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THE HORROR

The Great Pretender
Warren Vanderpool
...he feared that people would cross over to the other side to avoid contact with a lunatic.

Perhaps the voices in his head were a punishment for his wickedness. He did not know what he had he done, but he must have committed some monstrous sin to make God so angry. He prayed for absolution for the slightest remembered transgression, even for sinful thoughts. God did not answer and the voices continued, malevolent and spiteful. He clasped his hands to his ears to drown out the cacophony. But whenever he tried to shut the voices out they raged, and bullied him into submission.
Sometimes they spoke in articulate phrases like a lecturer advising a bright student, and sometimes they spoke in gibberish like a recorder on fast forward. Whenever that happened it would create havoc in his brain, and holding his head he would fall to his knees balling up like a baby on the floor.

The Madness followed him out of the house as he walked the back streets to the park. He soon felt the presence; the chill fingers barely touching his back and sending a shiver, raising the tiny hairs on his arms; the stench: the nauseating smell of decaying flesh that flooded his nostrils, constricting them until simply breathing became an unpleasant chore. These were the familiar signs that the madness had followed him, stalking him like a hunter, close enough to overcome him and wrestle him to the ground.
He had always enjoyed the company of people, especially his classmates, now he was alone... alone with the voices.
He knew that his spasms and arguments with the voices looked strange and even dangerous. So he avoided streets where pedestrians walked... he feared that people would cross over to the other side to avoid contact with a lunatic.
He held himself erect, trying not to shudder, carefully avoiding eye contact with the three approaching schoolgirls. As the girls passed the voices became frenzied: "grab her, grab her pussy!" But he resisted. A shadowy figure clawed at him from behind, barely missing the tail of his T-shirt.

The stalking madness was getting impatient, he was shaken by a massive tremor that unbalanced him, forcing him to flail out and grab a light post to keep from being thrown to the ground.
He was thankful that the girls had giggled and chatted around the corner without looking back to witness his seizure. He reassured himself: ‘OK. I look normal; I am The Great Pretender.’
His shoes slapped against the concrete. One of the soles was loose and lolled like a dogs black tongue, lapping with every step.
He arrived at the park and sought sanctuary in one of the gazebos that lined the Lily padded pool. The madness morphed into a spidery mist the fine webs surrounding him, clouding his view, turning the park into a crackled old Victorian photo.
Then the voices began again. They were insistent, commanding, impatient.
He watched detached as brown spots from his tears appeared in the dirt.

Five months ago the madness had taken his sister, Tara. She had announced that she was leaving St. Albans for New York City; she was going to study drama.
The madness watched from her window sill, furious at her planned desertion.
No one else noticed when the melting began, as Tara's flesh began to drip like a melted candle. She would leave a waxy snail path as she moved around the house preparing for her departure. He became frightened that she would melt entirely and poured a pail of water on her to slow down the process.
Tara was soaked, swore at him and called him retarded as she dried herself.
She should not have shouted at him because it alarmed the madness, and it demanded to avenge itself on Tara.
Before she had finished the preparations for her departure the madness went to the basement where the tools were stored, it removed a hatchet from the tool rack, and then called to Tara to come downstairs and get her suitcase....Later when his father asked him where his sister was, he explained that she had left to go to New York...I'm the Great Pretender.
He knew that Tara was actually still in the basement, cut into several pieces and packaged in the old wood box. She would continue to melt until she would finally be no more than a pool of wax covering the base of the box. He had grown tired. He had raced with the madness and now he was depleted.

While sitting in the gazebo he finally decided to quit running. He knew the madness well, he knew its power; he had heard its voice and smelled its rancid breath. He heard it whisper: ‘Fuck it’, when he sought to resist.
He slipped under the fog that encompassed his body and seeped beneath the gazebo and around the bushes. He ran to the pool and splashed headfirst into the murky water where he would kill the madness. Blessed blackness closed in around him as he sucked the stagnate broth deep into his lungs. His last conscious thought was that he had outwitted the madness.
Light filtered through the smell of his despair. He heard distant voices and felt hands of strangers as they dragged him through the water and onto the grass bank of the pool.
They worked on him, doing unspeakable things: blowing air into his mouth with their lips touching his. He tried to hold onto the darkness and to shut out the interlopers. A mask was placed over his mouth and nose and he heard the buzz. It became a hum, vibrating through his nose and cheeks, unfolding in his throat into notes that hooked one into the other and then rose as a scream from the madness, reaching, reaching for that space. The space was high above him, beyond the blue sky and into the swirling explosion of brilliant lights and stars.
He heard people talking, one of them his father. Someone he didn't know told his father that he had tried to drown himself in the pond.

His father wrapped him in a warm woollen blanket and placed him in the back seat of his automobile and drove him to his home. When he arrived at home he went to bed and stayed there covered in solitude for nearly a week.

One day he noticed that something was moving in his eye, something small and terrible. Blinking didn't help. It remained. By looking carefully he could see that it was a man, a hideous tiny man who laughed at his consternation, who ran and jumped maniacally, gesturing with vulgar signs in order to torment him and distract his thoughts.
He fought to remove the tiny man for two whole days. He used eyewash and tried to drown him with streams of water sprayed with painful pressure directly onto the eyeball. The tiny man only laughed harder and danced with joy at his failures.
‘Enough! Enough!’ He could not bear the torment of the creature dancing in his eye.
He called to the voices and asked them what to do. They whispered instructions in his head. He went to the kitchen and removed a common steak knife from the drawer. He vowed to kill the tiny man and plunged the knife directly into his eye twisting the knife in a circular motion until his eye popped from its socket and hung dangling against his cheek.
When he looked at the world through his one good eye it all appeared demon red, without form or perspective.
His father and mother came into the kitchen.
"Oh my God," his mother screamed, as his father yelled frantically for a doctor.

The voices bellowed in alarm, warning him, explaining that the doctor was his enemy. The doctor would lock him away to rot in a tiny cage forever.
The voices claimed that his father was the devil and that his mother was the devil's whore.
When he looked at them with his one good eye they were red and demonic. He knew then that the voices spoke the truth that he must do as they commanded if he was to be spared from the demons his parents truthfully were.
The police arrived at a middle class neighborhood in answer to a 911 call that reported screaming coming from the house. They received no response to their ring or knocking, and entered through the unlocked door.
They went into the large kitchen and froze. Two bodies hung upside down from a rack used to hold copper pots. Their stomachs had been cut open and their viscera hung in ropy strands.

The younger officer ran to the bathroom to vomit, the other retreated from the sight and odor.
After a few minutes they called the homicide unit and went back into the kitchen to investigate further.
They entered a small adjoining pantry and were again shocked. There, sitting with legs crossed, was a boy of no more than fourteen. His face was bloodied. His eye socket was butchered and empty and he sat there calmly eating.
The policemen approached him cautiously as he appeared unaware of their presence. They strained to see what it was that had captured the boy's attention so.
In each hand the boy held a human heart. He took a bloody bite from one, paused and chewed for while, and then took a bite from the other.

© Copyright 2002 Warren Vanderpool
Wvcierra@aol.com

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