Chapter Twenty-One: Blending Reality
My head was still facing the ground when the first tinkling sound reached my ears. I cocked my head at its’ oddness. It wasn’t a chime or tonal. It was a heavier sound, flat, but repeated over and over, giving one the impression it was one sound. It wasn’t. It was many blended together.
I gazed from the corner of my eye, but quickly came about to peer at a decent sized mound of coins – all sorts, from every nation, from every time period – thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe a million or two. It was easily fifteen feet high, crammed at the end of this smallish room made of corrugated steel. I could see currency struck of copper, silver and all the alloys in between. There was even some of a golden hue, but whether or not they were authentic, I couldn’t tell from my vantage.
“This isn’t right either,” intoned Rosalyn, ache in her voice for the first time.
I looked over at her, wondering at this unexpected turn when I caught sight of the source of the tinkling. It was coins, dropping from in between her tiny fingers whenever she reached into the throng and pulled forth heaps she couldn’t hope to hold. I felt my heart lurch into my throat, throb against my tonsils. I choked when I tried to speak her name. Tears formed in my eyes before I knew what was happening. How did she get down here? When had she come? Why was she doing this? More thoughts coursed through my brain than I could cognitively process. I was overloaded within seconds, reduced to a frothing mess in the span of a few heartbeats.
“Jerry, don’t look. It’s not real. None of this shit is real,” pleaded Rosalyn.
I felt her tug upon my arm. Her unclean mitt was upon my body, while I stood before the only person, other than the members of my family, I truly loved. How dare her!
“Get off me!” I wrenched free of her grasp, my eyes never leaving Myra, who sat upon the hillock of change, forcing handful after handful into her mouth, chewing, chomping through broken teeth and ruined gums. “Myra!” I was half-scolding, half-calling to her in anguish.
She didn’t look at me. She didn’t stir from her robotic feeding - arms reaching, hands grasping – stuffing evermore into her bruised and lacerated maw.
“Myra! Stop!” I tried once more.
“Jerry, let’s go! She isn’t real! Listen to me! Don’t look!” Rosalyn was adamant. She seized my bicep forcefully, pulling me toward the doors across the way. Doors, I was sure weren’t there a moment before.
I pulled back, but she had me with both hands, her fingers interwoven about the upper portion of my arm.
“Let go!” I commanded, my eyes brimming. I was so angry. I felt it filling me, overflowing, threatening to burst forth. All the pent up rage, the frustration I’d been unable to vent, boiling, spewing, splattering across my brain, making me wild with it.
“I said, let the fuck go of me!” I tugged against her mightily, but she held on like a Pit-bull. She might’ve been a small woman, but she was strong. I couldn’t shake free, though I tugged and dragged her about.
“Goddammit, IT’S NOT REAL!!!” she screeched like a banshee.
Oh, I wanted to hit her. After everything she had done to me and my family, after she’d used my father as her bitch, now that she was keeping me from helping Myra – god, I wanted to fuck her up. I felt my free fist ball. I relished the hate burning in the middle of my chest. I bathed in it, soaked it up, and let it wash away the feelings of doubt, of remorse. I let it consume me. I let it be me. For the first time in my life, just like Lenny, I was going to hit a woman in anger. I let the tension build, my muscles coil and -.
She kissed me then. There was nothing friendly or sisterly about it. She plunged her tongue into my mouth, nails digging painfully into either side of my face, holding me, keeping my immobile. She breathed into me, filling me with the essence of her, muttering into my very core. “It’s not real. It’s not real. It’s not real,” she prayed into me, unwilling to stop, her lips dancing and warm across mine.
I was stunned. My arms limp at either side, knowing I should be outraged, fully aware my girlfriend was mere feet away, while this succubus was having her way with me. I should’ve shoved her away with every ounce of strength, my mind alight with revulsion, well aware those very same lips had been on my father – his lips, his face, his cock? I should’ve, but I didn’t. I was despondent. I was defeated. There was nothing I could do.
When she broke free, finally, I had no reaction. When she guided me, more gingerly than necessary, toward the doors, I went. All I wanted to do was cry. My anger had seared a hole through my chest. Great hunks of seared flesh blew before the winds of this place like a flag, shredded and tattered before the Gale.
I looked back in time to see Myra fall to the coins. Unconscious I hoped, though she looked dead. I wept then, stumbled after the mystery that was Rosalyn Galtier. I cried like I had, as a baby, in my mother’s arms.
We came through yet another set of doors and found ourselves in the alley once more, the bluish light muted now, shadows abound and slinking from corner to corner as she led me to its’ middle.
I felt the strength give out in my legs and I slumped into the dirty trickle of water there.
Rosalyn wasted no time, placing her hands under my arms, hoisting me into a more erect stance, her face level with mine. “Get it together, Jerry. It wasn’t real.”
My eyes fell into hers, desperately trying to find some sliver of truth therein.
“Stand up! You’re too heavy for me,” she said, prompting me to get my feet underneath me. “I need you, Jerry. I can’t do this shit alone.” She forced me to keep looking into her eyes, her face mirroring mine as she spoke.
I blinked away the tears, my vision clearing.
“Jerry, come on, man. You can do this. It’s not real, ok?”
I tried to nod, but it only served to make my head hurt. I wiped my eyes with my good hand, strong enough to stand on my own, gazing about – anywhere but at her. She had kissed me and I had liked it!
As if she were reading my mind, she said: “Sorry about the kiss. Really. I hope you can forgive me, but I had to do something to get you out of there.” She was reaching for me with her right hand, fingers wagging minutely. She wanted to know it was ok, what she had done. She wanted to make sure I didn’t hate her for it.
I knew this. I could see it in her eyes. Inadvertently, I wiped my mouth, about to say something lame.
The words, though, remained unspoken when I saw my grandfather walk from the shadows and into a brighter portion of the alley. My grandfather, my mother’s father, a man who had been dead for many years, came shuffling from the dark, his arms before him like a wanted a hug.
Only, it wasn’t a hug he wanted. He craved a more intimate embrace – one with his mouth… and his teeth.
She hadn’t moved. She hadn’t heard him, his tattered shoes scraping across the pavement of the alley. The moan seeping from cracked and torn lips was lost to her.
I would’ve moved if I knew something was wrong. I would’ve snapped the imaginary vines holding my feet in place. But the lighting was not sufficient enough for me to notice detail, the strange bluish tinge muted colors like sanguine, cardinal, wine and coral. Earthly tones tended to blend. Maybe, I’m just looking for an excuse. Maybe…
He was a half-step away, an amazed greeting frozen in my throat, when I saw his jaw gape, his tongue loll, half of it missing as though it had been chewed and swallowed.
I lunged for Rosalyn.
But, he had her already. His gigantic mandible closed upon the meat of her shoulder and bit down – hard.
Her expression went from wistful to shock to torture. Her mouth formed into a soundless “O”, her eyes as wide as tea cups, her lone hand still extended toward me, only now for a different reason.
Blood spurted through his brown teeth and gums, scratched grotesquely upon bone.
My hand found hers, but only for a moment.
He jerked her backward, holding her above the breasts with his other arm, masticating, forcing huge gulps of the woman down his throat. He bent down and took another bite.
Rosalyn found her voice. Her scream has haunted me ever since. It was though the centermost bit of her was pleading for help with every shred of strength she could muster.
A score, two score, maybe a hundred moans joined her shrieks. They were long, low-level syllables that made the entire alley resonate.
I glanced behind my grandfather and saw them. They were like him. Filthy, fractured, decrepit versions of the people they had once been. Their clothing hardly covered them - desiccated cocks and vaginas, breasts and buttocks peeked out from underneath, pale, blue-white, sometimes crawling with vermin.
I stepped back, stricken.
Rosalyn never stopped screaming.
I was stumbling, my mind yelling at me to get away, my heart torn. My eyes nailed to hers as my grandfather continued to devour her.
They were around her within seconds, thrumming with the prospect of eating. Hands and mouths descended, from every angle, from all sides.
Tears obscured my vision, a horrible sense of guilt washed over me and I was almost sick. I would’ve fallen to my knees in despair if her wails hadn’t stopped. I glanced back.
Already some of them were coming toward me.
I spun on my feet and began to run, disgraced wetness streaking either side of my face. Of their own accord, my legs began to churn with all they were worth. I was sprinting within the span of a few heartbeats, my chest pounding, my lungs filling and un-filling. I saw a door to my left was cracked open about three inches. I made for it with such velocity I could feel my slippers tearing, bursting at the seams.
Behind me the hungry groans of the mob receded.
I flashed through the portal without preamble, slamming the doors behind me. I swung about, seeing the locking mechanism and gave it a violent twist. Through labored breathing, I was going to look for an exit. I’d had enough. I needed to get out of this place. Sooner or later, I was going to make a mistake and I’d be killed just like Rosalyn.
I arched about and I ran into something hard, unmoving, precisely where my forehead meets the crown of my skull. It wasn’t stone or metal or wood, so I bounced back from it relatively unhurt, but it stopped my forward momentum.
I gazed upward in the same instant someone spoke.
“Goooood eveniiiing,” he said, each word drawn out in such a way that “good” sounded “bad” and “evening” sounded like an announcement to come to dinner.
I froze in place, dumbstruck by the sight before me. It was impossible. No, it was so absurd, it was beyond impossible.
And yet, he stood there, wearing a tuxedo as black as the night itself, his shirt starched white to perfection, his red bowtie the color of hemoglobin. He wore a cape of all things with the collar high about his cheeks, as stiff as any flagpole, and did not flap when he moved. His skin was white, the purest I’d ever seen. His lips were so thick, they appeared juicy, infused with too much blood. His hair was combed back over his head, immaculate. His hands encased in white gloves, dress shoes upon his feet.
He tilted his head to one side, as if considering what to do, a smile broadening. I saw the fangs the moment his mouth was stretched too wide to conceal them. I recognized him then. Dracula? I thought, my mind jammed with a mental misfire. Things were happening too fast. George Hamilton as… Dracula?
He grinned even wider, looking more like the Joker now, his eyes became less soft. Intent had galvanized his expression. With one hand he reached for those fangs.
I was certain he was about to cut himself. Didn’t vampires have razor sharp teeth?
To my surprise, he deftly plucked them from his gums. They came free with little difficulty. He laughed and tossed them at me.
Grossed-out, I back-peddled. I was aghast when they didn’t bounce off. They stuck to my thick cotton pajamas. I stared down and watched as two small, dark dots appeared at the ends of each. They were no bigger than pinheads and yet, I knew they were eyes. Dracula’s teeth had eyes.
Frantic, I tried to brush them off, but they held fast, tiny filaments formed where they met the fabric of my top. They began to crawl, like worms, inching up my pj’s toward the collar. I yelped, grabbing at one. The instant my finger touched the tip of it, I felt something bite me. The fucking tooth had bitten me! It was stuck to the end of my finger, trying to burrow into my flesh. I peered around, looking for something, anything, I could use to get this thing off me. There was nothing. The pain began to spread through my hand, the lower portions of my arm.
Before me, the unfathomable Dracula chuckled. Two more fangs had grown in place of the ones he’d thrown at me. He had already pulled them from his jaw. As casually as if he were offering me a Pringle or a bite-sized Snickers’, he tossed them at me.
They landed on my back when I turned aside. I could feel them moving toward my armpit. The seams of my pajama top were loosened there.
“What the fuck!” I yelled for no good reason, other than I was outraged, confused, scared to death. I grabbed the hem of the garment and pulled it over my head and off in one swift motion. Unsure why I did so, I threw it as hard as I could at the man in the tuxedo.
He made no move to dodge. It struck him about the shoulders.
I put as much distance as I could between us. Then, I knelt and ran my finger across the concrete floor with as much force as I could stand. The pain was enormous, my entire arm, from wrist to elbow, was burning. The maggot-like tooth snapped in half. I stood, digging what had to be its’ head out of my flesh, keeping an eye on the man.
He hadn’t moved, but I could tell he had more teeth in his cupped hand.
I ran for one of the two sets of doors leading away.
He didn’t follow.
I came into the alley once again. I looked left and saw the rainbow spiders fighting with the flesh-eaters. The noise they were making was sickening. I covered my mouth and nose, retching at the sound of limbs being ripped off, of chitinous joints popping, of bodily fluids spurting upon the ground.
I heard the tires screeching first, then the horns. A moment later, I heard (and to some degree – felt) the brutal collision. My sight followed the sound just in time to see an SUV and a two-door Mercedes-Benz burst into flames. The driver of the SUV had been thrown through the windshield and was hanging half-in and half-out of the vehicle. It was female. Her long, curly red hair was burning, adding to the stench of the place.
I gagged. My thoughts a vortex spinning wildly in my head, making it hurt. Where had they come from? How was this possible?
“Goooood eveniiiing,” said a voice at my back.
I turned and saw Limitless-Fangs had indeed followed me. His head was sticking out of the door, fangs growing, then dropping onto the floor en masse. Where they landed, they spread outward, questing, compelled to search out flesh within which to burrow.
I was trapped. At one end of the alley was a titanic battle between arachnids and zombies, while the other way was blocked by the car accident. George was blocking the only doors I could see.
I jumped clear of the creepy teeth, stepping to the middle of the alley. Somewhere in the morass my mind had become, somewhere in the turmoil of my heart and the taint upon my soul, finding my father lost its’ importance. As I stood there, trying to figure out what to do, thinking about all that I’d seen. Doorway after doorway, each of them containing a terror, a hell onto itself, just as freakish as the last, I forgot why I had decided to trek into this place of impossibility. Upon my consciousness, the significance of my situation became more about me and less about anyone else.
It wasn’t a selfish notion. The emotion was much simpler than that. It was survival, but on a level I had not known existed until I was too afraid, too much in fear for my life. All else appeared extraneous, supplementary, unnecessary. It was appreciation on a whole new equivalence, a thirst that needed quenching at the middle-most portions of me, and I struggled to find it.
I saw the doggy-door then. It was across the way, next to an upturned trash can, partially hidden. Uncaring, I ran for it, scraping my knees upon the ground and my back along the upper edge of it as I squirmed my way inside.
I came out about fifty feet beyond the car wreck, the strange bending of physics no longer an issue for me. I accepted what was happening. I had to stop worrying over this detail or that item. I had to get out. I had to know I could find a way. I stood, wiping at my scuffed knees and along the scratches on my back, gazing away from the carnage on that side of the alley, seeing it go on forever and ever. I had little choice.
I had to. I had to find a way out.
As this demon and that nightmare catapulted from those hideous rooms, I searched. As ghouls and lichs and twisted haunts spewed forth to claim me, I yearned. When sirens or incubus, resplendent in their raw nakedness, wriggled before me, beseeching my manhood to life with the promise of everlasting ecstasy, days and weeks of orgasmic delight, I desired.
But, every time, the need to flee overwhelmed me. I ran away. I ran and ran. I needed to find a way out. I had to survive this madness, this hell. With every corner of my tangled mind, given new life by the ever-changing possibilities of the alley, I quested. For how long? Hours? A day? Two days? Forever, truncated into minutes like some macabre Santa Clause on Christmas Eve? Maybe. Possibly. I would never know, because there was no true sense of measurement – any sort was a mystery. I was merely driven by the possibility I’d live. In a place without hope, it was my only one.
I knew for a time, I was lost as my search became a search for the reason why I searched. Everything was convoluted, bent back upon itself, a mirror image, until reality became layered, an onion of life that was inescapable. I was circling a spherical path with no end. It made no sense, and yet, I was compelled to continue. I couldn’t stop. There wasn’t a thing on this earth that could make me. Not even Myra. It was the one time in my life wherein she didn’t factor. Though I have never told her this (and I have only realized at this very moment I am actually brave enough to write it in this work), it’s the truth. It was a duration set aside for me and me alone. It was time I existed alone, whether in my mind or within the alley. I was by myself with only the wretched masses from every evil plane to have ever existed within the annuals of time to keep me company.
I had to find a way out.
Throughout it all, there was no sign of Lenny.
It was the first cognitive thought of someone other than myself and, faster than I could fathom, it gave me pause. Maybe there was something more to this than merely me. Maybe there was another reason why I was lost in the alley. Maybe this was supposed to have happened. Right? Didn’t that make sense? Did anything make sense?
Some point later, I walked into a room with nothing but aged furniture of all sorts filing it to capacity. I strode down the narrow walkways, if one could call it that until I came to a space clearer than the rest of the chamber. There were single-seat school desks in neat rows. My long-time friends from high school were seated in them. Every one of their faces was riveted to some wild-looking man at the front of the classroom? He was talking, incessantly, unrelenting sentences one piled upon the next like a river flowing over rocks.
He seemed to be cutting his hair, over and over, every ten seconds or so, because it was growing back just as fast. When he wasn’t shoring his hair, he was twining it, braiding it into stronger, thicker strands. He didn’t look my way, but kept on talking, continued to cut his hair, never stopped making it into rope - a long, long, very strong looking rope.
All the while, he never quit speaking. “I can’t judge any of you. I have no malice against you and no ribbons for you. But I think that it is high time that you all start looking at yourselves, and judging the lie that you live in,” or , “I can’t dislike you, but I will say this to you: you haven’t got long before you are all going to kill yourselves, because you are all crazy. And you can project it back to me, but I am only what lives inside each and every one of you,” or, “I never had long hair before I got busted. I never had a beard before I got busted.”
It went on.
I stepped closer, seeing my old friend Angie. I was about to call to her, when I noticed she was tied down. She was held fast by thick ropes of hair!
I stayed where I was, hearing, “From the world of darkness I did loose demons and devils in the power of the scorpions to torment!”
I glanced around for something to cut them free. Mike, Steve, Monica, Lester, Luigi, Sandra, Julie, Marco – they were all there. They were all tied to their desks, heads unable to move as the man preached and cut and wove, giving his sermon as he clipped and twisted.
“If you’re going to do something, do it well. And leave something witchy!”
He stopped suddenly. The room went as silent as a tomb. His eyes had found me.
I stood transfixed.
His face became a mask of evil. “They’re all pigs! Are you a pig as well? Take a seat, pig! I hope you brought your number 2 pencil!”
I could do nothing but run. And, I did – some more.
I had to find a way out.
Sometime later, I emerged from a blackened room and found myself in a place devoid of all color. There was only white surrounding me. It took me some time to understand I was standing before a desk, because it lacked all color as well. It was large, nearly the size of a conference table.
I stepped toward it.
He spun around in a near-invisible chair, his hands forming a steeple before him.
“I see you have finally made your way to me.” His voice was as smooth as silk. “Welcome to the Breach. You are enjoying your stay with us?”
I was incredulous, barley able to remember how to breathe. I was on the outskirts of the land of despair.
All I could say was, “Not particularly, no.”