Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chapter XIV: The House of the Rising Sun

Cast by the rising sun, shadows emanated from a forest of pines and tall palms. Red light filtered through dusty windows. Bird songs carried in from outside the long abandoned and dilapidated motel. The wood beneath Bill’s feet felt soggy and creaked with every step. He looked around and thought about what this motel would have looked like a couple decades ago. It had once been a tourist spot, a place for snowbirds from the North to come down and explore crystal clear springs, rivers, and swim with manatees. Now, since the interstate had been built, the snowbirds bypassed the place on their way to Tampa, Key West, or Miami. The rooms were alive with the ghosts of good times long past. Shadows fell in front of him, contrasting the brightness ahead. A few portable spotlights lit up a room at the end of the hallway. Bill walked past men and women in white lab coats. Bill didn’t need the lights to find his way. He felt the scene ahead. He breathed at irregular intervals. Sweat poured down his clammy forehead. A sick knot roiled in his stomach. He wanted to pass out or puke or both, but neither was an option. He had a job to do. Green. Green. Green. The word cycled through his head, meaningless at the moment, but he knew it was important. Green. Green. Green. Bill stepped over a feather. He pointed down at it as he passed. Benny nodded and bent over with an evidence bag. “Are you okay?” Gloria asked. Bill’s pulse throbbed. He felt blood coursing through the veins at his temples, under his neck. He swallowed. “No.” “We can wait, if you need a moment.” Bill shook his head. “It’s okay. I’m okay. I just feel it.” Gloria nodded and stood back. She allowed Bill to enter the lighted room. Inside the room, more people in white coats loitered. Some took photographs. Others were kneeled down on pads like those used for gardening while collecting various unseen substances with q-tips and gauze. A woman walked over to Gloria. “So this is your guy, huh?” Gloria nodded. “Yeah. Mind if we have a moment?” “Look. We’re collecting evidence here. Real stuff. Doing real work. You know, not some crazy psychic bull.” Gloria nodded with a sympathetic look on her face. She softened her voice while still managing to sound forceful. It was the voice of authority, of a mother, perhaps even a queen. “I understand. Really. Just give us a minute. The office said they’d call ahead, that you should be expecting us.” The other woman’s mouth became a straight line. She pressed her lips together until they were white with pressure. “All right. You got ten minutes, okay? Some of my people have been here for over six hours straight. They’re getting a little tired, and we still have a lot to do once they get to the lab.” “I really do understand. That’ll be fine. Thank you.” Gloria nodded. The other woman turned her head. “C’mon folks. Clear out. Let’s take ten. I sent Jacob off to get some coffee, he should be back soon.” As the white lab coats passed by, Bill felt their auras. There was contempt, relief, doubt, wonder, and even some belief surrounding them in various degrees. After the technicians were gone, Bill stepped forward. In the center of the room there sat a bed whose sheets had once been white but were now alternating shades of brown, black, and green from mold and mildew. In the center of the bed was a human head. The skin was drawn back and dried out so that the skull wore a mirthless smile. The severed head appeared Caucasian based on facial features and blonde hair. But the skin was all wrong, it was too dark. It shone under the spotlights like leather that had just been cleansed and shined to a polished sheen with several layers of saddle soap. A green crown made up of the intertwined branches from sticker bushes circled the head. Speckled black trails fell down in broken lines beneath the crown. Black and white feathers stood out against the backdrop of the dirty bed. “Oh man.” Benny turned away. He convulsed as if about to throw up and held a tissue over his face. “Oh man, oh man, oh man.” Gloria did not say a word. She placed a gloved hand on Benny’s arm. Bill swallowed and stepped forward. He reached out his hand and hesitated. “Is this okay? I don’t want to taint evidence.” Gloria nodded. “I want you to get as good a connection as possible. Just reach out with your fingertip though. Try not to touch but a single spot. We’ll note it in our report.” Bill nodded. He turned back to the head. It was a tiny head. The eyes were sunken in. Flies swarmed over it. He inhaled deeply and reached out. Green. Green. Green.
There was a cloaked figure; out of focus, large and looming, a man, definitely a man. He held an axe in his hand. A small figure lay tied up and wrapped tight in blankets like a cigar. Part of the figure was tied to the top of a stump. Split firewood covered the weedy lot. The man reached up with his axe and swung it down against a log on another stump. The log split immediately with the impact. He left the blade embedded in the trunk and held his hands to his face. He spit in them and rubbed them together. The hands looked soft, uncalloused. Bill realized this wasn’t a working man. He wanted to step out to grab the figure to prevent what he knew was about to happen, but realized he wasn’t really there. Bill cried out with his mind. He reached out but could not see his own hands extend outwards because he wasn’t there. The out of focus figure turned its blurred face up to the sky. Sunlight poured down, and Bill did not really see, but sensed, a smile. There was a prayer. Angels surrounded the out of focus figure. One angel wore the head of a lion, one wore the head of a lamb, and the last angel was the cherub that Bill remembered seeing in his vision. Dead swans littered the overgrown lot mixed in with loose, uneven piles of split wood. Bill heard a psalm pour forth from the figure’s lips, a song of redemption in the blood. The man grabbed the embedded ax from the second stump. He worked it free by jiggling it back and forth. He pushed his foot into the stump and leaned backwards. The ax came free. The figure huddled in the blanket shook and Bill heard muffled cries. The angels looked down with serenity etched across their ethereal faces. The man walked over to the bundle atop the first stump and lifted his axe. The glinting blade came down hard and fast. Within seconds, blood pooled. The man collected the blood into a silver goblet. He held it up and passed it to the angles. “Like Abraham, I can kill the child. I am true. I am yours.” The angels, one by one, came down and appeared to sip from the cup. The man held the goblet up higher. “Cleanse your servant with the blood so that I might better serve you, so that I might be stronger, less hesitant next time you ask for my service. Help me to usher in your next coming so that the world may be cleansed. May the blood of all the sinners, all those born from sin, wash over the world and make it pleasing to you again so that you might walk among your chosen once again. Lead me out of the desert. I know I’m not worthy, but still I ask. I serve only you.” He turned it over and held up his face. Blood splashed over him. The figure drank blood and smiled. He looked towards Bill, or where Bill would be if he were really there. His eyes were a pale and vibrant green like the first leaves of spring after a storm. There was thunder. Bill noticed the sky. Dark clouds and slanting rain showed up to the west. Above it all, the sun shone, and the dome of an immaculate rainbow enclosed the bloody scene below.
“Bill! Bill! Are you okay?” Bill’s face turned to the left and then the right as a soft hand patted his cheeks with force. “Uh?” He opened his eyes. Gloria’s shadow stood over him. Her hair fell down onto his face and he could smell her shampoo. He reached up and hugged her towards him and began to cry. She hugged him back. “It’s okay, Bill. Shh. It’s okay honey.” Benny cleared his throat. “Hey, G. The peeps are back, ready to take over again.” Gloria’s embrace went slack. “Huh? Oh. Okay.” Bill looked up to the head on the bed. Dead eyes stared off towards the window as if looking outside to the blood red dawn.

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