It’s Sunday night and I’m standing outside my wife’s room holding our sharpest kitchen knife. All the lights in the house are off and, outside, the largest storm I’ve ever heard is raging, as though it’s trying to break in.
I’m getting glimpses again; always a few minutes or hours ahead. It only happens when I’m drunk and stressed and tonight I must be in the worst condition because the visions have been invading my brain for an hour now. They must be real because I’m not the least bit imaginative. What I see is so vivid it causes me actual physical anxiety. I’ve never been able to invoke or control it. I never see the outcome of games and races, or find out what the lottery numbers will be. I only see consequences. The visions always come true, because seeing them doesn’t make me change my mind. If I see myself getting the shit kicked out of me for smashing a beer bottle over a jerk’s head, then I get the shit kicked out of me because I break the bottle over the guy’s head anyway. My visions don’t prevent me from doing stupid things. They’re previews of causes and consequences. Like when James died. I saw his little body fly through the windshield before it happened. Even if I had been sober, the glimpse was too quick and I was too slow on the wheel. Another troubling aspect of these glimpses is the man. He’s always standing there telling me what to do.
Here comes another one.
I wake up in the ditch in front of a neighbor’s house down the road from my home. I’m soaked. The clouds are breaking up and the sun is rising. I sit up. My ass sinks a little in the sodden grass. Standing there on the street is the man, looking down at me. The sun is behind him and flashing in my eyes. His entire head is silhouetted.
‘You did real good, John,’ he says. ‘But now you need to get up and get moving. They’re already here.’
‘Who?’ The man turns his head to his right. I still can’t see his face but I notice his nose is big like mine. I follow his gaze. My house is ten doors down. It’s surrounded by police cruisers. I jump to my feet and nearly lose my balance on the mushy grass. My front door is open. Several cops are standing on my lawn looking around. The lights of the ambulance in my driveway are piercing my eyes.
‘What happened?’ I ask. Two paramedics emerge from my house wheeling a stretcher with a black body bag on it. I’ve seen enough TV to know what it means.
‘Holy shit,’ I whisper.
‘That’s right,’ the man says. ‘It’s done.’
I whip my head up at him. He is staring back down at me from the street. I still can’t make out any features.
‘Whatever you do,’ he continues, ‘run. Keep running. Stay out of their hands for as long as you can. When they catch you, stay calm. Remember that you did what was necessary.’
‘Over there. I see the husband,’ someone shouts. I look back at my house. Two police officers are running towards me, while two more are piling into a cruiser.
‘Run, damn it,’ the man says.
Getting out of the ditch is difficult. My running shoes slip on the wet grass. I clamber to the street and bolt in the opposite direction of the cops. I look back to see the man standing in the same spot, watching me. The police cruiser drives past him, gaining on me. I cut to the left between two houses and down a fenced-in path that leads onto the neighborhood’s baseball field. I run across it to the other side. I leap over the fence and attempt to cross the street but slam into the side of the police cruiser screeching to a halt in front of me.
The two cops jump out of the cruiser and rush me. They move fast; but I’m faster. I tackle the first one to the ground and bring my fist down on his face. His partner pulls me off and throws me on my back. He backs away to get a clear shot with his Taser gun. I throw myself on him before he can fire off the electrodes. Thud! The back of his head hits the pavement. His entire body shakes underneath mine from the impact. The cop doesn’t move. I stand up and look down at the unconscious officers.
‘Not my first rodeo boys.’
The two cops on foot catch up. I don’t notice until they jump me from behind. The assault twists my ankle and smashes my knee on the ground. They try to pin me down. I am furious. They can’t hold me.
'Use your stick’ one of them says.
The younger one gets off me and pulls out his baton. He starts hitting me on my back. The other cop gets up to join in with his trusty truncheon. They pummel me. I curl into the fetal position and cover my head. They hit my forearms a few times. One blow manages to go between my hands and connects with my forehead.
‘That’s enough,’ one of them says. ‘Cuff him.’
They push me onto my stomach and wrench my arms behind me; the cold, metal kiss of the handcuffs bite into my wrists. I roll onto my side. My head is pounding. I’m slipping in and out. I can hear the two cops panting. The last thing I catch is one of them noting the time and day for their report.
‘You’re writing this one up Tim. It’s 0603 Monday…’
I guess that was a glimpse of what happens tomorrow. My head is really throbbing now. For some reason the sensation reminds me of Friday night when I came home drunk again. I drove home as usual. My wife, Estelle, was waiting for me.
‘John, are you trying to kill someone else?’ she asked. ‘You’re drunk every day now. You’ve been unemployed for almost a year now. Get up off of your ass. There’s no need for this.’
‘Says you.’ I collapsed onto my lounger.
‘You should return Marc’s call. He still owns that wrestling gym. He might want you to go back to the club, train the new kids, help them win some regional matches. He might pay you.’
‘I’m not going anywhere near the ring. I’ll kill someone if I go back.’
‘How can you keep driving drunk after what happened to James?’
‘Don’t make me your distraction for James,’ I retorted. ‘Stop nagging me.’
‘It’s your fault he’s dead,’ she yelled.
‘You bitch.’ My words were nearly accompanied by vomit. I got up off of the lounger but the room started spinning. I fell backwards. The weight of my body made the chair recline. I passed out immediately. When I woke up in the morning, Estelle was gone. I left the house and drove straight to my girlfriend’s apartment.
My head still hurts. Oh crap. Another glimpse.
My ass is flat on the floor and my back is up against a cold wall. I’m between a white cement block and a stainless steel commode. About eight feet in front of me, the man is staring down from the other side of a barred door. He’s hunched forward with his forearms through the bars. His hands are together; his fingers are interlocked. During the 30 seconds I stare at him, he doesn’t flinch.
‘Where am I?’ He doesn’t answer.
I bring my knees to my chest. My thighs scream the second I push up with my legs. It’s difficult to stand. My palm slides against the wall the entire way up. It’s not until I’m upright that I notice the sore areas on my body: my back aches; my head hurts; my left knee is stiff; my right ankle is throbbing; my hands and forearms are bruised. I hobble forward a couple of steps towards my visitor.
‘Tell me where I am. Jail?’
‘They worked you over pretty good,’ the man says. ‘Take it easy. You need to rest. If you can bear to lie down on a cement block, try to sleep. Tsk tsk. They don’t even give you sheets.’
‘Who the hell are you?’ I limp closer to the barred doors. My legs and back are on fire. ‘Do I know you?’
‘You did good, John. It had to be done. Now you need to stay the course and give them nothing. Admit nothing. Regret nothing.’
The man simply stares at me with a crooked smile. I can’t make out the color of his eyes. His face is half covered in shadow and his eyes look like black sockets.
I sit down on the cold cement block and stare at the floor. My body starts to stiffen. I lay down, moaning at every muscle twitch. Despite everything, I manage to close my eyes and fall asleep.
Dammit. That glimpse hurt. That’s probably what happens to me after the police beat me on the street; they haul me away and throw my ass in jail.
My head is pounding harder. The sound of the rain attacking the house’s vinyl siding and the constant lightning flashes are not helping. I have to try and slow these visions down and concentrate on what I want to do. Estelle hasn’t been the same since James’s death. It wasn’t my fault. I can’t make it better for her. I won’t change.
She completely lost it when I didn’t come home last night. She’s known about my girlfriend for a while now and finally decided to confront me. Estelle burst out of her room screaming and crying when I came through the back door to our kitchen.
‘You spent the night with that whore, didn’t you?’ She came right up to me and started shoving. ‘You bastard,’ she yelled.
‘Well maybe if you stopped working such long hours and fucked me once in a while, I wouldn’t have to look elsewhere. We haven’t slept in the same room for three months now.’
She slapped me across the face. I grabbed her arms and pushed her up against the drywall; harder than usual. Frames with pictures of Estelle and James rattled on their hooks.
‘You son of a bitch. How can you be like this after what you did?’
‘Stop blaming me,’ I yelled in her face.
I was going to hit her but she slipped away and grabbed one of the dirty pots from the sink. She got me pretty good on the side of my head. Before she could swing again I punched her hard in the stomach and back handed her across the face. She fell to the floor. I kicked the pot away from her and buried the tip of my boot in her stomach. She folded in half and struggled to breathe. I stood there for a minute looking down at her. I realized I had to get out of there before I killed her.
I left Estelle on the kitchen floor and stomped to my wreck room in the basement. I went into my cabinet and pulled out my bottle of Glenfiddich, downing a quarter of the bottle in one gulp.
‘Now’s your chance.’ I recognized the man’s voice; it was coming from the top of the stairs. I rushed over and looked up. There was no one there. I was scared. I wasn’t having a vision. He was there in my house in real-time and not during a glimpse.
‘Who the hell are you?’
‘She went to her room. She’s vulnerable. Do it now.’ The voice was coming from the kitchen.
‘I’ve had it with you.’ I rushed up the stairs to confront him but the Glenfiddich kicked in. I made it to the top of the stairs but the kitchen started spinning. I dropped down on all fours and let my head hang. There was tightness in my chest restricting my breathing. I began blacking out but not before hearing his voice again.
‘Don’t let her blame you for James. She’s been nagging you for too long.’
And now I’m here with the knife. I must’ve been lying on my kitchen floor all day. I woke up an hour ago, grabbed the knife from the block and dragged my heels to Estelle’s room. My hand is on the doorknob. The storm is shaking the house. I keep expecting to hear a window breaking in another room from a protruding branch. There are no lights. Each flash of lightning is accompanied by a crack of thunder, crashing into my skull. I can’t bring myself to turn the knob.
‘What are you waiting for?’ I look over to my left down the hall. It’s the man. He’s really in the shadows this time. ‘You deserve this.’
‘Do I?’ I ask.
‘You know you do. You have a right to be happy. It wasn’t your fault. You should do what you want.’
‘Doing what I want has consequences. These glimpses have always shown me that.’
‘Who cares what happens to Estelle? She’s made her choice. She can no longer be a mother. She isn’t your lover. She’s nothing.’
‘I don’t care what happens to her anymore,’ I shout back. ‘But I don’t want to be responsible for what happens tonight.’
‘Just fucking do it already.’
‘Shut up,’ I yell. Just as I look over at him a flash of lightning illuminates the mirror hung on the wall at the far end of the hallway. It’s throwing back my reflection. I’m disappointed. I was expecting more. I want him to be a real person I can pound the crap out of. But he’s not. I’m going crazy.
I tighten my grip on the knife’s hilt and turn the knob. Locked. I step back with the intention of kicking down the door. Before I raise my foot I catch another glimpse.
I kick open the door. Estelle doesn’t wake up. The rain is rapping against her closed window; the pane is rattling in its frame. The thin, see-through drapes are fluttering; there must be a draft coming in. I stand over her for a few moments, watching her chest rise and fall. I realize for the first time today that she’s wearing the tight white shirt I like; the one that gives her breasts a nice perky shape. Her bottles of sleeping pills and pain killers are half empty on the night stand. Her mouth is slightly open. I can make out a trail of drool snaking from the corner of her mouth. Her shoulder-length blonde hair is pinched between the back of her head and the pillow. Her left hand is on her stomach and the right one is pointing towards the foot of the bed. I don’t get these details in one look. It takes several lightning flashes for me take her in. I use the next few flashes to decide where to aim the knife: her moving chest.
I bring it up then down several times. I do it fast and hard. The blade goes in easy. Estelle screams. I’ve never heard a human being reach such a pitch. She stops screaming. I stand there watching her chest. It’s not moving anymore.
I go to the kitchen, throw the knife in the sink, and wash my hands thoroughly. A flash of lightning reveals that I’m covered in Estelle’s blood.
I go to my room and change. My boots are also stained so I decide to put on my running shoes. I stand up to button my shirt.
Another flash of lightning reveals Estelle standing before me; naked, covered in blood, with holes in her chest. I scream and stumble back.
Lightning flash: this time nothing. I run out of the room, out of the house and into the downpour. I don’t get into my car. Instead, I run down the street. I don’t get far. After ten houses my vision goes white. I trip over my own feet and fall head first into the ditch.
The glimpse is over. I’m back in my house standing in front of Estelle’s door. I’m dry and still in my boots. The knife is still in my hand. My headache is so intense now that I feel the skin on my forehead pulsing.
I’m sick of this. I’m tired of seeing what a violent asshole I am. It never changes anything. I always end up doing the violent asshole thing anyway. What’s the point of seeing slightly into the future if you never do anything about it? I only pay attention to these visions to make sure I don’t get killed doing the things I do. The glimpses tonight have shown me that I kill my wife and don’t get punished for it; I simply go to jail. That’s not enough for a guy like me. I don’t blame myself for drinking. Life hasn’t been fair to me these last few years. But I am responsible for James. I’ve never admitted it and that ruined Estelle. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever done.
I take the knife and bury it into my stomach. I stumble away from Estelle’s door, connect with the wall behind me and slide down to the floor. The darkness in the house is becoming absolute. The sound of the storm is fading. And finally, before the nothingness, the throbbing inside my head stops.