A rattled knob echoed throughout the lifeless space. It traveled across a family-less living room, bounced around the cabinets of a foodless kitchen, and wandered down a dark hallway to a sleepless bedroom.
It rattled again, a stubborn old key and an even older lock. Then finally the teeth finally fit just right.
The door sang from the hinges as it opened. A man and woman stood in the open frame, about to take a leap into a world of renewal. The man entered first, not because chivalry is dead, but rather… in new territory he probably wanted to be the first to make sure it was OK. He took a few steps in, then took in a breath and sighed. He dropped the heavy looking duffle from his shoulder and at the same time, released his grip on a striped tote bag.
“So.. whadd’ya think?” He spoke, with a sense of pride. They had made it. A trek across state. A couple from Boston looking to find something, anything, out in the rural Berkshires.
“Seems fine.” A female voice. A bit droll in the throat. Tired perhaps. She marched around him, dropped a small purse onto the couch and looked around. The walls were gray. The carpet was a light shade of mint. She soaked that all in. This wasn’t luxury, this was just a normal looking place with a normal set of expectations.
“I want to check out that lake. I think I saw a float.” The man said. “Whadd’ya say babe.. maybe get a little skinny dipping in later. Heh? … Heh?”
“In your dreams.” She replied. Her voice wasn’t playful like his.
“Alright… maybe just a canon ball contest then.” He seemed to be grasping for humor. Her shoulder shrug meant she wasn’t amused.
The man, who looked to be late 30s, wandered down the hall, poking his nose into the bathroom.
“Woah… holy 80’s, Batman!.” he said under his breath.
“What, Nick?” Her voice chased after him.
“Oh nothin’ babe, just checking out these wild tiles in here.” He looked around at the black and white checkered pattern on the floor, the pink bathtub, and the mint green accents.
“What did I say before” she spoke with a firm tone.
“Ya.. sorry. Habit. Anyways pretty gnarly huh?” Like a child trying to remain happy after being scolded, he continued to marvel at the tile work.
“Ya… I guess. This place is skeevin’ me out a little.” She replied.
He kept moving down the hall and entered the bedroom. It was almost dead silent as the two independently explored the small retreat. His voice startled her. “Babe.. ah… Becky! Come quick!” She moved in a heightened state, only to see that Nick was gazing out a large glass sliding door, down through some thin pines, to the body of water below. She joined him in staring.
“Hey not bad…” Becky’s words caused Nick to smile. But she was resistant to that facial expression.
The pair moved their bags into the bedroom, changed and locked the place up as they left. They returned, long after the sun at set, and judging by their speech, they both had a few drinks.
“I’m exhausted. Good night.” Becky said, wandering, like a dizzy child, down to the bedroom. She pulled the top cover off the bed and tossed it haphazardly into the corner of the room, and gave the bed a quick scan for anything… unusual. She hopped in and was practically snoring before Nick could even finish using the bathroom. He stood in the hallway, with a puzzled look in the direction of the bedroom.
“Ok, I guess I’ll take the couch,” he said, to no listening ears. Nick scooped up the thrown bedspread and laid it on the love seat. His feet extended beyond the arm of the couch, His body made a “V” shape, but he appeared to be so tired that it didnt really matter.
The condominium laid quietly as the pair communicated in snores from opposite ends. Becky looked like an angel while she slept.
[IR] Around 3 AM, after the moon had already peaked in the sky, Nick’s eyes opened and he shot up from the couch. The blanket was bundled around his legs, and he tugged on it to free himself from the net.
He stood above where he was once laying. Not on the floor, but on the couch. His eyes were wide, but he was completely silent. He stepped down and made steps around the love seat and end table that sat in the middle of the room. He walked slowly, in circles.
HE seems to have already glommed onto the easy choice – starting earlier than usual. HE does that… picks the hopeless, weak willed, so easy to bend, so desperate for something… anything. Hope is an open channel, welcoming both joy and disappointment alike. And in this case, it has welcomed HIM.
Nick continued to walk in the same pattern, over and over. The 3 o’clock hour turned into the 4, and then 5, and finally six. His pace began to waver. He was walking for miles and going nowhere. [Removed] Despite his lack of mental control, his body wasn’t conditioned for this. Finally around 6:45 he fell over at the base of the couch, and laid there, drifting back to sleep.
[DL] Becky woke and load in bed for a while. When she finally arose, she found Nick asleep on the floor. “Nick?” She approached him slowly. She got onto a knee and nudged him. He was apprehensive to be awake. “You’re on the floor, hun.”
Nick replied with a mumble… “you called me ‘hun’ “. He smiled a drunken smile.
Becky stood up, used the bathroom, and went back into the bedroom to continue her early morning slumber.
Nick rose to his feet, slowly, shaking. He scanned the room. Something seemed to have been piquing his interest. As he scratched his head, he seemed to have some recollection of this room, but probably not enough to make sense of it. He slowly got dressed, grabbed the car keys from the counter and left through the front door.
Less than an hour later he returned, an iced coffee in each hand, a plastic grocery bag dangling off of one wrist, and a white paper bag dangling from his clenched teeth. It was a miracle that he was able to open the door.
He put the drinks on the counter, dropped the bag from his mouth, and rested the groceries on the floor. Nick peeked down the hall toward the bedroom. “Babe… uhh, Becks?”
“Coming.” A quiet voice replied.
Nick waiting in the kitchen, and looked out the window in the direction of the lake. Childish fantasies of splashing in the cool fresh water danced in his mind, probably. The white bag ruffled open, and his attention was brought back to reality. Becky reached into the cafe to-go bag and pulled out a breakfast delight.
“Bacon egg ‘n cheese, errthin’ bagel. Just the way my lady likes it.” Nick said with enthusiasm.
“What about for you?” She asked.
“Oh no.. for me, something even better.” Nick replied with a childish grin. He reached down and sprang back up with a box of cereal in his hand, and a small carton of milk. “Cinnamon Toast Crunch baby!” Nick then looked around in each cabinet, hunting for the tools needed to complete his breakfast. “Jackpot!” He found the bowls.
“Aren’t you going to wash that first? I wouldn’t trust that its clean.” Becky said. Nick just shrugged his shoulders and filled the bowl up. “Well, hope you wont be puking your brains out tonight.”
“mmmmm. Mmmmm. MMMM!” Nick emphasized his enjoyment of this cereal. “So… fuckin’ good”.
They both stood in the kitchen, fueling their bodies with coffee and breakfast goodies. Becky looked around. “This place is pretty dull. Not a single piece of art, or anything on the walls. Did you notice that?”
Nick was too focused on the Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and didn’t really hear her. Then she looked up at the ceiling. “What the heck is that? A massive smoke detector?”
“Ya I saw that before too.” Nick was engaged now. “I figured it was cameras watching our every move.” He joked.
“Well they are getting some good footage. A middle aged man eating cereal.” She replied with a snicker.
“I saw it in the bedroom too, maybe they will get to see a little action tonight.. wah-chick-a-wah-wah” Nick continued.Wait…Mi did you say middle aged? first of all, I’m not even 40 yet, and second of all, we are the same age.” He playfully defended himself.
“Ya, well… the way you complain about your back all the time, you might as well be 60.” She replied, sparking a chuckle out of both of them.
“Hey check out this closet I looked in earlier.” Nick opened a door in the corner of the kitchen. “It’s zee torture chamber, for my mistress” Nick was from Austria all of a sudden.
“Why would a rental place have all of that.” Becky sounded a little perplexed.
“Dunno, but that ax will be good if I have to go all out lumberjack while we are here.” Nick replied with a chuckle. “I got a plaid shirt and a can of insta-beard to go with it.”
The two continued to talk and joke with each other.
Nick yawned a deep yawn. “Jeez, I’m beat already. That couch was brutal. I feel like I didn’t get any sleep.”
“I found you on the floor this morning.” She replied.
“Ya… and I had this weird dream. Like I was in a spinning tornado or something. The room was spinning. I don’t know, really. But I think it was this room. Weird.” He paused. “Well, whatever, I want to jump in that water and get energized.” He continued with another yawn. He was slowly being drained. That is HIS plan. A lion wears out the gazelle, and when too tired to run, it sinks its teeth in. That first taste of blood is enough to remind HIM that the plan works. It can take time, but HE is patient.
The couple put on their swimming suits and left with towels in hand. It wasn’t long until they returned.
“I could have told you that pond is contaminated. What a waste of time this is.” Becky had an annoyance in her voice.
“Listen… I get it. You don’t have to keep repeating it.” Nick was on the defense. It wouldn’t be long before he was worn thin as empty skin, thin enough to slice into. “I’ve just been trying… to… uhhhh. C’mon just give me a break.” He continued.
After a long pause. “I just want to go home,” she said with a deep sigh. The silence continued, and Becky retreated into the bedroom at the end of the hall. Nick was left there, at the kitchen counter, just shaking his head and rubbing his face. By looking at him, you could tell he was disappointed with the decisions he has made. Probably not just this one. Across the condominium, there was silence. Two people separated by more than walls.
Becky must have fallen asleep, almost an hour had passed and Nick was still in the same location, same position, leaning on the kitchen counter. Then all of a sudden he picked his pathetic head up and and shook it back and forth, at first seemingly to crack his neck and regain composure, but he didn’t stop there. His face looked like it was in agony has continued to twist his neck back and forth. His hands grasped at the air on the counter, and twisted into crippled hooks.
Back… and forth. Side… to side. His head twisted and turned. It shook and heaved. His pupils went looking for his brain, and nothing but white shined through. He was spasming, convulsing, tremoring, seizuring. Most likely experience pain beyond anything he has ever felt, and unable to verbally express any of it
His mouth was wide open but he didn’t make a sound. Then just as suddenly as he started to spasm, the spasms stopped. Nick looked around the kitchen. He opened each drawer, one by one. Looking for something… something sharp, perhaps. On the fourth drawer he revealed a shiny chef’s knife. He studied it. Marveled at its sheen. He began to press it into his forearm that was now flat on the table – a steak being prepared for the lion’s jaws. Then the toilet flushed and Nick snapped out of it, he had barely made a dent in his arm. Apparently Becky wasn’t asleep after all.
Nick looked at the shallow cut in his arm with confusion. As Becky appeared from around the corner, she hadn’t noticed yet.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Uh. Nothin’” he replied, scrambling to get his arm under the kitchen sink to wash off the small amount of blood.
“Cut yourself?” she said mockingly.
“Uh, what? No… I don’t know.” He stammered a reply.
“Huh?” She was now confused. As she approached Nick, with his arm still under the water, “Wait.. you did cut yourself. What the hell Nick? What happened?” She was now concerned.
“I don’t know… I think I dozed off and scratched it on something… eh its nothin’” he said as he found a dish towel to dry off.
HE wants his limb.
“Your exhausted. I hate it here. Let’s just go.” The annoyance in Becky’s voice was palpable. She wanted to end this retreat, but it wasn’t time yet.
“Why are you giving me such a hard time?” Nick was starting to get a little agitated.
“What?” she replied.
“I said… why are you giving me such a fuckin’ hard time.” Nick was now angry. “All I have been doing is trying to fix this. And you are not receptive to anything I am trying.”
Becky just stood there and stared at him. “This… ‘vacation’… sucks, Nick. Don’t be such a dick about it.”
“I’m not being a dick. I’m trying to be your fuckin’ husband.” Nick lashed back. “you haven’t put in any effort. Not one ounce.”
“Are you kidding me right now?” Becky’s voice started to escalate. “I’m sorry I’m not like you Nick. I can’t just move on as easily as you have. I can’t just bounce back and pretend like everything’s okay.”
“I can’t either. And I’m sorry. But jesus christ babe. Please throw me a fuckin bone.” Nick began to sound desperate.
“Nick… look around. Our marriage is fucked. It’s falling apart. And there isn’t anything we can do.”
Nick slammed his fists onto the kitchen counter. “Fuck you! You’re not willing!”
Becky’s body twitched as the noise startled her.
“Oh you going to go psycho? Huh? Ya tough guy.” Becky seemed to beckon his rage.
The two once-lovers stared at each other without speaking.
“Ugh… whatever!” Nick stomped past Becky and went into the bedroom and plopped onto the bed. He was childish and it was showing. Becky deserved better. She deserved…. HIM.
While Nick was laying in the bed, face down, Becky left through the front door and out into [Removed]. Darkness fell, and none of the lights were on. The condo was bleek, pale, and cold.
[IR] Nick flopped around in the bed. He was restless, but drained of energy. Then, through the darkness, a glowing light emanated through the balcony doorway. Nick rubbed his eyes as this glow caught his attention. Like car headlights it shined through the glass and sheer curtains – the entire room was set ablaze with white light.
[DL] Nick put his hands over his face to shield himself from the glow. He winced and stumbled to his feet. His legs got caught up in the sheet of the bed and he smashed his face into the floor as he struggled to stand up. Pathetic. Finally he stood, still with his hands and arms out in front of him, in a feeble attempt to block the intense light that grew with intensity. He yelped, and turned to leave, but in a state of confusion, ran his face into the edge of the door that was still ajar. His head flew back as if he was hit.
The light faded to a dim – still enough to shed unto the room, but not enough to blind. Nick put his hand to his face and then above so he could see the blood that was begining to pour from his nose. He slowly rose to his feet. His state of confusion leaked from his face more than his own blood. His attention focused down the hall. He leaned forward as if trying to see and comprehend something blurry and baffling.
He slowly crept down the hall.
“Jamie.. is that you? Wha- ” his head slowly shook back and forth. “What are you doing here?”
He left a trail of blood droplets on the mint hallway carpet.
“No… No!” He dropped to his knees and gripped the floor. Seeing his own bloody hand prints seemed to have inspired him. He got onto his feet once again, dipped his fingers into the red pallette below his nose and turned the empty hallway wall into his own van Gogh. Swinging his hands around like a maniac – painting on the walls like a misbehaving child. He continued until exhaustion overcame him, and, like a child, curled up on the floor in the hallway. The tremendous light fizzled to a glint and disappeared.
An hour passed. Darkness soaked in at [Removed].
The door swung open and Becky quickly entered.
“Nick?” Her voice was heightened and she hadn’t yet noticed the scene in the hallway. She was a little frazzled as she deliberately locked the door all while rummaging through her purse, but still maintained her classic beauty. “Nick! We have to leave here! Now!”
Still no answer. Her lame husband was still on the floor in the hall.
As she scanned the room, she froze. Stunned. Then the entire condominium filled with her screams. Every corner. Her voice still sounded sweet.
“Nick!” She rushed toward him. He began to stir as she grabbed and hoisted him into her lap. “Holy shit. Holy shit. What happened.” Becky coddled him, and ran her hands through his hair.
“Oh, hey honey…” he was delirious as he smiled up at her.
“Nick. What happened. Is this all from you?” She gazed upon the pool of red in the hallway and slowly shifted her view onto the wall in front of her. It was covered in handprints and swirls. “What the f-” she couldn’t get the words out. “Nick what the fuck. What did you-” still searching and shaking her head back and forth. Her voice began to quiver. “Why did you write that name? Nick… say something!”
“Huh?” Nick seemed to be trying to regain his vision, he squinted and rubbed his eyes but the blood on his hands didn’t help.
” ‘Jamie’… what the fuck Nick. Why did you write that name on the wall. In your own… in your own fucking blood.”
“I didnt- ” Nick looked at his own doing. “Oh shit.” The realization of it was setting in.
Becky let him plop down on the ground and she stood up, hovering over him. He slowly got up too and faced her. A tear began to form and then another. A trail made its way down her soft-looking cheeks and to her model-esque chin. Becky is one of the most gorgeous women that HE has picked. In fact, that has even been to [Removed].
“What the fuck!” She shoved Nick with both arms. He almost went back down to where he had been laying for the past hour. “Are you going to say something Nick?”
Nick had the same dumbfounded look that he has had on his stupid mug since he got here.
“Hello! Will you please say something!” She was irate and upset. That name triggered her. She no longer cared about the blood loss of her husband, and wanted answers.
“Becky… I-” he just shook his head.
“Wash your face and we are leaving here, right now.” Like an aggravated mother telling her child playtime is over. She rubbed away the two last tears from her cheeks and pushed past him. Nick went into the bathroom, and meanwhile Becky was in the bedroom shoving any loose clothing into her bag. Her body flinched as she was startled by a loud knock at the door – three loud knocks that sent a shiver down her spine.
“Don’t open it!” She yelled.
Nick entered the hall. And looked toward the living room. Another trio of rapping in the door reverberated throughout the space.
“What?” Nick asked.
“Nick, don’t open it. Something fucking weird is going on here. We have to leave. Even if we have to climb out the back.” Becky said in a low tone as she got behind him.
The knocking continued, louder this time.
“Becky, please tell me what is happening. I am so confused right now.” Nick’s child like tone echoed his weakness.
“I don’t know. I saw some… people, or something. I don’t know. They were coming toward this building when I pulled up. They all had like… hoods and candles and shit.” Becky spoke as the knocking turned to pounding.
“What?” Nick replied to Becky in a near-whisper.
Then in an effort to stand his ground, “Who is it!” Nick shouted, with a deeper voice than he has been letting out for the past day and a half.
The banging on the door stopped.
Nick took steps toward the living room. “There is a glow coming through the door window.” Nick said in a whisper. With each step Becky followed, clinging to his shirt. “Oh shit” Nick darted to the side pulling Becky with her. “Someone is fucking looking through the window. Shit, shit, shit.”
“What do mean?” Becky whispered in a panic.
“In the little fucking window… someones face was pressed against it.”
“Did he see you?”
“Yeah he was fucking smiling at me. Oh fuck.”
Three gentle taps on the front door danced through the air in the room. Becky began to whimper. That poor sweet thing. Nick was practically pulling his hair out, unsure on what to do.
“Wait here.” He said in a whisper.
“No-no-no-no” Becky pleaded, reaching for him as he darted away. He was bent at the waste, rushed through the kitchen and disappeared around the corner.
“Nick.” She whispered between sobs. The next three knocks were no longer gentle. They practically shook the room. Becky was sobbing with her face in her hands. Don’t worry sweet child, it will be over soon.
After a moment Nick emerged, holding the ax from the kitchen closet.
“We are getting the fuck out of here.” Nick said boldly. Silly, stupid, man.
Becky just stared at him. “Ok, ok yeah. Let’s ahh… let’s go out the balcony.” Becky whispered.
Nick didn’t move. He didn’t do anything. He just stood there, like his switch was suddenly set to OFF.
“Nick.” Becky waited for a reply. “Nick?”
Becky slowly stood from her crouching stance. “Nick!”. But nothing. He didn’t move. He stood there, frozen in time. Becky was speechless and waiting for something, anything.
Then finally, his head tilted. He surveyed his arm. The one with the cut from earlier, just in it’s infancy of the healing process.
“HE needs this.” Nick said in a calm tone.
“Nick? What are you- ” but she was cut off by the sound of Nick swinging the ax down on his own forearm. In that instance he laid his right arm on the kitchen counter. Becky screamed in a panic. The sound was slightly fleshy, but mostly a rattling of the counter top and and cabinets below. Nick let out a grunt that emanated deep from his bowels. He lifted the ax again with his left hand and swung back down onto his right.
“No!” Becky screamed, this time covering her ears and cowering into a ball on the floor.
The second whack did the trick. Nick fell backward onto the kitchen floor, dropping the ax and gripping the elbow of his right arm. He stared at the spot where his forearm once continued into a hand, but now just ended abruptly and profusely gushed blood. He was in disbelief. He folded his left arm and what was left of his right to his chest and moaned in bewilderment. Becky crawled over to where he sat.
“Oh God” was all she could muster.
Nick began to turn pale, and he cried. Then he whispered. “I’m so, so sorry. I’m so sorry I brought us here. I was just trying to- to- save us. Oh God. Look at us now.” He paused as he looked around at the flood of blood on the kitchen floor. “I just thought if we took some time… away from it all. We could get back what we used to have.” His coherent speech drained along with his blood, and slurring began. “You are the love of my life, and I needed to get that back.” Becky’s sobs grew louder and she wrapped her arms around him. “I’m so sorry. But Becky… I have to tell you something.” Nick looked at her. “I saw him. I saw our boy. Our beautiful boy. Before. I saw him. Our sweet little Jamie. I’m going to him. HE said I could go to him now… now… no-…n-” Nick slumped over.
Becky shook her head and cried holding Nick’s body.
A rattling of keys in a door knob filled the air and the front door opened. Becky didn’t want to look, and she seemed to hold onto Nick’s body tighter.
One by one they entered the room.
Becky gazed up on the room of cloaked saviors – the chosen ones – the soldiers of enlightenment and rebirth. In an effort of determination she picked up the ax and swung frantically, her beautiful blonde hair waving in the air as she thrashed, and as they promptly overpowered her attempt, forced her down the hallway and shoved her out the balcony window. She screamed her last scream as she landed on the rocks below.
The ceremony commenced and HE grew stronger. The flesh of Nick’s arm is now the flesh of HIS arm. The beauty of Becky’s spirit is now the furnace of his soul.
HE is nearly whole.
ipse est rex noster, et lux nostra; novo ordine cum regno suo adducet
A Dramatic Transcription of Camera Footage of ‘Hawk’s Nest’ at [Removed]
Observed and documented by Yan Crantz, Senior Collector
Edited by Josef Shuk, Archelder
“So where did you say you found this?”
I felt his stare.
“On the side of the road. The highway. It was just blowing around in the wind. It looked like if someone had their window open and it blew out, you know, by accident or something,” I replied.
Sergeant Pierre had a stoic but baffled look on his face.
“What’s written here… is quite disturbing.” He took a pause and rubbed his chin. He was clean shaven except for a thick mustache. “Why did you stop… just because you saw these papers on the side of the highway. That’s dangerous you know.”
“Well… actually we were already stopped.” He raised his eyebrow, silently asking for more details. “We pulled over so I could take a leak. And then I saw these pieces of paper blowing around. Went to pick ’em up, and read a little bit of it. I couldn’t tell if it was fake or not. I don’t know. I guess the way it was… it felt like it was real… ish.” I felt dumb sitting there explaining why I was maybe wasting his time with a potentially fictitious, but maybe not, short story.
“So… you just thought you would… come down and show us this?” His questioning made me realize just how dumb I was for thinking this is a real police matter.
“Uhh… ya I guess. I don’t know.” I was now looking down at the stack of paper, wishing I never entered this police station.
“Honestly I don’t really know what to do here.” He said sternly.
“Ya I’ll get going sorry for wast- ” I was cutoff.
“Well hold on, let me just ask the Chief something real quick.” He collected the stack of papers and started to exit the office we were in. “Bathroom is right out there… and water fountain if you need anything.”
I felt like throwing up I was so embarrassed that I really thought I had stumbled upon some real nefarious snuff stuff. And I honestly felt like I was just trying to be a good citizen. You know. See something say something. Until they make you feel stupid for opening your mouth.
I got up and made my way to the water fountain, hoping a sip of water would ease the churn in my belly. The police station looked like a ghost town. I always expected to see hustle and bustle on a big case, but not in this sleepy town in the Berkshires. I took a swig straight from the water fountain, ignoring the little cups next to it.
As I wiped my mouth I heard the low rumblings of two men talking in the room next to me. The walls of this old station must have been pretty thin, because I could definitely hear them but no quite make out what they were saying. I looked around, no one was in sight, and my mischievous side got the better of me.
I pressed my ear up against the wall and could hear the voice of Sergeant Pierre.
“… No he said he found it.”
“These idiots… why do they keep’on writin’ it down. I told em a million times. It’ll bite em in the ass one day. The whole thing will be in the shitter.” The other voice was raspy, and he sounded annoyed.
“Whadda’they get their jollies off reading it in two months from now?” The raspy voice continued.
“Well, so then what. What do we do here.” Sergeant Pierre asked calmly.
“Shit .. where’d this kid say he was goin’?” The raspy voice inquired.
“I’ll give you one guess.” Sergeant Pierre replied.
After a short pause.
“No. Said he is traveling with his girlfriend, waitin’ for him in the car. Said it was a lil’ lake retreat”
“Well then… ain’t this sarendibidus’… Seems like it’ll all work itself out then.” The raspy voice laughed.
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