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Twist: Chapter 19


  04:02:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 2057 words  
Categories: Twist

Twist: Chapter 19

I showered. The mud was harder to rinse clear because it had caked to my skin, and even after it softened under the water, I needed a wash cloth?s extra roughness to break through it.

I hadn?t realized how cold I was until the water hit my scalp. I started to shiver, and sniffle.

But it wasn?t only the cold. I remembered what happened to Leroy.

He had fleas. It seemed like we?d been fighting his fleas for a whole year. I knew some of that was my fault. First I thought they were something else- a parasitic fly of some kind- so the medication we bought him wasn?t right. And then we tried some flea stuff- but it was the cheap shit they carried in Walmart. We had a whole mountain of different shampoos and sprays and medications by the end of it.

And Leroy got into it. We kept it under the sink, with lots of other poisons and horrible things- so many that the cabinet door didn?t fully close unless you made a concerted effort to push it in.

And one day, we didn?t. I don?t know if it was me, or if it was Hanah- I know she sure as hell blamed me.

But he went right for the flea stuff. Chewed the hell out of the tubes, and the bottles. When I came home from work he was lying in a puddle of the stuff, with the fur around his face slicked and foamy. I tried to see if he was breathing, or to find a pulse. I knew enough first aid that I tried to give him compression, and mouth to snout. After a few minutes I couldn't go on any longer. I tried to call Hanah, to see if she knew what to do. I was shaking so bed, and crying so hard, I couldn?t even read the backs of the boxes. I managed, after a few failed dials, to get a hold of poison control. It took several minutes before they could figure out what was going on; to the lady on the other end?s credit, she didn?t hang up on me.

That was when Hanah ran in, with her phone to her ear; I noticed on my phone that I had a call waiting, and hung up. She shoved past me to get to him. She shook him, and tried to find a pulse. ?He?s cold,? she told me.

I tried to hold her, but she shoved me away. She mumbled something, I couldn?t catch all of it, but she blamed me. Blamed me for how messy the house was- that two bug bombings hadn?t killed them- blamed me for the fact that there were fleas in our yard for him to catch at all. And blamed me for all the poison he was able to get into.

Then she told me I had to dig the hole, and bury him. She said it was because she couldn?t stand to do it, or even to be there when I did. But I knew it was a punishment. She blamed me for his death. I wasn?t sure I didn?t. But I hated her a little for it, anyway.

I realized I was crying again, and the water was cold when I shut it off. My eyes burned, and I was so tired from everything today. My grandmother was there, waiting, when I got out.

?I understand,? I told her, as I dried off my head, ?what you meant about wishing I could understand you. And I do, at least a little. But I need to know, and if you know I need you to tell me the truth- did I hurt Hanah??

She smiled weakly. ?I don?t know any more than you do.?

?You?re not really my grandmother, are you??

?Would it matter?? she asked. ?I could be a ghost, or a devil, or even your guilty, confused conscience.?

?It does matter. Because it means I can?t believe you- as much as I wish I could. Because what I want to believe, is that I didn?t hurt Grampa Jim, and that I didn?t hurt Hanah; I didn?t even want to admit my culpability in what happened to Leroy. But maybe you?re full of shit. Maybe I shot Jim. Maybe I hu- hurt Hanah.?

?You can?t even say the word.?

?Shut up. I can?t trust you. Because you could just be my subconscious, trying to protect me from the terrible things I?ve done.?

She pondered a moment. ?You?re right. There?s nothing saying I couldn?t be, at that.?

?I know. I need some time. Alone.?

?That might good for you. I?ll let you rest, in peace.? That phrasing made me nervous, but I realized, with everything that had happened, it didn't make a hell of a lot of sense being paranoid over syntax when there were very real things to be worried over- and the fact that I was becoming uncertain over whether or not my hallucinated grandmother was one of them.

That was where I used to draw the line. It isn't crazy to see things that aren't there. Crazy is accepting things that can't be there.

I slept badly. I couldn't shut my mind off, couldn't shut out the possibilities. I didn't think I killed Jim. But I knew I couldn't convince myself, either.

Then I heard a quick buzz, almost like the snap of a static shock, followed by that- it's almost not a sound, it's so faint- but that noise, when you turn off a TV or a monitor, and the electricity dissipates.

The sound had come from my alarm clock. I swore, because I needed the stupid thing to make sure I didn't oversleep in the morning. I was going to need some light to figure it out, so I picked up the TV remote, and tried to turn it on. Nothing. But the remote always seemed on the cusp of running out of batteries. Maybe it didn't mean anything. I found my way to the lamp in the dark, and tried to turn it on. Nothing. Damnit. That meant the power was out.

I had remembered to pay the electric bill, right? I thought so, but I had no idea how much time had passed since then- and I couldn't check my balance online with the power out. Either way, it didn't matter. I was going to have to get up to figure any of this out.

I stumbled to the doorway in the dark. We hadn't lived here long, in the grand scheme of things. So we didn't have flashlights and candles strategically placed around the house. I knew we had some of those things. I found a flashlight with some of my camping gear in the hall closet, but the batteries were dead.

I stumbled my way to the kitchen. I remembered, a few weeks before, using the little LED flashlight out of my car. It was on a shelf, there, and I turned it on. I could tell already that it was fading, but it gave me a little bit of light, enough that I found the drawer in the kitchen where we kept the matches.

I remembered Hanah put a candle in the bathroom. She didn't burn it- just liked the ambient smell it lent the bathroom. I lit a match, and used its light to get back up the stairs. I had to blow it out when I reached the hall. I put the stick between my teeth, and lit another. I made it into the bathroom, and found the candle on a shelf on the wall. I tried to light it, but it was stubborn, and the match was almost out. I blew it out, and stuck it in my teeth beside the first, and lit another. This time the candle lit without any fuss, and I blew out the match. I put all three sticks in the sink.

I knew I'd seen the fuse box downstairs, but I couldn't remember. Was it in the laundry room? The thought made me shiver. When I reached the basement, I glanced inside. In the candlelight I could see piles of clothes, and I was assaulted by the stench of decay.

I decided to check the storage closet beside the laundry. I knew the box was in one of those two rooms. And now that I thought about it, it didn't make much sense to keep the fuses in what was guaranteed to be the second moistest kind of room in the house, after the bathrooms.

My heart sunk inside the closet. It was harder for the light to reach the walls, because of how cluttered it was, but I couldn't see a metal box in the wall that I knew would house the fuses. Just as I started to turn, to face whatever the hell so terrified me in the laundry room, the light caught the edge of something on the wall. There was a cardboard box with paper towels and toilet paper, sitting in the way. I tossed that to the floor, and sure enough, there was the fuse box.

I set the candle on a metal shelf beside the box. I couldn't tell if any of the breakers were tripped or not- it looked like maybe they were, but the alignment on several of them seemed off, so it was hard to tell. I flipped those first, and nothing happened. I flipped everything other breaker in turn, and didn't hear a single sound of an electronic powering back up. I reached for the closet light, and flicked the switch. Nothing.

I walked up the stairs, to the front door. Peering through the window, I could see that the street light was out. And so, too, was the neighbor's porch light, and they never dimmed it. It almost made me feel better, though, knowing I wasn't the only one bathed in darkness.

Until I saw something move in that darkness.

The fog was heavier tonight- it seemed to be heavier every night, every day, every second, choking away what little perception I had left.

But through it I saw something, with a shape like a man, but I knew it wasn't. It also wasn't any particular shape. It looked like a it was covered in jagged, almost saw-toothed fur, like a werewolf, perhaps, but then its body was thin, creepily thin, and tall, its movements jerky and disjointed. It seemed like there were a dozen, though half of them- all of them- could have just been the way that the moisture blew through the air, my mind filling details half-seen- a mind, I knew, I couldn't believe.

Several of them were gathered around the leaf bin, rooting around in it like rats in a dumpster, or just sitting on top of it. It panicked me more than that I was seeing them; what was so I terrified that they'd find?

I couldn't trust my eyes- but I knew I was seeing something, even if I couldn't comprehend what. Then, something changed, they heard something, or sensed it. They were at attention, then ran. Not toward me at the door- that, that would have been less frightening, because at least I could have seen them, could have known what was haunting me. They ran for the side of the house, and I heard them at the windows, hair brushing against them, fingers dragged along them. I heard the sounds of them climbing the fence into the back yard, running across the patio.

I panicked. Had I locked the back door? I ran through the house, and sure enough, the knob was turning. I grabbed it, and twisted it back, with all of my strength held it in place, expecting that to be the difference between my safety and my death. But no twist of the knob came. I stood on my toes, to look out through the window in the door, but there was nothing.

From the corner of my eye, I saw movement at another window, and another, but every time I focused, it was gone. As I turned to the back door, its knob still strangled in my grip, the same happened, and I started, but when I peered again through the window, I could see I was alone.

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