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I have reached the top. I have become the molder of other people’s destinies. What began as a reluctant career I only embarked upon to please my father has ended with me becoming so glorious. I feel like I can do anything.
No, I know that I can do anything. They will make sure of that. Yes, I mustn’t forget where I came from. I couldn’t have done it without my friends, after all. They recognized talent when they saw it. They brought me to a place I never thought that I could go and now there is no limit to what we can accomplish together.
Let me start from the beginning. My Father was a hard man, but a fair one. My brothers and I, he was always trying to bring out our inner potential. We got no dinner until our homework was done. We got no time with friends until the house was completely spotless. For every word spoken out of turn by one, each of us lost a toy.
Competition comes naturally to me now. That’s another thing that my Father made sure of. One of his favorite teaching devices was to give each of us two hundred dollars on his birthday as our only present. Mom wasn’t allowed to get us anything. “Molly coddling the boys will just lead to the grown-up world trampling them,” he always told her.
The money would be hidden somewhere in the house and we had to race to find it. The one who got to the money first got to keep it whether it was his birthday or not. Craig was the biggest and fastest of us so he tended to get the money on most of our birthdays. He got it on almost all of mine, actually. Father always told me that I should try to learn from my brother instead of envy him and then maybe I would get the money one day.
One year when Craig won, I cried. I had to spend the night on the basement floor because its “those who show weakness” end up.
That didn’t feel fair at all. I almost found the money that time. It was only because Dave pushed me down. Father beat him, though, so I guess that evens everything out (though Father always told us to never expect anybody to make your life fair for you).
That was the year that I decided to “even the playing field” myself with Craig. I waited for him after his football practice. I was so proud of myself for gathering the materials from behind the department store. Craig never saw it coming, when I sprang my trap. All I had to do was cut the rope when he stepped on the covered board. The lawnmower blades sprang up, and he was in the hospital for a knee laceration. That was a week before Kent’s birthday so I was easily able to muscle my way past him and Frank and that cheap shot taking Dave to find the money. It was the first time in a couple of years that I actually got it, unless memory fails me. I’m having a hard time recalling things at the moment.
I thought I was going to get in trouble as the police brought me home, but Father was actually proud of me (even though Mom tried to scold me behind his back). He called me a “true competitor with a killer instinct” and gave me one hundred more dollars. He took it all back when he caught me spending it on comic books after I got out of Juvenile Hall though.
When it came time for college, I didn’t want to go into real estate. I loved competition, but selling houses just sounded boring to me. I thought there would be more opportunities to make him happy as a scientist or an engineer. Father wanted me in real estate because the market was so hot, though.
“I taught you to have the heart of killer. Now you need to know how to mold people and subtly get them to do what you want. The art of persuasion, of making a man think he has a choice but robbing him of it at the same time. That’s what the real estate game will teach you. That’s why I’ve decided that you’ll get your business degree and then go to work for my old friend Bob Coverdale. Don’t let me down.”
My first few days at Coverdale Realty were kind of an odd situation, if memory serves. The people there were all nice to me and not very demanding at all. One of the women in the office even smiled at me once or twice. I had never had a girlfriend before, to my shame. Maybe this would be the chance for me to sire an heir to the family name!
With all my training from Father, I should have been able to blast past my so obviously weak colleagues and become the top seller in the agency within a month. But nothing I tried seemed to work. If I tried to use toothpaste to cover nail holes in the walls or paper and plaster to disguise an unsightly hole then one of the buyers would happen to be trained contractor who see right through all my careful work.
If I tried to lie and fast talk my way around a house’s criminal past, then the seller would just happen to be a retired psychology professor and would rather loudly whisper to her husband that I was trying to bullshit them. I wound up skipping Thanksgiving and Christmas. I just couldn’t look Father in the eye. All my brothers were succeeding at their chosen fields. I just couldn’t understand it.
Lena (the woman who had smiled at me) tried to cheer me up. She tried to tell me that she herself had a lot of trouble flipping houses at first and that I should just resolve to try harder next time and that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. Nothing helped, though. How could she possibly understand the pressure I was under to succeed? She hadn’t even met my Father.
I began to drink, another failing that Father would send me to the basement for if he knew about it. “Calling in sick” came to be code for, “ready to pass out by 10 AM” and everyone at the agency knew it. For Father’s sake, Mr. Coverdale bore with me for far longer than he should have but eventually he had to let me go. After a month or two, even Lena stopped calling.
I lost my apartment and wound up living on the street. As a homeless panhandler I was able to use my meager skills at playing on people’s sympathies to get money out of them so at least I wasn’t going hungry yet. However, winter was bearing down and it looked like my only alternative was to go crawling home to Father.
It was getting late though. The buses had stopped running for the night. I took shelter from the cold in the old Delphi Theater. As I curled up in the balcony trying to keep myself warm with my coat and some old threadbare curtains, I began to feel an odd sensation.
It was like being brushed by the softest feather boa. It was warm, too. Winter’s chill melted away and I felt like I was surrounded by a gentle cloud of sweet smelling steam at just the warmth of a nice hot bath. Then, came a voice sounding like it came from everywhere at once. It’s hard to describe. The closest I can say is that it was both inside my head and outside of it.
“Hello, Irving,” said a light, sonorous voice. “We’ve been watching you. We’ve been with you your whole life.” I wanted to say something, to ask the voice what it was but I was just so warm and the voice seemed kind and assuring somehow. “We were with you in the alley when you lay in wait for your brother. We were with you as you slept in the basement. We were watching you as you tried to sell houses. We know everything about you, Irving. We have finally come to bring you your destiny. We have come to embrace you and you will never be cold again, Irving.”
I lay there half uncomfortable and half numbed by the ecstasy of what were now thousands of massaging caresses. The voice told me things about myself that no one else should know. It told me things I had only discussed in private with Lena. I mustered up my strength as though I was pushing off many layers of wet blankets and said, “Ok. This has gone far enough. Who are and how do you know these things about me. Show yourself.”
The voiced chuckled and said, “We know these things because we have been living in you. You are our beloved host and now that we have grown to our full potential from observing you, the time has come for us to help you. Come with us and we will show you how great you truly can be.”
What happened next is even more difficult to describe. I don’t think I was “possessed” or otherwise out of control of my faculties and yet it was as though the warmth brought me to my feet and began marching me forward and then out the door. Perhaps it was a dissociative state. I have no idea.
Either way, not only was it now snowing outside, but I left my coat back at the balcony. “Don’t worry. You won’t need it anymore. We’ll be your warmth now. You could walk in this weather naked and you wouldn’t feel a thing,” the voice said. I felt myself breaking into a jog. I can only imagine what passing motorists must have thought. Thank God it was night and there were no pedestrians. The voice was right, though. I felt like I was inside sitting in front of the fireplace.
I soon found myself outside the office building that houses Coverdale Realty. “Go on in,” said the voice and I couldn’t believe my actions as I began smashing through the glass. “We’ll leave a note explaining the damage,” said the voice. “You won’t be punished. You might want to order those security cameras to turn off though.”
Without thinking I looked up at the camera in the corner of the room and said, “Off.” The entire row of little red lights flickered to darkness. I walked up to the powered down elevator and knew what to do. I commanded it, “Down.” It opened with the lights on inside and ready to go.
We arrived at Coverdale Realty on the fifth floor and broke in. The voice said, “You will find your blazer and paperwork in Coverdale’s office. All your access is still valid. Call a taxi and instruct the driver to take you to the address listed within.”
True to its word, the voice had me leave two very nice letters of apology to the building manager and to Mr. Coverdale. The cab took us to our next destination, the Cooper home in fashionable Wheelock’s Grove. The Coopers’ asking price was high even for that neighborhood and no one in the agency had been able to sell it yet.
Upon my breaking into the house, the voice said, “Now you will wait until dawn. In the mean time, you will learn to sleep as we do.” Before I could get a word out, the warm sensation became boiling hot. I felt myself grow faint but I was able to keep my eyes open long enough to get an idea as to what it was going to me. I was falling. I was somehow sinking down into the floor like in a bog.
No. Not into the floor, into the space between the floorboards almost. It was as if I was melting away into the space between molecules. I know how crazy that sounds
I awoke the next day asleep on the couch in the Cooper home as though nothing had happened. I could only remember a night of hot pain. Apparently I had had terrible nightmares while in the floor, but the details faded from memory after a few seconds of being awake. For a second, I wondered if I’d dreamed the last couple of months completely. Perhaps I had fallen asleep in the Cooper house waiting to meet buyers one day. That illusion was dispelled by the familiar voice saying, “Call the Petersons. You will now sell them this house.”
“What? There’s no way I can sell the Coo…”
“You can. We will show you how,” the voice said in its most comforting tone yet.
“As I told you the last time we were up here,” said a bleary eyed Mr. Peterson as I met the couple on the doorstep, “we are very interested in the house, but if your seller can’t budge on the price, we’re going to have to walk.”
I wiped the sweat from my brow and searched for the right words. I felt the warm sensation and the feeling of caresses returning and suddenly the right words just sort of came to mind. “Yes, well, I think if you’ll come in for a moment and sit down, I can show you something new that may make you willing to meet our price,” I said.
“Well, I don’t know you did it, son. But by gum, I’m convinced. We can’t afford not to take this house,” Mr. Peterson after I’d spent the past half hour drifting in and out of a haze.
I snapped back to reality. “Splendid! The Coopers will be so happy to hear this!”
I don’t know how I did it! Did whatever the voice represented possess my body or was it right in saying that the potential was all in me? It almost felt as if we were taking turns, tag teaming the Petersons. I can’t really remember what I said though.
“Now you know what powers we offer,” it said. “After observing you for a lifetime, we know how to unlock your true potential. Give yourself to us and we will make all your dreams come true.”
Even after all it had done for me up to that point, I still shuddered when the voice said that. Something about this still didn’t feel right. I began to recognize a different voice deep down inside. It was telling me that I was in danger. I ignored it, though. I wanted this power, I didn’t want to jeopardize it.
Over the next few months, I was astonished at what happened. Not only did Coverdale and the owner of the building not press charges, but Coverdale hired me back almost as soon as I walked through his office door that day. It was like he’d been bewitched.
The Margrove account, the Holmes account, the Phan account- I blazed through all the toughest acquisitions that the agency had. Each of the negotiations went by in the same haze. They all folded as easily as Mr. Peterson had, too. Even Lena seemed to be strangely under my power. We’ve been together for almost a year now and she only yesterday told me that she was pregnant. I’m in awe of how much the voice has done for me and through me.
It even seems to have patched up my relationship with Father. Once I told it that I would give myself to it and remain its forever more, it actually got my Father to say he was proud of me! I could have fallen down dead. I still can’t believe that actually happened.
And each night I sank into the floorboards. Each night brought the pain of another nightmare that I could not recall the next day. It still didn’t make sense to me why something good for me could be so painful.
My conscience still bothers me sometimes. But I tolerate the pain because each day I awake complete refreshed and feeling even more powerful than the day before.
So now I am “its,” whatever that means. We are here in the Fairchild house in good old Wheelock’s Grove waiting for the clients. As usual I can’t really recall anything but I get the sense that last night’s sleep was even more painful than usual. The voice reassures me it’s nothing though. I believe it. I’ve grown to trust the voice with my life, actually.
The voice has come to mean even more to me than Lena. It means more to me than Mom or my brothers. It means even more to me than Father, if that’s possible. “Don’t worry. Rest. Forget your pain. We’ll take care of everything. Sleep now. We can sell this house for you, now. We know you so well, Irving. Just relax.”
Irving Ball’s body was never found. All that the only witnesses, a young married couple by the name of Kelsey, found at the scene was a discolored section of the floor that they claimed emitted a feeling in the air around it that was like being brushed with a sweet smelling feather boa and embraced by an all pervading warmth. Although the house has since become something of a tourist attraction for paranormal enthusiasts, it is the opinion of this detective that the case is an unsolved disappearance pending future evidence.
As a side note, it is worth mentioning that Ball’s girlfriend at the time of his disappearance, one Lena Richards, has reported a feeling that she is constantly being watched and that her home is full of unexplained warm spots and feathery sensations sounding like those described by the Kelseys. It is recommended that police surveillance be immediately offered to Ms. Richards if it has not already. She or her unborn child may be in some kind of danger.
Credit To – Cosmo Fish