Return to the Rental…
Well, it is done; safe or not. If I can get this over and done with before June and I’ll be back in the Hamptons just as the summer begins – only a few important parties missed. In June, the real party season begins, boating, drinking, mingling and women. If I’m to be successful in my new life (living off exnzpat’s money) I’ll need to make the right acquaintances with the right connections – to do otherwise – well, that would be foolish. I must take the opportunity while I have it.
There was a little more wrangling than I had expected but with the last signature from exnzpat’s physiatrist in hand I made an appointment with a judge and my little excursion with exnzpat was approved.
Leaving the judicial chambers behind me I walked across the park to the Council offices to secure a deputy to guard exnzpat while we did our business at the rental. Entering the building I ran right smack-dab into Becky. Her long brown hair was pulled back behind her head in an untidy pony tail. She was wearing a garishly colored dress with fish on it. She was, as I remembered, striking.
“Hi… where have you been? I haven’t seen you for months.” While she said it sweetly enough a frown of concern creased her pretty forehead. Not waiting for me to answer she burst out, “you look so thin – are you eating right?”
“Sure, I’ve been working out – on a regular basis.” I boasted.
“Oh, well, but you look like something’s wrong – that’s all. You are alright aren’t you?”
I was a little put off by her interrogation – what could possibly be wrong. I was rich! I have everything I need, “I’m fine,” I told her and tried to brush past her.
Becky put her hand on my arm, catching me by the elbow.
“You don’t look fine.”
“Nothing’s wrong. I’m fine.”
Why had she stopped me? I didn’t know her? Well, at least not this well! I knew her as one knows any co-worker. For little more than six months we had shared a break room. Occasionally, outside of work, we bumped into each other at the law library. I could only think of one social engagement where we had both been present; she on one side of the room and me on the other. It was a celebration for the election of a local judge. From across the room our eyes met. And for no reason, she smiled at me – and I – well I, smiled back. A few days later I asked her out, only to be rejected.
Who was she to ask me of my health?
“I don’t know you – what business is it of yours?” I told her bluntly.
Stung by my rebuke she removed her hand from my elbow. She turned quickly, wiping something from her eyes, walking away without looking back.
Cheeky bitch – who the Hell does she think she is?
I did my business as expeditiously as possible, arranging for a deputy to meet us at exnzpat’s rental this coming Monday. Over the years I had worked with many of the people at the County Clerk’s office at one time or the other; I was stopped several more times before I got out of there. I didn’t want run into Becky again; I don’t know why – perhaps I had been out-of-line – perhaps I was beginning to have feelings of “guilt” at the way I spoke to her… perhaps I had been jealous about her going on a date with Matt E, perhaps… perhaps a lot of things… Oh, I don’t know…
Becky had appeared to be genuinely concerned for my health. Let’s face it – this rigmarole with the Court, the asylum and exnzpat was causing me to lose sleep. I had a persistent stomach ache that flared up anytime I thought about exnzpat, his money, and my motives towards him and it. But, I needed to face reality – I am exnzpat’s legal guardian – he has no one else. As for exnzpat himself — well his demeanor had definitely changed over the last month. His last evaluation was positively glowing. He was, I was told, coming to grips with his crime. He was beginning to accept the sad chain of events that led him to the death of his family, his situation, and his healing. Recovery of the mind is never easy, each step builds upon the other; footing is never sure or steady – but the good that lies within the heart of the caregiver is the key to progress. Exnzpat, I was told, was making that progress, inch by inch, day by day, month by month. His delusions of angels, demons, and ghostly screams and specters in the night has faded into a sort of amnesia, clouded by the stuff of imagination and intensified by a powerful hallucinatory drug – which, if you have been following this saga closely, is exactly what you would believe that his doctors would want to hear; and you would be right to think it! But not me; I think exnzpat is lying! I don’t know why he is lying. I don’t know why he wants to go back to that accursed house – what possible purpose could he have there? I have told him that there is no box! But still he insists; and his doctor’s actually believe that revisiting the scene of his crime would be good for him. A healing of the mind they said, a confrontation of truth, a self-actualization of the bitterness; the loss, the failure – the weakness. He was, they said, putting his first foot forward on the long hard road to real recovery.
His doctors are fools! The closer the day comes the more I fear exnzpat. He has some design, some game; some horrible and perverted intrigue in the works for me! I know it! I just know it!
Becky was right – I am not well. How could I be with this noose hanging about my neck?
Repeatedly, I pointed out to his doctor’s that no cardboard box existed in the house; not now or ever. It was true that the police had found a cardboard outside the house in the garbage; the box had been empty. It was also true too that the police, for their own convenience, had taken and used this very box to store the smaller items of evidence in. I myself had been privy to this box. It was in this box in which I had found the half eaten loaf of pumpernickel bread that was lousy with ergot; and so, in a roundabout way this box had been an epiphany for me from which I had capitalized on by parlaying into salvation for exnzpat’s life (keeping him off death row), and then, following the logical progression of the law, the “wrongful death suit” for exnzpat’s family against the “Sunny Day Cereal Farm of Arkansas.” And yet, despite all this time, and all this evidence, exnzpat’s doctors insist that a “day trip” to the home of exnzpat’s bloody crime would be the therapeutic panacea that he needs; box or no box!
I should add, that that one single cardboard box, and the evidence it contained, had been later destroyed, along with all other evidence from the crime scene after the civil suit with the “Sunny Day Cereal Farm of Arkansas” was won. In fact, it had been part of the settlement; and so that should have been the end of the story.
But, it seems no one is listening to me. And so, here I was, business done, extricating myself from the County Clerk’s office as quickly as I possibly could.
Walking fast I made my way over to my BMW. A happy and good thought then entered my mind as I unlocked the doors and fixed my sunglass to my head. Perhaps Becky was watching! Yeah, she chose Matt E over me. For some reason her imagined envy made me smile. I smiled and peeled out of the parking lot.
* * *
I choose a Monday for exnzpat’s outing because those who would be at work would be at work and those who would be at home would be at home. In other words, an innocuous day of the week of no importance, where the drab masses of the proletariat began their pointless struggle on the endless cyclical road to riches. I wanted to get this done quick! In and out, and attract as little attention as possible; and a Monday was the perfect day for it.
* * *
The two orderlies who were to accompany exnzpat were of a good sort. Over the last year I had come to know them both: very large and very powerful, but like the Sheriff’s deputy, would require a tip. I stopped at a money machine and took out some cash and then continued on to the asylum.
There was a light rain and the roads were slick. My radio announced that there was a sixty percent chance of thunderstorms later today. I changed channel and found an upbeat station playing 90’s music; I put my foot to the floor.
Dark clouds dulled an already leaden sky. It was 10am when I arrived at the asylum and was ushered into the waiting room. The rain had stopped but it looked as though, at any moment, it would begin again. It was turning out to be a most unpleasant day. The air was warm and thick with humidity. I scratched my neck where the collar of my shirt accosted it and rubbed it so. I loosened my tie and waited, anxious because of the weather, and anxious because of exnzpat. There were half a dozen other people in the waiting room; casually they flipped through magazines. I envied them – for no matter how dire their own circumstances — none them waited for a monster. I heard, in the distance, the muffled clanking and clunking of heavy locks and slamming doors; the sounds came from somewhere near, back and behind; back in the bowels of the asylum. He was coming!
I paced room; wishing myself elsewhere. The sound of the clanking and clunking came closer and more distinct; and then, with a final clatter of keys five people emerged from a door into to the waiting room proper. A hush went through the room. The receptionist stopped her work and looked up. An audible gasp went up from the other people who waited in the room with me.
He was here!
There is an unwritten rule in asylums: “don’t stare.” But stare we did. Who could help it? When an ogre or beast comes into your midst you are compelled stare – how can one not! There, nestled between two huge black men, who otherwise would have done any football team proud, was the shrunken and deformed figure of exnzpat. His mask-like face stitched and garish, bulbous and fleshy with the new healing of melded skin, looked about as if it knew where it was. He was wrapped tightly in a straightjacket. He sniffed the air and then turned his face toward me.
“executionerofthewill?” He asked faintly. His deafness gave a constriction and stupidity to his speech. He sounded like an imbecile as he slurred my name. Also, it disturbed me that he sensed my presence by smell. It repulsed me that I was so transparent. All eyes in the room turned on me – the monsters-keeper. I pulled myself together; straightened my tie and approached the group. I did not answer exnzpat. Instead, one of the group stepped forward and handed me a clipboard. I vaguely recognized him as one of the asylums’ many nurses. He indicated that he needed my signature. All in all I signed my name ten times, barely looking at what I was signing. Exnzpat was required back before 4pm, no exceptions. No problem there; I could be jailed if he was not. The State took this excursion seriously. It was a one hour drive to the rental. This gave us plenty of time to fight traffic, search for the box, and get back to the asylum before four. There could be no screw-ups. The faster we do this the better I’ll feel.
The two orderlies, who for ease of dialog, I shall call “Ben” and “Jerry,” slid into the backseat of my BMW with exnzpat between them. The vehicle was a new luxury sedan which, under normal circumstances, could have easily sat three normal sized people comfortably in the backseat – but it was a definite squeeze for them. I slid behind the wheel and tossed a bag containing the nylon leg braces exnzpat was not required to wear while in the confines of the vehicle. It was a safety rule or some such thing that we were required to adhere to in case we were in a car accident. Stupid rule I thought, blind as a bat, exnzpat would never get out, leg irons or not. I don’t know about Ben and Jerry but I’d let the bastard burn if it came to it.
It started to rain hard. It was unpleasant enough to have exnzpat only a few feet behind me staring at the back of my head – what am I saying – he can’t stare – but all the same, it felt like he could. The concentration needed to drive in heavy traffic and heavy rain was not helping my stomach pains; my stomach hurt and the car’s air-conditioner chilled the sweat on the back of my neck into a rough sandpapery edge.
Scritch -scratch went my collar as it dug deeply into the back of my neck… and all the while exnzpat stared.
“Hey, are we going to get some food?” It was Jerry.
“We’re hungry man. We’re going to need some food at some point.” Parroted Ben.
“Ok, but we’re on the freeway now so we can get something when we get there – only another thirty minutes,” or so…
“Alright, but I’m hungry now,” Jerry said and then added, “just so you know.”
We drove in silence for about ten minutes and then exnzpat spoke.
“Are wee dhere thyet?” He slurred.
Ben and Jerry burst into laughter. A sporadic guttural grunt came from exnzpat. At first I thought he was choking but then I realized that he too was laughing. Exnzpat was mocking me; Ben and Jerry too – the bastards!
“Shut-up – shut-up… I’m trying to concentrate.” I said abruptly. Perhaps a little too abruptly – I did not know Ben and Jerry well – they were not on my payroll and had only agreed to accompany me for this pre-arranged trip for a pretty hefty tip. Without them – I couldn’t do this alone. After a few minutes of silence I apologized. The only sound from behind me was a grunt from exnzpat; bastard!
The rain came down and the traffic slowed. Overhead, deep dark clouds blocked out what remaining sunlight had managed to filter through in the first place. A rumble of thunder could be heard in the distance. Traffic came to a crawl. We continued in silence. After about twenty minutes I thankfully pulled onto the “off-ramp.” We passed several fast-food restaurants, and Ben and Jerry protested. I explained that we were running late and I did not want the sheriff’s deputy to leave.
The deputy had been contracted to meet us at the house at eleven. It was already thirty five minutes past that. If the deputy was not there when we got there, then we would need to turn back and the whole day would be a bust.
Damn this weather and damn exnzpat!
Lightening lit the sky and a crack of thunder shook the air as I pulled into the driveway. Thankfully the deputy was still there. A county sheriff’s police cruiser sat squarely beneath the carport leaving no room for us to park where we could be dry. I cursed silently under my breath and parked the car behind the deputy’s. I hesitated somewhat, and from over my shoulder told Ben and Jerry to wait where they were and made a dash for it, the rain was coming down harder now.
The kitchen door was unlocked.
“Hello?” I called.
“In here,” came the answer from the dining room. I’d been in the house several times before and so knew my way around. The house was small, clean and tidy – but it had a shabby dusty feel to it, probably because it had sat empty for almost a year now. At least it was warm and dry. Pine boards shuttered the windows giving a dim light to an already dim single bulb hanging from the ceiling. It was a spooky little place.
The electricity, gas, and wireless-cable had never been disconnected. It had been one of exnzpat’s earlier requests after winning the lawsuit against the bread company; he had insisted that his crappy little box-like house be kept in good working order and unrented. Not that its overall cost: utilities, yard service, maintenance, and property taxes actually amounted to much; it’s just that it all seemed so unnecessary, especially when it eats into my share of exnzpat’s money!
In the dining room found I found a fat sheriff’s deputy named Bob B reclining, his feet on a table, in a hard backed chair.
“Ah thought you guys weren’t coming – I was just about to pack it in.” He said with a slight southern drawl.
I had forgotten about the tables. There were four in all. They were cheap fold out tables with linoleum tops. The State police forensic branch had brought them in for the investigation. The tables had been used to piece together the remains: the right arm – connects to the right side torso, if you get my meaning. Somehow the room seemed all the uglier for Bob B’s desecration. After the preliminary investigation was over and the bodies had been bagged and moved to the city morgue nobody was interested in the tables or chairs either. It was as if, they had somehow been stained with the sorrow of the matter. Unable to dispose of them the State simply left them where they were.
I heard the kitchen door bang open behind me. Bob B straightened up from his reclining position, stood and straightened his belt buckle under his ample belly. “Well, here they are now,” he said with some satisfaction. “It’s getting late in the day and I haven’t had lunch yet.”
“You too?” Jerry said, wiping the rain from his forehead and eyes. Bob B looked at the three of them. He sized up the two big black men in an instant but barely glanced at exnzpat.
“You guys hungry too?”
“I could eat a horse,” answered Jerry.
Ben was busy bending over reattaching exnzpat’s ankle chains. The two leg braces were connected, leg to leg, by a single chain that snaked from exnzpat’s legs, up behind his back, latching into the straightjacket proper and secured with a small padlock in the small of his back. It looked to be a complicated mess. Finished with his business Ben said, “what about it man? You said you would buy us lunch.”
“I will – as soon as we are done. This should only take a few minutes.” I turned to the deputy not waiting for an answer, “you have the ladder?”
“Yep. It’s in the trunk.”
There was a sullen silence from Ben and Jerry; and then exnzpat spoke.
“Why don you guyys eet dnow an we can gedt da box after. Deres plenty of dime.”
It was true there was still time and I could tell that Ben, Jerry and Bob B liked exnzpat’s idea a whole lot better than mine.
I ignored them all and headed for the kitchen door to get the ladder from the police cruiser. Bob B followed slowly behind me.
Outside the rain was still coming down hard. Bob B joined me at the trunk of the cruiser.
“That’s not actually a bad idea – I haven’t eaten since breakfast.”
“Getting something to eat!” Bob B said pointedly.
“Are you kidding me? This will only take a second. I’ll pick up some burgers on the way back to the asylum. We can eat then.”
Bob B unlocked the trunk and removed a strange looking contraption.
“Is that a ladder?”
“Yep. We use it to get into houses – it’s bigger than it looks.”
He pulled the ladder from the trunk and said, “I’m heading home after this — I’m not going back to asylum with you. Part of the deal was lunch.”
This was becoming a problem. Three hungry big men is no joke. Bob B followed me back into the house carrying the ladder, reluctantly I guessed. I knew I needed to do something. Damn exnzpat! A million times – Damn him to Hell!
Ben and Jerry had sat exnzpat down at one of the tables and stood, either side of him, glaring at me as I reentered the room.
“Guys, this will only take five seconds. I just want to check the attic and then I’ll zip out and get some burgers and fries for everyone.”
Bob B set the ladder up underneath the attic’s trapdoor. It was a curious device that was, as Bob B had told me, bigger than it looked. The thing telescoped into a much greater length. Bob B popped the trapdoor with the ladder. There were two large hooks on it that Bob B, with a little maneuvering, was able to latch onto one of the crossbeams in the attic above.
“There,“ he grunted, beginning to sweat with the exertion.
I scrambled up the ladder and Bob B handed me his flashlight.
There was nothing up there – not a thing – just as I said.
“Nothing! That’s it – the party is over!” I announced loudly.
I jumped down off the ladder and walked into the dining room. A wave of relief swept over me. It was over – no box – no nothing. The whole stupid little jaunt was done with. My stomach felt better.
“See, I told you it wouldn’t take long.” I paused and then said with a smile, hoping to placate them, “What do you guys want to eat? I can be back in just a few minutes.”
The air in the room definitely lightened with my announcement. But exnzpat brought the room back down again.
“Dere was nothing dere because it’s dot dime yet.”
“What? What the hell are you talking about?”
“It’s dot dime!”
“What does that even mean – there’s nothing there — no box – nada – zip. It’s over! And that fact won’t change, now or ever.”
“In thifteen munets it will.”
For a minute no one spoke. Everyone just looked at me and then at exnzpat – waiting for some kind of action. Finally Jerry spoke. “Come on man, you promised us some food!”
“Yeah! Either we get it or we’re out of here,” chimed in Bob B.
“Damn it! I’m so sick of this!” I pulled out my wallet and peeled off six twenties. “OK. Here’s a hundred and twenty dollars. I’ll stay here with exnzpat and you guys go get yourself something to eat.”
The two orderlies looked uncomfortably at each other.
“We’re not supposed to leave him alone,” said Ben.
“Look, the quickest way for you guys to get some food is to go get it yourself.” I stopped and peeled off two more twenties and said, “you three take my car and you can keep the change. Just be back here as quick as possible. It’s not like he’s going anywhere!”
It was true. Exnzpat was ensconced in leg braces and a straightjacket. He wasn’t going anywhere.
Bob B took the money and the keys to my car. “OK, it’s no skin of my nose. Come on guys.”
Reluctantly Ben and Jerry left exnzpat’s side and followed Bob B to the kitchen door. “You behave now, you hear exnzpat.” Ben said as loudly as he could as he passed into the kitchen.
“I’ll be dood.”
“Bastards, the lot of them!” I thought to myself
It was still raining and a new wave of thunder lit the sky. I watched the three as they drove off in my car. Jerry was driving. “Jez what a freaking performance.” Never underestimate the power of low blood sugar and cold hard cash. I consoled myself with the fact that there are two or three burger joints within a few miles of the house. For less than twenty bucks they could feed themselves, divide and pocket the other hundred and forty dollars, and be back here in less than twenty minutes. And then we could all go home! I looked at my watch and walked back into the dining room.
“Only ten minutes to go exnzpat. I hope your box magically appears in time.” I smiled at his stupidly and down opposite him at the table. Why I ever feared this cretin was beyond me. A bandaged Mummy was what he reminded me of; almost comical really.
And then, in a chilling and very clear voice exnzpat said, “take out your computer and log into the Paepae.”
I caught my breadth and rubbed the back of my sore neck. His stammer and slurred wording was gone. I gauged him carefully – he could do me no injury – trussed in chains — it did no harm to humor him; and even though my stomach began to hurt again I reached for my laptop and after a few minutes I was logged in.
“Start writing – tell the story so far…” he said coolly.
* * *
And so here we are. Time, exnzpat has told me, is irrelevant this close to the “anomaly” — whatever that means. Looking back at what I’ve written in such a short period of time is rather startling. Lawyers are notoriously good at taking notes and writing fast (we couldn’t get through Law School without that skill) but even this is ridiculously fast. Regardless, I won’t let myself get drawn into exnzpat’s world. I’m a fast writer – and that is explanation enough.
I feel now as if a fog as overtaken me. Exnzpat, locked in his funny jacket, is just staring at me – but of course that is preposterous – he has no eyes… nevertheless… stare he does…
“Where the Hell is Ben, Jerry and Bob B?” It’s been fifteen minutes now…
Exnzpat is giving me the creeps. He has asked me to get out my laptop and hook into the internet. While I have been doing this he has been rocking back and forth singing a weird little song…
“So, I murdered you my little darlings.
Isn’t that what they teach us at writing school?
Sometimes we knock them unconscious …for awhile… and return to see if they are worth keeping. Either we dispose of them now or later I was taught – but murder and kill them we must!
Figuratively, it clears the way and frees the central character to move the storyline forward to its climatic conclusion – but in the real world — blood can be a messy and sticky business!”
An amazing thing has just happened! A large black Labrador dog has just trotted into the dining room from the kitchen. I swear that the back door was closed….
“Scritch-scratch – there you are you naughty doggy!” Exnzpat sings… The big animal only sniffs at me and has gone over to where exnzpat is sitting and has put its head in his lap.
I am writing frantically to keep up… things are happening fast.
Something else is happening… It sounds like thunder… No, more like an oncoming train…
I feel wind – warm and hot it blows – but it refreshes at the same time. And smell! It is extraordinary – blowing with the wind, I smell flowers. Where it comes from I know not! The house is shaking now. But the vibration is more soulquake than earthquake. My body is vibrating – and so too is exnzpat’s. The dog appears to be glowing. The edges and corners of the room, table and chairs are blurring with a hot mirage-like imagery. What is happening? Exnzpat appears calm – he indicates to me that I should continue to write. The dog – what can I say – color begets color — the animal is positively glowing! But there is more — something deeper – something inside me. A movement, an image, a lifting of spirit; a recognition of self – soulquake was good word for it, but now I am humbled by my limited abilities to express myself through words — else — I cannot explain it otherwise.
A wisp now, and then a mere whisk of smoke have begun to coalesce upon the ceiling. It congeals and sticks – forming and unfurling, billowing and diffusing — light from light – true light from true light. A river of colors is spreading across the ceiling – something is coming!
Exnzpat and the dog seem unfrightened by the experience. But of course they would be! Exnzpat is a blind, deaf and deformed self-mutilated monster; and the dog – well the dog is nothing more than a dog – a dumb animal. But yet – I know they are experiencing the same thing I am. What is happening to us?
Oh, my God… I see it now — it has come down off the ceiling and it has formed itself into a whole and identifiably thing. It is coming towards us. Exnzpat and dog turn and bow their heads – yielding before this thing, this abomination!
It is lizard-like. A long head supported upon a long skeletal-like body. Waxed-bronze in color it is, narrow and gaudy in gait. Upon its head, what looks to be a mane of tight reticulated hair, thrust backwards, giving the creature an unbalanced look. Wide flabby misshapen arms hang from its sides – gossamer at their edges, gold in their depths. The thing is unclothed – like an animal – but its face is oddly human. A broad Romanesque nose and two large predatory eyes sit squarely and proudly above a small lipless mouth in which I can just make out needle thin and dagger-fine teeth. As the thing bridges the gap between us its nakedness gives up its sex; a female – of this I am sure. All the time the wind and the smell and the vibration courses through and within, delving into my very inner senses. The house shakes with a finite regular pulse. I am writing without thinking – my mind exploding with adrenalin – “what is this thing? Who is this thing?”
And then, as if reading my mind, the thing stops short of the table and the now kneeling exnzpat and dog. The two of them lay prostrate upon the floor – legs splayed. “The fools – animals-of-prey can smell fear – I must stand my ground!”
The creature shimmered — its feet appearing to hover just a few inches above the floor. Then in a voice like a thunderclap it speaks…
“I am She, called by many names throughout the ages. I am Thulcandra, Dawn, Eve, I am Mother, and I am Queen of Earth. I am the coveter of knowledge and the harbinger of death. I am She, made of Adam – I am Lilith! Yield before me arrogance! You belong to me!”
Her breath is fire and ice combined — Her screech compels me to my knees. She reaches for me. Long bone-like fingers unfurl and grasp me by my neck; She is lifting me into the air. I can just make out… that in Her other hand, outstretched and holding fast, is the unstruggling form of exnzpat, who willingly allows Her to lift him too. The dog is barking with what appears to be delight…
I fight… I shall fight to the end…
This is a test!
“You have a wonderfully breathless way of beginning a sentence but…”It works! I live! I am whole again!
Note to reader: Just what has happened I am not fully sure… But the creature who calls herself Lilith has transferred my soul into the body of executionerofthewill’s body; and his soul has been transferred into my body. We are switched. I am him and he is me. This will take some getting use to as only a few minutes have passed since then. I do not know if this is permanent or temporary but She demands recompense through errand. What will become of Lincoln and me after this errand is complete is Her business and Hers’ alone.
God help us all!
Exnzpat, φ Erehwon Street, USA
Don’t forget the free software: ExnzpatMCVersion2