Inside My Soul

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Chapter 3: Benjamin’s Lair

I take a step back from the old black and white picture on the wall. Her white sun dress fades. Reality draws the curtain and that night at the beach loiters into a tiny indolent place in the back of my mind. For a split second, a tiny bit of me cares. But then, I let it drop into a sea of indifference, letting it sink to the bottom, where everything else is lodged.

And here I stand, in a small dark room not knowing where in the hell I am.

A soft melody, like musical instruments of some sort, wafts into the room. My ears are piqued. Music is coming from somewhere outside the room. Could it be? Actual life in this insidious hallway? I whack open the door and run towards the music, all the way down the hall, and damn if I don’t run straight into another necromantic black wooden door, which opens into an enormous room brimming with well-dressed people socializing, dancing, and drinking cocktails.

Well, what do you know? A little soiree. I step in further. Champagne-colored walls, a towering cathedral ceiling—with painted angelic frescos —lavish crystal chandeliers, golden marble floors, and grand fireplaces at each end, fill my eyes with delight. Cocktail waiters are waltzing around the room, serving mixed drinks ever so generously on their silver platters. An acoustic guitar player is the middle of them all, performing some kind of souped-up classical solo. And people are everywhere, chattering and dancing away merrily, in every square inch of the room.

Well I’ll take it! I am finally in the presence of real people and top-shelf liquor! Now, two things. Number one—I need a drink. And number two—I need answers to all this delirium.

I look across the crowded room for a waiter. But …wait…my eyes, instead, stumble upon a beautiful lady in a fitted black dress, standing on the other side. I start walking towards her. She turns towards me, and our eyes lock.

“Hello, my name is Sadie,” she says with a keen look, her gaze fixated on my face, as though she is studying me.

“Hi, my name is Ben, but you can just call me the ‘Sexy Beast,’” laughing under my breath, I continue, “Look, ummmmm . . . you’re the first person I have spoken to in here. And I just have one little question. Where in the hell am I?!” I yell in a fit of frustration.

“You are inside your own soul,” she shoots back with a sly, slow and moderately sexy voice. She winks.

“I am inside . . . my . . . whhhh-aaaa-tttt?” I sputter. I search her face, trying to find a hint of a joke, and then glance around the room mindful of the fact, that there are no doors any longer.

Her face glows like a taunting spirit.

“Ok, seriously now, how am I supposed to get out of here? What is this, the twilight zone? C’mon I am confused,” I step back and watch, her eyes still focused on me as she sips her vodka cranberry.

She laughs.

It is a cruel sort of laugh. She has a slinky figure with long limbs and big blue deceptive eyes. She is wearing bright red lipstick. She appears to be in her mid-thirties. Her hotness has worn off already, and I am ready for some answers.

“I told you, you are inside of your soul. And—”

“Um yeah . . .” I interrupt, speaking over her, “Look, um . . . I have a really important meeting I need to get to soon, okay. How do I get back to my house?” I say with a charming smirk. A waiter walks past, and I grab a cocktail glass.

“I don’t know!” she screams. Her fiery eyes incriminate me. She looks around the room as if to find a way to condone my question and says, “Just . . . accept it.”

She leans over and, in a low coarse voice, whispers in my ear, “Dance with me and I will explain.”

I grab her hand. Screw it! I will dance with this crazy woman for five seconds, and if she doesn’t give me the answers I need, I will stalk every person in this room until I find my way out of here.

We walk up to the middle of the lavish ballroom and begin to dance. She shimmies her shoulders in and out, as she cocks her head up and says, “There are infinite possibilities here, you know, in your soul.” She stretches her neck up like a coiling king cobra.

“Uhh-hmmm,” I mumble as I sip on my drink.

“You have to accept this place, because everything you are, and can be, is . . . is here,” she says with a smile. She looks me square in the eye and then goes on, “Everything is here.” Her pupils dilate.

“Uh-hmmm, listen this is getting weird. I don’t care. Where is the exit? How did I get here?”

She reaches up and touches the bottom of my chin. We stop dancing.

“I have something that I need to give to you,” she says.

“What is it?”

“It’s very important, but I can’t give it to you now. I will give it to you when your soul turns red.”

“Ok.” I feel like I’m caught in the middle of a strange sticky web.

“Come on, I am going to introduce you to some of the other guests,” she pulls me along.

She leads me across the room and I just roll with it. Just a few more drinks before I go ballistic on these people. I need to go home. We walk up to a group of people who are mostly talking amongst themselves. But an older man stops and turns towards me to introduce himself, “Hi, I’m Jack.”

“Ben,” I reply. “Listen, um, where . . .”

He turns away, ignoring my question, and flags a waiter.

A very short server comes walking towards us. And when I say short, I mean, a v-e-r-y short dude. “What can I getcha to drink, sir?” he courteously asks.

I do a double take. Is that . . .? No, can’t be. He looks vaguely familiar. Almost like Sam—um—um—yeah, he is like Sam, this short guy who works for my company. I like to tease him from time to time.

Jack orders a drink and I look down at the little waiter, “Can you get me a scotch? And hey, while you’re here—I have a little joke—my friend that is real short invited a bunch of his friends over, who were also a bunch of other short people. It was just a little get together. Geddit?” I break out into a chin-crumpling laugh.

The compact sized waiter turns around, very unamused, “You won’t be laughing soon.”

My laughter fades as my mouth forms a straight line.

Jack turns to look at me again, “So are you confused yet?”

I pipe up, “Jack, can you please help a fellow out here?” I burst out a barrage of questions. “Who are you? Who is he? And WHO is she? Where am I? In my soul? REALLY?”

“Yes, really! You haven’t gone anywhere, Ben. You’re just inside out. You are inside of your soul. We are all merely a part of you,” he replies in a calm manner.

My stomach drops.

“Let me tell you a story, Ben. You see all these people in this grand room? We all know you, and we have been here a long, long while. We dance. We sing. We drink cocktails all night long inside an eternal world. Your eternal world.”

“Ok . . . Ok . . . Ok, so, am I dead? I think I had a panic attack in my bedroom. Did I bump my head too hard? Is this heaven or something?” I ask.

They all laugh.

“No. You are not in heaven. There may be some good in here, but there is a lot of bad,” he whispers.

My right brow raises, “So, you are really telling me that I am inside my own soul?”

“Yes!” Sadie and Jack say simultaneously, a little exasperated.

I look around the room. I feel trapped. Panic creeps in again.

“Oh, come on, this place has everything you need, Ben. Come over here,” he says.

I follow him over to a sitting room adjoining the ballroom. There is a huge fireplace set against a red brick wall with large palladium windows on either side. I plop down on the worn brown leather chair in front of the fireplace. Jack points his left finger towards the window. He looks like he is in his mid-sixties. He has wooly white hair and dark skin. He has a refined, yet relaxed look about him.

“Look out there,” he says.

I peep out the window to a vast cosmic night sky.

“This is the window of your soul,” he says, his words full of great passion. He then slowly points at various things in the room, “and everywhere and everything you see is what keeps your soul breathing. We are your soul. These walls are your soul. Even the hallway—that was your soul. These cocktails are your soul. It is all ‘you,’ and you are them. Everything you see here is your soul. How beautiful it is, Ben. These infinite walls, of everything that you are, declare and proclaim you.” He takes a big deep breath and steps forward, “Now, look out of this window. These stars sit eternally in the distance, just as all your wishes, thoughts, dreams, prayers, and tears of joy and of sadness, that sit inside your soul like diamonds that never die.”

All I manage to say is, “What?”

“Maybe I can show you instead of explaining. Ok Ben, tell me one of your biggest dreams. It’s time to have a little fun,” he insists.

My mouth hangs agape.

“Say it out loud!” he yells. “You know what it is. What’s the one thing you have always wanted?”

I turn my back to him and look out the window again. I don’t have time for these silly games.

But before I can say another word, I see a star fall from the sky. And inside it, I can see a series of tiny images forming from small fragments of light. I step back as a light breeze caresses my face. Vivid scenes begin to play in my head, one by one, spinning from every direction. My dreams, expectations, plans, secrets, hopes, my company, my wife, my son, a handful of wild desires, and all of my fruitless dreams, appear and disappear riding on a blazing comet of fire.

“In your soul, all of your dreams are tangible. This is real. This is for you, Ben.” Jack’s baritone voice emanates from behind me.

I turn around to find myself standing in the middle of a huge casino. It isn’t just any casino. It is MY casino. The very casino that I had always dreamed of building one day, but never dared to go that big. A cross between a den and a mountain lodge, it does not disappoint. High rollers are busy flipping dollar bills at every money-sucking table with their serious poker faces, cigarettes hanging from their fingers. Slot machines are piled, one by one, on top of each other, while roulette tables snake around various poker tournaments. Dealers stand at the fore of their tables, in their suited uniforms, spreading poker chips across the tables. Diverse crowds of people sit on regal leather sectionals set along the billiard green walls. I see a lonely depressed guy, the lucky first-timer, a grandma, the party queen, that man scheming for women. . . I see them all. Kaboom! Loving this. Long golden pillars support ceilings that seem to be a 100-feet high, while deer mounts and antique guns hang on every wall. Wine racks cover the entire left side, with jack black tables up front. Even better, to my right, a five-star mountain lodge restaurant with dark hardwoods and red oriental rugs serves gamey food. And off to its side, to a far corner, stands a private wine and cigar bar. Acoustic Pearl Jam is playing in the background. And the best part of it, “Benjamin’s Lair” is stamped on all cocktail napkins. That’s the name I chose, way back when I had first had this dream.

“Unbelievable! But…where did all the other people go— and that ballroom— or wherever we were? Now we are here?” I dig into him.

“Don’t worry about that. You are here now. You see, your soul is a like a river. And your thoughts are the wind. The soul, such a beautiful war, gladly sanctions its currents blowing in every direction. Trust me, things do change quickly here. Get used to it,” he explains.

My eyes cloud over.

“Try to take it all in, Ben. It’s hard to grasp. And just think, this casino is only one tiny current in your river, and . . .”

I flash a cocky smile at Jack, “I’ll take it from here Jack, see ya!”

“But, slow down, the soul is endless. I must tell you, be . . .”

“Yeah, bud. I got it. I will talk to you in a little while,” I cut him short.

I am at a total loss for words as I parade out in to the middle of this huge casino. I’m Stupified. Speechless. The magnanimous sight in front of me! I begin to sink deeper into my soul, like quick sand, lost from all reality, forgetting just seconds ago, I was trying to pry my way out.

I run through the casino, like a kid in a candy store—gambling, drinking, dancing, screaming, and exploring all night long.

Only, I can’t say all night long, because I am not even sure whether there is “time” exactly, in my soul. All I know is that it feels that way.

Lever after lever, I pull, all the glorious golden twinkling slot machines, until a small nearby poker tournament catches my eye. Without turning back, I grip my cocktail, and meander straight on in. There are six men sitting around a large mahogany table. One of them acknowledges me with a quick nod motioning me to sit. The air is smoky, but smell of bourbon dominates the room.

The dealer sits at the head of the table, a tall skinny man with a pencil thin mustache. He sharply deals each of us five cards across the wooden table. “Five card draw. We are playing real dollars, not chips,” he says in a loud expressionless voice. The blonde man sitting directly across, stares, unblinking, as if to inspect my mind. I chuckle to myself. Little do these fools know I have already won this game. I am the master of all games here. Too bad, so sad.

The dealer starts going around the table. The blonde man withdraws two cards, asking the dealer for two more. The dealer slaps down the two on the table. I watch him as he calculatedly picks up the two cards. He seems lost in thought—I can tell the dealt cards weren’t what he had hoped for. I flag the waitress for another drink. I don’t card dream. It is my turn; I ask for two cards and discard my two of diamonds and a three of clubs. I fake a bad card deal and spit out some of my drink with phony grief. Then, I cock my head downward, and drop my drink intentionally across the hardwood floor beside my foot. Glass shatters. Splashes of the drink reach up the on wooden table. The men jerk their heads around, wondering what idiot spills his drink during a poker game. But while their attention is focused on my feigned stupidity, I grab the two discarded cards of the guy to the left and switch them with mine. I lift the corners. Spades. Perfect. Carefully, I put them in my hand and discard two more cards. Let’s just say I don’t need those. I engage in a little small talk and wait a few minutes until everyone brings their focus back to the game.

There is an overweight brown-haired man to my left, eating chicken wings. And there is a well-groomed, raspy-voiced man to my right fidgeting with his button-up collar. Both of them now are watching the substantial pile of money lying in the middle of the table, like wolves, counting the dollars as I rummage through my pocket for a cigarette. I light a cigarette. Looking around the table, I can see that I have already won the game. I know a winning hand by the intensity in a man’s eyes. I watch as all the men except one, extract the last bits of money from their wallets, throwing it in the pot. I imitate their action. The dealer calls. It’s hilarious watching some of them smile as they lay down a two pair and three pair, but I hold it back, clenching my teeth, and I lay down a flush of Spades. With all their eyes laden with defeat, I gulp down the last of my drink. I always win. Let’s just say, I have had many wins in poker.

“Good game,” I stand up and stash the wad of cash in my wallet and stumble my way to the bar.

A small wiry redheaded bartender serves me another bourbon and Coke.

“So, what’s the deal in here? How do we change the scenery to whatever we want? I am thinking, maybe, a nice steak dinner right now,” I slur.

“Ha, it doesn’t work like that,” he said. “And you can’t hide secrets inside your soul.”

I glare at him. “What do you mean?”

“You cheated, man,” he snaps back. “Maybe you can hide your secrets out in the real world, but in here, you can’t.”

He flips a coin on the bar table, and I watch as it continues spinning. He pulls two cards out of his shirt pocket and holds them up, the two of diamonds and three of clubs.

“How—how—did you—get—those?” I slowly ask, as beads of sweat form on my forehead.

I turn around. The five guys from the game are glaring at me from across the bar, like a bunch of bulls about to charge a red cape. I can tell when I am about to get my tail kicked. I’m out of here.

I grab my drink and stagger away to a nearby roulette table hoping to lose sight of them in the crowd. I maneuver my head around. They are gone, but it still feels like something or someone is behind me, no matter where I go. I keep turning around. But nothing is behind me. Maybe it is my secrets that are following me. I look across the casino, noticing the people don’t even seem like strangers. They all know me somehow, and they are all looking at me, with accusing eyes. I don’t care.

There is a guy playing roulette beside me so I slink my arm around him. Sadly, he is playing the game like his life depends on it. Perhaps he needs my help.

“What’s up, man?”

He doesn’t dare look away from the roulette wheel and he has a very concerned look. He is wearing a very embarrassing button-up suit and his hair is slicked back.

“Oh, I see you only have two chips left in your pile,” pointing at his dinky pile of poor earnings.

Still, he doesn’t acknowledge my conversation.

I watch him put his last chips on red. The dealer spins the wheel, and I lay all my chips down on red as well, just to piss him off.

“Red, it is!” yells the dealer, as he matches our chips and pushes them towards us across the table.

“It’ll be black this time. Put it on black. Look, if you want to win big, you gotta bet big. One chip isn’t going to get you anywhere,” I instruct him.

He looks at me and then trustingly puts his entire pile of chips on black. The dealer spins the roulette wheel and right before final call, I place all my chips on red.

“Red, again!” calls the dealer.

“Sorry chump,” I shrug my shoulders at him, but with a smirk on my face.

“Hey, can you tell me where the cashier booth is located? I need to cash out all my winnings. What can I say, I always win,” I laugh.

He points to a green alley on our left.

“Thanks.” I waltz away with the chips spilling out of my pockets, playing drums in the air. I don’t care.

I walk some six feet before I notice that this is not the cashier’s booth. I am back in that weird hallway!

The same black doors line the entire hall again. I walk backwards in slow motion to which the green alley from which I had merely just walked in, is now gone! A black door has now taken its place. I shake the door savagely. It’s locked. Oh no!

I panic, frantically searching for an open door. Damnit! Where’s the door to the casino?

In my peripheral vision, one of the black doors opens slowly on the left side of the hall.

But something doesn’t seem right.

And then it happens.

The shadow comes stealthily slinking out of the door with its phantom-like evil esoteric shape billowing towards me. And it’s not happy. Its ugly head rears up towards me, in full on attack mode, like it’s ready to eat me as a snack.

I take one look in its demonic eyes and I turn and run… and run…and I run. I run like I have never run before.

I am running so hard my lungs are burning.

As I whiz through the hall, I hear guitar strings being strummed. “Da na da na, da dum da dum, da na da na da dum da dum . . . Da, na, da, na, da, na . . .” They aren’t real. They are playing in my head. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. It’s a distraction mechanism.

I just keep playing them while I run like the wind. Images of guitar chords and sheet music are slowly ebbing in and out of the walls.

Da, na, da, na . . . They are getting louder and stronger until . . .

I stop. I turn around and squint my face.

Where is it? Is it gone? Geez. I don’t see it. Where is that monster?

Sweat beats down on the floor.

I bend down and prop my hands across my knees. My mind races. My soul? A shadow? Really? This can’t be. This isn’t real is it? I am not really trapped in a hallway inside my soul. Oh, c’mon. This is all just some sort of silly delusion. Perhaps, I am in the midst of a bad dream, or maybe, this is a comatose druid midlife crisis. I may have even hit the back of my head and my brain is suffering a lucid concussion and I am actually lying in a hospital bed getting ready to wake up anytime now.

Not sure. But what I do know, is that I am about to break down one of these doors. I probably have less than a minute before that ludicrous shadow presents itself again, and I need to find some answers. I am going to hit this door so hard that I will wake myself up out of this silly delusion.

I walk up to one of the black doors and kick it so damn hard, that my leg feels like I dropped a fifty-pound block of concrete on it. I kick it over and over again and then bang my head on the door.

A small crack in the wood appears and I start to shred the wood apart with my bare hands, piece by piece, until a tiny hole opens. There it is. The casino. I keep picking through the wood until I make the hole big enough. Meanwhile, splinters of wood gash into my hands and blood dribbles down my wrist. I don’t care.

I jam myself through the busted door, tumbling inside of a small wine and cigar bar.

Several men are sitting around the room, smoking cigars, having intense conversations. I plop my disheveled self down on a burgundy leather recliner beside them, holding my wrist in a ball. Private waitresses are walking in and out of the bar, serving thousand-dollar bottles of wine.

A blonde waitress hands me a glass of red. “Good to see you, Benjamin,” she has a lilting voice. I relax for a second. Three men are carrying on, chatting beside me. One man proceeds to tell the other, “I have been wandering these hallways forever. The scenes change back and forth and in every which way, but I cannot find my way out.”

I interject the conversation, “Wait, did you just say forever? I mean—this is fun and all—but forever?!”

They look at me, weightily staring me down. One of the guys hands me a cigar. “Yeah, I can’t find a way out.”

“Just how long have you been trying?!” I muse again.

“Forever,” he says.

The word forever burns like hot coals. I glance over to the other side of the room and can’t help but notice a strange-looking man sitting in the corner by himself. He doesn’t say a word. His indigent eyes stare at me as I take a sip of my Merlot. I start shifting in my seat, unnerved by his stare, so I stand up and pretend to rearrange my chair. I turn it slightly in the other direction, so that he can’t see my face, and I return to our conversation. I take a slow puff on my cigar. “So, guys, listen. Forever is not going to work for me. We gotta come up with a plan. An immediate plan! This has been fun guys, but this whole soul “thing” is getting out of hand. It’s demented really, and I have a business to run! I need to start heading back! Let’s um—” I stop and look behind me again. That man, geez. He is still staring with those malevolent eyes.

“Ok, yeah—” I try to concentrate, “—so a plan,” I continue, when I hear a small sound—crrrrrraaaaaaaaackkkkk.

A small-sized door cracks open a hair beside me. I didn’t even notice the door there until now. A tiny white fluorescent light, just like before, begins to seep out of the door and into the room, almost as if it’s summoning me politely. I try to ignore it but I can’t! It’s so compelling. So gripping. So generous. Could this light lead me home? Maybe. I mean, what do I even have to lose? I wave at the three men, “Ok, stay right here. Give me five minutes. Trust me, forever is not the answer. We will finish this conversation. I will be right back.”

“Don’t go through that door,” one of them warns.

The second guy joins in, “Yeah don’t. You will just keep going further and further and we might not see you again.”

Not heeding their advice, I flash a sardonic smile and barely push the door open. The mellow light envelops my face. My hesitation creeps in, but within seconds, I am in a large baseball stadium, full of people. What the—? There are frozen people sitting in the background. I can see their faces. In the distance, I can see a small boy standing on the home plate, swinging his bat back and forth. It’s a little Leo. He keeps missing the ball, but after several tries, he slams the baseball straight out into the stadium. The people come alive and roar with cheer. He runs all the bases like a proud champion. But just as he slides onto home plate, he starts to fade away into bits and particles of light that rain on the ground like sparks of fire. Everything disappears.

Another door appears. Again, the door cracks open. I hear the laugh of a small child as the soft endearing light creeps through. As I walk through the door, a little girl stands in front of me, with big soft brown eyes and long brown wavy hair. She is proud of something. She smiles at me and holds up a dandelion in front of her face. She blows the dandelion as hard as she can, scattering all the seeds like tiny helicopters across my face. In this moment, she is a princess I love. I want to protect her. I know I would slay a dragon for her if I had to. She twirls round and round. Then she laughs like a tiny pixie. And then, she, too, fades away, just like Leo.

Another door appears.

The same door. I open it and a rushing wind comes through, blowing my hair off my face. I can hear water. I am on a remote coastal island. Right next to me are a group of five wild horses grazing along the tall salt marsh. One of the horses turns to look me directly in the eye. He is completely black. He looks stronger and tougher than the other horses. His dark mane blowing in the wind, he digs his hooves in the sand like a proud leader. He kicks the sand while the midday sun beats down on his back. He swings his head back, with an utterly wild confidence. Through his gleaming pearl black eye, he knows everything that is in my soul. He is the gulf between unrealistic dreams and reality. He knows of all the uninhabited places within my soul. I glare back at him as the breeze sweeps across my face. Something catches my eye in the distance. I can see Leo in the same baseball uniform, standing beside the little girl I had just seen, in the distance. They are playing together, running and jumping over a sand dune. Now, I can only see the tops of their small heads. I turn back to the horse. His pearl black eye now gleaming brighter and although without any words, I know that he is telling me I cannot go beyond the sand dune. And I never will. Just as the water rolls up over the sand, he gallops away and disappears behind the sand dune, taking a piece of me with him. Everything vanishes.

There is a . . . tap, tap, tap on my shoulder. I turn around. I see Sadie standing there.

“Where am I?” I gasp, trying to catch my breath. I look around at the green walls. “Where was I just now? Where did Leo and the little girl go?”

“You were walking through the very depths of your soul,” she says.

I hide behind tiny slivers of emotion and clear my throat realizing how weird this is getting. My stress level rises and I hiss an irritated breath.

“Do I look like I care?” I muzzle. I get up and brush my shoulder past her, pushing her away. I play a few guitar chords. Da, na, na, na, nare . . . Da, nar, nar, nare. I start singing offensively in her ear, playing air guitar with my hands.

“Look, lady, can you help me find my way back to the wine and cigar bar? I was having a meaningful conversation with three seemingly normal people. Where is it?!” I plead.

She purses her lips and stares.

I stand up to tower over her weak little body and slash my hand into the air like a vulgar pig. “I am losing my patience, okay. Anytime you want to show me where the wine and cigar bar is, please do so!” I yell.

I walk over to the bar. Instead of one drink, I get two. I chug one of them like a man eating in a hotdog contest and then grab the second and head back out to the middle of the casino. I turn my head like an animal, in every way possible, looking for the small bar. All I see are slot machines for miles. My mind is muddled and disarrayed. For a minute, I wonder what time it is, but then, I remember that time has dissipated into nothing, and I have somehow wandered into my own soul like a lost puppy. I take a sip of my drink and tip my highball glass letting the last sip roll around in my mouth. But maybe, I like this. I don’t care. I like it. I laugh a loud, whacky, evil laugh into the air.

I stand there cockily listening to the acoustic music, swaying way back and forth, enjoying the inebriation. I can hear a low pitch hum in the air. The blood in my veins starts to slow and all the complexities inside become surreal. The alcohol burns inside my stomach. I’ve known this burn. It’s my freedom. It’s freedom from that “other” side.

Like an anchored boat in the ocean, I stand in the middle of the room while it rocks back and forth.

From the corner of my eye, I can see Sadie walking towards me along the Champagne-colored walls.

She motions for me to follow her. Perhaps she is taking me back to the small bar. Or home? I carry my drink and follow behind her. She walks like a queen in her own castle, her red heels clicking on the floor. She leads me into a bright red room about fifty feet from the front door. The acoustic music fades.

The walls are red. The floor and ceiling are red. Everything is red. Even Sadie’s hair is now crimson and is loosely falling all around her shoulders. She raises her chin and the room darkens.

She looks at me and asks, “Why?”

“Why, what?” I quiz her sarcastically. “Lady, are you going to take me to the damn wine and cigar bar now or what?”

Sadie’s face melts and it transforms into Raines.

I blink my eyes, trying hard to focus. The room is foggy and humid. Her face starts to melt like the wax from a burning candle, liquefying back and forth between Raines to Sadie. The room feels like its boiling hot. Red flaming light pours from the ceiling like lava.

I try to reach out and grasp her shoulders, but my arms fall into thin air around her dissolving face. Everything is quiet and still.

Her melting face whispers, “Why have been you been hiding? You know, from everything in your life?” she asks.

I don’t respond.

All I know is I am ready to pour my hatred and vexation all over her like melted black tar. I lower my eyelids, my mind races to that dark hiding place, void and filled with the raw insensitivity that I know only too well.

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