The Method of Trangression: Part Five
She watched him pull away from the house with a heavy heart. She knew that she had wounded him. She had wounded herself as well. Her Watcher was silent, as always. On a whim, she threw her arms out and encircled in the room. "Well, now you have me all to yourself. Is this what you wanted? What will you do with me?" She giggled, even as a shiver of dread caressed her naked limbs. "Who are you? I know you know about me. You do, don't you?
Yes. I do, She answered.
Helen froze. She felt the hairs on the neck stir. "Who are you? Are you Allan?" She walked to the silk screen, peered behind it. "Or maybe you’re Adele? How 'bout that, huh? Is that you, 'Dele?"
Know me. Please know me, She pleaded. After all, She had waited so long for Her identity, to Become.
Helen went still. She realized she was holding her breath. Had she heard something? Felt something? Again she walked to the center of the room. She was more circumspect in her spiraling survey this time. Maybe it's something obvious. Maybe I've been missing it all this time. She saw nothing. She tilted her head to the side, listening.
She didn't like standing there. Benevolent presence or no, she didn't like the feeling of something always standing behind her. She felt a queer giddiness rise in her. She felt as though she were on the precipice of discovering something great. She tapped her nail on her teeth, contemplating. She then retrieved a chair from the kitchen, sat it in front of the mirror and straddled it backwards. "How unladylike of you 'Lena," she grinned. Then she let the smile fall. There was something unnatural in that smile. Something unnatural in her whole expression she realized now as she gazed on her reflection.
Eyes too bright, skin too pale except for the angry red mark on her neck from Frank. She tipped her head. "You really should wash your hair Helen. It's a mess, no shine. Who'll want you like that?" She shook her tresses, then again went still, her movements seemed oddly gawky. Puppet-like.
She folded her arms on the back of her chair and rested her chin on them, studying herself.
She stared at the woman, curious as to what she would think of Her new identity. Would she see Her? Recognize Her? She had striven so hard to change, to Become. She recognized Herself, Her memories, Her existence in those blue eyes that glinted at her. She waited as the woman opened her mouth, her eyes widening.
"Helen?" She inquired.
"Helen, that was some strange behavior earlier. Why'd you go and do that to Frank? He was a nice guy. Why'd you chase him off like that?
Why'd you chase him off like that?
"No, no Helen! I'm asking you!"
Asking you! She was so happy. Finally She had someone to talk to! She had done well! No, no asking you! Why'd you chase him off like that, just like Allan.
She remembered Allan, remembered sweet Allan and sweet little one, tiny one smelled like lavender... Rosalyn.
"What about Allan?"
Like Allan, like Allan! Rosalyn had pretty moss eyes like Allan! Sweet thing! Sweet tiny thing!
"Who?" Something was wrong. The Watcher was growing stronger. She could almost feel it as a physical presence, oh she had thought it strong before but nothing like this, nothing like this invasion. She was frozen to the chair. She suddenly wished she wasn't naked. Her eyes took in the reflection of the room behind her. Still empty. But it wasn't, she knew it wasn't she, could it Allan! What did you do to Allan? The interruption of her wandering and increasingly eerie thoughts. "What about Allan? Let's talk about that bastard, shall we. He was fucking prick." She conversationally told herself in the mirror.
"What?" She screeched, though she knew she had heard nothing but her own thoughts.
I've Become. I know you, 'Lena. I am I am I am I-
"-am I am I am- Stop!" She jerked upright in the chair.
Oh Helen, what about Rosalyn? She inquired. Small little sweet thing. She remembered bright moss eyes, skin so soft, so soft... tiny little Rosalyn. Rosalyn smiled one day... What about Rosalyn?
"Rosalyn?" Helen choked, and she commanded her eyes to stay dry. No matter.
"Rosalyn? She took him from me! Might have had him back you know!" She shouted at the woman in the mirror.
"He kissed her goodbye you know, not me."
We get what we deserve, what we deserve! Pretty Rosalyn, Rosalyn with the sweet scent, like lavender and powder, lavender powder? She remembered Rosalyn. Tiny little innocent thing, too good for her, too good for her. Sweet smelling Rosalyn.
"Stop!" Helen bolted back in her chair, and nearly tumbled from it, barely catching her balance. She raised her hands to her ears. The woman in the mirror raised her hands to her ears.
Pretty Rosalyn, pretty pretty Rosalyn with a kiss goodbye, and a smile, nothing so sweet as a first smile. Sleepy eyes and a pretty smile. Rosa-
"-lyn." The woman in the mirror raised a hand to her lips She looked frightened. Horrified. Crazy. Old. All those lines, those wide, wide eyes. "Rosalyn," she groaned in unison with the woman in the mirror.
It felt so good to have company, to finally be real, be Aware. She felt so much love for this woman in the chair, this sad, sad woman. Sad like Allan. Blue eyes wide and bright. Blue. Blue. Blue like Rosalyn. She loved Rosalyn. Sweet memories of the soft tiny little thing, her first sweet smile, her wide eyes, green like Allan's who didn’t love her any more-
"Stop! Please!" Helen begged.
Sweet little Rosalyn, skin so soft beneath tight, tight hands.
She watched the woman in the mirror.
She watched the woman in the room.
Blue eyes gleamed with understanding and malice.
Blue eyes. Blue eyes like baby's soft blue skin. Sleepy baby. Momma put the tired soft baby to sleep.
And Helen knew. The mist that had drenched her memories was obliterated in a flash of clarity.
She stared at the woman in the mirror.
The woman in the mirror stared back.
Somewhere she thought she heard her mother's voice. "Helen, what did you do now?"
"Oh my God." Her hands clenched in her hair. She thought she could her a baby cry. Then it was silenced. She pulled as viciously as she could, and screamed at the pain, the excruciating agony as she ripped a clump of her hair from her head. "Oh my God."
"Helen, what did you do now?"
"Oh my God."
Little blue one, little baby bunting, Mama's gone a-hunting...
"Oh my God." She released her fists, ignorant of the thick strands of grey-kissed gold that slipped from the manicured fingertips. "What have I done?" She asked the woman in the mirror. She stared at the outstretched fingers of the woman in the mirror.
There was blood on them.
She raised her hands to Her eyes.
She watched. The hands rise. Seemed the woman was in turmoil. She knew turmoil. Turmoil... turmoil was a retreating back... a kiss on the sweet soft lips of a baby.. but none for her, none for her... turmoil was being alone, and in pain with a sweet little one pulling at her hair... watching his back receding... hands around a soft throat, so small, so tender, so delicate... and a first smile, but not for her, not for her, not for her...she knew anger.... she knew anger like when she threw that cold blue doll from her lap... knew desperation... call him...call him.. "Allan, please come home." Please. "I just left an hour ago...so important?" pleasepleaseplease "Allan, for me please.." "'Lena where are you?" waiting, waiting behind baby's door..bye bye baby bunting Mama's gone a-hunting..."'Lena? ....Rosalyn!"
The woman in the room was screaming.
She knew screaming. She was changed and in Her change She became acquainted with pain and hurt and screaming like Allan screaming... holding a little blue doll... She knew pain... and hurt and blood like Allan's blood pouring over Her hands...Allan. "Just a kiss, just a kiss goodbye...after you did this to me..."
She knew pain.
The woman in the room gagged and fell silent before the haggard face that greeted her reflection. The weight of her sins forced her shoulders to slouch and her eyes had run dry. The skulking truth hovered over her, and she asked it, her voice dull like an unhoned blade: "Who are you?"
I am Helen, She answered, and watched.
Claw-like fingers rose to glassy blue eyes, eyes that were aware, as the eyes of the dead. She needed to remove this presence, this witness to her shame, her guilt, her regret, as Toby the bartender would've said. Her fingernails hooked at her lower lids, pulling them out from her eyes, creating pockets beneath the slimy orbs. She slipped her nails into the pockets, pressing her fingers in deeper, her body ungracefully bent with a spasm and she clutched the flesh. Three nails slid into the lower lids of both eyes. She watched with relief, mindless of the hot stream of piss that streaked down her legs, mindless of even the exquisite pain as she yanked her fingers downward with every ounce of strength she had. And she knew the strength of her hands well, her suffocating, strangling hands, her blood-soaked hands, as they were again, would always be. There was a wet ripping sound as she tore the flesh from her eyes downward, splitting her cheeks in a crimson rupture of ragged strips. She meticulously began to peel her flesh from the fat and bone beneath it.
Someone was screaming.
Maybe it was her.
Blood poured from the ravaged skin that fell in flaps down her face. She picked at them weekly, managing to finally tear one half completely away.
She was tempted to gouge out those staring, accusing eyes as well. They seemed loose in her face. But she wanted to be able to see herself Unbecome.
"Howard, I'd appreciate it if you could come down to the station to give us a statement."
Howard uttered a resigned sigh, squinting through his bifocals. Ray's normally jovial expression was one of chagrin and exhaustion. "I know, procedure."
"Yeah, procedure," Ray winced. "You know, Chief Viccenzio's still pretty new to town, and he's still hoping for some sort of important crime." He gave a mirthless chuckle. "Some moron at the station mentioned 'Dele and Esther and now he's got it in his head that it's a little too much of a coincidence. The suicides and all." He winced. Of course Falven would know what he was talking about.
"He's just doing his job, Ray. I don't mind." Howard tried to keep from smirking at Ray's obvious discomfort. "I haven't even put my groceries away yet," he added, gesturing to his car. He'd returned from town two hours before to find three police cars and an ambulance parked near the carriage house. "Let me put them away, make myself some lunch and let the Chief know I'll be down right after."
Ray nodded. From what he'd seen of the crime scene, there was no doubt in his mind that the death of Helen Shannon or Clarkson whatever her name was, was a suicide. He did have to admit that there were eerie similarities between her death and that of Adele Falven's five years prior. He knew what the Chief was thinking, it didn't take a fool to see the writing on the wall. Or on the mirror for that matter, he thought. He grimaced at the gruesome pun.
Still, he liked Dr. Falven, had even shared a couple pints with him at the Grant Street Tavern after his wife's death. Coincidence or no, he was convinced that Howard was innocent of any involvement in the stranger's death.
"Alright," he said with a smile, shaking Howard's hand. "We'll see you in an hour or so. I'm sure I don't need to tell you to stay away from the place, evidence and all."
"I don't have any particular desire to go anywhere near it," Howard answered. He forced what he hoped was a feeble smile. "Horrible, all of it. Glad I didn't find her."
"No kidding! That Frank though, man is he shook up. I don't get it though," Ray furrowed a brow. "He said he was down because he got a service call on her phone line, but he wasn't in the van, and her phone worked fine from what I could tell."
"Funny." Come on Ray, enough chatter. Get lost.
"Alright Doc, we'll see you later." Ray turned and made his way down the porch steps. Halfway down he stopped abruptly and turned around. "Say Doc, I know this'll all come out when you talk to the Chief later, but I was wondering... Didn't you check the woman's references or anything before moving her in?"
"No. It's a small town, I didn't figure she'd be able to get away with anything, though I couldn't imagine what a little woman like her could get up to. And she had the money, so..." He shrugged. "Why?"
"Well, we got a call just yesterday from the L.A.P.D. Seems they traced a call from some guy's house out there, and that this Helen woman is almost certainly someone they've been hunting for a few months now."
"Really? What for?"
"A real sick puppy if it's the right woman, but some chick out there apparently strangles her newborn baby to death, then murdered her husband after calling him and telling him to come home. Stabbed him 16 times. They said it was probably a case of that postpartum depression bullshit." He shook his head. "Unbelieveable."
"There's a lot of very disturbed people out there."
"Yeah, guess you've known a few of 'em being a psychiatrist and all."
"A few. Can't say I'm not glad I'm retired and no longer have to deal with it."
"Yeah, don't blame you. Alright, we'll see you later!" He waved and jogged the rest of the way to his car.
Howard waited until he pulled away and briskly walked to the carriage house. After the noise of the last couple of hours, it seemed eerily silent. He carefully ducked under the yellow tape crossing the entrance, groaning at the pain in his back. Inside he blinked his eyes a few times, willing them to adjust to the darkness.
When the room came into focus he walked over to the mirror, careful not to wet his shoes in the congealed pool of blood surrounding the toppled chair. He folded his arms and studied the words on the mirror.
I AM HELEN
It read in smeared crimson. Howard sighed, recalling his last days with his grandmother.
The cracked walls of the room were yellowed with the tar of cigarette smoke. His grandmother lay propped in bed, her form seeming strangely small on the double mattress. She patted the edge of the bed and he scampered onto the blankets, feeling both comforted by the warm hands that pulled him to her, and repulsed by the mixed scents of talcum and old piss.
"Nanna is dying, Howie," she said tonelessly. He coughed at the smoke that billowed from her nose into his face. She waved her hand to clear the smoke, leaving trails of it from her burning cigarette. "Sorry, mon cherie." She smiled down at him, and he smiled back, curling up in the crook of her arm against her bony breast.
"Because that is what people do when they get old."
He felt sad. His dog had been hit by a car the year prior. He knew when things died they went to Heaven and never came back. "Oh."
"I want to leave you something when I die, Howie. I do no have much, but you are my only grandchild. Nanna wants to give you something to remember her by. Anything you want I have to give."
"Dad says you're a witch. Do you have anything magic?" His face lit up at the possibility.
Nanna chuckled, a deep throaty sound, with a slightly wet gurgle behind it. "Your father is bastard. But I might have something." Her jaundiced eyes traveled across the room and settled on an object draped with a stained bedsheet. She pointed with her cigarette. "Go, uncover that mirror," she commanded.
He rolled off the bed and did as she ordered. He stared at his reflection in an ornate and dusty oval mirror resting in its stand. He raised a finger and traced a line in the dust.
"Do you remember the story of Snow White I did tell you?" He gave a solemn nod. "The evil queen had a magic mirror that says truth, and can only tell the truth, remember?"
He nodded again, his eyes lighting up. "Are you the evil witch, Nanna?"
"Maybe," she chuckled again. "Come back here next to Nanna."
After he had returned to the comfort of her side she said, "When you are older, Howie, you probably will no be as good a boy as you are now. People are strange, do strange things when they get older. Life gets hard, we forget how to be good sometimes." Her eyes seemed to turn inward.
"Of course you are," she said, smiling. "Now that is a magic mirror. It was my Grandmere's before it was mine, I brought it from the Old World."
"How is it magic? Does it talk?"
"Not exactly. But it does only tell the truth. You should never do anything in your life that would stop you from being able to face your reflection in a mirror of truth. It can help keep you honest." She poked him with a boney finger. "And so I do give you my magic mirror when I die, if you will promise to stay a good and honorable boy, eh mon petite?"
Howard met his own eyes in the reflection of the mirror and shuddered. "I'm not responsible," he muttered to himself, fighting the urge to look away, to cover the ghastly thing with a bedsheet. He knew he couldn't, as he wasn't even supposed to be in the house. "She apparently couldn't face herself." He narrowed his eyes at the mirror, and a chill breezed through him. He turned in disgust, though at what he couldn’t have said. At himself for allowing such a thing to happen again? That he continued to keep the thing instead of destroying it, though it never seemed to bring anything but grief. Then again, was he not helping his fellows in society, offering the deviants what they deserved? Not for the first time he thought his Nanna must have been the most saintly of creatures to have never been adversely affected by the thing, as everyone else seemed to be. But then, she kept it covered, he reminded himself as he crossed the room to leave.
When he reached the door he pulled the drapes. He knew he wasn't supposed to touch anything, but he was sure they would understand his desire to shut out the gore. How does a woman tear away her own face? Swallowing his revulsion at the image, he ducked beneath the tape, again groaning, and shut the door. He dusted his hands together as he walked away, as though they were sullied with some undefinable muck. He tried to put the carriage house out of his mind for the time being. He had groceries to unload and lunch to make. Checking his watch he quickened his step. Jeopardy was about to start.
It wanted to cringe. It wanted to rail and scream as it watched the man disappear. The drapes were again closed. The light once again shut out. The woman... the woman...who? Lena? Helen? Ade- who? It's memory was already fading. Soon there would only be the loneliness. The detested solitude like a smothering avalanche.
And the dark.
Eventually someone would come to let the light in again. It would wait. It had all the time in the world...