A story of hope and mystery, of the unknown and the uncanny alike.
|Shortly, we pulled up to the house. My mother started fixing dinner, or her best imitation of it. She tried to speak of everyday, lighthearted things, but it was obvious that the events of the day, Francine’s murder and the shooting at the store had left her shaken. We ate hamburgers, and soon the conversation lapsed into an expectant silence.
I finished my food and looked at the clock on the wall, it was only five thirty. “I’m gonna go to my room and watch some t.v.” I said.
“Are you sure, honey?” She asked me curiously; normally we always watched an hour or two together after she got home.
“Yes ma’am, I’m really tired.” It was true, I was exhausted, but mainly I wanted to have some time alone, to think about what I’d seen.
“Alright Ben, I’ll be right down here if you need me. I love you.”
“Love you too, mom.” I said as I headed up the stairs.
In my room, with the door closed I plopped on my bed and pulled the cross out of my pocket. It felt warm beneath my touch, but at the time I assumed it was because it had been in my pocket all day. Now? Now I don’t know. The more we know, the less we understand. It’s the way of things.
My thoughts turned immediately to the Glimmer man. According to the news, Mrs. Dailey’s murder had taken place a short time after he’d left our house. The thought of his eyes, of his glowing hands left me filled with both wonder and dread. As far as I knew, no one had ever been killed in Blayton before, and the Glimmer man had just happened to show up last night. It seemed too much of a coincidence.
Then again, in the limited view of human perception the greater pattern of things is as elusive as the lost city of Atlantis and so we comfort ourselves with assurances of happen stance and random chance. It is much easier to believe in random chance, to ascribe to the faith of coincidence, than to believe that there is some thread that connects all events. Because if we accept that things do happen for a reason, then we must also accept our ignorance, our fallibility.
But these are thoughts of the now, and so I will pursue them no more. I consider myself no scholar, no thinker of great thoughts, and then, at that time, I was only a child, a scared, confused child. My wonder over what the Glimmer man had done slowly soured to a fear that crept through me. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and goose bumps rose on my arms.
I continued to rub the cross I’d gotten from the Glimmer man’s jacket. It was my anchor to reality, and, I hoped, understanding. I questioned myself, why would the Glimmer man save everyone at the store, save me, if he was a murderer? It didn’t make sense, but it was the only thing that pretended to. Blayton was a place where you could walk to your neighbors to borrow sugar or flour, a place where young children walked and played in the streets without fear. It was not a place of murder, not until that day. The day the Glimmer man came with the storm.
I worried over ideas and the events of the past day as a dog would a bone, but in the end I found nothing but exhaustion, a weariness that permeated through to my bones, and then, I found sleep. When I dreamed, I dreamed of orange eyes shining in the darkness, but whether they were a part of that infinite blackness, or if they stood apart from it I could not guess.
I woke to the sound of our doorbell. I glanced at the clock on my nightstand and saw that it was eleven o’clock. The doorbell sounded again and I hurried out of bed and rushed down the stairs. My mother opened the door warily and the light from the living room lamp spilled out into the darkness, illuminating the Glimmer man.
His face was haggard, and he looked older than when I had last seen him. His hand was cupped to a large white bandage that was wrapped around his side. “Mr. Ellison,” my mother said in surprise, “Are you alright?”
His smile was more of a wince, “Yes ma’am, I’m fine.” He ran his hand through his salt and pepper hair before continuing, “I was actually going to ask you the same thing.”
“Me? I’m fine.” She glanced at me, “We both are. A little shaken up. A nurse from the hospital was killed last night and a shooter went into Bucky’s general earlier.” She glanced at me and wiped her eyes, “Ben was there.”
The Glimmer man nodded, “I know.”
“You know?” My mom asked in surprise, “they haven’t even put the shooting at Bucky’s on the news yet, how would you know?”
The Glimmer man opened his mouth to respond, but suddenly grabbed his head and stumbled into the doorway. My mom caught him before he fell. “You’re hurt, please come in!”
He took deep, pained breaths, his eyes closed. “I’m sorry ma’am, but I can’t. There isn’t much time.” He opened his eyes and stared at my mother. For an instant they shined a luminescent, burnt orange. He closed them, shaking his head and when he opened them again, they were their normal hazel color, “This is important, you must not be here tomorrow. You or Ben.”
My mom gasped and stepped back, “What’s going on here!? What, your eyes … they were …” Her voice trailed off weakly.
The Glimmer man turned a searching look into the night, his eyes narrowing in thought. “It’s happening again,” he said, as if he hadn’t heard my mom.
“What? What’s happening?” My mom asked, her gaze flickering over the shadows of the street.
“There’s no time.” The Glimmer man said and he turned back to my mother, “Remember, please. You and Ben can’t be here tomorrow.” With that, he turned and rushed off, disappearing into the night, a shadow among shadows.
My mom stared after him, without speaking. Finally, she closed and locked the door. Without a word, she hurried to the phone and dialed the Sheriff’s department. “Hello Diane, may I speak with the Sheriff please?” A pause as the secretary transferred the call, “Hello, Sheriff Walsh? We need to talk …”
I walked up to my room, knowing that my mom was going to tell the sheriff everything about the Glimmer man and unsure how I felt about it. I watched some cartoons, but I couldn’t keep my mind off of Francine Dailey, the nurse that had been murdered. I also kept remembering the shooter’s face at the store. His grief had been overpowering, his features contorted with regret. He’d avoided everyone’s eyes, as if he was scared of what he’d see.
A few minutes later, I heard the doorbell, but I was too lost in my thoughts to pay it any attention. I heard footsteps on the stairs and my door opened. My mom smiled, “Sweetie, because of everything that’s happened Sheriff Walsh decided he would send a deputy out to keep an eye on our house in case Mr. Ellison comes back. They want to ask him a few questions.”
I nodded numbly as she stepped to the side and I saw Deputy Carver standing behind her. He was a tall, large built man, with arms as big as some people’s legs. He was young, in his late twenties, with short blonde hair and pale blue eyes. In short, he was a candidate for poster boy for law enforcement. He half-smiled, but his eyes remained serious as he scrutinized my room. “Hello there, Benjamin.”
I nodded. Deputy Carver hadn’t been in Blayton long, about a year, which, in such a small community, basically made him a complete stranger. All I knew of him, was that he lived alone in a trailer a few miles outside of town. He was quiet, and since he didn’t attend church, most people didn’t know him well. So, even though his was a face that inspired confidence and trust, I found myself slightly uneasy.
His pale, gray-blue eyes met mine, “Don’t you worry, sport. I won’t let anything happen to you or your mama. I’ll be right outside.” He turned to my mother, “Mrs. Becker, I’ve just got to run back to the station for a few minutes. I’ll be back in oh …” He stared into space, thinking, “No more than half an hour, forty five minutes tops.”
My mom nodded, “Thank you, Deputy Carver. I’m sure it’s probably nothing and I don’t mean to waste your time I just … it’s a little strange.”
The deputy nodded, his brow drawing down, “It’s a lot strange Mrs. Becker. Believe me, I don’t like surprises anymore then you do, but I do enjoy my work. He can’t get to you or Benjamin as long as I’m here.”
The deputy stared at me and I started to fidget uncomfortably. His eyes seemed to say that he knew I was guilty of something, his slightly raised eyebrow evidence of his searching for my misdeed. I hadn’t done anything, but the way his eyes fastened on me made me feel guilty. Finally, he turned and walked out of the room and what had become an atmosphere of anxiety left with him.
“Thank you, Deputy Carver.” My mother said as the big man walked down the stairs.
The front door creaked shut and my mother drifted to my bed and sat beside me. “Everything’s going to be okay, Ben.” She said, but her voice seemed small, insignificant in the stillness. I fingered the cross in my pocket distractedly. The clock ticked off the minutes in silence, until my mother pulled me close. “I love you, Ben. Goodnight.” She kissed me on the forehead and rose, “Don’t forget to say your prayers,” she said as she closed the door behind her.
I stared out my window into the night. The street lamps brightened up the dark, but the imperfect light served only to highlight the darkness that came before and after it. The night fell about the lamps like a shroud, and it seemed that I could see it pressing in on the light, battling it for all space, for all dominion. Watching that battle, one that I was sure the light was losing, I drifted into sleep. I did not sleep well.
I woke in the morning to the sound of the television downstairs. I shuffled down the steps drowsily, and saw that my mother’s eyes were glued to the screen. She hadn’t noticed me come down. I turned to the screen and almost gasped when I noticed the banner. It read Nursing Assistant Murdered in Blayton.
According to the news, the woman had been found dead in her apartment from multiple stab wounds to the chest, the same as the woman from the night before. The killing was said to have taken place late last night or early this morning. Her body had been found tied to a chair the same as the first victim.
Blood was found underneath the woman’s fingernails. Apparently she had fought back, but it hadn’t been enough. The same drug was found in her system as had been in the first victim. The news anchor, a dark-haired, deep-voiced man, brought up the possibility of a serial killer loose in Blayton.
The reporter had an interview with the elderly, pot-bellied Sheriff Walsh. I’d met the sheriff on several occasions and he was always rosy-cheeked and smiling. He wasn’t smiling now.
The Sheriff claimed that they were still in the process of the investigation and that the best thing for people to do would be to stay inside and keep their doors locked.
I looked out the door and saw that the police car was still parked across the street. I couldn’t see Deputy Carver because of the distance, but I took some comfort in knowing that he was there. I walked up and sat down beside my mom on the couch. Tears streamed freely down her face and it was several seconds before she turned to me. “Benjamin?” She asked, her voice low, her eyes looking at me but not really seeing me. She grabbed the remote and started to change the channel.
“I already know, mom.”
“What?” She asked in surprise.
“I know what happened to Mrs. Dailey and the other lady. I saw it on the news.”
We were interrupted by a knock at the door. My mom peeked out before opening it. “Oh, hello Deputy Carver,” she said as the door slid open.
“Hello, Mary,” the man said, a slight smile on his face. “How you folks doing?”
“We’re good, thank you for asking.”
He nodded, “Did you hear about the killing? Four stab wounds to the chest, ain’t that something?”
My mom wiped at her eyes, “It’s something.” She started and shook her head, “I’m sorry Deputy Carver, would you like anything to eat or drink? I know it can’t be any fun sitting out in that car all day.”
The deputy tipped his hat with one large, calloused hand, “Naw, ma’am don’t you worry none about that.” He grinned then, “I’ll stretch my legs later on.” My mom nodded and the Deputy stood for several silent seconds, staring at my mother. “You work up there at the hospital don’t you Mary?”
“Yeah, I thought you did. That’s some awful business. Well, ya’ll holler if ya need me.” With that, he started back toward his squad car in long, confident strides.
My mom closed the door and fixed us sandwiches. Since I already knew what had happened at the hospital, we spent most of our day in a dull state of shock, watching and re-watching news broadcasts involving the hospital and the two women that had been killed. I thought about the Glimmer man. My mom was obviously frightened by him, and I wanted to make her understand what he had done at Bucky’s but I didn’t know how to without sounding like a fantasizing child.
Otherwise, the day passed uneventfully. Deputy Carver would check on us from time to time, we watched the news, and when we ate we did so with a mechanical lack of interest, with one eye to the television. Nothing like the killings had ever taken place in Blayton and the nearness of it, the realness of it was disturbing.
Eventually, the sun set and long, grasping fingers of shadow reached out and engulfed Blayton in their blackened grip. The street lights came on, and my mother checked the locks on the front and back doors.
10:30 p.m. My mom had checked the locks more than five times each. The grandfather clock against the wall ticked off the time with hesitant slowness, as if it too, dreaded what the passing of another hour might bring.
10:35 p.m. I fiddled with the cross in my pocket, feeling small, helpless. Two nights in a row women had been murdered between the hours of 11 and 2 in the morning. This was the third night.
10:50 p.m. My mother checked the front and back doors again, making sure the locks were firmly in place and sat back down on the sofa. “So, how is school, Benjy?” She asked, although, considering the fact that she was a member of the PTA she knew as much about what went on in my school as I did.
“Good.” I said, and the clock kept ticking.
11:00 p.m. My mother and I studied the clock without speaking as it sounded off the hour, as if to look away would be conceding to what the passing time might bring. We watched it solidly for five minutes, but nothing happened. My mother turned to me, a relieved smile on her face, as if the clock had not been a clock at all, but a time bomb that had turned out to be a dud. “Well, I guess we should get some sleep. We have church in the morning.”
As we were rising from the couch, a knock on the door shattered the near-silence with the force of a thunder crack. We stared at each other. The knock came again. We turned to the door. My mother opened it a crack and looked through. “Oh, it’s just you deputy.”
“Yes ma’am,” I heard the deputy say in his jovial voice, “May I come in?”
“Of course,” my mother’s laughter sounded forced, “I guess we’re a bit on edge, I’m sorry about that.”
“You have a reason to be. No need to apologize.” The Deputy said as he crowded his large bulk inside. He locked the door behind him. “Well,” He said, “How about a cup of coffee?
“Umm … sure.” My mother said. “Benjamin come on, sweetheart, I’ll fix you a cup of milk.”
“Oh, don’t you worry Mary.” The Deputy said, “You’ve both had a long day. I’ll get the drinks.”
“Oh … alright,” my mom said as she sat down at the small table in the kitchen. I sat across from her.
The deputy’s massive frame covered the coffee pot and cups as he prepared the drinks, but soon he brought a cup of warm milk, and two cups of coffee to the table. He sat down and handed us our drinks.
“It’s a pleasant night, isn’t it?” He asked.
“Well, I don’t know if I’d call it pleasant, considering everything that’s been happening,” my mother responded.
The deputy seemed to scowl at her for a minute before he smiled, “Yes, of course. You’re right. Go ahead and drink up Mary. I’m sure you could use it after the couple of days you’ve had.”
My mother nodded and sipped at her coffee.
“Deputy Carver?” Came what sounded like the Sheriff’s voice from the radio at the deputy’s side. The deputy ignored it, and looked between us and smiled, “They can’t get anything done down there without me.
“Deputy Carver, are you there?” Came the voice again. The deputy scowled, muttering under his breath as he jerked the radio off of his side and turned it off. He reached out and set it on the table. As he did, his right shirt sleeve came up some and showed a white bandage wrapped around his arm.
“What happened to your arm?” My mom asked, her voice slightly slurred. I looked at her to make sure she was okay, but she seemed to be fine. She took another sip of coffee.
The deputy glanced down and saw that some of the bandage was exposed. He covered it up. He muttered to himself as he did, but I could not hear the words. “Oh that? It’s nothing. A present from the shooter at Bucky’s.” He glanced at me, “Go ahead and drink your milk, Ben. It’s good.” His smile was wide, and it showed all of his teeth.
“Really?” My mom asked, “He didn’t seem violent.”
The deputy grinned patronizingly, “Well he did plan on shooting up a store, Mary.”
My mom nodded, embarrassed, “But when I got there he was just crying, the poor thing seemed like he’d seen his own ghost.”
The deputy reached over and patted my mother’s hand on the table, “You never can tell about people, Mary. That’s one of the first things this job’ll teach ya. You just never can tell.” His voice was light and airy as he said this. My mother slowly took back her hand and he smiled that wide, toothy smile again.
I lifted up my glass to take a drink of my milk, but stopped when I saw my mother wobbling in her chair as if she was about to fall over. Her eyes were opening and closing and she shook her head sluggishly. “Mom? Are you okay?”
“I … I don’t feel so good, honey.” She slurred, “Detective Carver,” She turned to the man, “What … what’s happening?” Instead of answering, the large man reached down, lifted up his pants leg and withdrew a large, ivory-handled knife that he placed on the table.
He smiled. My eyes widened as I looked at the sharp, glistening blade of the knife and I remembered the deep voice of the anchorman from the news, “The cause of death was determined to be multiple puncture wounds caused by a sharp instrument.” My mom started to speak, but her head lolled to the side before falling toward the table.
Deputy Carver caught her and laid her head gently down on the table, “Now, now, Mary. We wouldn’t want to hurt such a beautiful face, now would we?” He turned and looked at me, the grin finally disappearing. “Come here, son.” He said as he motioned me over. I was only ten, but I wasn’t completely stupid. I looked at mom’s coffee and at my cup of milk. I realized that the deputy hadn’t drunk any of the coffee that he had poured.
I rose slowly, but instead of heading toward him I threw the ceramic cup of milk at his face and turned to run. He managed to turn some so that the cup impacted the side of his head with a loud crack. He let out a grunt of pain, but was up after me in a rush. He grabbed the back of my legs and yanked my feet out from under me. My head hit the tile floor. Hard. My vision darkened and I shook my head in an effort to clear it.
“Damn kid.” He muttered, “Should have drunk your milk. It would have been a lot easier for you.” I struggled to get away from him, but I was disoriented and he backhanded me across the face. My head whipped to the side and I fought against the shadows that crept along the edges of my vision, struggled against that spreading blackness. I lost. The darkness loomed up, embracing me in its suffocating, paralyzing grasp and I lost consciousness.
When I woke, my vision was blurry and I shook my head to clear it. Finally, the indistinct images resolved themselves. I was in a chair at the kitchen table. Across the table, the deputy was tying my mother’s hands behind her back. She had some cloth shoved in her mouth. Her eyes were open, but they were unfocused and her vision drifted lazily around the room.
I tried to go to her, but found that my hands and feet were tied to the chair. I tried to scream, but I couldn’t get a sound past the cloth that had been shoved into my mouth. The deputy finished tying my mother and sat in a chair between us. He leaned back and checked his watch before picking up the knife he’d set down earlier. He toyed with its edge, picking at his fingernails. “Won’t be long now.” He was breathing hard, his large chest rising and falling rapidly and his voice was quiet with excitement.
He must have noticed that I was awake because he turned to me and smirked, “Well hello there Benjy. Soon as your mom wakes up we’ll get right down to business don’t you worry. I wouldn’t want her to miss anything. You’re just a kid so I don’t expect you to understand, but it’s not the same if they don’t know what’s happening. Not the same at all.” He shook his head slowly, as if saddened by a memory.
I glanced down at my bonds, trying to find a way to get out of the knots that bound me to the chair. “Now, I know what you’re thinking Ben.” The deputy said. “Clever boy like you, looking for a way out, a way to save your mama aren’t ya?” His voice dripped with mocking praise, “I think it’d be best if you just sit there nice and quiet, like a smart little boy. Otherwise,” He leaned in a little, the smile fading, “Your mom’ll pay for it. Do you want that Benjy?”
I shook my head. “Good, Ben, that’s real good.” Tears of helplessness started to run down my face, but the deputy was already looking away. He sat there and waited, with the patience of a snake or an alligator.
After several minutes, my mother’s eyes focused on me and she started to scream against her gag. The sound was muffled through the cloth, but the deputy rose and slapped her ringingly across the face, “Now, now, Mary.” He said in his sickeningly sweet voice, “You be good. Now that you’re awake, we can start. What do ya say, Mary? Are you ready to start?”
My mom screamed against the gag again as she kicked and fought against the ropes that bound her. “Mary.” He said, “Mary. Mary!” My mom’s struggles slowed and her screams dropped to quiet whimpers. “Now you stop hollering, Mary. Otherwise you’re gonna leave me no choice, but to cut out your tongue, and I don’t want to do that, Mary. I really don’t.”
“Now,” He whispered as he rose, tapping the knife against his chin, “who first?” My mom cried against her rag and the deputy grinned, “Alright, Mary. Benjy’ll be first don’t you worry.” He started toward me, and I closed my eyes. My body shook with the terrified sobs that wracked it. I sensed him looming over me and my eyes opened of their own accord. His face writhed as if worms were beneath it, so changing was his expression. First, he smiled, and then it melted into a frown, then he was angry. All the emotions of the human experience played out on that living canvas.
He glanced back at my mom, “I guess right about now you’re probably wondering why, aren’t you Mary?” He looked back at me, the flux of emotion still plain on his face, “Fact is, there ain’t always a reason, Mary. Not always. But if you gotta have one … well. Let’s just say this is what I am.” He raised the knife then, and I saw death in his eyes, my death.
Suddenly, without warning, I heard the front door creak as it came open and all of the lights in the house went out. I looked over my shoulder and caught a glimpse of orange eyes, shining fiercely in the darkness. “Wha?” The deputy asked, but before he finished speaking the glow of the orange eyes rushed across the room and the Glimmer man barreled into him, sending him slamming into the refrigerator.
The Glimmer man’s hands began to glow orange in the darkness and although the he was half the size of Deputy Carver, he didn’t seem to have any problem in picking him up and slinging him through the back door with a crash that sent the door flying off its hinges. The deputy fell into the yard dazed and the lights flickered back on.
The Glimmer man rushed to me and I saw that he was bleeding from a cut on one of his arms and one on his side, the deputy’s knife must have scored him when he charged in. He pulled a kitchen knife out of its holder by the sink and quickly cut through my ropes. “Get your mother out of here. It won’t be safe.” He said, his voice was gravelly, pained.
He handed me the kitchen knife and, without another word, disappeared through the opening where the back door had been. I cut my mother’s ropes as carefully and quickly as possible, but she was still groggy. When I took the gag out of her mouth she tried to speak but her words were slurred and unintelligible. We stumbled through the house, bumping into the table, the chairs, the couch, but finally managed to get to the front door.
Once outside, my mother fell down in the damp grass and I fell beside her. “M-mom? Are you okay?” I asked, but she didn’t answer. Her breathing was regular. It was as if she slept, but I could not wake her. I assumed it was from the drugs and since I couldn’t carry her anywhere on my own, I waited. The night was dark, quiet, but I could hear the sound of the deputy grunting and shouting and I knew that he and the Glimmer man must still be fighting.
Suddenly, flashes of light came from the back of the house as gun shots rang out into the night. “What are you!?” I heard a voice scream from behind the house, it sounded like deputy Carver. “Why are you here!?” I’m not sure how I was able to hear the Glimmer man’s reply from that distance because he spoke normally, but I did. It drifted to my ears across that intervening space, “I was called.” His voice said.
“Nooo!” The deputy screamed and a single gunshot tore through the night, somehow louder, somehow more final than those that had come before it. I glanced at my mom, but she was still unconscious. I saw lights begin to come on in some of the surrounding houses. The wind picked up and the thickest fog bank I’ve ever seen rolled into Blayton, reducing visibility so much that I could barely make out the light of the street lamps, or my mother lying beside me.
Suddenly, the fog parted in front of me and in that clear space, walked the Glimmer man. He limped toward me, a hand on his arm and once he drew close, the small amount of light that made it through the fog enabled me to see his hand cupped over his upper arm. Blood, dark, crimson red, spilled over his fingers, but he smiled at me.
He knelt down slowly and put his hand on my mother’s head. It shimmered a slight orange before he looked at me. “She’ll be okay.” He said with a certainty in his voice that made me believe him.
I saw that his eyes were glowing again, and out of all the questions that ran through my ten year old mind, I couldn’t help but ask, “Why do your eyes glow like that?”
He grinned then, a carefree, gentle grin, “So that they might pierce the darkness.”
I thought about this for a moment. “Why do your hands glow?”
“So that they might remove it.”
“The deputy was going to kill us. What … what happened to him?”
His face grew serious and he looked off into the fog, his eyes distant, as if he viewed things far away, “He saw himself for what he was, saw what he had become. We all do, sooner or later.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant by this, but I didn’t take time to ponder it, “Wh … Are you an angel?”
He laughed then and ruffled my hair, “Call me the Glimmer man.”
With that, he rose and began walking away. He turned back to me, “Oh, Ben?”
He grinned, “The cross? You can keep it as a reminder.”
“A reminder of what?” I asked.
He grinned, winked knowingly, and disappeared into the fog as if he had never been. That was the last I ever saw of the Glimmer man. Looking back, I used to think that he had came with the storm, as if he were a part of it and it a part of him. I don’t believe that anymore. The Glimmer man doesn’t bring the storm, he chases it. He chases it in the way the light chases the day, in the way summer chases winter. He chases it because he is called.
You may not believe my story, and I can’t blame you. You may think it a fiction and that is your right. For my part, if I hadn’t lived the events in 1968 I would think it nothing but a child’s fancy. You may wonder, as I have, about who the Glimmer man was. Was he an angel? Was he a man? Or was he something else entirely? For you, I suppose he will be whatever it is you need him to be. But me, I’ve learned not to ask those questions anymore. For me, he is simply the Glimmer man, and that is enough.