Union [Writing Warm-Up #6, Final]

UNION [Writing Warm-Up #6, Final]
by T.A. Saunders

After five hundred and twenty years, I have returned. The last I saw this world, Europe was seeking trade routes to China, to trade silk, and Martin Luther sought to change the very foundations of your Christian religion. I saw Shakespeare rise, and Constantinople fall. It is truly a pity that the fine Muslim swordsman gutted the host I was using on that day, else I might have seen more of this world, slowly sinking into the mire of corruption. 

Oh, but my have things changed, and for the better I might add! As I soak the anguish, the rage and the despair from this host, I can also see his memories, his drugged delusions and I can see the hope he clung to till just now. There it goes! Out like a candle that’s burned down to its last, struggling to stay lit. Just a puddle of melted wax, and a charred bit of wick; that’s what’s left of his soul. Yes, Aaron was his name.

Going through his memories reads like a bad novel. All sadness, weeping and failure to live up to expectations. It’s this weakness I sup upon…well, all my kind do, really. Aaron wanted to be an astronaut as a boy. Loved his science, but struggled a bit with math. Grades. Yes, each ‘C’ was a lash from a father’s belt, between swigs of whiskey. He sought his mother’s eyes, but she always looked away, always said, “You should’ve done better. You need to obey your father.” Enablers are the best thing ever! Their passive role in torment, whether adult or child, is gasoline to the flame. Make it worse, make it so they break people like Aaron.

But he was spared a few lashes, wasn’t he? Spared because daddy was driving drunk and killed him and his mother both. That’s how he ended up with his grandfather. What that man lacked in the ability to inflict physical abuse, he certainly made up for in mental abuse. Honestly, if you’re going to abuse somebody, mental abuse is the best. No physical scars and you can claim the person is completely nuts. Another twelve years of being told he was a failure, being told he couldn’t go play with his friends and being forced to live like it was the 1950’s cracked what normality Aaron had. Fertile soil for the thing that lets me inside.

These early memories are the best. I can feel their deep, lingering pain like it was yesterday. Aaron still replays them in his head, sometimes even argues aloud, to himself. Says all the things he wanted to say then, to the dark, long after saying anything would have any meaning. So much easier to talk to the dark, when you want to say something, isn’t it? You don’t think anybody’s listening, but things do hear you. Things like me. Other things. Worse things.

All Aaron wanted was to be understood, to be accepted for who he was. But he wasn’t. Not at home, and not at school, where other children picked on him, pestered him and did what daddy wasn’t around to do anymore. Lashes of the belt were replaced with pummeling fists, hitting and smacking him for not conforming, not being as the rest of the herd was. Normal, normal, normal. Humans and their normal. Little prepubescent primates swinging their little arms, howling at whatever’s not like them and breaking it. It’s almost like having little, snot-dribbling minions really. Goblins that do my bidding, without me ever having to ask. Whatever resistance Aaron had to falling into the cool embrace of my shadow was destroyed by the monkey-goblins. Thank you monkey-goblins!

He never fought back once. Not one single time did he raise a hand to the monkey-goblin children, who beat their chests, howled at how different Aaron was, then beat him for not conforming. Not being a monkey-goblin. Aaron became something worse than a monkey-gobln. He became a dumpster for whatever chemical would make him forget, whatever he could drink to make him look cool to the monkey-goblins, or at least to other dumpsters like him. Misery does love company. Never forget that.

By the time everybody abandoned Aaron, he was a full dumpster. Full of anger, full of regret, full of dreams, visions and disjointed, impossible thoughts that could never be. The cracked glass of Aaron could never be a true, focused lense for anything real, anything that would be worth actually doing. Dealing meth, and smoking away half the product became more engaging than being an astronaut, or a physicist.

But even as drugs and misery sloshed and mingled inside broken Aaron, he never did quite become evil, did he? Angry at himself, weak-willed and tormented, but he never turned it on others. He always kept his torment to himself, let it harm himself, before he would let it harm others. Had this gentle side, hidden amongst the walls of pain and the gobs of drug-induced stupid. It’s why he felt so bad when he ran that poor beagle over with his grandfather’s Buick. The poor thing howled pitifully for a full half hour, after he sped away. Do old people always drive dog-killing Buicks?

But that will change, now that I’m driving Aaron. What remains of his struggling soul, I will consume, and add to myself. It’s an honor! I have devoured souls of Egyptian thieves, Roman harlots and British mass murderers. Aaron’s distinction will be in fine company to the other souls I’ve consumed, and made a part of me. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s going to enjoy killing people. It’ll give a power that drugs could never give him. It will feed him in a way that no approval could ever nourish him. He’ll feel strength when he clasps somebody’s throat, and squeezes. When life escapes in a gasp, from open lips that ask the unvoiced question of, “Why?”

“The why is power, Miss Chaise Michaels. Thank you for bringing me Aaron. Thank you for also bringing me your neck to squeeze. Aaron appreciates it, for all the suffering you’ve put him through.”

Now, to find a damned beagle, and convert it into a Hound of Hell.

 END

END

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I Can’t Get That Y’Sil Out of My Head! [Writing Warm-Up #5]

I Can’t Get That Y’Sil Out of My Head! [Writing Warm-Up #5]
By T.A. Saunders

My skin burns. It’s a pain that travels my entire torso, and I only have moments, between when this crazy bitch is making my skin look like a meat mosaic and when she’s wiping clean the knife she’s using, that I have relief. It’s a moment for me to reflect on how utterly fucked I am, for the person I am. If I were the bird I’d hoped I had been in a past life, I could fly away from all this, or if I was the beagle, I could just bite this bitch in the boob, and make a break for it.

But I’m none of those things. I’m an addict, a failure and I’m going to be the fuck sock for some primordial ass-wipe from Hell. At least, that’s the impression Doctor Michaels gave me, when she gave me the lowdown on my situation. I don’t know much about this voodoo witchcraft shit, but I know enough that once she finishes carving symbols in my skin, and chanting something that sounds like an unhappy Catholic mass done in Latin, I’m done.

For all the things that’s happened, for all the shit I’ve done to myself, I’m deciding right now, I’m not done. I’m not done with life, and whatever surviving braincells I have, I need to fire up now if I’m ever going to get out of this. To be honest, it’s taken me being put here, on the literal sacrificial alter of some demon, or whatever, to see that I want to live. I want to not be this jerk that mopes about his lot in life, wishes he was something else, and wallows in his misery.

The restraints are tight. I’m never going to break them. I had trouble, last week, tearing a t-shirt I was wearing, when I was doing a drunk impersonation of the Hulk; leather restraints are an insurmountable challenge. But if she sets that knife down on the tray, I might be able to get it. I might be able to cut a restraint, or cut her. For all this carving, permanent scarring I’m going to have, giving her a few stabs won’t even flicker on my conscious.

I should be dead though. All this blood is mine, she’s cut me all over and it stings to feel the air move across my body. I cry out more than I want to, but she’s making shallow cuts, inches at a time. She’s being precise, she’s being careful with every symbol. She’s making my flesh art to a dark god, that she hopes will take this body, filled with despair, frustration and a lack of beagles and use it for…well, I don’t really fucking know, do I? But she’s making art for him, is the point. Art I can vandalize, just by moving.

She lifts the knife just as I twist in my restraints. I snarl at her, and her expression is one of surprised shock. She eyes my restraints, and its here I know she fears me. She fears me getting free before she’s done. She uses her sweet voice to try and calm me, warn me she’ll use some chemical on me, but I don’t care. I want to be free. I wait for her to start cutting again, and this time she slips. This time I ruin her artwork. It’s a small victory, probably not important in the grand scheme of me being a meat tapestry, but it’s the fuck you of it that counts. Bitch.

Then I feel it. It. Each one of the carved symbols on my body burns like I’m on fire, but I can’t scream. Doctor Michaels is chanting in something that sounds like more of that angry-sounding Latin Catholic mass, and every phrase she finishes, brings It deeper within my body, through the symbols cut into my skin. I want to scream, for the discovery of a pain new and different to the one I’ve been experiencing for the last two hours, but it doesn’t come to my voice. It’s choked there, like a fat cat trying to push its way through a cat door that’s too small. Instead of the scream, I make this saliva-drenched gagging noise, thanks to the ball gag I’m wearing.

I can feel Y’Sil in my head now, coaxing me like I’m a prom date it wants to lay, in the back seat of his car, with images of power, conquest and women. He tells me he’ll let me kill the doctor first, if I want, or rape her, then kill her if that pleases me. Even as fucked up as I am, as mad as I am at this woman, the idea of raping her sits sour in my stomach, but killing her seems somehow better. It…he, whispers in my mind that together, he and I will have absolute power, to shape the world as we wish.

Somehow, the promise seems genuine. I give a little. I let him take a bit more of me, but not everything. I want something first. I want proof that he’s not going to jack me, and use my body as a wearable meatsuit. I have one condition, and I make it wicked simple.

I want a damned beagle!

Y’Sil’s Unlikely ‘Boat’ [Writing Warm-Up #4]

Y’Sil’s Unlikely ‘Boat’
By T.A. Saunders

Doctor Chaise Michaels wondered if she had truly made a mistake. Born of desperation to find a weak, depraved soul, that could be whisked away without much worry from significant others, parents or guardians proved more difficult than she had anticipated. Her position at Sisters of Mercy Hospital, she imagined initially, would give her a perfect opportunity, with the sorts of genetic flotsam that commonly found its way in through its doors.

But that really wasn’t the case. Many were gangers, or prostitutes that would be missed, even if it was by their pimps. Chaise was by no means a physically imposing woman, or had the ability to fight off an attacker. She was a delicately curved woman, with dark chocolate brown hair, and matching eyes, that gave her this innocent look about her. Most of the people she required for her needs were also quite capable of causing her great harm. She had to be careful, she had to apply two of her assets that those she required likely did not have: patience and wit.

And Chaise had been patient. Despite the murmurings of her dark master, Y’Sil, she waited and plotted for the right subject, the right moment. But even she was beginning to worry to her master’s willingness to wait for a vessel, one corrupt and weak enough for him to take over, and make his own. Aaron was surely a prime candidate, with his weak will, his already delusional frame of mind and his only living relative thinking he was really nothing more than living refuse. There was just one sticking point with Aaron, that had the doctor concerned that Y’Sil might reject this vessel, and strike her down. Aaron Thorpe was so bafflingly stupid, she had begun to wonder if even Y’Sil would not have him.

“Yes, Aaron.” She said with a soft, assuring tone. “You and He are going to go on a little voyage together. I just need to prepare you.”

“I had to be chained up to go on a trip?” Her potential sacrifice replied, while tilting his head vacantly.

“As I indicated, preparation can be…painful.” Chaise replied, while doing herself the service of pulling a ball gag she had dangling from Aaron’s neck, into place. “Now, I need you to be very still Aaron. Can you do that for me?”

“Mmmff! Mmhmmff Mh!” Chaise assumed by the tone of the muffled response and his bobbing head, that Aaron planned on being compliant, which was advantageous, since the next option was gassing the young man with Sevoflurane. No telling what Y’Sil would do if he was brought into a body knocked out by general aesthetic.

“Shh now.” She urged, while taking a small knife from a nearby table, to carefully cut the fabric of the “Keep Calm and Call the Doctor” t-shirt he was wearing. She found no small amount of irony to this particular garment, considering her position and the predicament poor Aaron was in. Probably thought this was bondage play, certainly not preparation for demonic possession.

As a physical specimen, Chaise felt Aaron was somewhat thin, and could probably do with a workout regimen that worked on building a little muscle mass. Hopefully Y’Sil wouldn’t be as discerning as she was. Still, she took pride in her work, whether it be to save a patient, or to place demonic runes on somebody’s skin. The body was her canvas, after all; making it look pleasing to her master was quite important.

“Mmmfh?!” Aaron mumbled loudly, as Chaise replace the small knife she had been holding, with a scalpel. She recognized the fear in his pale blue eyes, so much like his grandfather’s, and answered it with a gentle caress of his cheek, even while placing the edge of the cutting implement upon perspiration-slicked skin.

“Very still. You must be very still for me, Aaron.” She cooed into his ear, while carving the first part of one of many runes to come, into his chest. The point of the scalpel didn’t cut into the muscle, but left a clean split of skin, that quickly filled with the red of Aaron’s life. Another slice through the skin, and another, that was answered by more panicked mumbles through the ball gag.

Chaise had become exceedingly careful now, with her canvas writhing and bucking against the chains. She was still considering hitting him with the Sevoflurane, if only to ensure he’d keep still, but decided against it. While a mistake in cutting the flesh would mean waiting another three or four days while the wound healed, so she could try again, it was essential that Y’Sil’s vessel properly suffer, to accept Him. He had to bleed. He had to feel pain.

* * *

Her canvas was red now, streaked with the delicate little incisions that were fashioned into runes over Aaron’s chest, stomach, shoulders and pelvis. In total, there were nine hundred and forty-two little marks, tiny symbols of demonic importance lovingly etched into the meat of this degenerate’s body. Aaron had passed out from the pain, which while not conducive to building his suffering, certainly made it easier to accomplish the blood-wrought artistry now covering his body.

Chaise pressed a kiss to Aaron’s bloodied chest, then leaned her cheek upon it, as if she were listening for a lover’s heartbeat. Unbothered by the smear of red life upon her own pale cheek, she whispered gently against the ruined skin.

“He is yours, Master. Aaron Thorpe awaits to receive your infernal host.”

Malice – Chapter 8

 8

The drive to the police station seemed to take forever. I looked out the window to watch the beginning of rainfall on the busy streets of the city and wondered if we’d ever get there. Some part of me seriously believed Mara was going to appear again and cause some kind of traffic accident that would assure Sam and I would die. Of course, I was still grappling with whether I was finally going out of my mind or if I was really seeing the apparition of Mara. Had she returned as some sort of vengeful spirit because I had tried to move on? As droplets of water splattered on the glass of the car window I was looking out of, I was given this gray, distorted view of the world that seemed to mimic the events of the last few days. Everything was distorted and the truth was lost somewhere in the rain. The sound of Sam’s cellphone ringing to the tune of “Crazy Bitch” by Buck Cherry. I disliked that song almost as much as I disliked the person it was associated to.

The conversation between Sam and Elanor involved a lot of him saying ‘Wait…’ and ‘calm down…’ and ended with ‘We’ll be right over.’ The penetrating stare I gave Sam demanded an answer and I got one that began with a turn down a street that I know could never take us to the police station we desperately needed to get to right now.

“Sam…”

“Elle’s freaking out, Patrick. I promise we’ll go to the police once I make sure she’s all right.”

“Sam, I know she’s you’re wife, but nothing is more important than this right now. Let’s just—“

“No! We’re going to check on Elle now! If it was your fucking wife, you’d do the same!”

Unintentionally, Sam just verbally punched me in the throat. I was robbed of any protest I could have made to his logic. Part of me wanted to throttle him because he had to know how important clearing his name was with that Veronica’s cellphone, assuming of course he was innocent. It just occurred to me then that Sam could be in this with Elanor too and this was all just a ploy to get me someplace where they could kill me quietly. I felt like I was going to vomit with the tension of it all. Despite my gut feelings on the matter, I asked the question that would have been expected of me to ask. If Sam has a hint that I’m not buying this possible crock of shit, he might just kill me now.

“Alright, Sam. Why is she freaking out?”

“Doesn’t make any sense. Think she’s just going crazy.”

“Crazy, like how?”

“She’s just crying and spouting nonsense. Just want to make sure she’s all right.”

I frowned but didn’t press further. That really did sound like a made-up excuse that was meant to lure me into a death trap. I looked out the window again, but not to study the dreary world presently engaged in a downpour. I was trying to figure out if jumping out of a moving car would be any less lethal than going home with Sam. We were going about 60mph in a 45mph zone. I’d probably die from head trauma if I made a jump for it. Then there was the matter of Veronica’s cellphone still stuffed in Sam’s pocket. Unless I had the element of surprise and a baseball bat, I wasn’t going to get that phone back from Mr. All-American Football Hero. I was going to have to let things ride out and hope that my growing paranoia isn’t the result of me losing my marbles.

* * *

“Hey, thanks for not making a big deal out of this.”

“It’s fine Sam. Let’s just make sure she’s alright and get to the police.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing. You know how freakin’ emotional women get.”

“What was she getting ‘all emotional’ about anyway? She still thinks you and Veronica…”

“No. That’s the funny part. Kept on going on about Mara being here.”

Sam had just explained that the moment he unlocked the front door of his home. Every instinct in my body wanted me to turn and run with the horror of it, but where would I go? Home? Mara could be there too. To the police? They’d lock me up before I was halfway done explaining how my dead wife is possible suspect in the murder of Veronica Stiles. Instead of running, or any other justifiably sane responses, I chose to do the one entirely not-sane thing. I stayed. I stayed because I was tired of being haunted by Mara’s memory and if this really was Mara’s spirit hunting me down with such malice, then it was time for me to face her. I had no idea how I was going to deal with such a confrontation, should it come to pass, but I was ready.

I was jarred from my inner turmoil by the sound of gunshots. As the distinct scent of gunpowder filled my nostrils, I saw Sam fall to the ground with two gushing crimson holes in his chest. Elanor was holding the gun. She was wearing a pink silk bathrobe and her hair was wild and unwashed. She looked like she had just woken up and decided to kill Sam. Wordlessly, she trained the small revolver on me and without thinking I charged her. Woman or not, I was going to beat this bitch within an inch of her life and call the cops.

Her uncontrolled bellow of rage filled my ears, followed by three more thunderous cracks from the revolver. All the aggression, all the strength I had built up suddenly deflated from me as I fell to the pretty brick-face walkway with an anticlimactic thud. My sight was blurring, but I watched with broken fascination at the tiny rivers of red trickling through the spaces between the bricks. My life was ended and the lingering pain from the gunshot wounds aside, I was happy to be dead. It meant I was free of all this and the torment it brought me. Yet, as the last moments of my life came and went, I turned my head up at the sound of Elanor’s voice.

“It’s done. You can rest now.”

It was Mara she was talking to. I knew because as my end came, Elanor and the world became darker and Mara’s spectral visage became clearer, more distinct. My last words weren’t words at all, but laughter. She might not forgive me but at least we were reunited. All of us could find peace now.

 

END

Malice – Chapter 7

7

 

I was dying and I wasn’t sure if I was all that upset about it. The pain of living would be over and I would finally be at peace. Could Mara torment me even in the Afterlife? I wasn’t sure but I knew being alive with the guilt of her suicide weighing on me was almost too much to bear anymore. I didn’t struggle and as my vision began to blur, I wondered how the police might classify my death. Choked on my own vomit perhaps? How do you explain a strangulation by a killer who cannot be seen or heard or leaves no tracks?

Somewhere between my eyes closing and opening again, I heard a familiar voice. Sam was here? Was he seeing this? I felt him slap me across the face with that big meat paw of his and it roused me from my drunken and oxygen deprived state only momentarily. He was shouting something at me but I couldn’t make the words out. He was standing right next to Mara and he couldn’t see her. I even pointed and gasped out her name, but he simply didn’t see her. The world spun uncomfortably then and I was left in a darkness I had hoped would be my final one. I just wanted it all to end and I wanted to be free from this torment, this lurching ship of existence that I no longer wanted any part in.

 

* * *

 

“You’re some kind of asshole, do you know that?”

I woke to the sound of Sam’s voice, though with the light of sunrise shining in my face and my awful hangover, I was having a hell of a time focusing. I squinted at him as I sat up, unsure where I should begin. Maybe I should tell him nothing at all and just play the ‘Drunk and Depressed’ card rather than trying to explain that the ghost of Mara visited me last night and tried to kill me.

“I thought you were taken by the cops.”

“Didn’t have enough evidence to hold me, but Elle’s convinced I did it.”

“Yeah she came by here. Listen, we have to talk.”

I proceeded to tell him that I had Veronica’s phone and pointed over to my dresser where I had kept it. The other, more questionably insane things about Mara trying to strangle me could wait. Right now, nothing was more important than getting that phone into his hands so he could clear his name. Of course, I was operating on the belief that he was innocent. With luck, the phone would show that he and Veronica only had a professional relationship and there was nothing to build a case against him with.

“You’ve had this since the other night?”

“Yeah. Found it yesterday afternoon.”

“Anybody else know you have this?”

“No…just you.”

The look Sam gave me was one of relief, but it didn’t seem like it was for the reasons I would normally expect. I looked down at the pink and silver piece of plastic and technology in his hand and wondered if I had made the right choice. The doubt was written plain as day on my features and it drew a mild frown to his face. The lingering silence was awkward and mildly disturbing; it was as though he was debating on whether he needed to kill me to ensure my silence and if it came down to overpowering him to get that phone back or to save my own life, I’d be out of luck there too.

“Look, I’ll take this right to the police station right now. You can come with me if you want.”

Did I want to go? I could stay here and possibly be choked to death by what I was very sure was a ghost or take the chance that Sam was really driving me somewhere that he could end me with minimal fuss. After looking around my bedroom and the wreck I made of my living room just beyond I gave him a single nod. If for no other reason, I needed to get out of this place because I could feel Mara everywhere and it was beginning to make me nauseous with an unspoken fear.

“I’ll go. It’s not that I don’t trust you Sam, but things are getting weird.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Let’s get that phone to the police and be done with it.”

That was the first time I’ve ever lied to Sam. I didn’t trust him. I didn’t even trust my own senses anymore, let alone the one person I could always rely on. What if Elanor had been right all along? I couldn’t even imagine a universe where that was possible until ten minutes ago. I put it out of my mind for now and locked the front door. There was nothing to be done now but to see how events played out.

Though, when I looked up to see Mara standing by the picture window with her fingers dragging blood down the glass, I knew that no matter what happened, my sanity would be the next victim in all of this chaos.

 

Malice – Chapter 6

6

I held Veronica’s phone in the palm of my hand. The delicate pink of it seemed to almost glow as the light of the dying sun struck it through my bedroom window. I knew I should turn it over to the police; it was the just thing to do, but right thing? What’s moral and just and what’s right are two different things sometimes. What I could see here could confirm my faith in my friend, or break it. Elanor was right; I was covering for him, but not in the sense that I really believed, or knew he might have had a thing with Veronica. I wanted to keep her from meddling in things. The more I thought about it, the more I was becoming convinced this was all something she designed. If she arranged Sam to be arrested, then likely I’d be collected as an accomplice, which means I had a limited window in which to act. My decision was made. Tomorrow, I’d take the phone to the police station and let them deal with it.

I just needed to clear my head for now. Too many things were happening at once and for a shut-in like me, it was getting to be overwhelming. I needed to just tune everything out so I could clear my head. I probably should have taken the phone right to the police station but I just didn’t have the energy. I felt lethargic and emotionally sapped from being brought to happiness then slammed back down into the dark shadow of familiar misery. As I perused my liquor cabinet and selected a bottle of Absolut to drown my sorrows within, I could almost feel Mara’s hand on my shoulder, trying to comfort me. It was real enough that I turned to look, hoping that these last five years were some nightmare I was having and I’d wake up to her smiling face. But nothing. Only long shadows made by the fleeting orange light that was coming through the windows.

Getting drunk when you were a consummate professional at it is harder than it sounds. I don’t consider myself an alcoholic because I drink to cope, not drink because I feel physically driven to do so. However, as a coping mechanism, I’m probably as bad as an alcoholic. I wander over to my couch and turn on my stereo. I don’t really pay attention to what’s playing because all I want is the sound. Something to fill the void I keep falling into.

I began guzzling the vodka like I was some kind of rockstar; the ‘not giving a damn’ feeling was exactly what I thought I needed right now. I swayed to whatever was playing — I think it was the Doors — and I pretended that everything was better than it was. I knew tomorrow the darkness of my life would return, but now I wanted to be free of my desolate existence. I wanted Veronica (or another girl just like her) to come into my life, I wanted Sam to not be in jail and I wanted Elanor to die. I decided in my quickly approaching drunken stupor that I hated that bitch and death by suffocation would be a perfect end for her.

“Never forgive you…”

I nearly stumbled over my couch with the voice I heard. Maybe it was just one of the lyrics being sung with the music I was listening to. Usually getting drunk didn’t involve hearing things or hallucinations, but it sounded so real. It sounded like Mara. I decided that even parts of my own mind were against me and continued drinking, but I stopped swaying to the music. Last thing I needed was to fall over something and knock myself out cold.

I opted to stare at the glowing stereo panel instead. The old style dials and knobs on the solid state unit glowed a pale yellow; mingled with the sharp red lights on the much newer CD changer unit I added six years ago, the whole thing looked like a hunched over, red-eyed and rabid yellow-mouthed metal monster sent to destroy me for my sins. I welcomed it with another long swig of vodka. I wanted to be destroyed. I wanted the end of my misery.

“Don’t forgive me then, Mara. I don’t give a damn anymore. You chose to die.”

Silence. Why I expected an answer could only be attributed to the bottle in my hand. I was ready to be rid of the albatross of Mara’s suicide and Elanor’s venom. Whether it be exorcism by liquor or freedom through death, I didn’t care. I was ready for the end. My bottle was half empty which only encouraged me to guzzle more. If I didn’t die from alcohol poisoning tonight, I would start moving forward. I deserved that. I paid my due in emotional desolation to the living and the dead…at least I thought so.

I could hear the soft mechanical clicking of the CD changer as another disc was loaded. In the brief downtime between discs, I wandered to my window and looked outside to the stars and the moon before me. I smiled. I was free. Maybe it was the courage imbued by the vodka but I felt free. For the first time in a long time, despite the kind of day today had been, I had hope. I could move on and I could be who I used to be before everything fell apart.

That’s when I heard it. Yesterday started playing and it instantly evoked the rage of a man who has been chained in the dungeon of his own guilt for far too long. The howl I unleashed was so incoherent, it barely sounded like myself. I was listening to a more primitive version of myself that was tired of being caged in my depression and it refused to go back. I liked it. I liked the power of it and I displayed that power by throwing the half-consumed bottle of Absolut at the stereo for daring to play that song! The glass shattered and while the song kept playing, I felt exonerated for throwing the bottle.

“You will never be free…”

I wheeled around to scream at the voice I thought was Mara, but there wasn’t anybody there. Too damned drunk. That had to be it. I screamed anyway. I screamed away all my anguish, all my frustration and all my anger. I screamed because I wanted to be free. I screamed because I my soul could no longer take the chains of Mara’s memory. I clumsily turned to face the window again, with the belated realization that I sounded like an idiot. At least if the neighbors called the cops, it would save me the trip to deliver the cell phone.

I saw her in the glass. I saw her pretty blonde hair cut in that pixie style she enjoyed and her big blue eyes. Her full lips were the purple granted by suffocation and her skin had the blue tinge one might expect from such a fate. She had been here the whole time, I realized. She had been here waiting for me to try to escape the prison of my misery because she never wanted me to escape it. She was wearing the same pale pink blouse, jeans and boots she had the night she died. She never moved on to the afterlife and she was going to make sure I didn’t move on with my life. Despite this revelation, I was surprisingly calm.

There was a thousand different things I wanted to say. I wanted to explain to her that my fling with the girl I couldn’t even remember the name of wasn’t the torrid, long-lasting love affair Elanor painted it as. I wanted to apologize and I wanted her for finally find rest. As drunk as I was, none of it would be even remotely comprehensible but at least I would have my chance. I turned to speak but she wasn’t there. Just a room that smelled like vodka and a stereo that seemed to almost be smiling as it mocked me with music. Superstition by Stevie Wonder wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear right now.

The Devil was on his way indeed. The suffocating tightness at my throat made that clear.

Malice – Chapter 5

5

The slap across my face when I opened the door unwittingly to Elanor blacked out all rational thought. There must have been a sign of it in my face because she immediately flinched. I could feel muscles contort and the flash of my anger heat my entire face. I think I might have actually snarled at her. There was a second, just a moment that I could have been capable of murder. But only her. Elanor, who I have made one mistake with when we were in high school has never let me forget it. She never let go and because she could never let go, she blames me for what Mara did. There’s an irony in that, because I couldn’t let go either. I tried and somehow somebody died or it. When the moment passed, Elanor took that as her cue to be Elanor again and not a scared child.

“You knew about it, didn’t you!”

“Know about what?”

“Sam’s affair with that secretary!”

“Sam wasn’t having an affair with her. She was trying to get to know me.”

“Really? Then why do the police have him in custody for her murder?”

She could have slapped me (again) and she couldn’t have dazed me anymore than the news that Sam was taken as a person of interest. I just spoke with him! This had to be either a misunderstanding or Elanor was playing a game. Nobody in their right mind would believe Sam killed her; if anything, I was becoming more convinced that the belligerent, yelling woman in front of me was responsible somehow. I used to think she had a right to put the weight of Mara’s death on my shoulders, but one night with Veronica shook me from that five year fog.

I motion for her to come in the house, because on top of everything else, I didn’t need this berserking bitch making my neighbors feel the need to call 911. Surprisingly she complied with brisk purpose past the threshold and into my living room. Elanor was always moving quickly, speaking quickly and constantly in a hurry. Even moving the few feet into my living room was a hurried act of impatience. While a very attractive woman, it was one of her many little annoying quirks that drove her and I apart way back in high school. That and me cheating on her. Even under the circumstances, the thought of that still managed to take a grating front row seat in my mind.

The police must have come to get him minutes after our phone call. If he said he was on his way here, that might also make me look like a more attractive suspect. This was all getting very deep, twisted and filled with tangling vines of implication. Nevermind that I still had Veronica’s cellphone. That might be the key to exonerating Sam from this nonsense that he murdered her. Of course, the opposite could also be true. Thinking about it made me want to punch Elanor all over again, just to punch somebody. Instead I mutely motion her to a chair, while I take a seat on my couch.

“Sam’s no murderer, Elle.”

“I don’t know what to think. I didn’t think he would be unfaithful either. Our sex l—“

“I really don’t want to know. We both know Sam is a lot of things, but a killer isn’t one.”

“Maybe. But I think you knew about his affair. He knew about yours.”

“You mean my fling because I had a moment of indiscretion?”

“You’re a lying pig. You cheated on poor Mara for months and now you’re covering for Sam!”

“You’re…not even remotely concerned somebody died today, are you?”

The blank look drawn in her pale blue eyes illustrated just how indifferent she was to the fact that Veronica Stiles was killed by somebody. Elanor has always been selfish but it took an entirely different color now. She didn’t care and moreover, as I watch a brief flicker of a smile manage itself onto her lips before she forces it away, I now realize Elanor is happy she’s dead. She’s only upset because she thinks Sam killed this girl to cover up the affair. I stop looking at her to stifle the resurgent desire to hit her again. I’ve never hit a woman in my life, but the one before me keeps finding new ways to volunteer to be the first. With the return of that emotionally bereft expression, comes with it more discussion on the matter at hand.

“I…I’m sorry, I don’t know what to think about any of this.”

“Why did you come here? We dislike each other a good bit.”

“Dislike? No Patrick. I hate you. I hate you deep into the core of me. But you’re all that’s left.”

“All that’s left? Did you come here for sympathy and a confession?”

“And if I did?”

“I’d say you’re shit out of luck, Elle. Sam didn’t cheat on you. He’s been faithful…and framed.”

“Are you so sure?”

I hate it when Elanor gets inside my head with her words. They were like termites eating away at the confidence I had in Sam. I couldn’t believe what she was telling me; to even consider it would be a betrayal of a friend I’ve known since we were kids. This was more of Elle’s poison that she was seeping into me now. As she left me with those words and swiftly, smoothly strode out of my home, I knew there was only one way to be sure. One means to prove one way or another that Sam was innocent.

Except I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to hand it over to the police, or find my own answers.