Thursday, February 8, 2018

Metempsychosis - Migration in Six Parts

a rag doll superimposed over a man in anguish

MetempsychosisMigration in Six Parts


          Like a tattered scarecrow Donovan sat slumped in the dusty corner of the deserted church, his shattered form shrouded in shadows, and his arms wrapped tightly around his midsection in a chilled hug.  Thin strands of earthen tresses obscured his hollow face; his crystal green eyes encaged the mosaic pattern spilling from the stained glass window onto the stone cold floor.  Entranced in mournful thought, he failed to notice the approaching female.
          Like a cat in all its pride, Anna pranced toward him, a black transparent nightgown enhancing the sultry motions of her walk.  Burnished auburn hair cascaded gently to her shoulders, partially cloaking her youthful visage.  Catching her form from the corner of his eye, Donovan glanced up, at which time, in the midst of her prance, she tripped on her own oversized heels and crashed to the floor.  Giggling with embarrassment, she stood up, leaving her shoes lying behind.  "Oh my!" she exclaimed, brushing herself off.  "Would you look at that?  I've gone and gotten my new nightie dirty, and on its first day out."  She shook her head lightly back and forth with the realization that there was nothing she could do.  "Oh well, let me introduce myself.  I'm Anna, and I wanna know what you're doing in this old church." 
          The cadaverous man examined the young girl with a light disinterest.  "Why are you here?"  he echoed with sarcasm." And why are you costumed in your mother's clothes?  You look foolish."
          "I thought you might be lonely.  And they're not my mother's clothes; they're mine.  I'm a grown woman, and I can wear what I like!" 
          "Don't be silly.  You're a child.  You can't be more than six."
          "I'm not a child," she paused with thought.  "But, if you'd like, I can change."
          "I would appreciate it.  I'm not comfortable looking at a half-dressed lass."
          "I'm a woman!" she retorted as her night gown changed into a flowered sun-dress, "and you're avoiding the question."
          The man lowered his eyes from her gaze.  The room grew darker as a squadron of cumulonimbus clouds crept over the battle front and into the village.  As he searched his mind for words that would not come, he noticed her tiny bare feet.  Their milky skin was clean, still retaining a few wrinkles from a recent bath.  She sifted the dirt on the floor with her toes, their nails trimmed tightly against the skin revealing how well she had been cared for.
          "I'm here to die, he whispered in trembling breath.  I was stabbed in the war a while ago... see."  He unfolded his arms where his once white shirt had stained a deep red.  The young girl turned from the bloody mess as he once again folded his arms to cover the gash. The sounds of violence from outside crept into the sanctuary, destroying the uncomfortable thick silence that had pervaded the room, as they both became unnaturally aware of the war's song unfolding.  A choir of planes flew low overhead; bombs exploded adding rhythm.  Guns fired and a bass line of men lay groaning in harmony.  A mother received word of her eldest son's death and sang her screams to the rhythm of the song.


          An aged mulatto, tiring on his return from the town well, rested on the top step of the war-drenched church. Two wooden buckets filled with semi-clean water sat on the step by his feet.  The first drops of rain began ambushing his leathery face, opening his unoccupied eyes.  He wiped the rain from them and focused on what was before him, a gold circle sewn to a verdant-grey garb.  He followed the path of gold up to a young face topped in a military hat.  Recognizing the opposing man, he stood and saluted him.  With mud brown eyes the soldier stared coldly at him.  The mulatto extended his arms and grasped the soldier's uniform by the shoulders.  "Ivan? Ivan, is that you?  It's me, your grandfather.  Don't you rec..."
          A second soldier intervened.  As the mulatto was pushed back, his sentence left unfinished, he tripped over the steps and crashed into the church doors.  The remaining soldiers surrounded him and brought him to his feet.  Three times they beat him against the church.  Each time the doors, nearly breaking under the force, trembled with more fear and pity than the previous.  He looked up, with fear-filled eyes, at those resembling his own.  "No, Ivan, please don't," he begged as a drop of red rain dripped from his lips.
          Ivan turned to the general and began to speak in a language unknown to the mulatto.  The general, shouting with disapproval, tore the rifle from Ivan's grasp. He placed the barrel tight against the mulatto's stomach, and then forced Ivan's helpless hand onto the cold metal of the gun. The general's muscular grip forced the trigger back as Ivan screamed.  The mulatto tensed.  His body jerked and then completely relaxed; his eyes stared wide at Ivan.  The sour stench of blood and urine filled the winter air.  As the rain came it washed away the blood that had splashed onto Ivan's face.
          The church doors smashed open, creating an unnaturally peaceful zephyr.  A black shadow fell across the mulatto, engulfing him with cold.  A female figure robed in black stood in the archway.  Blood ran down her cheeks, spilling from the cups that once held her eyes and splashing onto the stone steps.  The silken train of her robe swept across the rocks and licked up the red liquid, leaving only a dreamlike stain to mark her attendance.  She loomed above the elder and a victorious smile snapped across her twisted countenance.  He felt a splash of warmth as blood tainted drool dripped from her fangs and pooled onto his face.  At the popping of her knees he knew cold death had pounced upon him.
          Soft hands begin to gently stroke back the matted tresses of his hair.  He opened his eyes to a silhouetted figure in bright light.  "Dear Lord," the words shook from his lips, "thank you, thank you for saving me from that, that demon." He sat up trembling with fear, supporting himself with his weathered hands.  "You're an angel?"
          "What?" Anna asked with amusement. "Oh no dear man, I'm not an angel as such, but I am going to escort you on your journey."
          "You're Death?" the man asked with shock.  "But... but the beast... I thought... You're not frightening... you're a child!"
          "Oh dear man, that was just a manifestation of your fears. Perceptions are often deceiving.  What you expected to come as a tempest came actually with lullaby whispers and now stands before you with compassion.  Now come with me." She extended her hand in invitation, "there is a confused young soldier who needs to talk with you."
          "Ivan?  They killed him?  They killed him too?"
          "I'm afraid so.  He turned on them.  He killed the general and injured two soldiers before his death, but he feels your death was his fault, that maybe he could have done more.  He needs to speak with you, to learn you don't blame him."  The storm clouds above them had split, and they sat in a single ray of sunshine.  "Are you ready to see him?" 
          "Yes.  Oh yes. I know it wasn't his fault.  What could he have done?  I'm ready to see my grandson.  And what of my wife, is she there too?"
          "Certainly," Anna answered as she and the mulatto faded to mist and disappeared into the sunlight.


          Inside Donovan stared glassy-eyed at the floor, unaware of anything that had occurred between Anna and the gentleman outdoors.  Blood filled spittle had pooled into his mouth.  He swallowed harshly, forcing it down the closing caverns of his throat. 
          Anna sat down next to him.  Tilting her head with compassion, she attempted to console him.  "I know it is not me you fear," she spoke in kitten whispers.  She searched thoroughly his pale iris for thought, but could discern none.  She stared at her own ghostly figure mirrored in his hollow eyes, her weightless form a portraiture of the painted Virgin trapped in the stained glass behind him.  Donovan, within his mind, was trapped in the obscurity of a small cellar.


          The soil drenched smell of wet earth stuffed the caverns of his nose.  A ray of light penetrated the pitch through a crack in the ceiling and fell onto his clay covered form.  
          Cold, it's so cold.  Thoughts turned through his little boy mind.  Mommy, I didn't mean to; it was an accident.  I won't do it again.  Please let me out.  Mommy?  Why won't you let me out?  Can't you hear me crying, screaming?  Why don't you come to me?  Mommy? 
          Days slumbered silently by, the hunger stayed constant until he grew nearly numb to the pain.  Each day of winter grew colder, as daylight became sparse and loneliness devoured him.
          I'm frightened, Mommy.  He spoke silently to himself.  Each day I can see it more clearly, the beast waiting to taste me.  It scares me, Mommy.       Please let me out.  I'll be good.  Donovan cried hopefully at the opening door as dim light flooded in from above, like the light of an angel, he once thought, like those described in church.  His maladjusted eyes could barely identify the figure that each day slipped him a shallow mug of water and a thin slice of bread.  Please, Mommy, let me out.  I'll be good!  Please.  It's so lonely down here.  But the door would always shut; the light would always slip into black.
          Mommy?  Loneliness.  Coldness.  Hunger.  Fear.  Eternal, black loneliness.
          The memories began to recede; his mind soaked them in like a tear in the sand.  As present day devoured the past, his numbed nerves became aware of a similar pain.  As his thoughts pushed through the stickiness of his mind, he grew more paranoid of the identical blackness that awaited him, of the cold, dampened earth that would fall upon him, and of the eternal loneliness that would engulf him.


          Donovan jerked back and hit his head on the stone wall, snapping him to reality.  In inebriated consciousness he knew what death would bring him, and this he would not accept.
          Fight, I must fight.  He struggled with his thoughts.  I will not die. I will not be alone.
          She crawled to him and wrapped her arms about him, cradling his form.  "You mustn't fight, Donovan."  She spoke in lullabies, whispering his name.  As if she had heard his thoughts, she spoke about loneliness.  How could she know?  She could not understand; yet, she assured him all things are not black.
          He couldn't trust her.  He would not trust her; he must fight fear, black, loneliness.
          "Close your eyes," she sang, as she gently shut his eyelids with her fingers.  A lullaby.  She was singing him a lullaby.
          Fight!  He must fight!  But her arms were so warm.  Her words such a sweet hypnosis.  Too weak.  He could not fight.  Warmth.  Her arms were so warm.  Sleep, devouring sleep.


          "Anna!" the strong southern voice of an aged black lady filled the summer air.  Eying the child, Mrs. Hetland approached the great chestnut oak where Anna sat.  "Anna Marie, I called you to supper ten minutes ago!  Your mamma's gonna skin us both if you don't get in that house."
          Anna sat in peppered sunlight in her flowered dress; a rag doll lay at her side.  I'm acomin', Mrs. Hetland.  Don't you have a hissy now."  She stood up from the sand pile that rested beneath the tree and reached down for the doll.  "What's for supper tonight?" she spoke as they turned toward the white Victorian house.
          "Never you mind Miss Anna.  You'll find out after you get washed up.  Now run on ahead, old bones like mine can't run as fast as young ones like yours."
          Anna took off in a trot through the screen door and upstairs to her play room.  She moved apart a collection of dolls she kept on the bookshelf in front of the window.  Each doll stared soulfully at her; each looked content.  She placed the rag doll among them.  "Your new home," she spoke.  As she started to go down for supper, she glanced back at her new doll. 
          Warmth.  Friendship.  Peace.  Anna knew all was well, for across Donovan's cotton face beamed a cherry red smile.


artist depiction of a dying man


          David, a smile pinning the width of his face, galloped a cheery gait down the high school corridor.  With his head held high, his vision lightly skipped across the hundreds of faces that scrutinized him daily.  His hair, a mop of burgundy tresses, swayed with his movement.  Heavy denim bell bottoms and a baggy flannel shirt added to the oddity of his demeanor.
          "David!" a female voice called from behind.  "David, wait up." David turned about to see Morgana rushing down the hallway. 
          "Hola," responded David, poorly faking an accent.
          They stopped in front of the auditorium doors, their drama class awaiting them.  She looked up at him. His bewitching gaze affixed to hers, beckoning her to peer back.  This she did with great pleasure.  She had found him.
          She had memorized his schedule.  Every day she looked for him, flushed with insecurity.  She didn't obsess about finding him, but casually walked in the direction of his upcoming class.  She avoided appearing too anxious, but she needed the security he offered her.  They shared a secret, and no one else could dare fathom how the two felt.
          One day not long ago, when the thin dry air smelled of orange, red, and yellow leaves toasting in the sunlight, Morgana spoke to David in art class.  Their acquaintance was not new; they had been friends for two years, but neither could dismantle the other's pretense.
          The memorized lines were spoken.  "Did you have a good weekend?"
          "Not bad.  How 'bout you?"
          And a simple conversation turned deep.  The trembling words fell, tumbled from Morgana's stone lips.  "But I'm not 'normal'...  I'm...."  She paused.  Could she trust him?  "Ah you," she spoke slowly, tilting her head to one side.  She smiled, laughed.  His reaction was not to be feared.
          "Odd, to put it kindly," He spoke, brushing his hair to one side.  "Kinda like me."
          David seemed the stronger one, despite his dependence.  Forever needing a fix, he would use pretty much anything he could get his hands on.  This was certainly the reason his dad made him leave home, but David handled it okay.  He relished his madness rather than resented it.
          Melancholy and timidity, however, were inborn into Morgana's disposition.  Their neighbors and peers mocked them both.  Morgana despised what they spoke about her, whispers behind her back, and was often quiet vulnerable to the gossip. She feared her madness, and this made her weak.  So often David took care of her.
          The bell rang and they were late.  David withdrew his gaze from hers.  Smiling, he pulled open the heavy blue doors and they sauntered inside.

*   *   *

               On a frigid night, when the new moon hid in shadows, the phone rang at Morgana's house, disturbing her from a near nap.  "Hello," she spoke.
          A repressed and detached voice responded.  "Please come to me," David begged through the receiver.  The phone clicked.
          Morgana climbed from her father's recliner and wrapped herself in her winter jacket.  She grabbed her keys from the kitchen counter and hastened to David's apartment.
           Upon arrival, she hurried for the porch.  The moist night air tasted sweet like black licorice.  She rang the door bell and waited.  Syrupy, slothful music dripped from the stereo in David's bedroom, oozing out through the cracks around the doorway.    David did not answer.  She pounded on the door with her fist.  Still no answer.  She tried the door.  Unlocked.  She pushed the door against the oppressive melody and went inside.
          A sliver of lamp light slid from beneath the door to David's room and directed Morgana through the darkness.  "David," she called.  No answer.  As she approached the door she shivered.  The song played unnaturally slow, the record player dragging it at a misadjusted speed.  Everything moved slowly, almost stopping, straggling with the song.  The door to David's bedroom seemed larger and more oblong than before.  It was white, too white, clean as if coated with fresh paint.  As she pushed the door it felt heavier than before; she actually had difficulty getting the door to move. 
          Across the threshold, David, his right side towards the ceiling; his eyes lightly closed, lay naked atop white sheets stained red.  His hand gripped tightly a bit of notebook paper.
          A torrent of emotion overtook her.  Horrified, despondent, and abandoned, a cry plunged from Morgana's lips, and she ran to the edge of the bed.  "David, my David!" she wailed in shallow breath.  She ran her hand down his arm and clutched his hand in hers, looking for some response across his face.  "Please open your eyes, David.  I need you." 
          Upon hearing her voice his eyes fluttered open.
          He was alive.  Adrenaline jutted through her body, urging her to get help, but his dark stare pulled her.  She didn't want to leave his gaze, so warm and protecting, ever melting reality.  It was her sanctuary.  But she must look away.  His life...he will die!  Die!
          "No!" she screeched in jerky spurts.  "No. No. No!"  She lunged for the phone on the nightstand behind him.
          With a trembling hand, David shoved the paper, all stained with blood, into her face, streaking the red liquid across her cheekbone.  She would understand. 
          She took the crimson paper from his hand and read.  I must die.  You feel my pain, you know my torture.  You think me to be so strong, but I need you.  I can't die alone.  Please hold me.  I am afraid.
          Morgana returned the receiver to its cradle.  The song invaded her, disturbed her, and she knew what must be done.  She lay down beside him, facing him, staring into his eyes.  She stroked back the matted tresses from his face, traced his perfect visage with her fingers, retaining every detail of her David.
          She picked up his right wrist and examined the lengthwise gash, then noted the red laceration above it.  She didn't need to see the other, for she knew a rusty nail punctured it.  He had been unable to complete the task.  She would help him.  She would help her David.  She loved him, more than anything.  She would please him. 
          He was beautiful, despite his paling complexion.  His languid lips compelled her to kiss him. He responded, entangling his tongue with hers.  She desired to be with him, one more time, her beautiful man.  She pulled his shivering form close, burying him in her bosom.  "My David, I'll care for you," she mumbled, pulling a heavy quilt from the bottom of the bed up about them both. 
          His eyes closed, then opened, closed again, the weight of his lids too much for him.  Hot, so hot, then cold, hot again, cold.  His chest was heavy, pressing on his lungs, making breathing difficult.  His fingers, toes, then arms and legs tingled, numbing.  Time.  Time slowly passing.  Fleeting hotness.  Dizziness.  Increasing numbness.
          The record skipped, repeating itself, repeating itself, repea...numbness, weakness, his breath increasingly shallow.  Numbness.  Blackness.  Death.
          He was fascinating and handsome in his death, like a stillborn baby to a mourning, new mother.  She released her embrace and yanked the stereo cord from the outlet.  The song slowed to a stop.  She curled up close to him, forgetting his death.  She closed her eyes and held him, trying to ignoring the tick, ticking of the clock.
          The promise, she must fulfill it.  She opened her eyes, pushed back the covers, stood up, and gently rolled his body onto its back, spreading his arms out wide and pulling his feet close together.  She picked up the hammer from beside the bed and took a nail from the nearby mason jar.  Morgana fixed the rusty point of the nail tightly against his sticky flesh.  Hauling the hammer back, she drove the metal into the flesh and bone.  With continuing blows she forced it through the marrow and out the other side.
          She stood back, stared at him, and then spoke calmly, "I can't leave his nakedness exposed." 
          She shrouded him from waist down with a sheet, and then opened his closed eyes wide.  She walked to his antique dresser, and picked up a Polaroid camera.  "You look beautiful," she muttered and snapped a series of shots. 
          With a metallic silver pen Morgana printed unrecognizable gibberish across them.  The final photo, however, was incomplete in its development.  As she pushed the photos into an inner pocket of her jacket, the ink reacted to the process and vicious black lines burned into David's perfect form, a cruel joke.
          She turned from the cadaver and ambled through David's heavy doorway and out the apartment entrance.  The edifice loomed against the night sky, as if it might very well fall on her and crush her.  She climbed into her vehicle and turned the key; the old car didn't want to start.  "Come on," she encouraged her motor and tried again with success.  She turned the radio to a local station and drove towards home.  As she came to a stop sign at the end of the road a blue Pinto sped by.  David's roommate, she noted.  She watched in the mirror as the taillights grew smaller and then disappeared.  The radio whispered the first notes to David's song.  She had grown tired of it.  She fumbled for the small black knob and turned the station.


picture of a blue teddy bear with guts


Emy was lost, lost in water droplets of translucent crimson, which sparkled like rubies in the sunlight.  She watched them, drop after drop, as each one rolled down her skin, dawdled on her breasts, and then crashed onto her teddy bear Blue's drenched coat.  There was red everywhere -- streaked across the floor, on the walls, streaming down the shower drain.  Emy felt a hollow aching that left her trembling with despair as she looked into the wanting eyes of her Blue.  Oh Blue, poor Blue, all covered in blood, she thought.  She cradled his head in her lap and caressed his soiled face.  My Blue.  The red was everywhere -- in his hair, on his face, in his clothes. 
Sirens trilled in shrill alarm, the fervor of their panic ever intensifying as they came closer and closer. 
As Emy reached for the shampoo bottle, she heard muffled voices somewhere nearby, but she stayed focused on the task at hand.  She snapped the bottle open and filled her palm with its gooey contents.  She covered Blue's eyes with a washcloth and worked his hair into a pink lather.
A loud crash brought the voices closer.  They grew louder and more frantic, and suddenly, the bathroom door was bashed open.  
The officers just stood there with their jaws agape -- staring, just staring.
Emy darted her eyes from cop to cop and whispered, "I, I can't -- I can't get the blood out of his hair."

*   *   *

            Fading sunlight spilled through an open window.  The curtains, a colorful mosaic like a patchwork quilt, stirred in a chilling breeze.  Mischievous crickets delighted in the coming dusk.  Whippoorwills and ravens chirped and twittered their goodnights.  Emy lay withered across the width of her childhood bed with her tear stained face buried in Blue's belly. 
            She couldn't believe it happened two nights ago.  It felt like seconds ago.  Oh God, did she hurt, like he was still inside her, raping her, raping her, raping her.  His skin was white, never knowing the sun, and his eyes were pale like the milked over pupil of a dead fish.  He had painted his face, and his eyebrows were shaved.  He looked like some vulgar drag queen.  Straggled strands of grease black hair hung about his frightful mug, and he had slowly dragged them across her face, teasing her flesh.  She wanted to swat them away so badly, but he held her down.  He wore a leather coat.  He unzipped his jeans.  She noticed that the bottom of his T-shirt had come unhemmed.  Then he --
            Stop it!  Stop it!  Stop it!  Stop thinking about it.  Just push it away.  Push it away, she thought.  She stared at her distorted reflection in the blackness of Blue's eyes. 
She thought about when her mother had died.  It was a bad winter that year.  Her mother's car had hit a patch of ice and slid off the road into a pond.  They searched and searched for her, but a fresh snow had hidden all signs of the accident.  Three days later, her mommy's frozen cadaver was finally pulled from its watery grave.  Her father, destroyed with grief, gave no comfort, but Blue, Blue was there, ready to absorb her little girl tears.  And when her first love, Sean, dumped her at the prom, she went home to the loving arms of her Blue. Blue was always there.
             She hugged Blue tightly and wept into the belly of her only friend.
*   *   *

            Emy must have dozed off, for she awoke in darkness shivering with cold, yet she felt sick with heat -- sticky and sick to her stomach with a dull ache in her head.
            The clock displayed "1:24" in red.  She fumbled for the lamp.  As she sat up on her knees, the mattress springs pushed into her tender flesh.  Every muscle in her body resisted and begged her to lie back down.  She shut the window and locked it.  She pressed her forehead against the clear pane and watched the stars become hazy with her steaming breath.
           Time promised to heal all wounds, yet it slipped by so agonizingly slow.  She pulled the drapes together and fell back against the mattress.  She held her breath for a moment and then exhaled with a sigh.  She unbuttoned her jeans and worked them off.  She covered herself with the quilts.  She pressed her feet against the footboard -- first the right one, then the left one, right, left, right.  She felt so cold. 
            You like it.  Say it.  You like it.  The words echoed through her mind.  His voice was so harsh and deep.  He had dragged his hair across her face.  No!  her mind screamed. 
"My life is over," she whispered.  She snorted and swallowed snot.  Blue, where is Blue?
She had knocked the teddy bear into the floor.  She reached out and grabbed the stubby figure by its head.  Her fingers sank into his cotton form; his silky fur tickled and soothed her skin.  She curled up with Blue and buried her face in his belly.  She had dressed him in a dirty flannel shirt belonging to her husband, Lucas.  She inhaled deeply, breathing in her husband's sweat and cologne. 
You like it.  Say it.  You like it.  The words echoed through her mind.
Lucas had watched helplessly, desperately, as the man had raped her.  He had begged him to stop, to just please stop.  She rubbed the sickly white skin where her engagement ring and wedding band had been just two days ago.  Why did he have to take them?  Her mouth felt dry.  Her stomach cramped.  She leaned off the bed and hung her head over the trashcan.  She tried to hold it down, but she puked anyway, missing the trashcan and spewing bile down her chin and onto the floor.  She heaved again and again, even though she had nothing left in her stomach.  She wiped her face on a quilt.  She bit her lip, bringing blood; it stole the taste from her tongue and left emptiness.  How can I go on?  she thought.  She closed her eyes, buried her face in Blue, and flooded his belly with tears.
She wanted to die.
Emy picked up her wedding picture from the nightstand.  Why had her father put it there?  Its ornate silver frame reflected her stretched and misshapen visage.  Lucas smiled at her with his baby face all lit up with a child's delight.  She felt enraged and yelled, "Smile!  Smile, goddamnit!  Go ahead.  Laugh!  You think it's just so funny don't you?  How could you leave me at a time like this?  You fucking son of a bitch!  You goddamn bastard!  I hate you!  I hate you.  I'm glad you're gone!"  She hurled the photograph at the wall, shattering it. 
            "No!" she yelled.  She jumped from the bed and fell to her knees.  Shards of glass bit into her flesh.  "I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry," she cried as she rescued the photo from the broken glass.  "I didn't mean it.  I just can't take it anymore.  I just want it all to go away."  She picked up a piece of the jagged glass.  I want to go away, she thought.  She looked down at her wrists, still black and blue from the rapist's grip.  She envisioned cutting away those bruises, washing them away with her own hot blood.  She could see it, and she wanted it.  It would all be over.  The nightmare would end.
Not like this, she thought.  Lucas couldn't stomach the sight of blood.  She couldn't slit her wrists, but the happy pills the hospital gave her would be perfect.  She pulled the bottle of pills from the nightstand drawer.  She took the bottle of water from the nightstand, gobbled up all of the pills, and curled up with her Blue. 
Her limbs tingled and went numb.  All the colors of heaven and earth swirled together, becoming thick and black like tar, and as the room faded to black, life gave way to something resembling a dream or a memory, but more like hell.

*   *   *

            Emy and Lucas took off their shoes and trotted hand in hand up and down the edge of the frigid water as the sun peaked over the horizon.  She saw a great big sand dollar being washed out to sea, and she wanted it.  Lucas took off after it, catching it about knee deep in the surf.  He looked up and smiled, holding up the treasure.  He tipped his head to one side, and the ocean wind tousled his hair.  She looked at him, soaking up his essence, because she couldn't remember a day he'd looked more beautiful.
            Lucas gave her the sand dollar, and they sat down in the sand.  "Emy, my princess," he said as he nuzzled her hair.  "I can't stand to see you like this anymore.  You've got to let this go."  He brushed her hair from her face and then kissed her deeply.  She had forgotten how sweet he tasted.  "This is wrong," he said.  "Don't do this." 
His form became transparent, and like a vapor in a gentle wind, he began to fade away.
"No!  Please don't leave.  Please!  Please!"  Emy yelled as the tears welled up in her eyes.  She could smell salt like the blood of innocence.  The sounds of the sea rushed up to devour the sand.  "Please?"
            Alone, Emy walked away from the sea, and she traversed the distance of myriad miles in the blink of an eye with dreamlike precision.
She walked down an alley.  Hidden in the shadows of two dumpsters, a shrunken old man sat scrunched up against the moist bricks of a Chinese restaurant.  The pungent smell of must and stale food crept from the bins and hung thick in the thin air. 
Emy didn't notice the man as she walked past him.  A bird flew towards her from the shadows where the man hid.  It squawked as it nearly crashed into her, causing her to turn about and face the direction of the fowl attack.  That's when she saw the old man. 
He had left the security of his shadows and now stood not six feet from her.  Six doves were perched on his head and shoulders.  His leathery visage was dark, the color of burnt sienna.  His forehead was exaggerated by receding gray hair that just touched his shoulders.  One eye was noticeably larger than the other and sat shallow in its socket, ready to slide from his face onto the pavement.  Quite the opposite, his other eye was burrowed deep into his skull and was sealed in with blood stained matter.  "Come here," he spoke in a raspy whisper, his voice reminiscent of her rapist's voice, for he was rape incarnate.  "I've got something for you."  He held out her engagement ring and wedding band. 
            Emy felt unusually calm as she walked towards the demon.  "Lucas," she whispered, as she reached for the rings.
The man closed his hand before she could snatch them.  "You miss him don't you?  You miss him so badly that it hurts every fiber of your being.  You just want the emptiness to stop.  That's why you took the pills, isn't it?"
"I may have hurt you, but you still want your precious Lucas to fuck you again, don't you."
"Only a whore loves cock.  Are you a whore, Emy?"  The old man unzipped himself and pulled out his semi-stiff, wrinkled prick.  He grabbed her by the wrist and placed her hand on his dick, which radiated heat like the fires of hell.  She wanted to pull her hand away, but she froze like a deer in headlights.  "With this ring, I thee wed," he said and slid the band onto her finger. 
She had to wake up, had to get out, had to run from the hell this demon was taking her to. 

*   *   *

Emy awoke, disoriented, in the shower.  The water was scalding, but boiling wasn't hot enough to burn off the pain.  The steam was so thick that she couldn't breathe.  She was in the floor, with her back pressed against the wall.   There was a weight upon her lap, and when she looked down the air rushed from her lungs with a guttural moan. "Oh Lucas, poor Lucas!" she cried. 
"Emy!  Don't do this to yourself.  Not again."  It was the disembodied voice of Lucas, calling to her through the either, if only she would listen.
She was lost, lost in water droplets of translucent crimson, which sparkled like rubies in the sunlight.  She watched them, drop after drop, as each one rolled down her skin, dawdled on her breasts, and then crashed onto her –
It's not my Lucas, she thought.
Lucas receded.  His sleek, muscular form turned plush, as his long extremities became stubbed.  His skin sprouted soft blue fur.  His head took on the soggy shape of a pillow.  His ears became flat and floppy.  His nose took on a cartoonish quality.  Finally, his dead eyes became black plastic buttons and she didn't see Lucas anymore.
 Lost in water droplets, Emy watched drop after drop, as each one rolled down her skin, dawdled on her breasts, and then crashed onto her teddy bear Blue's drenched coat.  There was red everywhere -- streaked across the floor, on the walls, streaming down the shower drain.  Emy felt a hollow aching that left her trembling with despair as she looked into the wanting eyes of her Blue.  Oh Blue, poor Blue, all covered in blood, she thought.  She cradled his head in her lap and caressed his soiled face.  My Blue.  The red was everywhere -- in his hair, on his face, in his clothes. 
Sirens trilled in shrill alarm, the fervor of their panic ever intensifying as they came closer and closer. 
As Emy reached for the shampoo bottle, she heard muffled voices somewhere nearby, but she stayed focused on the task at hand.  She snapped the bottle open and filled her palm with its gooey contents.  She covered Blue's eyes with a washcloth and worked his hair into a pink lather.
A loud crash brought the voices closer.  They grew louder and more frantic, and suddenly, the bathroom door was bashed open.  
The officers just stood there with their jaws agape -- staring, just staring.
Emy darted her eyes from cop to cop and whispered, "I, I can't -- I can't get the blood out of his hair."
"My God, half his gut is missing!" one of the cops said.
This tragedy was inscribed in the very brick and mortar, and it was here Emy was doomed to dwell, a damned soul on repeat for infinity, unable to let go and pass on, caught in an unending loop.  Lucas was tucked away, eternally hidden by Blue's obscuring devotion, faithful and unending.  They were best friends forever.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Till Death Do Us Part

Till Death Do Us Part

Bill felt uneasy as he walked up the steps to Lucas and Adelaide's house.  They had decorated for Halloween, and a skeleton grinned at him as it flopped in a violent wind, dancing to the dissonant symphony of myriad wind chimes.  Strings of novelty lights bobbed about, casting shadows like playful spirits.  A black cat swirled about his feet, trilling and mewing, as he fumbled for the right key. 
He pushed the door open and walked inside.  The house hummed with the comforting waterfall of an aquarium pump.  He hadn't been there since last Christmas, that fated day that resulted in the near death of his daughter, and the imprisonment of his deranged wife, Elise.  He almost said no, but after all Lucas and Adelaide had done for him, he felt obligated to house sit while they visited Lucas's father on his deathbed.
The cat stood at the threshold.  "Hey, Morpheus, are you coming inside?" The cat looked up at him and meowed, but made no effort to join him.  "Well fuck you, then."  He shut the door in the cat's face.  He locked both the knob and the dead bolt, and then he flipped the light switch.  The foyer lit up but for a moment before the bulb popped off.
Fiery eyes peered from the blackness above.  Elise loomed like a banshee at the top of the stairs. 
Bill gasped.  "How'd you get here?  You're supposed to be in jail!"
Elise stared through him in silence.
"Answer me!"  As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he exhaled with a sigh of relief.  Adelaide had used the old mannequin that Bill had gotten dumpster diving for a Halloween decoration, and its eyes were reflecting moonlight from the window.
He felt drawn to it, as if it awaited his return home with a tender kiss for him, like the loving bride his wife could never be.  He climbed the stairs and stood before it.  He gazed into its orange eyes and remembered the day Elise had created it. 
It was Christmas Eve.
EEENK EEENK EEENK!  The alarm clock had violated Bill's sweat dreams with 7 am.
 "Get up!"  Elise had said, shaking him, the flab of fat on her arm jiggling like Jell-O.  "Turn that damn thing off!"
A few months earlier, Elise had been fired from Corners, a chain bookstore.  Now they lived in the guest bedroom at Lucas and Adelaide's house, and Bill felt their welcome wearing thin.  He felt depressed and didn't want to get out of bed, but he did anyway.
He drove to work in a 1978 Toyota Tercel.  As he reached the machine's top speed of fifty miles per hour, he prayed the band stickers would hold the rusty body together.  He arrived five minutes late, and a woman wearing too much perfume told him he was skating on thin ice.  He was an assistant manager at Zaftig Apparel, a woman's clothing store selling yesterday's hot fashions in plus sizes at bargain prices.  He had no problem telling old fatties how fantastic they looked, and thus he made a small fortune for someone he didn't know.
After Bill left for work, Elise went back to sleep and didn't wake again until noon.  She read a book until dusk and then went downstairs to take a shower and dye her blond roots black and red to match the rest of her hair.
"Hey, Elise," Lucas said, "do you think you could help me with the dishes?  Christmas is tomorrow, and the house is a mess."
"I just did the dishes last night."
"I washed the bowl and spoon I used, the rest is Bill's.  Get him to wash them."  She went into the living room and flipped on the TV.
Lucas wondered why he kept helping his ungrateful friends.  He still hadn't finished the dishes when his wife, Adelaide, arrived home from work.
"There is no hell like working retail during Christmas," Adelaide said and fell like Goliath onto the couch.  She kicked her shoes off with her feet.
Lucas leaned down and kissed her cheek.  "I fixed you some chicken, if you're hungry."
"Thanks, doll."
Lucas went to the kitchen to get Adelaide some food.
"How are you today, Elise?"  Adelaide said.
Elise rolled her eyes.  "Bored.  I wish Bill would take me somewhere.  I'm sick of being in this house."
"Maybe you should learn to drive, Elise, you know?  Then you could get a job."
"If we didn't live out in bum fuck, I could get a job I could walk to."
Bill looked exhausted as he walked in with his two-year-old daughter, Ava, on his back.  She had been staying with his mother since they lost their apartment.
"Did today suck or what?"  Adelaide said.
“Yeah.  We were so busy,” Bill agreed.
Lucas brought Adelaide the plate of chicken and a glass of milk.  She set up so she could eat, and he sat down on the couch beside her.
"Are you looking forward to Santa Claus coming tomorrow, Ava?"  Lucas asked.
Ava's eyes widened and her face lit up with delight.  She bounced with excitement.  "Santa!  Santa bwings toys!" she exclaimed.
"Awww, that's so cute!"  Adelaide said.  A horrible screeching noise like nails on a chalkboard came from the window.  "Somebody let the cat in."
Lucas went to the front door and let Morpheus inside.
Morpheus raced him to the couch, nearly tripping him, and jumped up beside Adelaide.  He begged for chicken, and, failing that, he rubbed his head against her.
"Stop being a nuisance," Lucas said.  He picked up the cat and sat down with him.
"Sweetheart," Bill said, "would you get me a candy cane off the tree?"
"God, Bill, you're so lazy," Elise said.  "It's just across the room.  Get up and get it yourself."
Bill puffed his cheeks out like a frog about to croak.
Lucas looked at Bill as if to say, where's your balls, man?
Bill made a poof noise with his lips as the air escaped them.  "I'm sick of you treating me this way," he said, his voice almost a whisper.  "I bust my ass for this family, and all you do is belittle me and ridicule me.  You insult the music I write, and you won't even get a fucking job."
Elise contorted her face into a ridiculous gesture of affliction.  She crossed her arms and whined, "You don't love me."
"Elise, just look at yourself, not only are you a lazy bitch, you're fat," he said.
"Take it back!" she yelled.  She pulled back her fist, and punched him hard in the stomach.  He crumpled over.  She hit him again in the face and head, pounding on him like a raving lunatic, until Lucas and Adelaide pulled her off him.
Ava cried.
"You're a fucking psycho!"  Bill said as his tears streaked through the blood on his face.  "In front of Ava!"
"I hate you!" Elise screamed and ran upstairs.  She slammed the door shut behind her and locked it.
She put on The Electric Hellfire Club's Satan's Little Helpers and cranked the volume.  She ran her fingers through the mannequin's luxurious blond hair.  Bill had salvaged it to use as a stage prop if he ever got his act together enough to play live.  When he first brought it home, he had gushed over the piece of trash as if it was his new bride.  Elise pulled a plastic tub of art supplies from the closet.  She took a pair of scissors and chopped off its locks down to its plastic scalp.  Then she whacked off her own hair and glued it to the head.  It matted down against the scalp in some places, and frizzed and tangled in others.  Her own hair, now short, jagged, and uneven, made her look insane.  Then, she gouged out its eyes with a utility knife and glued tiger's eye stones in their places.  She painted its face up as she painted her own.  She cut a slit in its mouth, and inserted Halloween vampire fangs inside.  She clipped her own black fingernails and toenails and glued them in place on the mannequin's body.
She took off her clothes, a stereotypical goth dress and a poorly made corset bought from the chain store at the mall.  She lit incense and black candles on her altar to Satan, and then she returned her attention to the life size doll lying on the floor before her.  With the utility knife, she carved a Tetragrammaton into its chest.  Then, she cut the palm of her hand.  She muttered an incantation as she squeezed her hand and dripped blood into the doll's mouth.
"In the name of Satan, I give you life," she said, and, then, she leaned over her creation and put her mouth over its mouth, smearing her own lips with blood as she exhaled her breath into it.  "In the name of Satan, I command you to rise!"
The door shook as someone tried to enter.  "Elise, I'm sorry!  Come on, open up!"  Bill said.
Elise rose from the floor, walked over to the door, and flung it open.  She stood naked before Bill.  She licked her bloody mouth as if to seduce him.  Her nipples, large and splotchy, stood erect.  Her blond pubic hair betrayed the dye job of her now butchered hair.  Her pale skin looked to have never seen the sun.  She had always been fat, but she had gained so much weight while pregnant, if he wanted to fuck her now, he'd have to fold the flabs of fat until he smelled shit and then fold back one, or maybe he could just dip her in flour and aim for the wet spot.
"My God!  What have you done?" he said with his mouth hanging agape.
"I made something for you," she said.  "You can use it on stage when you're a big rock-and-roll star."  She laughed at him.
"Cut it out!  For Ava's sake, let's try to get along while she's here.  Adelaide said she'd watch Ava, let's go out for a beer and talk."
"Fuck you, Bill!"
"Whatever.  I'm going out."  He stomped down the stairs and out the front door.  He didn't come back until he smelled like cheap perfume and sex.
The memory left him feeling jittery and alone.  Damn, that thing is creepy, Bill thought, looking at the mannequin.  He wished he didn’t have to turn his back on the thing to go back downstairs.  As he descended, he felt as if someone, or something, watched him.
He grabbed a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup from the candy dish by the front door.  Lucas and Adelaide never had trick-or-treaters there anyway.  He stuffed the candy into his mouth, walked to the kitchen, and put a kettle of water on to boil.
His heart sank when he saw the photograph of his daughter hanging in a magnetic frame on the refrigerator.  He remembered the day of her accident in vivid detail.
 It was Christmas day.  A light snow fell.  Numerous beautifully wrapped packages were piled beneath the twinkling tree.  The air had smelled delicious as Adelaide and her sister, Molly, had whizzed about the kitchen whipping up mashed potatoes, green beans, biscuits, and pumpkin pies.  Their mother, Leena, had cooked the ham at her house and then brought it over.
Lucas had built a fire while Leena played Christmas carols on the piano.  Ava had sung along, "Away in a mangor no cwib foor a bed, da wittle word Jesus way down his tweet head."
Elise had awoken early and poured herself a glass of wine.  After the third glass, she started drinking straight from the bottle.  Then she took a shower.  She played Tori Amos at full volume, belting out the lyrics in an inharmonious duet, draining the merriment from all who heard her as surely as she emptied the hot water heater.
Bill got up late enough to miss the musical stylings of his melodramatic wife.  He had prayed in vain Elise wouldn't make a scene.
"How could you!" she spat at him as soon as he came down the stairs.  Her eyes were bloodshot with tears.  "And with a stripper!  My husband fucked a stripper!"  She ran outside, her wine bottle still clutched in her hand.
Lucas followed her outside, calling her name.
She ran from him, around the house, screaming at the top of her lungs, "I'll kill him!"
He finally caught up to her, and took hold of her by the shoulders as if to shake some sense into her.  He looked into her eyes.  "Elise, you have got to calm down, or someone is going to call the cops."
"Fuck you!"
Her flippancy infuriated him.  "Fuck me?  What the fuck have I done but be nice to you?  You can just find yourself another place to live!"
She jerked away from him and ran back inside the house through the back door.  She darted through the crowded kitchen and into the living room.  She charged at Bill.  She swung her bottle of wine at him, spilling wine all over the gifts.
"Shit!" he said and ducked just in time.
"You son of a bitch!"  She threw him across the coffee table.  "I hate you!  I hate you!" she screamed.
"Uh-oh!  Daddy's got a boo boo," Ava said and ran to her father.
"Get away from him!"  She flung Ava off her father.
Ava flew back.  She tripped over the hearth and fell into the fire.  She shrieked, sounding like a squealing pig, as her hair caught ablaze and her flesh melted.  Bill ran to her and pulled her out, but she already looked like a cheap wiener cooked on an open flame.
Morpheus scratched frantically at the window.
"Call 911," someone yelled.
Bill stroked his daughter's good cheek.  "Please angel, don't die," he said.  "I'm lost without the sanctuary I find in your eyes.  Each breath I take without you is a thousand years in hell."  He lost himself in her good eye, so big and beautiful.  There were no sufficient words to describe what he felt.  He felt as if his own image had been burned, as if his own soul sizzled with guilt.
Elise felt the same jealousy towards Ava she'd felt towards the stripper.  She burst into tears.  "Why don't you love me?" she cried.
 As the memory washed over Bill, a tear ran down his face as he looked at the photograph.  Even with half her face charred off, Ava had smiled for the camera.  She didn't yet understand the extent of her injuries.  Being blind in one eye seemed bad enough, but the disfigurement would haunt her for life.  Just yesterday, Bill had taken her out to eat at McDonalds.  As they were leaving, he'd overheard a teenage boy say, "Thank god vomit face is leaving.  I don't think I could look at that while I eat."  His group of friends had cackled at the comment.  Bill wanted to walk over and punch him, but he pretended he didn't hear them instead. 
He went into the living room, plopped down on the sofa, and flipped on the news.
The wind flapped the news lady's coat about violently, but her plastic hair stayed perfect.  "Three women escaped from High County Women's Correctional Facility today, killing six guards and starting a riot that is yet to be brought under control.  One of the women, Betty Dooglebee, was shot dead by one of the police.  As most of you will remember, she was the infamous registered nurse serving a life sentence for running into a homeless man while high on marijuana and ecstasy.  She then drove home with the man, Toby Fletcher, still hanging from her windshield.  She let him bleed to death in her garage, and then she and two accomplices dumped his body in Goose Creek Park.  Isabella Donna, a convicted pedophile, has been recaptured and is being questioned at this time.  One, as of yet unidentified prisoner, did escape.  High County Police advise all to lock their doors and windows and not answer the door for strangers.
The hair rose on the back of Bill's neck.  He felt as if someone trampled across his grave.  That unease he had felt as he arrived, he had smelled the faint scent of Manic Panic hair dye.  Only Elise would make sure she had hair dye in jail, he thought, and she's here now, hiding.
He muted the television, then went to the kitchen and took a butcher knife from the block.  He held the knife up high like Laurie Strode as he tiptoed through the house.  He checked the back door.  Locked.  He checked the bathroom.  Nothing.  He checked the coat closet.  Nothing.  He checked Lucas and Adelaide's bedroom.  Nothing.  She would hide in our old room, he thought.
As he crept up the stairs, the scent of Manic Panic seemed to grow stronger.  At the top, the mannequin eyeballed him like a vigilant sentinel, and he half expected it to call out a warning to Elise.  As he snuck to the door of his old room, the floorboard in front of the door squeaked.  Shit!  he thought.  He stood motionless for a moment and listened for her movement, but he heard nothing.  He threw open the door, certain she would lunge for him, but she didn't.  He checked everywhere, but no monster lurked in the closet or under the bed.
He had to walk past the creepy mannequin again to check the library, but found it empty.  Satisfied that Elise wasn't hiding in the shadows, he breathed a sigh of relief.  As he returned to the stairwell, he again felt as if he were being watched, as if he were not alone, but he foolishly wrote it off to an overactive imagination and made a fatal mistake; he turned his back to the mannequin and began to descend. 
As he took his first step, the mannequin took its own. 
He stopped.  Was that a footstep behind me?  he thought.  He spun around to look.  The mannequin seemed a bit closer than it should be, but his mind wouldn't accept what his eyes could see.  He dismissed the internal warning, and continued his descent, each step he took towards the bottom mirrored by the golem.
At the bottom of the stairs, he went straight to the front door to check the locks again.  The golem used the opportunity to slip into the shadows of the master bedroom.
The silence of the house weighed heavily upon Bill, and when the teakettle whistled, he nearly jumped from his skin.  He made himself a cup of Chamomile, sat down on the sofa, and used the remote to unmute the news. 
"This just in," the news lady said, "the third escapee from the High County Women's Correctional Facility has been caught at the Greyhound bus depot.  She has been identified as Kay Myrium Young, the woman who three years ago to this day woke her children in the middle of the night, drove them to Wal-Mart and made them pick out the baseball bat that she then used to beat them to death."
Morpheus scratched frantically at the window.
Bill went to the front door to let the cat inside.  He didn't notice that the locks on the door had been unlocked.  He flung the door open.  "Come on, Morpheus, it's cold outside," he said.
He turned white as a ghost.  The thing on the doorstep could not be.  His mind cried out in terror, but his voice betrayed him. 
The golem had slipped out the front door, mimicked the cat to lure him out, and now stood before him.  Elise's hate bore through the golem's glowing eyes.
Bill tried to run, but his legs turned to jelly.  Petrified, he couldn’t move.  Hot piss soaked his pants.
The golem lunged at him, sank its fangs into his neck, and ripped out a scream.
As Bill lay dying, his thoughts turned to Ava, who was now more than just a grotesquery; she was also alone.  Her precious vomit face faded from his mind as the golem emptied his veins.  He should have left Elise the first time she hit him.  Now, he was hers, forever.