Serial and Milk : Available Darkness – Chapter Eight
(Serial and Milk: Available Darkness is a serialized horror story co-written by David Wright and Sean Platt. A new chapter appears here each Friday. If you missed previous chapters, you can read them here.)
Street lights blurred by the car’s window as the man without a name raced the retreating moon.
He was in frantic search for a hotel far enough from the murder scene to make the mallet in his mind cease its pounding. He’d driven about 40 frenzied miles North before finally spotting an aging Motel Eight, squat and half forgotten off the highway. A flickering neon light announced “VA ANCY”.
The shrubbery surrounding the motel looked as though it had enjoyed jurisdiction for at least the last half year; the kind of place where attention to detail was not a priority. It was the perfect spot for a man with no legal identification to lay low until nightfall.
Abigail had fallen asleep in the back seat, covered by a tattered pink blanket she had brought along with her. The man thought how normal she appeared all curled up in slumber, as though she hadn’t been brushed by tragedy beyond reason.
The fat man at the desk barely glanced over his early edition of the Sports page long enough to take the amnesiac’s $40 in exchange for a sticky key ring, its faded blue label peeling with the number 7.
“Thanks,” the amnesiac said.
“Yeah,” the fat man said, “the pleasure was all mine.”
The amnesiac drew an empty breath, figuring the less banter the better just a beat before his planned response slipped from his lips.
The room was exactly as squalid as he expected. Though at the moment, the door may as well have been opened by his personal butler.
Abigail found one of the two beds, laid down and grabbed the TV remote, and clicked on, casting the room in a soft blue glow.
The man half expected to see a news report of the murder, but as Abigail flipped channels, he saw nothing other than bad early morning programming. Perhaps fortune had decided to throw him a bone, and the bodies had yet to be found.
He peered outside one last time at the vacant parking lot and then drew the curtains closed. They were the standard thick motel room variety one usually found in these places. Funny, the man mused, how he knew such trivial things, but couldn’t recall the essential details of his life.
He wasn’t sure how amnesia worked, though he seemed to recall in old movies, or perhaps cartoons or fables, the cure was often found in a bonk on the head. Perhaps, he would look for a rubber mallet in a day or two.
The curtains seized his attention again. He wondered if they were thick enough to keep the room dark and just how much sunlight could he be exposed to? Instincts, or perhaps some buried memory, indicated the curtains would be enough — he had only to avoid direct sunlight.
The word echoed in his mind from some unknown source. He felt the word like an old nickname, though he didn’t seem to have a lust for blood or the fangs he typically associated with the legends. There again, that funny sort of trivia… or experience. He swallowed the bile that rose with the thought. He considered the moniker a bit longer.
Vampire seemed somewhat incorrect, but not altogether wrong.
Whatever he was, he was not human — not all of him anyway.
He went into the bathroom — no windows. Bad, if he needed to make a quick exit with the girl, but perhaps a good place to go if the sunlight managed to seep through the curtains.
He stepped from the bathroom and noticed that Abigail’s eyes were already closed as she lay on top of the comforter.
He knew he needed sleep but his mind was racing. He was eager to unravel the enigma of his tangled identity, both the facade and the horror hiding underneath.
He lay on his bed, fully dressed in the dead man’s clothes he’d taken, and closed his eyes.
“Do you believe in God?” the girl asked.
He looked over at her. Her eyelids were still shut, but he could tell the child hiding behind them was awaiting an answer.
“What?” He wondered if he heard the question correctly.
“Do you believe in God?”
“I don’t know,” he said, though a sudden roll in his gut said no. “I don’t think I do. But, I don‘t know anything before a few hours ago.”
When the girl failed to ask what he meant, it occurred to the amnesiac for the first time that she hadn’t raised a single question about his past, or lack of, though he had mentioned his missing memory at least twice. He considered asking her why, but she opened her mouth before he could open his.
“I don’t think there is a God. I mean, if there was, why would he allow my parents to die? Or send me to an uncle who sold me to those… people,” she said this last word only after a pause, “I don’t believe God would allow such… things.”
They sat in silence for a while as his mind flashed on her memories, which he witnessed during their brief embrace. He wasn’t sure what to say.
“They were religious, you know?”
“Who,” he asked. “The… people?”
“Yeah, he used to force me to read The Bible every morning. Said I was infected by the devil because I made him lust after me. It was my fault. I wasn‘t godly enough.”
Again, the man didn’t know what to say. He looked over at the girl. Her eyes were still closed, though he could see her cheeks were wet with tears.
Finally, the man found words.
“You know he was full of shit, right?”
The girl laughed, just slightly, and wiped at her nose. For the second time in an hour, he found himself wanting to hug her tightly.
“Yeah,” she said, “besides, if I were the devil, I would have killed him a long time ago.”
Further silence filled the room until she decided to shatter it.
“But you took care of that for me. You, the angel who doesn’t believe in God.”
He gave vent to a dry crackling laugh and the sound threw an alien echo against the darkened walls of the old hotel room. Their laughter mingled for a moment, and he discovered that he liked the sound of her giggle, hoarse, but pleasant. Exactly like a child’s laugh should be.
“I’m not an angel,” he said.
“I know, I saw.”
“The bodies?” he asked.
“No, when we touched. I saw in your head.”
The man shot up from the mattress as though it carried a current. Abigail flinched as her eyes flicked open, still wet with tears.
She had SEEN inside his mind, just as he had seen inside hers. How much had she seen? Had she unraveled the mysteries lost in the fog of his missing memory?
He did his best to control his mounting excitement. He didn’t want to scare her. He grabbed the edge of his mattress tight; a silent gesture promising he wouldn’t leap from the bed. She relaxed and then rose to ninety degrees. Their eyes met.
“What did you see?” he asked.
“I couldn’t make it all out,” she said, “but you were afraid of something. Very afraid.”
“Was it the coffin I was buried in?”
“No, it was before that. And there was something else, a woman, a woman you loved very much. You were holding hands with her at the beach. You told her you would never forget this moment.”
He stared at the girl, helpless, desperately wanting to draw deeper from her well; a lost soul trying to mine meaning from the maundering of a fortune teller. He could remember nothing, let alone a woman he loved.
“She loves you too,” the girl said, her toes now grazing the carpet between their beds.
Her footfall sent a current into the air that escalated between them, fusing their attraction like ore to magnet. Everything slowed, the light of the TV flickered as each frame seemed to pause slightly before lurching forward like a warped record spinning slowly.
The amnesiac had no hope of stopping whatever was about to happen.
The girl moved forward, her bare foot inching closer to his scuffed leather boot. He looked up and saw her eyes staring straight at him, not through him, as she slowly raised her hands and reached towards his face.
He tried to pull away, but was paralyzed by the same unseen force which was controlling the girl’s movements.
The air pulsated in nearly visible waves of energy. He felt the rhythm writhe through his skin and then burrow deep into his marrow. The girl held out her hand, palm open, fingers splayed just inches from his face. Blue arcs of spider web thin threads of light danced at the tips of her fingers like icy fire that illuminated her face in a ghostly glow.
His body shook, his heart pounded and he wanted to cry “no“, but nothing other than a cold gasp could escape the narrowing prison of his throat.
Her hand inched closer to his face as sparks jumped from her fingers to the tiny hairs on his cheek. Any second now, he feared, they would be locked in that deadly embrace until he robbed her of every ounce of her life, helplessly feeding on her like a parasite until she was nothing more than an empty, smoldering husk.
His eyes were saucers as her palm moved impossibly close to his face, suddenly just centimeters from his forehead.
The pounding pulsed louder in his ears, in his head, in his soul as the girl’s palm suddenly seemed to shoot forward a surge of arctic energy, sharp as a dagger and straight into his head, freezing him instantly.
His vision went black, replaced a half second later with a slow to focus image. He was standing on a beach, staring at his love. Instantly, a flood of tears surged forth and he yelped, “Oh my God”.
His hand reached out to touch the memory, but couldn’t. His body was frozen.
He started at her. Christ, she was like a painting. Emerald eyes, dark auburn hair, lips that curled ever so slightly into a wry smile that was as familiar as it was heart melting.
“Hope,” he called out in the duality of now and then.
She moved closer, whispered in his ear, “Promise, you’ll remember this day always?”
“Always,” he said, as he glanced around, soaking in the image. The setting sun, the cool ocean breeze whipping through her hair. The soft feel of her hands in his. He wanted to die right there in that moment just so he could experience it for an eternity.
She looked at him with that smile, those eyes, and spoke again.
“Don’t say it unless you mean it, John.”
The man’s eyes shot open and the bright sun over the horizon blinked away. Heaven was replaced by the darkened reality of the claustrophobic hotel room. He stared at Abigail, who stood before him, her hands now dangling at her side. She seemed unharmed by the exchange.
“Did you see?” she asked, now crying openly.
“Yes,” John cried too. “Thank you.”
TO BE CONTINUED…
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