Mark of the Shadow Part 26: Looking at Myself
She took the necklace from me the moment I had it off. She made sure I understood what was happening as she quickly threw it off east into the brush.
My head sank. It was too late to feel anything.
“How do you feel? Do you remember your father? Do you remember what you saw!” Maria, or was it Maldone? shouted.
I did, or I thought I did. Since she’d said his name, Maxwell Tills, an image began forming in my mind. A loose jaw; bright green eyes. Jet black hair short and matted. A wrinkled smile that came from the eyes as much as the mouth. Crooked teeth. This was my father, I knew it then.
Course then all the other memories came in, through a crack. Ridin’ into town with Daddy, him commin’ home with a new book. Him saying goodbye, waving his hat as he left me at the train station. In the forest this woman who knew me so well, ruthlessly, coldly, cunningly killing my father. The rage I’d felt four nights ago boiled up through the crack and busting it open releasing a flood of emotion.
I launched with my legs like I was gona jump up to Bessie and took off right at Maria. She wasn’t ready for this. I tackled her left leg and bit down hard. She screamed and smacked me in the face with the gun. I took it, and didn’t let go.
“Let go you good for nothin’s son of a bitch!”
I did let go but only in order to roll through her legs and leap onto her back from behind. I was pressing my advantage of surprise, and betting on her not using the gun. She fell on her back and I wasn’t quick enough to dislodge myself completely. My right side burst into pain as her greater weight pressed down on me.
Then she was off me, but my body was in too much shock to react. I was left helpless on the floor rolling in anguish. Then she shot me. Right in the leg. Dying as Zinderman should have prepared me, but it didn’t. Nothing could have prepared me for the shock, the pain. I didn’t care about Maria anymore, I just wanted the pain to stop.
When it did, I wasn’t outside.
I was in the cabin. Cezary’s cabin. Only it looked like a pack of wild dogs had torn through it since I’d last been here. There was a distinct hole in the wall to my left that I didn’t remember being there. I could see dirt drifting in the wind, caught in the rays of the sun.
I was in Cezary’s bedroom. The bed itself remained untouched somehow. In bizarre contrast to the way the rest of the room looked. I was in a wooden chair, my hands tied behind my back, and them tied to the chair. My mouth had been re-gagged, but at least I wasn’t blindfolded.
My right leg had a clean bandage over it. It was tied to the chair to keep it still, my left leg was loose. I tried squirming with my arms first. No luck. Then bracing for pain I tried with the smallest of movements to move my right leg. It moved, but it hurt to much to keep going. I didn’t know what I’d do if I got it free anyhow.
The room was dark, and empty of life. The only source of either being the whole in the wall, a glimpse to the beautiful day it was outside. I wondered how Maria had gotten me back here to the cabin. I hadn’t seen a horse with her, and even with a horse it would have taken days to get back here.
From behind me came her annoyingly soothing voice, “The shadows have found you, it will only be a matter of time before they’re here. Don’t struggle, you can’t squirm your way out of this.” I wanted to cut out her tongue so I’d never have to hear her beautiful voice again. “Now darlin’ excuse me, I believe we have company.”
This whole time I’d assumed she was working solo, but I supposed she could have a partner.
“Rolph! You know I always thought of you as an Uncle. Come on in, your welcome.”
Damn, I found myself cursing. I’d been doing a lot of that lately. If I could see what was going on I’d be a lot less anxious. As it is, I’d have to settle with only one of my senses doing the sensing.
“I’m not here for pleasantries Maria. Give me the cure,” said Rolph. Good, I hadn’t really thought’n he could be her partner. It’s absurd thoughts like that, that come when your all tied up to a chair with no mouth to speak with.
“Sorry Rolph. If I wanted you to have the cure, I wouldn’t a stolen it from that loose minded man who used to call this a home.” She was mocking him of course, but it hurt me just as much as I’m sure it hurt him.
“I can’t guess as to why you have the cure if you haven’t used it yet, but I can guess that you can’t be happy with your father.” Why was Rolph talking with this no good slime of a woman? Why didn’t he just shoot her and get it over with.
“And what makes you say that?”
“Well seein’ as how he ain’t even knowing your alive, I figured you were avoiding him. But then, maybe not. He is a hard man to find, unless you’re me of course.”
“I see, your interested in giving me my father for the cure?”
“And Anne.” Dangit just shoot her!
“You know when I got up today, I thought: wouldn’t it be nice to have a good family reunion? Just like I thought yesterday, n’ the day before that, n’ the one before that. You got yourself a deal. But John’s here before I give you what you want.”
“I can get him here in a day.”
“Well, that’s just perfect.” A day. Maria said that the shadows would be on me soon. Rolph didn’t know that, heck Rolph didn’t know I was missing my necklace. I had to do something, and I realized it I had to do it now. My face was starting to burn on the spot I’d been branded all those days ago on the train; that day that seemed to mark a new life. Well if I didn’t get Rolph’s attention that life would be over.
I spastically threw my body to the left side hoping to make some noise. I did. I fell over onto my shoulder causing me to whimper loudly through my gag. I heard shuffling in the other room, but some dull sound was drowning out my hearing.
The room was getting darker and I realized it was because the hole that had been shedding light into the room was now getting filled by an unnatural darkness. They were here.
I could vaguely hear a shout. A string of words I couldn’t understand.
My hearts rhythm slowed, and I struggled to keep my eyes open. I could feel all the pent up darkness in myself starting to come out. Starting to work its way through my body from the places it had been hiding. My face boiled under my skin, and I knew this was it. My mind went blank.
I awoke looking at myself. I was small, nothing but a child. I was in a grey room. A box more like it. It’s the sort of thing you would never see in real life, it’s too perfect. I seemed to be floating above my body looking down at it.
I was curled up in a ball on the floor, my head buried in my arms. Then I saw the shadows, a mass, a swarm of them in one corner of the room. They were calling to me. With a jerk my face swung up and around to face them. Now I saw why I had been hiding my face. It was a crawling festering mess, puss and ooze poured out of every pore. My skin was tight, almost scaly like a lizards. And I was lifeless.
The mark upon my face, now that was alive. It was sizzling with red hot energy. It pulsed on my face practically dancing. I stood up facing the shadows. It was easy, no effort at all. My body took a step toward them involuntarily. Just a few more steps and it would be over. I knew instinctively, or maybe the shadow was telling me. If I joined them it was over. Lord knows I wanted it to be over. What would I be going back to anyway? My father was dead, the man I thought was my father has only really known me for a few weeks. Carlson would never take me in, for all I know Cezary is dead. Besides if I go back it will just mean more misery. The shadows will never go away, this war will never end. Why not just end it now? Maybe I’ll find Daddy, maybe we’ll be together again.
Deep in thought I’d taken two more steps towards the shadows. I could feel their cold malice on my lips, their sight burned into my eyes. One more step; that’s all I needed.
Then out of the corner of my eye a light burned brightly. I squinted, but turned to see what this new arrival was. A single point of light shone in the adjacent corner. Daddy stood next to it smiling. His eyes shone with a glint of gold.
My heart stopped. Why was he here? He made no move, only continued to stare at me, his eyes growing sombre. I turned from the shadows and faced him. My forehead flared up again intense in its pressure.
I ignored it.
My father quietly without a fuss, the way he always did things opened his mouth and said the one thing that could make me stay, “I ain’t a man of science Little Dove. But I know the heart is the strongest part of the body.” It’s what he’d always told me after he came home from work with bruises, and cuts. It’s what he told me got him through Moms death. Now it would get me through his.
My heart swelled, started pumping blood again. Whereas before I felt powerless to restrain my body now I had the fuel to push my legs forward, push them towards the light. My face began to warp as the shadow pushed it’s pressure onto it. I believe it caught on fire right before I stepped into the light with one long last look into my fathers loving eyes. It was the last time I’d ever get the chance.