Come Alive

Page 30

I glanced at the radio alarm clock in the room. It was 3AM. I wasn’t surprised at all. The room was pitch black; even the light from the street wasn’t reaching through the curtains that hung there on the French doors like dead weight. All the furniture in the room sat there, hunched over like big black beasts, waiting for me to move, to say something.

The door to the bathroom slowly creaked open. I heard the shower curtain inside being moved along the bar, the metal rungs squeaking.

I sat up straighter and looked at the clock again. 3:01. Time was passing. I pinched the inside of my forearm to see if it hurt, to see if it was a dream or not. It did hurt. My heart hurt even more. The memories of the fight between Perry and I came flooding back. I did the thing I never thought I’d do—I hurt her on purpose. It didn’t matter that it was for her greater good or my greater good because there just couldn’t be any good in it. The pain was there, just below the threshold, threatening to bring me under. I pushed her away and I would continue to push her away until I knew she could be saved, until I knew she’d get the future she deserved, not the one that I couldn’t give her.

It was because I was so lost in my misery, in my chest-stabbing despair, that I knew I wasn’t dreaming. And I was so wrapped up in my own pain, my own horror, that the current one before me didn’t seem to matter that much.

That was until the bathroom door swung open fully and a giant motherfucking black python came slithering out of it, heading straight for my bed.

Fuck. That was a new one.

I held my breath, wondering if I should scream, wondering how much I was seeing was real and how much was magic. How much was my mind and how much was the beyond. The gigantic inky black snake disappeared under the bed and I tensed up, waiting, knowing it wouldn’t just go to sleep under there.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

“Li Grand Zombi,” a French-accented voice said from the bathroom. I looked up to see my mother climbing out of the mirror and balancing on the sink, before stepping awkwardly to the ground. She moved with unpredictable jerkiness, as if she wasn’t used to the body she was in. She was no longer in the mirror. She was free.

I wished I was wearing Depends.

The bed beneath me moved ever so slightly. I got into a crouch, ready to spring off it and run if I needed to.

“Li Grand Zombi,” my mother said again, stepping forward. In the blackness I could only make out the paleness of her taut face, the darkness of her hair and eyes. I couldn’t even be sure that she had eyes. “The Great Serpent.”

“What do you want from me?” I asked, but my words came out in a shaking whisper, the air from my breath freezing into a cloud.

“It travels between both worlds, from the Kalunga to here, through the layers, through the Veil, just like me,” she continued. Her voice had grown lower and lower with each word she spoke until it was something entirely inhuman. “Together, we will bring you back.”

From the corner of my eye I could see the shiny black head of the python appear over the edge of the mattress, its long forked tongue slithering in and out.

I dared to look the woman in the eye as she came closer still. I dared to eke out the words, “You are not my mother. I don’t know who you are.”

She smiled, black teeth. “I was your mother. Then she died. But I am a part of you.”

The mattress began to sink under the python’s weight as it undulated across the bed. Now if I were to make a run for it, I’d have to jump over its body.

“How long did you have possession of her?” I asked the creature that wasn’t my mother.

She shook her head. “I was always there. I am in you.” She took another jagged step until she was at the foot of the bed. I could have sworn the shape of her head was expanding, that protrusions were rising out of her temples, a growing monster in the dark. Every single cell in my body told me to look away, to get away while I could. This wasn’t my mother. This wasn’t any one thing. This was evil incarnate and it had come for me. She extended an arm out to me and instead of pale, wrinkled skin, I could see short, dense fur. Her fingernails were now talons. “Come with us. Come to where you belong.”

This couldn’t be happening. This couldn’t be happening. This couldn’t be happening. This all had to be in my head, in my sick fucking head full of my sick fucking problems. I wasn’t on medication. I didn’t have that wall between reality and the world beyond. Nothing was being kept out anymore.

I shut my eyes, closing them so tight I saw red stars and dots behind them, and though about what Maryse had told me. The energies shared and exchanged can cause ripples, holes in the fabric of the Veil, and where there are holes, bad things can get out.

There were two bad things in the room with me, two bad things that had gotten out. Me and Perry together had produced so much pleasure and love and comfort and bliss, and all the while our radiance was letting the bad things in. The universe had to balance things, didn’t it? How dare it just let two long-suffering people be happy for once.

I kept my eyes shut and chanted to myself, “You aren’t real, you’re in my head, you’re not real, you’re in my head,” but the truth was I didn’t know if I believed that anymore. For all I knew, everything could be real from here on out.

Even so, it was like my chanting, my concentration, had caused the energy in the room to shift. It felt like the room had grown still. It felt like the weight on the mattress had lifted. I couldn’t hear the snake’s tongue or breathing. I couldn’t hear the rustle of my mother’s nightgown. I heard only my heart, threatening to explode, my lungs wheezing from exertion.

I sucked in my breath for strength and prepared to open my eyes, hoping I’d see an empty room as it was before. I willed for the nightmare to be over, to be alone, to be safe, to see nothing at all.

I opened my eyes.

She was right there.

My mother’s demon face, inches from mine. She had no eyes, just cavernous black holes, and skin that scaled like a lizard’s. Her mouth was stuck open, a tiny red snake coming out of it in place of her tongue. Though her face was frozen in vile horror, she was laughing and screaming just inches away from me, sounds from another time and another place, sounds that reached through my ears and pierced my very human soul. There was nothing else inside me except fear and terror like I’d never known before.

The snake in her mouth came out for me, slowly, two yellow slits for eyes. It said, “I always wanted a grandson.”

And that’s when I finally screamed. I screamed bloody murder and tried to gather the strength to run out of the room.

In seconds, the door busted open and the light went on. It was a wild-eyed Maximus, staring at me in panic.

“What happened?” he asked, just in time to see the end of Li Grand Zombi’s tail slither into the bathroom like a tapered black slug. The demonic entity of my mother had already disappeared with the light.

“Holy fuck!” he exclaimed, once he spotted the snake. He didn’t run away though, he marched in, peering at the snake as the black tail completely disappeared around the bathroom door. He looked at me, motioning for me to stay put and asked, “Are you okay?’

“Do I look okay?” I asked, my body rapidly growing cold and starting to shake. “Go after it, but be careful.”

He looked around for something sturdy and picked up an old lady-type vase, as if he was going to knock out the python by throwing ceramics on its head. This wasn’t a caper film.

Armed with it, he went inside the bathroom and flicked on the lights. I heard him say, “Huh,” and heard the opening and closing of cabinets and the toilet seat before he came back out.

“There’s nothing in there,” he said, putting the vase back down on the end table.

“But you did see the snake.”

“I wish I hadn’t.” He suppressed a shiver. “What was it doing? What happened? I thought I heard voices in here, and just as I was about to fall back asleep, I heard you scream like…Jesus, Dex…”

I bit my lip while I debated sharing just how crazy I was. I decided to ask Maximus to hand me my cigarettes, then climbed back into bed and lit one. I explained what happened with the snake and my mother, what she said, what she looked like, and then went back to the first times I’d seen her in the mirror back in BC.

“It’s getting worse,” he remarked, and motioned for me to give him a cigarette too.

“Bunch of moochers,” I muttered, but still lit one for him.

“So now do you see, even just a little, how the tears between the worlds could become worse when you and Perry are together? Just standing beside each other your energies attract amazing things, mainly malevolent things. Now…well, since you guys started screwing each other on a daily basis, that energy has multiplied. Your chemistry dissolves through walls and windows. You make a gatekeeper job much harder.”

I ignored the screaming pain my chest. That urge to find Perry in her room and make the sweet love to her that I was so damn addicted to. It figured we would make and break worlds by our coupling, because damn, when I was deep in thrusts of our souls and hearts and bodies, it felt like something so much more.

It was going to fucking ruin me to never have that again.

“You’re doing good, Dex,” Maximus said, reading my face. “Maybe a little harsher than I’d be, but I guess Perry is the type of woman to try and fight for you anyway.”

“Please,” I croaked, the cigarette shaking in my hand. “I can’t hear this anymore.”

Maximus changed the subject. “So tell me about your mother. Why do you think it wasn’t her? What was she?”

I shook my head sharply, not ready to go down that road at this time of night. “Something else I’d rather not talk about. Tell me something. Tell me about Rose.”

His features froze, his skin turning pale so that every scattering of freckles stood out. Ah ha. Now here was the thing that Maximus didn’t want to talk about. I didn’t care though. If I had to deal with Perry and my dead mother, he was going to talk about Rose. There was a story there and I had to hear all of it. I was going to go Barbara Walters on his ginger ass whether he liked it or not.

I stared at him, prodding him with my eyes. He stared right back then sighed. He pulled up a chair to the side of the bed and sat down on it. It was only then that I realized he slept in a plaid pajama set, like a lumberjack Hugh Hefner. Figured.

“Rose…” He began, then puffed hard on the cigarette. “Rose was my next chance. After I screwed things up with you, I had to make good.”

“Why? What happens otherwise, does someone come after you? Jacob PD?”

“In a way. We aren’t really governed by anyone in particular, it’s just kind of instinctual.”

“So no one Jacobs the Jacobs?” I smirked.

“No. Not really. There is a network through the Veil; you’ll get images, see people you’re supposed to help. If you don’t help them, the images become more vivid. You start to hear voices and you get this gut instinct that just tells you what to do. When I…when I decided I couldn’t guide you in any way, I expected to get backlash from it. Maybe I’d get sick or something until I found you again. But I didn’t…later I met another Jacob who explained the exception. I asked how he knew that—he just smiled and said he knew and that’s all. So obviously I wasn’t as in tune with my purpose as I thought, or…I don’t know. Maybe I was forsaken.”

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