We’re All JFK in Purgatory

A screaming came across the sky. It had happened before. It was JFK’s death knell as Jack brained him from afar with a sniper.

“You goddamn dunce,” John chastised. His accent reeked of a Massachusetts beanery twelve minutes from closing. He gave Jack a firm father’s slap across the back of the head. “Why’d you shoot him?”

“Son,” Jack shot back with the venom of an irritable Red Sox fan, “it had to be done.”

“What d’ya mean, ‘had to be done?’ You have any idea what you’ve done? You’ve killed the President of the United States!”

“Ya idjit! There’s no one else to kill him! It’s fate, ya fucking moron. He has to die. Since we’re the only ones here, we had to be the ones to do it. Why else do ya think this rifle was just laying here?”

The room was filled with the Technicolor wonderment of a hot September snow bank. JFK’s rotting skull flowed with the rich hues of an evaporating cup of milk. Someone cried a silent cry over the horizon. There was no horizon. Jack saw him. John heard him.

“I can’t remember my last memory,” Jack lamented. “I think it was of some sunny day at the beach. Or something. The sun was there. Or maybe it was the moon. The warm, soft embrace of the moon.”

“I can’t remember what water tastes like. Or liquor. Or pussy.” John took a puff from a velvet cigarette. “Remember Marilyn?”


“Yeah, me neither.”

Were there maggots here, they’d be burrowing into the brains of JFK spilled onto the loud white of the quiet day. But there weren’t. They just lay there like a pile of brains. Were John or Jack cannibals, they would have found those brains lying on the ground to be quite appetizing. But they weren’t. So they didn’t.

“I remember Lyndon,” Jack said.


“Lyndon. Little weasel fuck. Reminds me of a constantly disappointed groundhog.”

“Hm.” John had to think back on all the things he couldn’t remember. His memory was a decapitated unicorn with a spit slowly roasting its headless carcass: it tasted of rainbows. John had seen a unicorn once. He told the Secret Service to lob a grenade at it. “Nope. Can’t say I do.”

“Shame,” Jack said. “He had the largest supply of shrooms this side of the Tacoma.”

“Hot tits, do I miss my hash. I haven’t lit up since Cuba.” John pulled the cigarette from his mouth. “Whatever the hell’s in this isn’t the same.”

“Sh.” Jack shoved his hand in the general periphery of John’s face and stared down the Cyclops mounted on the gun. “There’s someone coming.”

“What? Another person? Who is it this time?”

“You… you’re not gonna believe this, but… I think it’s him again.”

“Again? This is the fourth time! You’d better not be fuckin’ with me, Jack.”

“Hold on.” Jack paused and lowered the death cannon. “Something seems different about this one.”

The body lying on the ground was wearing a charcoal suit and had silky auburn waves atop its crown. The man approaching had an obsidian suit jacket and rusted copper hair.

“It’s someone else.”

“Now, listen here, Jack, you’d better make fuckin’ certain, ‘cause, if it’s not, we’re both dead. We just killed the President of the United States.”

“Correction: The President of the United States just killed that worthless fuck. He has no jurisdiction here. I’m the motherfucking sheriff.”

The man on the nonexistent horizon had stepped over the corpse in front of him, giving it no more thought than he would a dead cat that had been electrified. He came to their perch, level to the ground, and raised his arm in greeting.

“Hello, gentlemen. May I ask why you did what you just did?”

John and Jack couldn’t place the familiarity of his accent. It flowed as smoothly as chilled Sam Adams.

“Sir, we were carrying out our duties. As the President of the United States, we are required to make sure that the Timekeeper’s will be done in this domain. This man was meant to die to maintain the stability of the timeline. We have physical evidence of our task if-“

“Excuse me, sir,” John interrupted. “May I ask who you are, to be asking us these questions?”

The man paused. John and Jack paused to meet his pause.

“I’m known as Kennedy. I’m the President of the United States. I’m here to keep the timeline stable.”

Kennedy reached inside his suit jacket and pulled out a revolver. He fired three shots into Jack, psychedelic streaks of neon spewing from the barrel. Every color known to man exited Jack’s body, among them the stark red that marked his demise and all the viscera it brought with it. John, sensing he was next, slid a switchblade out from a mechanism attached to the insides of his sleeve. There were three more inaudible bangs, and many more noiseless crunches of steel against flesh. Kennedy dropped to the floor and John stepped back, having survived the ordeal. Briefly. He felt the slick coating of the tinted pigments against his skin, ambrosia of hues spilling from the exit wounds left by the bullets of Time. All John could do was laugh, and smoke his cigarette once more.

He didn’t even notice the man who evaporated into existence behind him. It was the man with the charcoal suit and the auburn hair. He was wielding a katana sharper than God’s eyes. With one swift stroke, John’s head toppled beneath and rolled to the first body that fell. A pile of corpses lay before him, as there ever would be.

JFK knelt down and examined his handiwork, the work of the Timekeeper. There were none left except him, as there ever would be.

He held the katana outward, silver-daggered eyes staring into his abdomen. There was no one but JFK to kill JFK here. He plunged the harbinger of fate into his stomach, slid it into gear, then fell atop the others, becoming a single body. It had to be done.

Matt Marlin

If this story is any indication, Matt Marlin needs more sleep. Pronto. The chronically sleep-deprived writer channels his fatigued delirium to create stories fantastical, existential, and/or absurd. This is his first professionally published work and what he hopes is the first of many. In his spare time, Matt creates analytical video essays on film, writes screenplays, and is an ardent indie music lover. He is a senior at Lafayette College, pursuing a double major in English and Film & Media Studies. Currently, Matt is writing an honors thesis of interconnected fantasy short stories foregrounding diverse characters. He can be reached at mattmarlinwrites.tumblr.com.

Justin O'Neal

Artwork by Justin O'Neal: www.justinonealart.com