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Twist: Chapter 14

11/15/13

  11:37:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1535 words  
Categories: Twist

Twist: Chapter 14

How long is it appropriate to wait for monsters to leave? I didn't have my Emily Post handy- and my computer was down. So I waited a long time.

Not that- not that I was convinced there was actually anything there, mind you. That would have been truly crazy. But it didn't really help, knowing that were figments. It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't hallucinate. But it isn't rational- and you can't fight against it with reason. Acknowledging that an oiled and muscled Abe Lincoln with Fredrick Douglas for a penis probably isn't real doesn't make the rail splitter threateningly swinging his ax (or Fredrick Douglas) any less menacing- not that I've ever hallucinated that.

At least Gram laid off me. We drank cocoa in silence. When I did finally get up the courage to go out, I brought along my crowbar. ?What's that for?? she asked.

?I like to be thorough,? I said.

It was difficult, carrying the blue case of tools, the battery and the bar. But if one of those things was out there, I wanted to be ready. ?You, uh, want to come out with me??

?It's cold,? she said, ?but I'm used to that.?

I thought, perhaps, I could use her as an early warning. Unless she really was just my figment, and then she probably didn't have any extra sensory perception- but maybe my subconscious might notice things my distracted mind couldn't. Maybe that was her whole reason for being here- pointing out things I couldn't see yet.

She followed me out to the car. I tried not to pay attention to the fact that it was cold out here, and especially without clothes on, Gram's skin responded.

I leaned into the car and popped the hood. I lifted the old battery out, and set the new on in its place. Then I attached the cables without tightening them.

?Fingers crossed,? I told Gram.

She held up her fingers for me, crossed.

I turned the key. Nothing. I tried it again, to be sure it wasn't a fluke, and this time it made an annoyed cat noise, but didn't get further than that. ?Crap.? That meant that the hundred bucks I spent on the battery was basically wasted, because once the battery had been 'used,' they wouldn't take it back. It also meant I needed a starter- and my internet was busted, so I couldn't search for a local shop or just order the part online.

I remembered Hanah getting pissed at me for hoarding phone books. ?When was the last time you even used one?? she asked. So I threw them out- all of them.

Probably most annoying was that I had to spend the next several minutes bolting in that unnecessary battery. ?How are we doing?? I asked her once I had the clamps tightened around the battery; I still needed to bolt it in place.

?Shouldn't you be telling me?? she asked.

?I meant...? I pondered a moment if there was a non-lunatic way of putting it. ?I get paranoid, when I'm working like this. I feel vulnerable. I just wanted to know if anyone was coming this way, so I didn't get startled.?

?Have you seen anyone?? she asked. I was glad it was rhetorical; though I didn't know why I felt self-conscious about one of my hallucinations finding out about the others. Then a horrible thought crossed my mind. What if she couldn't see them.

?Done,? I said. The bolt wasn't as tight as I knew it should be, but my dread got the better of me, and the battery was in a little metal tray, so it wasn't like it was going anywhere, anyway.

When I stood up, she was watching down the street. Her hair looked more tousled, than usual. And I wondered if maybe it wasn't just that she couldn't see them, what if she was ignoring them, because she was one, too. My muscles tensed, as I prepared to have to fight off whatever it was that she'd become.

But when she turned back around, she was just my grandmother. ?You okay?? she asked. ?You look like you're trying really hard to shit yourself.? I relaxed.

?Just thought I saw something.? She stifled a laugh. ?You know what I mean.?

I packed up my tools, and my new (old), spare battery, and carried them inside. ?Do you want to talk?? she asked when she caught me trying to lock the door behind us.

?About?? I asked, and swallowed. It wasn't going to lock, anyway, so what was the point?

?You might not be as handy as your father, but I'm sure you knew you weren't going to need a crowbar to change out a battery.?

?I thought somebody followed me home from the store. So I wanted to be careful.?

She frowned. She could tell I was lying, though she probably couldn't have imagined the particulars.

?But I need to go into work,? I said.

?I thought you'd taken the day off.?

?Yeah, well, our internet is dead, and I need to order a part.? She frowned. She was from an older generation, and I imagined she disapproved of me using a work 'resource' for my own personal needs.

?Have a nice walk, in this,? she said, and looked out the front door window. The fog was nasty looking, and it obscured enough of the street that my mind played tricks on me, and told me there were people in the street.

I bundled up, taking my new jacket, and left. Down the block, where I temporarily left the car when it wouldn't start, I remembered that I could use directory assistance on my cell phone. I weighed the exorbitant fee against continuing through the fog, jumping at every shadow, convinced something horrible was waiting for me to drop my guard.

I dialed assistance. It rang, and rang, and rang, and eventually played a message that they were at capacity, and could I please call back later. ?Off to work I go,? I muttered, and kept moving.

One thing struck me on the way in- the silence. There were no fewer (and possibly many more) than 3 dogs on my way into work. One was a chestnut dog, that looked like a retriever but smaller, who I called after the color of her fur. Another was black, a Labrador; I suspected there were actually two of them sharing that same yard, but that they never both came out where I could see them at the same time, one male and one female. I called them Midnight. I called the last one- though technically she was first, starting from my house- Flax, because of her golden fur. At least, I thought flax was golden; now I couldn't remember.

They always barked at me. Not much. I think they'd gotten used to me. But they barked at least once, if only to excitedly say hello. But I couldn't remember the last time I'd heard them. Thinking back, I think the last dog I heard bark was Leroy.

The offices we shared with Dr. Payne, who irony had apparently dictated become a dentist, didn't take up the whole block. On the opposite side of it were a row of houses. The house on the corner was dilapidated and brown.

A truck was always parked outside it. Both the house and the truck were in that peculiar state of disrepair that set off my horror movie radar; it was clear that someone kept them functional, but the little social niceties like a new coat of paint, or fixing broken embellishments just never happened.

I realized how stupid that was- paranoia based off of what amounted to little more than neighborhood association propaganda, a collective anxiety over property values manifesting itself in an intolerance of anything short of suburban perfection. The place I lived, and my own car, were in a similar state- if my car was a few years younger.

That yard was where Chestnut lived, though I hadn't seen him for days at least.

The back of the truck was filled with fallen leaves, covered in a tarp. As I approached, I wondered what might by lying in wait beneath it. I wished I'd thought to bring my crowbar. I wanted to give the truck a wide berth, but the office entrance was thirty feet away, and my options at this point were to circle the entire block, or to cross the street twice- both of which were likely to raise flags if any of my coworkers were out on a smoke break and noticed me.

So I soldiered ahead, gritting my teeth the entire way. I was in such a hurry to put distance between myself and the truck, that I overshot my usual entrance, and ended up at the front door. That outer door, the one we shared with the dentist's office, was locked, and I didn't have a key for that one. But I could tell from where I was standing that the back door was still bolted open. My eyes darted to the truck, and its tarp, quickly, it hadn't moved, hadn't been disturbed. So I hurried inside.

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