, and definitely worth the read.”
Brian Evenson, author of Last Days
“Lyrical and hallucinatory, Jason Hrivnak’s Mutilation Song is a sensual atrocity, like The Screwtape Letters for demonomaniacs. Imagine the unholy daisy-chain of C.S. Lewis, J.G. Ballard, and Bret Easton Ellis and you have Mutilation Song.”
Bracken MacLeod, author of Come to Dust and 13 Views of the Suicide Woods
“First Rule of The Plight House : everyone talk about The Plight House. Hrivnak writes like a crazy angel in this addictive, astonishing debut.”
Lynn Crosbie, author of Where Did You Sleep Last Night?