Ghost Story 3
Each visit to the outside brought with it the memories of previous encounters with the Dr.; and with them the realization it would all be forgotten upon my return.
I was equally heartsick and grateful that I couldn’t share with my wife what I knew from beyond our perfectly comfortable world. I wanted to tell her about hearing the Dr.’s voice, and his questions, and the thumping of replies. I wanted her to come with me to see for herself, but I knew what that would bring. The shared knowledge of what our talks had brought back. The questions would bring with them our common answers. She’d remember too about our blood, our screaming, our death. Recollections of the caped man who came to our door asking for help on a dark night. The red eyes and claws that we didn’t notice until it was too late.
If I must weigh the two, gratitude does outweigh the heartbreak. On the bright side I don’t know about any of it either when I’m with her. I’m just happy to be there with her and our rescued animals. Those simple souls who never wanted anything but love and a safe home. Except for maybe Ignatz the iguana, I have no idea what made him happy. Some kale, a heat lamp, and an occasional swim in the bathtub were all he ever really needed. Now that I think about it, I guess that’s a pretty good definition of happiness; food, shelter and periodically getting your dick wet. Kind of works for me too. Don’t think I’ll ever look at our pet reptile the same way again, that secretly content little bastard.
After our third meeting, I started exploring the territory around our house before returning. I had learned that I’d remember it all if I came back out, and if I didn’t ever return at least I’d get to look around a bit. I knew I’d be grumpy when I returned to Suzie, my wife of 30 years, but that feeling would fade. Eventually the uneasiness passed and I was content again. At least it had twice before; I had no reason to believe it would be any different this time.
Our sphere was blue; the shimmering orb was barely taller than I was. How everything fit was a mystical conundrum. The seemingly disparate thoughts, ‘It’s bigger on the inside’ and me having to deal with a mysterious ‘Doctor’ came to mind. I couldn’t quite place why those two facts together struck me as funny. I disregarded the notion and assumed the connection would come to me in time.
I studied the bubble, staring intently at its quivering sheen. I noticed moving streaks of white and dark green mixed with the bright blue on the surface. It looked a little like those photos I had seen of Earth from space.
‘Fitting,’ I thought, ‘that my home globe shimmered like my home planet.’ It occurred to me that this was the only real color I could see as I looked around. Although I could make out the outlines of recognizable landmarks, focusing on any item or location was impossible. Standing in what would be my backyard, I knew there should have been a large wood-framed tool shed, barely perceptible to me was the dim skeleton of the slope roofed frame. I walked close to it, then through and out the other side. I felt no resistance at all to my passing. On my first trip I noticed the shadows of blooming tulips in the front yard, I thought of how happy my wife would be to hear her beloved garden was still growing. Sadly she’d never know.
On future excursions I saw the tulips were gone, replaced with annuals to signify summer, and eventually everything was covered in a light gray blanket. I assumed this was snow during winter. I had no way to know how much time was passing between the Dr.’s calls for me.
As my walks became further from home, always cognizant to keep that blue marble in sight, I learned more about the world on death’s side of the coin. In the distance I saw several other orbs similar to mine. Although there were none close to me I could see them in the distance in all directions. Dull silver almost pewter colored balls, bronze and dark gold. None that were blue like mine but they stood out against the brown, black, and gray that were the predominant hues in this forsaken landscape.
Most surprisingly, I discovered that there was life here. Living creatures that seemed to move effortlessly between dimensions. I was startled when a crow landed next to me. At first it appeared to have perched at waist height in mid-air an arm’s length away. I could clearly see the bluish sheen on its black wings. In its mouth was a lifeless mouse. Reaching up with his left claw he deftly grasped the small carcass and held upon his unseen perch. Carefully, with the intricate care I was familiar with from watching our rescued parrot eat sunflower seeds, he began ripping it apart. When the bird’s thick ebony beak pierced the mouse’s tiny body, I was surprised to see the first solid color outside of my bubble; deep red tears of blood dripped from the chest cavity. Using his tongue and beak with surgical precision, the bird easily gutted the small creature.
Everything suddenly went white; a vision appeared of my bed room. For a moment I thought I had returned to my home in the afterlife but something was different, I couldn’t move. I felt that I was being restrained by something around my body. I tried to look down, then left or right but I was just a voyeur; I had no control.
To my horror I realized, what I was seeing. In the place of the Raven’s meal of a field mouse, I was watching my own wife being cut apart by the stranger we allowed into our home. I was reliving the nightmare that had brought us here.
I tried to close my eyes and look away but just as I was unable to at the time, I was forced to watch my lover, my friend, my soul mate being brutally murdered. Why did he tape my eyes open, why did he force me to watch. Did he enjoy my suffering, my tears, my muffled screams?
Now, in this memory, as I had during the real event, I looked into her face and tried to connect with her. I tried to convey how sorry I was that I couldn’t protect her as I had promised on our wedding day three decades earlier. Painfully I could tell that she was already gone, I prayed to a better place; away from this brutal savagery, away from the agony and terror.
I looked back at him, those red eyes, the thin, almost imperceptible lips, he was enjoying my pain. What sadistic pleasure was he getting from his act? What motive could a person have for brutalizing perfect strangers? He said nothing, made no sound. Pausing his ghastly work, he turned towards me.
This differed from the record that what was seared for eternity into my memory. He hadn’t looked at me that dreadful night.
His gaze locked into mine, he rose and stared at me. Not at the duct-taped, gagged, tortured former me, he looked at the me that was merely occupying this moment; the me that was standing next to a jet black crow feasting upon a rodent. He saw me watching and started to laugh.
It was a guttural sound. As a child I remembered hearing the hogs at my uncle’s farm make the same noise when then fed or screwed. I felt the deep rooting throb of it shake my soul. It terrified me.
I snapped back into my eternal reality; I felt as if I was sweating. I know that was impossible, ‘I’m unable to feel anything I’m dead, how could that be?’
I looked at the bird next to me and noticed that he was indeed standing on something. I moved closer and saw through the murky haze that his claws were grasping the top bar of a fence line. A chain link fence that I recognized as being around the ball field at the edge of town. I was at least two miles from home but I thought I had only walked a few steps away when I saw the crow land next to me.
I looked in the direction I had come and was surprised to see my home bubble far in the distance.Turning back I saw the crow’s mouth open as his chest pumped out, then in, repeating at a rapid pace. He was cawing; I had heard these birds piercing call in the wild yet now I heard no sound. Leaning closer towards its open mouth I concentrated, tried to hear any sound emanating from him. I half expected to hear him calling, ‘Nevermore.’ But heard nothing.
I was startled by the arrival of another crow, then another. A dozen eventually lit upon the invisible pole that ran along the edge of a field. The thought occurred to me that it was somehow poetic that a flock of crows would come to sit near me. ‘A murder of crows to accompany a murder victim.’ There was something in that, something dark and sad.
I walked back to my blue home; I needed to return to the eternal bliss of ignorance. I had to erase the memory that had been replayed in my mind. Once I entered I knew I’d forget what I saw, and hopefully, he’d forget me too.
One thought went through my mind, actually two. One voluntary, I promised myself that I would never leave my living room again. The other I had no control over. As my spirit disintegrated back into the surface of the bubble, the demonic laughter he made when those crimson eyes pierced my soul echoed all around me.