Red right hand
It was getting dark, Ericcson was fully awake as far as I could tell. He slowly planed my mother’s Crysler to a stop near a tight grouping of dying oak. The trees loomed over head bare and exposed as the sky burnt out and blackened like a struck match.
The car creaked under him as he got out and slammed the door in the fashion he had become accustomed. He came around the side and picked up the bag I was currently calling home and placed me on the hood of the car for whatever reason. Maybe he thought I needed to stretch my legs, or get a lungful of fresh air, having neither faculty it seemed like a waste of time.
He went around the back of the car out of sight and I heard the trunk opening and closing.
I couldn’t see much for the trees and the looming darkness, he’d angled the car towards an old broken fence. Through the trees I could see a dilapidated red farmhouse and a barn that looked like it needed a new lick of paint.
The ground was a mix of grey and browns, dry and desolate, the leaves blowing in the wind were grey and floated like ash.
I looked closer at the fence, it was more like a small coral for sheep but with no gate. A few of the planks had given way and the fence had slumped slightly to one side, the wood looking sodden and old. On second viewing the coral seemed too small for animals and then I noticed the pieces of wood propped up at even intervals sticking out of the ground. Some of them stooped with age and decay.
Ericcson without a word came around the front of the Crysler after slamming the trunk. Obviously not content with just mistreating the drivers side door of my mother’s car. In his hand was a shovel and all at once it made sense what I was looking at.
Some folks in the more rural parts of new England preferred to have their own private plots. Or if they were just too poor they could opt to intern their dearly departed on any land they owned and create their own tombstones.
So, not a sheep or pig pen but a small family cemetery.
He started digging as the sun went down and then after it was down by the head lights of my mother’s Crysler, never stopping and never seeming to tire. After a while it almost seemed like he wasn’t breathing at all. As I recall it must have been cold but as I had stopped breathing all together I hadn’t thought that his breath should have been visible also.
I decided to give it no further though. I tried to focus on the sound of shovel carving the cold earth like a butcher chopping thick slices of meat. He sunk the blade of the shovel deep into the ground with what seemed like an icy resentment for it being there.
She wasn’t buried very deep, I know nothing of the actual burial but I know most all of her family were lying beside her already, waiting. I believe I read something about it in the paper, in any regard they weren’t currently living in that farm house. She was most likely interned by the state, otherwise she’d have been filed away on a cold shelf in the morgue.
I heard the shovel hit something hard and the sounds of his effort cease. The still night and the sounds of him scratching and scraping away dirt with the cold shovel blade, then his hands. His black nails scratching at the coffin lid. I imagined for a moment that it was her making those noises from the other side of the lid. For what could surprise me now, after the impossible things I’d seen, the impossible thing I was.
It was hard to make out with the stark light of the headlights but I saw him stand. Then I saw him stab down hard and the crack of the wood as it splintered under his boot. He lowered himself down into the hole where I couldn’t see, gently like the honeymoon in the marital bed.
There was then a low sound like a dog whimpering, mad whispered talking. I suddenly felt dizzy, like I couldn’t tell which way was up and there seemed to be pictures projected on the sky. Then it was around me, a room, a padded room. Lying on a bed, my head attached to a body I didn’t recognise. Silence and then a song whispered in the night and a knock at the door, the door to a cell.
L is for love, baby
O is for only you that I do
V is for loving virtually everything that you are
E is for loving almost everything that you do
R is for rape me
M is for murder me
A is for answering all of my prayers
N is for knowing your loverman’s going to be the answer to all your prayers.
It was a woman’s voice singing but there was no music, sung almost like a nursery rhyme, whispered through the door of the padded room. But at the same time it seemed to be all around me. Me? The me experiencing something close to a memory of Ericcson himself in that damned nut house.
L is for love, baby
O is for oh, yes I do
V is for virtue, so I ain’t gonna hurt you
E is for even if you want me to
R is for render unto me, baby
M is for that which is mine
A is for any old how, darling and
N is for any old time
Suddenly she was there, I had no idea how, but she was on top of me. I couldn’t stop her, couldn’t want to. She was strong and forceful and hateful and my limbs felt numb and heavy and willing. A face I knew somehow but changed, a mask of some obscure emotion covered her face and she tried to be someone else and no one. Her features mashing together in some hideous parody of feminine beauty.
Her lips burning and biting into mine, a hollow sinking feeling, cold heat.
And that ring, she was wearing the ring.
Ericcson’s voice came from the hole.
“Her wedding ring is missing”.
After that Ericcson was aimless, seemingly inconsolable. Driving through the night with no destination. No goal in mind but a rising foul hatred for everything outside of my mother’s Crysler. Of course he didn’t tell me this, he’d barely said a word to me after we left the asylum. His anger, hopelessness, radiated off of him, I could feel it like heat from a lamp, smell it like second hand smoke.
‘Anger’ was a poor choice of words, there was a seething boiling disdain fomenting inside of him for nothing in particular. It felt like he wanted to tear the sky down like it was some pathetic backdrop in a school play. Pull the stars down from the sky and shatter the moon and let thick cool blackness blanket everything forever.
His restlessness was getting to me so I suggested he get something to eat or drink, anything to calm his nerves and take his mind off whatever it was on. He didn’t answer me but he soon pulled up at a little roadside diner connected on one side with a gas station outside of town.
I’m not sure why I insisted that he try calm himself or why I thought food and drink would suffice to do that. Maybe I hoped some kind of routine would spark something in him. Or if I saw him eat a cheeseburger he’d seem more human and I could feel sorry for him instead of revulsion. It occurred to me that I hadn’t seen him eat or drink anything since we’d met, nor had he really slept. I was starting to wonder if he needed to or if he was even still alive. Was this really Zane Ericcson or something else wearing his face?
Regardless, some part of the man remained, the part that was driving him on, that was fueling his hatred. Why else would he visit his wife’s grave, why would he feel this sucking melancholy pulling him under a writhing tide of black bile hatred? If not love, then what?
An hour of staring at a cold bacon double cheese burger and soaking under halogen lights past by. Ericcson decided to skip the slice of keylime pie and top up of coffee and fill up my mother’s Crysler instead.
The gas station was dimly lit and in disrepair with a dingy mini mart squatting behind the pumps. A dagger eyed Asian man glared at us from behind the counter. The diner across from it, I had assumed was an all night affair but after we left it closed and they turned all the lights off.
The silence didn’t last long, punctured by a loud tire squeal and the vein rattling bass beats of urban music.
I saw them pull up in what looked like a Lincoln town car, square, with box like edges, black with a dent in the rearside fender. All this I could see as through protest I had been elevated from my position in the duffelbag on the seat. To my new lofty position of hanging from the head rest by the handle so I could at least see out of the window. A strange thing lacking a stomach but still suffering from phantom car sickness, it helps to see the horizon as most sufferers know.
They parked the car at a haphazard angle and one of the youths got out in a cloud of smoke. The music louder than ever, an oddly shaped hand rolled cigarette hanging from his mouth. He started pumping the gas as one of his friends got out to go into the mini mart. His movements loose and heavy like he was bouncing, his arms swinging by his side.
The one smoking the cigarette noticed Ericcson and shouted over the music. “Hey what’chu lookin’ at man?”
Ericcson said nothing and made no attempt not to stare at the youth.
A moment of awkwardness past then there was a loud series of pops from the mini mart and the one that had entered jogged out, a pistol hanging from his side.
“Ayyo! I said what’chu lookin at man?”
“Who dis?” The youth with the gun said, gesticulating with the pistol as he spoke not looking at Ericcson but pointing the pistol in his general direction. “This nigga wanna die too?”
“Ayyo, we gonna be late to that party man!” Another voice from inside the car shouted over the music.
“I don’t give a shit, this mufucka can I.d us man”
“Then waste his dumb ass, what you think we can wait around here all night?” A moment past as the one with the gun just stood and sweated as he readjusted the gun in his hand. “Bitch ass” The smoker said as he sucked his gums and pulled out his own gun. I can’t say much for guns, my family had never been big on them so the make and model eludes me. It was silver and rather large and I knew the dangerous end was pointed at Ericcson.
“I said; what you lookin a-“
The youth with the cigarette stopped talking as he noticed the change. He focused on Ericcson who remained constant like a waxwork, but the night was silent. No birds chirped or dogs barked, no cars passed, no wind. The pumps, the cars, the gas station, the road, the diner, the sky, were all gone. All moved away like props on a stage.
The youth gaped and his cigarette fell and hit the ground with no sound as he stared at the endless nothingness. The blank black canvass that surrounded them and then there were sounds. Only the sounds of Ericcson’s shoes as he walked closer to the youth. The tap tap tapping that echoed over the dense writhing darkness sending shocks through his veins. Each footstep like a dentist drill skipping over his teeth. The silence itself becoming thick with a terrifying low hum.
His body deflated, all the muscles in his face sagged and his arms shook at his sides as if they weren’t connected to anything. His posture was that of someone floating shoulder deep in a black pool. He felt light and weak but constantly in a comatose rhythmic somnambulist motion.
Ericcson stopped too close to him and took both his hands smiling like the devil himself. He helped the youth clasp the gun tightly in both hands. Then he forced him to put the gun in his mouth.
Ericcons smiled as he bit down on the barrel of the gun and said “Pull it niggerman!”
The youth flared with a rage that was as sudden as it was flaccid, his trembling fingers pulled the trigger and blew out the back of Ericcson’s head. A thick black brain matter exploded out of the back of his head like the ink of a squid and he fell backwards slowly as if he was sinking and then he stopped.
Ericcson rose to his feet from mid fall with a queer slithering motion and he laughed soundlessly.
There was a loud thunderous bang and suddenly reality bobbed into jarring focus like falling in a dream. Everything was the same but now the gun was in the mouth of the youth.
He pulled the trigger and his eyes rolled back into his head as he covered the car in brain matter.
His friend who had come out of the mini mart froze and then started up again like clockwork firing wildly at Ericcson who hadn’t moved from the pumps. Ericcson grinned and raised his hand, out of his sleeve. A vicious stygian tendril shot out and in a blink of an eye had hold of the youth with guns arm and was wrenching him about like a dog with a chew toy.
The tendril, with an inhuman level of strength whipped the youth through the windscreen of the car. His head imploding against the toughened glass and landing in the drivers seat.
The youth in the back of the car got out the otherside and started firing over the roof. In an instant one of those foul tendrils clutched at his throat, wrapping it’s veiny muscular limbs around his neck. The tentacle yanked him across the roof of the car.
Another tentacle slashed at his wrist, severing the hand completely before the one around his neck twisted his head off slowly. His cries trailing off in a distended vile screech like a dying animal.
His body fell from the roof of the car with a terrible wet thud.
Ericcson’s feet scraped the concrete as he walked over to the dead man’s car and casually turned the radio off. He searched the dead man’s jacket pocket, the deadman closest to the pumps. he pulled what seemed to be a piece of paper out of it and walked back over to my mother’s crysler, staring at it intently.