A man suffers with depression
It was just another rainy day in Seattle where the low hanging clouds looked bruised and swollen. The heavens wept with the pain as the rain flowed heavily off the roof and into the gutters flooding the yard with more water than it could drink.
Joe Delgado heard the rain, but didn't care much about it; he just wanted to sleep. Because sleep was the only freedom that he knew: No annoying phone calls, no bill collectors, no people telling him what he should do, where he should go, how he should act. Joe's real life was like a doomed roller-coaster ride spiraling out of control. But when he slept, none of that mattered. He was hidden. He was safe. He told himself that he would have a good day as long as he stayed in bed.
When Joe finally tried to swim out of the depths of sleep, he felt different somehow. He didn’t know why, he just didn't feel quite himself. Besides, his arm was asleep, like it gets when you lay on it wrong. No matter how hard he tried, he was unable to move it out from under his torso.
He fell asleep again, too tired to get up, and too tired to give a damn about his life.
As he slept, his foot felt like a million pins and needles were poking him, and he surmised that it too had fallen asleep making it impossible to remain in bed. Slowly, he opened his eyes, and let them wander aimlessly around the room. They locked on the far corner, where the shadows danced wildly in the weak light falling in through the window.
There was a man standing there.
Terror greater than any he had ever known crept over him, and then his bladder voided itself in a gush of heat. But Joe hadn't the slightest idea of that or anything else. His fear had overcome all rationality, and he was now wide awake. No sound escaped him, not even the slightest squeak; he was as incapable of sound as he was of thought.
Someone was in the room.
He could see the man's dark eyes gazing at him with fixed attention. He could see the waxy whiteness of his narrow cheeks and high forehead, although the intruder's actual features were blurred by the shadows dancing about the room. He could see slumped shoulders and long dangling arms.
He had no idea how long he lay there in that paralyzed state, but it felt like a very long time. As the seconds dripped by like the rain, he found himself unable to avert his eyes from his strange guest. Horror and revulsion were the wellspring of his feelings, and these were the most powerful negative emotions he had ever experienced. Whoever it was, had crept into his room while he was asleep, and now merely stood in the corner, camouflaged by the ceaseless ebb and flow of shadows over its face and body. The thing just stared at him with deep black eyes, eyes so large and rapt they reminded him of sockets in a skull.
The heavens cracked and flashed then, as if celestial armies were at war, and when the downpour hit, the thunder rolled from a far horizon. Joe's visitor only stood there in the corner; merely that, and nothing more.
Time passed, marked only by the idiotic blink of the clock proclaiming it was twelve, twelve, twelve, and at last a coherent thought stole back into his brain, one which seemed both dangerous and vastly comforting.
The power has gone off. There's no one here but you, Joe. The man you see in the corner is a combination of nightmares and imagination---no more than that. Besides, it's too tall and too thin to be a real man. It's nothing but wind and shadows from the open window. You see that, don't you?
He almost did, and started to relax. Outside a dog barked hysterically, and the man made of shadows and imagination, slightly turned his head in that direction.
There was someone there. It wasn't a hallucination. Someone was standing there watching him. Maybe waiting to see if he'll fall back to sleep so he could escape without detection.
Joe's fear returned. If it's a man, he thought. There's something very wrong with its face. If only I could see it better.
Lightning flashed outside, and for just a moment Joe thought he saw a nose, thin and long and white below those black, motionless eyes.
"Who . . . . "
At first he could only manage that one tiny whisper.
"Who are you?" Still a whisper but better than before.
The figure didn't answer, only stood there with its narrow white face.
Then it moved. One leg stepped forward, and Joe's vision was drawn toward the floor. There was something there, a couple of somethings, but he couldn't make out what it was. My God, he thought, there's someone in my house! In my room!
He could hear the wind blowing, and the dog barking, aware, but not knowing, hearing, but not understanding, losing everything to the horror and the half-seen shape. He stared hard at the man, until his eyes burned from the strain. He saw the uninvited guests' narrow, misshapen head, its white cheeks, its slumped shoulders.
"Who in God's name are you?" he begged.
Before him, the figure's face seemed to change . . . seemed to wrinkle upward in a grin.
"Get out!" Joe yelled.
The thing's grin seemed to widen and suddenly the room was filled with that smell, the smell your hand gets after clutching a handful of pennies. The figure bent forward in a kind of mocking bow, and for one moment its face, a face which seemed too real to doubt, slipped out of the shadows.
As the light painted its features, Joe saw red-rimmed, hideously sparkling eyes regarding him from deep eyesockets wrapped in hard bone. Thin lips twitched upward in a dry grin, revealing discolored molars and jagged canines.
Its pallid hands reached down, and grabbed the objects Joe had seen earlier on the floor. Holding them up to display as trophies, Joe saw a severed hand and foot.
Suddenly, a switch flipped in his head, like a premonition of the occult. His foot, his hand, were asleep. He remembered that. Throwing his blankets off, he saw his sheets were pooled with blood. He realized they had not been tingling with sleep after all, they had been missing, cut off.
Then there was screaming, his voice, cracked and dry, barely recognizable, screaming for dear life. An intolerably bright flash of light went off inside his head, and then nothing but dark.
When Joe awoke, he felt different somehow. He didn’t know why . . . he just didn't feel quite himself. He looked at his hands and feet. Everything was as it should be, it was just a bad dream, all his parts were still there.
He threw himself out of the bed, as if a snake had slithered in there with him, and vowed never to sleep again.
"Jesus," he said, "what a nightmare."
He searched the room thoroughly, making damn sure no one was hiding there.
"I need to get out," he said, and for some reason Joe thought it’d be the perfect day to mow the yard.
He pulled-on his dirty work clothes and headed outside in the pouring rain, gassed-up the mower, and then pulled the starter rope. The motor roared to life. The engine vibrated through the handle, up his arms, and into his teeth. The sound and feel of it made Joe happy.
The rain continued to pour.
He started on the edge of the grass, like always, took a straight line, and then for no apparent reason, began to zigzag across the yard. The whole time he just watched the blades spinning round and round. Again, he didn’t know why, it just seemed like the right thing to do.
When the grass-catcher filled, he clenched the kill-switch bar to keep the motor running, and then bent down to push back the collecting grass from the spinning blades where they met the cutting edge.
He was mesmerized by the smell of the fresh cut grass, the whirl of the blades, the warmth of the motor; it was all so inviting somehow. Without hesitating, he stuck his hand into the twirling blades until he felt them bite and kick his hand out again like a piece of chopped, dead wood.
At first there was a dull, numbing pain, followed by a brutal stinging sensation. Joe held up his bleeding stump of a hand and saw he was missing three fingers and half a thumb. His pinky was still intact, now, after all these years, finally becoming the longest finger on his hand. The pain churned within him like a fiery exuberance that felt overwhelmingly satisfying. Joe wanted to put his other hand in, but realized that if he let go of the emergency kill-switch, the mower would shut down.
With ashen eyes, he scowled at the heavens and the rain. He saw a tall familiar figure standing under the shadows of the large woodshed in the far corner of the yard. The sight of him brought everything home for Joe.
"To hell with your premonition," he said, watching the stump of his hand bleed out.
In a state of near shock, he surveyed the grounds in his backyard; most of the trees stood leafless and raging at the bleak sky with mutant arms and bristling fists. Even the wind shook its invisible head, rattling the fence like the fragile bones of small dead animals.
God, this is going to be a good day, he thought, and then kicked off his shoe and jammed his left foot into the mower blades as hard as he could.