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Twist: Chapter 17


  11:41:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1972 words  
Categories: Twist

Twist: Chapter 17

I was sad that my grandmother wasn't there when I woke up in the morning. It made the kitchen, and by extension, the entire house, more lonesome. I heard Hanah's voice, chastising me for being co-dependent, without I think having any actual understanding of what that really was.

But I did feel clingier. And that made me wonder if maybe Hanah had just left me. We'd been happy, but more and more that felt like a past tense, replaced by our tense present. We'd been fighting more, mostly because Hanah was less willing to cut me any slack- and I wasn't able to keep up with everything she wanted from me.

That would probably made more sense than her disappearing. People left each other every day. Disappearances were less common. I had mixed feelings over that. It made it easier to believe Hanah was okay, that she was refusing to talk to me because she wanted things to be over. But it also made me feel like she hadn't even cared enough to tell me she was going.

That left me with two choices for the day: sit around feeling sorry for myself, or go to work and try to distract myself from my misery.

The decision was easy. I started to search the house for the cleanest possible shirt. Most of them were developing a funk from several of days wear. But the cleanest I could find was wrinkled from being underneath a pile of dirtier clothes on the back of a chair in the front room. It even smelled a little like our fabric softener, rather than either BO or my BO-retardant.

I decided to toss it into the dryer for a few minutes to smooth the wrinkles out. I got as far as the doorway of the laundry room when the terrible smell hit me. I knew that smell- laundry put into the dryer but not fully dried, getting musty or maybe even moldy. If I put my ?clean? shirt in there it was going to come out smelling worse than the dirty ones. So I decided to just wear it wrinkly.

Standing on the threshold of the darkened laundry room, I shivered. Hanah would flip out if she came back and there was something alive in our dryer. It was everything we'd been fighting over, butting up against her own OCD.

I sighed. That exposed the flaw in my 'Hanah's okay, she just left me' explanation. Her clothes. She might abandon the dog's food, her toiletries, even leave behind some DVDs and books, that she could always pick up some other day, once she found a place of her own or got some storage.

But she'd been gone a while, now. If she'd had any inkling she was going to remain gone, she would have taken clothes, several changes worth.

I felt like I was violating her privacy, but I went to the bedroom and opened up her dresser drawers. Sure enough, they were packed just as tightly, the clothes folded just as exactingly, as they always were. The stuff on hangers in the closet was admittedly harder to gauge, but at a glance I could tell no more than a day or two worth of clothes were gone- far less than a woman I'd known to change clothes midway if she felt she'd sweated through her deodorant would want along.

That same, suffocating anxiety crept back through my being. Going to work wasn't just a matter of protecting my wounded ego- it was about freeing myself of crippling dread. I dressed, quickly.

I checked the mail on my way out. It was probably ridiculously optimistic, given how recently I ordered the part- and there was even a good chance it was Sunday, so it couldn't have been delivered today. But I needed it. I was starting to feel like the only chance I had to preserve my sanity was getting out of town.

I walked briskly to work. I decided I needed to at least know what day of the week it was. So I decided to check as soon as I got in.

I pulled up the weather in my browser, and just as the page started to load, with the day of the week and date, the page stopped loading. It froze, with the page loaded so I could just see the top of the letters and numbers, but not enough to make them out. I hit reload, and the page went blank.

I opened up a new window, and tried to open Google. Blank white space. I checked my network connection. Our internal network was fine. But I couldn't connect to the internet. Crap.

I spent the rest of the morning trying to trouble-shoot that. I thought I heard grumbling in the rest of the office, but I never saw anyone else there. Our usual administrator, who was also the office manager, and had also decided to start spending more time with his kids, wasn't in. I didn't have the number of our IT person- which probably didn't matter, since I didn't think I had the authority to authorize his crazy fee to get the office up and running again. So I worked harder than I usual did, testing connections and crawling around on the dusty floor- but less productively.

I took my lunch a little early, because I was frustrated, and because I was starting to sweat from the exertion.

Back at home, I checked the mailbox again. Still nothing.

I was alone at home. I was getting used to the fact I was just alone, period. I made myself some toast and oatmeal, because I was cold from the walk home, and because expending any more effort than that to just feed me seemed stupid. I also made a cup of cocoa to wash it down, and was standing over the kitchen sink, looking out the window at the backyard when I heard a voice behind me.

?You know you can't keep avoiding things forever,? Gram said.

I was getting used to her sneaking up behind me, so this time I didn't jump- though my mug did quiver a bit in my hands. I told myself it was because I was still cold from the chill during my walk home. Instinctively, my eyes drifted towards the bamboo, and I caught myself a moment too late.

When I turned back around, to face her, she knew that I had, too. ?I don't have time for a treasure hunt.?

?You haven't had an actual, full day off in, what, a week? And the network's down, anyway- there's nothing for you to do at work right now.?

?How would you know that??

?Are you really trying to trip me up?? She asked with a grin. ?I'm either a figment of your imagination, brain damage or mental illness, in which case I'd know everything you know. Or I'm a ghost, demon, extra-dimensional whatever, in which case I wouldn't really be all that limited anyway. Put another way: I know; do you really want to have to re-explain it, or have a conversation about how I know, or are you more interested in what's out there? The way I see it, your world is getting smaller. You can either continue to wall off whole sections of it, and accept that they're lost. Or you can face what terrifies you- face what's really there.?

?So says the hallucination of my dead grandmother.?

?Maybe I'm here because you couldn't face them alone.?

?But why am I alone?? I asked, desperation cracking my voice.

?Isn't that one of the questions your so worried about answering?? I was still hesitant. ?I'm not going to leave you. I'll keep you company.?

I changed into the filthiest I had on tap, the one I used to mow the lawn days earlier.

I couldn't explain it, but I didn't want to go in the backyard. It didn't make any sense, but just thinking about that spot in the backyard made me tremble. I'd been avoiding the question- the possibility, really, that something did happen to Hanah- that I was responsible.

I could tell without even going near it that the earth has been disturbed under the bamboo, and the grass and moss hadn't yet grown back. Someone had been digging- someone using something more sophisticated than Leroy's paws.

I grabbed the shovel I kept under the eave of the house, and started across the lawn. Days of unrelenting fog kept the grass slicked and moist; it made the grass nearly as slippery as ice. I stepped on a half-decayed mound of dog turd, and lost all grip on the world.

I came to a few minutes later, with my head resting against the shovel, now slicked with my blood. Just past the hairline at my temple, I had a fresh impact wound; the pressure of my head smacking the shovel cause my skin to burst. It felt, and I'm sure looked, horrific, but it wasn't a deep wound. I knew I would need to bandage it, because head wounds liked to bleed, but one look at my grandmother, and towards the bamboo, and I knew I wasn't going inside until this was settled. It had become far more important to me than a bleeding head wound- and there was a significant part of me that worried if I went inside, and gave myself an excuse to put it off another day or more, I'd take and run.

So I marched the rest of the way towards the bamboo.

It started to rain, big, fat, water balloons of the stuff soaking through my shirt in seconds. ?Fuck off,? I growled at the sky. Even through the rain I knew I was crying before I put the shovel in the dirt.

I kicked the shovel all the way into the dirt, probably from frustration, and lifted the first pile from the hole. Then I stabbed the shovel back in the earth, like it was a spear. I hit something, softer than dirt, with smoother give to it. Flesh. Not that I'd ever stabbed a shovel through flesh before, but I knew it, even if I didn't know how.

I pulled the shovel back out of the hole, enough that I could remove that shovelful. Then I knelt down and raked the dirt with my fingers. I felt like Leroy, clawing at the earth to reveal something, something that terrified me, but something that I now felt I needed to know.

The blood and the rain ran into my eyes, and the water made it harder going, made clumps of mud dribble back into the hole I was trying to dig. It got wet enough that I was scooping the mud out in my hands.

Then I saw hair, caked in mood, and started digging more frantically, like an animal. I felt like I couldn't breathe, but I couldn't stop, either. The mud at the edge of the shallow pit slid inward, dragging me down into the hole, so I was kneeling in the mud. I could feel hair beneath my fingers, and I wrapped my arms around the body, or God, a part of a body, because it was too small- and pulled.

It was a struggle to get both of us out of the hole, because the mud was too soft, and I ended up crawling on my belly like a soldier to get free of the mud.

I set the corpse down beside the significantly widened hole, panting. Gram was gone. I hated her for that- she said she wouldn't leave me, and now that I knew, now that I needed her, she was gone.

I was crying, and I didn't give a goddamn about pretending otherwise. I recognized the body. It was Leroy.

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