Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Excerpt of Madness 1: The Laying of the Hands
"Isaac stared at his hands. His fingers were rough and thick, like ragged stones jutting from his massive palms, equally as hardened from years of labor. He was a woodworker. He made desks mostly, but there were times where his craft would be used to create any manner of object. A shelf here, a table there, even a house once although he was only marginally involved in its creation. It was August and the air was hot, dry, and unforgiving. Isaac wasn't sure how long the air conditioner had been out. Had it been hours, days, perhaps weeks? The power was out, too. Isaac was reminded of this fact by the motionless ceiling fan that hung apologetically above his head.
The fan was only a minor part of Isaac's attention. It was his hands he was most interested in; particularly the object they held. It had been a slow build to this point, and Isaac couldn't recall the exact details as to how everything managed. In his mind, a series of flashing images, faceless voices repeating the same useless mantra "stay calm, stay indoors" over and over again. In hindsight, the words seemed feeble; a desperate attempt to make sense of an increasingly maddening world. He rolled the object in his hands over and again, marveling at its smooth surfaces, the curves and mechanisms.
The wind outside blew dust and debris like an inland hurricane coursing through a dry prairie. The wooden shutters Isaac had made slapped against their frames in rhythmic cacophony against the hard wind. But it still didn't quite muffle the sounds from across the room. Briefly, he remembered how Layla, his daughter of 10 years, had asked him to carve something special in the shutters. Flowers. He had meticulously carved out dozens of roses in the shutters, and in a special place near the bottom of each wooden slate, he carved her name. Layla. He must have carved it 100 times, but he never grew tired of it.
Layla's mother had passed on years ago, and Isaac had spent almost a decade caring for his child the best his brutish ways allowed. But he was always gentle with her no matter how hard he worked at anything else; no matter how hard he leaned into the wood to force it to his will. Layla was his rose and he cherished her so deeply. The object in his hands felt heavier than it should. Almost like lead weighing him down. But Isaac knew the object's purpose, and what it had meant for him to use it.
As the sirens off in the far distance eventually died down, so did the rest of the world. The food from the land was still good with corn being shucked, and a pig or two slaughtered. Isaac and his carefree little flower had found a way to keep out of harm's way. But something carried on the wind. At first they said that it was only the bites that infected others. Some well-to-do panel of scientists came on the T.V. and said that the blood was infectious. Water should be boiled before drinking, avoid contact with others who appear to be listless or somehow infected. It was all well and fine to Isaac. His house was miles away from any major city, and even the neighbors were just a speck on the horizon. But something carried in the air. That was the only explanation.
The night sweats had kept her awake, and him. At first he thought perhaps it was a terrible cold, or perhaps one of the pigs had sickly flesh. Yet he had eaten the same meat and he was fine or so it appeared. Her soft, summer skin became pallid and slick with moisture. He tried a broth his mother used when he was sick, but Layla fell deeper into illness. It wasn't but four days before her frail body passed on leaving the great beast of a man kneeling at her bedpost, weeping like a forlorn child. On the fifth day, she came back.
It is a nearly indescribable feeling for a father to tie his own daughter down to a bed, but he had done it. Layla was a shell of her former self; not responding to her name or food offered to her. Isaac tried to ignore the obvious but he couldn't shake that it was the plague on the T.V. that had somehow found a way into their home. Small sores began to develop on her once sweet face, and saliva dripped from her mouth incessantly. Once when he tried to feed her a spoonful of broth, she nipped at his arm, seeming to long for a taste of his own flesh. This was exactly how they described the symptoms on the television.
Isaac sat at the kitchen table, across from the open door that led into the room where Layla was strapped. He wasn't sure how many days it had been but he could smell the odors of her body become more inhuman. Digging out his closet, he found the object. It was his one final course of action to ensure that his daughter could find peace. He wiped the cold sweat forming on his brow across his forearm. Isaac could tell that something was inside him too. Just like Layla.
Sitting up from the table, Isaac turned and slowly pushed his way into the darkness of the bedroom where Layla had been tied. He heard her constant moaning, a sound that had been perpetual since she had come back from what should have been her eternal sleep. It was a terrible, rasping moan that spoke of an animal desperation. He would be there soon if he didn't do something. As he leaned over the sunken frame of his daughter, lashed onto the bedposts, writhing with a slow, serpentine manner, he took the object in his hands, aimed it at the girl's forehead and mercilessly pulled the trigger. A sharp blast from the handgun issued forth, and a blinding light in the dark of the room showed a deep red splatter before falling quickly to black.
Isaac stumbled out of the bedroom, coughing and in a state of surreal disbelief. His rose had wilted away and by all accounts he was next. His chest hurt, his skin was cold and wet, his muscles felt achy and tired. He remembered one of the faceless voices from the T.V. say something that seemed important; vital even. They said, aim for the head. That was the only way. And so Isaac pulled the object in his hands up to his temple, pressed the hot barrel against his skull, closed his eyes and thought about the roses once more before pulling the trigger."