Screamscapes: Tales of Terror (8 page)

BOOK: Screamscapes: Tales of Terror
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He searched for the right words as he settled into the seat beside her, but came up empty.

“I don’t know, something…I feel…clear, different.” He blew the steam from the top of his coffee and took a sip before continuing.

“I read something at the bookstore that inspired me, I think it was a song – it changed me somehow, I don’t know exactly. Now that I’m trying to explain it to you, it sounds, well, pretty stupid.”

Gerard shook his head and covered his face with his hands.

She laughed, relieved, and hugged him. When he raised his eyes to meet hers, she was surprised by the dark look of resolution she saw there.

“I will finish my book,” he said, “and it will change the world.”

Gerard wrote like a man on a mission from God from that day forward, determined to see his project through to the end, to keep his eye on the prize. The energy that had entered him in the book store, reading strange words out loud on a rainy afternoon, hadn’t subsided.

Neither had the words
Maazo Maazo.
They reverberated inside his skull continuously, a rhythm to his work, his walk - everything he did was to the soundtrack of
Maazo Maazo, Maazo Maazo
. He put the new vitality it gave him to good use. He would finally vanquish the novel he had been carrying inside him all these years.

He would finish it, once and for all.

Gerard found himself drawn to the keyboard at his writing desk like a moth to flame, typing for hours at a time. Sonia was happy to see him finally buckling down and making his book a reality - at least at first.

As the deadline drew ever nearer, writing became something more than his dream job: it transformed into an outright obsession. Whenever his fingers touched the keyboard he would fall into a trance, as if intoxicated. He waved away dinners offered by his wife. His children’s pleas for attention were ignored.

He wrote like a man possessed. Sonia began to worry.

Gerard worried, too. The charge he got from the words “
Maazo Maazo”
echoing inside his head was no longer comforting. The repetition was relentless; the pace of the incessant mantra grew faster, more urgent, with each passing day the tone became more sinister. He feared the manic pressure of it might at any moment cause his head to explode in a spray of gray and red.

He had to make it stop.

As the days rolled by he realized that he didn’t even know what his fingers were typing anymore. He no longer cared whether he finished his book or not; all that mattered to him now was to make those infernal words
stop
.

The only relief he could find was to write. Whenever his fingers touched the keyboard, the sound in his head would die away, leaving him with the sweet silence in his mind he so desperately craved; but it lasted only for as long as his fingers could type.

Everyone that knew Gerard thought he was a man extremely determined to finish writing a book. They were wrong.

He was writing to save his life.

Sonia had never seen her husband so passionate about anything before, but she suspected he might be losing touch with reality. She dealt with his obsessive typing as best she could, but the late night typing marathons and his deteriorating personal hygiene were beginning to take their toll, on both of them – and their relationship. She wasn’t sure how much more she could take.

Two days before his deadline, Gerard sat down at his desk in the study and quickly fell into the sweet embrace of silence that only came when his fingers danced across the letters. He woke up several hours later, surprised to find himself in bed, with no recollection of how he had come to be there.

He pushed his pillow aside and squinted at the alarm clock through the darkness; it was very early morning.

His head and fingers throbbed with pain – it must have been a long evening at his desk again, he figured. The blackouts were happening more frequently, with him stumbling to bed later and later each night, exhausted and mumbling incoherent nonsense. The endless hours of typing were taking a toll. He had to find a way to make it stop.

He slid out of bed and tiptoed to the bathroom, being careful not to wake Sonia. Her irritation with him and his erratic writing and sleep habits had been growing. The last thing he needed right now was to wake her up; then he’d have to deal with a fight on top of a splitting headache.

Gerard pushed the bathroom door shut behind him and flipped on the light. The sudden incandescent glare stung his eyes and caused his head to throb even more. He reached for the cabinet above the sink to get some Motrin, but stopped when he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror.

The sorry person reflected there startled him. He had never been so thin before; his sallow complexion belonged to someone in the final throes of a terminal illness. No wonder his wife was fed up with him. He had let himself go.

“What’s wrong with me?” he asked himself out loud.

The moment the words crossed his lips, his hands gripped the counter, and his body stiffened in a spasm. He watched in the mirror, helpless, as his mouth began to move by itself. The thought occurred to him that he was having a seizure.

His mouth spoke.

“You want to know what’s wrong with
me
?” it asked, his voice sarcastic and strange. “There’s nothing wrong with
me
! There’s something wrong with
YOU
!” His own face grimaced at him in the mirror.

“Look me in the eye when I’m talking to you!” he commanded himself. “Look me dead in the eye and I’ll show you exactly what’s wrong with you.”

Unable to do anything else, Gerard looked himself in the eye, his manic reflection staring back at him.

The pupil of his right eye began to dilate. As he watched, the black circle in the center expanded slowly until no white remained. Something wriggled like a maggot inside the clear viscous fluid of his eye.

The sight of it panicked him. He tried to jerk back, to look away, but his hands and body held him fast.

“Stop trying to get away. Look at me!” his voice commanded again, the tone severe.

The thing inside his eyeball pressed itself against the interior of the transparent lens; it bulged from the pressure. He could see every detail of its shape. It reminded him of puckered petals on a still-closed morning glory blossom.

The petals unfurled, revealing a small twitching eye. It stared back at him - an eye inside his eye, centered where only the darkness of his pupil should have been.

“Shit!” he yelled, and discovered that he had regained control over his body. He backed away from the mirror, knocking over Sonia’s White Diamonds perfume in the process. The glass bottle made a racket as it clattered against the hard tile floor.

“Shit, shit, shit!” he stammered, breathless. His heart was pounding in his ears.

“What are you doing in there?” Sonia yelled from the other side of the bathroom door. She sounded pissed.

“I’m about sick of this crap,” she said bitterly. “Some of us have to go to work in the morning.”

Gerard thought it best to say nothing. He leaned over the sink to examine his eyes in the mirror again, dreading what he might find. But they looked fine; bloodshot, but otherwise normal.

Then his lips began to whisper.

“So now you know what’s wrong with you,” they said, in a hiss at first, but then shouted: “
SO DON’T FUCK WITH ME
!”

The lamp clicked on in the bedroom. The squeak of mattress springs confirmed to Gerard that he was in trouble.

“What did you just say to me?” Sonia screamed as she flung open the bathroom door. “I refuse to live like this! Go sleep on the couch,” she yelled, her index finger trembling with rage as she pointed towards the bedroom door.

Gerard flicked off the bathroom light switch and padded past his glaring wife to the sofa downstairs. He was sure he wouldn’t be able to sleep again that night.

Within minutes he was snoring.

He awoke the next morning delighted to find that his headache was gone. He wasn’t sure if what he had seen in the bathroom the night before had been real or a wicked dream. He examined his eyes carefully in the hallway mirror. Everything looked normal.

Gerard desperately needed someone to talk to, someone to help him figure out what was going on. He hoped Sonia would be understanding if he opened up to her. He knew he’d have to approach the subject carefully, or else she might think he was losing his mind.

After packing the kids out the door to school, he took a deep breath and told her everything that had been going on.

The conversation went downhill fast.

“What do you mean you can’t remember what you write?” Sonia asked, visibly irritated. She trembled as she sipped her coffee.

“Sonia, I don’t know. I can remember sitting down to type, but I can’t remember
what
I wrote. I don’t even know how I got to bed last night, and it’s been like this for a while. Honestly, I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this.”

Sonia’s face flushed with anger. She slammed her mug down on the granite counter.

“You don’t know how much longer
you
can go on like this?” she snarled at him. “You can’t remember when
you
went to bed last night?”

Gerard realized this conversation had been a big mistake, especially this morning. He should have waited.

She was getting revved up. “That’s so funny,” she sneered, “because
I
remember the exact moment you came to bed last night. I remember very well, because I tried to go back to sleep for several hours. I remember seeing ‘4:44 AM’, and thinking how strange it was to see those numbers on the alarm clock.”

She glared at him, daring him to speak.

“You don’t have
anything
to say?” she asked sarcastically. “That’s odd, because you sure had a lot to say last night, didn’t you? What was it you said when I asked you to please let me get some sleep? Was it ‘I’m sorry’? No, no – that’s not it. What
did
you say? Oh wait, I remember –
‘DON’T FUCK WITH ME’.
Yes, that’s what you said, didn’t you? You are such an inconsiderate
asshole
.”

She turned away from him and began tossing dirty breakfast dishes into the dishwasher.

Gerard attempted a recovery.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, “you’re right – I am an asshole, a
major
asshole. But I’m also a very, very sorry asshole.”

Sonia didn’t bother to look at him as she wiped the table.

Gerard grabbed a broom and began sweeping the floor. He was going to need to change his strategy or else this argument was going to become the opening salvo of their relationship’s World War III.

“I have to finish this
one
book. I
have
to finish it,” he pleaded with her, “I’m going to go crazy if I don’t get it done. In fact, I think I’m starting to go a little crazy already.”

He smiled and stuck out his bottom lip like a sad puppy, hoping she would find it hard to stay mad at someone so cute.

She finally relented.

“Okay, okay,” she said. “At least you got it done before your deadline. Now maybe you can take a little break from writing for a while.”

“My deadline is tomorrow,” Gerard said. “I promise I’ll do my best to have it completed by then.”

Sonia stopped what she was doing and gave him a funny look.

“What are you talking about?” she said. “You already finished it - I mailed the manuscript off yesterday, overnight mail. I have the tracking number around here somewhere.”

She dug through her purse.

“What manuscript? Gerard asked, confused. “I haven’t finished writing it yet! What did you mail?
To who?

Sonia’s irritation returned with a vengeance.

“Are you just screwing with me now? I’ll tell you
what manuscript
- the three hundred and fifty-two pages you left by my side of the bed yesterday with a handwritten note asking me to overnight it to your agent in New York - Jerry something-or-other.”

She turned her frustration back to the search in her pocketbook. Seconds later she withdrew her hand, clutching a shipping receipt.

“I didn’t give you anything to mail,” Gerard stated flatly.

Sonia glared at him, squeezing the shipping receipt into a ball inside her clenched fist.

BOOK: Screamscapes: Tales of Terror
2.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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