Sunday, April 10, 2011

This Fire Grows Higher

So I wrote this one and sent it out for publications. No one bit, which I can understand. It's pretty weird and pretty funny and not something most publishers can see in print. This story is about marriage and divorce. Enjoy.



Married and Buried

There was a black oak a little away from the hill the overlooked the town. When Daniel was young the oak held mysteries and wonders. Like many things in his youth now, it was old and rotten. He pulled the to the tree and kept the engine running.

He went to work with a mechanical disposition. The thing rolled up in the carpet was laid out in the back seat. He had convinced himself that it was not his wife. The act he had committed was not murder. That was he was doing now was not dumping the body. That he was not a monster.

The shovel bit into the ground and he dug in the dark and in the silence. In the distance a coyote sung a lonely song of dying. The howling brought back memories of when he was once hers.

It was 1984 and the coyotes howled then too. He was 18, a newly licensed driver, and on that night he took her out for a spin in his dad’s old Buick 8. They ate burgers with their hands. She bought him beer with her fake I.D. They drank like rebels and blasted Springsteen as they roared down the avenue. Then they came up to the hill that overlooked the town and he showed her the city. He held her close against the cold and they took each other there for the first time in the backseat.

From here the nights were always black, but when the stars appeared – which was seldom in the winter – they seemed to go on forever. Back then this town meant something. The streetlamps and factories used to gleam like paper lanterns. Now, this place was a cemetery of concrete boxes. This town was an infection. It had gotten to them slowly. It greened their youth and their heart and their love. It corrupted them slowly. Killed them as sure as anything.

He tossed another shovelful of dirt over their shoulder. He wiped his brow with the edge of his sleeve and climbed out of the hole.

“That’ll do”, He said.

*****

He had wept until the tears had dried inside him and when he was done he wrapped her in the spare threadbare carpet they had in the closet. He snuck her out the back and loaded her into the backseat of the Camero.

There was blood on the counter where her head hit and it seeped down into the drawers and the doors and the hinges. The pool of blood that formed had congealed in the time he was gone. It stuck to the floor like water taffy. He took out bleach and gloves and floor cleaner. He got on his hands and knees and began his work.

When he was done, he cleaned the single solitary dish in the sink.

His clothes were slick with blood and dirt. He went downstairs and burned them in an old steel drum then he went upstairs to the bathroom and took a shower. He let the water run over him and he scrubbed until his skin was pink and smooth. When he stepped out, he looked into the mirror, a single thought present in his mind.

Empty.

He tried to remember the beginning of his life with Lauren but he couldn’t He knew there had to been good years in the bygone times but he couldn’t remember anything specific. He tried to remember Lauren, as she was when they first met. He remembered her strawberry hair, her luminous hazel eyes, her slight bubbly girl laugh. He tried to remember the insignificant things about her. The way she drank pop, the way she sat in a movie theater, the way she cleared her throat or folded her napkins into half-triangles. He assembled these disjointed pieces into a picture of her, but the lens cap to his mental camera was on and all he captured was darkness.

All he could think about was the way she seemed in her later years. Her laugh was condescending. Her scowl was permanent. She seemed to loom over him like a shadow. 5’4’’, 119lbs of pure withering stare and malign hatred.

When he killed her, he was surprised to find that he felt nothing. I’m in shock, he thought as he cradled her body and cried low, but ultimately empty, tears. The act of cradling his dead wife’s body seemed hollow. It was like watching an actor on T.V from across a long hall.

After he lugged her to the car, as he buried her in that hole, as he wiped the blood off the floor, as he burned the clothes he killed her in, as he looked at his reflection in the mirror, he realize this sensation now filling him was the only true thing he had ever felt.

Emptiness. Nothingness.

There was serenity in the center of him as he admitted that he felt nothing over his wife’s death. A disquieting peace rang out in his mind.

The singing carried up and up, up the stairs, down the hall.

It wasn’t good signing, it as out of key, but he could pick out the melody and he found it familiar.

As he edged down the corridor, as he stood at the top flight of the stairs, as he craned his ear at the landing, the words became sharper and clearer. He picked them out.

And there’s nothing in it

You will ask yourself

Where is my mind?

Where is my mind?

“That song is so me” She had told him once. “I’d forget my own head sometimes.”

An ice river ran thorough him. He continued on, unconsciously, thorough the living room into the kitchen.

He stood in a silent, clean kitchen. The floor was polished. The counter sparkled. The dish rack housed a single, solitary place. Daniel couldn’t remember the last time the kitchen looked this clean. His numb fear abated and pride took its place.

“Did you do all this?” She said.

She stood there with a bemused smile. Her gaze gleamed with going. Her arms were folded, her hips cocked in a frighteningly human way.

He fell back and began to tip over. He threw his arms out. He caught himself on the counter’s edge and as his hip struck the sides of the kitchen counter a cupboard flew open.

“Look like you seen a ghost.” She laughed. Daniel clutched a hand to his chest.

A look crossed her. Her hand came to her mouth.

“Oh crap. I really scared the shit out of you, didn’t I?”

She laid a hand on his shoulder.

“Jesus, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to give you a heart attack.”

Blood flushed his face. His heart pounded in his ears. She watched him as he fought to get his breath back.

Her face was wholesome and unblemished. Her eyes were bright. This was not the corpse of the thing he buried. Nor was it his wife. This was something else.

“Honey”

He threw his arm around her and pulled her in. He laid his head on her neck and began to sob. He remembered her head skipping off the counter like a chipped record. Of her death, he thought that it was like someone flipped her on. As if she was a light switch. One moment, alive. Next moment…not alive.

He held her. She stroked his back. She purred in his ear and he squeezed her tighter, thinking, “Why aren’t you dead?”

He stroked her hair until he felt his finger slipped into the hole in the base of neck. The hair clung to the spots where the blood had poured.

She peeled away.

“Tell me about your day…” She said. “I’m dying to know.”

*****

“You’re dead.”

“I am.”

“I killed you.”

“I know. I forgive you.”

She sat down and took a cigarette out of her pocket and she took the lighter from the table and lit up. She blew smoke rings into the air, slow delicate wisp of smoke.

He looked at her. “Am I crazy?”

She shrugged and looked at him thorough the smoke rings.

“Are you asking if you’ve had a homicidal episode or if I’m a figment of your imagination, conjured up by your guilt to torment you?”

His mouth opened and closed but no words emerged. He slumped against the counter.

“The answer is no.” She said. Then: “To the second one. I’m not a figment of your imagination. I am very, very real.”

She always smoked with the urgency of a nervous card cheat, sneaking outside for a quick cigarette before coming back in to explain to the men as to why she had an pair of aces up her sleeves. She stubbed the cigarette out on the table and scooped the ashes into her hand and then dumped them on the floor. She dusted her lap and then looked at him.

“We should talk. I should explain things.”

She stood up, he stepped back. His legs hit the cupboard door. She held her hands out in front of her.

“Look, I know it wasn’t your intention to kill me. It was an accident. Things got a little out of hands. You know you get when you’re angry. I know how you get when you’re angry. But you would never hurt me, right? You love me, after all. I am your wife.”

“I buried you.” He said in a dead voice. His hands were slowly reaching for the cupboard door.

“And I forgive you.” She said. “I know you Danny. I know the man I married and the man that I married wouldn’t kill anyone…at least, if they didn’t have it coming first.”

“I killed you.” He said

“Yes. And we need to move pass that if we’re going to things out.”

His shoulder shagged. He propped himself up on the counter and bowed his head like a man in prayer. His finger slipped down into the top of the cabinet and felt around for a handle.

“Killed you.” He whispered.

She rolled her eyes. A sigh parted her lips. She reached for another cigarette and turned around to light it.

“You keep saying that. It’s irritating.” She said. “You know—“

The frying pan made a ringing sound against the back of her head. The cheap metal dented into a horseshoe shape. He was aiming for hole in the bloody black mess of her matted hair. With one quick swing of the arm he brought it down on her. She fell, didn’t even make a sound, as if she’d fallen into a river of mattresses. He looked down at her, the frying pan feeling weightless in his hand.

He had killed it.

He stepped over the body and opened the door to the basement.

*****

It spoke as he knotted the last length of rope around its chest.

“You know the worst part, Danny? The worst part is that this was easy.”

He went to the table in the back of the room.

“Look at you. Methodical. Calm. All sociopathic. Most people kill their wives and they lose their shit, but you? You probably dreamed about this.”

It looked at him. Its were gray-white with black pinholes. He glanced at her and saw nothing but rage.

“How does this story end, hm?” It said. “You bury me and just walk away with it. What are you going to tell the neighbors? ‘Oh she’s at her mothers. I don’t know how long she’ll be back.’ What were you going to tell them, Danny? That I ran away? Had some guy on the side and just disappeared? Did I run away to Acapulco with one of the bagboys from work? C’mon, you can tell me.”

Danny took the duck tape from the drawer and got a tube of plastic from the table. He took the plastics and cut it into sheets and then went back to the slab where it laid bound, wriggling under the lacework of ropes.

“I thought that after you stopped saying ‘I love you’, it meant that you didn’t have to say it anymore. Just like my parents. They never said I love you, they just knew it. But when you looked at me like I was something you had to wear, I got it. You didn’t love me. You didn’t love anything.”

He laid the plastic down on the floor and then taped it down. He taped the top, the bottom, and the sides. He then went to the tool wall and got some gloves and goggles.

“You liked a housekeeper, a doting wife; you liked having your bills paid on time and your feet washed. You liked the idea of being loved, but actual caring about someone…that’s just so beyond you.”

He stood over he and it bent its head back and her eyes were milk glasses with little black cherry pits. It spat at him.

“You’re dead inside.”

He wiped the spit from the bridge of his nose and walked to the wall. He took the saw off its wall mount and started again towards the table. It looked at her with its demon dead eyes and her sneer and her stare.

“Deader than me.”

He turned on the blade.

*****

He pulled up into the shoulder of the road and he went out turned off the light. The sun was coming soon and the night was the strange obscure black that came with the yellowing of the sky at dawn. He opened the trunk and took the bags from them and walked them over to the side of the road, right to the barricade and dropped them. He saw them roll into the bottom and felt content.

He got into his car and drove home.

*****

And it was there.

*****

“And it was singing.” The man said.

Arthur Jensen looked at him, but the man just looked at the point where his cuffed hands met the table.

Jensen echoed the words, as if tasting the words in his mouth.

“It was singing?” He asked. “Who was singing?”

“Where is my mind? Where is my mind?”

Jensen suppressed a shiver. When he was roused from bed, He expected a homicide. You know, something normal. It was the fifth hour of this and he was starting to feel like a man watching a bad cartoon show. The same joke get told over and over in different ways, each time a little darker, a little less funnier.

He guessed it was to be expected. When a perp came in with a served head in a grocery bag, weird is the sounding gun to the dead races. He looked at the mirror on the wall and shook his head.

The Captain just stared ahead as he came right in. He held a folder in his hand and he had the look of someone who had just been startled and was trying his best to look poise.

“You look like someone took a dump in your cereal?” He said. The Captain just looked at him.

“ Read it.”

The Captain handed him the file and Arthur planned to skim it until he caught the first three words of the last paragraph.

“That doesn’t make any sense.” Arthur said to himself. And it didn’t.

They never found the served head that the desk sergeant and three other officers saw. The body of Lauren Holmes was eventually unearthed underneath a tree in the hill overlooking the town.

The plastic bags that Daniel Holmes claimed to have dumped his wife were found empty off of I-90.

No one could ascertain the lividity of the body. They oft-handled remark was “only a few hours” despite the fact that the Lauren Holmes was killed around six the previous evening. The hole where the body was found was disturbed prior to the unearthing. Detective Jensen reported to have told a colleague that it was as if something barrowed out and then crawled back in again.

Of the body, there was nothing but a faint smile caused by rigor.

The End

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