"I have a perfect cure for a sore throat: cut it." - Alfred Hitchcock
I approached Father Peter Dickinson, walking onto the raised stage-like section of the room where he stood behind the podium.
“So here we are,” I said.
“Yes indeed, here we are. I first saw you at a hotel dinner party. You were wearing the same suit that you’re wearing at this very instant. It was the night John Janglehorn died. You seemed a bit odd to me, a bit out of place. Then I heard of his death and your escapades in the food line. Did you kill Mr. Janglehorn, Ivan?”
“Excuse me? I was the one who made the toast to John that night. He was a good man.” Would he believe that? It certainly wouldn’t have worked on me. Damn. I needed more practice at being convincing.
“I agree. The news believes that you were the one who killed him. I must say that I think they are right, James Jingle. Still, I believe we were destined to meet.”
“Destined? How so?”
“You are the evil that I must overcome. You were talking to yourself in the food line, so I hear. But you weren’t really talking to yourself, were you? You were looking at something, or someone, that those around you couldn’t see. You are in league with a demon from hell. You are the horror that God has sent me to banish from the world of the living.”
“Oh? That certainly is logical. Okay, holy banisher, how do you plan to do away with me?”
“You get to choose. I can either blow you away…” He pulled a huge revolver out of his robes. “…with this .44 Magnum, beginning with your knees and ending with your mind…” He was just going to shoot me? That’s it? Maybe his bout of theatricality had come to an end. Too many people get killed by guns. I hoped that he would at least spice it up a little.
“Or you can inject what is in this needle into your arm. It won’t kill you; it’s only a sedative. The only catch is that you don’t know where, or if, you’ll wake up…the sedative option offers a meager possibility of survival. The gun option does not.” I chose to go the sedative route for now, but I would be adding a twist.
“Alright, the sedative it is. Roofie the teenage boy, sir priest.”
“Excellent choice. We’ll go ahead and get started. You should also know that the secretary is no longer amongst the living. Some strychnine somehow ended up in her Diet Coke today. She should be getting pretty amusing by now…” Thud. She fell down in the lobby. It was loud enough to hear from where we were.
“…And the best part? I’ll be gone and you’ll be blamed for her death! You’ll be locked up in a cage, right where the demons of the world belong. I’m doing humanity a service.” I walked toward the needle that sat on the podium next to a Catholic Bible. I was also moving closer to Dickinson and his 9mm pistol. Hmm...
“The gun isn’t loaded. Now reverse the situation,” Shadowshade suggested. I made it to the needle. The priest was only about six or seven feel away.
“Now, pick it up!” I picked it up. “Inject into either of your arms. I’ll let you choose which one. Everyone knows that questioners must be annihilated. You have questioned far too many things, Mr. Terrible. I’d be a fool to let you live. You’d ask many more questions. So which arm will it be?” He was amusing me. I was sort of entertained.
“Oh, really, a choice? You’re too kind, Father! But that doesn’t sound too fun. I think I’ll pass. Another day, perhaps. This just isn’t a good time for me.” Was he pissed off yet?
“Ah, so you’ve chosen to lose your kneecaps instead. Fine, I can still do that.” I hoped that Shadowshade was right, or I would soon be dead.
“Won’t they know that you’re responsible for my death?”
“Oh, no. I won’t kill you. You’ll just wish that I had. Then the law will arrive, the dogs will come a’barking right up your tree. The revolver will be clutched in Mary’s cold dead hands. You poisoned her. She shot you in the knees. She aimed for your head to keep you from pouring the deathly liquid down her throat, but Mary always had very poor aim. She missed a lot of things…you won’t be treated so nicely after that. The state seems to look down on poisoners and murderers. What a shame. I thought poisoning her was pretty exhilarating, just between you and me.”
“Well, priest, the Questioner has a final to ask you. Is your gun loaded?”
“Of course it is, you insolent fool!” He pulled the hammer back in a ritualistic sort of way, but his unsure eyes said everything that I needed to hear.
“Now inject your knee-keeping medicine. Go on, it’s paralysis time! You won’t be asleep, you just won’t be able to move. It’s the best option you have.” Pssh…what a stupid fuck-ass.
“Paralysis? Wow. I’ve been trying to get some paralysis for a while, man. I must thank you for providing me with it.”
“Are you insane? Just inject the fucking sedative!” He was angry now. I took the needle and ran at him as fast as I could. Terror possessed his emotions and he pulled the trigger of the gun. Nothing flew from it. Nothing splattered my matter. My matter was unsplattered. He had no bullets. Shadowshade was right. I stuck the needle through his robes and into his right arm, shooting him up as fast as I could. I wrestled him down to the floor and tried to pry the gun from his hands.
“I only used half of your sedative, so you might still be able to move. Maybe you can ever talk a little bit...” I could tell that it was already taking effect, invading his body, seeping into his mind. His face began to pale. I stood up, threw his useless weapon across the room and left him on the floor.
“Now you’re the one with a choice, Father. We’ve come full circle.” I pulled out my own gun, which wasn’t even a gun. It was fake plastic airsoft Glock. Would his own trick work on him, or would I have to find something cleverer? “You can lose your fucking knees, as you splendidly suggested earlier, or you can eat my cookie.”
“W-what the hell are you talking about, you demon?!” His speech frantically began its descent into slurriness.
“Just eat my cookie.” I pulled out a cookie that I had prepared for this very occasion.
“You will outwit him and give him a feast…” I remembered Shadowshade’s rhyme.
“Poison, isn’t it?” He asked.
“Not poison. It’s just a plain old cookie, just like the ones grandma used to bake. I like what I see in your eyes, father. I love it. I feel your fear. I feed off of it. The fear in your eyes when I hand you ‘poison’ is like medication for my disease. That’s why I came here, you know. I just wanted to feel something. Isn’t this a good time? I’m having a good time.” He didn’t seem to be having one. His mood was quite the opposite of what it had been only moments ago. Why that could possibly be?
“Fine, you little fucking faggot! I’ll eat your damn cookie.” The cookie I had baked for Dick was made with a fifth of a cup of sugar and thirteen grams of black tar heroin from the Ship. Whoops! At least I used my lucky number and something sweet. A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down, and all that.
“That tasted like shit. What have you done to me?” He was finished with his last supper. Heroin and sugar for a last supper? A little out of the ordinary…to each their own, I suppose.
“Thirteen grams of heroin.” He was silent. His face glazed over. He was now aware that our conversation was coming to an end, but not just yet. He ate it. The plastic gun trick worked…how disappointing. We still had a little time, but thirteen grams of heroin was in his bloodstream now along with some other unknown sedative. He was about to be as incoherent as a baby that just got sucker punched by Chuck Norris.
“My gun was even faker than yours, Father.” I slammed the toy down onto the hardwood floor. Its plastic body shattered into a thousand pieces. “Isn’t that great? We didn’t meet because of fate, but I did kill John Janglehorn. You knew, so why didn’t you think this through? Why would you put yourself alone in a room with a killer?”
“Because, demon, the power of the church is infinite. In the end, we win and you lose.”
“Do you feel infinitely powerful right now, Dick? Maybe you should take reality into consideration instead of just expertly dodging questions. Maybe then you would seem more intelligent. You don’t know what happens in the end, dear priest, for the end hasn’t happened yet. But your end has arrived.
“Look at the silver lining. Now you’ll find out if heaven and hell are really there. Who knows which one you’ll go to? Maybe both, maybe neither. Maybe you’ll go somewhere that no one has ever imagined. One can never be sure.” Dick was slumped over and holding onto his podium for dear life. Luckily I brought along a disposable camera this time and got the perfect shot. Splendiferous!
“You will burn in hell eternally, Ivan the Terrible, for Satan has enveloped your soul.” I couldn’t hold the silly-giggles in any longer. They began to spill out of my mouth and into the air.
“I’m sorry…are you Gandalf, or some shit? You sound kind of like him today. Maybe it’s the heroin.” He looked up at me with the last intense look that he would ever make in his life.
“It is real, whether you believe it is or not. You are damned, boy. You are damned by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.”
“Tell me, Father. How do you know that it’s all real?”
“Because the Bible and the church say so, of course.” Yes, a book does indeed have the potential to alter the course of civilization.
“I don’t believe everything that I read and neither should you. I think I’ll be off now. I wish you would’ve worn the funny hat. I’m disappointed.” He collapsed at the foot of the podium, still holding onto it with one arm that was sliding down the back of the stand. This deserved one last picture…Snap! Got it.
“God will show you no mer-…” He fell flat on his face. All of the chit-chatting, picture-taking and killing was out of my system now. Time to go. Dick made a thud, just like his secretary had. Thud. Karma’s a bitch, Dick. At least he was dying in his favorite place. I wondered if there were priests who actually wanted to die behind the podium. It seemed plausible enough to me. Still, I seriously doubted that this priest had been satisfied with the outcome of our encounter.
He saw himself as a spider luring in a fly, but the fly turned out to be a nastier spider than he was. Be careful about who you lure in, kiddies. Forgetting this was Dickinson’s biggest mistake. I walked through the zillion dollar lobby once more and noticed poor Mary. She was dead on the floor. Damn, that strychnine really packed a punch. ‘Bam, ba-bam!’, as Vera would have said.
I left excessively expensive organized religion land, walked out the grand hand-carved doors and back into the neighboring ghetto…a penniless place indeed. What an extreme and sudden change of scenery! The sky had begun to darken, something that always brightened my day. I was nearly fifteen miles away from home, so I would have to take the bus. The fight bus stop I came to was next to a park that entirely full of shimmering glimmering bright lights.
Purple glow-sticks hung from the trees and an enormous strobe light flashed from somewhere on the ground. I decided to walk into the festival, or whatever it was, before I hopped aboard a bus. ‘New Age’ would sort of describe what was happening in the park. Flowing glowing hippie dancers floated around dreamily near the center of the park. Most of the others were seated in benches set up around a large gushing stone fountain.
“Ahoy, Sir Boy,” a girl said to me after I entered the grounds. Her dark hair covered much of her face, and it already too dark for faces to be seen anyway. I did notice two deep purple eyebrow rings over her left eye. They threw brilliant slivers of color all over her nearly white skin. I wanted to see her in the light. Ahoy, Sir Boy…I remembered Veia.
“Goodafternevening, mademoiselle.” She paused for a moment longer than I expected her to.
“You get a symbol that represents who you are. Tell me what you’d like and I shall finger paint you with my finger paints. Posthaste, my lord!”
“I’d like a phoenix that is flying toward the sun. I’ve risen from the ashes…”
“The sun will turn you back to ash, you know.”
“Yes, but everyone has to die at some point. I would rather fly into the sun at full speed than live life without ever daring to spread my wings.”
“You remind me of a friend from a dream. Do you have a name?”
“Oh, never mind. Mine is Infinity. No matter where you look you can always find me, but sometimes I suck out a soul and never give it back. It’s tragic. It once happened to me. You can’t learn how to suck out a soul it happens to your own.” She began to paint the top of my hand with her bright neon orange paint. “There you go, loopy Poe. You’re glowing beautifully now. Come dance with me, phoenix man!” She handed me a tiny glass pipe filled with marijuana and told me to hit it a few times, so I did.
We were then dancing among the other flowy glowy wanderers. I liked this place. I liked this place a lot. There were at least twenty of us dancing in the light after the sun had dropped away. We moved back and forth, up and down…we were the waves of the night, lapping at the shore.
“Tell him to break things to you more gently. He’s sort of a meanie,” she said. What?
“Boo.” Shadowshade scared me. Shit! What did he want? Did she know that he was there? “Games, and games, and games, and names…” he chattered. Were we playing another game right now? How did Infinity fit into it?
“I got you a treat!” She pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket. It seemed to be a folded up drawing of something, but what? I had to know. “Don’t look at it until you leave. It’s magic, it’ll light your brain up like a lightbulb.” I didn’t want to wait to see it. “…I’m going to melt your mind, because I’m completely crazy and it makes me oh so happified.”
“It’s a good thing that mind-fuckery is one of my favorite things too, even if you’re doing it to me.” It really was.
“I know, I know…just be sitting down when you view the disasterpiece.” Now I was even more interested.
“Ivan? Hey! And hello, Infinity.” It was Mal. He was here too?
“Damn, hey. What brings you here this evening?” I asked.
“A business engagement, but I’m done with it now. I’m going home. Do you need a ride?” Wonderfullious! I wouldn’t have to wait on the bus.
“That would be wondrous.”
“You two live together?” Infinity was amused. “I can see that working out.”
“Yeah, I’ve found that it does,” I answered her. “I’m living the high life now.”
“HA!” Her scream was nearly loud enough to shatter the molecules of air in front of her mouth. “Sorry. I’ll see you next time, Ivan. This dancy trancy-ness happens here every week. Come back if you like the surprise.”
“We’ll have more fun in a time after this one, I’m sure. We could be the apocalypse.” And we would…at least the seeing each other again part. But for now, Mal and I sped home. When we arrived the air seemed too thin. Something was off. Something bad had happened here. Something bad had happened while we were gone. Vera was standing in the middle of the driveway pulling on her hair, caught in the middle of an anxiety attack. We hurriedly jumped out of the car and she ran up to us.
“They got Scéléra. They fucking got Scéléra.”