Fugue

“It is June”, she says. The anxiety wells in the contours of her contorted face as she leans closer to me and scrutinizes my evasive gaze. I am in January and she is in my future, in the June of my life. Her eyes suspicious slits, wrinkled in the twilight zone between disbelief and fear and self-delusion. These months, a temporal abyss. She passes a hesitant hand through my hair and eyes her fingertips wistfully. She asks where I have been. “Here”, I retort, “where else?” Where else, indeed. I am here in the month of January and it is searing hot and flowers and bees aflutter and the sun, an incongruous disc high in the sky. “It is June”, she repeats, “and you have been gone for months.” She elevates her lithe frame and sighs as she glides towards a half-opened door. Then she pauses, her hand on an immaculately polished metal handle. “The Police say they found you in the city, wandering, aimless, disoriented, half-naked.” She studies me, hunting for a flicker of recognition, an amber of admission. In vain. The voices of exuberant children drift through the window and hang like pulsating smoke in mid air. She shrugs resignedly and shuts the door behind her. Minutes later she returns with a sweaty jug of sparkling water. “It’s hot,” she says, “it’s summer, you know.” I don’t know, but I gulp down the libation. She reclines on the worn armrest of the couch and supports her oval face on a cupped and sensuous palm. “What have you been doing all this time? Don’t you have the slightest recollection? Can’t you try harder?” It’s getting boring. I can’t try harder. I can’t try at all. I don’t know what she’s talking about, except that she has a point about June. Unless this is the hottest January on record, which deep inside I know it is not. I study the floor tiles intently: aquamarine borders besieging a milky center. I count them. It gives me respite, it calms me down. “What have you been doing so far away from home?” She utters the convoluted, hyphenated name of a town I do not recognize. I shrug, it’s becoming a reflex. A snippet: a man walking; the sounds of a raging sea as it confronts a barrier; the haunting lament of a solitary seagull. I shrug once more. She sighs and retreats, a whoosh of warm, perfumed air, a presence withdrawn in feigned resignation. But I know better than that: she never relents, that’s the way she is. How can I be so certain? How could I have become acquainted with such an intimate detail if we have never met before as I so tenaciously maintain? It may well be June, she may well be right. There is a tiny fairy-tale house directly on the beach, its foundations bone-bare, gaping in limestone and steel-pierced concrete. The man is inspecting these exposed ribs of a beached abode, kneeling and fingering the walls in a curious cross between sacro-cranial massage and a caress. I cannot see his face, just the crew-cut of his hair and the outline of his sagging jaw. Then it’s gone and she busies herself with a cigarette, the lighter clinks as it hits the reflective surface of a rotund glass stand. I watch her silhouette in the hallway mirror. She is a zaftig woman, her hair long and unbraided, eyebrows unplucked, two simmering coal lumps for eyes and a pale rendition of a mouth. She may well be a vampire. But sunlight is streaming through every crack and opening, a yellow, ethereal emanation, distinctly unsuited to zombies and other creatures of the night. Eerie apparitions jostle on the television screen, cut in half by potent words scrawled atop captions and banners: something about a family found murdered, stakes driven through their hearts while asleep. She says from the doorframe: “This happened a few days ago in (again the unutterable name of that town).” And then: “They are still looking for the killer.” I nod. The man is raising a glove-clad hand and peruses it in fascinated horror: the garment is bloodied and torn. He peels it off and tucks it into the crevice that underlies the house. The wind is howling. He scoops up sand and lets it drip through a funneled palm. Upstairs a woman and her children. He shudders at the thought. There’s something familiar in the man, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I wish him to turn around so that I could see his face, but the man just keeps facing the wall, his back to the foaming sea, on his haunches, ramrod straight, frozen in time, in a grey January morning. January. Not June. A tsunami of relief: it couldn’t have been me. I was here in January, almost throughout the entire month. With her? She stubs out the cigarette and re-enters the room. She catches  glimpse of the gory news. Her voice is firm, determined: we have to talk. Talk, I say. “You vanished one January day …” What day? On January 23. Go on. “You did not make contact since. A week ago, six months after you have gone missing, the Police found you …” Yes, yes, I know, dishabille, rambling, incoherent. “When was this family killed?” I catch her off-guard. She veers towards the blaring set and then: “Their bodies were discovered a few days ago, skeletons really. They seemed to have been butchered months before, no one knows exactly when.” An oppressive interlude. Why did it take so long to find them? “They have just relocated. No one knew them, the kids didn’t even register at school yet.” Kids? As in how many? Three, the youngest one four years of age. The man … was he the father, her husband? Her breath is bated: “What man?” The murderer. “No one said anything about a man. They don’t know who did it, could have been a woman.” And then: “Why do you think it was a man?” It takes a lot of strength to drive a stake through someone’s chest, even a child’s. “How would you know?” – she whispers. Was she married? I insist, an urgency in my voice that compels her to respond: “She was a widow. Cancer. He died four years ago to the day.” What day? The day they were slaughtered. There’s such finality in her voice, it’s chilling. A tidal wave of apprehension. “You think I did it?” Her turn to shrug. We contemplate each other in the waning light. Her hair is glowing as she avoids my stare. Finally: “I know you did it.” Know? How? “You told me.” I am overtaken by panicked indignation: “I never did.” She smiles wanly: “You were worn-out and fatigued. You remembered nothing except that you have finished off a family of vampires. You said you have made the world a better place.” Vampires? “Vampires, like in the movies and the books.” She crouches besides me and takes my hand tenderly. Then she pulls me off the couch and drags me through the penumbral corridors of her home. “Where are we going?” She doesn’t bother to respond. We climb some stairs and walk the length of a carpeted landing. She turns a key and unlocks a massive oak door. She stands aside and lets me enter first. “This is your study.” – she says. I want to deny it except the words stick in my throat as I survey the cavernous space: photos of me everywhere, and of us and professional certifications and award plaques and framed letters to and from. Too many to forge, they resonate and reawaken, they overpower me. I wander in, dazed and perplexed. A massive mahogany desk, littered with papers and opened books whose spines are shattered by frequent use. “Have a closer look”, she suggests, quietly. I sink into an overstuffed imitation leather chair and ponder the stacks. “Vampire lore, vampire science, vampire films, vampire literature,” – she exclaims as she ruffles through the papers and the dusty tomes, enunciating the titles. “The family …” – I mumble feebly. “A stake through the heart,” she concurs, “the surest way to kill a vampire.” “It’s still doesn’t prove it’s been me …” “Oh, give me a break!” she erupts and then clams shut and settles onto the window seal, pondering the overgrown garden. “What will you do now?” I ask and she quivers. There is a long silence, punctuated by our belabored breath and the rustling of dying leaves against the window. Her skin is abnormally pale in the dusky orange-flaming sun. I study her profile: the pronounced, hollow cheekbones, the deep-set sockets, the venous neck, down to her arthritic, gnarled hands that keep clutching and unclutching an imaginary purse. I can’t remember the shape of her feet, or breasts, or womanhood. She is so alien, so out of my world. “You really don’t remember a single thing?” I don’t, except the maddening racket of the sea. The man springs to his feet. I feel he is about to turn. My knuckles white against the armrests, I shut my eyes and look inward at the unfolding scene. He swerves and, for a dizzying moment there I am afraid that he will lunge at me, just cross the distance in a leap and drive a sharpened stake down my spurting, protesting, convulsing heart. But, instead, he merely smiles, awfully familiar and friendly-like, and hands me the dripping implement. Then he waves his head in her general direction, something between farewell and an admonition. He is full of empathy and compassion as he fades and exits the darkened chamber.


Mindgames Tales

The Capgras Shift

I Hear Voices

Folie a Plusieurs

The Elephant’s Call

Night Terror

Anton’s Trap

A Dream Come True

Lucid Dreams

Live Burial

The Galatea of Cotard

The Con Man ComethReaders Discussion

The Last DaysReaders Discussion

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: