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(C)Copyright 1999 by Ronald Rand
All Rights Reserved.

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4

 

I woke up in bed, lying next to Yvonne's red dress. I jumped, momentarily startled, and pushed it aside. I remembered dreaming of Yvonne, remembered sleeping with her, making passionate love to her in the dark. But then, I thought, it was only a dream.
I took my toolbox to the front door and attempted to open it once again. I tried the handle first. Though I still expected it to be stuck, I was disappointed to find it so. I twisted the knob that controlled the deadbolt and I couldn't force it to open. I opened the toolbox and found a pair of vice-grip pliers and secured them to the knob and tried to force it counter-clockwise. It would not budge. I found a ball-peen hammer in the toolbox and started hitting the pliers with it. The knob still would not release its hold on the lock. My stomach started grumbling from hunger and I was feeling exhausted. My mind was beginning to fog. Without completely thinking it through I started beating on the pliers with the hammer and the more frustrated I got, the harder I beat on it. That was when the knob snapped off.
I cursed myself. I ran through the front room and knocked a chair over as I ran through the great room and around the house looking for the other doors. I remembered seeing a door in a room in the back of the house years ago, but I couldn't find it. The doorway to that room must have been closed off somewhere, hidden behind a wall or something, I thought. I ran around the house searching. The house was rather large but not so large that I should lose a whole door. The room that contained the back exit to the house was another of Yvonne's private rooms. I stayed away from it for fear of a tongue-lashing. But now, I wasn't concerned with that, I was hungry.
In my running around the house I wandered aimlessly into the kitchen. I opened the pantry and found a large stock of canned foods. I was so hungry I could almost smell the food through the can. I looked through the drawers until I found a can opener and opened the first can I got my hands on -- chicken noodle soup. I poured it into a pan that I found in a cupboard and turned a dial on the stove. To my surprise, a burner lit. I leaned down to look at it. How could it be that this long after Yvonne's death the gas was still on?
I put the pan onto the flame and turned the gas on as high as it would go. I watched impatiently, and as it turns out, it is true what they say. A watched pot never boils. Before it was finished cooking, I gobbled down the whole can and went back to the front room to get another candle. I lit it and walked towards the rear of the house. This time, with my stomach full and my head on straight, I was able to find the door to Yvonne's other private room and I was relieved. I reached down and tried the knob but it was locked -- of course it would be. This was to be expected of Yvonne. The next time I needed to go outside, I would simply return to that room and deal with the lock then, I told myself.
I returned to the office and set to writing again, my stomach now comforted by the soup. Herbert is a good name for a rat. I decided to call my friend Herbert. All night I sat and typed out my journal entries. I even wrote a letter to Yvonne. It helped to ease my pain a little. It was starting to get a little stifling staying in this lonely house. I was beginning to dread trying to sleep. I knew I would simply lay in that empty bed all night long, and wish Yvonne were lying by my side.
In my loneliness I began to tell jokes to Herbert. I laughed to myself and wondered if Herbert was listening. I knew full well that he wouldn't understand, but just knowing that he might be listening to my voice was enough to make me happy.
I typed away, page after page, talking to Herbert who never tried to talk back to me the way Eliza used to. After a while Eliza's voice began to get on my nerves. If only you knew what I was going through living in that apartment with the ever-needy Eliza, who always wanted my company and never gave me a moment alone to myself. You would then know why I ignored her as she beat upon my door. You would understand why I ignored her pleas as her hands bled. At least Herbert didn't talk. I can assure you if Herbert talked to me like Eliza did, he would probably be splattered across the wall. But as it was, he was a quiet little buddy.
I could hear Herbert pushing whatever it was that Herbert always pushed through the grating. I could hear it sliding like a tiny pebble through the wall as its descent echoed in the depths of the vent. I could hear Herbert scratching as he got closer and closer to the mouth of the duct. I got excited and started calling out towards the grating, "You go, Herbert! You go, boy." I began rocking with the rhythm of Herbert's efforts and my writing began to flow more freely from my fingers. As Herbert got closer and closer to the lip of the vent, his pushing of the tiny object became more and more furious. As the noise grew to its loudest, I got up from my seat and stood next to the vent, waiting.
Then I heard a tiny clank, and Herbert's progression stopped. Whatever it was Herbert was pushing, I estimated that he was done. The tiny object was now free of the vent passage. I almost wanted to call out to Herbert to not stop, but to continue to push the object further and further through the vents. Let's see how much further you can go, Herbert. I was afraid that when he was done I would not be able to hear him anymore, and I would lose his companionship for good. I paused and I leaned down towards the vent. I looked inside but once again saw nothing. Carefully I reached my hand deep inside the vent fearing that Herbert might bite. I had to get really close and I squeezed my shoulder and part of my neck deep into the air duct. My fingers felt about. I was surprised to find that the passage was completely straight and I did not have to bend my arm to snake through the duct. Then my fingers felt the object of Herbert's passionate crusade.
My hand came back to me covered in soot and I looked at my closed fist. What on earth, thought I, could have given Herbert so much trouble? I slowly opened my fingers and lying in the palm of my hand was a shiny human tooth. I dropped it onto the floor, stepped away, and stared at it. I wish I could tell you what I was thinking, but I really wasn't thinking anything at all. In all of my wildest imagination, I could not possibly have fathomed finding a solitary tooth in the depths of this house, human or otherwise. The thought of that incisor chewing it's way through the walls and finding itself in the palm of my hand repulsed me.
I made my way out towards the front room and sat upon a suede loveseat. I cursed loudly for a few minutes, and then my curiosity got the better of me. I made my way back to the office and took my candle in hand and laid upon the floor amongst the soot. I kicked the tooth away from me, (not wanting to touch it again), hunched down, and shone the candle down the tiny passage. At the other end, a watchful eye was gazing back at me. The face around the eye was old and wrinkled and stuck to the floor in a thick pool of jam. The eye watched me intently. I didn't see an eyelid, only a single shiny orb. The mouth of the face was wide open, and there was a gap where a tooth should have been. I screamed, friend, and if you only heard that scream you'd have thought I was a woman.
I ran to the living room, fell down and rest upon the floor to catch my breath waiting for my heart to slow down, but it would not. I grabbed the lit candle out of the holder next to the front door and ran to the room in the back of the house with the locked door. I was not concerned at all by the fact that I was leaving my knapsack or personal belongings in the house. I wanted then only to escape. I had no intention of finding out who that dead thing was or how he came to find himself behind the walls of Yvonne's study.
After I found the wooden door in the back hallway, I started to kick it in. It took me three attempts before I heard the lock snap inside the door and it opened just a crack. The candle flickered around the hallway and the doorway was lit. I looked into the crack, but the shadows of the candle danced dimly around me, and all I could see within was darkness.
I took a deep breath and set my left hand onto the door and slowly pushed it open. As I did so, the candle illuminated the interior of the room. A wind blew through the doorway and my olfactory caught an unpleasant odor inside. I endured the foulness because I knew that room was the only other exit from the house. I did not want to stay with that corpse in the wall any longer. I entered the room and held my candle up above me so the glare wouldn't obstruct my view.
On the other side of the room I saw the door. Next to the door was a window ledge covered with bars on the outside. Sitting on the window ledge, two slanted glowing green eyes were staring in my direction. A hissing came from the area behind those eyes and I took a step closer and moved the candle towards the window. My eyes fell upon a large cat. Its hair was frazzled and matted and caked with a thick substance that glistened in the candlelight. Its body was fat and torn.
I thought for a moment that it might attack me, indeed it must be mad. I moved slowly and cautiously towards the cat and offered out my hand. I called to it, "Sam, is that you? Anita?" and I extended my fingers towards its face. I'd always had a way with cats. When Yvonne's kittens would meet each other they touched noses. This was their way of greeting, much like a friendly human handshake. I learned that most cats would come to me when I slowly extended my index finger towards them. Then they would touch a dry, velvety nose to the tip of my finger and brush up against the back of my hand allowing me the honor of petting them. The wind subsided and the flickering of the candle declined to a steady glow.
"Kitty, how is it that you're alive? What have you been eating?" I moved towards it and I stumbled upon something soft. The cat hissed and bit my finger leaving a trickle of my own blood to run down my hand. Anita and I were never friendly. In fact, she hated me. Sam was always my favorite and I made it a point to let Anita know that. This cat must have been Anita.
My foot became lodged in something on the floor. It felt as though I'd just stepped into a bucket. I reached down and began to free my boot. It wouldn't easily release its hold. I shone the candle down towards the floor and that's when I noticed the object I had stepped into and it sickened me -- a ribcage of human proportions. I looked around me in all directions, flashing the candle into every dark corner. My inner organs were coiled up tightly like a spring. How could Yvonne let this happen? There were piles of rotting limbs and faces sans flesh. I looked back at Anita and saw a gnarled, skinless foot with tendons and muscle glistening in the light of my candle. Anita shot me another defiant glance and hissed again for me to leave, slinking towards me now.
Below my feet the floorboards trembled. It began very faintly so that I wouldn't notice at first. As I shook the bones off of my foot, I almost lost my balance as the shaking of the floorboards became more violent. I ran to the door and pushed against it. My hand felt along the wooden frame quickly but could not find any handle. The rattling came faster and louder, and I looked over and noticed a very large figure, something around eight feet tall, bounding its way down the hall towards me. I looked around and pounded my fists upon the door. To the right of the door I saw a smaller one and remembered that one as having led into the cellar.
I was never allowed in the cellar. At this point I was afraid of what I might find down there. Perhaps there was another exit of which I wasn't aware. All I knew is that the rest of the house held no escape for me and I tried my luck with the cellar door.

 

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