For the moment, nothing more could be said. It was as if silence had become a physically tangible wall choking the air from my space, my womb. I sat in a steep oak chair with my eyes closed. I was alone and motionless; disquieted. The room, as it was, felt not of winter cold but dead cold like the skin of a cadaver. Without conscious effort, I could feel my arm twitching. It forced out a soft, grotesque motion: the motion of stroking the pallid gray flesh of a helpless decaying body. In my mind, I leaned to meet its imaginary stomach. No warmth issued from its bowels; I heard no utterance of its confessions.
The real world outside wavered at the edge of darkness; too shadowed to see, too light to enjoy the promise of solitude. And here I was, awake yet dreaming of fragile life cradled in the relentless grasp of despair. How I had come to be here, in this old shack on the outskirts of a dying neighborhood, was not entirely a mystery but somehow the details of my arrival escaped me at present. Swimming through the murky waters of memory, I came to a new vision.
It was a frozen and bitter December. During the ride in my Oldsmobile, she and I had talked. She had such a lovely little girl’s voice. Its sopranos sang to a deeper, more primitive element in me. An element I had never recognized before.
Thinking back over things, I could have been more careful. Was I getting cocky? Possibly. Pride cometh before the fall. This business was too easy sometimes. For eight months, I had been on my own, away from the confines of institutionalization. And here I was, the by-product of a failed attempt to rehabilitate and integrate me back into society. One thing is certain: hindsight is definitely not 20-20. I was no farther along in knowing where I was going or from where I had just come.
When I picked her up from the corner that night, she was delighted. I knew then that I had achieved her complete trust. Several weeks had been invested in this one. I was somehow determined to make it more personal. Hopping in the car like a jovial little insect, she threw her bags on the floorboard and smiled generously. If I didn’t know better, I might have thought she was in love with me. At first, it hadn’t been that simple. She had ignored me. I remember pulling up to the curb after school on the first day. It was Monday.
Hey. Do you need a ride home? It’s okay. I work for your school. No? Okay, well, if you ever need anything, just ask.
I drove away then, watching her run back into the school.
How’s it going today? Was school fun? Listen, I didn’t mean to scare you yesterday. I just thought since it was chilly, I could get you home safe and sound. So, how ‘bout it? It’s all right.
She had looked at me reluctantly. Her hesitation was to be expected but I wasn’t worried. I would break her soon. Finally, she nodded and slowly approached the car. Could it be this easy? I thought. She leaned into the open passenger window and I finally got to hear her magic voice. I smiled and leaned over to pull the latch from the inside. Shutting the door, she scooted away from me. I didn’t blame her. I would be afraid of me, too. Loosening up on the ride home, she asked me little questions. Simple little questions like what my name was, where I lived.
Julian, and I live on Woodland Street.
She seemed pleased by this information, as if it made all the difference. After that day, she never held back.
I carefully opened my eyes to the inviting darkness. It must have been several hours before I finally moved. My chest heaved deep as if I hadn't taken a breath for an eternity. I stood, stretching my muscles taut, feeling the stinging ache of atrophy. The room churned: a lifeless abyss, each window cloaked behind thick, black blankets attempting to keep out the offensive light. Through rips and tears in the fabric, the harsh light had intruded upon my meditation in the bedroom. But now, it didn't matter, I saw that the sun had faded away by the absence of rays that previously smeared across the nearly impenetrable shroud of cloth.
The contours of my environment shifted slowly, almost imperceptibly, over the last few hours but I could see the changes. I was aware. As the carrion flesh of shadow rippled over the walls and floor and came slowly to life, I beckoned its specters to join me in my awakening. Everything was in place for the grand show: the girl in her gag and crying, the bed with its layer of dust, the steep oak chair, the filmy glass nightstand, the darkness and the knife. I grinned wide as I set to work. Oh God, how she screamed. The ripping sounds of muscles pervaded the space within my skull. Suddenly. I felt nauseous and then the world fell black.
I opened my eyes. To my dismay, I was standing above the jagged tongue of a stairwell overlooking the foyer. Teetering back and forth, threatening to plunge headlong down three flights of stairs, I thrust my arm out to catch the rail. My body swung sideways, pivoting on my right hand that gripped the railing and I slammed against the wall running along the stairs. I pulled myself back up and grabbed my chest. Near miss, I thought. Turning back to the stairs, I saw their smoke colored planks leading down three levels and into an impenetrable void. Their descent into the darkness of the foyer was oddly intimidating. This feeling was understandable since these stairs nearly became the instrument of my demise. Though I knew the stairwell had to stop somewhere near the floor, I couldn't see or remember where.
A minute later, I had forgotten about my brush with death and began slowly descending the stairs. The entire house's wooden bones creaked and groaned, the force of my weight pushed hard into its cancerous ribs. Termites became fat off the marrow of this ancient skeleton and I could smell the burnt scent of their feast, the faint gnawing of their multitude seemingly echoing inside my brain. It occurred to me that termites were very similar to maggots. What an insightful comparison. Wood and meat.
Weeks later, I’d brought her my supposed home on Woodland street. She had actually thought I lived here. As we walked to the porch, I told her I’d just moved in and was in the process of remodeling. It seemed like a reasonable lie. I opened the front door with all the chivalry I could muster and swung my arm to beckon her in before me. As we entered, I noticed she didn’t seem to mind the absence of furnishing: the emptiness. The walls were austere and unremarkable. Expect for a curious pattern made by a knot in the wood grain below our feet, the bareness was hollowing. She set about exploring the rooms with child-like eagerness. I stayed behind, paralyzed by the oh-so-familiar anxiety that overcame me in times like these. I felt empty. My eye sockets could sink in, my lungs collapse, yet I would be unaffected by the change. I would still be a shell. It wasn’t yet time. Soon, it would be.
Each step made the acid in my legs singe and burn into the very tissue that afforded me movement. But I took the stairs with conviction, letting the pain invigorate my senses. I scanned the room and realized I had reached the bottom and was now standing in the middle of the foyer. The room itself was dimly lit by the moonlight creeping in through the dirt-caked windows. In between two Bay windows in front of me was the entrance (or exit however which way one might perceive their starting point) of the house. Before me, a door: simple yet monstrous. It was a door leading to a wholly different world, a separate and terrifying reality…outside. I froze before the door’s swelling form, fearful that what I would expose by opening this gateway would be too much for me to bear. At one time, it was easy to pass through. Not now, after what I have done. That changed everything. I relented.
My greatest fear was not that I would be arrested or even condemned to death but that I would be discovered and certainly no one would be able to understand my passion. I knew someone was out there watching me. I could feel them, their eyes glazed and fixed upon me, burning with accusation. I decided at that point to test my strength or rather, challenge my weakness.
Methodical, defiant and unyielding in my gait I moved to the very threshold that, although once seemed so far away now towered before me. My arm lifted from my side slowly, automatically rebelling against a fierce desire to pull away. My fingers wrapped tightly around the old brass handle of the door and ever-so-gently began to twist. The metal bolt squealed as I turned the knob. The door was unlocked. I reached to open it but then I stopped. I don’t need to prove myself. I am fully capable of bringing down the world with a whim. Why would I be afraid of punishment? Capital Punishment served only to extend the legacy of the martyr.
I turned, heading back to the stairs near the back of the foyer. A bright light hit the left side of my face. A sharp, razor-bladed worm dug deep through my brain. I clenched my face with a clawed hand and grunted in pain. What the fuck is wrong with my head. I fell forward and once again, everything went black.
Walking in the hallway near the bedroom from whence I had just come earlier was extremely disconcerting. At times I felt I was repeating parts of my life in random order with no real purpose or direction. Slaughterhouse 5 came to mind and I chuckled to myself. How long had I been here? Days? Minutes? Wasn't it all very relative? It only took a second to plunge a Butcher’s blade into a chest and puncture vitals to the height of murderous ecstasy, yet imagine the time and patience involved in delicately removing the various organs from the abdominal cavity and placing them across the bed in alphabetical order. If only I had the time to label each nerve ending, I would have been content for an eternity. Funny, I couldn't remember the last thing she said before she expired.
You see, in the world outside murder was not only a sin against the godheads of Western Philosophy it was also a crime against humanity. Laughable. I didn’t see its importance. We all died one way or another. Who’s to say it wasn’t the proper way of things? I found it empowering to be aware of how easily one could be deprived of that life. One life wasted or was it redemption I delivered?
Bringing her here to this all-but-forgotten shanty was the best idea I’d had in a while. It gave me every opportunity to take my time with things and reminisce on my glory. I decided to return to the location of my blackout. Plodding back down the stairs again, I looked back at the ominous front door. Shivering at its foreboding form, I turned away from it and back towards the stairs from which I had just come. Making my way across the front room, I turned left into a narrow corridor. 10 feet further, on my right, the bathroom entrance yawned wide at my passing as I crossed into the kitchen beyond.
I breathed out a long and thankful sigh. The porcelain tiles, the decrepit cabinets and my earlier fortune of finding a nearly perfect blade in the drawer: all of it beautiful. I began to love this room, segregate from the others. Alone, it represented a time where life was basic and animal. What an incredible idea it was to have an entire room devoted to the consumption of flesh. For a moment, I fantasized about devouring an entire body in this very room. I would eat from the floor and laugh at my ingenuity.
Illuminated by the waxing moon, the kitchen gleamed with a faint, ghostly glow. I crept like a madman through the streams of phosphorescent air then it suddenly occurred to me that I still held the knife in my hand. It felt like such a part of me, I hadn’t noticed it until now. Slowly elevating my arm, I carefully examined the blade, twisting it in the moonlight to clarify how much blood it wore. My hand entered the light for a brief moment and I saw more crimson dulled and drying on my skin. I need water. Not to cleanse, that doesn’t concern me. I needed to drink something other than tears and screams. I longed to purge the hollow feeling in my guts. Black
I awoke recalling a memory. A room full of doctors: neurologists studying me, probing my brain like some bizarre medical curiosity. According to them I had a problem. I got the impression they weren’t familiar with my affliction by the way they all stared, transfixed, at my Cat Scan. The next few hours were blurry. All I heard were theoretical diagnoses thrown around: Encephalitis, Transient Ischemic Attacks, Meningitis, cock, fuck, mother fucker. That was only the beginning of my hell.
I found myself one day like a drugged lab rat: drooling and semi-conscious from the effects of Thorazine, Haldol, Xanax: a chemical cocktail. Lying in my own feces in the corner of the cafeteria, I realized I was a prisoner of my own mind-forged manacles. That night I left. I walked out into the darkness and never looked back. It’s interesting to note how poorly secured and supervised some institutions can be. This was all after my parents had left. Left, died. A bank account full of money became my Parents’ legacy. I found a suicide note from my father:
Life is a series of pain. I know what pain means. I have opted to be without it. Sarah was a wonderful wife and I did love her. That’s why she has to come with me. Goodbye, son.
They found my mother dead from a gunshot wound to the head. My father had hanged himself from the closet rod.
Did I blame them for dying? No. Despite their successes, they weren’t happy. Who the hell was? I can’t say I didn’t contribute. It wouldn’t have been appropriate if I hadn’t. Their prodigal son had given them all the suffering any sane person could handle. Once when I was younger, they found me covered in the blood of our cat. They had discovered it gutted in our garage lying next to an old fishing knife. That little act landed me in therapy for a summer. There were many other things that lead to that point. Ultimately, I had been abandoned but I didn’t care. Even though I had money, the house was taped off. Police investigation. I had no place to sleep. Hotels had always been there but I needed to be out in the world. I needed to be exposed to life.
I spent most of my nights following people around the city. If they took a cab, I took one and followed. If they went to an apartment, I waited outside and watched. No telling how many thousands of dollars I’d spent on Taxis and keeping their drivers indifferent. I never bothered to talk to these nameless people I stalked. I was merely fascinated by the futility of their lives. I was living this worthless existence vicariously through the others. Finally, I came to the understanding that everyone else was nothing more than an extension of myself. A puppet or servant meant only for my amusement. Egocentricity at its finest.
I was lost and wasn’t relishing my discovery. Then one evening on a park bench, I was found by a police officer and taken to a shelter. Supposedly, I didn’t get out of bed for an entire week. The staff said I had been catatonic for eight days. It was then that some sympathy-ridden asshole in Social Services came to the conclusion that I was not a viable member of society. Maybe he was right but that still did not excuse the subsequent 5 years I was forced to spend inside a mental center waiting to be cured of my supposed ailment.
The medication I was given at least helped with my blackouts but now that I had stopped taking it this loss of awareness began occurring more frequently. My memories waned and my eyes came back into focus. I was still alive.
Leaning into a sink, I gulped greedily at the fluid pouring from a squalid, rusty faucet. An unexpected benefit of a negligent water company: running water was still being provided despite the many years of non-payment. The bathroom brimmed with a thick gamy smell, similar to that of mold or old death, and I choked a few times from swallowing too much of the pungent air. My throat began to sting so I stopped drinking and turned off the faucet. The clouds of putrescence grew faintly visible as I struck a match and lit the small candle found earlier in a drawer along with the knife.
I was refreshed, however dingy and gritty the water had been, and I felt born anew in my task, my destiny. Wiping the back of my hand along my chin, I noticed the sink. Its history was all there written in scars. This old washbasin had borne these scars well: the chips, scrapes, mars and cracks of olden times. Times of lovers sharing passion upon its egg-white surface, times of demons thrusting crying faces underneath its flowing liquids. The stories could be heard humming through the wind holes in the attic, gurgling from the dank recesses of the basement, through every pipe, every wire, every spring, every fiber, every particle. I was sure of this: the magnitude of what I had done will overpower any tale ever told from within these walls.
Looking at my face in the glistening grease of the mirror, I could suddenly see the innocent child beneath a heavy layer of sweat. I was something, or someone, I suppose. Wrapped in the skin of my father but brandishing none of his honor. For the moment I was reacquainted with a feeling long since foreign to me: regret. Julian, you son of a bitch, I thought. Look at your face; a man’s face yet not even your 28 years showing with black hair like your mother’s. Your eyes like sparks of blue, so humble. You are like them, like her: the little girl. I sobbed. Head buried in my hands, I wept until I managed to regain my focus. What the fuck is your problem? Think, goddamn you. Think! I had wasted too much time and I was much better than the amateur I was behaving like. To think, my first murder was more controlled than this. I suddenly felt embarrassed.
The most frightening revelation for a murderer is to realize that he is something like a human being. Many of us appeal to the God-complex, the idea that we somehow have been given ability or right above all others. Another idea is that we are below the general masses and that concept, in itself, affords us the option of behaving in an animalistic way. We feed, if you will, upon the weaker strain of humans: anything to separate one from the typical population. All of these images are weak justifications. Me? I am different. I am a new breed. What I feel in my bones is something different. I am not a messianic figure, I am not a caged and angry animal; I am something of a more evolved killer. This is simplicity in its purest form.
I turned toward the bathtub, the rust in its belly looked very much like the drying blood on my hand and knife. I decided that I would get inside of the bathtub and we would grace each other’s presence; mingle our sickness together. The brown water ran over my feet, filling fast. Easing back into the curve of the tub, I longed for absolute baptism. Soft water soaked in through the eyelets of my boots. The sensation was oddly satisfying. I relaxed even further, feeling the tides ebbing upwards to smother me. Then what began as the pleasant tingle of old water started to burn. I leaped from the tub cursing at my foolishness. Poison pipes, I reasoned. Now I wore the thick stain of red bathwater, the chemicals from its rotting pipes still antagonizing my body. Nothing to worry about. I felt more free and alive than before. The smell of filth mixed with the air and almost caused me to vomit, so I evacuated into the hallway. Black.
I crouched over her body. How did I get here? Of course. Another blackout. I didn't remember taking the stairs again. She was still there, lain out on the bedroom floor contorted from struggle; bleach white from loss of blood. Her chest had been torn open by my dissection. The empty cavity that remained enticed the mental image of a seashell shucked of its invertebrate occupant. I chuckled to myself, the first sound I had made since the bathtub incident. How long ago was that? I was worried for a moment that the sun would be returning soon with all of its incinerating vengeance to lay waste to my loving darkness. I saw a clock on the wall above the bed and entrails that had since become its comforter, one hand on the twelve and the other in between one and two. I strained forward squinting to see through the gloom but the hands did not move. There was no electricity in the old house. Time, no…life had been frozen for my benefit. This night would be my eternal triumph.
A wet noise issued from some nameless organ as my foot stepped across its wrinkled folds of yellows and greens. After all, we were all yellow and green on the inside. No one knew this better than me. I must have forgotten to include this particular piece in my artwork. I chastised my sloppiness as I bent to retrieve the missing fragment of my human masterpiece. Picking it up casually, a glint of passing headlights beyond the window shot throw a hole in the shroud and illuminated a peculiar revelation. What was this? I looked closer, still unable to mentally accept what I saw. Reaching into my pocket, I lit another match. With a flare of red-orange, my pupils dilated and focused. Upon the organ appeared something strangely terrifying. Letters had seemingly been inscribed into the outer skin of the crushed, wet sac. Letters. Words and symbols. My stomach began to churn. I knew that I had nothing to do with the defacement. The question is, who did?
Stumbling backwards, I wanted to run out into the night. Unimaginable horrors crowded my mind, distorting my conscious. What did this mean? Was it a surgery, a mad doctor perhaps? What about an injury? I still held the organ I now identified as the Pancreas in my bile-soaked hands. I looked closely at the writing, or scarring of words etched into its fleshy wet layer. Glaring closely, I could smell the reek of digestive juices. I turned the words over and around to see if they made sense at a different angle. The most I could tell, they were symbols similar to hieroglyphics or pictographs from some ancient race. What the hell were they doing on a 14-year-old girl’s pancreas? I scanned through the other pieces of her lain on the bed. All of them…covered in the same esoteric writing.
The madness I now perceived was beyond any that I had ever delved into before and, being no stranger to the concept of dementia, I was now certain that I had entered into a newer, deeper stage in the deterioration of my mind. As my thoughts twisted and gurgled behind my eyes, the sickness returned. Black.
I came to lying in the bed, under the covers no less, with a tangle of moist bowels wrapped around my torso. I had apparently placed a portion of the liver in my mouth, its delicate casing punctured slightly between my grinding teeth. Did I do this to myself? I must have. Surely it couldn’t have been the little girl rotting on the floor. I laughed aloud at the humor of it all and then decided to check up on the sweet little child that had followed me here so effortlessly. At first I thought I might have been in a different room. I scanned around. This was the exact room I had been in before. Her body was no longer lying where I had left it. The shock didn’t hit me entirely until I heard the scream. A horrible scream like the sound of a choir being ripped apart limb from limb. The noise ripped through the wooden hollows of the house. I sat up, my chest exploding with its heartbeats. A surging fear swelled up from my stomach, heavy with acid. Dear Jesus Christ, what the fuck was that?
I felt my knife next to my clinched fist beneath the blanket and I gripped it tightly. Rising from the soiled bed, I sloughed off the guts decorating my body. I managed towards the doorway to the balcony with palsied, uneasy steps. Who was in here? I gasped at the idea that the police had already found me. 13 murders and no one knew a thing. How could they have arrived here so fast? How could they have known? Why would a pig scream like that? No, it wasn’t the police. I cocked my head as I picked up a slight scraping noise issuing across what I perceived to be the downstairs entryway. Slowly, carefully, I crossed to the railing of the second floor. Part of me wanted to slice my own throat, to end it all right here and now on my own terms. I decided against it. I needed to find out who the intruder was.
Stepping to the edge, I peered into the moonlit depths below me. A dim blue light gleaming from a shattered window creased the depths of the foyer. Intensely scrutinizing every portion of the wooden floor below, I found nothing. Not a fucking thing. Yet, still I heard the scraping like claws across a rib cage. But now, the sound was easily isolated in the kitchen. Were they looking for me? They must have moved the body and not noticed me lying in the bed. That was the only realistic answer. Goddamn them. Now was the time for vengeance. Black.
I realized now that I was in the kitchen. It was empty. This disease had become quite a curse. I stood in the middle of the room wielding my surprisingly sharp weapon. Apparently I had not found who I was looking for. I had almost forgotten what my original intention was but I was suddenly reminded by a sickly bubbling noise coming from the bathroom. Someone was in there. I could smell their stink. Only 10 feet away, I knew I had them within killing range.
One step at a time, slowly, silently, I made my way to the door. A strange light blinked on, pouring from the bathroom. A flashlight, I thought. Sliding against the wall, I kept advancing until I reached the trim around the door frame. Twisting my neck patiently around the corner, I caught a glimpse of who it was that invaded my domain. An old man was trimming his beard with a pocketknife before the mirror. He was dressed in worn and filth-laden clothing. The noise I had heard was the running water from the sink. Obviously, a street urchin had found his way here. I mouthed the word fuck to myself for forgetting to lock the front door. Such carelessness.
Returning to the task at hand, I slowly began sliding down the wall to the floor and, knife in hand, I crawled below his range of vision. Behind his legs now, I could smell the urine on his pants. I flinched at the ammonia of his body, so impure: repulsive. That didn’t stop me from plunging the knife deep between his legs. I could feel the softness of his genitals as my soiled blade plunged achingly into his groin. In that split second, he inhaled sharply and then hissed in pain: an unexpected reaction. I could imagine his testicles split and drooping with tiny veins. I imagined the blood squirting from the tip of his penis in sequence with his heartbeats.
As I stood so did the knife. I must have slit his anus and his lower back before he turned to gaze into the eyes of his assailant. His face was a mask of terror mixed with surprise, an intense combination that was uniquely common to those who are stabbed by surprise. I’d seen this face before. All of his dreams had faded with his expression. I swung the blade randomly at his face shaving bits from his nose and cheeks. His hands flailed violently in vain to provide cover from my assault. He howled and yelped against the blows like a dog being kicked over and over. I stopped, stepped back to look once more at him and then, my coupe de grace: I drove the blade’s point between his ribs and straight into his heart. Covered in a sheet of blood, his life wasted away.
As he died, I’m sure he could see me smiling above him. He had almost paid for his mockery of my artwork. Still, something nagged at the back of my brain. Why would man in need of a simple shaving wrap me with the intestines of a murdered girl after I had blacked out and proceed to finish shaving in the bathroom before going back to his home underneath some bridge downtown? Nothing made sense but I didn’t feel sorry for him. He’d just been in the proverbial ‘wrong place at the wrong time’. Some other force was at work here. I knew not yet what is was but I was certain that someone else was in this house; someone like me. The writing on the organs, the missing body. This was the new challenge I had been looking for.
Finally, I managed to roll the dead weight of his portly body into the bathtub; my old friend, how you burned me so. I still felt the itching sting of arsenic, lead, chlorine, mercury, acrylamide, carbon tetrachloride, ethyl benzene, styrene, xylene: whatever industrial side-effect that had seeped into the fetid waters over the many years. With any luck, the acidic saturation would eventually melt any trace of the vagrant intruder and save me the trouble of disposing of him later. Now, where was my little princess? Someone had moved her and I would stalk through every inch of this shit hole until I found her.
Moving with newfound purpose, refreshed from my activities, I swung around to face the bathroom door and stepped through into the black. Flashlight beams irradiated out into the hall pouring a dirty yellow glow into the air. It blinked twice, then the batteries died. Black.
Friday. She mentioned her father to me. It seemed I had finally won her confidence. Come to find out her father was a sour man with many ghosts to bear. He had molested her a few years before. I started to feel sorry for wanting to kill her. Supposedly one night, he came to her and forced himself upon her virginity like a marauding cannibal, ready to expose the soft, white underbelly of the child’s innocence. His was the true transgression. I was only a minor player in the Theatre de Suffering that was her childhood.
How pathetic it was to maintain such emotion, especially for this yapping dissection project but still I felt something of remorse for her. What horror the world fosters and in this the animal side of the human race dwells. In truth, we are all animals wrapped in a delicate sheath of social standards and powered by false moral conviction. We simply learn to hide away our morbidity as a matter of public courtesy but when we are alone late at night, we all hunger for violence. Some of us even hunger for our own children.
Have you ever considered why, when you watch the nightly news, all of the breaking news stories revolve around the concept of death and despair? “Tonight on KMM, we will take you to an abandon mansion on the outskirts of a quiet suburban community where the body of an unidentified 14 year old girl was found dead. The killer is still at large.” The media knows what you want. That’s why they exist: to nurture this need, this desire for destruction. This is why I exist: to plant the seeds from which the harvest of carrion can be reaped.
I drove her home that evening in silence. I suppose she didn’t know what to say to follow up such a deeply scarring revelation. Honestly, I didn’t really care to comment. When we arrived at the corner near her house, she got out of the car and turned to me as she shut the door.
Are you sure about that? What if your parents find out? I imagine we’ll both be in trouble. All right, I’ll pick you up here at seven. Don’t tell anybody, okay? It will be our little secret.
With that, she spun around and trotted down the street with such satisfaction in her gait. I sat there staring for a moment, wondering to myself why she had just asked me to take her away the following evening. She must have been waiting to bring it up all night. What a father I would make to her. I laughed to myself. What an excellent father, indeed.
I sat on the back porch smoking. Grinning, I had to wonder how I managed to light a cigarette while I was out. It occurred to me that I really hadn’t given much thought to my affliction. Perhaps I somehow lived two completely different lives. One life is an ever-spiraling downgrade into oblivion and the other, well, who’s to say what that other life could be?
The backyard wasn’t really even a yard at all. It was an overgrown field of refuse and broken promises. It was a cemetery of old dreams and squandered plans. With the moon shining brightly down upon me, I could clearly see the now three-wheeled tractor in repose: its silhouette like a skeleton of some hulking beast that once ruled the earth, content on resting for an eternity against a backdrop of farmland and shadow. The old shed was the beast’s only companion yet it offered no solace to the unforgiving winds of demise.
I stood to stretch my aching legs. They pained me as if I had just run several miles without stopping. Maybe I had. I arched my back and popped a few tendons back into place. The cold air of winter aided not in my relief. As I stretched, I caught glimpse of something moving. I immediately crouched down to conceal my position. Focusing into the hazy air, I saw something creeping almost soundlessly from the shed towards a large Oak tree that hovered over the east side of the yard. I approximated it to be about 90 feet away from the porch. I smashed out the cigarette that had been cupped inside my hand to avoid notice. The blister would be manageable. Whatever it was, it appeared to be bipedal and humanoid; some neighbor kid fooling around at night? I hadn’t been too concerned by its presence until the idea sunk in. Could this be the one like me? Could this possibly be the one who took my child and hid her from me? Everything inside me said ‘yes’.
The 20 feet from the shed to the tractor was made noiselessly; a quality I found utterly admirable as I watched the figure creep behind the shadow of the tractor. Their stature was not as impressive. Nearly 5 feet 5 inches tall, likely they weighed only 110 pounds with a full stomach. Alas, I know better than to make foolish assumptions based only on size. I had known men considerably smaller able to retrieve a person’s brain from their skull with little more than bare hands and a set of teeth. I was well aware of the fact that whomever it was knew nothing of my being here. The figure had moved so nonchalantly from place to place, their ignorance was obvious. Besides, I hadn’t done much to give myself away. Frozen in position, camouflaged within the stain of grays and blacks across the earthen plain, I watched. Interesting, though, how they seemed so casual about their intentions, whatever those were. I started to grow nervous. What if I was dealing with a seasoned professional; someone far more experienced and better equipped than I? What if they were testing me, sizing me up like a shark circling its prey? Now was my chance to move. I needed to gain ground on them. If my suspicions were true, I needed to find an advantage.
Slowly, I pressed and flattened my body closer and closer to the dirt. Like an elusive spider, I darted in and out of the shadows cast by the tall grass and trees. I, too, had made little or no audible sound as I weaved toward the side of the house and I found myself impressed with my own agility. Perhaps I was more formidable than I first conceived. Backing around the house’s concrete corner and into a narrow side path, my gaze burned into the shimmering space around the tractor. There had been no movement since I’d seen my enemy settle there. A small part of my brain twitched as I envisioned them crawling towards me in much the same manner; weapon in hand ready to cut me down. They’d strike out from the umbra of night. If so, my guts would warm me for only a few short minutes before I finally suffocated on my own blood and vomit. I knew this fantastic paranoia would serve only to bring about my demise so I abandoned thought altogether and instead relied only on animal instinct.
This side of the house was overgrown with a creeping vine. Though I had not yet been on this slender path before, I expected that it would disgorge me somewhere near the front yard and I could go back inside to plan my next move. Yet still, against my better judgment, my eyes refused to tear away from the fading image of the tractor. I prayed for something, an indication that they were still behind the tractor with no knowledge of my escape. There was nothing. No wind, no rustling, nothing. Finally, I peripherally saw that I had made it to the front. I stood up and sighed in relief.
Opening the front door seemed almost ironic. At first, I was fearful of the implications on exposing my deeds but now I felt a sense of concealment as I closed the door quietly behind me and snuck silently up the stairs to the master bedroom. Of course, I remembered to lock the door this time.
As I entered the oh-so-familiar room, the innards strewn across the disheveled bed sheets were a comforting sight. A small part of me felt almost happy to be amongst such gore and tragedy. This was my original purpose. How it came to such deviation, I know not but at this point I had prepared myself for just about anything. Just then, I heard the scream again. I was ready. I didn’t even recoil against the agonized reverberation. It had to be them: the one like me.
My terrible weapon gleamed in the darkness like a beacon leading ultimately to pain and death. I crept into the void surrounding me. The air seemed darker than before almost as if I had stepped into a cavern forever with-holding the embodiment of midnight. I followed the light of my ‘scalpel’ to the edge of the balcony. Looking below once again, I beheld them. They stood in the middle of the entryway, frozen, listening. I made no sound as I slunk across the awning along the railing overhead. Scrutinizing their form, I noticed with aid from the light that they weren’t breathing. They knew I was here.
Suddenly and without warning, they looked up at me. My heart ceased beating. My veins tightened against the coagulated blood within their core. My God, it was her. The girl was alive. No. I had to be going mad. It was impossible. I killed her with my own hands. I’d gutted her. She smirked at me as if she could see every detail of fear smeared across my alabaster face. I screamed at her. What the fuck do you want from me? She simply smiled brighter with a knowing and aware expression staining her sunken features. I wanted to run out into the night tearing my eyes from my skull. I wanted to burn alive inside an inferno with only my memories to distract me from the agony. She opened her mouth, I could see where I had excised her tongue, and then she ran into the black of the entryway. Most of me wanted to escape into the night and leave this hell house in my wake. The smaller part of me needed to find her.
I circled from above. Running down the same stairs, I started towards the front door offering escape from the madness. As I struggled to unlock the deadbolt, I heard a noise. It wasn’t the characteristic scream of my hellish nightmares; it was a small, fragile sobbing. My chest heaved with a mixture of eagerness and trepidation. Quiet. I had isolated the noise among the ringing echoes of silence. Moving with the sound, I had found its birthing place. I moved to the basement door. Pressing my ear against the old walnut door, I could hear the sound clearly. It was the girl deep within the bowels of the cellar. She mourned for her old life: a life of hidden complexities and torment. I imagine that anything would be better than her present form. I still wondered what force allowed her to exist even after death. It was then that the idea dawned on me: the writing. Somehow, they gave her life beyond death.
Opening the passageway unto the infinite darkness beyond, I sensed a sadness welling from inside me. I knew then that I was not a good person. I was a plague that infected an innocent world. Had I been so wrong? Compared to the vastness of existence, what was one simple life? Nothing. I knew that even though I had deprived a silent victim of their suffering that I was an unsung savior. Yet that was all before this: before the pain of life beyond death. This had to be a nightmare perpetuated by my dementia. I couldn’t have seen or heard what I was hearing now: a sobbing corpse lying in wait of its murderer in a shadow-drenched concrete grave. I had finally gone mad.
Standing at the foot of the stair leading unto the carrion hollow below, I listened to her cry. She had spoken no words, she had uttered no confessions and only now did I realize the gravity of my actions. I resolved to take one step at a time. Step one; I felt a quiet fall upon the scene. Another step. The sobbing had stopped. She knew I was here. Thrusting the blade before me, I had prayed to God she would fall upon it accidentally thus ending my fear of what I had done. Reaching the last stair, I could not will my feet to move. Edging closer to the basement floor now filled with a foot of reeking fluid, I found my purchase upon an old wooden crate. Balanced carefully, I leaned into the clenching fist of mute air. No noise issued forth. I placed one foot into the muck. A slurping sound echoed against the stained walls. My other leg cautiously slunk into wet black. As I slithered into the abyss, my mind envisioned a myriad of horrible endings to the story now being written apparently for my demise: a gruesome zombie flailing in the darkness gripping my neck and crushing out my breath, a squalid little girl stabbing me in the stomach with a rusty scalpel. I could imagine a variety of agonizing ways to die.
It wasn’t until she had finally gripped my wrist that I had realized she was really there. The bony hand stretched across my forearm was too much truth for me to bear. I screamed and shook my arm loose. Turning towards the stairs, I felt another hand upon my ankle. As I ran, a force caught me and sucked me underwater. I was going to drown. Thrashing about, gasping for air but only drawing in deep gulps of waste, I saw my death.
Thank you for making love to me, she had said. I had only remembered now that we had sex. She had seemed to climax several times although, at the time, I thought it was the ingrained expectations from times with daddy. Now, I knew she meant it. She had fallen in love with me. It was as though I had become her angel of deliverance. I was the one to carry her away from the pain of incest and rape and take her to a safe place among the bones of fantasy now riddled with worms. She would have been mine forever if I’d wanted her to be. Sitting in my car, she smiled brighter than ever before. This was her freedom. I spoke aloud against my better judgment: Let me take you away from here. Her smile widened. Okay, she said.
A faint rasping filled the silent depths of my watery tomb. I fully awoke and looked up into the eyes of a wholesome face. I love you forever, she said. With that, her hand came down upon my throat with a slashing motion. At first, the blood seemed out of place. Suddenly, the flow of life from my wound came gushing out as naturally as a fountain spewing its cascades into the basin. Choking, spitting, I tried to speak out to her. She placed a single bony finger to my lips and shushed away my resistance. The pulsing of my heart pushed pint after pint of my blood out into her open hands now sweeping handfuls into her mouth. I deserved this. Whatever it was that caused this to happen, I knew I was its reason for being. Then, suddenly, as I looked up to the black surrounding me, I saw myself. My own laughing face was looking back at me. Did I continue to live on in some morbid state? I smiled again as I gazed upon myself. Julian, you and I are the same. Fading away, I knew that I was more than I seemed. I was forever.