Memento Mori

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23

The historian ran to his house. He yanked his keys from his shoulder bag and fumbled them into the front door's keyhole. He hurried inside, leaving the screen and door wide open. A light went on in the TV room. Through the sheer curtains, you could see several human-like silhouettes seated throughout the room.
"Okay let's go!" Viola grabbed my hand, and we quickly ran into the foyer of his home. Next to the entry was the kitchen. Viola and I crawled beneath the polyester tablecloth that blanketed the round dining table. My heart was racing.
We could hear some rustling and whispers.
"You are the hands by which I have taken a hold of heaven," the historian said.
A music box began to play Waltz of the Flowers. He began to hum along with the bell-like notes.

Viola and I quickly moved from beneath the table to behind the kitchen counter. Viola grabbed a Chef's knife from the knife block and handed it to me. There was a serving hatch that adjoined the kitchen and living room. We carefully watched him through the rectangular opening. He was cradling a doll, supporting it in his arms, from head to toe. He was in a trance with the doll. He acted as if the mummified child was playing with him, reaching for his face.
“Angels bless, and angels keep. Angels guard me while I sleep. Bless my heart and bless my home, bless my spirit as I roam. Guide and guard me through the night, and wake me with the morning’s light," he said softly as he swayed the corpse. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a folding knife and held it to the doll's neck. The historian began to whimper. "They know! I'm so sorry that they know," he cried. He forcefully pulled the knife's blade along the doll's neck. The blade barely tore through the mask's pulped paper. The knife was dull and ineffective but in his mind, he had committed murder. He gently placed the doll on the ground and approached another one. Like the one before it, he held it gentle and protectively.
"I'm so sorry little one," he mumbled as he ran the folding blade's knife along its neck. He continued to perform the execution on every doll in his home. After every performance, he would bawl louder and louder.
He came towards the kitchen. Viola and I hurried back under the tablecloth. We could see him reach under the sink and retrieve a roll of black trash liners.

He forcibly stuffed the dolls in the bags. His method was fast and careless, often tearing holes in a bag and needing to double-up the liners. Some of the corpses were so decomposed, body parts would just snap into pieces. After he picked up all of the hunks and bits, he ran outside. Viola and I rushed out of the kitchen and into the front yard. We took cover behind a roll-off dumpster near a neighboring curbside.
The historian was backing a 1970s blue passenger van into his lawn. He swung open the double back doors and dashed into the house. Viola grabbed my hand and led me to the van.
"What are we doing?" I panicked.
"Just trust me," she said. We entered the large-scale vehicle and hid between the driver's seat and the makeshift bedroom. The interior was a mix of nautical blues and a prog-rock theme that included deep shag carpet and wood paneling. We carefully watched out the porthole windows. He was carrying the black trash bags and loading them into the back, bedded area. After he finished loading the criminalizing cargo, he boosted himself into the driver's seat and quickly drove off.

We laid flat on the floor against the shag upholstery. The ride was uncomfortable and rough. We were on the road for at least an hour.
Eventually the vehicle stopped. I could smell a combination of dried gardenia and rotten eggs. The van's cloudy headlamps beamed into a backdrop of swampy wetlands.
The historian clumsily hurried to the rear of the vehicle and removed the concealed corpses. Struggling with his composure, he lugged the bodies into the marshy wilderness. Viola and I crept out of the van. A nearby signpost was visible.
It read:
'HEALTH WARNING Water may cause ill effects to humans or animals. DANGER Alligators are in this area.'
I asked Viola if she was familiar with the location.
"A wildlife refuge. Most likely somewhere near Terrebonne Parish."
We continued to tail the historian and followed him into the darkness. A vast halo of swamp bugs encompassed me.
"You're their all-inclusive fine dining experience," joked Viola.
We rustled and shuffled through the shrubs and grass.
"Watch where you step. There's venomous snakes in these parts."
I was feeling apprehensive. Following a deranged necrophiliac through a dark, filthy swamp filled with alligators and deadly snakes made me extremely nervous. Viola suddenly stopped and pulled me behind a cypress tree.
Moonlight was reflecting off of the murky water illuminating his presence. The historian stood in the water encircled by the children's bodies. He was singing.
“And none but love
their woeful hap did rue.
For love did know that their desires
were true.
Though fate frowned, and now
drowned
they in sorrow dwell —
it was the purest light of heaven for
whose fair love they fell.”

Viola was entranced. "Love Winged My Hopes," she said. Viola stepped out from behind the tree. She began to whistle and applaud.
The historian quickly turned around. He pulled a revolver from the pocket of his tan cotton jacket. He discharged three shots. The noise was earsplitting. I remember it sounding like a very sharp pop. He fired two more shots, one hitting Viola in the chest. I gasped. She prowled forward. I hesitantly followed.
I imagined her to stalk as close as possible to Mr. Exterminator. When she was at a comfortable distance, she would initiate her high speed attack. She would pounce, render Mr. Exterminator defenseless with her strength, and then kill him with a stranglehold to the neck.
"What are you?" The historian demanded.
"I am the end of all. The opposite of life. I am a dark and beautiful thing sometimes feared and sometimes desired. I am unavoidable, I am part of your life. I am the best thing that could possibly happen to you."
The historian raised his gun and fired one more shot.

I remember lying on the ground and opening my eyes. I felt completely tranquil. I was staring at the moon. It was full and glowing. I could hear the chirping of insects and the burble of water.
"You're awake," Viola mumbled.
She placed her small fingers on my hand. Her skin was warm and moist. My eyes focused on a dark figure dangling from a tree. It was the historian. He was hung by his entrails.
"What happened to him?" I asked.
Viola firmly held my hand. "It's over."

Lunge at Mr. Exterminator, disarming him in the process. The sudden forward thrust will startle him, causing him to fall in the murky water. While he's indisposed, clutch your claw-like fingers firmly around his neck. Lift him with your might, raising him from his feet. Squeeze his neck to block the blood flow to his brain.
Look him in his wide open eyes. Let him know that his pain is your satisfaction.
Next, with sudden force, penetrate your other hand through his abdomen. Grasp and crush his internal organs so that he's in excruciating pain. After he loses consciousness, swiftly rip the guts from his body and fling them high into the branches of a white oak. Gravity will play its part and allow you to hoist the maniac into the sky.

Memento Mori.
Remember you will die.

I turned and looked at Viola.
"V!?" I cried out.
Her face was swollen. Her skin was inflamed. Blood discharged from her nose and mouth. The whites of her eyes were red and her pupils were dilated.
"V! What's going on!?"
Her eyes glassed over and she began to tear.
"Your blood," she whispered. "It's in your blood."
I pulled her close to cradle her. She uttered out a painful cry. I held her on my lap and gently caressed her face. Her skin was burning up.

While she rested in the comfort of my arms, I began to remember everything.

EVERYTHING.

I had the memories of Viola, her maestru, and every maker before him. I now had a recorded history of the last thousand years. Ancient echoes that date to the late 2nd millennium, before the common era. I have memories of Sumerian kings, goddesses of ancient civilizations, 2nd dynasty kings, and patron gods. I remembered Black Death, the plague of Justinian, St. Lucia's flood, and the collapse of the Aztec civilization. I had personal knowledge of Nero's chaos, the first Tsar of Russia, and Himmler's suicide. I could see monsters who roasted children and fed them to their mothers. Sadists who've caused famine, and who have ordered mass genocide.

I remembered what had happened to the historian.

He discharged three shots. The noise was earsplitting. It sounded like a very sharp pop. He fired two more shots, one hitting Viola in the chest. She moved forward and I followed.
The historian raised his gun and fired once more.

The bullet struck me in the neck.

Viola quickly incapacitated him and rushed to my aid.

I was dying.

The bullet created a large cavity, damaging serious vitals. The tremor caused extensive injury to surrounding tissue and arteries. I was losing lots and lots of blood. My skin was pasty and wax-like. I was painfully cold.
Viola bit into the arteries of her wrist. Blood coursed from the wound. She held the injury over my mouth, impeling me to consume every last drop. After ingestion, she firmly held me down. She pulled her head back and retracted her teeth. She explained how her canines had an altered gland that would inject me with a foreign agent. She madly ate at my wound. I could feel a force rush through my veins. She nearly drained me. I was lightheaded and barely responsive. When she was finished, she rolled over to my side.
"We wait," she softly said.

I then woke up.

Viola lied on my lap, nuzzling her face into my thigh. She was suffering. Afraid of the unknown. Weak and short of breath, she had physical sensations of anguish. Tears continued to crawl down her red, swollen cheeks. I continued to gently caress her head.
I began to cry. I had this overwhelming sensation of gloom and despair. I had all of her memories. I felt as if I knew her forever.
"How can we fix you?" I held her close. She forced a little, bent smile and tightly squeezed my hand.
"Not like this!" I sobbed. "You told me only sunlight and aspen!"
Her pain was obviously my doing. I wondered, what if it was some reaction from the medication I take? What if the meds polluted my bloodstream? What if her body rejected my blood because it was harmful?

There was only one way to find out.

I had to do the one thing that I've been reluctant to do.

Call my mom.

It began to ring. Midway through the first ring, she answered.
"Phineas Hines, where have you been!?" She demanded an answer.
"Mom, what are the pills?" I sniffled.
"Are you in danger? Phineas, where are you?" She would constantly use my name in conversation to ensure that I was listening.
"Mom I need to know what the pills are! It's a matter of life and death!"
"Are you okay, Phineas? Did you forget to take them?"
She always forced my attention. She always expected a proper response.
"Fuck, mom! A friend is sick!"
"Phineas Hines, are you sharing your medication with some junkie?" She would always suggest the extreme and put words in my mouth.
"MOM!? SHE'S DYING!"
There was a noiseless pause for a brief second. The still silence was followed by a lighter's flick, and then the crackling of tobacco.
"I'm ready to know, mom."

Mom was always a stress smoker. Her misuse of prescription drugs and having to constantly care for her sick, dismal son made her believe smoking helped her relax and cope with her heaping pile of stress.

She took a drag from her cigarette.

"Your condition is PTH. Paroxysmal Toxicus Hemoglobinuria. Your blood, untreated, is a dangerous substance that can cause great harm to your organs and body. The doctors that treated you when you were a baby, discovered that Antivenin was a temporary fix. Antivenin is a medication made from antibodies that is used to treat venomous bites and stings. It allows your blood to give your body proper nutrients to survive."
I was baffled. I was being fed poisonous snake milk my entire life.
She told me other ways were considered. A full transfer of blood was discussed, but my immune system would reject anything unfamiliar and kill me.
"Why such secrecy? Where does the medication come from?" I asked?
"There's a tremendous shortage to treat venomous bites, let alone your condition. It's complicated and expensive to produce. Your father buys it illegally from Southeast Asia."

My blood was poison. I poisoned Viola.

"Phineas, I've been lying to you. There's something else you need to
know —" Mom took another drag from her cigarette. "Chester Hinde, he's your brother."
"What?"
"Chester Hines. He was your twin. He was born 64 days before you."
"How is that even possible?"
"I have a condition called uterus
didelphys — I have two separate wombs. Because of my condition, I was able to go into labor twice. PTH killed your brother before you were born. I was so scared to lose you too — You see Phineas, your dad, he has an abnormality which makes him infertile. You're our miracle baby. You survived against all odds. You weren't even supposed to exist, but God had different plans. I prayed, I prayed every night. Your father and I wanted a child so bad – "

It suddenly all made sense. Why mom was always protecting me. The burden I was, and had become.

"Come home Phineas. Let your father and I take care of you."
I looked at Viola. Her breathing was irregular.
"Mom, I've never said thank you to you or dad for everything you have done for me. Thank you for making me the man I am today and thank you for loving me so much. I'm sorry but I can't come home."

I hung up my phone and hurled it into the murky swamp water.

I held Viola. "I'm so sorry."
"We don't meet people by accident, Phineas. Everything happens for a reason."
Viola had a persistent cough and couldn't catch her breath.
"Please, please. No. I — I don't understand."
"The locked room. Beneath the Jessamine vines in the courtyard — there's a crack where fern grows."
"What can I do V?"
"Live Phin. Your entire life you've never truly lived. You've only suffered. You've suffered to survive."
Viola's breathing slowed down. It sounded harsh and grating.
Her muscles began to spasm.

"I miss you already."

Her eyes fixated at me and she smiled.

"No V. No."

Her breathing stopped.

Memento Mori.
Remember you will die.
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