The story so far:
I allowed myself to be manhandled. Pulled from the vehicle, forced to the ground, cuffed, pulled back up again and finally pressed face first into the hood of my own car to wait for back-up to arrive.
It felt good. To allow myself to let go. To not try and control the situation. Like I used to do with my wife Elaina. Just relax and allow her to work me like a marionette.
The only words Officer Brianna said to me the whole time were, ‘Don’t give me any **** ya hear.’
As I sprawled there uncomfortably across the hood, the knob of her bony elbow pressed firmly into the small of my back, I first heard the arrival of an ambulance and then I watched as the paramedics rushed the house on a mission.
The old man bellowed at them all the way up the stairs, ‘Hurry…Hurry.’
I could see them in the living room, through the open front door, going about their business of trying to save someone’s life. And I could tell business wasn’t good.
The emotions experienced while watching someone die are blinding to a bystander. To a relative, they are consuming.
At some point during the ordeal the old man lost his equilibrium and toppled over the side of an easy chair, splitting his fragile head open on the now splintered edge of an antique end table. Even from my distance I could see the blood geyser out. Eventually, one of the paramedics rushed back to their vehicle to retrieve a second stretcher. As they passed by me I could have sworn I heard her call me a murderer. Me…
When she returned to the scene with the second stretcher she found her counterpart now focusing all his attention on the old mans head. She hesitated over the old woman for a moment, recognized the cold blank stare on her face, and quickly moved to assist her partner.
I knew what that meant. And the pain in my wrist and the pain in my back combined together couldn’t equal the pain in my heart.
All I could think about was how the Preacher was probably lurking nearby in the shadows, beckoning the old woman to join him there…and waiting for his opportunity to grab hold of the old man’s confused soul too and smuggle them both off to his Halloween party to await the mass resurrection.
“You are so ****.” Was Officer Brianna’s statement to me as she suddenly yanked me up hard off the hood and pushed me toward her waiting car.
It was I who was responsible for the old woman’s death. Crashing my car into the front of her house. Causing her heart to cease. And as a result, I too would be responsible for the death of the old man.
She was right, ‘I was so ****.’
Only, she had no idea just how **** ‘so ****’ could be. In fact we were all ‘so ****.’ It was only a matter of time before the dead crept out of the darkness like some choreographed 80’s video and sought out their living loved ones.
And what was so wrong with that? Wanting to be reunited with your family? To see your daughter, or son, or family dog. It was really sort of romantic when you thought about it. To once again embrace the love of your life. The only woman who ever understood you. The only woman who could cause you to feel the way you do now.
As long as you didn’t mind the stench of death and formaldehyde when you nuzzled your love behind her ear. Or the taste of earthworm and rot when you kissed her icy lips.
Officer Brianna gave me a solid shove from behind as we approached her car. Back-up had finally arrived and she was going to give them a good show by demonstrating her authority over me. I gathered she was relatively new to the force. Young woman in a mans uniform needing to prove herself. Who was I to **** that up for her? I pasted a pained expression on my face and allowed her to maneuver me forward with zero resistance.
“Hey Charles, you gotta get him cleared before you take em to the station.” One of the other uniforms barked at her as he approached with authority.
“He’s fine.” She shot back.
“Yea. Well he don’t look fine to me.” The man stepped firmly between us and her car.
She hesitated…and that was that.
The other cop took my arm and yanked me toward another ambulance that had just pulled up. A tall paramedic with a shaggy head of hair stepped out and walked toward us.
“Hey Jazz…can you take a look at this guy.” The cop thrust me forward. “It’s the driver. Probably wasted on something. Looks like he could be in shock. Possible injury to right wrist…”
“He aint got no injuries needing attention. And he aint in shock.” Brianna Charles practically spit at the paramedic as she walked up from behind.
I noticed her control over her grammar left her when she became agitated. Grew up on the wrong side of the tracks too?
The other cop glanced at her and shook his head.
“Why don’t you just get started on your report Charles…you got a lot a paper work ahead of you tonight.”
Defeated, Officer Brianna sulked back to her car. I couldn’t say I was sad to see her go.
The paramedic led me gingerly to the back of the truck and opened the doors. He assisted me in climbing into the back and sitting on a flat seat.
“Can you understand me sir.”
I stared at him blankly for a moment before I finally replied.
“Um, yea. Of course I can understand you…I do speak English.”
“Okay, good. My name is Jazz, and I’m going to ask you a few questions okay? Now, can you tell me if it hurts anywhere?”
Like I’m a four-year-old Chinese boy who’s fallen off a kiddie ride at Disney.
“Yeah Jazz. It **** hurts all over.”
The conversation went on like this until he had what he wanted and determined that before I went to Jail, I would need to spend at least one night in the hospital for precautionary observation.
That was fine with me. Seeing as how the dead were going to be hunting us down in a few hours the last place I wanted to be was trapped in the cage of a jail cell.
He left me sitting in the ambulance and walked toward the house to assist the others.
I had just closed my eyes when I recognized Officer Brianna’s voice.
“So, you wanna tell me what happened tonight.”
“I lost control of my car. I hit a house.” I offered quickly without opening my eyes.
“Mmm, Hmmm. And what bar were you coming from?”
I opened my eyes and looked at her. I hadn’t really been able to get a good look at her earlier, what with my face plastered against the hood of my car. She was actually quite pretty. Curvy, petite figure, although the muscles on her arms flexed and rippled when she moved. Short stylishly cropped deep dark hair framed her pale face and bright green eyes. Her nose turned up slightly at the end and hinted toward the left.
“Well…what was it then? One of the sleazy taverns over on 5th? The bowling alley maybe…”
When she spoke I saw that she had a tiny gap between her two front teeth.
“Strip club?” she winked at me.
“I was coming from Church. And I wasn’t drinking.” I closed my eyes again and leaned my head back against the inside wall of the ambulance.
“Church huh.” She chuckled as she wrote it down. “And just what Church were you attending…” and then under her breathe, “…on Halloween.”
“Yes, I know how it sounds. But…there are circumstances that…caused…” I was at a loss for words to explain.
“Sure…sure. And what was happening at Church?”
I sighed. I knew it was useless trying to explain it to her. Even so, I looked her right in the eyes and I began to tell her my story…
“I went to Church to try and get some information on a Preacher. Well, I actually don’t know if he is a Preacher or not…I mean, he claims to be…but when he stopped by the house the other day he was asking all sorts of strange questions. He made me feel…I don’t know. Oh, and he broke in my house too. Stole my daughters…my, daughter…she’s, um, no longer with us. Anyway…he stole her necklace off the wall and put it in a coffee cup and…”
I stopped. I was ranting. I knew how I sounded. If someone were to feed this story to me I would be less than impressed with their truth telling skills.
“Sir, how much have you had to drink? Or is it something else, huh? Some blow maybe? Perhaps a little refer?”
I sighed. “I’m not on alcohol or drugs.”
She raised her eyebrows and then nodded.
“Now which Church did you say that was? Where is it located?”
“United Church of Christ, over on south Havens st.”
She stopped writing and slowly looked back up at me. Her eyes were laughing.
“Come on now. Least you can do is a little research before you lie. Haven’t you ever seen ‘Law and Order?’ If you’re going to invest so much effort into such a crazy story, you could at least get the details right.”
“And what’s wrong with my details?”
“Hey Brianna, you harassing my patient.” Jazz approached again.
“No Jazz, just asking a few basics.”
“Right, well interrogation is over now. He’s going to spend the night in the hospital. You can find him there later, okay.”
She looked back to me.
“Mr. Jankis, Well talk again soon, okay. And when we do, I’ll expect no more tale tales please. Just the truth.”
“I am trying to tell you the truth!” I muttered.
Seeing my agitation Jazz gave Officer Brianna Charles a look that said, ‘I Mean Now!’
As she slowly backed away, hands held up in an, ‘Okay. Okay’ gesture…she looked up at me and plainly stated:
“United of Christ, over on South Havens burned down a few months ago Mr. Jankis. Only thing there now is a pile of burnt pews and the old cemetery out back.”
I got my own room at the hospital and after a few hours of nurses and doctors fussing over my wrist I was finally left alone to contemplate…
‘A few months ago?’
The Church didn’t exist?
But I was just there.
And what about the Preacher? What about his first visit…that full cup of coffee he left behind that I could have sworn I watched him drink.
And the necklace? How could anyone possibly break into my house? I never go anywhere. It would have had to have been recently because I was just in that room the other day looking at it…and…I took the necklace down to clean it…and…
And what about the amazing appearing and disappearing act the Preacher pulled in my car.
Oh, mother of God…
The coffee cup was always full because there was no one there to drink it!
I was cleaning the necklace and accidentally dropped it into the cup.
There was no Church. There was No Preacher!
IT WAS ME! The whole time…
I’m losing my ever-loving mind!
I buried my head in my hands and allowed the realization to wash over me. To cleanse me.
And it all became so clear. I finally understood.
I was mad.
And slowly losing my mind was so much better than the hell that I thought I was going through to begin with. No Evil preacher raising the dead. No army of darkness marching through the streets with ragged clothing and half eaten maggoty flesh falling off their sunken zombie faces.
Just my tortured, weak, bruised, sick…sick mind playing tricks on me. Perhaps a few pills would clear it all up then. Maybe a week or two at the old ‘Shady acres’ relaxation home. Maybe even a…
The door to my room pushed open and a rotund black nurse strolled in with a magnificent white smile and huge round breasts.
“Hello Mr. Jankis. Are you feeling okay?”
I pasted on my best, ‘One flew over the Cukoos’s nest’ smile.
“Yes. Yes I am. In fact, I am feeling better than I have in a very long time.”
“Well that’s great!”
In the distance beyond her I could hear cheers and hoorays and hoots and hollers.
“What’s going on out there? I inquired.
I noticed the most peculiar look on the nurse’s face. A puzzled, slightly frightened, slightly excited and happy look.
Or maybe it was just my insanity?
“Strangest thing…patients been gettin visitors all night! Folks they ain’t seen in a while too. It’s almost like, the Lord done loaded up all the long lost relatives he could find, on a bus or ‘sumpin, and delivered ‘em right here to our front door.”
‘It’s not real.’ I told myself.
“Nurse…can I please get some medication. Something to make me feel, um…not so crazy?”
To this she started laughing.
“Oh Mr. Jankis…you are a funny one. I’ll get some aspirin ‘ta ease your pain a bit. But first…well you gots a few visitors of your own.”
And with that she stepped backwards out of the door and motioned for someone else to step forward.
And someone did.
Eternally magnificent. Eternally gorgeous. The eternal love of my life.
My not so eternally dead wife Elaina.
“Hi sweetheart. Did you miss me?”