Please give me some input about this story. I want to work on it and make it better but would really love some input about the ending and the exorcism.
I’m still working on the Music Box. It hasn’t completely stalled because I know it has a beautiful ending. I may rewrite it in a different POV.
I liked my apartment building. It wasn’t anything to brag about but I liked it.
I came home one night after work, took my shoes off, threw my jacket on the bed, poured a glass of mojito mix from the fridge and sat out on my bedroom patio deck that overlooked the courtyard in the middle of the apartment building. Summer was over so there were no girls sunbathing to say hi to and flirt with but the weather was still so nice, maybe even better with the heat dying down. The wind was stroking the trees in the courtyard like a harp in the hands of a mysterious musician creating a peaceful, morning at the ocean beach sound. I sat there with my feet up, looking up at a perfect pre-dusk sky and feeling like it was as good as it gets, the life I had. By as good as it gets, I meant that it could be better but it was as good as I could expect after being divorced again. I have had my bouts of depression, self-doubt, pessimism and other psychological issues but I can also be hopelessly optimistic at long stretches at a time. It seemed I was on the cusp of another one of those marathons in positivity but maybe not quite yet. I hadn’t decided if I would go for my evening walk before or after dinner and I may not go at all, I thought, because it felt so good sitting right here with mojito in hand feeling the warm breeze.
I won’t go into the whole divorce story. It’s not necessary. I made some horribly stupid mistakes and she made mistakes but I had moved on and it had only been official for two months. Moving on was possible only to an extent for one main reason, and then some other reason I couldn’t put my finger on. The main reason I knew I would never completely move on was that even though the relationship I once had with my ex-wife had truly ended I still had two beautiful spell binding daughters. So, I would always have a relationship of some kind with that woman. I had moved on however, like I said, to the greatest extent possible. But I wasn’t going to stop having a relationship with my girls. Dad wasn’t going anywhere, even though he wasn’t there to tuck you in every night or rub your back or tell the story of baby toothbrush or baby starfish. He was still there, in that truly unexplainable way like when people say, as they point to their chest, ‘in here’ or when every other weekend when I didn’t have to work or special occasions when he had permission to be physically present and participate.
My daughters liked the apartment courtyard as much as I did and when they came for weekend visits that summer I would watch them from the balcony as they swam below which helped me meet all the young college girls and post-college twenty-somethings who sunbathed down there. They had known how to swim for about three years by that time so I wasn’t worried about them drowning or else I would have been down there with them. I remember when they couldn’t swim and that was a lot of fun but work, having to pay attention every single second. Once or twice I did swim with them but most of the time I sat on my balcony patio reading but watching as well, ready and waiting for the occasional ‘Daddy, watch this!’ to which half the time I retorted, ‘Cut it out!’ because my youngest daughter liked to push the envelope of safety in most situations. That is a common phrase heard from me when the girls are around. Sometimes I would slap my hands together and then say it. They would ask me why I clapped and I would tell them, ‘To get your attention’. That summer they swam like seals and played just as energetically. They were my neighbors’ favorite little sisters every time they came for the weekend and they were always asked about on the weekends they weren’t there. I would come home and exercise my routine and the beautiful girl who was underneath me in #183 would routinely be by the pool and she would look up at me lounging on my balcony and ask where the girls were and I would say with their mom. She would just nod her head like a beautiful Megan Fox bobble head doll, putting her earbuds back in, and I would continue enjoying my mojito and the fantastic courtyard view.
I sat there that night happy, soaking in the fall sundown, feeling gentle westerly winds caress my beard with its invisible fingers, looking at that courtyard and the other open-windowed apartments across the way thinking about those summer weekends with the girls and how it was going to be another nice weekend and no working from home this weekend. I was completely caught up, ahead actually. It was such a beautiful peaceful night! I was about to go to the kitchen and pour another mojito but then thought better of it. It soon became dark and a chilly wind blew through me and into my bedroom through the patio screen door rattling everything inside so I went in, secured the patio door shut and went to bed.
That next morning I woke up from an intense fever-charged dream and felt horrible, not just physically but also mentally. I dragged myself into work anyway expecting to shake it off by drinking lots of water but nothing doing. I felt feverish all day and unusually depressed. I went straight to bed when I got home that night, completely forgetting that it was Friday and that I was supposed to pick up the girls from their mother’s house. She had called and texted several times that night and it wasn’t until Saturday morning that I answered her.
“You could have called before going to bed,” she said in the irritated tone she uses only with me.
“You don’t sound good,” she said, suddenly sounding different.
“I’m sick and can’t sleep. I caught something floating around. It’s not something you want me to give the girls. I’m sorry about your plans. And tell the girls I’m sorry.”
I checked my temperature and even though I felt deathly ill and my heart felt like it was racing I had no real fever. I was beginning to feel worse and the fact that I wasn’t going to see the girls that weekend which meant we would go nearly a whole month without seeing each other, all because of this bout of whatever it was, didn’t help. Damn it. But it was more than those feelings, surely. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and my eyes seemed dilated and sunken in my sullen sleep deprived face.
How is it that invisible things can have such an influence on us? How could I go from feeling peaceful and happy that night to so sad and sick the next morning? Feelings are like the wind. You can’t see them but they have so much power over what is visible and you can see and feel the effects of them. And there are other invisible things that go much deeper than feelings. Feelings are more like the sound of the leaves blowing and are only the consequence of something much deeper. There is so much around us that we can’t see but it’s there. Our eyes aren’t powerful enough to see them, like things only powerful microscopes can see, and things that are as real as what is seen but beyond our senses, even with powerful man-made tools.
That whole weekend I was under covers shivering and not sleeping, only getting up to go the bathroom twice. My bedroom walls became drab and dreary and began squeezing against me in my bed. Monday morning I crawled out and made two phone calls, one to my job and the other to the doctor.
The doctor said as far as he could see I was fine. I had no signs of the flu but based on what I had described he thought maybe I had some bacterial infection so he prescribed some antibiotics and sent me to the pharmacy and said to get rest and drink lots of water.
I was supposed to feel better after the Z pack three day dose in about three days, right? No. I felt the same or worse. Thursday morning I called my boss and she said she could give me the rest of the week if I needed it and hinted that I could work from home that weekend if I felt like it, to keep from getting too far behind. A couple other coworkers had called in sick different days that week as well and I could hear frustration in her voice as she said she would try to hold the fort down until I made it back.
Making my boss assume my workload and my ex-wife unhappy with me about ruining her plans I started feeling highly anxious about my future. Was I about to be fired? What if I lost rights to see the girls? Sometimes I make such stupid choices. I shouldn’t have had so many mojitos! I trashed my immune system and caught something horrible! Why do I do these things? I must have paced back and forth from my bedroom to the kitchen for maybe an hour before I realized it. I was exhausted and confused and suddenly very fearful beyond just my job and the girls. On a trip back to the kitchen I stopped and noticed a knife on the counter next to the sink. I don’t remember getting that out. I looked around for some evidence of something I had chopped up. I hadn’t eaten anything. I went back to my room and inspected the bedroom and noticed and plate on the bedside table. That was from the day before, wasn’t it? I picked it up and there were crumbs and I took it back to the kitchen. I picked up the knife and looked at it. There was nothing on it. I didn’t get that knife out. But who would have? My heart was beating fast in my chest and I started having trouble breathing which I’ve never felt in my life. Nobody else would have done that but me. True, but my God! I had chills. But then I told myself I was just sick and simply forgot what I was doing. I probably meant to chop up an apple and lost track of what I was doing. I put the knife back in its empty slot.
But what if someone had come into my apartment?
I had been so out of it, feverishly ill, that someone could have come in. I opened all my closets, looked under my bed and the girl’s bed in the spare room. I stopped and listened. But what was I listening for? I shook my head, told myself to settle down and relax, turned off all the lights in the apartment, walked to my bedroom and crawled under the covers. I would just go to sleep and in the morning these feelings would be gone. Did I lock the apartment door? Of course, I did. And I probably already checked it as I always do. But I can’t remember. What if I forgot to lock it and fell asleep? That person could come back in! What person? You’ve lost it, I told myself. I got up to check the door just to prove to myself that I had nothing to worry about and it was indeed locked and I immediately felt better and my heart slowed down as walked back to my bedroom and slipped into bed.
I slept a long time, maybe three hours or more and then I woke up, still and relaxed. I looked at the picture of the girls on the wall just left of my bedroom door leading to the dark shadowy living room. The girls were so photogenic, they smiled and posed effortlessly, like their mother. I missed her but knew we were finished. I hadn’t been the husband I should have. I had the best thing and was yet so careless. Then my mind was back on the girls and the picture as I felt at least some consolation that all was not lost.
I saw someone move past the bedroom door towards the kitchen! I started to move but was frozen, completely scared and then I realized I actually was frozen, absolutely paralyzed! I strained to move and couldn’t. I tried to roll out of the bed so I could reach my handgun in the drawer of the bedside table but I could not move! Then I saw the person move past the door again and look back at me with fierce eyes. And suddenly, my legs jerk and I can move. I noticed then that I was completely drenched in sweat and my bed was wet as if it were one of those old water beds and had sprung a leak. I threw open the top drawer of the table next to my bed grabbing my Glock and at the same time with my other hand had grabbed the cartridge and slapped it into the pistol.
“I’ve got a gun and I’m ready to use it!” I yelled as I slowly made my way to the end of my bed facing the bedroom door to my left.
My eyes had adjusted to the darkness and through the door frame of my bedroom door I could see most of the living room so I decided I would move out and turn to the right since that’s where I saw the person move.
“You need to leave if you don’t want me to shoot!”
I heard no movement.
I jumped out into the living room pointing my gun wildly and saw no one. If my heart had been racing earlier that night from the knife it was now beating and pounding like a prisoner on the cage inside my chest. I turned to the kitchen and saw nothing, looking at the pantry but then back behind me at the spare bedroom. I checked the pantry, even though I knew there wasn’t really room for a person to have squeezed in. I threw it open and no person was inside.
I walked back to the living room in front of my bedroom door and glanced in at my bed and open closet. No one.
I breathed uneasy as I looked at the spare room door. Sweat dripped down my back and I wiped more of it off my forehead with my free hand as I walked slowly toward the room, turning on lights as I got closer. Then I exploded “I’ll shoot!” jumping into the room pointing the Glock in every direction as I turned on the light at the same time. There was no one in the room and I could see the closet open and empty except toys on the floor my daughters had left. I went through the whole apartment and there was no sign of anyone. I checked the door and it was locked. What the hell is wrong with me? I am losing my mind! I checked every part of that apartment again and then my body fell on to the bed, exhausted. I don’t remember putting the gun away but I must have because it was back in the drawer and the cartridge under my mattress when I woke that morning. I’m so glad I didn’t shoot at a shadow or something and then have to explain a bullet in the wall to my landlord or even the police.
Friday morning came and I received two phone calls, one from the ex and another from my cousin, Vinnie. My ex-wife said I could take the girls that night if I was up for it because they had been asking for me, which meant that although they probably had been asking for me she had been asked on a date for the evening and she didn’t have a sitter. I told her I was still feeling ill and she hung up quickly. My cousin’s call I missed so I called her back.
“Vinnie. I missed your call. I’m sick.”
Her real name was Joy but when she made her permanent residence Austria in her early twenties after backpacking through Europe she began calling herself Wienananda, which was a combination of Wien, which is the true version of our English word Vienna, and Ananda, meaning Joy in supposedly Sanskrit. I’m not sure if she came up with it or not but a few years back she shortened it to Wien, just one name, legally, Wien (sounding like Vin). As far as I know, I’m the only one who calls her Vinnie. She actually lived in Austin by that time.
“You have an evil spirit, my cousin,” she said.
I had told her everything, including the cold wind that blew into my bedroom which occurred to me for the first time as being a little strange when I told her the story. But I wasn’t ready to consider that an evil spirit had pitched camp inside me. She asked if I felt well enough to drive because she knew a spiritist/hypnotist that could cure me or at least give me some good advice.
“No way in hell,” I said laughing and coughing. I had now developed a cough.
“Yes way. And from hell, my cousin, from hell. And that’s where we need to send it back.”
I told her that I probably could drive to Austin but I didn’t think I was up for a séance or whatever she had in mind. Even if I would be open to something like that couldn’t he just talk to me over the phone? She said I really should take her seriously and that no, he would want to see me in person.
That whole day I felt my bones constricting and the sharpest pain in my spine and it became increasingly harder to turn the trunk of my body to the right or left and the same with my neck. By Friday evening around five I had called Vinny back and told her I was getting in the car right now driving to Austin and I’d be there in about four hours. My calculations were off because I had made a choice to leave when I did because I wanted to avoid driving at night but about the last two hours of the trip were in the dark.
Driving down I-35 about halfway from Dallas to Austin I realized I was feeling better and thought that if there was an evil spirit maybe it was still in the apartment. Just as I had this thought my hands jerked the steering wheel to the right across two lanes of traffic and onto the shoulder! Thank God there was no one in the other lanes! I nearly went off the highway altogether and down an embankment but I corrected and braked, coming to a violent stop as people honked and sped by. I was completely soaked in sweat and when wiping my forehead I noticed something dark on my hands. Turning on the dome light I looked at my hands and it was blood. Blood was coming out slowly from my forehead. I watched it slowly bead up after wiping it a few times.
“Leave me alone!” I screamed.
I tried to call Vinnie and I could not make a connection.
I sat there shaking and not sure what to do. I thought about walking to the next public stop and trying to call Vinnie again to see if she would come get me but for some reason couldn’t get myself to abandon the car.
I started the car and drove back into the middle lane of the highway.
So, he let me know he was still present, I thought.
I suddenly began to be worried about how much this thing or entity, whatever it was, could read my mind. So I made sure that the second I started thinking about getting rid of it that I wiped that out of my mind. In fact, I shut down all thinking and just drove, hoping that nothing would cause it to steer me off the road again.
I arrived at my cousin’s house around ten that evening and when she saw me she gasped because I had dried blood wiped all over the right side of my head, my neck, and my shirt where I had wiped my forehead.
She took me straight to the bathroom and helped me clean up. I changed clothes and tried to freshen up because we were apparently going to a club where this spiritist did a hypnotic show. Vinnie said we would get a chance to talk to him afterwards and see if he would help.
“Listen, his shows can get a little racy,” she told me.
I shook my head and told her that I didn’t care because if he could help it didn’t matter. What do you mean racy, I asked her.
“He makes girls have orgasms. It’s really shameless, honestly, for him to use his gifts for such adolescent shit. He normally has groupies and everything at every show.”
She shook her head and looked over at me. We were now driving to the club.
“I met him when I first moved here and he wasn’t like this. Mostly what he used to do is what I’m going to try to get him to do for you.”
I started to say exorcism but she said it. I told her not to say it and she knew why.
We got to the club and it was smaller than what I pictured. It was actually a house in the middle of a neighborhood and there were probably forty people or so in this dark house with a bar where the kitchen probably once was. Minute by minute groups of women entered the club dressed in girl’s night out décor with an occasional spattering of two or three males straggling in. We ordered a beer and turned to look at a small band of musicians playing something acoustic set up where a couch probably went a couple decades before. The spiritist hadn’t arrived we assumed but he apparently had been there the whole time because about twenty minutes later he came down a spiral staircase with three women and squeezed into the crowd going straight to the microphone. He introduced himself and then he did a series of audience participated exhibitions of his abilities, a man quacking like a duck, a woman doing several different accents that supposedly she had never been able to do before, he hypnotized a man into a dog who pissed his pants, which he said was an unintended byproduct. The whole room had been gradually worked into a bit of a frenzy because most people were there to see him hypnotize random women and make them climax. So it happened.
He asked for volunteers and nobody jumped up to participate. Lots of people were volunteering their friends but no one was making their way to the front. So he quieted the group and shouted out a name, Nicole I think. He said that there were three women with the middle name Nicole in the audience and he told them to come forward. Without hesitation three women came and sat down in the three chairs that had been placed up front. Their friends were in shock, and I was able to see this on their faces, as if these would have been the least likely women to participate in what appeared to easily become an orgy of some sort. They each gave their names, including the middle name he said and he proceeded to explain that when he went through a series of steps they would have an orgasm just by shaking his hand and would not stop until he let go and that they would have no choice to hold his hand until he let go. The more he touched the women, on the shoulder, the leg, the hand, the more they would get aroused until finally he would take their hand in a hand shake and would hold it. Then he would let go and ask them how they felt and they would say good. He would take their hand again, longer this time and they would begin climaxing and so forth. One by one he appeared to control each of the women with just a hand shake, making them squirm in their seats. The last woman climaxed the longest and loudest because the crowd cheered for him to keep going and he held her hand until she fell out of her chair.
The show was now over the hypnotist said and everyone clapped and Vinnie pulled me close to him and everyone else trying to meet him. The sound of trance music was turned up full volume and the club became a dance floor. When the hypnotist saw Vinnie and I had making our way to the front he looked at us and yelled, “No!” and pushed his way toward the staircase. Vinnie held my hand dragging me through the crowd and met him at the bottom of the staircase.
“Tony, please. My cousin really needs your help!”
“I told you Wien, I told you on the phone I don’t do that anymore!”
I looked at her and she looked away from me and pulled on his shirt.
“Tony, you have to. Look at him.”
He didn’t want to look at me because he knew but his conscious forced him to.
He looked at me completely put out and I began to cry. I told him I was about to lose my job and said some other things I can’t remember and then it was when I told him I was afraid I wouldn’t see my daughters again that he changed. He looked over at a couple women who seemed to be waiting for him and shook his head ‘no’ to them. They both gave him a vicious looks and made their way to the front door. He shook his head and huffed.
“Come on,” he said motioning us up the stairs.
We followed him to a door at the top of the stairs which we went through and he slammed shut once we were inside. It was a quiet expansive room that pulsed slightly from the thumping sound below.
“Sit down,” he said, still giving us the feeling that we were being a huge inconvenience. We sat down on a couch as he splashed water on his face in a tiny kitchen sink at the far end of the room. He turned around toweling his face and walked back toward us talking to Vinnie like they were catching up, telling her how the club rented his apartment to him for only four hundred, joking that he had hypnotized them into such a great price. She said something about everything being the same furniture she had remembered. Then his tone became serious and irritated again.
“This is going to get worse before it gets better, I hope you know,” he says to me. “And I don’t think you know, Wien, how much this takes it out of me. But I’m gonna do it, for you, Wien.”
“Thank you,” she said softly.
I watched Vinnie and Tony looked at each other for a moment.
He pulled up a folding chair and sat down facing us, prepared himself.
“So this is what’s going to happen, and Wien you should sit over there. I don’t want you to get hurt. Nothing bad’s going to happen. Just in case either one of us gets, you know. You’ve seen this before, so you know. I’m going to ask you to close your eyes. So, close your eyes. Close your eyes. I’m going to count slowly from ten down to one and when I say ‘one’ you’re going to feel completely relaxed, and then I’m going to ask you some questions. Eventually, and I fucking don’t know how long, but eventually I’m going to talk to this mother-fucker and see what the fuck he wants. Hopefully we can make a deal with him and he’ll leave you the hell alone and won’t give me too much trouble. He’s going to talk through me because he’s going to be in me instead of you and you’re going to have to remember what he says because I sure as hell won’t. I’ve done this before when the stupid fuck didn’t remember anything and we had to do it again and it was a fucking mess. These mother fuckers don’t like repeating themselves, you know what I mean? So remember for Chrissake, okay?”
I shook my head. The rest of my body already had been shaking.
So he started counting backwards from ten down to one and when he reached one I felt amazing, so good, so relaxed. Vinnie told me later how different I looked when he said ‘one’.
“What’s your name?” Tony asked.
I told him my name and included the same middle name he had said were the young ladies’ middle names and he said, “cute.”
“Yes. He’s hypnotized but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a smartass.”
He asked me a few more questions, like the girls’ names and questions like that.
Then… “Who else is sitting with us tonight?” he asked.
There was silence for about sixty seconds.
Vinnie says that she almost said something to Tony after about a minute but Tony shook his head ‘no’ to her. Then she says she noticed a sudden change in Tony. The entity had moved into Tony, Vinnie said, and it was obvious.
A slow quiet kind of rumbling developed in Tony until a monstrous guttural voice came growling out of him.
“What do you want with my friend here?” Tony said in his voice.
Then the entity erupted inside Tony. A formidable thunderous sound came from him resembling a combination of tortured moaning and sadistic laughter with a resonance that shook the whole second floor apartment as if it had risen to surface from a deep dark cistern from the wrong side of eternity.
Then there was a long silence again except the thumping musical sound of trance from the club below.
Until it spoke.
Vinnie says Tony shook his head, “We can’t let you do that, Winter. What will you take instead?”
“Only. Flesh,” it rumbled with seismic force.
“NO!” Tony commanded in his own voice. “That IS NOT AN OPTION! HE IS NOT YOURS!”
There was only just the sound again of the vibrating sounds from below.
“Then I will go into them,” the entity said. “But I was not alone there.”
Then Vinnie said Tony’s body relaxed as if he had just been flexing in the mirror for the last thirty minutes and now was free.
Tony counted again from ten to one and I opened my eyes.
Vinnie was already wiping Tony’s face and tenderly massaging his shoulders and neck and she suggested he lie down in his bed in the corner where Vinnie had been sitting.
“Damn it, Wien. Don’t ever ask me to do this again. Okay? Please?”
“Thank you, Tony. You know I’m grateful for you. For what you just did and for everything. Just rest, okay?”
“What did he say to you?” Tony asked me leaning up in his bed, Vinnie holding his hand lying next to him, “Because that was too easy.”
I shook my head and said, “I think he was saying he was going downstairs?”
“He said, ‘I wasn’t there alone’” Vinnie said to Tony.
“Where were you when…”
Tony shook his head emphatically.
“Please Tony. We can wait for you to feel better.”
“I told you, Wien. I don’t want to do this anymore. You’re on your own. If there’s still another mofo waiting for you at your apartment, either don’t go back or just get ready to figure it out on your own. This is more about you than it is them. If you’ve got anything you need to deal with,” pointing at his heart, “then you have to deal with that before you have a chance. You won’t figure out an escape from your prison until you realize you’re in one.”
What was I going to do alone against another one of these?
“I can only give suggestions,” he says to Vinnie. “I’m sorry.”
We left after about an hour and went out a wooden fire escape outside Tony’s window to avoid the orgiastic throng downstairs.
I fell asleep in the car on the way back to Vinnie’s home and she helped me into bed and I slept until midday on Saturday. When I woke up I felt so normal. I felt myself again, complete, but more like an empty slate, like a child in some ways, and euphoric. I thanked Vinnie profusely for breakfast, for everything, insisting she come up soon so I could repay her. She encouraged me to be ready for whatever would happen when I got back and I enthusiastically assured her it would be fine, that I felt stupendous and any demon waiting for me was going to have a difficult time dampening my spirits.
The drive home was great! It felt like I had take a double dose of guarana. Everything on the sides of the highway on the way back to Dallas was so interesting to me and then I realized I was somehow intoxicated and it then began to worry me that when I came down from the mysterious high that I would crash and be unprepared for whatever was waiting for me in my apartment. The last thirty minutes of the trip I calmed down and regained composure.
Attached to my apartment door was a note with my apartment number written on it. I opened the note. “It has come to our attention…” I had forgotten to write a check for the rent the weekend before and so when I opened the door to my apartment I went straight to my desk, got my checkbook, wrote the amount including the insane late fee and went immediately back to front of the complex and dropped the check in the overnight box even though the office was open. When I got back to my apartment door I had completely forgotten what was supposedly in my apartment and the thought overwhelmed me and I broke out in a sweat. I went in and looked around as if I was going to see some physical sign. You can’t see it, you dumbass. I laughed at myself and felt lighthearted for some reason I didn’t know but the euphoria was back and I felt happy to back home and feel normal.
That night I went about my normal Saturday night routine before all this had happened. I made myself some nachos in the oven and sat down on my bed and ate them while checking my email. I finished dinner and browsed the television for anything interesting before landing on an interesting new reality show on the Discovery channel. They should be making a show of my life, I thought. At that moment my throat felt constricted and dry thinking about another entity lurking somewhere in my apartment, hovering over me as far as I knew, maybe about to enter me like the other one had. I was back to sweating and suddenly felt nauseas. I vomited just as I arrived at the toilet. In about ten minutes I was back in bed and ready to sleep, hoping that in the morning I would be ready to tackle whatever it was. I actually slept completely through the night, not without nightmares, but not the kind that woke me, and I felt very refreshed in the morning.
When I got up that morning I went to the kitchen to make coffee. After pouring water into the coffeemaker I turned to the sink and the same knife from the weekend before was sitting on my kitchen counter. It’s slot was empty and it shined up at me. I nearly fell down when I saw it and dropped the coffeepot. Somehow it didn’t shatter but did the handle did break and the meat between my thumb and pointer finger was cut deep and I spent about thirty minutes applying pressure to get it to stop bleeding and trying to decide if I should go to the emergency room. It wasn’t that bad. I wrapped some gauze around it tight and sat down in the living room. When I felt I had somewhat recovered I went back into the kitchen and stared at the knife, afraid to even go near it. I thought about how I felt normal, not at all feverish and sick like the previous week. As I stared at the knife I wondered what kind of ghost might be left here, a more subtle kind of spirit, but obviously more dangerous I assumed. I walked up to the knife and held it and breathed a long drawn out breath and slid it back into its slot. As I did, something tiny caught the corner of my eye as it floated in the air downward. Something small and white had been attached to the end of the knife and had landed gently on the linoleum tile of the kitchen floor. A small rectangle piece of office paper with the typed word, ‘It’ as if it were cut from a larger piece of paper with an exacto knife.
I walked from the kitchen to the living room desk where I kept everything I used when I brought work home at night or finished up work on the weekends. There was the note from the apartment complex office sitting in the very middle of my desk and it had been cut! I picked it up and the very spot where the word had been was a precisely cut rectangular hole. Underneath where the paper had been on the surface of my desk was an etched square where the knife had been used to cut out the word, ‘It’. What the hell? For a while I thought about what person could be playing this elaborate hoax but then I nodded my head and accepted reality again that it was real and it wasn’t a person, it was a spirit trying to tell me something. But, what?
I sat in my living room holding that etched out piece of paper, looking at it, thinking how this was par for the course for me. Both my marriages failed and who was the common denominator? Me. What the hell is wrong with me? I deserve this. This is my punishment for being such a dumbass. It’s the fools that become vulnerable to these kinds of things. And I had been such a fool. I had foolishly squandered the love of my youth and then when I had a second chance to make it right with another willing woman, I neglected her as well but in an even worse way, neglecting the mother of my two children. I had told my second wife I wasn’t mad at her. I was mad at myself.
I was mad at myself! I pounded the arms of the chair I sat in and at that moment I noticed a slight movement of some kind in the part of the kitchen that was visible from where I was sitting. At the precise moment I understood what it was in the kitchen that I saw a burning sensation welled up in my hand and I opened my fist. It was the paper and the ‘It’ was glowing red hot. I threw my hand down to let it go and looked up again at a flying knife coming straight for me that embedded itself in the wall behind me.
Instead of acting terrified I was so angry, at myself, just as much as any entity that was attempting to kill me, I stood up and yelled with fierce anger.
“CUT IT OUT!!!”
I was scared, truly, but too angry to think of anything but frustrated regret and self loathing.
“LET’S GET THIS OVER WITH!!! COME ON!”
I wanted to die, to make all this come to an end. If this spirit was determined to do it I was willing to let it happen!
I looked down and the ‘It’ was still red, pulsating, making the carpet around it smolder.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT? IF YOU WANT TO KILL ME THEN LET’S DO IT!”
I turned around and pulled the knife out of the wall. I challenged it to do what it came for calling it every profane name I had ever heard of as well as some new combinations I had never heard before.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME???” I screamed.
I reached down and picked up the paper with the white hot red ‘It’ on it expecting my hand to burn with scalding heat but I didn’t care. I held it up, clinched in my fist, and yelled into the beyond.
“WHY DID YOU CUT THIS OUT???”
“WHY DID YOU CUT THIS OUT???”
I repeat this question many times until I was hoarse and too tired to stand any longer. I collapsed in my chair, exhausted, and still mouthing the words in my mouth, whispering to myself over and over. “Why did you cut ‘It’ out?”
It then occurred to me. It cut ‘It’ out. This was what I always said to my daughters. Cut it out. Is this what you’re trying to tell me? And the knife, it wasn’t meant to kill me, it was meant to get my attention. It was clapping like I always clapped at my daughters, saying ‘Cut It Out’.
But what do you want me to cut out?
I picked myself up from the living room chair and went and rested stretched out in my bed. I would think about it but now in the comfort of my bed and now that I felt for sure that whatever it was still visiting my apartment did not mean to harm me but had some message for me.
I turned on the television and fought to keep my eyes open. I wanted to know what it was trying to say but at the same time I rationalized that I could just as easily come up with an answer while dreaming than I could awake. And hell, I could be dreaming all this anyway.
Still, I fought to stay awake, channel surfing. Sports, sports, cooking, flipping, sex scene, cooking, cartoons, sports, music, cartoon, sports, history, etc. Channel after channel after channel, I was not even listening to what was said. It occurred to me that I wasn’t listening because the volume had been muted and when I took the volume off mute and continued to change the channels one word was repeated over and over. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. Every actor, every sports announcer, every chef, every cartoon character, ever narrator said the same word. Forgive.
I flipped to every channel making it all the way through every one of them and heard the same word and repeated this until I muted the television once more.
“Forgive? That’s what you have to say? That’s your special message?” I was probably more angry than what I had been earlier in the living room.
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME???”
I thought about all the people who had hurt me in my life and I resented the fact that this spirit had the gall that I had still not forgiven these people. I was the most forgiving person I had ever known. People had told me those very words and I believed them, because I knew it was true. I had forgiven everyone around me, truly had, and I knew without a doubt I had. So, what the hell is this thing talking about?
As I lay there in my bed, I knew my guest was reading my mind and instead of saying anything else out loud I began discussing this with it in my mind. I listed all the people who had hurt me and laid out all the convincing evidence that I had truly forgiven these individuals, including my second ex-wife, the mother of my children. Besides, I said, to the visitor in mind, what she did to me was nothing compared to what I did to her. At that, I heard the entity’s voice clearly say to stop right there because there was one last person I had failed to ever forgive. And so I stopped. I was finished arguing my case.
I turned the volume back on and heard one word, again, on every single channel.