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You know me by now. I am Mira. It’s been three years since Frank was
killed, and I’m now 15. It’s a damned good thing, too. Being a teenager,
no one questions my moods. They think it’s a part of my age and my stage.
The people who love me, accept. Everyone else stays away, which is how I want it. That’s how I need it. I don’t know for sure that anyone I hold close will die. I’m hopeful that they won’t, as long as they stay far away from me. Because of my ghost, the chalky child. Because of Smoke.
Because of Nathaniel Mirras.
I imagine that Mother is safe. Being the very first person in my life,
surely he’d have killed her by now if that wasn’t so. It seems that my
ghost is the incarnation of my dead father, so it stands to reason that he loves her, at least enough not to kill her. Then again, she did remarry,
so…there is that.
But if that’s what he’s angry about, why would he kill my friends? Why children? Maybe he’s angry about me. Maybe he never wanted
me. Maybe. But why not kill me, then, or Mother. It just doesn’t make sense. Maybe he can’t see or harm adults. Come to think of it, he never
even talks about Mother. I wish I knew how to control him. I wish I knew how to make him stop if I needed to.
Nathaniel (I’m sorry, I can’t call him “Father”), seems to enjoy my company. For about a year after Frank was murd…after Frank died…I tried not to talk to Nathaniel. He spoke to me though, nearly every evening, and often during the day. When I was younger, a baby, I thought he only visited my dreams. He was a vision of a chalky baby, underdeveloped and marred, as though a stillborn, drowned in its own fluids, or poisoned by air. I would wake to his cry, not understanding the gravity of what I was seeing. I didn’t know at the time, but that vision would be responsible for the death of a nursery school friend. Many years later he spoke to me with words, and I spoke back. I thought I had a fantastic secret in this ghost that spoke to me in my dreams. Only after the death of another friend did I realize that it wasn’t a dream, but in fact I was completely conscious as we spoke. I also began to realize a danger.
That danger became real when he killed Frank, my Junior High boyfriend. My first kiss. Frank was neither my first nor my true love. That would be Andrew. Andrew and I were at odds at the time, however, and I foolishly fell for Frank. Briefly. Foolish, and costly for Frank. Nathaniel killed Frank in the cruelest way, shortly after our kiss. And he made me watch. And he made it appear as though Andrew were there. He did this to remind me the true power he had over me, which was that he could kill anyone close to me. Maybe he could even kill me. He could kill Andrew. He will kill Andrew, if I allow it.
He can kill Andrew. So. I stay away from Andrew. It breaks my heart,
but Andrew, like seemingly anyone else in my life, was in danger if I so
much as speak to him. So I don’t. Andrew, however, also does not speak to me, and as grateful as I am for his wisdom in this decision, and his ultimate safety, it breaks my heart. In the most selfish part of my mind, I wish, even though it would be death to him, that he would just speak to me. That he would want to. But he does not.
When he sees me in school, he looks down, sadly, and walks the other direction. The sad look is the same look that I saw the night Frank was killed, when I could see him through Frank’s eyes. But Andrew wasn’t there. He was at home, I am certain, safe and nowhere near the carnage. I just saw him as one of Nathaniel Smoke’s cruel jokes. And he doesn’t know about Frank and me. He doesn’t know that I kissed Frank. He couldn’t. Nobody knew about that except Frank, and me.
So I try to avoid speaking with Nathaniel for nearly a year. He speaks to me, though, constantly, and eventually wears me down with his greetings and questions and hauntings, and I finally decide I need to talk with Nathaniel Mirras, really talk with him. Learn about him. As much as possible. Maybe I can convince him to stop killing. If not, perhaps I can find a weakness that will allow me to exorcise him from everyone I love once and for all. It must be worth trying.
And, right now, I have no one else to talk to.
Our conversations are fascinating. He is a glutton for news of the real world. He wants to know about presidents and wars and countries and boundaries. His memories of all that has happened throughout my life is astounding! He literally remembers everything about the world that I remember, and wants to know more.
Nathaniel asks about Walt Disney, and Mickey, and whether the Dodgers have beaten the Yankees. He is fascinated by Play-Doh, and wishes he could feel it, construct with it, then tear down his constructs between his palms. Every conversation is like an episode of the $64,000 Question Quiz Show. He asks a question. I answer. But in many ways, I win, because our conversations are creating trust. In me. This allows Nathaniel Mirras to move toward telling me who he is, now at least. I am hopeful it will offer clues to the killer he really is.
And I call him Smoke. Because it makes him angry. He wants me to call him by his real name. Nathaniel. Calling him ‘Smoke’ allows me a small, daily victory.
I’ve learned a few things from him, at least to the degree I can believe him. He claims not to know why people die when he possesses them. His instinct, supposedly, has been to help those in my life struggling with unpleasant behaviors and violence, to re-make them as kinder human beings. Supposedly. He stays in them for weeks, helping create habits of kindness toward others where previously they failed. He wants hurtful people to stop hurting others, mostly me and other people I cared about. Even Frank had been a bully at one time. Nathaniel reasons that he may have even threatened Andrew
one day. He promises that he didn’t know Frank would develop feelings for me, and that he absolutely did not expect Frank to kiss me. His plan was to release the kinder Frank to Ellie. He knows that she loved him.
He says he didn’t realize that anyone would die when he left their bodies.
I accept this in the moment. What choice do I have? That does not explain the train, or the fact that Andrew appeared to be there watching. It does not explain why I was there, watching, feeling the fear and agony of Frank’s last breath through his eyes. It does not explain why Frank kissed me while supposedly possessed. That disgusts me. I fully believe that Nathaniel Mirras is evil. And he is a killer.
Nathaniel tells me he is in constant pain when not occupying a host. He
can see only through my eyes, or those of his host. He says he knows that he has only one ear intact, and he seems to feel it leaking some kind of fluid much of the time. The pain is excruciating, making him wish that like his eyes, both ears were also absent. He is grateful for the ear that is missing.
He constantly struggles for breath, without a nose or true nostrils and no real formation of a mouth. I didn’t know that ghosts could struggle for breath. Odd. That’s why, in addition to the constant cries of pain, his every breath is in powerful heaves, when he appears in corporeal form. He has no teeth. He would never be able to enjoy a meal if he were able to actually have food. He couldn’t chew. He couldn’t taste. He cannot form words.
I question this, of course, pointing out that he is talking to me, and I
hear him perfectly. He agrees that it is a mystery that he can communicate with me. Then I am reminded of how I understood the world in my youngest days, using dreams, memories and impressions to organize and share my otherwise incoherent words and thoughts. He was “speaking” to me in precisely this way, not using spoken words at all, but perceptions. Understandings. I simply understood him. In that way, I have been his only hope in an otherwise lonely, frightening, agonizing existence.
He has no idea how or why I can see him when he appears to me.
He has no memory of ever holding anyone or anything of value, with his
unseparated, webbed fingers. And he doesn’t remember ever being held. He has no memories of his life, other than the few details I have learned over the years from Mother. Even those are not memories to him. He often says he’s quite sure he was born a ghost.
I’m happy to leave him that way. My pity doesn’t extend that far, and I’m careful not to ever discuss him with Mother again. I avoid conversations with her regarding Nathaniel Mirras, to keep my advantage wherever possible.
Not long ago he made a shocking statement to me. He is not alone where he is.
There are others. Many others. But, they are mostly voices. His contact with the other voices is very much like his contact with me. He can talk with others where he is, through thoughts. Like me, he only catches an occasional glimpse of them, and it is more of a perception. Ghosts even to a ghost!
But he still feels alone and isolated, because the voices are cruel. He tells me that he often feels as though they pity him. More often, he feels as though they hate him, and they threaten him, and he is afraid. He feels compelled to quiet them with good deeds here. The voices grow ever louder, accusing him, but more quiet when he inhabits a host.
I’m pretty certain he must be in Hell. I feel sad. If he is the ghost of my father, then in life he was supposed to be a hero, a good man. What happened?
Occasionally, Nathaniel attempts to talk about my friends, but I always
deflect his questions. He certainly thinks I should try to talk with Andrew again. He says he can sense my loneliness. I simply remind him that Andrew is no longer a part of my life. We don’t talk and kindly would he move on to another topic?
He knows. He knows how I really feel about Andrew. But, I need to keep Andrew, Ellie, Cooper, and anyone possible away from Nathaniel Mirras. And the only way to do that is to keep them away from me, and from any conversation I have with Nathaniel.
That is what I’ve learned about Smoke, the grown chalky child. It’s more than I knew before, and I hope that gives me some control. Some power.
I am now in High School. I am with my friends, despite the fact that I cannot engage with them in any real way.
My only real contact with Andrew is through one of his three sisters,
Laverne. She is in school with us, and she is constantly trying to talk me
into connecting with Andrew. She knows. She knows about Andrew and me, as much as I’ve known since we were children. She knows, like everyone knows.
I talk to her, because for many reasons, she isn’t at much risk. Laverne is already sick. Cancer. She is likely to die very soon. And, whenever she is feeling well, she is simply never cross or cruel to anyone. Nathaniel clearly preys on those with questionable morals. There are none more upstanding than Laverne and surely Nathaniel the ghost would have no use of her life.
She is so sweet, that I am tempted, frequently, to set her up with Cooper James. Cooper returned to school after being out for nearly five years. He was with Kelly, Frank’s sister when she died. Nathaniel killed her when I was nine. Cooper was infatuated with Kelly. They were good friends. Smoke, Nathaniel, killed her in front of the young man.
Cooper was the only person on the planet that knew, really knew, how Kelly died. He knew that it wasn’t an automobile accident. He was
the only one that watched her flung into a tree by an unseen force. He saw her beaten body finally shudder and die, the only one to observe her final breath. And everyone thought he was crazy of course, in shock.
So he withdrew. For five years. He is now finishing Junior High and preparing to join us next year. If he can stay alive that long. Since he is in a different school I don’t have to see him, so for now he is safe. Except for the fact that he is Ellie’s new project.
Ellie, born Eleanor, continues to be my best friend…from a distance. She also knows nothing about what happened between Frank and me. Of course there is no way I would consciously tell her. She absolutely loved and adored Frank. She went into a near depression when he died. It would have been worse, but he had spurned her, and Ellie, my Ellie, is socially and emotionally strong.
Still, along with Andrew, it is important that I protect Ellie most of all. I love her as though we are sisters, and it would be easy for Nathaniel to devastate my world by harming Ellie. So, I hold her at arm’s length. Sometimes she notices, and sometimes not. She is very busy, as I said. But all of her attention now being focused on Cooper makes it almost
easy to limit conversation, and keep her safe. I’m sure it won’t last. Ellie doesn’t ever settle down, so to speak.
It’s fun to hear her talk about him, though, even in very short spurts. Ellie is energy and love in every sense of the world, and a terrible target for Nathaniel, except for what it would do to me.
I miss her terribly. And I miss Andrew. I miss all of my many friends,
most of whom simply had to let me go as I withdrew day by day. Only
Laverne was an outlet for my need to connect with someone
that wasn’t already dead, and even that was only a year or two away. I wish she would stop talking to me about Andrew. Matchmaker. Busybody. You’re going to get him and yourself killed, so knock it off!
But she never does. And on this day, her gossiping has gotten us in trouble with the Hall Monitor, Ms. Day. Ms. Laurenne Day is short, petite, old and mean. And Ms. Laurenne Day loves to yell at students. Any excuse will do, and seeing us talking so close to the period bell has her hurrying our way to give us our comeuppance. As she arrives at the ideal spot to publicly humiliate us, our Math and Business professor, Mr. Robinson, easily 20 years her junior, steps in, calmly asks her a question, and quietly excuses us to class, without fireworks.
Needless to say, Jack Robinson was everyone’s favorite teacher. And I am relieved not to have to explain another detention to Mother.
Mother and I are very close. I adore her. She has had the worst in life,
losing two husbands, and having to raise her daughter by herself. She works hard, and she loves me, and even though she disapproves of my interest in boys, she makes sure she knows that she approves of me. She works many jobs, many shifts, and even takes in boarders as necessary. There is always food, and despite her long hours, always time for me. She also does not know about what happened with Frank. It happened in our house, but ended with Frank miles away, so she never suspected.
Frank wouldn’t have been the only one dead that night if she had known.
“So, Mira. How is Ellie these days?” Mother casually queries.
“Well. She’s wonderful. She’s spending a lot of time with Cooper James,” I reply.
A silence. Mother has very loud silences. Very loud.
“Mother, please don’t start. Poor Ellie!”
“That boy is certain death for anyone he touches. Poor Ellie, hell. She
needs to stay away from boys. Then she’ll be smart, happy Ellie!”
Blaming Cooper. Unbelievable. If only she knew.
My turn for silence. It is just quiet. And awkward. I need to work on my silences to make them louder.
“Ellie is both happy and smart,” I retort. “You know that. So tell me about the new boarder. He is quite handsome for a man your age, isn’t he?”
Mother flushes slightly, and stares a very short moment.
“His name is Herr Doppelmacher. Mr. Doppelmacher – German. He’s very nice, but extremely quiet and private. Please try not to disturb him much with your music and the way you talk to yourself at night”.
Oh, I didn’t know she could hear that. What she must think…
“Um. We are German right?”
“Mira, please. Stop asking questions about Doppelmacher. Please just leave him be.”
Well this time her silence is actually silent. Something is obviously
wrong, but I won’t be able to squeeze it out of her this way. As I often do to get around her defenses, I bring up the most uncomfortable topic I can, which forces her back to the subject I really want to hear about. Even though I’ve committed not to talk about my father to her (to avoid the ghost getting too much new information), it’s a worthwhile gamble, and likely to be information he already has.
“Mom, you said dad was a hero. Some people think that Nathaniel Mirras was not a hero, though. Some people think he’s bad. Is this true?”
It was another of those silences. The loudest ever. And the longest. I
couldn’t hear myself think.
“Where…? How do you…? Mira where did you hear…”
Another loud damned silence.
“Oh. Oh I see the problem. The name! How funny! Your father’s name isn’t Mirras. That was your stepfather’s name. Oh, now I’m laughing! No, no, they simply do not know your father. That must be someone else.”
I was sure this was more interesting than Doppelmacher, but it occurs
to me that I may have crossed a line and given Nathaniel more than I
intended. That makes me panic.
Of course it hadn’t occurred to me that Mirras was an adopted name. Mother’s name, because she married into it. And of course I really only called Nathaniel “Nathaniel” so an easy mistake to make, and no harm done. Something still feels wrong though. I desperately wanted to ask mother what my father’s last name really was, but at that moment I realize just how much risk I have invited by being too smart. It would have to wait. I need to find a way to end the conversation immediately.
As if on cue, the phone rings. It is Laverne. She wants me to come over.
There is something wrong with Andrew.
Oh hell. That is absolutely the last thing I should be doing right now. There is a difference between ignoring Andrew, and abandoning him if he is in trouble. Maybe Nathaniel is harming him in some way. I need to help. I tell Mother that I need to go. She doesn’t want me out at night of course, but as only a Mother can, she senses urgency when it comes to Andrew. And, like the rest of the whole damn world, she knows. She would conspire to match Andrew and me, despite her
protests about boys, and even if it meant both of our deaths, if it meant my happiness. I love Mother.
But she still doesn’t want me out alone at night, so summons Herr Doppelmacher, who is ‘always to be left alone’, to the front room. She asks him if he would kindly escort me to Andrew’s home. He is not terribly old, perhaps in his late thirties, or early forties. He is a handsome man.
I can see why Mother brought him in.
He doesn’t seem a hermit at all, and easily agrees to make sure I arrive safely to Andrew and Laverne’s household. After a quick goodbye, we leave Mother in her recliner, watching Fred and Ethel. Poor tired Mother will soon be snoozing. She deserves the peace and quiet. She deserves rest.
It is a quiet walk. Doppelmacher seems unsure whether he should talk to me, outside of asking directions. I’m not surprised of course. It must be very uncomfortable for a man his age to be seen with a teenage girl late at night. There is some small talk about school, how I like it, my grades, and who Andrew is. He doesn’t ask about Laverne though. He is a little protective that way. Funny!
He also asks how Mother and I get along, and if we are happy. Before I can answer, we arrive, and the door swings open, for Laverne to usher us both in. Of course she insists that Doppelmacher stays and visits with her parents while she brings me to the kitchen. Andrew is sitting at the kitchen table. He seems distracted. I sit next to him. Laverne takes a seat across from us.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“Hello Mira…” states Andrew, not at all addressing my question.
Again. “What is it?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about. There’s nothing wrong, Mira. What are you doing here?”
“Laverne said you were in trouble. She called me.”
“I see,” he says plainly. “No. Everything is fine.”
Now I’m angry. If his crazy sister concocted all of this just to get me
with Andrew, we are all in trouble. Her carelessness could cost her brother his life. And her own. And mine! Damn it!
“Listen here Laverne, what is this all about? Do you have any idea how much trouble you may have caused? I came down here because you said there was something wrong with Andrew. But there is nothing wrong. If he wants to see me, he can damn well call me himself. We don’t need your meddling. You have absolutely no business manipulating us both this way!”
Laverne does not answer. Her eyes are far away.
I have gone too far. Now Andrew is angry, and comes to the aid of his ill
sister. “Say what do you mean talking to her that way. She’s just trying
to help! What do you expect? You won’t ever look at me at school or anywhere. You never come by anymore. Someone had to do something! Especially after you got involved with Frank like you did, and then you stopped talking to anyone. What happened to Frank isn’t her fault! She still thought of you, and of me, even after she had been so sick!”
This is bad. Something is off. I have the same feeling I had when I saw
Andrew’s face while playing Bloody Mary and kissing Frank. It’s the same feeling when I saw him watching.
“Andrew…I’m so very sorry. I just…I’m so sorry. You know I am.”
Silence. I don’t understand how the hell everyone else manages such loud silence.
“How did you know about Frank and me?” I ask in surrender. He knows.
Andrew nods toward Laverne. That makes sense, because she’s a gossip. Still, who could have told her?
Wait. He said ‘had been.’
“What do you mean Laverne had been sick Andrew? What does that mean?”
“It means she had been sick and now she’s not,” she responds. “She’s clean. No cancer. The doctor said it all left her body nearly a month ago. It’s a miracle.”
I look at Laverne. Her eyes are no longer lost but focusing directly on me. She is smiling Nathaniel’s evil smile. I quickly look at Andrew because I know what’s coming, and in desperation look back in
Laverne’s eyes, now colorless. And I beg. “Please Smoke. No. Let her go please you have to let her go! Don’t do this to Andrew!”
Laverne’s eyes regain their shade, for a moment. She looks deeply into my eyes, and says with a sneer, “what a shame for
Ellie, when she finds out about you and Frank!”
Then her eyes roll back into her head, and she lurches forward. Her head and her torso seize, and pound repeatedly on the kitchen table, until she finally tenses back, a white foam exiting her mouth and nose, followed by the deepest blood. The unmistakable smell of her failing, cancer-ridden kidneys, punctuates her grisly death.
Her body, suddenly, lay still. Then, slowly, tilting just slightly to the
left, falls to the floor. The entire horrible display lasts only a few moments. But I know this visage will haunt Andrew forever.
We both make a clumsy attempt to capture her body as it falls, but succeed only in tripping over each other, allowing a graceless end to Andrew’s sister. Upon seeing her lifeless body on the floor, and seeing her lifeless eyes, where only a minute previous dwelled the love and magic of his beloved sister, cured with a new lease on life, he stands fast for the briefest of moments. Then collapses. He sobs and shakes, cradling and caressing the lifeless form of Laverne. This will wreck him. This will permanently wreck him, and seeing him this way is almost worse than seeing him die himself. Almost.
I try to comfort him. Clumsily, but it is all I can do.
“Get away from her Mira! Get out. This is your fault. Go away! Leave!” he screams. The hatred in his eyes rips my soul.
Of course he is right. He doesn’t actually know how he is right, but it is
my fault. I allowed that bastard Nathaniel Mirras into his home and family by being stupid. And I am the cause of her death. And that has broken the heart of the only human being, outside of Mother, that holds mine.
I’m so ashamed and hopeless. On the table I see are place settings for a small meal for us to have shared. All of the settings, plates, forks, spoons, coffee cups, and knives.
Knives. A sharp knife…
Now. This can all be over now…
I grab the knife closest to me, and feel its sharp edge. This will do.
This will do. I can hide myself away and end all of this with two quick slices up and down my wrists. It will barely hurt. Hell, I’ve felt worse. More importantly, it will safeguard everyone I hold dear forever.
Then I see Andrew sobbing over his sister’s suddenly empty shell, and I know what I must do. Both. Now. He will never know, and it will be
a kindness after all. He won’t feel a thing, I’ll be quick. His pain over lost Laverne will end too. I can simply reach around his throat and take him quickly, or pierce his exposed back into his lungs, and stop the annoying beating of his heart. There are so many options, and they all set us free. I raise the knife, well suited to the task, and prepare to plunge it into Andrew over and over, then to end this nightmare for myself.
I do not want to die. I don’t want to kill Andrew. Yet somehow I do. My mind is telling me yes, I do. But I know I do not.
It’s Smoke. He is possessing me. He wants me to kill Andrew. Then myself. That bastard lied. He knew. He knew! He knew all along that he was killing his hosts. He knew, and he relished each death, and will relish Andrew’s and mine right now. He’s testing his own power. He’s testing me.
Except I won’t kill Andrew. My brain knows better. I won’t. Nathaniel you are a fool! You set me against the one human being on the entire planet I could never, ever harm. And you will lose. I won’t kill him. And I won’t kill myself. And, yes, I can feel you. I can feel your possession, and I can expel you from my body, my mind. You can’t stay in me. I have just enough power.
Just enough… enough.
I drop the knife.
At that moment, time and reality return. Doppelmacher emerges, sees the scene, and summons Andrew’s family, his parents, his other two sisters, to the carnage in the family kitchen. He holds the mother, and shakes the father into coherency, so that he can take charge of his family, his wife, and his two surviving daughters. And his son. Doppelmacher then, at the precise moment, catches me as my will is gone and my strength fails. I abandon consciousness with vigor.
I wake later. I try not to. But I wake. The neighbors, the police, the ambulance, and the doctors have all come and gone. Andrew’s family is medicated and asleep. Herr Doppelmacher only remains awake and alert. He speaks to me, but I will never remember what he says. He offers coffee, which I accept gratefully, sipping and slugging, and then a second cup. I ask if Laverne is really gone. She is. Doppelmacher encourages me to go home. He doesn’t want me going alone, but at this moment he is all the family has, because I’m no use.
So I go home.
I trudge along. All the way I know I’m safe. Why wouldn’t I be? It’s a
safe town. For me. Safe except for everyone but me. That son of a bitch Nathaniel Mirras won’t kill me, no. He will torture me by hurting everyone I love. But I’m safe.
Except he tried to kill me too. He was inside of my mind, trying to control me. But he couldn’t. He can’t use me and that’s a small small victory I have to hold onto, because I may need that someday to save Andrew. Or Ellie. Or Mother. He cannot control me. And it seems he cannot kill me. I’m still alive. Everyone else he has possessed has died.
But I am still alive.
Tonight, Laverne lost, but I won.
I reach my door, desperate to collapse into my bed. It will probably take
years to resolve what has happened tonight with Andrew, but that’s probably for the best. He will hate me for a while. And all that while he will be safe. I reach for the handle of the front door of my home, coveting my bed and sleep. As I turn the handle, nothing moves, and I open my eyes fully to see the unseparated fingers of Nathaniel Mirras, the bastard chalky ghost, the nightmare, between my fingers, and I recoil. I look into his eyeless sockets, and know he sees me.
“Smoke…” I whisper, shaking.
“Do. Not. Call. Me. That.”
Now I’m angry! “Or what? Will you kill me too? Please! Please just take me now. Spare everyone and just take me. Just take me.”
He is too calm, as usual.
“I don’t know what you are talking about Mira. Laverne was so very sick. She was dying. She was dying for certain and in so much pain, and I cured her. I gave her health and happiness, until you told me to leave her. Then she died, as she would have anyway. You have absolutely no cause to be upset with me!”
“Nathaniel. You hurt Andrew. You caused her to die like that, right in
front of him. Why didn’t you just let her live out her life until the
sickness took her, instead of making him watch her go that way?”
Almost absently, he breathes, “Mira, I only enjoy the suffering of those that deserve it.”
“Liar! Never mind. It doesn’t matter. You don’t see it. You are just trying to avoid your own pain, and don’t care about the pain you cause others. Andrew’s pain. Ellie’s pain. My pain! You don’t care for anyone’s pain but your own. All you want is death. All you want is to kill. I don’t know why you are haunting me, and harming those I love. I don’t know why. But if you can’t stop, then please just take me. Spare everyone, but take me. I’ll go. I’ll die. I will do anything to protect Andrew. Please, just stop!”
Another loud silence. Even Nathaniel could muster an impressive moment of unease. But I see the evil smile creep across his face.
With that he disappears, and I no longer hear his voice. I want to beg more for Andrew’s life, but I can’t. I want to offer my life up for Ellie, but I stagger. All I can do is turn the handle in order to take the last twenty steps to rest, to my bed. And I could hear the cry of the chalky child emanating from within. The Inhuman cry, desperately searching for its…
My body is spent, but I quickly stumble into the main room where
Mother is still in her recliner watching the TV. But not watching. And
not moving. And not breathing. And I gasp, choking back my disbelief.
She has no head.
Oh no. Oh no, Mother. For the sake of all that is holy. No…
I stop, unable to believe what I am seeing, but it is true. Mother is only a body. No head. No hands. Her blood has long stopped flowing,
coagulating at her neck and her wrists.
She is still beautiful. My Mother. But she is gone.
I stare at her lifeless incomplete body. Finally every breath, every nerve and every instinct finally give out and again I go to the one place Nathaniel is not. Darkness.
I am out and asleep for over two days. No surprise. I finally, stubbornly wake and hope that the last vision I’d seen was just that. A vision. If not, it means that Nathaniel has begun to operate outside of his normal pattern, and that is frightening. I know it isn’t a vision, or a dream.
I know Mother is dead.
Mother, who loved me above all things, enough to work two or more jobs, to clothe and feed me, to send me out to Andrew, my Andrew in the dead of night, was gone. She was gone. Forever. What horror could this have been for her?
Days later, assuming some sick murderer among the living, police find her head and her hands, in a field, miles away, by a set of train tracks. Of course. The same tracks that took Frank’s life.
Her hair had been ripped from her scalp. Her eyebrows were gone, torn. Her mouth had been stitched and closed, apparently using her own hair. The fingers on each hand had been stitched together as though webbed, again, using her own hair. Both eyes were removed. One ear was missing. Her nose was absent leaving only the hollow space of a skull. She was the disembodied embodiment of all of Nathaniel’s physical flaws. A monstrosity, brutalized by the killer, Nathaniel Mirras. Nathaniel the ghost. Smoke…
Yet my Mother is still beautiful.
Next to her is found a crumpled piece of paper. Doppelmacher retrieves it from her side before the authorities arrive, and gives it to me. He does not read it. A curious man.
Those adults now in charge of “things” decide to keep me in my home, given the trauma of recent events. I am to remain under the
watchful eyes of Doppelmacher, and also Andrew’s family. Andrew’s two living sisters will take turns checking in and staying over, to maintain the perception of decency. Decency…ha. So, I now have a home mostly to myself, and constant access to Andrew should I want it.
And I have need for neither.
Mother is gone. The ‘killer’ is never found, of course. Doppelmacher and I, being the most likely suspects, have the alibi of being present at Laverne’s death. The town is silent for days. Mother is gone. And all that is left is her hastily scribbled note. Her last effort of love for me.
“Find your Father!”