Book Three: (Jeremiah)
Georgia awakens to a tapping, rapping at her bedroom window. Within a partially conscious dream, she imagines it’s Heathcliff interrupting her slumber and returning to pay back years of ghoulish pride. At first, the prophetess is drawn to the idea of throwing back the sash and joining the other in his childlike state of teasing abandon. Her heart begins to race in a moment of pure terror, as intermittent taps continue and reduce the woman to a paralyzed mass underneath flower-printed bed sheets.
Georgia wants to run. To flee. She is riveted with the eerie rhythm of each tempting TAP!
Must get to Tawny! The young woman’s alligator brain tells her. Georgia’s body becomes a plank of human dead weight underneath sheets of thinly pressed lead.
“Mommy, make it stop!” Tawny screams…If only in a dream.
Hold on. I’m coming to save you. Georgia gets up from her bed groggy, stumbling, and squinting through half open eyes. She wildly kicks the corner support strut of the bed and nerve-wracking pain shoots up through her partially conscious mind. Her foot hurts like hell as she ambles over to the door. Her face reflects she’s sucking in various pain impulses sent to her brain.
Suddenly…She is overcome by the feeling that the hallway is trying to be elusive to her passing, as it offers to cut the young mother to the quick. The walls elongate, as they stretch before her and beckon Georgia to run down its narrow throat. In seconds, the carpet billows out a slippery tongue, as if ready to pull her into its awaiting gullet.
But cold silence is what raises her hackles and adds mothering goose flesh. “Tawny?”
The child’s doorknob turns liquid red, as if scorching to the touch. Georgia reaches out to make the knob solid within her grasp, and she expects a scream that never rises to the surface in the thick hold of a fear’s gurgle. A scream doesn’t come. It does not come, even as she turns the reflective latch pin by propelling the tarnished bulb.
On first pass of Georgia’s eyes, the room looks in its usual tidy state. A poignant smell enters the young mother’s nostrils. A smell that says, ‘I’m a child of gas.’
Oh…dear. Tawny is gone! Georgia thinks. Where can she be? She notices a pink curtain moves back and forth, revealing the likelihood of an open window. Georgia can only think of Tawny’s abduction as she pulls back the curtains and looks out into the emptiness of the dark. The woman tries to find comfort in knowing a fart burns sixty-seven calories. Georgia’s heart races faster. Breaths come in short, heightened bursts. Several flies enter her auditory range, although she fails to hear them. For some reason, she thinks she should look in the closet and under the bed. She discovers nothing.
The prophetess reaches up and closes the window. It is then that Georgia hears a porcelain clink, running water, and the popping of a latch.
Georgia enters the hallway, and scans left and right for any visible signs of an intruder or a struggle. Tawny leaves the bathroom and appears safe, undisturbed, save one errant tear.
The mother gathers up her daughter within the fold of her arms. “What’s wrong, honey?”
Tawny sniffles. Emotional spasms purge to the surface and rack many of her small muscles like a sobbing wind tunnel.
“I saw daddy.”
The young mother considers Tawny’s feelings, and how she may be working through the trauma of an early loss of her father. Also, she can’t help but think about The Monkey’s Paw she read in high school. Is Tawny already previewing the grotesque? Is Jeremiah already beating an unnatural head, a monster’s head, a zombie-like appendage against our door?
“How do you know it was your father?” Georgia asks, realizing Tawny had never laid eyes on the man before—outside of an old photograph.
“Mom, he told me he loved me!” Tears spew from the child, like her eyes are human sprinklers.
Mother and daughter hug. Georgia squeezes her young child tight, wishing it unnecessary to ever let her go.
“Dad told me to be patient.”
“And pray for his safe return.”
“Tawny, you know your daddy died?”
The child smiles, before returning, “His spirit lives on. Mommy…Is our house haunted?”
Georgia thinks about the old bible again. Was KC barking at it? She finds herself suddenly hoping Jeremiah is not lost and can somehow return. At the same time, she considers her child; a child whose slumber often goes interrupted—anyway. It is terrifying seeing bloodshot eyes in her youngster; eyes in which every corpuscle holds both lovers’ distinguishing DNA.
“Can I sleep with you, mommy?”
The mother read articles on the dangers of children sleeping with their parents, and how a parent could roll over and smother a child. But she does not care, because Georgia needs to hold her daughter to psychologically grow closer to her lost fiancée. She needs proof of Jeremiah’s body, which had mysteriously disappeared from the hospital, and which complete absence created a lack of closure. A psychologist would tell her ‘Whenever there is not closure, there is hope’. Love and hope beg Georgia to wait for events to unfold before her eyes. Meanwhile, she knows she must comfort Tawny as best as she can.
Tawny crawls under the covers and feels instant protection from the unknown. Before long, Tawny dozes off to sleep. She dreams of a daddy-like swashbuckler who returns from some great voyage with a tennis-bracelet gift.
A drawing enters her dreaming mind’s eye, and Lucky leaps from the adhered page like a mask. ‘Please put me on tenderfoot!’ The mask seductively begs the child, as if it has sour intentions and an agenda. Three-dimensional whiskers pierce through the child’s soft skin like unshaven needles.
Tawny attempts to let go of the face, but only feels the rough whiskers draw her nearer instead. Within the dream, her mother attempts to scream. No sound comes out.
“What do you want from me?” The little girl pleads.
Tawny jerks bed covers over her pig-tailed head. Georgia is asleep beside her. The mother begins to come to, just as the child slips on the freakish mask. As much as the mother tries to waken her daughter, her Tawny’s body fights her.
“Tawny, you’re having a nightmare…Wake up!” Georgia shakes her daughter awake.
A reflexive punch speaks back. The little girl retracts her arm, and makes girl stretch noises. With no awareness of the punch, Tawny demandingly clings to her mother like a cub would to its protective guardian.
“I love you, mommy.”
Georgia holds back a few tears as she returns, “I love you too.”
The girl’s pajamas serve as a sponge for her flowing tear ducts. This time, they are happy tears—though.
Tawny lifts the bed covers and breaks wind. Both females turn to laughter, as Tawny begins to fan the smell away from her by shaking a few covers. Georgia hides, quickly, underneath the sheets at her end of the bed. Giggles start with one, and quickly spread to the other. This is followed by a back and forth game of tickle. Hands and elbows fly to defend or attack. Rain pelts the windows in waves, while wind finds a haunting howl between its wet syllables. The sickly combination of forces is unsettling; it is as if mother nature’s disdain for man’s sedentary existence wishes to roust him into action.
A television with a built in DVD plays A Little Black Book. Georgia pops them both a bowl of popcorn, adds two soda pops to a carry tray and some napkins. Tawny stops the movie while her mother is in the kitchen. A HD stereo TV attempts to drown out an eerie thunderstorm caressing the house and plucking at the fragile landscape clinging to the ground outside. KC sits at the edge of the bed and begs for one of them to drop a kernel of popcorn his way. Occasionally, he barks at the prying wind noise, using its forceful fingers to shake and pummel his small commode.
On the television, an animated tree dances and sings in a commercial; its large eyes reveal depth and compassion beyond most living men. Tawny re-hits the play button. Sleep doesn’t seem like it will ever come. Mother and daughter engage in a slumber party and are safety against anything that may lurk in the cesspool darkness beyond pull-string blinds. The bible’s voice is like a foghorn carried on misty wind.
But the sound fades, every so often, when toying with a complacent ear. Georgia occasionally hears the voice, if only as an echo in her dreams.
Cledus begins his re-cooperation at home. He does not give credence to a voice he hears while heavily sedated. Before his dismissal, Dr. Wayne gave him a discerning look; a searing look into his soul that made Cledus wonder if the man somehow knew his hidden identity? The rustic man feels time beckon. This leads him to wonder what interesting things lay ahead?
Belinda turns up the metal screw in his head, by telling him she’s knocked up. Within hours... Their names will be spread across the desks of a dozen different tabloids, because getting DD or PG are two of the most newsworthy electronic pipeline topics used to describe a famous entertainer. Becoming dead drunk is what placed Cledus in his present position. He knows pregnancy may be used to lucratively expose his hidden identity.
Cledus Beaumont knows he has no choice but to accept the child as his own, support the alluring woman, and not raise unnecessary suspicion. The more things that can be added to the equation, the better chance his cover is blown. Cledus follows the path of least resistance, in a personal world of expensive stained glass, with his mind always wondering if a stone can be thrown that can shatter his star-studded world into unrecognizable and inescapable ruin.