Wednesday, March 27, 2019
The cat heard it first. All I knew was my slumbering lap warmer was suddenly gripping the tops of my thighs with claws I didn’t know it had and hissing to scare the devil. The pain jolted me out of my book and I was about to yell from being a pincushion when I saw the cause of the cat’s alarm. That is the thing about pain. It vanishes in the presence of an appropriate distraction. I stared at the man-sized shambling mass of blood and open scabs walking through my basement doorway.
Button’s small brain, on the other hand, was not overwhelmed by the grotesque unknown coming towards us. She dove to the floor and rushed it with startling ferocity. No small feat for an animal that hides from the vacuum. Her impulse to suicide, such was the nightmare before me, pushed my mind from fear back to thought. However, my concern for my pet vanished as the monstrosity fell to the floor before she reached it. In a single breath it went from marching doom to whimpering mound crowned with flaying house cat. I yelled at Button to get off whatever it was her sharp claws were tearing into. The sound of my voice reached her domestication for she stopped her frenzy as quickly as she began it and hurled herself toward an adjacent room.
I remained seated and took in the creature on my hall floor. It was bleeding, but it was hard to tell where Button’s fury had opened its flesh and what was…no…now it had patches of deep black and blue spread over its head, arms, and torso. There had been blood, copious and free flowing. Now it looked covered in deep contusions. The hardwood floor was clean. I was concrete in my chair.
My next thought turned to why it had collapsed after climbing my fourteen cellar steps. It was 10:30 at night so sunlight hadn’t done it in. Light came through my basement doorway, but I doubted the energy saving 60-watt bulbs were the answer. Hadn’t I had been down in the cellar this afternoon? I’m sure I turned the lights off. A monster that’s afraid of the dark? I stood and reached for my phone.
The creature’s outburst was matched by my own. I expected it to leap up, but instead it started to cry.
The din in my ears made thinking hard, but the sound was unmistakable. It was crying. Not a monster’s cry, but a mad and lonely weep. The sound I made when I was told my wife and son were dead. Its contusions lightened until normal looking skin appeared where gashes and gore had been. It was a man. Naked and sobbing his chest heaved for breath. I breathed and gasped with him. I saw the dirt in his hands from the grave I buried him in. Agony and rage balled, pushed down, and ignored. I hated the pain. I hated God. I hated everything I saw or touched that brought them back and pushed their loss into my face. I hated every breath of air I took that should have been my son’s. I hated every laugh from every mouth I could not strangle shut. I hated my existence and their finality. Every thought, emotion, and day I wanted to crush and burn was sprawled on the floor before me. The same fists that shook when my life was lowered into deaf, blind earth screamed for his throat. I set them free…
I awoke on the floor facedown and alone. My eyes stung from the salt of my dried tears and the palms of my hands were an angry red where I had driven my fingernails into them. I tried to push myself up, but I was too heavy. I felt the weight of the man inside me like an anchor. I returned to the floor and remembered all I had buried to escape the pain. Slowly and with a gripping clarity the images filled my mind until I could feel the vibration of footsteps against my cheek, smell her hair, and hear his loud little laugh. I inhaled and felt my lungs and life fill for the first time in months. I was alive again. Laughing, I realized we all were.