Ah distractions! I don’t know if I can get this done. I barely have a room (now a work out room/computer room/not really a bedroom anymore). But I need to get things rolling anyway. I wasn’t going to do this…but decided I’d post the Prologue to the epic (it’s not stand-alone enough that I’d submit it as a short story to a publication anyway). So here it is. While it is mostly an epic poem, Souls Unsure will have several prose chapters, little interludes, between the main, poetic sections. One such section is the prologue. Though I plan on visiting some strange and otherwordly places, the story really starts in a much quieter, mundane (and maybe all the more frightening for it) place. So here is the current draft for…
The door opens like a mute scream. She does not remember when she stopped bothering to scream – when beer bottle blows to the head convinced her to be silent, to go inside. And they’ll say the story starts with an old priestess and a chant. They won’t remember. But it begins with a little girl and silent screams full of broken dolls.
He’s in the shadows, in the doorway – framed horror. Dull eyes stare. He never blinks. The Devil never blinks.
She crosses her legs, pulls the blanket. But her legs are not strong and blankets don’t protect. Closed eyes don’t protect.
He stares and licks his lips. Stands and stares and breaths loudly. She holds her breath. The stuffed animals all face the wall. She doesn’t want them to see. He stands and stares and she holds her breath…
A clank, a mumbled curse, and spilled booze. He always smells of old booze. She’ll smell of old booze. Then, the door closes like a happily-ever-after. But happy endings only happen if the story stops. Death and depravity are two steps past every happily-ever.
Bump. Scrape. Down the stairs.
Bump. Scrape. He limped and lurched when he drank – a penny dreadful shuffle.
Bump. Scrape. The drink put a demon in him, Mama always said, before she was silent, before she went to heaven.
Where are you now Mama?
She creeps out of bed and locks the door. There’ll be hell to pay, but she locks the door. Back in bed, she prays in the flickering yellow light of a street lamp dieing slowly in the night. Prayers to Mama and prayers to God and prayers to all the saints – prayers every time he scrapes up the steps and prayers every time he shadows her doorway – but it always happens. The damage is done; it will just be done again.
Outside the door, full of fumes, taboos, and imps perverse, he twists the handle. She prays in desperation. He preys in depravity.
Please God, take me to Heaven. Please God, send him to Hell.
Bangs and shouts and curses. The door groans. She’s all tears and prayers now; tears and prayers and both flow free and translucent between sobs. When you pray that there’s a God, who do you pray to?
The door buckles.
Hands folded to the sky, she always prayed in the same direction. But now she scatters her prayers to all four winds, scatters her prayers to anyone who will listen. Prayers, like radio waves, travel until received. But where do things go when they’ve flown past their purpose? Let us say they go to a place, and that is enough. Let us say we sometimes visit this place in sleep, and that is more than enough.
Through the tears she sees something gather in the blackness above her bed, a patch of something darker still. It materializes, all dark dust and ebony mist, like a fairytale boogeyman. She’s not afraid. She knows real monsters wear masks called Father.
She stares up at it. It gazes down on her. She breaths and it pulses and the breaths match the pulses and at the end of each undulation she sees the outline of a wraithly head and spectral hands in the mist. And she reaches her hand, running it through the phantasmal shape. A sable, wispy finger, from out the cloud, brushes her cheek. The sooty digit mingles with a tear, leaving a muddy-dark trail down the eye.
She looks at it and then the door and continues her prayer. It pulses. Considers. It flashes, faster than a false promise, to the door – through the door – outside the door, a scream.
Flashing reds and blues announce that all is not well in this place where even social workers fear to tread. Black and white cars sit in the gray slush. The snow comes down white, but always ends up gray.
They wheel the man in a stretcher and a neck brace, found him at the bottom of the stairs. Some kind of stroke, they say. May never walk again, they say. Then, they found the girl and the beer bottles and the bruises and they gave each other knowing looks. But the girl did not say a word.
Family members were contacted and reports filed. Just one weird thing, said the younger officer to his venerable friend, between bites of cold wind. And they both nodded and recalled the graven image on the girl’s bedroom door. Sketched in ash and burnt in bas relief was a portraiture, a definite shape, that they could not explain but only hearken back to the snow angels made in their youth, hearken back impossibly far to a time and place where snow was still white.