Chapter 12 Wandering Limbs
“You can’t do that to me I was worried sick.” My ‘Aunt’ said as she squeezed the cheap plastic steering wheel of her overgrown roller-skate car. Shouting but in a hushed voice like we were in a crowded place. “You can’t stay out late like that without telling me, I must have called you a hundred times”. I counted twenty two missed calls actually.
Believe me I would much rather not be having this one way conversation right now. And I definitely would much rather not have had to wait the four or five hours it took for Wendy to go to sleep before I could slip out and get on a bus home. And I would much rather have avoided the various California natives who frequented the late night buses. Talk about dick pics. It’s surely not as distressing as seeing them in person urinating on the floor of a moving bus while singing waltzing Mathilda in a sequin dress.
“I’m sorry” I said, not really meaning it. I find the word ‘sorry’ sort of meaningless if someone were truly sorry they’d never do what they were sorry for ever again or in the first place for that matter. And I surely knew that wasn’t possible. But it was a ritual that was obviously necessary for polite society to function. Despite the fact it seemed completely ineffectual, on women especially. I found the word ‘sorry’ was never enough, to be sorry and to say sorry are two different things.
“I was sure- I was so worried.” See no effect, she was still just as miserable as she was a moment ago, no magic word was going to change that, no vague promises I couldn’t keep. “Did you-?”
There was a moment that passed of stunned silence. Maybe I should have said I was sorry again, maybe I should just repeat it over and over again until she just stops talking. We were on our way to pick up my dress and shoes for the prom which seemed fast approaching. I’d soon have to get my hair done and put on lots of makeup and pretend to be having the time of my life dancing to eighties music and drinking cool aid. When I’d much rather be out in the dim darkness making other people drink cool aid, bit of an out there reference.
“I could have said I was your mother” She blurted out.
“You could have lied to me but instead you lied to me.” I said feigning indignation, honestly my capacity for disdain for lies and half-truths was very little. You really need a soul to feel pangs of sorrow and betrayal. And considering most of what made up my ‘normal’ existence was a lie it seemed petty by comparison “What difference does it make?” Teenage aloofness was my staple.
“I just thought I could help you” Her face contorted into something like a grim mask that might summon tears but none came.
“Help me?” I said, almost to myself, I didn’t even know I needed help.
“Guide you, give you a normal life, I thought you forgot. I tried so hard to forget, everything-.” She cut herself off, stuttering, making a wry almost wrenching noise like she wanted to cry but nobody taught her how.
“Forget? Forget what?” I looked at her with my wide empty blue green eyes, not sure what I was looking at anymore. Quite honestly if she told me she had had three heads I would have believed her.
“He promised he would guide us, he promised, but he, never got around to it.“ She shrugged with a little ‘that’s life’ sad smile.
“And then what?” I said looking forward as we stopped to let a couple of meth heads cross the street. For a moment I thought I recognised one of them from the bus last night, but I couldn’t tell because he was wearing pants.
“He was gone” She said it like she was talking about the phantom of the opera or something.
“Tell me- about him- Dad” I said as I looked out at the palm trees swiping past the window.
“He was - special. He was going to help us get ‘squared away’ that’s what he said.” Her eyes got a little misty and her face slackened like she was reading me a bedtime story. “His father did the same for him.”
“Get squared away?” I was looking out the window, watching the scenery fly by, the small sad houses of Santa Ana baking. A couple of Hispanic women rolled past with double strollers with gold wheels.
“We weren’t born like this. When he was gone and there was no one. No one to keep us on the straight path.“ Her face became a confusion of worry lines like she was trying to unravel a ball of headphone wires with can openers for hands.
“What aren’t you telling me?”
“We’re here” She said as she parked outside the dress shop into Santa Ana where I was measured and ambushed all in the same day.
“Is that why you sicked captain claw on me?” I called after her as she hopped out. –“To get me squared away?”
The prom was the day after so if I was going to get out of going and kill Wendy this was the best time to do it. Yeah I said kill; kill, slay, destroy, annihilate. I think I preferred kill. A part of me thought it was sort of catty to kill her before the prom she worked so hard to create. But the other half knew that it would be too difficult to kill her after. After prom she was going on vacation to aspen and would most likely be surrounded by planners and other such entourage from then until her trip. After that it would be off to college and I had it in good confidence she was going farther afield than I was. The night before was the only way I could catch her unaware and of course give me a great reason not to go to the prom.
Two birds with one stone. I get Brodsky off my back and I don’t have to take part in a great big hollow pantomime.
But was that the real reason? Of course not, a hoarse whisper sailed through my mind and told me the moon would be perfect. Round hollow ground down teeth gnashing over my head, waiting hopeful manic round eyes staring down at me. Beaming down at me filling me with that pure white light. That thick tropical night air brushing my skin and filling my lungs, lifting me like I was Marilyn Monroe and tonight maybe I was.
I’d be a passenger, watching through a rain slicked car window as my dark double took the wheel of my ‘Aunt’s’ car. Wendy’s house was a thirty minute drive north and I was suddenly feeling the benefits of driving this electric hair dryer. The ride was very quiet and smooth and at times with the cool night air flowing through the open window I almost felt like a shark. Sailing with the current of the north Atlantic up towards where the big juicy fish slumbered. Waiting for my teeth to probe their soft fatty tissues.
Oh I so wanted to probe their fatty tissues. I felt a shiver travel all the way up my spine and had it been me at the wheel I would have jerked and hit a passing minivan full of drunken teens so unlike myself. But it wasn’t me, so the car glided by, like it was an elaborate bumper car on some railed attraction heading to a certain end. Like some kind of reverse haunted ghost ride but the ghosts are the ones on the ride and everyone else is just part of the attraction.
I pulled up along the east side of the ‘compound’ as I was referring to it now, that being Wendy’s gated community. I took the long way so I didn’t have to drive past the gate. The guards might have questions for a young girl driving alone at this time of night wearing skimpy compression gear and black yoga pants. I kind of looked like a hipster cat burglar, if only my intentions were that innocent. I really didn’t need them getting some magical itch at the back of their necks, some call back to their long gone cop careers. Some mystical shaman hunch that would tell them to record the license plate of this weird but cute night prowler. Unlikely of course but why take the chance at all?
The initial plan for the prom dirge was for me to get my hair and makeup done, which wouldn’t take that long having little in the way of makeup and hair. The limo Wendy hired was then set to come pick me and Paul up respectively, obviously that plan was going to have to be put on an indefinite hold. No Wendy no limo, no prom.
I suppose I should have been a little bit let down, I did put a lot of work into the prom too, I must have folded a million napkins, I could fold a napkin in my sleep. But it was all camouflage, a necessary syncing of my outer and internal logic. A sad repetition of real life drudgery, the perfect mask was just to be average, and as uniform as those hundreds of neatly folded napkins.
I traced along the outer limits of the compound before I reached the spot I marked with a broken branch.
On my way out the other night I’d had to improvise. As the same trick that got me in wouldn’t get me out until the following morning when people were heading to work. I rummaged as quietly as possible through her kitchen drawers until I found a set of steel wire cutters. Keeping as low and looking as normal as possible ‘Oh just taking a moonlit stroll through my extremely well-lit gated community’. I crossed over from her side of the street and dipped out of the pool of streetlights and into the dark shadow it caste along the outer edges. I traced across until I found a portion of exposed fencing.
The fence at the front was mostly wrought iron and unfortunately without a file and a few more years I wasn’t getting out that way. Least of all because of the armed guards who would happily taze me just so they could stretch their legs.
But the rest of the fence was just a wire façade shielded by a thick wall of high spruce trees. Creating a sort of grotto or grove feel to the little patch of heaven up in the Orange county hills. It really was quite intimidating from the outside, especially in the dark. Like some sacred spot only for druids to make sour lemonade. Totally different feel from the front gate which was very open aside from the fence and the guards. Dotted with healthy chipper palms, ‘no really this is paradise, you didn’t take a wrong turn’.
I cut myself a small opening which I could seal back up again easy enough and then cover with a broken branch. So no eager beaver patrolman would notice it and put a claymore in front of it. That would be hard to explain but it’d still get me out of prom ‘I’m sorry Diana can’t go with you to prom. She’s had her arms and legs blown off by an improvised explosive device’.
I pulled the car over onto the grass under the outcroppings of spruce trees. I got out and it almost seemed like the little plastic car was being overgrown. It looked like a toy car someone forgot to wrap under a series of stern Christmas trees.
A warm wind blew in my face and I breathed it in, a kiss from a devil moon surely. I laughed to myself gritting my teeth, why was I laughing to myself? A manic giddiness took my knees and I felt weak for a moment like someone ripped all my bones out at once. Then suddenly I was walking to the other side of the car, a strong purposeful brisk walk. A thousand fingers manipulating my tendons and jaunts, whispering, telling me where to go, surfing on their raw intent.
I took the messenger bag out of the passenger side foot well, camouflaged as it was under a copy of teen vogue. This issue garnering much controversy of its article teaching their core audience of fourteen year olds the joys of anal sex. They grow up so fast.
I tossed the magazine in the back having next to no intention on wasting any brain cells reading it. But also having no intention of littering by throwing it out of the car. Curiosity and credulity might garner it a read if only for the dark thing inside to chuckle at the descent of modern pop culture.
I picked up the messenger bag and did a quick inventory, I tried to keep it as simple as possible, a portable murder kit. It might have been more preferable to take her some place I’d already prepared but as things stood her house was probably the place we’d get the most privacy. What’s more private than in a gated community guarded by its own small army. Surely there’d be no curious patrol cars to climb the hanging garden and shine a flash light through a second story window.
In the bag were a few things I could scramble together to get some likeness of the perfection I’d seen performed right before my eyes at Ruez’s house.
I had a few rolls of plastic wrap to keep her in place. I didn’t plan for her to put up much of a fight as I noted her bedtime routine involved a gauntlet of sleeping pills. Her medicine cabinet had enough Xanax to start her own retirement village.
I couldn’t quite place exactly how I was going to do it but I had a rough idea. I knew it’d fall into place as soon as I was there, as soon as I knew no one was watching as soon as I knew this was our time to share. Just me and my best bud Wendy.
The ‘tools’ I’d picked were simple yet effective ones; A fillet knife from the kitchen and a larger butcher knife cleaver type thing I pulled from the block at home. Accompanying the knives was a couple of long rolls of heavy duty electrical tape and a stapler with a few pictures I’d borrowed from the day before. And the little James Bond type gun Paul had so kindly leant me for ‘self-defence’. I didn’t really plan on using it but I figured this was a one of those ‘better have it and not need’ type of situations.
I cut a sheet of the plastic wrap off and poked a few holes in it to fashion a crude mask wrapping it tightly around my face to smoosh my features. It didn’t occur to me to buy one and it didn’t seem all that necessary as a precaution. Someone could see me but I also didn’t want her to know it was me, odd I know. I was going to watch the light fade from her eyes but I didn’t want her to know it was me sending her off. She was about to know me better than anyone ever had and she would have no idea. Not to mention her best friend buying a ski mask the day before her murder would look a little suspicious on my amazon order history.
I looked down at the knives twisting in the bag free, little slivers of moonlight dancing on them and reflecting its manic glee. I could almost hear the roar of the ocean like someone held two conch shells to my ears. I could feel the rush of it, the spray and I asked myself if I was really going to do this and before I could answer I could hear a voice hissing in the affirmative. I had to, the necessity of it was implacable.
It was as certain as the sun rising the next day. Her cold body, lying on her space age mattress, her head removed. Another victim of the Huntington Beach head-hunter. So sad.
But I was sad, a little fleck of sadness swallowed by that dark ocean inside me. I was about to say farewell to the only human part of me, the only person who called me friend...
Eh. I can make more friends, I slammed the car door shut and started to make my way to my little entry way.
I made it in the dark, nevertheless it was still hard to pick out, which was obviously the point. I moved some of the shrubbery as much as I could without making it sound like big foot was taking a bathroom break. Eventually I found my own handiwork cunningly hidden behind the broken branches.
I twisted the opening I had snipped back on itself remaking the little hole I exited from the previous night. I tossed the bag through first and then eased myself through the tight gap, remarking that it seemed a lot easier the night before. Probably because I spent something like five hours under her bed without food or water.
I had crossed my mind to do it then and there when she fell asleep, what was to stop me but a growling in my stomach and a weakness in the knees? That sort of thing didn’t matter to the darkness, it would still get its fill. I remember standing over her and it didn’t feel right, to rush something so perfect, so important, so poignant, my first.
It needed to be planned, it needed to be a special night, one that I and my partner would never forget. That was tonight, the moon and the dark double told me so. A whispered agreement, applauding my divine realisation that their wicked logic was true and precise. I could feel the levers of fate shifting and cogs turning. Driving me forward like some deadly Elizabethan steam train. Look out world, prepare for some second hand coal fumes.
I knew the dark thing inside didn’t truly care about my plans. Whatever shape my mayhem would take would please it. Whatever monster I would become they would welcome. But tonight I decreed, I would be a neat monster.
I would make tidy little packages of those who were just as broken as I was. Something inside me seemed to resonate with that, some stranger voice in the crowd of them deep inside the black depths. To someone somewhere that made some cruel efficient sense.
Brodsky too seemed pleased if a little morose, when I called him and told him about the letters. I told him I could send them to him but he didn’t need to see them, he heard it in my voice. I think it scared him honestly, to hear the viscous glee in my voice. Like it wasn’t even my voice, but a borrowed one from a long time ago, a snake tongue used to convince people to eat apples.
He was sure enough, he knew what I wanted and I knew he’d tacitly given his permission. Wasn’t that something, a rubber stamp, a red seal from Washington no less. For Diana of the Dark to go out and do what she thought she did best. We’ll just have to see about that.
He said something like “You’re sure? – Ok.” A sound almost like a sigh, or the rattle of a dying animal, a swallowing of pride and duty and all that’s right that he swore to uphold, but why? Did it really bother me, not knowing or did it excite me? I was freed, allowed to run free that’s all that mattered now. My mind only filled with the movement of the knife, conducting the moonlight orchestra. Making all those pieces come together and stand still, make some kind of order out of the beautiful chaos of her life.
Before I knew it, I was slinking out of the light of the bright street lamps and hugging close to the darkness of Wendy’s condo. The darkness was refreshing, comforting, the thing inside feeding off it and growing stronger and more bold.
Her door would be locked this time for sure, if not then she really did deserve to die just for sheer carelessness.
Was it time for Diana to put her YouTube learned lock picking skills to the test or did she pick up a spare key on her moonlight exit the night before. If you guessed the latter you would be correct. I circled around the back this time where the darkness would gather and hopefully the eyes would not.
I hopped a small raised wall that made up the back patio and unlocked the glass sliding door. Opening onto the living room and closing it with a muffled humming noise behind me. I crouched low on the soft cream carpet.
The darkness inside was crisp and sharp almost taking on a monotone grey. I felt like I was seeing from someone else’s eyes now and everything was clear and more defined. I saw particles in the air, I felt like I could see the sound of my footsteps fading, moving the dust, I could almost smell her. It was almost like being some cheesy TV vampire.
I felt a surge from the deep darkness, it was so strong now, the feeling of letting go. It felt like years almost, I was bobbing on the surface of that black water. Some little castaway on a raft made of childhood dreams of a husband and a house. Now it was just me, giving myself to the crushing blackness. Sinking further, letting it suck me down, letting it take control and it felt so good I could taste the blood in my lip as I bit down.
Electric shocks shooting up and down my back and coming down through my fingers grounding through my feet. I felt like I could see through the walls, feel her heartbeat feel the vibration in the ground hear the rats in the walls the ants in the grass outside. My senses pawing every flat inch of the walls floors and ceilings, hungrily stalking and licking its lips. A furious chorus of dark angels swooning and cooing as I got deeper into the house.
I ascended the stairs, slow and low, stalking like some predator escaped from the zoo. A naked slick shark moving upstream in a clear water stream on some prissy golf course, ready to bite. I crossed the hall to her room with an inhumane speed and silence. Drifting almost weightlessly, like a ghost, a petty avenging phantom for the love lost and thrown away.
A hand, I was sure it was my own pushed her door open a jar and let the darkness in. I was dragged into the room, pushed onto the stage my knees shaking but also firm and strong and rooted.
My wrist limp yet cut from granite, my eyes moist yet harsh and cruel and cold. Pushed along, puppeted by some unseen force.
I stood just inside her door letting it swing quietly open. Looking at the mound of covers and pillows she burrowed under, the chorus of devil wings beating. The thing inside stirring from memetic slumber. Kept at bay through years of conditioning, childhood drudgery and routine now standing where I stood. Seeing through my eyes living in the goose bumps and the saliva building, and the cold pallid drawn skin of my brow.
Reaching out now, letting go, letting it off the leash to eat and be full just this once and maybe a few more times after that. A cycle of anticipation, of deferred gratification and then boundless feeding, just over the horizon.
There was a hot sweet smell, not perfume, just the smell of warm pressed flesh, the little hairs standing up, the sound of flesh sliding over flesh.
The need rising, biting hard, clamping down on that soft warm flesh. No, neat, clean perfect.
I have to be a neat monster.
It has to be perfect.
I glide to her bedside, oh my sleeping beauty, a kiss I offer you. I took a knife out of the tote bag I was carrying at my hip. The nice small sharp fillet knife like the long tooth of a sabretooth tiger ready to put it to her throat. Let her know she was mine now, see the hope spark and die in her eyes. Watch her give herself to me and only me. The last, the only.
I got closer, I felt unnatural and robotic, my body moving on its own. I leant forward like nosferatu to put a hand on her mound of covers and I felt…
Expecting to feel her warm sleeping frame, firm under the sheets I felt only a mound of covers.
A screeching inside and rustle of dark leathery wings, a warning from the dark sea, a crushing foam building. An eye watching.
The door to the bathroom creaked and I was frozen as a quick beam of light shot across my path. All the darkness shrinking and falling off of me like flakes of ash, revealed naked, weak and flaccid. Unluck, caught by a fateful bathroom break, left on stage with my yoga pants around my ankles. The thing inside shrieked and I clung to the walls and the shadow, reeling like a cockroach into the dark dank of her huge closet.
My heart racing as I watched her yawn and turn off the bathroom light and stumble back in amongst the covers. Sitting up and then collapsing back down into restful unconsciousness. So close. I was too hasty, almost ruined everything.
I waited for my heart rate to steady, for the black cloak to come back over me. The night to pull me back into her the womb, the moon to fill me with its pure carving knife of light. To feel it take over.
But something was wrong now, she shifted and writhed in bed and I turned the knife over in my hand, knowing what needed to be done and knowing who needed to do it. The darkness spurring me on, pushing me onto the stage like some pushy dance mom. The need rising again but then something else, some other voice, another hissing coiling thing hiding it’s stench downwind. Slowing it’s breathing, lying in wait. Trying not to look so I couldn’t feel its eyes on me but now it was looking at me from its dark corner and I froze like a rabbit in a trap. Hello stranger.
I flipped the knife and started to turn slowly, fast, it was fast. It leapt out of the corner of the closet and wrapped a sinewy arm around my neck breathing hard and frantic. It squeezed hard, the grip was solid and almost slippery with sweat to the touch. The knife getting heavier in my hand, I tried to- feeling light headed. My fingers dancing on the edge of the blade and then it hit the carpeted closet floor with a sad flodding sound. What a joke, my eyes were rolling back in my head and I couldn’t feel my feet anymore. My fingers felt dull like five hotdogs as they pinched at the arm stopping the blood flow to my brain. It didn’t seem to do anything, he, I assume it was he, just gripped tighter and I started to feel and empty and like I wanted to throw up, feeling all the veins popping in my forehead.
Spots, and an echoing in my head as I shrank further back into the darkness, a voice calling to me, one I recognised and then nothing but falling.