Estimated reading time — 23 minutes
It has taken three years to get here. When Mother was killed, she had only time to leave me one final message:
“Find your father”.
Of course, my father, Nathaniel Mirras, is dead. Well, Nathaniel is dead. Mirras is not his last name. Mirras is my adopted name, so I don’t actually know Nathaniel’s last name. Or mine, for that matter. But I know him as Nathaniel Mirras. He has haunted me since I was 18 months old. He has also been killing that long, maybe longer. Since my earliest memories, he has been killing my friends, their friends, and their families.
He killed Mother.
The vaporous bastard possessed her, destroyed her, and left her mutilated shell for me to find. Until then he had only possessed the morally weak. He “improved” those he possessed, but left them for dead. But that wasn’t enough this time. Mother had no faults, no flaws. The game we play took an unforgivable turn when he mutilated her to look like him in his miserable corporeal form. He removed her head, and her hands. When they found them her mouth and fingers had been stitched together using her own hair, ripped from her scalp. Her own hair! One ear was removed, and her nose. Her teeth were shattered. They found her head and hands in a field close to where he, Nathaniel, also killed the boy that gave me my first kiss. Nathaniel was sending a message to me, that no one was safe.
Nathaniel claims to live in a spirit world of sorts, tormented somehow by other beings that know him and hate him. His only escape is to inhabit a body here in the real world. And, for a time, those he possesses experience a better life. They become better people. They become good friends, fall in love, or even are healed of terminal illnesses. But the cost is great. When Nathaniel leaves them, they die. For years, I thought it was unintentional, his killing of those he possesses. But the deaths have evolved now where there is no doubt that Nathaniel Mirras intends harm to all he appears to help. Even worse, it is only those that are close to me that are in jeopardy. I am the harbinger of death to all I love. And I don’t know why.
But, after many years of searching, I now have a clue. A name. A place. Mother would not want me to find my biological father, since he died so many years ago. There is also a very real possiblility that Smoke himself is the ghost of my real father. So, clearly, her intention was for me to find my stepfather, my adoptive father. The man named Mirras. It’s taken me three years since her death to get to this point, on my birthday, standing mere yards from my goal. I take a deep breath and reflect on the events leading me to my only living relative, and possibly my only hope of survival, and saving those I love.
The months after Mother died were…cold. Nathaniel tried to possess me, to force me to kill Andrew, and possibly myself. He failed. I don’t think he could control me now. My spirit is certainly gone, dead with Mother. My only comfort, my driving force these past years has been to follow her instructions, and find the man that loved her, and presumably me. Mirras. I don’t know what answers he holds, but I do know that Mother thought it important for me to connect with him. Perhaps he is the only person that can protect me from Nathaniel.
To this point Ellie, and the boy I’ve loved since nursery school, Andrew, are still alive. Mother is dead, and died a horrible death, which means that anyone close to me may be at the mercy of Nathaniel Mirras. I would give my life for Ellie. I would give all of my lives for Andrew. Even though both relationships are strained, I need them alive. I need to know that people who love me are still in my world, and that I can protect them, and they can bring me joy. Otherwise, what’s the point?
I am committed to keeping everyone else alive that still lives. Most of my other childhood friends are already gone. Bing. Kelly. Frank. Even Andrew’s sister Laverne, not a close friend, but someone close. Gone. Knowing that Smoke can take any of them at any moment drives me.
Ellie and I are best friends. The first year after Mother died she stayed close to me. She held onto me and loved on me for all that she could. That eventually faded, as I needed to distance myself from everyone I cared about yet again. I briefly reconnected with Andrew, and it only ended up getting his sister killed. I long for those moments still, but I can’t keep them safe that way, loving me. Over the next few years Ellie simply stopped coming by, stopped seeing me in the hallways, stopped telling me about her latest crushes. She just stopped. But there was more. She had been in love with Frank, the boy who first kissed me, and died for the privelege.
Well. She was in love with him to the extent that anyone can be at twelve. I don’t know if she knows about Frank and me. Nathaniel threatened to tell her about it. I’ve often imagined just telling her and getting it off of my chest. But. No. In many ways, we have drifted apart naturally, what with her being the constant socialite. I am definitely not that. Yet I can’t help but feel as though she knows. She knows I betrayed her with Frank. She really shouldn’t. But I’m afraid that she does. She probably knows that I’m not safe to love at any rate. So she stays away. And I let her.
And this is how I keep Ellie safe.
Cooper James is the little boy that survived Nathaniel’s second murder. He was there when Frank’s twin sister Kelly was possessed and met her untimely end. He went into shock for years, and truly has never fully recovered. But he has been able to start high school on time, and begin a fairly normal life. Unfortunately, you can hardly call any life that includes me normal. Ellie speaks to him. She trusts him. She occasionally lets him know she is still thinking of me, and misses me. She lets him know that she still cares about me.
In this way, Cooper, not really ever a close friend, is able to relate to me. He knows, and has often said, that he and I share a kinship, because our true loves both perished in unimaginable ways. I wish I could say that Frank was my true love, and that his death had a mystical romantic meaning. But it isn’t true. It was a foolish fling that cost Frank his life, and I doubt I was in any way worth it. Andrew was and is the only true owner of my heart. Andrew asks about me too, even though he knows that Cooper will spill. In many ways, I stay close to Cooper, because Cooper allows Andrew and me to be truly together without the risk of Andrew losing his life over me. I tell myself that Cooper is safe, because he has already survived Nathaniel’s murderous mania.
Andrew. The first year after Mother died was difficult with Andrew. He clearly, and rightfully, blames me for the death of his sister. He couldn’t possibly know that Nathaniel existed, nor that he was responsible for her death by possessing her. He couldn’t know that Nathaniel’s possession was the reason for his sister’s temporary cancer remission. The only reason. Andrew couldn’t know that when Smoke left Laverne, her body was devoid of spirit and subject to the total ragings of the cancer in its final stages. That rage came through so violently, it would undoubtedly be the subject of Andrew’s nightmares for years to come.
Andrew changed after that. He became quiet. Sad. Broken. We didn’t speak much for a few years before his sister died. There had been a rift created when I started spending time with Frank. I allowed the rift, however. His was a relationship I intentionally withdrew from in order to protect him. Few are as important to me as Andrew. He doesn’t hate me, I know that. But he can barely make eye contact even in casual contact, as thought he were…ashamed. Maybe afraid. Andrew has been closest to my heart since childhood, and it hurts for us to be in this broken place. But I let us remain there.
This is how I keep Andrew safe.
I speak to Nathaniel. I answer him when he speaks to me. I’m not nice when I speak to him, but I know better than to anger him further. I don’t know if he is simply seeks my attention, my favor, or my approval. Or simply my fear. I try very hard not to give any of those things. But he killed my Mother, and I don’t want it going any further.
There is no kindness nor frivolity in his voice when he speaks with me. Nor is there in mine. We are no longer secret friends. He is my mother’s killer. And I hate and fear him.
“That isn’t my name. You mustn’t call me that. You know it makes me very angry. My name is Nathaniel.”
“No,” I say blandly, “Nathaniel was a hero. You are just a murderous bastard. You are not Nathaniel.”
I stay calm with him. I allow myself to make little insults because it makes me feel better. But I will not allow him to see my true emotions. Nathaniel enjoys the game however, and will never allow me to see how he feels either. His emotions come through when he kills. So I must choose my intentions very carefully. In this moment, I can tell I’m amusing him.
“Ah,” challenges the ghost, “You are upset about your mother?”
“Yes,” I say plainly. It is all I can do to control the hatred and grief. If only I knew how to kill a ghost!
“You assume she didn’t deserve what happened. You assume she was good, and nothing I could do for her in possession would improve her morality?”
He actually sounds sad. “That is not true, I’m afraid. She was very good to you, but her lapse in morality goes far back. We had a very healing discussion before she went. She was fully aware of her crime, and welcomed the payment, when the time came.”
“I don’t believe you. I know of no such crime, and neither does anyone else. She had no fault deserving the hideous way you mutilated her” I feel myself getting angry, and I must get control. Quickly.
“Perhaps,” he whispers. Then nothing.
With that I sense that he is gone. If there is truth to his claim I will find it. I will find the answer to Nathaniel Mirras. Soon.
Determining the identity of my stepfather is of utmost importance. I interview the immediate neighbors first. They are no help. My stepfather was only with us a short time, so many of them simply never met him. I am amazed at how many people never knew that Mother had been married at all, let alone to two men! So I broaden my search to neighborhoods outside of mine. I have time. I am being looked after by our former boarder, now caretaker, Herr Doppelmacher, and by Andrew’s two living sisters. I have no financial needs, and very little accountability through my teenage years. I don’t engage in any school activities, and can simply walk the town.after school, run into whomever I might run into, and ask. Who was Mirras?
More importantly, who IS Mirras.
Nearly every day, I am met with blank stares. Pity. Everyone knew what had happened to Mother, and are uncomfortable talking to me of course. Often they look at me as though I’m mad, after all I must be under the circumstances, but so very few know anything about my stepfather. So they become afraid, that somehow speaking with me will guarantee them a similar fate. Sadly, that could be true. Children, outside playing with hula hoops and skateboards, are quickly rushed inside by suddenly frightened parents to avoid the lunatic girl looking for her father.
Most days it is embarassing, but lives are at stake, so I keep walking and I keep asking. Mother was private, and her life’s woes are not known to many. The events that I need to uncover are very very old, some possibly older than I am. Very few remember who he was and even fewer know or admit to where he is. And, because I am still a child, very few are willing to share with me the information I desperately need. They can’t possibly understand that my finding my father might be critical to saving many lives. Maybe even theirs.
Meanwhile, those I love move farther and farther away from me, yet not out of danger. Ellie becomes busy. Andrew simply ignores, and pretends I don’t exist. And every night, and every day, Nathaniel tortures me with the constant threat of their lives, and by disparaging Mother’s memory. I am losing hope…
Now that I am nearly an adult, I find that once hidden witnesses are willing to share. Many months of humiliation are now bearing fruit.
I wish I could tell you that I haven’t lost anyone else since Mother. I cannot. Nathaniel is a killer. I’ve lost still more people close to me, even if only by association. I am afraid that if I don’t find my stepfather soon that I will have no one else in life. My only hope is to locate him before I lose too many more to my non-corporeal killer. Every year brings still more loss and tears to another family, another brother, another mother another friend, for the simple sin that they knew me. Often they are so far on the periphery that the connection to me is unfathomable.
That is what drives me after nearly three frutiless years. Can I stop that next death, and all deaths beyond? Can I? I must.
The first day of my senior year of high school, Andrew talks to me. It isn’t a complete surprise. It is impossible to go anywhere in town and not run into everyone at some point. I had seen Andrew often over the summer, just walking, running errands. We didn’t speak then, but, on occasion he would look at me. I didn’t see pity. I didn’t see anger. I didn’t see fear. He would give me an inquisitive look, as though he hadn’t met me before. Then just before school started, he smiled. I had worked so hard to keep him at a distance, but honestly this smallest connection makes me happy.
It also makes me weak. It occurred to me that he was possessed. Of course. The sudden change of heart? It could only be that Nathaniel finally decided it was Andrew’s turn, and it was too late for me to find any more answers. I went to school that first day in dread. I can only wait for the horrible death that I know Nathaniel will make of him. Ellie and he approach me, all in smiles. I want to cry. I want to vomit. I consider how my own life will end knowing that Nathaniel will finally take the last connection between my heart and my spirit. I’m ready to give up.
It’s all small talk. Naturally. Ellie seems elated to tell me all about her summer. The many boys…the many boys…Damn Ellie! Her grades have been good enough to get accepted into college! She tells me how much she is looking forward to finishing up high school, and going to college to find a real man.
Well, she certainly isn’t possessed. Same Ellie. Damn Ellie!
But that isn’t the biggest news. Ellie practically sings, “Andrew, tell her!”
Andrew speaks. It’s still tentative. Nervous. He is acting normal. He grins somewhat, but he seems normal. He opens his eyes, and they are his soft eyes. The eyes I have loved since he was a baby. Maybe I’m wrong. I can’t believe that, but I begin to hope.
He says, quietly, but firmly, so that I can hear, “We’re going to the same school next year.”
“Well, sort of,” says Ellie excitedly, “we will be going to partner colleges close to each other. I hope you will be able to come to visit us, all the way in Rhode Island, Mira! I know it’s so far. But you must! I will miss you so much next year. Or, maybe you can come with. Come with us Mira! Keep it in mind when you decide on your school.”
And with that, a subtle grin and a shake of the head from Andrew, Ellie and her entourage sweep down the hallway, and out of sight. Just in time, as Ms. Laurenne Day was scampering down the hallway looking to punish the many miscreants of our school. It was the last I would see her for a very long time. It occurs to me that Andrew and Ellie may be dating. I can’t decide whether to cry or to introduce them both to Nathaniel at the next opportunity.
I duck into a side hallway and into the garage where the bad boys work on their cars. The garage is surprisingly quiet, except for the shop radio playing “Witch Doctor”, and empty, for this time of day. Yet there is Cooper, standing up against the wall, as though waiting for me. I say that tongue in cheek, because Cooper, and I’m sure most of the rest of those boys, aren’t bad. Cooper took to cars, wanting to know how they work, how they operated, how they could be controlled, I’m sure as a result of his experience with Kelly. It is a strong thing to do, and I find I admire him for finding this outlet for his grief. I’m also sure he works to find secrets to make the cars go very fast, in case he needed to ever get away. Fast.
Cooper is no longer the small boy, traumatized by his close experience with death. He is confident, and actually has grown to be a nice looking young man. If not for his demons, he would be a good companion for any girl. Not this girl, though, I’m afraid. I know his particular demon all too well.
He approaches me, smiles, gives me a quick little hug, saying “Hi, Mira.”
“Where is everyone,” I ask. “The garage is empty!”
The teacher is sick today, and no one scheduled a substitute, so everyone else is cutting. I’m on my way out myself. It’s only the first day, so I’m sure I won’t get in trouble.”
“So how did I do?” he asked.
“You mean with your car? I’m sure it’s very fast. Really, how should I know?”
“No, Mira. With Ellie. With Andrew.”
I’m not quite sure what he means.
Cooper’s voice is very even. “You see they’ve been talking about you for so long, especially Andrew…well, mostly Ellie of course. I’ve been telling them they should talk to you, act like it’s old times. I told them you missed them. That you are very sad. You are very sad Mira. I know.”
He comes closer. This is starting to not feel right. He gets up very close. Too close. He is looking right in my eyes.
“You see, Mira, you can like me now. Andrew, well, he’s moved on. He’ll probably end up with Ellie, which means he will never love you. So, Mira, I’ve made your friends like you again, and you can be only mine”
Why does every boy except Andrew do this to me? This isn’t like Cooper at all.
Damn it. Of course it isn’t. I can see it in his eyes. Cooper is lost.
“Cooper,” I whisper, hoping that part of him can hear me. “No.”
He pulls out a switchblade. Those are not allowed at school, but it is not unusual for some boys to carry them. Especially in the garage. He brings it close to my face.
“Cooper! Nathaniel, please.” I use his real name. I know it is him. I don’t know if he can use another body to harm me. Cooper is already dead. I’m sorry for that, because I know that he would not in his wildest dreams ever harm me.
But, this is Smoke, the chalky child now grown. This is Nathaniel Mirras. And he is a killer.
He brings the knife up to my hair, and quickly cuts a piece off at the root. I stifle a scream. I can’t let him know how scared I am. He then takes the blade over to my ear, the same as the one he is missing, and slowly slices the smallest part of the lobe off. I feel my blood begin to run down my neck. Now I scream as he backs away, and cuts an identical piece from his own ear, and holds both pieces carefully in his palm. He considers them both a moment. And smiles. Cooper smiles Nathaniel’s smile just before he leaves a body for dead. Will that happen now?
A commercial plays on the radio, for a credit card, stating in very serious tones, “Don’t leave home without it.”
His smile fades as he puts both pieces of ear, his and mine, in the front pocket of his pants. I want to vomit, from the pain and the disgusting fact that Nathaniel has put a piece of my body, my earlobe, into his pocket. He approaches me again, gets very close, and I can feel his otherworldly breath mixed with the oil from the shop. He grabs my shirt, raises the knife, and jams it, along with the top of my shirt, into the wall. Still smiling, he backs away, this time to one of the cars in the garage, closest to the open door, and gets in.
At this moment, Mr. Robinson, one of the teachers runs into the garage. He had heard me scream, and was just in time to see Cooper drive away from the scene. Then he sees the scene. Me. On the ground, wounded and bleeding. He puts pressure on my bleeding and calls for medical help.
Another commercial plays, “Look ma, no cavities!”
The police are called, and a fantastic chase ensues. Of course, that is what Nathaniel wanted. Cooper knew how to make cars go fast. No squad car would have caught up with him if he hadn’t wanted. But, of course, he did. He wanted Cooper’s end to be spectacular, to impress me. To remind me of his power. To warn the world of his strength. The end was in fact spectacular, as I heard from my hospital bed. The investigating officers informed me that he had driven them on a wild ride through town, ending, on Cooper’s own block. He ran the car at full speed into the oldest, most solid tree on the block. At full speed.
Cooper’s skull is smashed against the wheel, barely recognizable. His hands have nearly been separated from the wrists from awkwardly holding the steering wheel at the time of the collision. Nathaniel seems intent now to maim his victims as he is maimed. I can only imagine the terror Cooper experienced when Nathaniel released him, only to see his death in front of him. Then again, maybe he was already dead. It’s hard to know.
Some of the officers on the scene thought they could hear the voice of a young girl crying in pain. No one could see her of course. It was Kelly. Cooper and Kelly were finally reunited in the past, as was Nathaniel’s intention all along. This sick reality gave me new courage, to heal, and to renew my search for Mirras. What if he decides to reunite Frank and Ellie in this way?
My ear will never heal. They were not able to recover either of the pieces from Cooper’s body. They are gone. I will always have a physical reminder of this episode with Nathaniel, in addition to the emotional scars of having myself been so close to death at his hands. The kills were becoming even closer, and even more personal. I was sure he couldn’t possess me for long against my will, and I wouldn’t die if he did. I still wasn’t sure if he could provoke a host to kill me. But I now knew that they could hurt me. And I know that Nathaniel will hurt me. I know that he wants to.
I am told I don’t need to finish school this year, after my ordeal. I can still graduate, if I want to, with my class. I laugh. I won’t be going to college. My ordeal? If only they knew. Being away from school does allow me to keep those I love safe. More importantly, it allows me the time I need to find Mirras!
A week before my birthday:
I am on an unfamiliar block. I come across an older gentleman, who mows his lawn every day rain or shine. Every day. I don’t approach him at first. He looks like Mr. Clean, bald and strong, but has a constant scowl, and in truth I am intimidated. I spend two days watching him cut his grass before I develop enough courage to speak to him. Once I approach him, however, his entire demeanor changes. A huge smile, much like that of the real Mr. Clean, spreads across his face. He acts as though he has known me for years, has been expecting me, and is disappointed I haven’t come by for a visit much much earlier!
His name is Taylor. Garner Taylor. He is the oldest remaining homeowner in our town, and he claims to know everyone that lives here, and anyone that ever lived here. And he still mows his own lawn! He knows me. He knows Andrew. He knows Ellie. He even knew Cooper. And he knew Mother, and remembers her and her struggles from years past. He remembers how difficult it was for her when my father never returned. He remembers me as a baby, and still more. He remembers the man that came into Mother’s life, that loved her, and me, and helped us through the difficult times, and then left us. He remembers Mirras!
And Mr. Taylor knows why he left us. He is hesitant to tell me, until I explain the grisly end of Mother’s life, and her wish for me to find and know that man that GarnerTaylor knew to have loved her and me at one time. After two more days of afternoon conversation and positioning, a slow, intentional dance intended to transfer the lead from him to me, he finally breaks. He can’t imagine I would ever find peace with this information, with the facts too horrible. He refuses to share all of the details with me. But, finally, I wear him down to the point where he acknowledges my right to learn directly from the man himself the reason he left Mother and me. And he gives me a name.
Giuseppe Mirras. Joseph. My stepfather is Joe Mirras.
Today:October 4. My birthday.
And so it is after many years, I find myself outside the walls of State Prison, where resides the man Mirras, my stepfather, serving time for a crime no one is willing to speak out loud. It made sense suddenly that it took this long to find him. Being a child before today, I would have been denied access to see him. But now, October 4, my eighteenth birthday, the powers that be are compelled to allow me entry. I’m mature, and dressed in classy attire, with a fine dress, hat and scarf. I simply look old enough to visit a prison. And so they are compelled to allow me to see my stepfather, incarcerated for a deed I’ve yet to learn. It has been over sixteen years, so certainly he must be a murderer.
There seems to be something about the men in my family. They are all killers.
No one can believe that Joseph Mirras has a visitor. He hasn’t had one. Ever. Not even a lawyer. They are surprised to hear that I am his daughter. Very surprised. I am ushered into a small room, with a small table and two stools. Behind the table are two very strong chains. Their purpose becomes evident as they bring in a tall man, seat him at a small stool at the other side of the table, and immediately chain both of his hands securely to the wall behind him. It is meant for my protection. They ask if I would like them to stay while we talk, and of course I tell them no. We’d both be locked up here if they were to hear what I had to say. So they leave us. Alone.
I gaze at this man. His head is lowered, so all I see is long, wild, light but graying hair covering his face. We sit in silence for a moment. It seems that Joe Mirras is able to create a loud silence that discomforts me so, so I speak first.
“Mr. Mirras. Joe?”
He lifts his head up, not expecting a girl’s voice, I imagine.
Very clumsily, I say, “I’m…Um…I’m your…”
And very suddenly his eyes brighten and moisten. A feeble but joy-filled smile spreads across his face as he breathes, “Mira!”
I didn’t see it coming. It’s been so long since I’ve had someone smile at me that way. So long since I’ve had family. I’ve spent years searching for this man. Years of failure and death and loss, and uncertainty. And he knows me. Just by looking at me, he knows me. I didn’t see it coming.
And I crumble. In tears. He can’t get to me. Can’t comfort me from his chains.
“Mira,” he says, through tears of his own, “What on earth are you doing here?”
“Dad, I came to see you. I had to see you. Mom wanted me to find you, to meet you. I need to know what happened. What happened to us? What happened to you? Why are you here?”
“Hmmm…Mira that doesn’t sound like your mother. She wanted you to find me? To meet me? I can’t imagine that’s true. Has something happened?”
“Mother is…well, she died.” His face falls. “Finding you, meeting you was her last wish for me.”
“I see.” Joseph Mirras nods slightly.
“Why did you leave? I need to know what happened. I’m in some trouble, and I need to know.”
He sighs, then very calmly, and adoringly, says “Mira, you are just as beautiful as you were as a baby. Just as beautiful as your mother was when I met her.”
This time I allow the silence to bear the weight of my request. I want to know him, my father, but I need answers. And I need them quickly. Now, or sooner. So, I look him in the eyes and let the question hang, a deafening silence of my own.
“Mira, I’m so sorry for your troubles. What you need to know is that I didn’t love your mother when your father was alive. I knew her, and you to a degree, but we weren’t acquaintances. Then your father died, and you were all alone. She was beautiful, and you were a beautiful baby, and I fell in love very quickly. It wasn’t safe for your mother to keep her name at that point, so I married her, and gave her mine.”
This is an interesting piece of information, I think. I can’t imagine why mother would need to change our names. I’m tempted to interrupt, and learn more about this fact, but I don’t want to discourage him from speaking more.
“Mira, I loved you, and I loved your mother. I did not want to end up here. I wanted to stay, with you both. I wanted to be with you today when you celebrated your birthday, and every birthday up to this point. I had so little time…”
“Then what happened?” I implore, not crossly. “Dad…what happened?”
“Mira…things were not well at the house. I’m sure your mother never told you. But things were…not well. And I had to do something..and…”
At this point, tears are streaming down his face, as he looks directly on the many years he’s missed with me. With Mother. He means it!
“Mira…I did something horrible. I had to, but it was unforgivable. That’s why I’m here!”
With this, he breaks. He cannot lean forward for fear of breaking his arms, but his body slumps and shudders from the many years of guilt he has accumulated from that one act. For years, I’d assumed that Nathaniel took revenge on Mother for remarrying this man. But it seems it is much more than that. As much as I want to cry, and forgive, and just love my father in this very moment, I am sure that this one act must be the key to why Nathaniel is haunting me and killing anyone that knows me. This one unforgivable crime. And I must know.
I wait. Just a moment.
“Dad. I really need you to tell me what it is. It’s important. My life…well…my life may depend on it. Dad. Please…”
And, with this, his bowed head nods, slightly, and still shaking lifts up to find my eyes. I see, briefly, in that moment, how much he always loved me.
“Mira…I…I need you to give me your scarf now.”
And with that, his eyes are gone. Nathaniel has him. Just like that, I’ve led Nathaniel and all my hopes to the only person that could help me against him. Nathaniel, the one who likely hates him most. The man I didn’t even know I’d missed my entire life, will be gone soon. I had only a moment to understand his intense love for Mother and me, and now I’ve killed him. And it will be horrible. In so many ways.
But why did he ask for my scarf? Oh. Yes, of course, how unoriginal. And I simply won’t give it to him.
Wait. Damn it!
Nathaniel is possessing me too. This is new. I didn’t know he could control more than one person at a time. The reality of that fills me with horror, almost as much horror as watching my hands undo my scarf, the one I picked out just to meet my father. I remove it, and watch my hands tie precisely the knot he needs. How do I even know how to do this? It leaves my hands, and floats to Joseph Mirras, resting, briefly, around his neck, as it had mine only seconds before. It then tightens around his neck, and he immediately struggles for air.
He doesn’t know what’s happening, but I do. I have only one chance. I must call to my father.
Firmly, I say, “Dad! Dad I can’t stop this. I can’t help you, but you can still help me. I need you to tell me what you did! You have to tell me now!”
I see him struggle, the other end of the scarf, suddenly long enough to reach the ceiling, and I want to cry. I want so much to jump over the table but I’m held fast. In this moment, and for the first time, I do not hear the cry of the chalky child as it claims its next victim.
Instead, he is laughing!
I’m screaming desperately. Surely someone will hear. The door! It’s locked. Somehow from the inside, and no one can get in. No one can help. I stay firm.
“Dad! Please. Tell me now!”
And as my Father’s body is lifted up, I see a glint. I see a moment of recognition as he looks at me deeply, and with the last remaining strength, he finally tells me his crime, which put him here, and which has led to his death in this moment.
“Mira…I…killed a baby….Mira I lo…”
With that, his body rises to the top of the ceiling, and the end of the scarf wraps itself around a low beam. As he rises, the chains rip Joseph’s hands off at the wrists, and he continues to rise until he reaches a certain point. Then, his body stops rising, drops suddenly, and hangs. Like any prison suicide. Like any murder. Except the body hung itself, and blood is pouring out onto the floor from his wrists. And there is only me, left with his final words. And his final words left unspoken, but understood.
“I love you too, Dad,” I quietly sob.
The door suddenly opens and I’m ushered out by a throng of guards, and into custody. Nobody knows how, but I somehow killed Joe Mirras the babykiller. Hung him up. A girl of my size, and a man of his. I can tell they are frightened and unsure, and they should be. Because I did kill him. Because I’m a fool.
I am imprisoned for only a few days. Then, I am released. The only thing I can tell is that despite the fact that nobody else could have killed him but I, that evidence simply just doesn’t make sense. So I’m told firmly not to leave the state, to stay at my home. To stay out of trouble. I laugh. If only they knew.
I am then sternly brought to the main office to process out, and immediately see the reason for my sudden release. Doppelmacher. He has come to my aid, made bail, somehow convinced the authorities to let a murderer into his care. But I’m grateful, and exhausted.
The entire car ride home I sleep.
Then the car stops, back at the home I grew up in, lost two fathers in, met my ghost in, and saw my mother murdered in. Now, my father, the one that I knew, is gone too. I look at Doppelmacher, at the wheel, and he slowly turns, and returns my gaze. But it isn’t disapproval on his face. There’s no anger, or disappointment. He, too, is adoring me. Like Joseph did. For only the second time in my life, and the second time this week, I am overcome by the love of an adult. For the second time, I weep unconftrollably.
Doppelmacher also weeps, and grabs my face and says, “No, oh no Mira. Stop. Please stop. My poor baby girl.”
And I allow myself the paternal comfort for a moment, as I regain my calm and my strength. I will need it for what’s next.
“Doppelmacher,” I say. “Thank you. Thank you…”
He smiles, and grunts a short laugh. “Mira, no. You don’t have to thank me. And you don’t need to call me that any more. My name is Rauch. Not Doppelmacher. Rauch. I’ve known your mother much longer than she let on, and I have known you for your whole life.”
A pause. A quiet one, much like the only quiet silences I am capable of. Then the silence, and all reality, break with his next words.
“I think it’s time we talk about your brother.”
There is something in his smile and his gaze that feels familiar, from a memory long forgotten, long before the appearance of the chalky child.
And then, suddenly, everything makes sense.
Credit To – MeGoMike/MeGoMirras