The door opened, revealing another universe, both dark and wonderful, and beckoned for me to enter. I reached my hand to the left, ran it along an abrasive wall, and flicked a switch. I squinted, my vision adjusting to the light, which now illuminated my world. Two blue eyes soon found me.
“Delaney,” I said, my voice raised in a delightful tone, and then began to sing. “Good morning to you. Good morning to you. Good morning, dear Delaney. Good morning to you.”
Standing at the wall of her crib, my daughter clutched her stuffed animals: an owl and Minnie Mouse. Delaney grinned with glee, her eyes shining in wonder. I turned off our sound machine and crawled on my knees toward the crib.
“R-affe,” she demanded when I approached.
I assented, reaching over to a nearby rocking chair, and grabbed a stuffed animal giraffe. I handed it over. Tiny fingers dropped Minnie and snatched the other toy. Delaney leaned into the wall, nuzzled the soft giraffe for a few seconds, and promptly gave her next command.
“Pig,” said Delaney, dropping the giraffe without hesitation.
We continued our morning crib play for the next several minutes and then moved along with our daily routine.
Today was Friday, which meant it was Pajama Day. Delaney, of course, knew nothing of the concept, but daddy did. One less task, one more privileged freedom. Oh, yes, I enjoy Pajama Day. It has often brought a gleeful grin to my face.
Fridays have usually brought with it two more privileges. An adult beverage and time to write. But not in that order. Never in that order. Writing while drunk, buzzed, intoxicated, or any number of words to describe such a state has been, in a word, irritating. Alcohol dulls my senses. I desire all creative faculties when I write.
Of course, this Friday, I decided to test my intoxicating hypothesis. First, I mixed my usual Martini – gin, stirred, and served in a cocktail glass, chilled. When it comes to my homemade drinks, I am playfully pretentious. Next, I walked downstairs, carrying my drink gingerly, my steps soft to assure no sloshing, sorrowful spillage. Finally, I sat down, turned my computer on, and began writing between delicious and enchanting sips.
I found the first hour of writing glorious. I placed four characters in a tense situation without knowing much of who they were and having no more than an inkling of where their paths would travel. I finished my drink, grinned beneath the buzz, and kept typing without much thought, as though possessed by a spirit.
The next hour, however, slowed to an abysmal crawl. Thoughts on character mannerisms and actions, deceased. Ideas on settings and plot perished. My former confidence and gall became ensnared in a metaphorical tar pit. My pages and words formed within the last hour mocked me as electronic, literary fossils, dead and buried, never to return.
Frustrated, I slammed my laptop. The empty cocktail glass wobbled on the table. I reached to steady it but only succeeded in knocking it over.
Cursing my clumsiness, I watched the glass fall, expecting it to bounce off the carpet. But, when it hovered an inch off the floor, I nearly toppled over myself.
The image of the glass then blurred, or my eyes crossed, one or the other. I blinked, shook my head, and pounded an open palm on my right temple a few times. At length, my vision cleared. I sighed, laughing at myself.
“You dolt,” I said, grinning, giggling at my phraseology.
I bent over and picked up the glass from the carpet. My thoughts had already dismissed the illusion from a moment ago.
Tired and drunk, I proceeded upstairs, leaving my computer and lights on as usual, and headed to the bathroom to get ready for bed. Once finished, I opened the door, flicking the lights off. I stood hunched, narrowing my eyes, realizing I left myself at the disadvantage of fumbling in the dark toward the bedroom.
My socks scrapping the carpet along the way, I reached the door and pushed it open. A rush of warm, damp air rushed over my face. Embracing my buzz, I closed my eyes while walking forward, enjoying the tingling sensation which traveled my arms upward to my shoulders and head. I then bumped into something hard at my feet, nearly tripping and falling to the ground. I managed to clamp my mouth shut, moaning, and swore in my head, not wanting to disturb my wife in bed.
I stood there nearly a minute, my shin throbbing, my mouth shut, my head rolling around in small circles. Only when the pain began to fade did I realize I was holding my breath. Naturally, I opened my mouth to get some air. Immediately I began to choke. My hands reached at my neck as I gagged, unable to breathe.
Panicked, not knowing what to do, I then toppled over on what should have been my bed. I landed with a thud, my head hitting solid earth and piles of grass. Still unable to breathe, I lay on the ground, writhing, kicking, scratching at my neck. Blood trickled down my skin as my struggle eventually weakened. One thought came to me, “I’m dying.”
My vision darkened.
Not long after, my body jerked in repetitive spasms. Air entered my mouth, eventually, my lungs.
My eyes opened. Above me, a white ceiling and a spinning fan had been replaced by engorged grey clouds. Rays of pale, white light streaked down toward me. For a moment, I thought I had actually died and entered a gloomy black and white version of an afterlife.
Birds flew across my vision, flapping their wings, cawing. I shuddered and managed to sit straight. Rows of thin trees lay a few dozen feet from me. The grass between me and this forest stretched ahead, rolling up and down in patted clumps. The land seemed to be muted, bereft of vitality.
Sitting on the ground, a low hum then filled my ears. Oppressive, it came from all around me. I squinted, my head in a daze, my feet tingling. I grunted and stood, staggering a few steps at first. Struggling to think, I focused my attention on a nearby tree, hoping to externalize and ground my senses. I breathed. The air in my lungs revitalized me. The hum persisted, but at length, my pulse slowed, and my thoughts cleared.
Meanwhile, the wind had abated; leaves on the trees around me had grown still. A heartbeat, not my own, began pulsating within the hum. It resounded louder and louder. Something pulled at me, beckoning to turn around. I shuffled on my feet. As I turned, a three-story house, abandoned and decrepit, came into view. The heartbeat remained steady. In front of me, a form materialized in pieces. Hands and feet first, arms and legs second, trailed by a torso and face. It was a young teenage girl. Her eyes were closed. Her skin black and blue, a morbid and unnatural lividity in the grey light. More disturbing, a grin spread thin and far on her face.
At that moment, a shriek pierced the air. I attempted to cover my ears. Paralyzed, I could not move. The teenager now stepped forward. I glared at this living corpse coming toward me. I could not run. I could not look away. She reached me, stopped, and raised an arm. A hand fell on my shoulder.
Here her eyes then abruptly opened. Red and soulless, they peered through my own, pulling me into hell with her.
Thank you for reading Chapter 1 of Narrator of Perm! Stay tuned for Chapter 2 - From Hell and Back Again next Sunday! You can read all 5 chapters right now by signing up for a membership.