Here is the third chapter of my latest WIP.
Working Title: The Presumption of Darkness Word Count: 1578 (approx) Reading time for average reader: 10 minutes
Part 3 – Samuel
Each day the colors of life drained a little more. Sounds became quieter. Everything smelled slightly of bleach.
I would retreat to my office in the attic for hours at a time pretending to work on some paper or something. Abigail gave me my space. Sometimes at night, I would pretend I was asleep and I could sense her just staring at me. What does she know? I would wonder.
She knew about our tryst, Cassie. She stayed with me and I know it hurt her. I know I’m killing her a little every day, Cassie. But what can I do? How can I change when I don’t want to change? How can I learn to want what I don’t want? Where does one even begin to untangle such bonds?
I was sharpening a pile of pencils I didn’t ever expect to use when I felt your voice in my head.
I’m going to be at the Parker House hotel in Boston on the 17th. Please, if you can hear me, come. Prove to me that I’m not crazy.
I felt cold. Am I afraid? Am I losing my mind? Which is scarier – that this was you, Cassie? Or that it wasn’t? And why should I try to prove that you aren’t crazy when I am not even sure about my own sanity?
I knew it was your voice. You had sent me a message. Which means you probably had gotten my message when I watched you typing that email. What the fuck did this mean?
I booked my flight right away. I would arrive early on the 17th and leave late. I began composing excuses to Abigail. A job interview! That’s almost certainly why Cassie is there. So, if she starts digging, she’ll find that some school is really interviewing there. I’ll find out what school Cassie is probably looking at. She’ll be glad at the possibility of more income. Maybe she won’t ask too many questions.
But, of course, she did. You never got to spend much time with her, did you, Cassie? She is sharp. She is strong. I have no idea why she sticks with me.
But what else could I do? What if you sat there all day and then decided that our miraculous connection was just a fantasy? I couldn’t live with myself knowing that I had let this connection of ours slip away…
I suffered through days of Abigail asking me the same questions over and over – in ever so slightly different ways.
You would think that she was nagging, Cassie. By no means. She was so sweet as she asked. And she would accept any answer I gave. But I knew she was gently massaging all the data she was getting, searching for holes and inconsistencies. And I couldn’t blame her.
I knew she knew I was lying. And she did nothing. What could she do? She took her vows so seriously. She would fight for me. But she knew she had to play the long game. She always plays the long game, Cassie.
I expected to have to ask the front desk to call your room, but instead, I saw you sitting in a dark corner of the lobby in one of those overstuffed chairs.
You stared at me, lips parted. You weren’t really expecting me, were you? I thought.
I tried to make my steps measured and nonchalant, but I was shaking. I felt the sweat on my brow. I felt like all the air in the room had vanished. I must have looked like I was having a heart attack and refusing to admit it!
I sat down in a chair that was at a 90-degree angle to yours. I just stared for a few minutes. Your hair was blonde again. I remember how the blonde faded out of your hair while we traveled around on our fuck tour of Latin America. It was so cute seeing your polish disappear. But I guess now that you’re back in civilization, you put the polish back on.
You wore it well, that’s for sure.
Your slick interview suit looked great on you. Was that half a year’s salary? Or did you borrow it? No idea, but it sure showed off your athletic build. The skirt was just long enough to be “interview appropriate” and not a millimeter longer.
I reached out to take your hand and you quaked out a quick, “Please don’t touch me.” Your eyes were moist.
“Of course,” I said. I just wanted to know that you were real. That this wasn’t some dream.
Now what? I wondered.
“I think Eric is still alive,” you said.
“No. It’s not possible. No human being could withstand what he went through. His fucking limbs were yanked off as he screamed. That thing twisted his head completely around as it chewed on him. No. He’s dead as anyone ever has been.”
“Then I’m crazy. And then you aren’t really here because I never sent you that message. And then you’re crazy for thinking you’re talking to me.”
“Well, where does that leave us?” I asked.
“Let’s go for a walk.”
We walked out the door and the first thing was saw was a big, old fashioned church steeple. “Park Street Church,” she said. “The building is probably 200 years old. Lots of history.”
I nodded. We walked over to a large park – Boston Common, I guessed – teaming with people going to lunch, getting on and off the subway or just hanging out on the warm, sunny day.
In the middle of an expanse of pavement stones was a man in a hockey shirt. He was older – maybe in his sixties. He bounced a tennis ball as he read. I recognized it as Simone Weil’s Gravity and Grace
To lose someone: we suffer because the departed, the absent, has become something imaginary and unreal. But our desire for him is not imaginary. We have to go down into ourselves to the abode of the desire which is not imaginary. Hunger: we imagine kinds of food, but the hunger itself is real: we have to fasten on to the hunger. The presence of the dead person is imaginary, but his absence is very real: henceforward it is his way of appearing.
“Interesting choice for a street preacher,” I said.
“This morning he was reading Kierkegaard!” you said with a laugh. “His name is Andy. I overheard him talking with some tourists. He must have an M. Div or something. Maybe he’s self-study, but he’s smart and well read.”
We listened to him expound on Weil, trying to stir up a hunger for God in whoever happened to be listening. Sometimes he would call out questions to people he seemed to know in the crowd. He must have been here all the time to know so many hot dog vendors and beat cops and the other denizens of such a place. He would ask them questions of varying relevance to his text.
He turned towards me. “You there, with the pretty girl.”
I nodded, grinning.
“You’ve seen some dark stuff, haven’t you? I can smell it on you. The darkness. Yeah?”
My grin vanished. “Yeah, I’ve seen some dark stuff.” And then I could see it on him. I could see little specks of darkness clinging to him despite the intensity of the sun beating down on us. Little remnants of something like the thing we saw in that cave. He could smell it on me and I could see it on him.
What has happened to us, Cassie?
“So have I. You know that, right?”
“Yes. I can see it on you.”
“That’s why I know God exists. How else could we know such darkness if we didn’t have the notion of light?” And then with that, he went back to reading and throwing out questions to other folks.
“I think I need a drink,” I said.
“Me, too,” you said. “I know a good place. Dark and cool.”
We started to walk away from Andy and his strange theology seminar.
We made some turns on several weird little streets – the kind you find in old cities. I crammed my hands in my pockets for fear I would grab you.
Then, you looked around, saw we were alone in an alley and you pushed me against the wall and kissed me. Your lips so soft… Our tongues touched lightly.
Then I felt it… The darkness in my stomach, churning… Longing to rise up in me, to pull us both into its domain.
Can’t I have a normal life, Cassie? Must this darkness follow me everywhere?
Then, you pushed me away, tears streaming down your face.
I sighed at the sight. Then I felt a drop of water hit the color of my shirt. Then I felt the tears streaming down my own cheeks.
“You’d better go,” you said. And you were right, Cassie. I walked off my mind feverishly running with previously unthinkable ideas.
I looked out the window into the rapidly darkening sky as the plane pulled me back to North Carolina. The night sky was a sea of black. But somewhere, flying alongside the plane, there was something blacker than that. And it was laughing at me.
Why do I feel like we just played into its hands, Cassie?
I love you now more than ever.