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Fiction:THE LOCUST TREES BY S. A. Harris  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children”



William Makepeace Thackeray., Vanity Fair.


1.


The trees on the other side of the creek had always been an object of fascination to me, although I seldom ventured into them since Mother had returned. Even my Father used to say they reminded him of Lichtenberg figures. When I was younger my Father would walk with me through them and it was then that I claimed them as my holy place, a place of peace. They were ugly trees that swayed mildly if a strong breeze passed through their branches and for some reason their twisted appearance gave me an odd feeling of security, as though I knew how easy it would be to scale them should danger come my way. Those days had left me now that Mother was back, and with her came Matthew, my little brother.





On their arrival the trees were quickly placed out of bounds for my protection as well as Matthews, although I couldn't see how a baby of five months could possibly get out there unless he was carried. Mother didn't need an excuse to restrict our lives, we let it happen willingly. She had returned from a mental institution after what was considered effective treatment and of course Matthew's birth hastened her release. Our family was reunited, whole again, like a family should be.





Most of our relatives were happy that we were all back together except for a few who expressed concern over Mothers stability. Those few being deeply religious and who considered our family to be Godless. Perhaps they were right. I was never presented with any type of faith as I grew up so it never really became part of my life. So the only kind of belief I had was in me, that I was the most important thing in my life. With this kind of thought firmly in my mind I became a very private and selfish child, relatively unpopular at school and uncomfortable when sharing thoughts or possessions.





Sometimes when I was alone I would talk to quietly talk to myself to listen to the tones of my voice almost wallowing in the fact that other people were missing out on its dulcet quality. I wondered if it would change as I became older. It had changed a lot already to get to this point. I'd gone through the embarrassment of having it break and crackle, seen people smirking behind their hands. Soon I'd be an adult and all the changing would be over. Well perhaps that's not entirely true. Maybe there was still a bit of changing to do, like a dream that's slowly coming to fruition or possibly just clothes waiting to be soiled. For the moment I was happy, yes, I was happy. I had to keep it that way.





2.





Friday afternoon at school never changed. Kids would talk about weekend plans and I would listen without interjecting and when that final bell rang we were free. Free for a whole forty-eight hours of nothing but it was better than being at school. I hated getting caught in the mass exodus of students but I was never quick enough to avoid it but then again, in the bulk we were herded like cattle towards the afternoon sun and there was a strange comfort in that choiceless push. The corridor was long and grey with sections of framed cork on the walls for pinning notices and sports results. The walls were clean and rarely vandalized with the exception of stolen pins and tacks that would later resurface in the form of some practical joke. I traced them with my eyes until I was thrust into the outside world. There was a jumble of cars waiting to pick up their little, warring angels. It made me bitter to see them open doors and jump into the air-conditioned automobiles. No one was coming for me. Dad always worked back late at the school and Mother was, well, too nutty to drive a car. I shouldn't brood over it but it was a fair hike and one which I didn't like to dwell on.





I turned left and began the ascent of one of several hills that led to my home. The problem with walking home was that by the time you actually got there, you were too tired to do anything else. It was not a productive method, but it did control behavior and as far as my parents were concerned, it was the only exercise I ever got. I stopped for a rest at the top of the hill, I was sweating already. I slung my bag over my shoulder and continued down the hill where I stopped again and shifted the bag to my other shoulder to keep the weight distribution as even as possible. Behind me I heard a bell ring and I spun around to see Martin Turner on his bicycle bearing down on me before slamming on the brakes. He was laughing wildly. Martin was a weak, hyperactive kid but we were friends of a sort.





“The fuckers tried to teach me Alan!” He shouted. “They tried to force me to learn!”





“Didn't work though.” I replied.





“Nup. Need a ride?”





“Yeah.”





“Not up that hill though.” Martin was looking at the next rise.





So I walked next to him as we began to ascend the inclination. I knew Martin would only accompany me as far as Meany Road before turning off to his home. At the top of the next hill I sat sideways on the bike frame and Martin sent us flying down the decline screaming like a madman. We made a good distance out of the downward momentum and I was disappointed when I had to dismount at the next incline and start walking again.





“So what's it like at your place now?” He asked.





“It's O.K.”





“Does she ever do anything weird?”





“Not really.” I thought his curiosity would fade if I gave short answers.





“Bullshit.”





I let out a short laugh but I didn't continue the conversation and Martin didn't press any further. Conversations about my family usually ended like this, uncomfortably. We passed Bluebird Park just short of Meany Road and went our separate ways, parting with a faint,





“Catch you later.”





He had ridden away before I had the chance to thank him. I continued on my walk by cutting across the fields where Mr. Hedges and his German Shepherd Banshee lived. The fields hadn't been tended for a few weeks and I could see weeds growing between the rows of tomatoes. Prickles attached themselves to the legs of my pants as I walked. The prickles themselves didn't bother me but I paused to remove them anyway and as I did so a growling sound startled me. It was Banshee. She was normally a pretty good dog, but normally she was tied up and by the sounds of her she wasn't in the best of spirits. Tightly gripping my school bag I backed away, ready to hit her with it if she charged. I hoped it wouldn't come to that. Banshee didn't move, she just stood her ground and I made a dash for the other side of the field. I sprinted across the field turning only once to see Banshee in pursuit. Her tongue was hanging loosely from her jaw as she pounded onward, free from the restrictions of her rope, the torture of her limitations, free to savage unsuspecting teenagers. Without realizing it I had scaled a hill close to my home and from atop it I could see the Locust Trees and I hoped I had time to reach them and escape the wrath of Banshee. So I put my legs to work and pushed my running skills to the limit. In the least to say my prediction went awry as I failed to navigate a stump and fell to the ground in a crippled pile. Banshee was on me in an instant and I raised my arms to protect my face. Why is that? Why do we always protect the face? Is it fear of disfigurement? I was feeling panic set in as I struggled with Banshee, my hands gripping at her fur. I managed to get a good punch into Banshee's throat and I heard her yelp. It gave me a chance to wriggle free but she was back at me before I could get to my feet. In the struggle my foot had dislodged a fair sized rock and I made a mad grab at it and with an frenzied anger I'd never felt before I smashed her head time and time again.





“You fuckin' bitch!”





Exhausted, I dropped the rock next to the body of Banshee. She was dead. I myself had sustained many scratches and bites. What was I going to tell Mr. Hedges? Nothing. I looked around and I was alone. I was extraordinarily ill at ease. If Hedges found her there he would be no clue that I was involved. This was a terrible way to begin a weekend. I was already traumatized and then, soon, my conscience would kick in and flood me with guilt. I stood up and looked down at Banshee, yeah she was dead alright. Nothing I can do now so I headed for home. I was unsure, but I thought I heard someone laugh and I hoped it wasn't me.





I began walking again towards the trees, relieved that my journey was almost over. When I reached the trees I shouted out loud as though it were some kind of victory. I was satisfied with the effort. Mother wouldn't be pleased if she knew I had taken this route but what she didn't know wasn't going to hurt her. She always wanted me to take the road but that just made the walk longer. Disobeying her gave me great satisfaction. I pressed my hand against the bark of a tree, looking up into the twisted branches, the last of the afternoon sun shone through them and I enjoyed being alone. The soft grass was flattened beneath the weight of my shoes and I could see ahead the small bridge that would allow me to cross the creek. There's something about looking at the flow of a creek that makes you feel free. The trickling waters passed under the bridge, running over rocks now smoothed by centuries of flowing liquid. Once over the bridge it was only a short distance to my home.





3.





The back door creaked as I opened it and entered the laundry. I could hear Mother in the kitchen,





“Is that you Alan?”





“Yes.”





“How was your day?” Her voice trailed off like she wasn't really interested.





“O.K.”





Passing her in the kitchen I went upstairs and into my bedroom. With the flick of a switch the room was illuminated. Everything was in order. Mother hadn't cleaned up as much as I had expected she would. One thing I hated was people sifting through my crap. I threw my schoolbag on the bed and sat down next to it. I let out a deep breath and went to the bathroom to clean up my wounds. Mother hadn't even noticed, she hadn't even turned to look at me. When I put disinfectant on the first bite I let out a gasp. I wasn't as badly hurt as I first thought and looking out the bathroom I could see the shadows of the trees stretch out across the land. Once I'd cleaned myself up and bandaged what need to be I went back to my room and lay down on the bed staring up at the ceiling.





“Alan!” It was Mother again.





“Yes!” I shouted at her, elongating the word.





“I've got afternoon tea ready for you if you want it.”





“Alright.” I removed myself sluggishly from the bed and went downstairs to the kitchen. I swung open the kitchen door and saw Mother, bent over a saucepan, hair wild, looking amazingly like an old witch. She turned and smiled.





“There are some biscuits on the table for you.”





“Did you buy them or make them? I asked.





“I baked them today; you'll have to tell me what they're like.”





I sat down at the table and looked at the plate. I picked one up.





“Down the hatch.” I said quietly to myself and took a bite. Choc chip, not too bad, the texture as a bit odd though. I looked at the remaining biscuit and saw that there was a cockroach embedded in it. I spat it out onto the plate. Mother looked at me shocked.





“There was a bug in it.” I said as an explanation. She looked as though I had slapped her. I could see her confidence completely slipping away from her.





“The rest will be O.K.” She said in a worried voice. I picked up another biscuit and took a bite.





“How's that one? Better?”





“Yeah it's good.” I picked a bit of crumb from one of my molars and grimaced as I did so. Mother put a glass of milk in front of me and patted my back. I took a sip. It was cool and refreshing. I grabbed another biscuit and took a bite. It didn't take long for me to realize there was another cockroach in it. Again I spat it out. Mother had lit up a cigarette and stared at my plate.





“Found another one?” She said. I was thunderstruck. She was acting as though she knew they were in there! Then she smiled slightly, while I leaned back in my chair.





“I feel sick.” I said.





“It was a joke.” She giggled. I smiled back at her and in a condescending tone said,





“You're a mad bitch.” I felt guilt almost immediately. Mother looked at me wildly. There were a lot of things going on inside Mother's head and yet she shrugged her shoulders indifferently.





“When's dad coming home?”





“I find your father dull.” Her face was hard. She walked over and picked up the plate of biscuits and tossed the plate into the sink where it broke. I left the kitchen quickly.





3.





It was almost six o'clock when my father came home. The front door opened and closed and I heard my Father faintly greet my Mother. Mother had been cooking dinner while I stayed in my room brooding over the biscuits. I reckoned that Mother was going to pull something as I heard their voices rise. In the next room Matthew had started to cry so I went in to calm him. He was a weird looking baby; I always thought he looked like he had a skin disease. He was lying in his crib with his arms and legs moving slightly. I picked him up and jigged him up and down in an attempt to silence him. He was easily entertained although I always felt stupid making baby noises at him. His laughter filled the room and it effectively lightened my mood. I kept him company until he went back to sleep and I thought I had better get some study done in my room.





At my desk I opened my history textbook.





“Alan!” Mother shouted. “Dinner's ready!”





“Coming!”





“Could you bring Matthew down?”





“Yep.” I shouted back.





I changed my clothes and grabbed Matthew, taking him downstairs. He was still asleep when I brought him to the table. It was only when I put him in his high chair that he woke up and looked around, bewildered, until he saw Mother and squealed with glee. All his attention was focused on her and she knew it. I started eating my dinner while Mother sat next to Matthew and began shoveling baby food into his mouth, half of which came straight back out. As he ate he kicked out his legs in excitement. Dad sat opposite him grading papers and sighing heavily. He had a five o'clock shadow, the type you'd see on a hardcore poker player in a western. Food leaked out of Matthews's mouth and onto his tray. Dad frowned at him. I looked like my Father, an immature version. We can't help ourselves, over time we simply turn into our parents. Dad looked up at me and said,





“How was school?” He looked at me as though I was an inhuman being.





“It was O.K.” I replied. His expression had not changed a bit. What else did he want to know? He took a sip of his beer.





“No rain again today.” He said.





“Nope.” I replied. My family was a failed attempt at a conformity factory. I wanted out.





“I'm too lenient.” He said but left the conversation there. I suppose he meant his students. It was a strange evening. Neither of my parents had even commented on my cuts and scratches. At least Mother had decided to leave her jokes out of dinner. Dad would flip out for sure and send her back to the institution. Any action in his eyes should have sense and meaning. I heard the clock in the lounge room strike seven. Time was slipping away with the chiming of the clocks mechanism. The chiming had excited Matthew who wriggled in his chair.





“For the love of God!” Mother said and stopped feeding him as he struggled to be free. She waited for silence. Dad and I waited for her to pull her head out of the sand. Matthew began to choke a little.





“Cough it up, little dog.” She said lightly patting him on the back and he coughed up some food and sputum then she stuck her fingers in his mouth and cleaned out the rest. The sight of it put me off my food.





“That's gross.” I said.





“Would you prefer he choke to death?” She retaliated and looked anxiously at Matthew. I didn't answer; instead I took my plate to the kitchen sink and rinsed it off. I went into the lounge room to watch T.V. In the kitchen I saw the biscuit tin and wondered if Mother had actually kept any of them.





4.





I could hear Mother in the kitchen and I thought I could hear the biscuit tin being taken off the shelf. I hoped she was throwing them out but I waited in suspense to hear if anything eventuated. Matthew could be heard in the dining room squealing like a crazed nut. The squealing soon turned to crying when there was a loud outburst from dad. He had found a cockroach.





“What the fuck!” Dad screamed. Mother remained silent. “What were you thinking?”





“I don't know how they got in there.” She said meekly. I moved closer to the door so I could eavesdrop.





“Bullshit!”





“I didn't know I was doing it. I thought it was a dream.”





“You expect me to believe that? A fucking dream?”





“I thought it would be funny.” She said.





“How could that possibly be funny?”





“I have to put Matthew to bed.” She was looking for an exit. I quickly moved away from the door and leapt on the sofa. Matthew was still crying when Mother took him upstairs. Dad would get drunk now. This was how he handled Mother's oddness. His anger never lasted long and he entered the lounge room and sat in his chair.





“She's fucking mad.” He said, taking a large mouthful of beer. “Don't eat the biscuits.”





“O.K. Dad.”





“Don't forget you have to do the washing up.” Dad said. For a moment I thought I had gotten out of doing my chores and would have been able to watch T.V. until I went to sleep. Dad changed the channel to the news. Power and privilege, that's what he had, the rest of us were pigs. I got up and went to the kitchen. From the look of the kitchen bin neither of my parents ate dinner, there was a lot of food in there all mashed together. I looked up and saw the pile of dishes and cutlery, saucepans and strainers and I groaned quietly. At least it looked like all the utensils had been rinsed. I filled the sink with hot water and squirted some dishwashing liquid in it. We'd been using the same brand for years, the same product churned out of factory machines. The water was becoming soapy, the soapier the better. The more dishwashing liquid the cleaner the dishes, only problem was the residue. Dishes and cutlery first, that's what Mother told me. Once I'd finished I left the items to dry on the rack. I was tired; it was like a disease, it made you selfish and dumb, wallowing in overdose and toxicity. My mind began reaching for the stars behind my eyelids, where, if I was lucky, I'd dream of something worthwhile. A memorable story, perhaps a web of unconscious thought. I left the kitchen, turning off the fluorescent light as I did so, and then went to my bedroom.





5.





Underneath my pillow were my pajamas which I changed into. It was a kind of undignified tragedy. Pajamas on, I waddled down the hall to brush my teeth and take a piss. The hallway was poorly lighted. In the bathroom I pissed, flushed the urine to some unknown cesspool and washed my hands. The time had come to pass when I would brush my teeth, that playground of bacteria and decay. Hopefully, some way or other I wouldn't need any more fillings. I just had to stay away from the sweets, far away. I dreaded to think of what they would be like when I reached maturity. The dentist told me that teeth had a nature of their own; some were good, some were bad and no amount of dental care was going to change it. I think he was just trying to make me feel better. I spat the toothpaste and sputum into the sink and noticed there was a small amount of blood in it. What was I supposed to expect with how hard I had brushed the gums? I nodded at myself in the mirror.





“Good work Doctor, bleeding gums.” It was a quiet joke to me. I wiped the last of the toothpaste from my mouth, dried my hands and went back to my room. This whole day had been awful and needed the improvements of sleep. My eyesight blurred for a moment then steadied. I looked like a disheveled wreck and the skin on my face was becoming flaky. Teenage life was just one personal humiliation after another. Do parents know that? If they do why do they have children? Is the rest of life worth it? I suspected my parents didn't really know why they had children. They just did. It was the thing to do. It was the natural progression of life. That means in their minds I was an extension of them reaching out into the future and continuing their straight line to immortality. It was unjust of them to expect me to follow in their footprints. It made me feel trapped, that my life was already partially shaped and to know I would have to live through the consequences of my parents choices. These thoughts were not pleasant. I walked the length of the hall back to my room. My eyelids were heavy and my head was beginning to ache. All I wanted was to be free. I guess it wouldn't be long now, I'd come a long way in this family as well I should, school would be over for me soon. I lay down on my bed. Neither parent had wished me goodnight, their thoughts were probably elsewhere. Lying on my side I could see the light coming in under the door but I could hear no noises from the rest of my family. There was a lump in my throat and I felt like crying. I felt like praying but I didn't know any prayers. It made me notice how little spirituality I had come to learn. Were prayers supposed to protect you from evil? Was God going to give me advice? Lying perfectly still I saw a shadow walk past my room and stop for a moment at my door, then the light went out and everything was dark and in madness. Soon my eyes adjusted to the moonlit room. I wondered if dad had inflicted any punishment on Mother as a deterrent; threaten her with the institution again. I lay in bed for what seemed the longest time before sleep finally took me.





The remaining fragments of a dream, easy enough to remember, disturbed my slumber. It was a dream of guilt and fear. A dream of Banshee, a dream we had only ourselves to blame for.





6.





I needed to hide Banshee. The image of her jolted me awake. If Hedges found her he'd know it was me. He'd chased me off his property too many times not to suspect. He was an angry man at the best of times. I quietly got out of bed and dressed in clothes of the worst condition, knowing that I would have to throw them away afterwards. Nobody would look in the rubbish. I was going back to bury Banshee and I knew it wouldn't be easy and I would be pressed for time. Quietly ashamed of what I was preparing to do I snuck downstairs not knowing the amount of strength I would need for the event, not knowing if the act was evil and something to be feared, not knowing if great pain was to be involved. In the kitchen I found the key to the back door. The terror of being caught was growing as I took the key from its hook and moved into the laundry where I found a torch. I was rapidly coming to the conclusion I was not a brave man. It wasn't something that surprised me and I opened the back door. The sky was scattered with thick clouds but at the moment the moonlight was not obscured. While I pocketed the key I closed the door not bothering to lock it. I went to the tool shed and found a shovel, not well used; dad wasn't much of a handyman, the tool shed was indeed sparse but for dad it made sense to have one as it gave an impression. Slinging the shovel over my shoulder I headed off towards the creek with the shovel and torch. The moonlight was so bright I didn't need the torch, not yet anyway. Near the creek I turned back and looked at the house, there was a light on. It was my parent's room but it didn't stay on for long. The light didn't come on again, it was safe to continue. The boards of the creek bridge clacked as I crossed it and I wondered how far the noise would travel even though now I was past the point of no return. If I got caught now there would be no explaining it. Clouds covered the moon and it became suddenly dark and I felt failure was impossible with this kind of cover. I turned on the torch and made a dash for the trees with all the speed I possessed. In the trees I hid behind a tree and stared back at the house, there was nothing. I was in the darkest area between my home and Mr. Hedges fields. The rays of the moon appeared on the grass as the clouds released their grip. Banshee was waiting, so I retraced my path towards her, my torch cutting through the dark.







I found Banshee in the field; she looked no different to when I left her except for some ants wandering through her bloodied fur. Beside her body was the rock that I had used to kill her. I moved towards the lifeless body but stopped dead when I heard a faint voice calling,





“Banshee! Where are you girl?” I switched off the torch. “Banshee!” It wailed. It was Mr. Hedges and he sounded drunk. I could see his shadow slowly coming over the field and I hit the dirt fast. He had a torch and I could see its beam scanning the field. There was no escape but to hide. I began crawling away from Banshee, if Hedges found me near her he'd lose his mind. Bits of dirt were getting in my mouth I was so close to the ground. He was closer now and I had stopped moving for fear of being spotted. The dirt in my mouth was irritating me, I wanted to spit it out but I was hesitant to make any noise at all. My heart was pounding fast and hard, consuming my chest. The torch beam was skimming around Banshee and for a moment there was only silence, then an ear piercing scream. The old man shook in a frenzy of misery. Panic ran through me as I realized I would be found for sure and I pulled the shovel closer. Hedges was going crazy, screaming at first then making baby noises at the carcass. He was now kneeling besides Banshee, crying and running his hands through the fur.





“No, no, no.” He buried his face in Banshee's torso. I decided this was the best time to leave him to his sadness and began crawling again but as soon as I moved Hedges was up, the light from the torch blinding me.





“You little fucker!” He screamed. In his hand he held the bloodied rock and made a quick movement towards me. I jabbed the shovel at him and struck him squarely in the face. Hedges staggered back blood streaming from a large cut below his nose. He was in shock and before he had a chance to recover I had struck him again, this time swinging the shovel at his head. He fell on the ground near his dog and they lay there side by side. Hedges mouth was moving like he was trying to say something and his hand moved over to Banshee. I was horrified that I could feel myself laughing as I watched Hedges slipping away and reaching for his beloved Banshee. His breathing slowed and then stopped completely. All the complicated problems of his life were over, for him at least. Mine were just beginning. In an instant I had become a murderer. I'd get sent to a juvenile home for sure at best, at worst an adult correctional facility. I looked around to ensure there was nobody else near. Everything was dark and quiet, Hedges was alone. The ground was soft in the field and I started digging as quickly as I could, the hole wasn't going to be large just big enough to cover the bodies. The theory was that if no one could see him, no one would care, out of sight out of mind, and the dead never have too much to say. Hedges had no close friends that I knew of. I reckoned it would be some time before they started looking for him and with any luck I'd be out of this town for good, finish school and just get out. I didn't think the digging would take too much longer; it was coming along well, although by the time I had finished I was very tired. Hedges was heavy, he didn't look it. I dragged the body into the hole and arranged the limbs to fit. It was taking a lot of effort. Banshee was the next down the hole. It was a cozy fit; I placed her at her master's feet. It was the most pathetic sight you ever saw and the first clump of dirt to cover them finished it off. A pathetic portrait; a black one, one that would make a Mother cry. I was assured there was no sign of life and completed filling in the hole, no sign of Banshee or Mr. Hedges could be seen. No one would know he was here unless they were looking pretty hard. Within a week it would look like any other patch of ground around here. I could feel one of my eyelids twitching involuntarily. This often happened when I was tired. It was time to head back. I took the shovel and torch and left Banshee and Mr. Hedges behind me. I took a swipe at the air with my palm, there were mosquitoes around. My clothes were covered in filth.





7.





I hurried my pace towards the trees. Under the circumstances speed was necessary. Burying Hedges as well had taken up time. Blood was all over my shirt and my feet were starting to ache. I let out a hissing sound like a serpent as the pain was increasing. I'd stop and rest in the trees. The moon was high in the sky but I still left the torch on as I approached that dark place. I threw myself down at the foot of a tree and wondered what it actually meant to be alive. There were leaves that had fallen to the ground around where I sat. I was afraid. This place felt like my cemetery and I pressed my knuckles into the dirt like roots. There seemed in my mind a door in this place between two worlds. Something in the air and earth was noticeable. I could feel my teeth grinding together. Saliva dribbled out onto my chin. How many sons? Two. I rose from the ground noticing that there was fur on my shirt. Instead of brushing it away I left it there. The clothes were going in the bin anyway. There were no sounds in the trees as I began walking my way home. I stopped suddenly. Something ahead of me moved and I quickly hid. It was a person, I was sure. Time would tell and I stuck my head out to have a look. It was indeed a person. I dared not approach them. The figure didn't seem to notice me. It was just the silhouette of a body with nothing discerning about it. What it was doing was unknown to me. By the way it was moving it was dragging something. It moved out of my sight and I took the chance to make my way out of the area. At first I moved away slowly, carefully, looking around intermittently to see that I was alone, that no one else was near. The cover of the trees was coming to an end. Ahead of me was the creek and then I'd be safe at home. A thought occurred to me. Could it have been dad looking for me? Too late for that now. As soon as I was in the open I ran. My breathing was rapid when I crossed the bridge not daring to look behind me. I'd never felt this scared before, the pounding of my feet, the movement of my body all added to the thrill. Nearer to the house I stopped and dared to look behind me. Nothing. All was quiet expect for my breathing. I turned back to the house and went to the back door. I took the key out of my pocket and was about to unlock the door when I remembered I hadn't locked it in the first place. I turned the handle and entered the house.





8.





I took a garbage bag from the kitchen and went to my room where I undressed and put the soiled clothes in the bag and under the bed. Without bothering to shower I put my pajamas back on and climbed into bed.





In the morning I just lay in bed for a time, you know how it is. All I needed now was to drag myself to the kitchen for some breakfast but first I checked my face in the bathroom. There was grime on both my hands and face so I washed them. There seemed a month's worth of dirt on my hands. Soap had become my little friend over the last twenty four hours and soon the dirt was gone, washed away like answers to a puzzle not yet completed and deposited in a sea of ideas. I thought of the figure in the trees.





“Speed it up in there.” It was dad. His voice startled me. He probably thought I was masturbating.





“Yeah.” I said in an offended tone.





“Now.” He said. I got the feeling I was in trouble. I went out to see dad. He was standing outside the door. His eyes looked wild. There was dirt on the floor.





“Did you do this?” He said pointing to the mess.





“No.” I lied. The truth was that I didn't remember.





“That's not entirely true is it?” And he walked away.





9.





I went and changed into a T-shirt that had a cartoon apple on it that read, “Let's play William Tell.” I was only half rested from my nocturnal activities as I made up the bed. Blood had oozed into the gauze around one of Banshees bites, her jaws had been strong. I had to give her points for that, and then some. Still I bet I split her skull in two. A smile crossed my face. I had been an adventurous night but I wouldn't want to get used to it, not for anything. I left the garbage bag of clothes under the bed; I'd dispose of it later that night, putting the pieces of clothing in the trash under cover of dark. The house was filled with silence and feelings of guilt that I suspected were rooted in some deep paranoia. The feeling was broken by the sound of my father whistling. I listened almost expecting a chorus to join in. Whatever the tune he was making a hash of it. It was almost as though the tune were being made in some unnatural way and worst of all, it sounded insane. Then suddenly,





“Alan!” He yelled with a mixture of anger and confusion. A yell I had never heard from him before.





“Alan!” This time it was a scream. Not knowing what was happening, I ran for the back door and kept running.





10.





Where had the little fucker gone? He done gone and run oft. That fuckin' bitch. That mad fuckin' bitch. I had to draw conclusions. My wife. My son. This place. Displaced. It was falling apart, you know. Time to move, time to put the plan in motion. Take a chance at a new start. I should try it; just walk out that front door. Jumble of electricity in that bitches' mind. She never made any sense. “My marriage was a chameleon and the tie was unstraightening my family.” That's what she said once. Seriously. Well it was all ablaze now, like staring at a window of a house with flames licking the panes and knowing there was an engine inside pumping oxygen to fuel the demise. Alan was too young to understand. I had to clean up this mess. Tell the little bastard a tall tale if nothing else. I knew it wasn't too late. Anxiously I went upstairs and into the bathroom to look again almost with curiosity into the toilet, where, hidden under the wooden seat was the produce of my wife's stomach, little Matthew. I'd got a get a plastic bag from the kitchen to put him in. Once he was in that toilet I could no longer class him as human. He'd become something else now, meat that had to be thrown out. There was no comfort in that, only dark regret and perhaps a bitter tear. My hand acted separately from me. I would never have hurt her or anyone. I couldn't believe I had done it. My mind flew to places unknown, directions covered in fog. And then the sinking feeling, a feeling I'd not felt before and my eye's began to stream. My vision had become nebulous and the plastic bag swirled around me. I tried to control my thoughts and body but I urinated right there, liquid flowing down my legs. What world had I entered? I puzzled at it. A world of nervous reaction. That would explain the urination but the strange sight, like staring at nowhere. Was I doing something that would make a difference? Perhaps it was just a dream, a chance to explain something, to uncover the person hidden under the umbrella, to make people understand. That would be a grand prize. I'd have to leave then. Couldn't stay. A force was driving me. A force stronger than any resistance I could give and it craved my attention. It creates and controls all my emotions; it is the root of my decay and treachery. Surely it is the facet of every being and here, now, the doors were open. Each day my fear of it had grown. I was alert to its presence but there was nothing I could do to dispel it. My actions were in flux but as I came to this realization everything began to slow down and a sense of de ja vu washed over me. I looked at the picture of the old man fishing on the wall and smiled, for some reason it reminded me of my childhood. I followed the line of sight from the old man's eyes and down to the toilet where I knew destruction hid. I looked at myself in the mirror and saw the look on my face where it seemed barbed hooks held my smile in place. I clenched my eyes tightly together and when I opened them the smile was gone.





10.





My feet were aching again so I slowed down my running. Dad wasn't following. I did not have any idea of what was going on but dad was acting freaky like he'd lost a cog in his brain so I was keeping away for the time being. I'd keep my senses sharp. Mother would have to look after herself, up there in her little prison. Today I'd run off and I planned to break the rules more than once, this day was my day. It would be a cheap day as I didn't have any money but it was still mine. When I returned home hopefully dad would have calmed down. I didn't really have anywhere else to go. I went down on my knees and looked at that prison of a house. A prison with broken locks. That is to say I was dependant on it for my existence. Independence meant I'd have to survive on my own. I buried my head in my hands. This would be my penance. Stuck at home with two parents that had lost their minds, nothing was going to counter that kind of life. I'd have to face it sooner or later and it would be back to the arguments, the loose talk, and the sorrow. This was how it would all turn out to be, how it would reveal itself, a slight of hand. I continued on towards the trees trying not to let the questions of my future bother me too much. As I came to the trees I felt an ominous wave come over me. It felt like something was in there, basking in its ingenuity, waiting for me. I shivered at its presence and either I was going mad or it looked as though the trees had formed a strict linear pattern formation, like they were in rows. At one point I was fairly sure I could see right through to the other side using the squinty eye technique. The light of the sun was swept away and so was the sound of the nature around me leaving only a faint sniveling noise. I listened rather sadly to it the way you listen to a hard luck story, all sympathy but no empathy, but still, curiosity got the better of me and I went to find the source.





The flesh of her feet contrasted with the texture of the bark of the tree she hung from, her weight comfortably bearable to the branches. There were tears in the eyes of the woman amongst the branches, exhausted and severely beaten but not so much as I couldn't see it was my Mother and her gaze pierced me, sent like a knife at my heart. It didn't take long to figure out how she got up there, dad had hoisted her up with ropes and left her hanging. Her breathing was shallow, she was trying to say something but there wasn't enough breath in her lungs to get the words out. I'd go to the town for help. No. I had to get her down. I found where the rope end was bound to a tree and tried to untie it. The damn thing wouldn't budge it was so tight. I'd have to cut it with something, a sharp rock; I wasn't going back to the house for a knife. It took some time but I found one and began hacking at the rope. The ropes began to fray and unwind and I gripped it for the moment of breakage but I wasn't strong enough and it slipped through my palms leaving a red burn. The pain forced me to open my hands and Mother fell to the ground with a thud. On the ground I tried to lift her head.





“There's a dog that sounds like a man here.” She rasped.





“What?” I said too impatiently but she had closed her eyes and seemed to have passed out from exhaustion. Every now and then her eyes would flicker or her mouth would open slightly. I wasn't sure she would recover as I lay her head down on the ground and simply watched her. I had to go to town. Beside her head was a flower and she turned to it right before she died.





11.





Would dad be coming back this way? I suspected he would. He wasn't a prisoner of that house. He was a murderer, an invention of his own and it made me anxious. Mother's eyes had reopened and were staring at the flower. It gave me an unnerved feeling like being trapped in a car with a wasp and I plucked the thing from the ground and crushed it in my hand. Now there was nothing for the dead eyes to look at but me and I nearly screamed in anguish until I turned the head away. I could feel tears on my face, my eyes stung. What was to become of me now? A foster home probably. Maybe it wouldn't be that bad. Maybe it would be terrible. I couldn't figure anything out but I knew that I had to start. The woman I used to know as my Mother was gone, long gone but I was still here and so was Matthew. I had to see if he was alright. As I rose from the ground the first splashes of a light rain fell on my face.





12.





There was the sound of rain hitting the roof, washing the leaves into the guttering I bet. If it flooded the house again there'd be hell to pay. Oh dear, would there ever. There was a flash of lightning and I smiled at the thought of Alan and the bitch out in it. Maybe it would strike the tree and teach her some sanity, stop her talking to herself. God help us. Was the lightning God entering this world, dishing out punishment? Loosing bolts like Zeus. She was insane; something must have possessed her very soul. Time would show the logic of my actions.





“Oh God what have I done? I am but your humble servant.” I had violated the sacrament of marriage. Falling to my knees I began bowing, a total of ninety times, thirty times three and I'm through the looking glass, into that other world, the world where I dealt with her. I got up and went to the study. It comprised of shelves of books and a single writing desk. There was a single book on it, a medical book. It was opened upon a picture of a small boy with what looked like tapeworms protruding from his rectum. There seemed to be hundreds of them. I closed the book on the boy's horrendous existence. Was she looking at this? Was Alan? I ran downstairs and wretched in the kitchen sink. I couldn't go back to the bathroom with Matthew in there. The kitchen seemed frozen in time too soon. Consumed in silence, waiting for the happening of the near future, I wanted to run as far from here as I could, as far from this joke of a life as possible. My job would be gone and after all this I'd be virtually unemployable. My hands trembled at the thought; it was like a drug that had freed me from the labors of society. The only thing to do in this world is suicide, like the myth of Sisyphus, why not just let the rock crush you, it aint going to do no good pushing it. The idea made me purr. The question of my existence forced me to momentarily lean against the wall. Was it that I was free in my mind? The only place they couldn't see?





“I'm guarding the fort.” There was pleasure in the words, the way the burnt my throat.





“Don't let it back in!” It just shot out like a slap. “Can't let it excel. Matthew's gone now.” This was a problem; I was scared of the ramifications. My actions were terrible but I couldn't help them, they had to be accomplished. I'd best put Matthew back in his crib. That was where he was supposed to be, where he needed to be, there was no denying it. The crib was where he would fulfill his sacred purpose. The crib would escort him to the sea of death like a boat where God could finally see him. Heaven is the sea. Too late after the anonymity of all the salt it contains. No one can find you there; it's like particles of smog in a city. The heat of the city, the flames of the city, the flames. Was I admitting it? Something to consider, this affiliation. I went back upstairs into the bathroom, the decisions I'd made weighing on my mind, strangling my thoughts. I managed a smile. I sensed imaginary vultures descending to take Matthew away and I shook and waved my arms in an attempt to dispel them. When I reached the toilet I uncovered the seat. He had been defecated upon. I found a towel and wrapped him in it. Everything innocent about him had been turned to repulsion. All I wanted to do was burn the disgusting thing; I couldn't stand seeing it anymore. His spirit had been sacrificed to the great transport carrier. I couldn't bring myself to leave him in his crib. I would bury him in the backyard. On my way outside Matthew's smell had become so intolerable I nearly feinted. Swearing, I opened the back door to find Alan standing before me with an expression of terror. Finally he speaks,





“You fucking bastard.”





I slowly uncovered Matthew so Alan could see.





“If nothing else gets you first.” I said. My expression was grave. Alan had a thick branch in his hands; I barely noticed it before he began beating me and I felt my grip on Matthew loosen before he slipped from my arms and onto the ground. Alan's eyes had become crazed and he paused briefly to get his breath back before a second beating. This time I managed to get a hold of the branch, I could smell its nature as I yanked it from the brat's hands. I could see his mind was racing, he'd lost the shop and now it was my turn. I gave him a good clunk on the side of his head that sent him reeling. He stumbled about for a bit before regaining his balance, I waited; there was no need to fear him. Blood was trickling down his head from a small cut.





“Your face.” I said. He turned away. “It's living.”





“And Matthew isn't.” He chided. My grip on the branch tightened and I raised it to him again.





13.





My thoughts were muddled when I came around. I was in my room, blood caked on my pillow from my head wound. There was a tin opener and a can of beans next to my bed. Concentrating I touched the cut on my head, it had stopped bleeding. I went to the window. Outside, dad was digging a hole in the back yard, beans before burial. The veins were sticking out in my forearms; I ran to the door and tried to open it. It was locked but I persevered, rattling it around. I went back to the window, hand pressed against my eye, which was twitching like crazy; it was as though a needle had entered it. I was falling apart like some universal joke. My other eye looked at dad as the sun beat down on him. He stopped digging and sat beside the hole and lit a cigarette. He looked up and waved at me, pleased with himself. He blew smoke casually as he rubbed his face. I quietly opened the window. There was a childish inclination to throw the tin of beans at him. My stomach was turning knots as I watched dad finish the hole, the rain had stopped but dark clouds still covered the sky and an electric current was switched on in my brain. This was the end of it all. Perhaps it's a kindness. He rose from the ground and walked into the house. It was now or never. Yes. I cleared my throat and climbed out the window. It was a clear fall, if I landed well it would be O.K. Just had to try not to land on my head, I had to keep my balance. Attempting not to lose orientation I positioned myself for the jump; I took a deep breath and let go of the ledge. I hit the ground with a thud and rolled onto my back ending up next to the freshly dug hole. Sitting to compose myself I looked up at the window I had leapt from. It was closed and dad stared down at me in his deformity. I smiled at him and waved before frantically running away. At the creek I stopped briefly to drink from it. The humidity was killing me. The cool water flowed over my hand and I left it there in the water for a moment before bringing it up to my mouth.





14.





He's gone, terrified. My breathing was constant as I watched him go. What was he thinking? He couldn't go far, this was his home, and this was where he belonged. He must have felt spite towards me. It wasn't his fault. Alan, how could I have let her give him that stupid name? He was going to make a run for town, I knew it. I could head him off in the car if I had the inclination but I wanted the condemnation of the town upon me for some reason. That little selfish bastard, did he think I didn't know? He'd be stunned when he realized he was in the wrong place. Sometimes I wondered if I was. My teaching career was over, family was long gone. A cockroach crawled up my leg I bent and flicked it away.





15.





What had happened to dad? What made him flip like that? I guess we all have very precise limits at which we crack. Numbness was coming into my legs and I thought it was long overdue. I wasn't worried, I just needed to rest. I sat down and relaxed my legs; the road was where I needed to be, not here in the trees, there was no doubt about that. No good can come of this, it was dark here, this place seemed to keep me sheltered, isolated. My stomach rumbled I really should have eaten those beans; I had important things to do and needed energy. Dad would be after me soon but I switched that thought off. I needed a miracle to save me. The body of Mother could be seen partially exposed behind a tree, I went to it. She seemed to be smiling and it made me feel stable and I fell into a deep sleep next to her. I dreamt of dad dumping her tortured body in a refuse bin and pours gasoline on it. He sets fire to the contents of the bin and stands back. The flames burst into effect and her figure slowly rises to a standing position and stares at him. She is fully aflame.





“I am not your Mother.”





It was like a tumor exploding when I started back into consciousness leaving my hollow heart full of darkness, a darkness I constantly came back to. Something wet was around my mouth; I smoothed my hand over the area and looked at it. Blood covered my hand and I stared at Mother bewildered. Flesh had been torn from her upper arm. Mother was still looking after me even as I was being separated from my imperfect self.





16.





Shadows moved about me, shadows of insects grown fantastically large. I saw the shadow of Mother dancing amongst them, rhythmically moving to nonexistent music. The crack of thunder, a storm was coming and still the shadows danced like tongues of flame between the trees in defiance of nature itself.





“Someone's coming.” Mother whispered. I screamed at the shadows. What she had become I could not decipher. Leaning against bark it swirled around me, it was eternity and I ran from it. I collapsed at the road some moments later, delirious and when I scanned the area I saw in the distance what looked like Martin, riding his bicycle towards my house. Nothing came out of my mouth when I tried to shout. He'd get to meet my father, the creator of sin and shame, the centre.





17.





There was a knock at the door. I was silent, waiting for them to go away, perfect silence. They'll take me apart. I glimpsed out of the window, there was a bike. It was just some kid, some kid looking for a grave, one of the shits from school. I would let him in. He knocked a second time before I yanked the door open to face him.





“What?” I shouted at him. A beat and he took a step back. Happy and free, that was how he looked at first before the expression fell to doom.





“I was looking for Alan.”





I grabbed the scruff of his shirt quickly and dragged him inside.





“He's with his Mother.” I slammed the door. He knew something was wrong, he gasped for air, he looked for an exit but the only one he saw is the kitchen door.





“Fuck you weirdo!” He ran for the door. I followed. He got in the kitchen fast but was disoriented.





“You're a very rude visitor.” I could see his panic increasing. He thought I was mentally ill. I waited for him to say something but he stayed silent looking around until he worked out the direction of the back door.





“Where's Alan?” He sounded desperate.





“Gone.” I replied.





“What's the matter with you?” He said angrily. I began to feel faint, had to hold it together with an enemy in the house.





“Look away from me!” I shouted. The phone rang and we both jumped. Two rings. Three rings. Neither of us moved. Four rings. Upstairs a snooze alarm went off. Five rings. Six rings. Seven rings. I dashed for the knife block and grabbed a big one. He bolted for freedom but I caught him before he could get anywhere. I slipped during the scuffle and we both fell to the floor. He kept clawing at my face and the knife kept cutting his hands. Blood was flicked across both of us. He let out a high pitched wail and used the last of his strength to throw me off and he scampered back to the front door. He was out the door before I could stop him. Outside he was trying to ride his bicycle away. The sky was dark and the kid struggled on the bike with his cut up hands. He fell off and onto the driveway, he was in shock. I snickered to myself, just another kid with shit for brains. The knife was still clenched between my fingers as I moved towards him. He saw me and attempted to dash away on foot but he wasn't watching where he was going and stumbled. The rage bursts out and I plunge the knife into his shoulder ripping it out again and plunging it back. Throwing the knife away I gripped his throat and squeezed with all my strength, shaking him as violently as I could, shook him till spit came out his mouth. Shook him till he left this place and I was alone, alone and screaming. It was a sound that seemed to pass through nature and into the infinite.





18.





I saw the body, the discarded meat. I couldn't see dad anywhere, he'd just left it to rot in its silent surroundings. Should I call the police? I'd have to enter the house for that. Far too risky. Gotta go to town and tell the cops. I couldn't think of anything else, this had gotten way out of hand. They'd blame dad for everything. I was totally in the clear and a rush of vigour flowed through me. I thought of Matthew and Mother, absorbing them into my subconscious. I remembered the bruises, the filth; Matthew bunched up in that towel, that one innocent sacrifice for an unknown reason, to an unseen god.





The front door of the house opened and dad peered out at me and suddenly my future seemed very bleak.





“Welcome home.” He said. Extinction was pending. There was no remorse or shame in his voice, no heart. I knew I had to run, there was no trick I could play that would distract him, no help was coming. This game would soon be over and with that thought the storm's precipitation fell like a heavy blanket. Dad moved out into the rain getting as drenched as I was.





“Which one of us will ripen on the tree this time?” He said.





Everything became very dark and I saw the knife in dad's hand, ready to cut and carve. He raised his arms, still clutching the knife, as if to embrace me. That was it, that was all I needed, that one last oddity that got my feet moving as fast as possible towards the town. This time I didn't stop to look back, you should never look back.





18.





I felt no malice. He had seen all he needed to see. What would he tell them?



“Old man's gone crazy.” I murmured and I put the knife down, wringing my hands. Repentance. No, it was my right! Farewell to the dead.





19.





I have brought thy gift. God is great and I obey with my dying soul. My withered call attracts only flies.





“No more!”





Bliss, poison bliss, slicing the air around me. Why was there no answer? Had I killed death? In the mirror my face is obscured, blank, the house is obscured, blank. I struggle alone with my fury in its virgin fire. The mirror fractures in my reflection. The reflection of what nature has produced.





20.





The kitchen was a mess. Food was strewn everywhere. Cutlery everywhere. Crockery everywhere. They seemed to climb the walls, attempting to regain their normal states, their original positions. I picked up a tin of corn and poured the contents into my mouth and chewed. It had been a day of suffering, no choice of mine. The harbinger would be half-way to town by the time I got to him. It was a sizeable head start but I knew he would never get there. He was on foot and I had a car. I'm sure he believed he was going to make it. Scurrying like a rodent for cover. I spat blood into my hand. I had been biting the inside of my cheek.





21.





I hoped dad had killed himself. They did that sometimes. In the news, when the guilt or fear gets too much for them, they take their lives. Something in his eyes had changed, become hateful; time no longer seemed to move in them. Time had been replaced by indescribable colours. I stopped to catch my breath, to rest, imagining dad at home in a rage smashing all the furniture up but I sensed in time he would follow. Something was haunting his mind. Inside his head the world had changed, were the trees affecting him? Had he entered that place where Mother danced with shadows? That strange place in the dark recesses of the trees. I ran a hand through my hair and it caught in a tangle of which I had to pull free. In front of me by the side of the road was a single tree glazed with awe. An ill feeling was in my stomach, like something was pulled from it, thieved from it.





22.





The little fucker. I had dwelt on it for too long. He'd gone out on the road. I went to the garage and wearily opened the car door. It wouldn't take long to catch up with him, to complete the occasion, to complete my damned fate, to formalize it. A fine film hazed my mind, there was birdsong, enthusiastic and filling my ears, reaching a crescendo and then a sudden silence and my mind was lucid. The engine started and my fingers were drumming the dashboard. I leant back in the seat and wound down the window. Well for better or worse this was it. I drove out and turned onto the wet dirt road, rain splashing the windshield. Each raindrop might have contained whole microscopic worlds, each one more corrupt than the last. The road was, as always, devoid of traffic and the tyres slid about in the mud.





“Whoa!” I shouted aloud. “Jesus Christ!” I regained control and thought that I saw Alan in the distance, in the growing darkness. Using the car I would strike him down with all the ferocity of a tiger attacking a lamb.





23.





There was a vehicle approaching. I knew it would be dad. I couldn't outrun him; I'd have to sprint into the rough where he couldn't follow in the car. The distance was closing and I dashed suddenly from the road. If he tried to follow in the car he'd get bogged in seconds. I turned back and saw that he wasn't following me off road. The car continued on towards town. I began to cry and the landscape before me ached and oscillated like a machine breaking down, I fell to my knees as a booming sound filled the air. There seemed whale noises amongst the low bass throb and light floated about me like wisps of long hair underwater. I covered my eyes, willing it to stop, not knowing what danger it was. The rain had stopped and my eyes opened. I was in the lounge room of my house, I knew the shape and position but all else was blank. I was patient and waited for the details to come back but they didn't. It all stayed blank and I laughed wildly, walking upstairs in the blank house. The mirror on the staircase at least kept its reflective qualities. My laughing stopped when I saw my reflection. It too was blank, like an unfinished mannequin. Was it my imagination? I clawed at the formless features, blank eyes, no colour, blank skin, shapeless mouth and teeth. I could hear myself growling at the image and as I did so the booming sound returned, increasing in power until it was a mighty thunderous sound and the house shook. A scream left me, a scream not my own but like a recorded voice on playback.





24.





Fuck it! I watched Alan run off into the shit. Into his imago, I watched him vanish, and then pulled the car over to the roadside where I stopped to think, engine running. Slowly my eyes closed. I thought of contradictions. I thought of what was right and proper and my conscious self fought against it longing for the brutal alternative and my foot pushed down on the accelerator. I drove down the dirt road until it became the street that led into town and eventually stopped at the local tavern. I opened the car door, walked to the red wood entrance and went in. The patrons stood around like a fossilized forest, mirror in mirror, the record of time lost, and each one hiding a secret in their twisted limbs. I walked up to the bar and waited to be served.





“You new in town?” The barman asked.





“No.” I replied.





“Just new in here then.” He gibed as I ordered a beer. I sipped it. It was cold and made me feel normal, like I was somewhere stable, where the world was with us, where beer and whiskey would flow through us nourishing and rooting our forms to the ground. There was no sunshine for these woody plants. I lowered my head in thought, I felt alive here. It was so unselfish and good. I'd finished my beer and pointed at my glass indicating my interest to the barman in another. A few of the patrons had begun to look in my direction, it might have been the flecks of blood on my shirt and I felt my body go numb when I saw one of them walking over. His stride was strong and his boots clomped along the floorboards, laces partially untied. There was a determination in him that neither heaven nor earth could stop and when he stood before me I looked around as though he'd made some kind of mistake. I could feel my arteries throbbing. There was no malice in his eyes and a cigarette hung loosely from his mouth and smoke came from the depths of his lungs when he spoke.





“Are you new in town?” I began to feel panicked and unsafe. He blew smoke as I answered.





“No.” It was an abrupt answer. Keep the conversation short and they go away. Unfortunately he was inquisitive.





“So you're local then?” He took a large gulp of his beer. Time slowed, I knew this man was trying to trip me up for some reason.





“Yes.” I replied instinctively. His brow furrowed.





“I don't see it.”





“What?” A silence followed, then his words came slowly.





“I run the gas station.” There was laughter in the background. “The only gas station in town.” A harmless war with words. “You got a car?”





“Of course.”





“Ain't never seen you getting gas.” I felt as though someone was wringing my neck. A loud drone was in my ears.





“My wife gets the gas.” He eyed me suspiciously.





“How long have you lived here?” Before I could think of a lie I had blurted it out,





“Eighteen years.” His eyes narrowed. He looked at me disbelievingly.





“Eighteen years? And this is the first time we've met?” He was getting agitated and I had no idea of how to answer him. A man at the bar swallowed the last of his beer and turned to us.





“Why don't you leave him be if he's new to this.” My mind was on fire. The gas station owner stayed quiet for a time.





“Eighteen fuckin' years. And this is the first time I've ever seen you.” He taunted. My face was turning red like that of a man caught in a lie. His eyes gleamed in triumph. Silence again and I found myself involuntarily moving for the exit. In a moment I was away and out the door. As I made my way back to the car the gas station owner emerged from the tavern like a beast emerging from its dark lair.





“You're fake!” He yelled in a powerful spit of venom. Quickly starting the car I drove away from the tavern, furious at all the questions. That man had unsettled my mental state. I wasn't fake; I wasn't some cheap reproduction of a painting. There was more than forgery that made me. My blood, hatred and sorrow had swirled together like the moments of a day passed in solitude. The road back to the house rose up before me, animated carrion on a dry terrain. It was strange how quickly all signs of the storm had vanished.





25.





There is a fire in the cave as the puppets dance. I cannot see them but I know they are there.





26.





The house had changed when I pulled up to the front lawn. The whole place looked abandoned. The ground was barren and unkempt. Was this where my family resided? Clouds still swirled in my head like those Joseph Turner paintings, everything slowly gravitating towards a vortex. Dust covered everything inside the house. Where was my son? I struck the couch and dust billowed off it. Where was this place? Where had it been? I heard echoes of the crying of the auctioneer, so faint it was almost a whisper.





27.





I was a father to a son, husband to a wife. A thought occurred to me. The house was like the wreck of a ship, deep beneath the waves on the ocean floor. It's rusted hull devoid of happiness but full of the memories of its life and its enormous bulk of death. It seemed full of the visions of lives not yet lived. Lives that would become as decrepit as this house, covered in dust. There were footprints in the dust and marks indicating a scuffle. In areas the prints were so dense that it would have seemed that three people had been in the one place. Sections even contained clumps of bloodied hair that I could not recognize. I followed the path of prints that led upstairs, to see exactly what had taken place. Thick dust covered the stairs and my shoe crunched something underneath it. A shard of mirror covered in grime. I saw that the prints led into the bathroom. There were echoes of a woman in distress, her pitch reaching disturbing levels. It forced me into the bathroom, the noise was unbearable and I slammed my fist into the mirror. Blood trickled down my wrist and onto the floor where it joined great volumes of another's but the noises were gone. I stood and looked at the picture of a boat at sea and an old man fishing. I followed his line of sight outside the picture to an old cracked porcelain toilet. I moved over to the toilet and expectantly looked in. At first I thought I could see a pair of crushed baby skulls in there, that two sons had died in that faeces encrusted receptacle but it was just the visual effect of the brain having been cleaved into halves. There were the screams of infants inside my head and they were slowly joined by that of the woman. A woman who had internally bled in this room and was hanging in the trees, had I done this? I didn't believe I was capable of stomping a baby into a toilet. I had no reason to do it. I tried the taps to splash water on my face but water had not flowed through them for a long time and the pipes rattled but did not produce. She was in the trees, that's where the answers were. Leaving the house I wandered out towards them as a demoralized person. Would I see reality this time or another lie? It was as though they knew I had returned. Two sons had died here. Is that what they wanted? I could hear them singing. In time I found her, she looked asleep but I knew her arms were dislocated from hanging. Was it possible I knew this woman? It was my wife but none of her features seemed recognizable. I'd taken a lot of trouble to winch her up there. She'd been beaten badly. Suddenly the face moved towards me and I felt horribly threatened. The eyes opened and the face shone. She wasn't breathing but she seemed alive, connected to the tree and I saw the three planes of the Axis Mundi surround her and the image of a decomposing corpse was being replaced by spectrums of light beyond my comprehension. I felt its pity, its unending life. Cowering before it there was some massive power transference, unseen things whirred about me in a swirl of light. I squeezed my fists and mashed them into the dirt as a high pitched whistle threatened to burst my eardrums. There had been two women hanging in this tree, isolated by time but now I realized time had no dominion here. There was an earth shattering thump and the ground around me was pulled up violently. A golden hand is pressed upon my forehead.





28.





My hands gripped the steering wheel and the sound of the engine was loud in my ears. The spin of the tryes managed to produce a cloud of dust behind the car. I raised my head to the rear view mirror and saw myself for what seemed the first time in many years. The road was old and unused to traffic and for a moment the car fish tailed and was beyond my control. It left the road and came to a jolting stop in the rough. The dust behind the car caught up, enveloping the automobile. I was heading back to town, back to the tavern for a beer, I breathed deeply as I composed myself. The radio was playing; a man's melodious voice was heard,





Easy and free



To be whatever you want to be



Sometimes the father is the son.





Acknowledgements.



Lyrics from “Sometimes the Father is the Sun.” (Richard James.)



Gorky's Zygotic Mynci



© 1997 Mercury Records Ltd. London.





















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