One man's arduous journey will lead him straight into the depths of Tartarus 1390 wc
| Always the same. Nigel Cook stands with his wife, Lea, staring out over the roaring falls. She leaned into him, sighing contentedly when he squeezed her. Happiness would inevitably make him close his eyes, dread flowing over him instantly. His eyes didn’t have to open, he could see already, the world was gone. He stood on barren stone, the world devoid of color, cold creeping all over his body.
He turns his head, staring out over the never ending expanse of nothingness. His wife is gone, her name along with her, the emptiness taking the littlest comfort brought from her memory. He turns in place once, the rock continuing endlessly before him, no sky line or color change to differentiate the sky from the ground. He turns around once more, to face the way he had been when this had all happened, almost losing balance. The world was black back that way, the rock ending in a terribly empty abyss only a few inches from where he stood. He spins, knowing there isn’t a chance in hell he can run.
He tried to walk, to stumble even, only managing a step before his bare feet became unexplainably glued down. He teeters, trying to hold his balance, trying to cry out but there’s no air, there is never any air. He catches himself with one hand but still, his knee strikes the stone and there is a great rumble. Cracks ran out from beneath him, the stone dropping away to extend the empty void beneath the façade. There is a moment, just before the last of the ground vanishes from beneath him, a moment where he thinks he is weightless and will fly. Then it is gone and he begins to fall, suddenly outside his body, seeing it careen away.
The sound is often what wakes him. That and the pain, always the pain.
He opens his eyes and stares into the green glow coated face of a clown, obviously one of Trevor’s toys. Just missed being a suppository little guy, good job. Don’t ever change.
Nigel’s body, a mass of bruises before he fell asleep, felt ten times worse, rather than rested in any fashion. He finally gains his feet, steadying on the bed, when the familiar cry reaches his ear.
“Speaking of the little devil. Guess he’s up again.”
There was something to be said for consistency. The events of every single night had become horrible warped replays of each other. The dream. The pain. The crying child. All the same and I always think about this as I walk down this same hallway, he muses, avoiding the various obstacles strewn through their overcrowded apartments hallway. Through the living room and into the kitchen, he freezes in his tracks as he steps on the tile, Lea turning to look at him.
Unlike the dream, this is a different Lea, a still familiar Lea. Her hair is stringy and messy, dark rings beneath her green eyes making her look five years older than she was. She wears a ratty bathrobe and tries her best to calm the screaming bundle in her arms, the look she shoots him the final domino in the series of events he calls life.
“Heard you wake up. Can’t believe you sleep through this caterwauling. Trevor, come on honey, calm down for mommy, please? Shhh.” Lea bounces the baby gently.
“I doubt you heard me wake up.” Nigel opened the fridge and grimaced at his choices. Lemonade, milk or water. Sometimes he missed alcohol but they had decided to give it up when Trevor conceived. Of course “them” was more a “her” while he sat on the sidelines and nodded and smiled.
“You always hit the floor so hard, honey, I’m worried you’re gonna hurt yourself.” Lea moved to his side, resting a hand on the small of his back as he bent into the fridge. “We can’t afford you to get hurt.”
“Like I don’t know that, Lea. I promise, I’m not doing it on purpose.” He pulled the milk out, slamming the fridge and opening it to take a swig right from the carton. He threw himself at the sink the second it was passed his lips, spitting and vomiting a little bit. “Jesus, that’s soured.”
After a second, her staring at him, the baby oddly quiet and he staring into the sink, they both began to laugh slightly. Until the baby began to cry once more and with greater fervor.
“I can’t even keep milk in the house. God, what kind of mother am I?” Trevor wails at this, as if he understands. “Please, calm down baby. Momma can’t take much more.”
Trevor’s wails trail off to coos, holding onto his mother’s finger, and for a moment it looks like he will fall asleep. A loud thumping at the apartment door dashes that dream, his screams resuming in earnest. Nigel sighs heavily, grabbing the lemonade from the fridge and heading for the door. Now for the wild card, he thinks to himself.
She is old and angry, Mrs. Tremper stands barely to Nigel’s chin but exceeds him in weight by almost double. Her hair is blue tinged, done up in curlers that match in color and condition the oldest bathrobe still in existence, draped over her beastly form. She stares daggers at Nigel with bloodshot milky gray eyes.
“Mr. Cook! Do you have any idea what time it is?”
“Not entirely. I’ve only just awoken, could ya give me a minute?” He stalks away from her and Lea steps up to the entranceway, the old woman letting herself in and closing the door.
“Mrs. Tremper, we are so sorry. I have no idea why he’s crying, I’ve tried everything.”
“Mrs. Cook, I am not here for excuses, not here to give advice! I am here because of the other twenty people in this apartment building that can not sleep because of your monstrous offsprings screeching cries! I have raised five children and have never heard sounds like that out of a baby.” She paces the apartment. “Now, not only are you two months behind on your payment for this apartment but you keep it in such disastrous conditions it’s a wonder that the child hasn’t been taken from you all ready.”
“We are trying Mrs. Tremper. Nigel is working himself to the bone. We will have your money if you can only give us a little more time. Trevor will be quiet, I’ll find a way, just please, give me time.”
“Time. Time. Time!” She shrieked. “Time is not the answer to your woes, Mrs. Cook. Time is not going to make you a better parent, nor a better person. Only you can do that and I suggest you get about doing so. You have one week to pay me at least half of what you owe or you will find yourselves no longer welcome in this establishment. Child or no.”
With that, she left, slamming the door behind her. Lea, sobbing, slowly replaced the chain and locked the deadbolt. Trevor’s cries had become little more than mewling weeping as he drifted on the edge of consciousness. Lea kissed him in the center of his forehead and laid him in the crib, gripping it’s sides with white knuckles.
“That old bitch. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about, babe.” Nigel took a final swig from the lemonade and replaced it in the fridge.
“No she doesn’t. But it would have been nice if I felt like we were standing together against her, instead of you always being off to the side.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” He slammed the fridge door.
“You didn’t exactly stand up for me, now did you?”
“Are you serious? You wanted me to stand up to, draw her into an argument so that she’s here longer and probably kicks us right the hell out? Is that what you wanted?”
“No. But.” Her voice caught, her face crumbling. Trevor made a cooing sound as the tears cascaded her cheeks. “I just want to feel like it’s not just me trying to fix things.”
“It’s not, babe. I swear. We will get through this.”
“Yeah. I keep hearing it enough, maybe someday I’ll believe it. I’m going to sleep before he wakes up again. You should too.”