Written and Read by M. Jones
He was disappointed in how little his actions had eased her suffering, and he knew who was to blame. The headline had read nothing more than a woman shot in a car at a desolate intersection, with no mention of the purification he had left behind, nor the message his Oculus had for them. It was a cruel thing to deny his Oculus her voice, and he focused his anger on the names listed in the small article.
TORONTO–A woman was found dead with an apparent gunshot wound to the head on the morning of Monday, December 5. Few details are available at this time other than the woman’s identity, Denise Mooreland, 36, of North York. A nearby resident of the area, Mr. Walter Wheeler, was walking his dog at approximately seven a.m. and found the car sitting idle at the isolated intersection. “We don’t get much traffic here, we’re on the edge of the city and off the main road. It’s mostly transport trucks going in to the factories down the street.”
Mooreland worked the night shift at North York General Hospital, and was heading home after a double shift. Constable Jim Natrelle, who secured the scene, said police already have a few solid leads and he is confident the homicide will be solved. “We have a few suspects in mind,” Natrelle said. “There is overwhelming evidence that she knew her killer.”
Mr. Wheeler hopes the resolution to this case comes soon. Wheeler, an elderly man in his late 70’s, said the scene left him ‘scared’ and he’s installing a security system into his home this afternoon.
Such base lies and insults! No wonder his Oculus continued to suffer, with the poison of what was said about his offering leaking into her, making her scream in fury. He closed his eyes, trying to push the echo of her torture away, but it remained there behind his lids, a pulsing, constant howling that refused to abate. He felt his stomach churn in response to what she was asking him to do, and bile rose up within him. He turned away from her and ran to the corner of the empty warehouse, vomiting up yellow liquid onto a pile of broken wooden skids.
“I’m doing all I can!” he shouted at her, his voice echoing within the empty space.
It was so cold. He grabbed his wool blanket and pulled it tight around him, wondering if it would be best for him to go and rest in the heat of the car for a while. He would be of no use to her if he died of hypothermia before her rebirth was complete and her cure was delivered to the world.
He glanced over at the small coffin, which was quiet now, her instructions given to him in peaceful, nudging understanding. The candles flickered against the gust of wind that crept around the small pine box, and two of her nails were waiting in gentle persuasion on the surface of the fresh wood. Large, brown stains decorated the base, and he felt a sorrow that he hadn’t been able to keep her tiny home cleaner in the summer and fall months. Winter had erased the continuation of her disease, and for this, they both could be grateful.
“You know I will do anything you ask,” he said in prayerful earnest. “It will be a challenge, and you know how much pain it causes me to do this, but I understand. I know what you have to give is too important to deny the world. You are the divine Healer, the Answer.”
He dared to kneel before her, his knees soaked to the skin in the damp snow. He placed his purple, frozen hand onto the surface, his fingers closing in a fist around the iron nails.
“Though it is hard, what you suffer is harder. I will do as you ask. I am your servant.”
He could feel the waves of joy that slipped in euphoric wailing from his Oculus and knew he had pleased her with his devotion. He pocketed the nails and pressed his palms flat on the pine surface of her coffin, the candle he had set on its centre flickering long shadows within the empty, derelict warehouse.
He would not go into his car until his prayers were finished. He would meditate upon what he had to do, well aware of the challenges of how he was going to find the suitable sacrifice. But first, he had to make a plan to punish those who dared to lie about her Influence. He had a name. He would bring his Oculus the Justice she deserved.
The dream was long gone, all purpose within it destroyed upon waking, yet it refused to leave him alone. He had a vague recollection of a young boy brandishing steel, of black eyes that stared into an abyss so dark even death recoiled from it. It was a dream Greg had many times before, but it rarely followed him beyond the barrier of wakefulness, that particular subconscious wallpaper too battered and rotten for his mind to torment him with.
He must have had another dream after that one, which was more memory than impression, and this one refused to let him go. He lay staring up at the dripping ceiling of his flat, its surface spongy and breathing like living human tissue. He slid across his sheets and sat up, swinging his legs over the edge only for his feet to be submerged up past his ankles in the thick, iron sea of blood that was filling up his apartment. The walls breathed heavily, and he dared to press his palm against it, feeling its unnatural pulse.
His apartment was alive. He had been swallowed into the dream and was now trapped in its body. He pushed his hand against the wall, feeling the outside skin resist him. He brought his hand to his mouth in shaking horror, and tasted the thick mucus and blood that lined his walls.
“It’s not real,” he said to it. “It’s not real.”
The pulsing increased, and Greg felt his mouth go dry in terror. Always, in the back of his mind, was the fear that he would end up like this, trapped in a hallucination that took on a life of its own and slowly digested him. It was vivid enough to taint the air with the stench of death and spoiled blood. He swallowed, fighting the urge to vomit.
If he concentrated he could see the very faint shadows of his apartment lurking beneath the breathing, bleeding walls of brilliant red, muscular tissue, and he tried in vain to bring that reality into better focus. He slid his hands along the sheets of his bed and, to his great relief, found his cell phone tucked beneath his pillow. He had texted June his first thoughts on the crime scene photos from Calgary and had fallen asleep before he hit send.
Shaking, he went through his contact list, his finger hovering over Rita’s name, only to avoid calling her. This would only frighten her, he knew, and the last thing he needed was for June to believe he was losing it again, that he couldn’t help them after all.
The blood rose and fell around his ankles like a thick wave and rose to midway up his calf. He pulled his legs up back onto his bed, thick streams of red staining his cotton sheets in gory damp.
He hesitated over the number he’d been given, thinking on how the man had ignored the phone call in his office, wondering if he’d been serious when he said ‘Any time, day or night.’ Calling him felt like a personal defeat.
“Get your head out of your ass, Greg,” he said to himself, the blood in the apartment beginning to boil and steam, droplets of its crimson dew staining his skin and bed as it dripped from the ceiling. “You’re drowning.”
He took a deep, ragged breath and dialled Dr. Leon Herberte.
Two. Three. Four. The man wasn’t going to answer, this was stupid, he just had to close his eyes and keep wishing that when he opened them this horror show would be gone. Five.
“Allo?” Dr. Herberte’s voice held a note of piercing concern. Greg could hear rustling and a clicking sound in the background, probably a lamp being turned on. “Allo?” There was a long pause after this, and Greg listened intently to the sound of Dr. Herberte’s fearful breathing. “Sabine, why are you doing this?”
“I…it’s not…” Greg could feel the sigh of relief more than he heard it as it escaped Dr. Herberte. “It’s Greg Wells. You said to give you a call if, well, if things got bad.”
“Oui, yes, of course.” He could sense the sleepiness leaving Dr. Herberte’s voice, a distinct shuffling and creaking of bed springs as he sat up. For some reason, the very idea of the man being in a normal bed gave Greg a great deal of comfort.
“There’s blood everywhere,” Greg began. “The walls, they feel like a wet tongue…”
“Do not tell me what you see,” Dr. Herberte firmly said. “I want you to listen to me very carefully and follow my instructions. Can you do that?”
“I…I think so…”
“Good. Close your eyes.”
Greg did as he was told, the bleeding, pulsing room forced from his sight, though he could still feel the impressions of what he had seen through his fingertips, still smell the vile stench of sour blood.
“It’s not helping,” he said, his shaking voice betraying his panic. “I tried this before, it didn’t work.”
“Keep your eyes closed, Greg, and listen very carefully to me.” His voice was calm. Soothing. “Breathe deeply. I want you to breathe and then I want you think of what your apartment usually looks like.”
He frowned at this, but with the phone pressed tight against his cheek and his eyes closed, he envisioned the tiny space with its dark corners and miserable window that stared out onto a busy downtown Toronto street.
“Good. Describe your apartment to me.”
“It’s really small, nothing more than a room. I’ve got a lamp that I took out of Stephen’s office when he was renovating it, and I’ve got it sitting on some books stacked on the floor, a bit of a DIY night table. I have a double bed from Ikea, and a desk with a computer on it, and an old office chair on metal rollers, and that’s all my furniture.” Greg swallowed with difficulty. “There’s a bathing room just off to the right of the desk. Shower, sink, toilet, not necessarily in that order. Used to be a closet. I have to duck when I get washed or I’ll smack into the shower head.”
“Are your eyes still closed?”
“Tell me about the floor.”
“What do you mean?”
“Is it hardwood? Is it ceramic?”
His voice catching, Greg said, “It’s peel and stick crap. Fake oak parquet.”
“Put your feet on the floor, Greg.”
He braced himself, then did as he was instructed. He expected to find the heat of boiling blood burning away the skin of his heels, but the solidity of the floor gave him enough confidence to place his feet firmly onto the cool tiles.
“Can you feel the cold of the floor on your skin?” Dr. Herberte asked.
“Yes. Yes it’s definitely a damn cold floor.”
“Good. If you can, reach for your lamp, without opening your eyes, and turn it on.”
Fumbling blindly, Greg worked his hand towards where he knew the lamp was perched. Never had he felt so relieved to have that ugly brass shape beneath his touch, his fingertips moving along what he knew were the etched grooves in its fat, metallic base. He found the switch and turned it, a satisfying click flooding the insides of his lids with an orange light.
“Is the light on?”
“Good. Open your eyes.”
Blinking, Greg took in the apartment, which was now its usual banal, ugly sparsity, the photographs pinned on the wall across from his computer now full of identifying flags, little points of interest that he was set to blow up and investigate on the digital copies in his hard drive. He sighed with relief and rubbed at his eyes with the heel of his hand. His bed covers were torn off the bed from when he’d been tossing and turning while he dreamt. His thigh touched a bare portion of mattress.
“I’m okay now,” he said, and meant it.
“C’est bon. It is not uncommon for any person under duress to have such waking nightmares. Some have been so firmly entrenched in their somnambulism that they have committed crimes. It is a good thing your terrors are fairly localized.”
“I tend to get frozen in place,” Greg admitted.
“It is not an easy thing to experience.” Dr. Herberte’s voice was too calming to resist and Greg didn’t want the conversation to end. Nor, it seemed, did Dr. Herberte. “Dites-moi, Mr. Wells, what do you think caused this to happen?”
His heart was still pumping full force with adrenaline, his breath taken in deep, shaky gasps to try to calm it into a normal rhythm. “I don’t know. Maybe it was talking about how I got my injury when I saw you on Tuesday. I dreamed about Darfur, I had a flash, just a tiny blink about that kid who tried to kill me.” Greg rubbed his palm over his face and let out a low, tired groan. “I’ve had dreams about that before and never had this happen. I think it has more to do with the case I’m working on.”
“Your assistance is invaluable, Inspector Highsmith assured me as much when I met with her. Have you been put under undo pressure? If so, I can discuss with her that you should not be helping as you are, and perhaps should be permitted to step away.”
“No. Out of the question.”
“You are not able to be of help if you are being harmed in the process. Mr. Wells, we are all given choices. Some are noble, others are not. If you feel forced into an action, it is a good sign that you are not in control of that decision. You should not do it.”
The genuine concern touched Greg deeply, though it was unnecessary. “I want to do this,” he assured Dr. Herberte. “I’m just having a really hard time understanding the benefit that the killer is getting out of this. I’ve been all over the world, seen every example of evil you can imagine and it’s just…it baffles me how it can exist, that it can be justified.”
“We are the only species on the planet that takes pleasure in harm. All other creatures have a purpose in mind, the main one being survival. Perhaps that is the true nature of evil. It becomes a twisted methodology through which a highly damaged person fashions a way to live.” He faltered, his mood suddenly drawn inward. “It is an unfortunate fact that we are at the mercy of our own perspectives.”
He was no longer talking about Greg’s night terrors, or the forces of good vs evil, Greg knew this. It lay unspoken on his tongue, so bitter and personal he didn’t dare utter it. “Who is Sabine?” Greg longed to ask, but bit down, swallowing the question with difficulty.
“He puts a coffin nail in their left eye,” he said, instead. Greg sighed into the stunned silence. “Doctor and patient confidentiality, right? I can tell you whatever I want so I’m going to talk about the case. That okay with you?”
© 2016 Copyright M. Jones
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