Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The cold must have finally frozen my brain or killed me, I thought, as I surveyed the rows of tombstones and monuments fading away in every direction. The air shimmered in the oppressive heat and I shed my thick, wolf-fur lined jacket and outer snow pants. I was on a slope, a rough pathway heading down into a grove a dark overgrown trees and bushes one way and up to a clear blue sky the other way. I walked up. By the time I reached the top of the small rise I was exhausted, my snow drenched clothes drying in the heat, chaffed at me uncomfortably and I was having difficulty catching my breath but the view I saw put all concerns aside. I'd never seen a city, the largest settlement I had been in had no more than thirty buildings, maybe one two story and I had seen pictures but this was just something else entirely...
Monday, May 18, 2009
I was standing waist deep in snow, a blizzard all around me, blinded, when "the accident" first occurred. I started sneezing, giant head rattling sneezes, one after the other like gunshots, and when I sneezed for the ninth time within as many seconds I felt my body stretch itself beyond possibility before imploding in on itself in a gut-wrenching twist. Then the sneezing stopped, the roaring of the blizzard stopped, the twisting of my guts stopped and the wet pressure of waist deep snow had stopped. I opened my eyes to a bright blue sky, clearer and bluer than ever I saw. The air was hot and heavy, the ground soft and green beneath my enormous snow boots. All about me strange trees and multitudes of stone tablets standing upright in the ground. Tombstones. A Graveyard!
Sunday, May 17, 2009
The room stinks of cigarettes, stale sweat and the faint aroma of urine.
That is the first thing I notice anyway. Scratch the surface and you could reveal decades of blood, tears and excrement; just your typical police interrogation room.
“That's all well and good, but I don't really give a fuck what you can smell.”
I look at the unkempt police officer sitting opposite me on the right. Did he just read my mind or did I speak out loud? Maybe I just read his mind after he had already read mine. Was I in some sort of psychic loop? Oh no, he looks mad, am I still talking out loud or can he hear my thoughts?
“Now listen up, we've been very patient with you so far and have agreed to abide by your... wishes, but you've got to start cooperating with us.”
I look to my left at the similarly disheveled cop watching me with passive-aggressive eyes. His three day stubble is tinged with grey, his fingers stained yellow with nicotine. Oh, I love the smell of stale cigarettes on my fingers. That's the thing I miss most about smoking.
“Let's start at the beginning. What is your full name?”
I'm sure I've told them my name but then again maybe I didn't. What have I told them?
“We can't put 'Ralphie the Clown' on our forms. Now tell us your real name.”
Ralphie the Clown, yes, that's me. I'm a great clown; all the kids just love me. Fifteen years I've been in the clowning game.
“This is getting nowhere. You talk to him for awhile; I'm gunna get some air.”
The cop with nicotine fingers gets up and leaves the room. I miss him already. There is now an obvious tilt to the symmetry of the room. If only the man on the right would shift to the middle of the table then everything would be alright.
“If I move will you talk to me about the murders?”
Murders? I don't know what he's talking about but nod and as he moves the world shifts back to its proper axis and I sigh in relief.
“The Ringmaster told us you've been with the circus for twelve years and never once has he seen you without the makeup. Don't you think that's a bit strange?”
If only this was makeup. I touch my face to make sure its all there.
Red squeaker nose, check, rainbow hair, check, brighter than life smile, big check.
I Breath a sigh of relief. The policeman rubs his hands with his face, obviously struggling with his inner demons.
Maybe he wishes to confess.
“It's you who wants to confess. We've been after you for ten years. Now that we've got finally caught you we're sure as shit not going to let you the fuck go.”
Sure as shit.
Such an odd phrase. I mean shit comes in all shapes and colours doesn't it. So how can you be sure of it? The policeman's knuckles turn white as he grips the table edge. I can smell his frustration. Smells! Shit also comes in different smells; another thing to be unsure of.
“Fuck you, you crazy mother-fucker!”
Spittle hits me on the lip and I take a moment to wipe it off. The policeman seems to compose himself but who can really tell. I do believe he has a guilty conscience.
He mentioned something about murders.
“That's right, the murders. It took us nearly ten years to find a link between your victims. At the time of every murder, the circus, your circus was in or nearby the town or city. I mean who takes notice of a second-rate piece of shit circus.”
There he goes again. Shit. Maybe he needs to go to the toilet.
“How many people has it been Ralphie?”
How many? I've entertained thousands over the years, millions maybe.
“We've found one hundred and twenty-two of your victims you sick fuck! But when we went over missing person reports that coincide with the time and place of the circus... there is over five hundred missing people and I want to know what you know.”
I don't know what he's talking about but he seems like a very serious kind of guy. If I were constantly constipated I might be one unhappy clown. The door opens and Nicotine Hands comes back in and takes his seat.
I didn't miss him.
“Alright Ralphie, let's go back to the beginning.”
The room stinks of cigarettes, stale sweat and the faint aroma of urine.
“I hate fucking clowns!”
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Joshua dozed fitfully, floating somewhere between consciousness and the infinite reaches of slumber. He could not wake himself nor could he fall truly asleep. It was as if his mind couldn't handle the desperate loneliness of wakefulness or the black nightmares that plagued his sleep.
The screeching of metal on metal bought him out of his stupor and into wary alertness. In front of him stood a train. Joshua had to rub his eyes to be sure that he wasn't mistaken. The train was crafted in the deepest black he had ever seen; there weren't any words or insignia marring its ebony perfection. He felt cold and afraid. Joshua looked around and saw that there were half a dozen other people waiting in the small, poorly lit station, each of them looking as bewildered and afraid as he.
Joshua couldn't remember how or why he had come to be in this dank little place; in fact he couldn't remember much at all, as if a dense fog had settled over his brain during his semi-repose. He took some deep breathes to try and clear his mind, but the stale air, further polluted by the appearance of the strange train, seemed only to thicken the haze. Images of his life flashed by, too quickly for him to recognize or hold onto. A piercing whistle shattered his thoughts and he felt compelled to stand up and move towards the train. Something deep within Joshua fought the urge and he remained seated. The other people didn't seem to possess such willpower, they started to shuffle, heads down, towards the black beast. A woman was silently sobbing as she approached the train.
“All aboard,” boomed a deep voice from the locomotive and once again the urge to comply was overpowering. Joshua gripped the bottom of the bench, until his hands ached. He had to escape. Looking for an exit sign, he was shocked to see that there was no means of escape and a knot of fear settled in the pit of his stomach as he realized that the only way out was to board the train.
Once more the voice called for everyone to board.
“No fucking way! Piss off. Leave me alone.” Joshua roared. The doorway directly in front of him was suddenly and blindingly illuminated, revealing a tall, beautiful woman. She had long, auburn hair and a pale, flawless beauty with the greenest eyes Joshua had ever seen. He was struck with such a strong sense of recognition, that without realizing it, he stood up and approached the train and her, as though floating. The fog in his mind cleared briefly, bringing with it a vision of his past.
Joshua stood at the front of a church, full of people going by the murmurs behind, wearing a tight fitting tuxedo. Beside him was the woman from the train, dressed in a pristine, white wedding gown, her piercing emerald eyes glistening from unshed tears as she intoned, “I, Jennifer, take thee Joshua...”
His wife. Jennifer. How in the world had he forgotten the love of his life. As he drew closer her face was suddenly and horribly covered in blood, oozing out of a large jagged hole right in the center of her forehead, a bloody third eye staring right at him. She looked at him, through the streaming blood, with an expression of such vast disappointment that Joshua could walk no closer. Turning away from him, Jennifer went back into the darkness of the train. The back of her head was a gaping hole of shattered skull and brain, blood flowing freely down her back. The light in the doorway went out and as the door began to slide shut Joshua propelled himself through into blackness.
The inside of the carriage was brighter than Joshua was expecting and he had to cover his eyes with his hands until they adjusted to the glare. Looking about him, he saw that at least fifty people sat throughout the carriage. No one was speaking, although some cried softly, most were sitting with vacant, even hopeless expressions. Joshua barely gave them a second glance as he caught sight of Jennifer disappearing through the end of the carriage and hurried to catch up to her. He stopped short as another memory surfaced.
They were laying on a soft, satin wrapped bed, holding each other tightly as if afraid letting go would mean losing the other forever. Their naked sweaty bodies felt more connected now, than before when they had been making love. Joshua could feel her heart beating through her small, perfectly rounded breasts as they pressed against his chest and he almost cried at the love he felt for her.
“I love you,” He whispered in her ear.
“Not as much as I love you,” she replied drowsily against his neck.
“Don't ever leave me.” His voice had a frightened, almost desperate undertone to it that he could not control.
She raised her head, her eyes serious as she studied him for a moment, before answering his plea for reassurance.
“I will never never leave you, beloved, for as long as you live.”
He couldn't stop the tears and let them fall unashamedly down his cheeks. Jennifer lightly kissed each moist cheek before kissing his lips. She tasty salty from the tears and Joshua returned her kiss with growing passion.
“Tickets please?” said a raspy voice, bringing Joshua back to the train; the fog once more settling over his memories.
The conductor was ancient looking; greyish leathery skin pulled tightly over a gaunt face as if there wasn't a shred of muscle in him.
“I don't have a ticket,”he said trying to push passed the old man. Joshua was shocked to discover he couldn't budge the guy an inch.
“Let me past. I have to find my wife. Please.”
“I need you ticket, Sir,” the old man said without a trace of sympathy.
“I don't have a fucking ticket! Now let me pass or I'll-”
“-Ah, there it is,” the semi-corpse said, reaching into Joshua's coat pocket and pulling forth a scarlet piece of paper. Joshua looked at it in fear. It was too much like the blood running over his wife's face. The conductor scanned it with a strange archaic looking machine before handing it back and checking the screen.
“Mister McNealy. Joshua Frederick McNealy. Hmmm, let me see, oh yes, here we are. What do we have here then? Oh, one of the M and S passengers. Yes, that sounds about right.” the conductor told Joshua.
“I don't know what the fuck you're talking about but you have to let me go find my wife.”
The conductor once again bent his head over his machine before saying,
“You must be mistaken, Mr. McNealy, your lovely wife Jennifer wouldn't be on this train.”
Joshua stopped trying to move passed the creepy old man and asked,
“How do you know her name? What the hell is going on with this train? And what did you mean by M and S?”
“Can't remember, eh? Well, don't worry, by the time we reach the last stop you'll remember more than you want to, I'm sure. Now, if you'll please excuse me, I have other passengers to see to.”
Joshua let the man pass and stood for a few moments, fear growing in his belly. He came back to himself suddenly and hurried in the direction Jennifer had gone. As he reached the door and as his hand grasped the cold handle another memory flooded his brain.
Joshua took the day off work and went to surprise his wife at her office. As he arrived he saw her getting out of a taxi with a tall, handsome man. She turned and kissed the man on the cheek before he got back into the taxi and drove off. Joshua stood on the corner of the street for the longest time trying to convince himself he hadn't seen his wife with another man but the more he tried to deny it, the stronger his rage at the obvious betrayal grew. The first time he had forgiven but never forgotten. He walked the streets for hours before stopping in front of a pawn shop window, his eyes glued to the shiny black revolver within.
No. It hadn't happened. It was impossible, he thought as he yanked open the door and plunged through. The next carriage was just as crowded as the last but his wife was not here. He was running now, stumbling, through carriage after carriage but he couldn't find her. When he got to the last door he knew, deep down, she wouldn't be on the other side. Opening it he wasn't surprised to find himself in the drivers booth. The naked skeleton that was busily pushing buttons and pulling levers did surprise him however. The carrion turned round to stare with its black void-like eyes. “You're not supposed to be here, you know,” the skeleton scolded him. It was the voice that had called for everyone to board the train.
Joshua started to cry, hopelessly caught in the never-ending nightmare.
“I just want to wake up and be with my Jennifer.”
The skeleton laughed at him, then turned to adjust a lever.
“You murder/suicide sinners are all alike. You just refuse to take responsibility for your actions.”
Murder! Suicide! No! It can't be. It can't. The driver's words were the final gust of wind needed to blow the fog out of his head and Joshua reeled as his repressed memories came rushing to the surface.
The heavy cold revolver was in his right hand, a handful of his wife's hair in the other. She was looking up at him in terror, her face stained with tears.
“Joshua, please, you're crazy, I didn't do what you're accusing me of. Please put the gun down.”
“Don't lie to me bitch! I saw you. I saw you with him.” He screamed at her.
“No, you;re wrong. I love you. I would never do anything to hurt you. Please, you must believe me.”
“You did it again. After all that I went through last time. You did it again.”
“No... no, I didn't. I swore I never would, remember? That's why we got married. You believed me then, believe me now. I love you. Please.”
“I love you too.” Joshua whispered as he put the gun to her forehead and pulled the trigger. He didn't watch as the back of her head exploded and she crumpled lifelessly to the floor. He closed his own eyes as he put the barrel of the gun slowly under his chin and without hesitation pulled the trigger.
He lay, sobbing on the floor of the train, for what seemed like an eternity before he could pull himself together enough to rise to his feet.
“I'm going to Hell, aren't I?” He asked the driver, his voice hoarse.
“Of course you are. Where did you think this train was taking you? Disneyland?”
“If this is the train to Hell, then why isn't my wife here? I thought adultery was a mortal sin?”
The Skeleton turned to face him.