A writer tries to overcome his addictions, but something far more evil is after him.
Past The Pinion Point
By: Robert Goldsborough
It may be true that I am a significant alcoholic by right and I am always up for the challenge of proving it, but what am I doing this for? Every pint of the dark ale passed in front of me is drained to its base and I feel nothing. There is no wavering of my mental faculties, no dizziness that makes me feel awkward in my own skin, no enchantment at all of the sublime liquid that I drain down my gullet. I am immune. Even in the excesses that I choose to reach on this night of all nights. Why has the sweet oblivion of the drunken blackout left me; why am I tortured to remain in this coherent state of sobriety?
I was drunk as I wrote that. Not just drunk in the normal sense of three beers and the room felt like it wanted to spin, no I was plowed, hammered, beyond all acknowledgement of sobriety, drunk. The next day I woke up with what I refer to as that nasty ‘white’ sensation. You know, everything is white; the floor is white, my clothes are white and everything you try to eat tastes white and it’s all just too white so you have to puke all that white out of you until it all pales to a respectable rainbow of dull colors. I know some of you understand what I’m trying to say. Well, after I had regained my senses and read my article I made a decision; a decision that made me want to drink. I needed to sober up. Understandably this choice came as a shock to quite a few people, not the least of these being my editor.
Herman, yes that is his real name, slammed his large meaty paw against his beautiful teakwood desk and cursed. He explained, in his neat demeanor that my readers were of the sort that they expected me to be a certain way. That certain way was the way I had always been; mean and jaded only the way a drunk could be mean and jaded. But I had enough. The readers of An Angry Anarchist were just going to have to get used to a new me, a sober me. Besides, I argued as Herman boiled, I don’t think I have to be drunk to be mad at this shitty world. The steam slowed from under Herman’s collar and the desk quit shaking under his assault. He started to listen as I sold him on the process. I would write down my experience of this for the whole world. Every stupid word of a shaking, detoxing alcoholic would twitch unto the page for him to sell in his weekly rag. Herman smiled. I knew he wanted it. He even offered me a drink to celebrate my new idea. I nodded unconsciously before my mind caught up to itself and I flipped him off.
“Well, you might not want one now,” he said, “but you will soon and that sells.”
He was wrong. I wanted that drink more than I wanted a raise.
I had started on my journey to becoming a notorious drunk at a young age thanks to an abusive and likewise drunk of a father. He was the typical ‘mad at the world cause he could never get ahead and it was everyone else’s fault but his’ man; which is why I fell so naturally into my own ‘mad at the world’ occupation. So like father like son I chased my broken dreams with shots of hard liquor and made up for mistakes with coy smiles from the bottom of a pint glass. But, coyness is only an apology for so long and once that apology wears out so do all the real relationships in your life. No, I have never been married. Not even for an evening in Vegas to a stripper, not sure if I missed a bullet there or not. I can’t tell many stories from my youth because they have long been drunk away and most of the stories I have after that all start with ‘Man, there was this one night, when I was so wasted’. This gets to you after a while. I was traveling in that fast lane called my mid-thirties without much to say for myself except ‘what’s my tab up to’. I had to change. Even if it was just so I could see forty.
I had never researched my problem before because I never thought I had a problem, and since I trusted the internet as much as I trusted the government I had no choice but to reach out to my local proprietor of books for answers to my fast approaching questions; like, what can I expect from withdrawals? Should I seek medical attention? Can I do this myself? There’s this charming old used bookstore halfway from the downtown office to a bar I used to frequent. I think I was at that bar the night I wrote the article. I used to pop into the shop and pick up some pulp now and then to keep me company while I drank. I read mostly from the true crime or conspiracy aisles. I always enjoyed mixing up the plots for the other drunks that I could entertain. There was an old guy who sat behind this high counter right when you walked in. He struck me as some kind of judge seated up there, maybe judging to see who was and was not illiterate. He never said a word to me that I could remember because his nose was always pointing down into some book. I would walk in, the small bell over the door would tinkle like a tiny reindeer, and he would wave three fingers at me and grunt. Well, that’s how I remembered it in my afternoon fugue and bourbon state.
I found the shop where I thought it was and stopped to read the sign. ‘Books’ in twelve inch letters cut from cheap pine and painted a garish red were nailed to thin warping plywood over the door. Under the letters someone had painted ‘Books young and old for the young and old’ in a messy black script. I laughed to myself and wondered whether I was still covered by the young or was I now mixed in with the old. I pulled the door open and heard the Santa’s small herd over my head. The old man was on his perch. I waved him three fingers and started past.
“Well, g’day to ya mister Bartholomew.”
I had to stop and look around for a minute. The voice sounded familiar, but I just could not put a face to it.
“Just ta let you know I got in a new book on how the aliens helped Oswald with that shootin'.”
I turned and looked up at his highness and there it was. The face matched the voice. He knew my name, but I’d be damned if I could remember his.
“Uh, what?” I said.
“Aliens. You know, shootin' President Kennedy.”
He was a pale prune that never saw daylight with yellowed teeth stuck into the middle of the creases. What little hair he had was whiter than his skin and lay tight to his round skull.
“You okay mister Bartholomew? You look a little dazed.”
“No, I’m fine. Just stunned. Aliens and all.”
“Oh, yer such a kidder, but you know better than to kid a kidder mister Bartholomew. You're in your drinks aren’t you?”
“Uh. No, actually I’m not. That’s kind of the reason I’m here.”
“Really? Well, what can I do to help sort ya out then?”
My hangover was sneaking back into my cool, quiet places and I felt a swoon spin my brain out of focus. The prune picked up his glasses and fixed a focus on me.
“Alcohol, specifically the effect of alcohol withdrawals. Preferably by doctors who know what they’re talking about.”
The prune poked at his ear while he studied me. I felt my mouth continue to move even after all the words had left. His prodding stubby finger plowed the thin white field atop his head and he smiled.
“Got just the things. Now if you jus walk down past true crime until you hit them autobiographies take a right you’ll see self-help. Mixed in there are some smart psychology books on jus the subject yer looking for. Bottom shelf, I believe.”
I nodded my thanks with an open mouth and followed his words to the books. They were just what I was looking for, pretentious tomes with no pictures and doctors whose names rivaled the credits to any bollywood movie production. I found chapter upon chapter on the dreadful effects of alcohol, a veritable fount of over analyzed and over scrutinized treatises on the terrible dilemma I would soon find myself in. I tucked three of the heavy volumes under my arm and went to pay the high-chaired prune. He winked and I also purchased the book about the aliens that had helped poor Lee Harvey get into all that trouble back in ’63.
My apartment was not too far away from Herman’s office, but the further I walked the more my head began to spin. By this time I should already have been three shots deep into my day and I was already feeling their absence. The spin my brain decided to start at the bookshop was gaining momentum. I have become very accustomed with a spinning brain through my delirious decades, but this one felt different. It felt ominous. I think I was coming down with the junkie paranoia mentality. I was also losing my balance. The taxi I flagged down drove me the other half-dozen blocks to my building. The driver, a saintly man from who-knows-where, helped me to the door. My doorman, it was Norm and he was not too saintly, shuffled me into the elevator and pushed the button to my floor so hard I thought I heard the plastic dome crack. I tried to tip him as the doors slid closed.
“No thanks mister B. Just get out of here before one of our respectable tenants see you.”
I wanted to salute him the same way I had saluted Herman earlier, but my concentration was being used up just trying to stand.
The elevator was mirrored. Every damn wall stared back in lurches and swoops with my eyes. They were accusing eyes. Eyes that said ‘What do you think your doing? Sober huh? Are you fucking mental? Get a drink, you’re not strong enough for this’. I managed to salute my middle finger at the carousel of glass. My books slipped out from under my arm. The doors slid open and there was miss redheaded hotty who lived across the hall from me. I know I hit the floor and after the pictures made sense in my head I hoped that the fall had killed me.
“Ah. Your awake.”
My vision was blurred as I looked around for another voice I recognized, but saw no face.
“No, I’m dead,” I said.
“Not yet, but flipping off strangers could very well get you killed.”
Her voice was sweet with just a hint of a southern lilt.
“I can’t see.”
“I’m not surprised,” she said and handed me my glasses.
With my vision restored I noticed the foul taste in my mouth. My accommodating brain showed me ‘flicker-book’ images of my pass-out.
“Oh god. I’m so sorry.”
“No need to worry about it hon. My father was known for his ability at blacking out. It ain’t anything I haven’t seen before.”
She floated into my field of vision and sat down in a chair dragged close to my prostrate body.
“I didn’t make too big of a mess, did I?”
“Nothing that good-for-nothing Norman can’t handle.”
Her hand stroked my sweaty brow like a kitten lapping at a bowl of fresh cream. Her fingers were long and thin like the rest of her and she wore a light green dress that flowed like her red hair. I counted the freckles on her nose and tried to place where I had seen the gray in her eyes before; there was a storm there hid in the quiet before the rain. I had always seen her as the hotty that lived across the hall, but with a closer inspection I saw that she was truly beautiful. She was older than me, but without the lines that time and indulgence cuts into our tender flesh. I was staring and wondered if she noticed. I wondered if she noticed that I did not know her name.
“So, you feeling better? Would you like some coffee?”
She lifted her hand away and without thought I grabbed it. Trying not to seem a complete idiot I maneuvered the awkward grab into a feeble shake.
“Jack, Jackson Bartholomew. Thank you, thank you so much.”
I stammered and pumped away at her slender hand.
“Jackson, huh. Well, Jackson you’d better start referring to me by my name too instead of that hotty.”
She smiled and the wit of it dug deep to embarrass a flush of red to my checks.
“I’m not dumb Jackson and neither do I have poor hearing. You’ve had your looks and male bravado on my behalf long enough. You may call me Nancy, or Miss Cartel. But, I prefer Nancy. That okay? Or would you rather it be hot Nancy?”
I felt the blood crawl to my forehead and I knew I must have looked like a barn that just lost all of its livestock. I started to open my mouth and scramble up an apology when she hushed me.
“I don’t want to hear it. All that should be coming out of your mouth right now is a yes or a no as to whether or not you want coffee. A headshake would also do just fine.”
I nodded a meek agreement to coffee. With a whisper of fabric and a scent that smelled as if her dress was sewn from a Parisian garden she stood and left me for the kitchen.
I laid back and let the blood run away from my face. I wondered about how many other overheard conversations I had had while I was drunk. If this was part of my sobering up I was in for a lot of embarrassment and quite a few apologies.
The coffee she brought back was thick and black. The bitter taste rinsed away the foul sheen that the vomit had left.
“Two ice cubes,” she said.
I looked for the meaning in her dark gray eyes.
“It stops the coffee from being too hot to drink. Yet another trick from dear ol’ dad.”
“Where is the dear ol’ man?” I asked trying to start a conversation that might keep her longer.
“Dead. There’s only so much abuse the body can take and thankfully only so much the world can also. Funny how nature works sometimes, eh?”
I was stunned. Her frankness sealed my lips.
“Anyhow, you know something about abuse too, don’t you Jackson?”
“Look, I know I may seem to be nothin’ more than a drunk, but that’s not true.”
“Addicts love their rationalization. What’s yours?”
“I’m not rationalizing anything. I decided to quit. Look at these books.”
She pawed at the severe medical books I had dropped in the elevator. She must have carried them in with me.
“Books, huh. Reading didn’t make you collapse in the elevator and you weren’t spewing words on the floor.”
“Honestly, I haven’t had a drink since last night. It must be withdrawals. My head has been spinning all day. I got the books to help me understand what was going to happen to me. Honest.”
“Well, you didn’t smell like a brewery when I dragged you here. Quitting, huh. Maybe there is hope for you after all.”
She stretched a smile across perfect white teeth and stroked my forehead again.
My apartment had that stillness that you feel when you know you are the only one there. I thought she had drugged me to get me to pass out like that. Then I remembered her gentle touch. I had been lulled, definitely lulled. The sun was still up but it hung low going into that dip that ends its reign. I got up from the sofa. My stiff joints cracked and complained. I switched on the television. I surfed for the news, but didn’t watch anything. I used the TV as so many do, as a means to chase away the solitude; it’s the constant talking, never listening friend for the lonely. Instead I decided to see what the good doctors had to say about my situation.
The first book was encyclopedic covering just about every ailment from A to Z. The Alcoholic chapters were sparse, but I had a small leg up on what to expect. There were going to be shakes and sweats, tremors and delusions. I might even expect something with the sinister name of Delirium Tremens. My brain started to scream for a drink, it did not want to hear this, but my stomach was yelling for a sandwich even louder.
In my small bachelor’s kitchen I decided on soup and a sandwich instead. It’s hard to beat a good tomato basil soup with a hot ham and swiss. While the microwave whirred through time I inspected the cupboards and cabinets. Under the sink I found a half bottle of whiskey. Behind the tins of beans there was a small bottle of gin. Buried under frozen dinners in the freezer were three bottles of vodka, all in varying degrees of consumption even though they were all the same brand. I didn’t remember where or when I had bought all this booze and I started to wonder what else I kept hid from myself. I poured gin down the sink first. It spiraled like thick water; I smelled the floral scent of the juniper berries as it slipped away. The vodka looked the same as its English cousin, but it just filled the air of the small kitchen with the noxious sterile scent of alcohol, it made me pinch my nose closed. I dumped the whiskey out hoping to kill the vodka’s smell, but the whiskey was cheap and its stink mingled with the vodka’s to turn my stomach. I held my breath the best I could until an electronic beep announced that my food was heated.
I exhaled and inhaled like a fish tossed in fresh water when I reentered the living room. Only a day off the juice and already the smell was getting to me. I flipped through every station on the TV while I ate. I had to keep stopping on the BBC to watch the news. The American news media with all its overblown hype had worn me out years ago; its sensationalism distracted me too far from what I really wanted to know. Besides, if you want to know what is really going on with the world you should watch the BBC, I have always found them more impartial to their American counterparts. Thinking about the differences between foreign and domestic news started to wind me up, if I was not careful I would have a story for An Angry Anarchist in no time and I needed to concentrate more on what was at hand, me. I was going to be the story, my depraved little brain and me.
The pretty blonde talked about things not so pretty in her charming English accent. She gave way to a gentleman who looked like he remembered the Great War and sounded like he expected another any day now. The faces changed as the stories did. I felt bad for them; it seemed like even on their tiny island they had no good news to report. I pushed a button and made all their worries disappear into a blank soundless screen. Maybe they could find something happy to talk about before tomorrow morning’s coffee.
I dove back into the medical books. All the vocabulary triggered my head into a swim. There were so many terms and medical jargon I wished I had a medical dictionary. My brain ached reading the chemical reactions of ethanol in the human body. The more I read and did not understand the worse I felt and the more nervous I became. Then there it was, something about mortality in 35% of untreated patients. That can’t be good, I thought. Tomorrow I was going to call a doctor. I had a mortal fear of physicians but I had a larger fear of death. I had spent too many years unbalancing my body’s chemistry to think that I was not in for a rough time. My eyes began to run the words together; they became black insects crawling across the pages and onto my hands. I screamed at nothing and closed the book. The sun was gone from my windows.
I decided that I might as well try to write something. I still had a job to do and Herman expected me to be good to my word. I went into my office, the largest room in my apartment; it was supposed to be the master bedroom, but since I worked more than slept, it was an obvious choice for writing. The room was chaos. That was how I worked. One wall was littered with pictures I had printed offline or cut from magazines and books. This was my thought wall and I stared at it when my eyes weren’t on the glowing monitor. Another wall was shelves. The shelves were a clutter with all manner of odd items; things readers had sent me, things I had found laying in the street. Most of the objects had a scrap of paper or post-it attached to it giving a brief history or story about the item. There was another wall that was my outline. There were parts of story ideas and possible future arguments that I had printed or scribbled on paper tacked on top of each other that explored my hostilities over the past two decades or so. The floor was another story itself. I never threw anything I had written away, no matter what it was, and of course I had never taken the time to organize; there were stacks of papers in every corner that bled across the hardwood floor to the foot of the large desk that I had to have in the middle of the room. This was how I worked. It made sense to me. I could never get stuck with all this ammunition of words surrounding me. If there ever was a literary war I could maintain my position for years.
Tonight I would not be writing in defense or defiance. I was just going to tell it how it was. I retraced my searing ‘white’ hangover through Herman’s office, pausing to explain myself for those who did not want to hear about it, before finding my books and falling into and for a rather sexy neighbor. I was clear. I was concise. I felt like I was writing the freshest idea that Man could conceive. My head stopped swimming and I felt an inner clarity that I had not remembered having before. Writing felt so good that I did not want to stop, even when I had wished myself a goodnight and safe dreams.
I lit a cigarette. Even though I had ‘officially’ given up the habit years ago a cigarette was still my personal treat for completing a hard task. This had not been hard, but some kind of celebration was in order and without booze I had only one alternative. The blue smoke traced its hieroglyphs past the edge of the computer’s illumination to fade into a dirty gray twist of unformed clouds. I had left the harsh overhead light on and it started to annoy me. I leaned back in my chair to reach the switch. My chair did not want to lean that far, but it wanted to teeter on two of its four wheels. My finger brushed the light switch off as the chair passed its fulcrum and gave up its balance. The wood floor was hard. My head bounced twice and I saw stars spark my eyes before descending into the pit of my stomach to set a fire to whatever they found there. I puked red streams of tomato soup down my cheeks. My hand went to stem the flow, but a convulsion forced a spew in rivulets between my fingers and into the darkness of the room. The smell of my stomach wracked me into more convulsions. I lay there in the dark waiting for my convulsions to die and my eyes to draw enough light from the computer to see. My head was still echoing the sound of a ripe watermelon being hit when I rolled free of the chair and crawled to the bathroom. I scaled the doorframe with the practiced skill of a drunk trying to stand. I laughed at the irony.
The light burned my eyes when I hit the switch in the bathroom. The large mirror showed a murder victim from an early Hammer film. I was drenched in the red paste; at least I was the only victim of the spew and it did not reach my papers on the floor. My eyes were shot with the only real blood. I stripped and washed my face and hands. I popped two aspirin from the medicine chest on the sidewall. I laughed and wondered if I had always been that graceful.
I decided that I had had enough for my first day of sobriety; sleep was what I needed. Leaving that damned chair lying on the floor I left my office, not even closing the door behind me. My bedroom was just down the hall. The aspirin were starting their trick and quieting the drummer in my skull. I was still naked from cleaning the vomit off and I decided that that would be a fine way to crawl into bed. Unfortunately Nancy did not stay so my nudity between the sheets would not offend her. The smell of her when she swished her dress came back to me; what flowers were sacrificed for that wonderful scent? I slid between the sheets without turning on the light and closed my eyes. I was surrounded by the darkness that must exist in the deepest caves. Nancy brought more than just her scent to me in the darkness. Her gray eyes smiled at me. Her lips, naturally moist without any kind of balm, pursed and spread. She was saying something that I could not make out. I saw the way the flesh of her mouth moved and lost interest in what they said. I thought about those lips opening and closing on me. Warm kisses down my neck and across my bare chest. Her breath, hot as it descended and my breath held for her touch. I saw her eyes surface in the dark. They were not smiling. I heard her voice with its southern lilt whispering. Her breath stroked across my inner thigh.
“I don’t think so Jackson,” she said.
“I will not be your secret whore.”
The movement I imagined in my nether regions stilled. I whispered apologies to Nancy’s phantom.
“Fuck it,” I said.
I lay there and waited for sleep to take me.
The sun burned through the blinds to hover just outside the thin veil of my eyelids. The sun was up, not just up, but burning higher than it should be. I rubbed at my eyes and looked towards my clock.
I had to fumble around to find my glasses; they were twisted up in the sheets, I had passed out with them on.
“That can’t be right,” I said with my glasses found.
The clock was stating that it was well past eleven in the morning. My brain begged to argue. My body was already preparing a case against my clock as well. I remember closing my eyes, a few random thoughts, but I do not remember falling asleep. I know that I had to have slept, but nothing felt like I had. My brain still argued that it had just, as in just now, turned off, it could not be the time it was already. Pointless to argue with myself, I went in search of another timepiece. I stumbled into my office down the hall, stubbed my toe on that damned over-turned chair, and moved the white plastic mouse attached to my computer. The screen lit blue then showed a lovely mountain view from some vacation I had taken. The clock in the top right corner was always right. My brain knew it was right and recanted. I wish my body gave in that easy. All my joints creaked and my muscles moaned as if I had not procured an hour of rest.
I up righted the chair and sat down. I was still naked and the green plastic cushion stabbed my sensitive posterior with cold. I went to the bathroom and found my brown fuzzy robe and draped it over my shoulders. That cushion was not going to win this battle. The word processor was still on in the bottom right of my screen. It unfurled like a banner with a touch of the little arrow. The screen filled with words. But, these were not the words I had typed last night. I started to read and could not believe what was written. My phone on the desk rang and I jumped at its call.
“Hello, Jack. Is this some sorta joke?”
“I asked if this was some kinda fucking joke. I only agreed to this because you promised, promised me something that’s not this.”
Herman did not sound happy and I was starting to understand why.
“You got this?” I asked.
“Yes, I fucking got this, if this is the crap you’re talkin’ about. I can’t print this. I can’t even stand to read this shit.”
“No, Herman. I guess I must have hit a wrong button or something. You weren’t supposed to get that. I’m sorry; you know I can be all thumbs with computers. Please, just ignore or delete, or whatever you want to do with that. I’ll get you the real deal here shortly. It couldn’t’ve gone too far on this stupid computer.”
“Oh you had better believe this shit is deleted and you had better find the real article. I don’t care if you have to gut your whole hard drive. Get me what you were supposed to write.”
“Absolutely. I’m on it.”
Herman slammed the receiver down on his end. My ear echoed what felt like a distant shot.
I turned back to the words. A few sentences in and I had to look around. Was there someone else here? I could not stand it if someone caught me reading this; it must have been just my paranoia, no one was here. The writing was brutal, even bestial. I was there in the words and so was Nancy. We were not described as people, more like appetites. Well, I was the appetite and Nancy was my bloody, sexually depraved feast. My name disappeared into a chaos of lust, lust for more than just sex, a lust to consume and sate some cruel desire. Nancy was the subject of that wanton need. She was described as flesh. Her body writhed and fought, but the act of refusal seemed to empower and stimulate the need further. My described appetite was gnawing through the sensual curves that lay just under her skin drawing out new passions from the textures and blood that lived there when I just could not read any further.
I closed the word processor and walked away from the desk. In the bathroom I stared at myself in the mirror. The image from last night, of being covered in red, came back to me on top of my now pale reflection. My eyes closed. I pounded the counter to chase away the images in my head. I needed a drink. I wanted to go into the sweet arms of alcoholic oblivion. There was no booze left in the house. I had watched it all spiral down the kitchen drain. How could I have written such filth, I asked myself. No one could have gotten in and written that horror show. I must have, somehow. Maybe I did not just pass out last night, maybe I did only just go to bed, maybe I had spent all night writing that monstrosity, my brain was busy spinning the truth into some rational explanation that would keep my psyche from tumbling down into that dark abyss. I popped two aspirin from the counter. The cyclone of alternating emotions started to lose steam and slow down in my head. I had to find Nancy. A screaming speck of paranoia wanted to make sure that the story was just a story. Rationally I knew better. There would have been too much blood everywhere if the story was true, but there was no location described in the text. My brain wanted to just see Nancy alive to make sure that its truth spinning was not in vain.
I ran from my apartment clutching together the front of my robe. Across the hall I pounded on Nancy’s door with my fist until it began to hurt. I started slapping the wood with both hands open. The doorknob turned. Nancy was standing there. She looked me up and down. My hands were still slapping at the air.
“Mister Bartholomew, you seem to have forgotten more than just your manners.”
With both hands in the air my robe was no longer hiding my nakedness. She’s okay was all my brain could scream for the first few seconds. The story was just a twisted work of fiction. The words that described how I had forced myself on to and into her were nothing more than words. The sensuality of her body tearing around me, the lust and desire for her, the unadulterated hunger was mere fantasy. The words painted their images across her frame. I did not even try to stop them. Nancy’s eyes lowered to fix on my crotch. The bestial words had brought me to arousal.
“Uh, Jack. I think you should leave.”
All the playful bemusement left her voice. I realized, with horror, what this must look like.
“Jack. I’m closing the door.”
I grabbed at my robe to hide my erection. Nancy started closing the door. My feet seemed to fall away from my body and lightheadedness sent me into a swoon. I had to think fast.
“Wait. I, it was, a dream.”
The door stopped moving.
“Sorry, I was just, I had a dream, more like a nightmare. I woke up screaming. I thought you were dead. I had to come and check. Especially after how nice you were to me yesterday.”
“You didn’t really quit drinking did you Jack?”
“No, Yes. I mean yes. I haven’t touched the stuff in almost two days. It must be the withdrawals. Making me paranoid.”
“A dream, huh. Must have been vivid.”
Nancy nodded at the twist of fuzzy brown fabric I was using to hide my inflated embarrassment.
“Yeah. Sorry again, I was just startled awake. I had to make sure you were okay. I am so sorry.”
“Okay. I’ll give you a free pass on this one. Lord knows my Daddy did some strange things from time to time and naked wasn’t the worst of ‘em. But, you better not be lying to me about drinkin’.
“I’m not. Not a drop. Not that I don’t want one more than anything right at the minute, but I won’t. I swear.”
“Okay. Go on now. I’m okay, your kinda okay. Go home clean up, get some clothes on and try to get the blood flowing in your face again. I’ll come check on you later.”
I cracked a sideways grin and nodded. She closed the door and I thought about how I looked, a pale boner of a man wrapped sweating in a fluffy brown robe pounding at his neighbor’s door. I wondered if I had been worse than this when I was drunk.
I dressed in my room pulling on jeans and a t-shirt. Time to call a doctor. I thumbed through the yellow pages and found what I needed. The phone rang three times before a cheerful voice answered.
“Hello, doctor Zimmermann’s office,” her voice went up at the end of the sentence as if asking.
“Yes, hello I read here in the yellow pages that the doctor specializes in dependencies and withdrawals.”
“Yes sir. Would you like an appointment?”
“Yes ma’am as soon as he can fit me in. I think I might be cracking up a bit.”
“Well sir how long have you been detoxing?”
“About two days. Do you have something for tomorrow?”
I am sure she heard the anxiety in my voice; I wanted her to.
“Let me see. How about three o’clock tomorrow afternoon?”
“Yes, that’s great. I’ll take it.”
“Okay, let me get your name.”
We exchanged my personal information and she let me go. I felt lighter thinking that by tomorrow at three I would have a trusted ally that I could turn to. Maybe he could just give me a prescription that would hurry me out of whatever this was. Medicine has come a long way. I stopped sweating.
It was well after one when I sat back down at my computer. I had been trying to avoid it. Something felt off, out of kilter, wrong about my computer now. There was a taint that exposed itself on that stark screen. I could not bring myself to open the word processing program yet. I sat there and stared at the black surface with its pulsing white spot beckoning me to do something, anything. My focus strayed to my wall of pictures. I had stared at these thousands of times over the years looking for something. Like some thriller mass-produced by Hollywood I wanted to see some connection, some pattern to all the chaos I tacked to that wall. All I usually found was more chaos, more things that did not make any sense. The disorder would start the anger; the anger would start me typing.
I traced my hands along the pictures. Some still had parts of their story attached. I started to reread with my new soberer eyes. There they were, still the same, but they felt different too. Here was the child who burned down his parents’ house. There was the serial rapist blaming his crimes on some creature south of the border. Here was the junkie shooting up rubbing alcohol because he still couldn’t feel anything. There was the young French man who had lost his new wife in a Malaysian earthquake, simple, but he claimed giant spiders ate her and that was why her body was never recovered. They were all there. They were all the same. It was me that was different. I felt them. As if the wall was breathing with a life that it had garnered from all these scraps of life. I could feel the wall breathe. Its breath flowed into me and I could feel all the scraps; not just as stories, but as emotions. Tears blurred my eyes. Pain started to cloud my mind. I could feel the pattern forming, the thing that connected all the pictures and stories together. It was not just one thing, but layers upon layers of things; emotions, passions, needs that all proved they were alive. They were evidence of life and life was pain. There has to be pain for life to be born. The pain and the birth was mine. My head thumped along with my heart and I was blind from the pouring tears. I screamed.
I felt the darkness outside my tears before I actually saw it. It was a hand shaped by the shadows that hid in what was not shown by the pictures, not told by the words. The hand was large, there were a lot of shadows, and its long fingers reached out to me. They pushed against my ribs and pried at my eyes. My tears dried at their touch. I expected to see the hand coming from the wall, but it did not. The long shadows came from me. Like an inverted jellyfish the fingers hung over me like poison tendrils. I was not afraid. I understood that this was just part of me. The hand wrapped around me as if soothing away my wrinkles. Its touch tingled like tiny shocks softer than static. I laughed. The hand retreated at my outburst.
“No, no come back,” I begged.
The hand stroked me again as if it was cooing an infant. I relaxed into its embrace. It started to tighten its hold, but the pressure was comforting. I was drifting off to sleep. Then the phone rang. The hand retreated so quick it took my breath with it. I coughed to catch my breath. I was lying on the floor and had to crawl to my desk to stop that phone’s incessant ring.
“Yeah. Who’s,” I coughed again.
“Jesus Jack don’t cough into the earpiece like that. I was just checking on that article. You find it yet?”
“No. I, I’m trying, but I don’t feel right at the moment.”
“Yeah, you don’t sound right at the moment either. You goin’ to a doctor?”
“Tomorrow. Got an appointment tomorrow.”
“Well, okay. You okay for now, you need anything?”
“Naw Herman, just a little under the weather. I’ll try to get you that piece tonight and maybe part two.”
“Look Jack, I’m sorry for yellin’ earlier, but you understand, right? That story was sick. I felt dirty just trying to read it. I’m all about freedom of the press and writer’s privilege and all, but when you sent me that, well I just blew a gasket.”
“Yeah, I understand. That was sick alright. I’ll fix it though. I’ll get ya the right piece. Sorry about that gasket.”
“Okay. I’m lookin’ forward to your real story.”
“So you can edit the shit out of it,” I joked.
“Yeah, so I can edit the shit out of it and make it something people want to read. Anyway, take some aspirin, get feelin’ better and if you need anything give me a call.”
“Sure thing Herman. I’m on it.”
The phone call had snapped me out of my daydream. That must have been the DTs I’ve read so much about, I said to myself. I got up off the floor, but took a sense of loss with me. I sat at the computer and dove into my hard drive. I found the article I remembered writing after a few minutes of pecking around. I still steered clear of that story I didn’t remember writing. I knew I should just have deleted it, but somehow I just couldn’t. I had written it, whether I wanted to admit it out loud or not, and I never threw away anything I wrote.
I emailed the original story to Herman tacking on several more apologies and promises of ‘even more where that came from’. The room started to feel oppressive. I needed to get out, go for a walk. I slipped on a pair of loafers and headed towards the elevator. I did not look up at the mirrored walls as the car slid twelve floors down to street level. Norm was not on duty today, but I didn’t recognize the young man who was either. I decided that it might be prudent to introduce myself.
“Hey there, I’m Mister Bartholomew up on twelve and…”
“Yeah Jack. It’s me, Stew. I’ve been here as long as you have, and no that college degree still isn’t paying off. Just in case you felt like asking me again for the thousandth time. You want me to grab you a cab?”
The young man, Stew, stared right into my eyes. I could not call up any memories of him.
“No, thanks. I’m just gonna walk around a bit, Stew.”
I tried to cover up my confusion with a crooked smile; yet another mystery from my drunken fugues.
“Sure Jack. Whatever you say. Here’s the card with the apartments info on it for you. Remember, just show this to the bartender. He’ll get you home.”
“Thanks, but I don’t drink anymore. Well, two days sober at least. I just want some fresh air.”
Stew put the card back in his pocket.
“Whatever you say Jack. But if your not back I can’t send the troopers out for you again. They’re over it.”
“Troopers? Really I’ve gone sober. I don’t need a baby sitter.”
Stew just smiled as he held the door open for me. I nodded a thanks with what I am sure was a quizzical look and walked off down the sidewalk.
It had just rained. The air was clear. I enjoyed the way air tasted after the hanging toxins were pulled from the skies by the rain. The air filled my lungs as I breathed. I felt good. There was a park down the street from my building; I knew I had been there before, but I could not picture it. There were just memories of trees. When I reached the park I realized that my memory was far from perfect. There were trees, not many. There were basketball courts with their gray concrete taking the place of true nature. Between the courts were several picnic tables that had once all been the solid green color of springtime grass; spray-paint had given the tables more of a futuristic jungle palette to work with. There was not much else to the park and I hated using that word to describe it, but that was it. A short chain link fence surrounded the entire area and I had to hunt for the gate to get in.
No one was out bouncing balls. It was as quiet as a city can be. I sat on one of the painted tables. A puddle of cold water soaked through my jeans. It was too late to do anything; I let the wet warm against my ass. The sparse trees did little in hiding the true skyline of the park. Buildings stood tall and gray, gray as the sky. I watched the low clouds divide and flow around the taller of the buildings. It was like watching a lazy river flow from under the water. Black specks found the flow and moved out from the buildings to glide along with the clouds like debris caught in the current. The specks sometimes fought the flow and circled in their own tide pools. These birds were done hiding from the rain. They were hungry and bored and wanted to do what they were designed to do. I watched the distant ballets. Several of the black specks began to grow in size. The park would probably be teeming with all manner of insect life digging up out of the wet earth between the concrete; perfect food for hungry birds. The specks starting taking the flapping forms that I knew. The distance they covered made them grow larger. It was not just a few of the specks that were heading this way, but all of the birds seemed to be flying towards the park. I studied the flapping forms more carefully. Some of the shapes did not look right. Some looked like they were flapping from both sides as if powered by two healthy wings, but others seemed to be a single movement. Jellyfish fly through water with a similar motion of pushing, but birds did not. Not like some of these were. They were getting even larger, closing the distance. A sense of dread crept up my spine and froze my attention to the approaching things. They were speeding up. They were heading straight for the park, straight at me. Weird angles, I told myself, I’m just seeing this wrong, they’ll be closer in a heartbeat and then I’ll see that it’s just a trick of the light and angles. The pushing things came closer, but their shapes were still wrong. Within a heartbeat I was positive that everything was wrong with this.
My spine thawed quickly and I jumped from the table and sprinted towards the metal gate. I could not only see how close the things were now, but I could feel and hear them. They made, what I thought at first, was a whistling sound, but it became clear that they were screams. Hundreds of black misshapen things pushing through the air and screaming at the pain of doing so. I numbed from my wet ass to my head. My feet were all that knew what to do and they ran. The screams grew louder. I could feel them cutting the air over my head. Behind me I could hear the things being unable to slow down crashing into the park. Their screams cut my ears like razors before contacting the concrete courts cut them short. This was too much. A barrage of screams ending in that horrible wet smack. I ran with my hands over my ears and my eyes closed. I could feel that some of the things were able to slow down enough to either land in a hard roll or change direction in midair. I couldn’t bring myself to look and see how many were able to chase me. I just ran blind until I hit a wall that collapsed on top of me.
“Damn it Jack. Watch where you’re going.”
I had run right into the arms of Stew and he was not too pleased. We helped each other up. He glared and wiped the muck off his uniform.
“Stopped drinking, right?”
I heard the sarcasm Stew wove into his comment.
“Yeah. But I don’t get any meds until after I see my Doc tomorrow. I’m not right yet.”
I felt bad for knocking him over on the street and hoped he would just take my excuse and let me inside. He nodded and I ran through the glass doors all the way to the elevator. I didn’t think the things would follow me up to my apartment, but I kept pushing my floor button trying to get the elevator to move quicker. The doors slid wide and I ran down the hall to my apartment. I slammed my door after me.
That was it. I had enough. I could not wait another day to see a doctor. I had to have a drink. It took me an hour to tear my apartment up and not find any alcohol. My mouthwash was even alcohol free. I briefly thought about walking to the liquor store down the street, but I knew that those jellyfish things were still out there. They were just waiting for me to step outside; then they would pounce and do whatever horrible thing they had in mind for me. I sat on the floor in middle of my living room and tried to slow my breathing. I had taken a yoga class once several years back, the instructor had been quite attractive, so I focused on my breathing. My mind settled and began to clear. Hallucinations, that’s all they were. I laughed in small breaths. More of those damned DTs, that’s all, I told myself.
“Man, my mind has some way of playing some nasty ass tricks on me,” I said to my empty apartment.
I had heard the voice, but no one was here with me.
“Great, more fucking hallucinations.”
“No Jack, this is real.”
The voice was familiar. I twisted my head around to make sure I was alone. Nancy was standing there with a dish in her hands.
“Nancy, you're really here, right?”
“Uh, I hope so. I hate to think that I wasted all that time cooking you some dinner.”
She walked past me and into the kitchen. My eyes followed her to make sure she was not going to disappear.
“Hope you like chicken. It’s one of my finest chicken spaghetti recipes.”
The microwave beeped as she set the timer. I was watching the doorway to the kitchen to make sure that whatever came through it was still Nancy. It was. She was wearing some tight designer jeans that clung to her ass like wet silk. Her t-shirt was a baggy old concert shirt from some one-hit-wonder band that I could not even remember how to hum their song. I could not help but stare at the curve her ass made in those jeans.
“You seemed a little freaked out still. How ya doin’?”
“I’m okay, sorta.”
“Yeah? I see you went looking for booze.”
She pointed around at the disheveled everything.
“Yeah, I did. But I didn’t find any. You know my mouthwash is even alcohol free.”
She smiled and I thought I saw a small laugh form behind her lips.
“But, you're gonna stick with this, right?” It was more of a statement than a question.
“Oh, of course. I mean I’ve come this far. Tomorrow I see the doc. Should be easier after that. Why spoil it now.”
“You seeing stuff?” Her eyes were helping her ask the question.
“Yea, a little.”
The gray clouds could not find a lie in my words.
“Oh, you know. Giant hands trying to smother me, giant bird things swoopin’ outta the sky at me, you dying, the normal.”
“Me, dying? That’s horrible.”
“Yeah, that was that dream. You remember.”
“Oh yeah, from earlier. Glad to see you're actually wearing more clothes now.”
“Well, I figured I might as well attempt the dress code.”
I tried for a coy smile. She bought it and smiled back.
“By the way Nancy, how’d you get in?”
“Your door was open.”
The microwave announced itself and she spun on her heel back into the kitchen.
“My door was open?”
The kitchen was quiet. I stood up to check and see why. The room was empty. Nancy was not there and neither was a hot plate of chicken spaghetti. I felt all the muscles in my face go limp and my jaw literally dropped.
“I need a drink,” I said to no one.
There was a light knock at the front door.
“No, go away. I can’t take anymore of this.”
Another knock came, this one louder.
“I said, Fuck off.”
The door went quiet. My desk phone rang. I went to answer it.
“Jack, is that you?”
“Who is this?”
I heard some guy’s voice that I did not recognize.
“Stew, Jack this is Stew. I’ve got miss Cartel here. She said you weren’t answering your door. There a problem?”
“Would you be so kind and escort miss Cartel up to my apartment and let her in. I’m not feeling very well.”
“Sure can Jack. Do you need a doctor or anything?”
“No, no thanks. Just help her in and thanks.”
The phone went dead. I was not taking any chances this time. If Nancy was going to be in my apartment I was going to make sure it was really she.
A few moments later I heard keys jingle in the lock and felt the pressure in the apartment change. I hid around the hallway peeking at the front door. I heard Stew and her exchange pleasantries.
“Okay Mister Bartholomew. I let in Miss Cartel. I’ll just relock the door now. Hope you feel better.”
They spoke again in hushed voices too low for me to hear from my hiding spot. The door closed once more.
I stepped out from the hallway. She jumped in surprise.
“Oh shit, Jack. Don’t scare me like that.”
“Sorry. Just wanted to make sure that it was really you.”
“Really me? What is that supposed to mean?”
“You were just here a few moments ago, but it wasn’t you. I don’t know what it was. It seemed to be you, but it wasn’t.”
“Jack. I just walked in here.”
“I know. That’s why I had Stew come up with you. Cause if it wasn’t you he wouldn’t let you in.”
“You’re confusing me Jack. You are still sober, right?”
“I don’t think a single drink could help me now.”
“What, what is it then?”
“Too many things to say. I know the things that I’ve been seeing and experiencing aren’t really real, but when they’re happening it doesn’t matter. I can’t seem to break away. It’s like I’m stuck in someone’s dream and the dream is all about me. I know how that sounds, but now I could almost accept even that as truth.”
Nancy walked towards me and wrapped her arms around me. I inhaled the sweet garden perfumes that permeated her body. I kept my eyes closed and breathed her in. There in the darkness behind my eyes I saw nothing and knowing that I saw nothing comforted me. There was nothing to trick or confuse me. I let my body follow my mind into the black. I did not want to come back.
I was falling up through the black, weightless and free. Something reached out and clung to me in a warm reassuring hold. It was a smell. It was not Nancy’s flowers. It was something else that was familiar. I wanted more of the smell so I let it raise me up out of the darkness. I let it open my eyes.
“There you are. You passed out. I cooked, hope you like beef stew. You don’t look like you’ve eaten very well in the past two days.”
I wiped away the salt from my eyes and stared at the bowl of thick, dark stew Nancy held.
“I love beef stew.”
“Then sit up and eat.”
“How long was I out?”
“A couple of hours. You must’ve needed it, too. You snored like you forgot how to sleep.”
She handed me a spoon. My hand was trembling. She noticed.
“Don’t worry about that. It happens. Here let me help you.”
She scraped large spoonfuls of the stew out of the bowl and gently blew away the heat before raising it to my mouth. I have to say that that was the best stew I had ever eaten. I could not eat it fast enough.
“Would you like more?”
“No thanks, I couldn’t eat another bite.”
I smiled and she smiled back. She stood and walked the empty bowl to the kitchen. I tried to follow, but the tremors had reached my feet. I laid back, feeling like an invalid and waited for her.
“Did you call the Doctor?”
“Yeah, I got an appointment tomorrow at three. I can’t wait. This is too big for me. Geez, I never thought I’d hear myself say that.”
“That’s okay. We recognize our true humanity by accepting the facts that there are things bigger than ourselves.”
“Wow, that was deep.”
“Hey, don’t be nasty. Especially after I cooked.”
I looked at the windows. The blinds were closed and I could not see what time it was.
“What time is it?”
“Just after dinner. Around seven or so, why?”
“Just starting to feel tired. Must have been your comfort food.”
“Well, if you want to nap, go ahead, but I’m gonna stay a bit and make sure you rest well, okay?”
What could I say; I just nodded like a preschooler promised a cookie. She sat on the far edge of the couch near my feet and turned on the TV. She stopped at the local news. I cringed inside.
“This won’t bother you, will it? I’ll keep the volume low. I use all that monotone talking to get to sleep myself.”
I stared at her profile thinking about saying something rude, but chose to just lay my head back and close my eyes. The man’s voice faded to a whisper, but I could still pick out an occasional word or two. I heard Nancy’s breathing, a steady paced movement of air. Between the breaths I caught small words or phrases; civil unrest, random shooting, unintentional, disregarded, heavy losses. With every exhalation I heard more and more as if Nancy was breathing out these atrocities. I kept willing sleep to overtake me and drag me back into its oblivion akin to death. Tomorrow I would get the help I needed. Tomorrow everything would be better.
I do remember dreaming. I stood on a golden precipice overlooking a great valley bordered by dark mountains that hid their tops amongst storm clouds the color of Nancy’s eyes. The valley glowed gold as if an ocean of wheat was still reflecting back the sun at its zenith. I was miles above almost within reach of the clouds myself. Small black specks appeared in the sea of gold like small boats rising to the surface. I was afraid that they would take flight and push themselves through the air towards me, but they stayed just on top of the wheat. The specks raced towards each other. When they met I heard thunder roll in the clouds over my head. The more specks that raced together stuck and started to amass a large dark spot in the middle of the golden ocean. The spot grew and grew, but changed color at its edges. A red, deep and dark as wine, spilled from the black mass changing the rest of the ocean to red. It was an ocean of blood around an island of black.
“What is this,” I asked the air.
“This is war,” the air answered, “This is the chaos I prevent.”
“How do you prevent chaos?”
“By becoming chaos.”
I watched the blood touch the foot of the mountains. Lightning struck the waves and sparked fires. The fires traced their way up the mountains to touch the clouds; the clouds threw down more lightning.
“This is horrible. This world will end.”
“Yes, it will. As all worlds end.”
“How can I help stop this?”
“You already are.”
The air answered by blowing me up higher and I saw that I had been standing on one side of a great set of scales.
“It has to be balanced. Balance must be maintained.”
The air stilled and I started to fall. I was blown clear of the scale and fell towards the great ocean of blood. I tensed and prepared to hit the surface.
I was hot and had been sweating. I was sticky and the room was dark. The TV was on but only showed black and that was not enough light to see. My shirt was gone. Nancy must have taken it off me when she saw I was sweating. I listened for her breathing. Everything was still. It must be late and she decided to go home and go to bed. My legs were asleep and I had problems rolling on to my side to sit up on the couch. I felt around were I lay and realized I was no longer on the couch. Great, I said to myself, I’ve rolled off on to the floor. My legs felt cold and thousands of needles started pricking me under my skin. I pushed myself up to sitting. My legs began to hurt and tickle at the same time. I dragged myself to a wall and let that practiced drunk crawl me up to my tingling legs. There was humor in the agony as if my bones hid jokes they would never tell. The blood filled my feet and I steadied myself. The twitching I had earlier in the evening was gone and I was thankful for that small blessing.
I found my footing and walked to the kitchen. I found the light switch and watched the fluorescent tubes flicker and flash. They did not come all the way on so I flicked the switch a couple of times. The last flick got it. The room washed in the white of the tubes. The light showed me that I was not alone. Dozens of eyes, or at least what I took to be eyes stared at me while I blinked away the brightness. The small room was too bright for it to be lit by just two fluorescent tubes. The figures that owned the eyes shone with their own light. They appeared to be people, but people that appeared when you rubbed the last of a dream from your eyes. I could not count how many were really there. Their faces were blurry as if there were too many faces fighting for dominance of the head. The eyes changed color so rapidly they blurred into black. Each figure looked like a crowd traveling at a great speed. They were wrapped in robes of light that constantly changed intensity, like their skin that oscillated between the palest whites and the darkest browns. They were everyone appearing at once, but not holding fast to a unique form. My brain could not find a focus and went into a spin. My thoughts accelerated to match the visitors’ speed. I could not think. I could not pass out. My legs gave way and I hit the floor on my knees. Tears flowed into my eyes and tried to blur away the incomprehensible. Then one spoke, I think it was one, but the voice sounded like many.
“You are the art. You are the scale. You must understand.”
I could not answer. My mind was trying to break what they said into one voice, one idea.
“You are not in us. You are the balance. You must accept.”
My brain started to hear, not just their words, but with their images. They were old ideas, ancient images. I felt like a child trying to read Sanskrit or hieroglyphics, but my brain slowly started to understand. They were talking to me about things that were before man, before life and they were communicating the way they did in those long dead times. I started to see how they were not everyone who was, but they were the potential of everyone to be since the beginning.
“You are not us. You are the balance. You must see.”
I was starting to. I was different, I was the unique and there was something they needed me to do. They wanted me to make a decision, a choice. Somehow I helped some kind of balance.
“What am I supposed to do?”
“You must understand.”
“I’m trying to. I’m just a man.”
“You have become more.”
Something in my brain lit to that statement. Was this just my vanity, this is just more of the DTs rearing their ugly head. I could not be some cosmic fulcrum. I was just suffering from some of the worst detox anyone had ever had. I was just a recovering drunk. I was just a writer who needed a drink. Just because I could not blink away these hallucinations did not mean that that’s just what these beings were. I stood and switched off the light. Something in my head screamed. The scream sounded like Nancy. I stood in the dark with my eyes closed until the scream died and then switched back on the lights and opened my eyes. The beings were gone. I felt half crazed and laughed like I was.
I went to the sink and turned the water on. The cool wetness ran over my hands and I cupped them to bring the coolness to my face. My hands were sticky. I shook the water from them and noticed something was covering them. The substance was heavy like sweat, but it was red. My mind refused to see the fact that my hands were covered in blood. Not just my hands, but I was coated in red from my pants to the top of my matted head. My hair was plastered to my scalp with blood. I looked like I had bathed in the fluid. I ran to my bathroom to look in my full-length mirror. What I saw confirmed what I thought. I was thick with blood in different stages of dryness. However I had become covered like this had happened over a long period of time. The oldest blood was already flaking off like old rust. This could not be another hallucination.
My heart pounded away knocking all thoughts from my head. I walked like a zombie back to the living room and turned on the lights. The sound of my heart paused as I surveyed the horror. I did not recognize this as a room that was once a part of my life. This room was an abattoir. I hoped that this was just an animal’s remains, or several animals to be exact. Gore clung to the ceiling, blood pooled on the couch, the coffee table and the floor, scraps of some other kind of flesh hung on the walls. My mind wanted my stomach to retch; my body was too confused to react. Then I heard Nancy’s scream again. I looked around before realizing it came from inside my own skull. Was that an echo, I asked myself? My stomach finally heard my brain. I folded in half and puked a painful stream of red. My vomit mixed with the other drying pools.
“Blood, I puked blood?” I asked no one.
I carefully stepped through the mire to cross the room and look for more remains. I had to know where all this blood came from. Behind my lounge chair next to the window I saw a form. It was too big for just some apartment pet. Maybe I found a deer in the park, I prayed knowing how impossible that was. The body was human and curled up into a fetal position. There were large strips of flesh that were missing as well as all the clothes. The head was thrown back in a frozen howl. The entire corpse was covered in blood. The person did not die easily or well, and they had been dead a while. I examined the body closer. There was more than just strips of flesh removed; there were gouges and hunks of flesh taken. I realized that this was not Nancy when I saw that there was a wound between the legs where something had been removed.
I stood and walked back to my bathroom. Shock was tracing its fingers through my brain. I had lost all my emotions at seeing the carnage. The body had to have been Herman’s. How or why he was here would probably never be answered, but facts were facts and that had to be what was left of him lying there in the corner of my apartment. I washed and changed my clothes. Just like that terrible story on my computer there was only one person who could have done those atrocities and I had to make amends. I had to go to the cops. I had to be stopped before anything else happened. There was no choice. I was some kind of rabid animal that had been anesthetized by alcohol and my sobering up was releasing it.
I did not hear anybody enter the room, I thought I was the only living thing in my apartment, but in the darkness of the mirror I saw someone. It was Nancy walking through my bedroom. Not as if she was scared or harried, but walking as if she had a purpose. I turned to make sure it was not just a hallucination. She was there, looking for something. Nancy was crawling around on all fours raising the bed skirt and reaching for something under my bed. I approached her slowly.
“Nancy, did you lose something?”
She turned to look at me without moving her body. Her head had spun around to stare backwards at me.
“Oh, Jack, you’re just dreaming. None of this is real. You’re still asleep on the couch with your head in my lap.”
Despite the unnatural way her head moved she seemed very much the same, and very calm. I was almost ready to believe what she said and go back to the bathroom when I thought about what she had said.
“But, I didn’t go to sleep in your lap. You were on the other side of the couch.”
Her hands stopped searching under my bed and her whole body twisted to realign with her head. She stood and unruffled her dress with her hands. She smiled.
“Oh, Jackson. Why couldn’t you just leave well enough alone?”
Before I could answer she leaped into the air grabbing the ceiling over my head and crawled on all fours like a lizard out of the room. I spun on my heel and followed her into the living room. She saw my pursuit and turned to hiss a reptilian curse at me. I paused by the kitchen to grab a knife from the countertop. Nancy scurried to the corner of the room where what remained of Herman was and dropped to the floor. I approached with the knife held behind my back. She was biting at the corpse tearing away mouthfuls of meat.
“Nancy, what’s going on? What is this?”
She chewed on the meat in her mouth and swallowed. I saw her neck swell as the meat passed down her throat.
“What’s going on is that you are nosy and don’t know how to tell a dream apart from reality.”
Nancy stood up and straightened herself again. She had fresh spots of blood along her knees and face.
“I am not dreaming. I am not even hallucinating this.”
“I am not asleep damn it. I just want some answers.”
Nancy walked towards me on her two legs playing her fingers around her bloody mouth. Her eyes were darker then normal, but she had the look of seduction there.
“Wouldn’t you rather just fuck me, Jackson?”
I stood there and let her approach. My palm was sweating against the plastic handle of the knife and I was afraid that if it came time that I would need it I would lose my grip. Her eyes were dark like the beings that visited me in the kitchen, but I knew there was no real comparison between these two creatures. I was convinced that this was no longer Nancy, or at least this thing was something I did not want to touch me. This was something malevolent, something that could not be allowed to continue.
“Come on Jackson. Let’s fuck. You can have me. I know the true way you felt when you read that story. You weren’t really shocked and appalled, where you? You enjoyed the sexuality, the bestial nature of the prose. You got hard thinking about taking me that way, even if it meant my death. Get hard for me now. Fuck me, take me, penetrate me.”
She was less than a yard from me. I readjusted the knife in my hand. Her words bit at me as if she was already gnawing at my flesh.
“Fuck it,” she said and jumped at me.
I spun swinging the knife. I felt the steel hit and tear. Nancy screamed. The knife was lodged in her chest spoiling her breasts. Blood flowed from the gash and mixed with the already drying blood. I was still holding the blade. She screamed again and I had to let go of the knife to cover my ears. Nancy was tugging at the knife trying to loosen it from her ribcage. I stepped back into the kitchen. There was a utility knife in the first drawer; I used this often so I kept it very sharp. I stepped towards Nancy as she flailed and wrenched at the knife. I raised the utility knife and struck at her neck. The flesh was soft and tore easily against the sharp edge. The wound opened like a second mouth and poured a stream of red. I had caught her vocal cords in the cut so she could no longer scream, but she did emit a horror of wheezes and whistles through the draining wound. Nancy had forgotten the knife in her chest to try and hold together the thin flaps of separated flesh at her throat. I turned and walked to my front door. She would not be standing much longer and I needed to leave here.
I did not think much on my walk and I do not remember much of it. I was still lost in those final images of Nancy and all that blood. The door to the police station was glass and I caught my reflection before I walked through. My eyes looked dark. There was too much blood to try and explain outright, but I knew what I was doing. I walked up to the police call desk with my head bowed. I tossed the bloody utility knife onto the desk under the nose of the busy police officer. He looked up and I saw the horror in his face that I reflected. I dropped to my knees and put both bloody hands over my head.
“My name is Jackson Bartholomew and I have hurt myself and others.”
My exposed wrists showed the deep red cuts I had carved into my flesh before I had walked through the door. Everything became chaos. I slipped into some form of peace.