I felt her breath on my neck like she was standing right behind me.
There was a nick in the door way where she’d fallen the day she burned breakfast; her watch must have caught the frame. I remembered that day like it had just passed. The framed puzzle of The Last Supper had fallen to the floor and shattered; the puzzle remained intact, except for the faces of the disciples. Those had been drench thoroughly in my mother’s blood.
I felt like I was in a trance, energy surging through me; I was a vessel for it. I wanted to walk up stairs and look in my old room, but the stairs, upon looking at them, double in size and height; an impossible maze to climb and I was limited on time. Something told me I wouldn’t be alone for long.
My stomach grumbled, my hunger ceaseless.
It was like I was being directed by my mother – or some force – something, that was greater than anything I could control. I was cognizant in my own mind to know that I should leave, which meant I thought I had enough strength to do it. Wrong. I made one half step towards that front door, and my body thrashed against the hardwood; some of the planks popped up, splintering my forehead. I was being dragged, dragged down to that basement.
Oh, what had I done?!
As if handled by a puppeteer, I step by step made my way down the stairs. Creak creak yeeeeaaan, the rickety wood wheezed under me, releasing familiar sounds. I recalled hearing this noise so many times under my bed and it kept my reality in check, though I longed to be truly overtaken by whatever was leading me to this. I didn’t want to know what was happening, I didn’t want to see what I was seeing. I’d seen enough over the last few years. I don’t know what I was thinking by coming here. My eyes wanted rest. Eternal rest, if that was on the menu.
I sunk my hands in to the dingy wall. It was moist, thick with aging fluids that refused to dry up. I tore the wall up, chunk by chunk until a familiar scent flushed my nostrils. I vomited; I vomited lots of blood, enough that it curled like cinder smoke and spelled out, “Mother.” My head snapped, she was watching – I’d awakened her.
I lifted my gaze, and my mother, worn with age, weariness and hunger was emerging from under the staircase – not where my father had supposedly left her five years ago. Energy pulsated in my veins. I was angry, hungry…thirsty.
“Come,” she said in that voice I’d forgotten.
The shakiness in her voice reminded me of how she was before she became this monster. I remember when it first started, her peculiar idiosyncrasies. I thought nothing of her weirdness at the time, I just thought that’s who she was; the emptiness in her gaze, the slurred speech, the mood swings. I thought those were things that just made my mother up.
For hours, we put together human puzzles in the basement; there were nearly twelve, like disciples. Faith, Ruth, Sara, Hope, and so many others I didn’t recognize. Assembled limb-by-limb, with their matching heads….it was a godless masterpiece.
I remembered her packaging pounds and pounds of meat one day, to store in our deep freezer in the garage. I asked her what the packages were for, why there were so many and she replied, “Your father asked me to. We’re going to fee the hungry someday; this is the Lord’s work.” She’d butchered and wrapped up my father’s first disciple, his Simon.
It all made sense now.
There was something about the way my mother moved; not fueled by desire, but more like command. I remembered her standing with her nose pressed against this very wall I’d ripped up – brought to mind the anguish she held on her sullen face that day; I finally put two and two together, though I didn’t want to think it. This…this was the work of my father. “The Lord’s work,” she no doubt thought she was doing; creating perfectly fabricated disciples.Followers that would aid in my father’s demonic mission.
I felt ignorant, betrayed. My father had spent his life in servitude to God, albeit casually and carelessly, but I had nothing to compare it to. Secret alcoholism and casual dalliances were just at the top of the list, but I knew these were marks of a sinner and he constantly reminded me that God forgave. I couldn’t have dreamed that this could be forgiven.
As I was placing the last severed head near its neck – the wound seemingly fresh, but they all seemed like that beneath bare hands, I heard the front door swing open heavily. Time was up.
My mother recoiled beneath her cave under the stairs and I was left to face my father; I knew it was him, his steps had always been loud, I’d just never noticed how poignant and gravid they were. He could sense me, I know – I could sense him too, like flints striking under my skin.
I climbed the stairs and steeled myself. I’d endured this much; to be consumed by the thing that was already killing me felt like a welcomed miracle. My father blew right passed me, heading towards the basement without so much as a head-turn in my direction. He carried a large backpack over his right shoulder, which was stained with blood, the bag dripping.
“Go make me something to eat,” he commanded, shoving passed me, knocking me down, my head hitting the table as it had so many years before. This time, no blood escaped my crown. Unable to disobey a command, I made my way into the kitchen. My arms and legs moved about as they would have normally, except I thankfully at this moment still had complete control of my mind.
There were no groceries in the house, only pots and pans; a miscalculation on my father’s part. I clanked them around to make noise to satisfy my hungry father – I had no idea what was happening in the basement and I didn’t want to know. If that was the last I saw of my mother, well, at least I saw her in a semi-serene state, putting together her puzzles as she did so many times before. The force that my father had cast upon her, seemingly many years ago, was the only thing keeping her alive, keeping me alive. It was then I knew what had to be done.
I tiptoed to the living room and turned the furnace on – yes, the house was that old. I began to smell the gas and knew it was time to make my way to the kitchen. I turned all four gas burners on the stove on and cranked up the oven. I snatched a book of matches from the cupboard and headed for the front door. Then, the worst. I walked to the front steps and waited, allowing anger to swell inside of me; anger so ferocious and deep, I thought I’d burst into flames. I knew I had to muster all of the negative, evil virility I could so this could execute properly. I heard my father bellow my name and that was it. I lit the match instinctively and dropped it.
I released a death-defying howl that was heard completely around the neighborhood. It didn’t sound like my voice. It was deep and it echoed, as if I was in the bottomless pit of a molasses-like liquid that spread through the streets I played in as an innocent.The place, the house I loved, my sanctuary of happiness incinerated in seconds. I felt a release; galaxies worth of anger exiting my body, flinging me from the steps.
I was thrown from impact on to the lawn of our old neighbors, entirely across the street. The police came and ruled the whole place a crime scene. All those dead, burning bodies…it was a mess.
Disciples one through twelve were vindicated. Though the bodies were mostly destroyed, the peace of mind that would sweep our town comforted my thoughts. At least, I knew it would before the news of my father came out, if it ever did. I smirked at the thought.
Upon being asked a multitude of questions – what happened, how I knew to come to this place, how I knew to go to the basement, how the fire got started – all I was able to muster was, “I burned breakfast.”