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Twist: Chapter 24

11/25/13

  03:46:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 2833 words  
Categories: Twist

Twist: Chapter 24

I didn't sleep, so I can't say Gram woke me the next morning banging pots around in the kitchen. I knew better than to even think it could be Hanah as I descended the stairs.

?I'm leaving,? I told her.

?Oh?? she asked, sounding dubious, but not turning away from the cabinet she was staring into. ?Just like that??

?I don't know what's going on. But I'm going to head out on foot. I'll carry as much of my gear as I can. If I can get near the freeway, I might even be able to hitchhike.?

?Hmm,? she said. ?So you're running away. That's unfortunate.?

?I'm not running. I just can't stay. I... I think I killed someone.?

?Hanah?? she asked, almost sounding hopeful.

The horror of that thought turned my knees to tapioca, and I pictured her, coming back after seeing one of my posters, and seeing, and chasing after me when I ran, confused. But it wasn't her. It couldn't have been. That was crazy- of course, it made about as much as sense as anything. ?No,? I said, ?I don't think so. Someone followed me home, and into the park, and...?

She wrapped her arms around me, and guided my head against her chest. I needed the connection enough that I wasn't bothered by her nipple poking into my jaw.

But I couldn't stay in her arms forever. ?You're running out of food,? she said, as I stood up.

?I know. And that's one reason I have to go. The other is that I'm losing my mind, here. Maybe I lost it the moment you showed up. But I'm pretty sure I hurt someone- maybe some thing- last night- and I'm pretty sure I'll do it again if I stay. And I still can't shake the thought that I might have done the same to Hanah.?

?Maybe walking isn't such a bad plan,? she said.

?You don't know?? I asked.

?I don't know everything.? That seemed like a strange admission from someone who admitted to being a know-it-all. ?I mean, I doubt it will work. But I'm sure you do, too- if you've been paying any attention at all. But...? she turned her head slowly, deliberately, to the basement stairs, ?wouldn't it be better, to go wherever you're going, knowing you weren't running from the truth??

?I don't know,? I admitted.

I dressed, packed a bag with a blanket, and some of my less dirty, warmer clothes. Then I came back to the kitchen, and rooted through the cabinets for food. I found a couple granola bars, a fruit snack, a can of peaches with a pull-top. I didn't much like peaches- they tickled my throat and set off my gag reflex- but I wasn't really in any position to turn them away.

And then a terrible smell hit me. If Leroy was here, I would have assumed he had runny Taco Bell diarrhea- not that we would have ever fed him Taco Bell, but if we had. But this was smell was new- at least in its intensity. But it seemed to be coming from the freezer.

It seemed early for whatever was in the freezer to have turned- particularly this badly. I tried to remember what could have stunk that bad. But I couldn't even recall the last time I'd opened the freezer for anything.

My heart skipped a beat, and I wondered if I would have- no, if I could have- put a body in there. Certainly not without some... adjustments. But that description Gram gave me. That was new. I was fairly certain that I hadn't seen her butcher my grandfather. So either she was the ghost of my grandmother, or I came on that knowledge from some place else- and both seemed pretty damn crazy.

Gram shook her head at me. ?You're chasing shadows,? she said, ?when we both already know where the monster's hiding.? I ignored her, and pulled the freezer wide open. A melted can of juice concentrate, cranberry grape, spilled out over the floor. For an instant I thought it was blood, but the freezer, aside from being thawed, looked completely normal.

I swore, and mopped up the concentrate. It left the floor sticky, but at least I stopped it before it spread to the carpet at the edge of the kitchen.

But that left the smell unaccounted for. There was a cabinet beside the fridge. I looked at Gram, hoping for some indication of what I might find. After all, she maybe didn't know everything, but she sure as hell seemed to know more than me. And she'd been spending more time in the kitchen than I had. But she wasn't betraying anything- or she genuinely didn't know.

I pulled the cabinet open. There was a hefty brown sack laying in the far corner, leaking. I swallowed. Was it large enough for a person? Maybe not all of one, but if you stripped away parts of the body- say, the ones that would fit in the garbage disposal, like the organs...

I reached and tugged on the sack. It slid across the cabinet like a slug. When it reached the edge of the cabinet, I could see that it had been a sack of potatoes. I lifted it, and brown fluid poured out of it like there was a faucet inside. But the bag was light; before the rot, it probably had only fifteen pounds. I ran for the back door, trying not to retch at the horrible smell pouring over my hands and shoes.

I made it as far as the back door and just threw the bag onto the patio. ?The fuck was that?? I asked Gram.

?Have you never had a sack of potatoes go bad before?? she asked.

?They usually just grow eyes,? I told her, and pantomimed big alien eye stalks. I got my hands as clean as I could, but I knew that reek was going to be with me for a while.

I left the house. I stopped at the car. I knew that if I could get into the trunk around the willow, I would have access to better than the supplies I'd managed to cobble together from inside the house.

But once I got to the car, I couldn't help myself. I had to go to the park. I set my bag down by the car, and crossed the street. I told myself that I just wanted to walk through, make sure the body was hidden, maybe move the log to a more discreet location. I knew somewhere in my head that I was returning to the scene of the crime. But I couldn't not go.

Well, I couldn't prevent myself from trying. But actually getting there proved more difficult than I imagined- despite the fact that I could usually see the park from my front porch. I wandered for an hour, and only ever saw the fronts of houses I didn't recognize, and fog- so much fog I couldn't see a dozen feet in front of me. Each street I crossed was a harrowing experience, because I couldn't tell where there might be a sidewalk, or if there was a car approaching- and I knew that meant they wouldn't be able to see me.

Eventually, I found my way back to the car. I made a half-hearted attempted to get into the trunk, but it was jammed, and after one good pull I gave up. Because it didn't matter if I had more and better supplies. I wasn't going to get anywhere I might be able to use them. I was boxed in, trapped.

Gram was waiting for me at the front door. ?The cage closing in?? she asked. I was angry, at her for being right, at myself for getting my hopes up. ?I could chastise you for being stubborn, but it would make me a jackass, blaming a mule for growing up to be a mule like the woman who raised him.? She tussled her fingers in my hair.

?But there comes a point where stubbornness gives way to foolishness. We both know where the door is- where it's always been. You've just got to be man enough to go through it.?

?Man enough?? I asked.

?Your grandfather wasn't a man, despite having the proper tackle. And since he died, I've never brooked another soul telling me I wasn't enough of a man for anything. And you're stalling.?

She could have said courage, or called it maturity; but correctness to the side, I think her phrasing made the most sense. I was stalling. Just thinking of that place brought the ache backed into my brain, so heavy I could barely stand under its weight.

I walked down the stairs, to the laundry room. The stink had gotten worse. But that it could just be the mold and mildew continuing unabated.

After the power went out, I left a candle and matches next to the fuse box, back when I thought the power would come back on- when I still had hope.

It was my last candle, and there were no windows in the laundry room. I let the candle, and stepped inside. The floor was wet, and my shoes made a slapping sound as I stepped.

I remembered we had a small LED flashlight above the dryer, and I used the candle to find it. It was high up enough I had to lean on the tips of my toes to get it, and when I came back down, I splashed, sending the fluid on the floor splashing into my shoes. It was warm. Blood? That didn't make sense.

Hanah had been missing a week, and you can't bleed that much for that long. Unless Hanah had been there, alive, but dying, and now she was starting to decompose on the floor. I furrowed my brow. That didn't seem right, either. I didn't think a body could decompose while it was still warm- the process took long enough that a body was cold by the time the guts poured out.

I blew out the candle. I wanted not to know the truth, to run out of the room and never come back. As if she knew what I was thinking, Gram stepped into the doorway, not blocking my way out, but making it so I'd have to brush past her. I took it for her supporting me- though I knew there was the clear potential for menace, too.

I flicked on the flashlight, and the first thing I saw was my missing screwdriver sitting on top of the washer. Then it came back to me. Hanah had broken the dial on the washer, so we'd been using my flathead screwdriver to turn the dial in the meantime.

The wetness was disturbing the most, so I scanned the floor for a body. I stepped on something, and it squished, and gave, but it was all just clothes, wet, warm clothes, moldering.

But why were they wet? I knelt down, and touched the floor. It was warm. I traced the water back to the pipe going into the washer. It was leaking into the clothes on the floor, then into the drain in the center of the room.

I sighed, and then smiled. I'd been terrified of the room for no reason. I saw the door to a small cabinet slightly ajar- and didn't remember it ever being ajar before. I slunk over to it, taking a moment to steel himself for whatever I might find.

I couldn't remember what we stored there, but I couldn't shake the conviction, no matter how many times it had been proven wrong, that I'd folded up Hanah and shoved her inside. But it was only sheets.

I laughed out loud. All this time, I'd been worried about the room, because of some vague sense of menace. But I'd been jumping at shadows.

But something was off. The screwdriver looked... rusted. But I knew that the screwdriver was in good shape. I walked closer. It wasn't rust. It was blood, and dried on flecks of flesh.

I picked it up. I could hear, somewhere, in the back of my addled mind, the rational part of me screaming that I was contaminating evidence, or incriminating myself or whatever, but he seemed comically far away, and his protests fell on thoroughly disinterested ears.

The migraine was back, though I already knew that it wasn't a migraine- my brain wasn't working properly, so it had already read the ending even before it got to the beginning.

I was numb, but I managed to stumble out of the laundry room, and sit on the couch. I collapsed my head against the couch, and noticed, in the exact spot where I lay, pasta sauce. Except I wasn't able to convince myself it was that this time.

Holding the screwdriver, while sitting on the couch, I remembered.

We were fighting. About Leroy. Hanah blamed me. She loved Leroy, and losing him, she lost a part of herself from before we met that she wanted to cling to.

I could see that, and I felt for her. But I couldn't focus on that. I wanted to defend myself. I felt guilty over the dog, but the way she said, it felt like she was accusing me of more than just slovenliness. I wished I could take on all the blame for Leroy- but I couldn't- I couldn't handle it, and having her heap it all on me made me angry.

I started towards her, aggressively. She was yelling at me from inside the laundry room, and I stalked towards her. It put me in mind of that the thing in the park, moving with an ominous but ill-defined menace.

I didn't recognize it then, but thinking back on it now, I knew she was terrified. She'd been in bad relationships in the past, been beaten. Instinctively, her fingers closed around the screwdriver she had, seconds before, been planning to use start the washing machine.

I stumbled on a pile of clothes, causing me to lurch towards her. And she stabbed me in the head.

I stopped remembering, or really, recognized the odd parallels, with this moment and when I first woke up. The thundering in my head was overwhelming, but it had never been a migraine- it was a combination of pain from a massive head wound and a good clip of brain damage.

When I woke up the first time, lying on the floor of the laundry room, I grabbed the screwdriver and ripped it out. I dropped it on top of the washer, and only then vaguely recalled that you were supposed to leave a puncturing object where you found it. I knew I needed an ambulance, but only managed to make it to the couch to pass out.

I laid back against the couch, and stared at the screwdriver in my hand. I realized that everything after my head injury has been a literal mindscrew- and I was the one holding the driver.

But I recognized something else. What Hanah did had trapped me, locked me somewhere I couldn't escape from. Running out of food, and every day running more and more out of space.

Maybe I was in a coma, with my brain dying, or maybe she unlocked something in my head, this terrible nightmare of a world.

But I couldn't stay here, running from monsters every second of every day. And fighting back was worse, because I knew there was the possibility that I was just murdering innocent people.

Holding the screwdriver, I knew what I had to do. She unlocked something in my head. And I had to lock it back up.

I positioned the screwdriver over the spot where Hanah stuck it in my skull. I had to push past dried blood in my hair, and through a scab knitting together my scalp. But the hole in my skull was still there. The screwdriver made a sound like keys dragged across a wooden desk as it slid home.

Every rational instinct screamed at me that I'd just jabbed a foreign object into my brain, and that I needed to tear it out. But my rational instincts hadn't helped me one but- and they didn't have any answers for a world that seemed to be progressively my existence whole. It made a crazy kind of sense, that in an irrational world, only irrational solutions worked.

Gram sat down on the couch, and took my hand. At least my brain damage was on board- even if we couldn't drag my sane part with us. I winced as I grabbed the handle, but it didn't hurt.

I didn't know what to expect, what was going to happen, but I knew that wasn't the point. I wasn't going to hurt anyone, anymore. I wasn't going to have to be afraid.

My hand tightened around the handle, and twisted.

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