Abraham R. Nox
And I envied her the body . . .
They say it is possible to date a death by the murder scene maggots. I can look in most men's eyes and see exactly what's growing. And believe me, I've seen plenty o' appetites, megrims, urges and cravings published on the faces of homo sapiens sapiens. When murder is emerging, I can see that too. It does not take me long to read the need.
That man needed death, and I gave it to him. Oh, yes. If a thing given is considered a gift, then I had a hell of an offering for that son of a bitch. At first I did not know how, precisely, I would deliver the deed, seeing as I'm handicapped in the mobility dimension . . . and in many other ways.
But I did vow I would send him exploding into the afterturf if it was the last act of retributive justice I committed on this plane of existence.
Please knowI worshipped his wife Sahara. I was her most trusted confident. She talked to me all the time. Obviously she felt secure unraveling her emotional knots in my presence, knowing full well that I could not gossip, even if I had wanted to. Why, in a certain way she even shared her innermost identity with me. And I ask you nowis this not what everyone craves: to bear witness to another's holistic being? My life was, for the most part, superficial, monotonous, a servant tenured to watching the world's inhabitants endure their time-released death until they finally expired. What could be more rewarding than to serve a creature like Sahara, a woman of imagination, sympathy and verve?
I confess it is pleasing to discharge these torturous memories at last, although I must speak in a voice purloined. A voice a bit synthesized in quality, but I do not think you'll mind, once the circumstances have been explained.
You've come to investigate your inheritance? I espy a hammer in your hand. Perchance to make a few necessary repairs? I've been alone for far too long in this attic. I see you are disconcerted, even a tad affrighted. I beg you, do not fear me. Yes, I can converse in your language with some proficiency, and your slang is familiar enough. I learned a great deal from the television.
These fissures, stains and pockmarks marring my face? I see the confusion, the questions in your eyes. I shall tell you how I came by these wounds presently.
And of course I knew her flesh. Forehead to feet, I knew her intimately. The mole and freckle coordinates locked on the skin-grid, the strawberry birthmark staining her forearm, the intriguing chipped front tooth. Though, mind you, it's not what you suppose! I did not actually commit the motion/pleasure dance with her, though once or twice she did kiss me with a sort of touching enthusiasm. As a rule, however, we sought to maintain the proper distance. But I admit, now that it no longer matters . . . I have beheld her without the fabrics, without even the plush green robe she often wore about the houseand I envied her the body.
What an animated woman! How she could dance! I longed to move with her, and though I could not, I enjoyed vicariously the rhythm and geometries her limbs described. That marvelous expressive faceher stellar eyes and red riot hair that would never mind the brush. Her shining aura gave me the impression that her soul continually thrashed about her coil and set sparks flying from every cell. So evanescent with life that her songs tickled, and her breath warmed. It had been my pleasure to see her delightfully diffused after wine, and utterly focussed in her passions. No matter what her mood, though, I always viewed Sahara as a glorious being, and I think she was fond of what she saw in me.
Hell knows she had her challenges. The cheating Theo, her acne- ravaged teenage son Zach, with his pierced-lip and steroid-enhanced aggression. The solitary hours which hung disconsolately around her parlor. Naturally I was there for her, and her daughter Mina visited now and then, always dressed in the manner of a Punk-cheezy advertisement and trailing her progeny behind her like a gene train.
Though she struggled to love Mina and Zachary, Sahara was not a mother to bury her ego in the grave of her children's lives. Nor was she a happy custodian to her husband's mercurial moods and narrow- minded aspirations.
On the rare occasions when Sahara's husband was home, Theo prowled the marble halls like a lion looking for a running lunch. As far as I could tell: his face came, and his face wentbut there was no remarkable value in him. Sahara suffered nobly even as Theo dismissed her very presence from his world. I knew she felt devalued, deleted, removed from life. I, too, know what it's like to be ignored, to be considered a cosmetic back drop without meaning of one's own and I gave her much credit for temperance.
She understood the importance of keeping up appearances . . . so essential to her social status. One might sooner put one's clothes on backwards than admit to marital discord or a kayaking of emotions. Rarely did she scowl, even in my direction, though on occasion she wept about gray hairs and cellulite, as if these exterior deviations would cause me to admire her less! How could I turn my back on her simply because she had started to age? I was a cherished assistant to her every sacred secret: The cessation of the blood ritual, the bruise-blossoms artfully buried under make-up and other tactics of facial camouflage, such as the manner in which she strove to conceal her perilous depression under a carefully painted veneer of moxie attitude. Where in her vanity trove she dug that up, I'll never understand. Be that as it may, she was a genius at disguising her sorrow from all save me. She was ever Beauty, perfect even in her imperfections.
You ask why I consider Theo an odious knave? I am not without emotions, though of an unusual sort. Sahara was my house favorite. And he killed her, right in front of me, as if he did not care what I thought, or how her death would affect me. That ruthless bastard Theodore! Mister Pink Izod, King Family Crest and Keeper of the Subliminal Sexual Secrets. I've seen him many times, that bloated barge, with his mistresses and magazines. Morning and Night he turned up his lips at me, but I turned HIM into a corpse. The audacity of the man. He thought I was safe to confide in, that I was powerless to redress his heinous crime.
The silent witness, I could confess to no one at that time, as I spoke only in the language of the moment. Fortunately I absorbed, and retained, far more than people imagined. And now I am free to share the horrid tale.
I saw him part Sahara's flesh like a jacket, and her freed blood baptized my face. I wore her agony like stigmataand considered it an honor. I beheld her bone, just a sliver, mind you, but I had never been granted such a privilege before that night.
But I'm sorry it was Theo who showed me her lovely rib. Pomade hair and Mutton Chop whiskers flaring out of his rough cheeks! I had not seen the like since her grandfather's time. White Nice- shod feet incongruously worn with green silk waistcoats and a gold watch kissing away the hourswhat a pretentious Manhattan ass! And his legendary energy is born of artificial insemination. I witnessed his white powder ceremony many times; he romanced the toot. You don't believe it? He forced me to join him on every occasion, cruelly amused perhaps, at my altered countenance afterwards.
And now he has made his wife motionless and he made her ugly and I know how much she hated being ugly. Why else the box of paints and the glitter powder? And this Theo, this Violator of Appearances. He mauled her beauty! He broke her! BROKE her! She looked directly at me and screamed for helpand I could do nothing to save her when his killing need emptied like a river into the delta of her body.
Please understand. I could not even hear her piteous pleading for her life, but I saw her mouth opening and closing like a fish and I could almost feel the sound of her voice. I shook with such devastating tremors, I feared I would not survive that nightand I knew I mustif only to grant Theo the murder he so rightfully deserved. I realize you find me strange, but your culture accepts far more curious entities, does it not? Haunted houses, graveyards, even cars! You can recite as you please your Sasquatch myths, your tales of toilet-gators biting unwary buttocks, the rumors of Loch Ness Nasties and Bermuda Vortexes with a fondness for aircraft. Come Halloween night, swill your spiked cider and speak in hushed voices about befanged perils and radiant ectoplasms hovering above the stairwellbut I tell you this truly, there is no more certain Evil than the killing human being.
Well, he received his killing. I did not know what he had done with her battered body, but Murder echoed in me where once there had been her face. Theo had to atone. I decided to show him a haunting so grim, so consummately correct, that Poe, rather than bear witness to it, would instead beg to be buried alive.
Theo sought to banish Sahara's image from his life and then he replaced it with anotherbut I am the keeper of Sahara's likeness, and I say she lives! Repository of all imagery, my memory is, after all, eternal. I was determined to restore her to her former perfection and reanimate her form. There's magic in affection, devious, wonderful magic. And so I performed my sleight of perception. It was what I did well, and it was all I could do.
Now, I beg, be my chiral witness. Read my vengeance like a screen, left to right, as I replay it for you.
Along loped Theo with his concubine, that vapid woman Lura, his company factotum cum paramour, wearing her glistening black boots and uppercase endowments like tacky stage props. She preened for me, but I was not impressed with her big wad of fresh lips and wet eyes . . . her rather viscous sexuality. This shibboleth was Theo's idea of beauty? He has failed to appreciate the woman I held inside me every day.
They shared an aperitif and hungry glances in the hall, while Mussorgski's 'Pictures At An Exhibition' groaned against my face. And thenas Lura finally undulated into his bedroom trailing her gauzy scarf, the ballsy oaf zig-zagged in after her like an intoxicated comet. He paused and was just about to shut the door, but suddenly he turned and gave me the thumbs up. His lust-puffy visage was so repulsive, I wished I were blind. "Yeah, buddy!" he proudly grunted. And how he amused himself at my expense. He said again, "Atta boy tiger!" and offered an exaggerated wink, as if we shared an exciting secret. I suppose we did, at that.
For weeks he'd been bringing her here after work, licking her earlobes with his lying tongue, whispering blandishments and bullshit. All the while his dead wife's memory fluttered in and out of my mind like a lost shadow. I couldn't take it anymore. 'Twas clearly Justice time. I gazed boldly into his winking eyeconcentrated my will and tried to shudder Sahara up from my depths. For a moment, I observed my success on his face. The door stood open, with his guilty hand upon the knob, while Sahara's blood-petaled nightgown, her death gargle solo, her staring face, (shock-white!) bloomed towards him like a flower.
He stood blinking his eyelids, his mouth a Capital O, staring at his arm as if he still held the weapon clenched, and his shoulder started to ache with impacted recall.
And what he saw, I beheld in reverse.
Sahara, who moments before was whistling contently, begins to twitch with hatred as her husband bursts into her spacious bathroom. Before me she stands, drying the last sequins of water from her face. It is still steam-misty, so I can't see very well, thus I perceive Theo (as he now perceives himself) as a raging blur.
They circle one another like aggravated beasts, shouting words so furious and immense that their lips crimp and widen in an effort to expel them. There are obscene gestures and accusations, threats and tears. I am frightened and want to take refuge in my quicksilver dreams, but I cannot. There's nowhere for me to escape. I must watch, and now Theo must watch what I witnessed in reverse.
Theo wags his fist under Sahara's nose, trumpeting his insults. "You bore me, you old bitch! Always trying to out-do the do-gooders with your charity shit. You make me puke. And those ridiculous free- form fuck-ups you like to call your "art work". My God, get a life!"
He pauses to let loose a maniacal riff and then continues his tirade while Sahara begins to weep. Her tears run down my face.
"Look," he says with a sudden artificial sweetness, "I don't want to hurt your feelings anymore than I have to, but heyyou just don't wag my tail anymore, understand? But if you think you're going to divorce me and feed my reputation to this city's gossip machine, you're wrong, woman, way wrong!"
"Reputation!" Sahara scoffs. Her blue eyes disdainfully flick to his fist, and then back to his face.
"No one has missed the sight of you tip-toeing across the lobby of whatever smarmy hotel-du-jour you decided to patronize, slipping sideways on your own slime, with that stupid underage whore on your arm!"
Her face then ignites with that passion I admire. "So screw you, Theo!" she shrieks. "I'm sick of your late-night excuses. All I want from you now is for you to get your essential belongings and vamoose. And if I were you, Mr. Up and Coming Politician, I'd find myself a high profile attorney, because you're in for a hell of a divorce campaign."
She turns around defiantly and stares directly at me . . .
That's when it happened, but I did not permit Theo the complete flashback experience. The images gibbered, flexed, and then drowned in me. I saw him, slack-faced, turning a charming shade of scream, unable to understand how he could have just watched a re-run of his wife's murder without benefit of a movie screen or television. His heart lurched so energetically in his chest he inserted a hand beneath his white shirt in order to still it. He massaged his rib cage, pawed his eyes, surveyed my face with great intensity, rubbed his eyes again, stared at me again.
"Jeeeezus," he whispered. "Must've been the wine. Oh, yeah, too much vino makes me wacko." He gave his jowls a slap, one-two one-two, and then shook his head.
Lura called to him, he opened the door wider and I could just make out her plump feet with their garish nails protruding beneath the edges of the satin coverlet.
"Coming, baby?" she tittered in her silly voice.
How appalling, I thought. He's going to do the motion/pleasure dance with that plebeian cow right there in Sahara's bed. I knew I could not permit it.
Just to take the edge off of his appetite I flung him one last gift. I directed a tsunami wave of bright red blood to shiver out of my heart and cascade over his body. This time Theo did screamloudly. He covered his head with his hands, and then his eye- whites shone for a second before he fainted. I ::glimmered:: and observed his dropped body with the clinical detachment I'm known for.
Over the next few weeks I continued Theo's subliminal torture. He could not pass by me without experiencing peripheral flickers of the horror he did visit upon his wife, yet he made no connection between me and the haunting diorama he found in my face. His humorless pragmatism, his flatlined imagination, simply would not allow him that possibility. Yet, if a man's memory can manufacture visions, why not me?
While brushing his tiny wolverine teeth, and shaving the straying silver hairs across his lip, while tying his scarlet silk cravat, even while he snored on the bed like an inebriated lord, I permeated and provoked his subconscious with the frame by frame unleashing of the killing he labored so assiduously to forget. He awakened in a fever rush, shaking, weeping and hollering for his God.
But there was no Entity Attending, of either the dreadful or merciful variety, who wished to hear his anguished supplications. There was only me, the God of Reflectionfaithful echo of all that he presented to the world, and all he sought to hide. He declared his blameless heart was positioned on the sinistral side of his chest, but I showed him the truth triumphantly: his heart was in reverse. And so it is with all men's hearts.
From the beginning I had understood that he'd slaughtered my Sahara in a selfish fit of desperation. I would not have been able to perform those impromptu conjurings if I could not have first reflected them back from the well of his terrible guilt. But how he convinced the authorities of his innocence I cannot fathom. It took him hours to clean her blood from the bare white tiles of the bathroom floor. He even took a toothbrush dipped in Clorox and scrubbed the tiniest interstices in the bathtub grout. I would think the police would still have been able to discover some clue . . . a speck of flesh, a bone- fragment, a tincture of his madness. But they found nothing. Theo, of course, professed his ignorance and played the grieving spouse to new heights of apostasy.
However as the month progressed Theo began to scatter. He was too distracted to woo his young Lura with the kind of personal attention and financial investiture she had come to expect. Every morn and eve he shuffled past me, his filthy vest growing looser and looser upon his dwindling frame. He shed his onus from every pore, uttering glottal nonsense and snarfing tomato soup straight out of the can. Soon he even forgot to tie the lavender laces of his pricey Nice sneakers. The Mutton Chops whiskers bristled out of his deflated cheeks like errant gills.
He no longer looked at me, because he could no longer bear what he beheld there. His nose ran blood and fluid. One night I saw him drooling by the banister, anxiously searching his pockets for a vial of his favorite nostril nostrum. Through out the dark hours I could feel him weeping, and he swallowed spirits until he nearly became a spirit by immersion. I had no pity at all for him. He walked freely, if not more than a tad slowly, as if he was already lugging about the coffin into which I had planned to encase him like a trophy. Sahara was forever still and stuffed in a drain pipe, no doubt. I knew I would never be comforted until he was dead as well.
It was eight o'clock P.M. when Theo shuffled his soon-to-be-cold feet into the bedroom, past the bird's eye maple dresser he inherited from his mother, past the entertainment center (I saw his shadow in the television's dead eye) and onward he trudged, a depleted man with a headful of reflection. He passed right by me as usual, though I was holding a mirage of Sahara's head out towards him like a present. He proceeded into the bathroom, magazine in hand, though his energy for stroking had long ago fled for other hands. Hands that have no blood upon them.
He sat himself on the toilet and stared off into . . .
Into the past. As he turned his head in my direction, I offered my selection for this evening's revelation.
I watched him, (he watched himself)
His ultimatums issued in a voice strident from cocaine. When his wife obliterates his threats with a broadcast of derisive laughter, he raises a hand to strike the smile from her face. But his skull is slam-dancing and his balance has been compromised. He stumbles sideways against the door. Sahara swiftly ducks his fist and snatches her razor up from the bathroom sink.
Theo is enraged that she would dare to defend herself.
"You had me served at work, you bitch! And here I've been supporting your lazy ass for twenty years!" he yells.
"And I've been kissing yours in return," she retorts, still brandishing the razor. "And I'm sick of the taste of your hypocrisy! Now get the hell OUT of here, Theo, and get out of my life!"
She points to her heart. I also, point to her heart.
"How dare you threaten me? How dare you demean me with this childish affair of yours? I'm soooo sick of your crap!"
"No divorce!" he shouts.
"You'll stay married to me and maintain appearances, Sahara Patterson, or I'll kill you here and now!"
Sahara does not take seriously anything her drug-jacked husband says. I do. I darken in warning, but no one notices. It's difficult to concentrate when I'm reeling from the vibration waves their voices have created in me. A high enough pitch and I'm gravel bait.
Before she can respond Theo rushes to the wall, where hangs one of Sahara's original works of artan iron and steel composite somewhat resembling a surreal Medieval weaponand yanks it down. Sort of a cross between a mace and a barbed wire spider, it was an odious piece of interior decorating. I wasn't pleased to have to look at it day after day. But Sahara loved that gruesome thing, and so I reflected it graciously.
Shaken loose from its mooring on the wall, the nails fly and several of them nicks my face. With this devil-inspired monstrosity as weapon, her husband dives into her, and the killing rushes out of him.
Now he's gibbering like a madman on the toilet, watching this all over again. He had practically convinced himself that it had never occurred.
No mercy, I say. Let the death drama play on.
His poor wife can't believe what she's seeing. Her gaze moves from his face to the descending spikes. But in the time it takes for her brain to process these images he has already brought the weapon down and jammed it into her right shoulder.
I wanted to perish at the sight of her pain. You see, I was immortally offended by this act of violence for two reasons.
One: I am wounded by assaults to beauty and I considered Sahara beautiful. My chimerical face held no solid identity. I longed to possess a single, exquisite facehers.
Two: I have no human emotions, so the visual world is all important to me. Theo radiated distortion. Exact with my echoes, I cannot bear anyone's rampant deviation.
And I envied her the body.
The room steams up with red mist and stark raving horror sounds. With his opposite heart stamping in the stall of his ribs Theo stabs Saharastabs Sahara stabs Sahara stabs Sahara stabs Sahara stabs Sahara and I envied her the body. until his shoulder stabs him back with the agony of effort. He is panting, grunting like an animal, his face saturated with blood and perspiration.
I showed them together, hating husband, lovely wife, in a frame of violence and terror as Theo sat helpless upon his fecal throne and bellowed out his ghouls, knees quivering, chest throbbing with myocardial quakes.
I bellowed his ghouls right back at himamplified to a psychic decibel level intolerable to his human flesh. Gore-dressed, guilt- infested shades of retribution reverberated out of me as if Gehenna was regurgitating its entire occult vault of brutal demons. Theo writhed and twisted with agony, the death Howl building in his lungs. But I would not allow him enough breath to express it, no! Nor did I cease my assault until every molecule of his being was shattered into nullity. I would break him down into his component cruelties if I did nothing else. My hatred for the man Theo was mammoth, unwieldy, monstrous. I spared him nothing, that cretin who used to tilt my head back and snort coke from my face. But his greatest sin was this, and now you bear witness to his punishment: He removed Sahara from my sight, and I cared for her, and
I envied her the body he destroyed.
When Theo turned his back on me and fired his revolver into his mouth, I knew the bullet would blast apart his skull like a plaster mask, and his culpable blood and devious brain matter besmirch my face. Perhaps he hoped to shriek me into a nova burst of glittering shards. All that reflecting back upon myself had led me to such an ending, and every fragment left would have contained her stunning face.
I was created in the early eighteen hundreds, a three feet tall, two-foot wide bevel-edged vanity vampire, feeding off the images of others, trapped in my wooden frame atop a low-slung bureau made of black oak. Designed to swivel forwards and backwards, and side to side, my field of vision is unlimited within the confines of my territory. It was a dreadful fate, to view and mirror without censor all the foibles and fantasies of men, to witness the maggots of greed, and envy, cruelty and hatred breeding in their eyes and I could not warn their victims that the killing need is brewing where they love.
I could not in full possess the body I had so long admired. But the virtual vibrations of her voicethese I retained. A life force as vital as Sahara's could animate even the inanimate. And with her voice I now bear witness to Theo's villainy.
As you peer closer, gazing into me, the attic light illuminates your features. How very like your father you look! I perceive you are not pleased with your reflection. The jagged scar of my ruined surface corrupts your image.
But I sense clearly the corruption within you. I see your transposed heart. Your lady ascends the stairs, e'en now she enters . . .
Ah, so more than mere appearances are inherited.
Are you sure, Sir, that you wish to kill her? Lura, like all opportunists, has merely transferred her allegiance to you for the sake of her own survival.
Commence, then. I shall not utter a single word.
The Harrow: Original Works of Fantasy and Horror. ISSN: 1528-4271
The Harrow is published by THE HARROW PRESSSM