Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Dance of Demons.


The book glowed in the bookstore window. It was actually a pawn shop, and sold books along with everything else-furniture; lamps; jewelry; and old toys. Sarah Whittier stood with her face pressed to the glass. She was looking at a glass figurine of a rocking horse, next to the window. It was silver and had diamonds for eyes, but she didn’t think they were real diamonds, nobody would put real diamonds in a glass horse. It was very beautiful. She also saw a porcelain ballerina. She went inside. No one was around. She went up to the ballerina, and touched it. It was smooth as glass. She shook her head, and bit her lip. The porcelain rocking horse cost twenty-five dollars; she had twenty dollars on her, for buying Christmas presents. She wanted the glass figurine. She couldn't stop thinking about it.
"May I help you?" a pleasant voice asked.
She turned to look at an elderly woman standing in the middle of the shop. She wore a flowered dress. Her hair was long and gray. She looked like a picture in a book, one of those Fairy Godmothers. She smiled. "I was about to leave," she mumbled at the floor.
"Why don't you stay awhile?" she asked. "See what you can see." Her face was very pleasant. Sarah's mother died from tuberculosis last month. She was still mourning. She wore a black washcloth over her face at dinner, she didn't know why, it made her feel better. She thought.
"I wish I could," she said.
"Your grandmother died recently, didn't she?" the woman asked her.
She stopped cold. She stared at the woman. "How did you know that?" she whispered.
"Your eyes," she explained. "Your eyes told me."
She didn't offer any other information, other information about what was going on behind those gray-green eyes that stared straight at Sarah's soul. She shivered. She wasn't cold. She went out into the night.
It was bedtime, she was in her bed, thinking about the glass figurine. Her thoughts succumbed her. She could think of little else. She smiled. Her hair was brushed, and shone, and the light from the hallway nightlight lit up the room. It was very bright.
"Mother?" she said the next morning.
"Yes, dear?" she asked.
"What do you know about glass figurines?"
She laughed cheerfully. "Not much, I'm afraid. Some of them are very old. Some of them have just been made, but they are crafted with loving care."
"Oh." Sarah wasn't sure she understood the answer. She looked around the kitchen. It was nice and cozy. She wanted to take a nap, but her mother was making breakfast, and she wanted to go exploring.

“I want something to do.”
Jack Crenshaw was eleven-years-old at the time. He turned and scowled at his mother. She was ironing, near the stove. It was winter, and it was very cold, and the wind howled and shook the windows of the old house. He shivered. Hits boots quaked.
“Are you cold, dear?” she asked. “Here, have a biscuit.” She handed him a biscuit, and he wandered away, down the drafty hallway, to the bedroom, chewing it slowly. It got earlier in the winter in Alaska. Earlier, and colder. It was going to snow. The forecast predicted it.
He sighed and bit his lip. The hallway made him afraid. He didn’t want to walk down it. He wanted to stay in the nice, warm kitchen with his mother. He shook his head. Some people had told him the old place was haunted. He never believed it. He didn’t believe in much, nowadays, except for school and Mrs. Sharpton and going to the bathroom and lunch, and the collie-he was out back, sniffing the yard. He giggled. She loved to sniff the ground-he wasn't sure what was under the snow in Alaska, but it was probably something nice. Once, she found an old baseball cap.
He went into the bedroom, dropped onto the bed, and put his head in his hands.
Sometime during the night, something moaned from the attic upstairs.
The wind cried and moaned, a sad, lonely sound.
* * *
“What are you doing here, Jack?” the succubus glared at him with glowing, wild eyes. Red as the sands of Mars, red as an apple.
“How did you know my name?” he asked nervously. He was looking for a way out. He shouldn’t have come for the book-the book could fall off the face of the earth, for all he cared.
“I know everything.” The succubus laughed.
“I’d…heard you escaped from the book.”
“I didn’t escape. I was released. We succubus are slaves of our trade. The trade of evilness, of darkness.”
“Who let you out?”
She moved closer, towards him. His mind screamed inside of him. There weren’t any thoughts. Just a shallow, cold pool. “You did!” she rasped, her voice like moving October wind.
He threw his hands up and covered his eyes with his face. He swallowed hard, and the darkness overtook him, and he couldn’t remember. Anything.
* * *
The darkness swirled around him-Jack Crenshaw was in a cemetery on Halloween night. It was dark. He clutched a flashlight in his hand, and he looked around him, and swallowed hard. Tears came out of his eyes, and he couldn’t see two feet in front of him-he thought he could, but the seeing was tough, and he wanted to scream, to run away, but he couldn’t. He had to find the ghost of Lenore. It was a stupid thought, but the thought stuck in his mind, and he couldn’t make it go away. It was the stupid story. The stupid story drove him out here, in the middle of the night, in his blue pants soaked with water, and his white shirt, and his hair was wet, too, like he’d just taken a shower, but nobody was here except him, and he could feel the eyes on the back of his neck-
The whisper of wind was beside him and he screamed and he clutched at his heart, his heart thumped loudly in his chest and he couldn’t think of what to do. He had left his cell phone-where? Something bulged in his back pocket.
The raw pain of breath was in his throat. He clawed at his throat, trying to reach in the back of his throat to get it out, but he couldn’t. His eyes smarted. His nose was running. He thought he had a cold, but he wasn’t sure. He ran through the forest, tripping and falling over roots, his wind in his hair. It was cold. Everything about the night was cold, and he was feeling down, down in the dumps. He’d had the dream, the dream about the weird creature who looked human.
“Get out of my crypt!”
“I’m not in your crypt! This is just a stupid old house!”
Jack Crenshaw had the dream again-the dream of floating in space.
It wasn’t space, really, it was more like floating in nothing, and the nothing was his life. The nothingness shook him up and he awoke, panting and sweating, his face turned towards the pavement, and the flashing lights made his head spin. He blinked once. Twice. His eyes adjusted to the sudden change in brightness, and another face was in front of him, and sweat poured from his forehead. “Hi,” he croaked out, and the face smiled down at him-at first, he thought it was the face of Death, and Death had come to take him. He realized it was a man, and the man was a police officer. How could he have thought Death was a police officer? It was almost laughable. He shook his head and his vision cleared, and he could see again, and the outline of the police officer was closer to him, asking if he was all right. Jack wanted to say, “No, he wasn’t all right, his head ached and his butt ached and his face was cold from being on the pavement, and he wanted something nice and hot down his throat, he wanted to eat, but he couldn‘t quite get the words out.
The police officer’s name was Drew Arlens. “What are you doing here?” he asked him.
Jack looked around him stupidly. His mind was deaf and dumb. Nothing around him except darkness and the flashing lights of the police cars, and the moon, bright and full, and his wet jeans-he was not a happy camper.
A voice whispered in the darkness-the swirling darkness, calling his name, or maybe they were calling another Jack, from another time and place, from some place far away. It was dim in his mind. It was dim, and he was seeing, and he looked around and he blinked once, twice, and the darkness was still there-he couldn’t see anything, except himself, and himself was not awake.
This was no ballpark.
There wasn’t anything here.
He woke. A nurse’s face floated in front of him and he jerked and nearly knocked over the food tray in her hand. “Get out!” he rasped. His entire body shook. “Who the hell are you?”
“My name is Jenkins,” she chirped, smiling down at him with a wide smile. Her teeth was like gigantic slabs of white bread. “Jenkins, Amanda.” She laughed heartily. “More like, Amanda Jenkins-Jenkins being my last name. I’m married.” She tossed her blonde hair, the lipstick was bright red.
“I don’t care. May I have some water?”
“Why, aren’t you a polite young man!” she exclaimed. She scurried out of the room, and a doctor showed up.
“Well,” he chirped. “It looks like you had another spell.”
“Another spell? What do you mean?”
“You had a stroke, young man-well, your status is leukemia, it says on your charts.”
He propped his elbow up on the large hospital pillow and stared at him with bulging eyes. “What do you mean, leukemia? I’m perfectly normal-perfectly healthy.” He sputtered out the words.
“We ran some tests while you were asleep-”
“While I was asleep? What kind of hospital is this? I didn’t give you any consent to do that!”
“You didn’t have to. Your wife did.” His voice clipped out the words, one by one, like stones falling in a pool of cold water. Water always reflected the sky-life was a lot like that, a reflection of one thing turned into something else.
“I’m not married.”
The doctor glanced at his hand. “I can see your ring is gone, but a police officer found it at the scene. He was kind enough to bring it in for you.”
“Oh. Thanks. I guess.”
“What do you remember?”
“Nothing. Not really.”
“What do you mean, nothing?”
“I don’t remember anything about myself. I don’t even know why I’m here. Nothing hurts.” He frowned. He was confused about something, just something, not really anything, or maybe he was and he didn’t see it, couldn’t see the plain thing in front of his face, the something that made up his life and-the last of the thoughts flitted from his mind, and he couldn’t think. He was dumb again. That was the last thought he’d had before she spoke again.
“You broke your arm and your collar bone. You almost died. Your stomach was practically in knots, not to mention the leukemia. You’re lucky to be alive.”
His eyes narrowed. “What do you mean, lucky? I don’t remember my own name.”
“Your name is Jack Crenshaw.”
Something jarred his thoughts-something in the back of his mind. A stirring, final note. His mouth twisted in a grimace. It wasn’t even a smile.

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