|(Photo credit: tornatore)|
By the time you read this letter, I’ll be dead.’
The somewhat long dead mail began. It was a pretty long piece addressed to no person in particular and to the finder, specifically. I developed this weird feeling, recently, that my kitchen needed renovating-a little turning over, here and there.
Ideally, I could have performed the task, solo. But my neighbors, the Jobs, God bless their souls, and such nice fellows they are-decided they weren’t too busy to offer a neighborly hand. At the extreme left of my kitchen, just behind my ice box, are some extremely sensitive set of tiles-brittle as a toddler’s bone. Crumbly and already falling off the walls. All I gotta do is poke my fridge and it’s all the excuse they need to create an avalanche of falling tiles. Touchy, touchy. The plan was to get rid of all those querulous bunch of tiles, and put up some new, friendlier ones. Mr. Jobs was helping with peeling off the used up tiles. He was pretty good at it, give him that much credit.
After a moment of watching him wage war on those tiles, I left him with ‘em to go fetch the replacement. They were lying in a box somewhere in the house, in a tiny spare room I’ve long transformed into a store. I suppose the guy the place once belonged to had excess blocks of cement and of course, extra space and suddenly developed a kind of desperate invention which culminated in a spare room with no specific details about its use or purpose. Well, necessity found a purpose to that room. It turned out to be really perfect for storing tools-garden tools, the toolbox for general household maintenance and other out-of-the-way stuff. I was rummaging through this tiny room you know, wondering how I could have placed the goddam box so far away from view. It wasn’t anywhere on the lower shelves, either. This sort of fuckaroo happens a lot. It’s when you need some specific stuff the most; it falls back and creeps behind some insignificant other.
I was in that room going crazy by the moment, getting little by little off the edge ‘cause I couldn’t place the replacement tiles. And muttering, ‘damn! damn! damn!’ the whole time.
“Over here a minute, Jerome!” Jobs called. “I think I found something . . . some stowed away document of sorts.”
“Be there in a few.” I gave up on the damned tiles and shambled out the door to go to see what the excitement was all about. I was pulling the door shut when I heard a low grating sound which could only be tiles scraping tiles. I peeked behind the door and voila there they were-the good ol’ tiles. I must have placed them too close to the exit and shoved them behind the door in my haste to get them and get gone. So, it seems I’d actually placed ‘em where I could have laid hands on ‘em easily and quickly enough.
“Get here as you can, Jerome damn it!” The urgency in Jobs’ voice jerked me out of my reverie. “And be quick about it. I ain’t hanging around all day to get this over with.”
As I scrambled to the kitchen I thought about the urgency I heard in Jobs’ voice. I was a little flustered as I approached where I’d left him scraping tiles off the dampish wall. My worst fear was probably that Jobs had cut a finger on the jagged edge of a broken tile.
“Damn if I didn’t tell you to watch those toothed bastards,” I said, shuffling faster, box of tiles yanked forward in both arms. And they were not exactly lightweight, either.
A trifle out of breath, I burst into the kitchen half-expecting to see one of Jobs’ fingers oozing great drops of blood and the pieces of shattered tiles on the floor dappled with blotches of Jobs’ blood. I was gladly disappointed and more than a bit surprised to see him holding out a crumpled envelope. White, once upon a lifetime, the envelope was mottled with shades of gray and reeking of a musty odor. Despite its crumpled and mottled state, the envelope evoked a feel I couldn’t quite place.
“Couldn’t it wait?” I asked, my voice gilded with the beginnings of a temper. Now that I’d seen Jobs was alright, every other event could find a seat at the backburner-especially musty envelopes. “You knew I’ve been to get the replacement for those,” I said, pointing to the litter of tiles on the floor. “Come on, Jobs, you could have signed for that on my behalf.”
“This, my friend,” Jobs said, tapping the miserable looking envelope with his middle finger. “Ain’t a courier parcel service. Not the way any of us present here understands it, at least. This is a message on the wall. A message from the wall” He pointed to a spot where he’d plucked tiles off the wall. From my position, I could see a smudge about the size and shape of the envelope extended between Jobs’ fingers.
“Lookee, lookee what the tile fairy stuck in here. Reward for a hard day’s labor, you think?”
“You found that in there?” I said. It was a question I could have skipped. “You checked the content, yet?”
“I was hoping you’d do the honors,” Jobs said, passing the envelope over at the same time. I took it and ran my fingers over it, feeling for the content while wondering what exactly I expected to find. Damp to the touch, the envelope, I realized was probably the reason the tiles were falling off the walls. I believe now that it wanted to be read and so it made itself seen. What am I talking about? It’s just a bit of paper, right?
I’m one superstitious son of a gun. I’m sorry if you’re way too civilized to dig that. But I was programmed that way from my childhood years; I grew up around superstitious folks.
Here’s what I’m really getting at: I believe that piece of paper wanted to be found and that’s why we found it. That letter wanted us to find it and began yanking the tiles off the wall. That’s right, go ahead and laugh your head off. But you can’t argue facts poking your eyeballs, can you? And here’s the first kill:
The letter is addressed to someone the author calls, J.
How’s that for a stint of fate? I don’t have to tell you my name, Jerome starts with the alphabet, J, do I? Coincidence? Coincidence, my ass.
Kill #2: The author had future-dated the letter to Tuesday, 11.12.2012.
That’s the date and day, we-Jobs and I found the paper behind the tiles. Another prank of coincidence? I don’t think so.
I tore open the mold-covered envelope, carefully withdrew the letter and read, to myself in particular,
By the time you read this letter, I’ll be dead. Me, my wife and six kids.
Circumstances beyond my ability have forced me to turn against myself and my family . . .’
“Do you mind turning up the volume, a little bit, please?” Jobs! Damn I forgot all about Jobs in the heat of the moment. I was sweating, hyperventilating-armpits, forehead and palms-further soaking the clammy pages.
“Grab a can of soda, Jobs,” I said. “Let’s sit out there on the balcony. This is gonna take sometime. Besides, we need the break. We’ve been at this non-stop for the best part of two hours.”
“I’m all over that,” Jobs said.
We went to the balcony where the rays of sunlight were just receding to meet the parent over the horizon-Jobs with his soda and I with a cool cup of lemonade. We deserved it, after all. We’d been working all day.
I pulled out the envelope. I’d tucked it in the back pocket of my jeans while fetching the lemonade.
“Here goes,” I said.
(There’s the J again. As if the author had been afforded a foretaste of what was to come. Like he’d peeped through a glass darkly and glimpsed the guy who would eventually occupy the apartment he left behind-grasping at least, the first letter of his name. This suicide’s sixth sense brought the message home to me.
‘By the time you read this letter, I’ll be dead. Me, my wife and six kids.”
“Whoa! Woman must have been sort of a baby factory. A really old fashioned mama,” Jobs said.
‘Three weeks ago, I started working the basement. Wasn’t much to be done there, though. Old habits had kicked in and I just couldn’t help it. I’ve been about my business barely thirty minutes when I noticed a previously undiscovered crack in the wall of the basement in this house . . .’
“Jobs,” I said. “How come I’ve never come across this basement in my house, all these years?”
“Huh? Oh, they probably sealed it off. Never seen one in my apartment, either.”
I read on. “There’s this ancient looking crack. I tried running my hands across the scraggly length of it, my fingers slid through. Something with very sharp teeth bit me. I retrieved my fingers and was favored with a partial glimpse of the creature. It looked like a mutie bat. The experience lasted a third of a millisecond, almost went unnoticed but I felt something-blood went out of my body, yes, and something flowed in through the opening.
I withdrew my hand and ran up the stairs to disinfect the wound before it got infected. But not before peeping in that crack and getting a good look at the little demon that had sucked my blood.
What I saw defies description.
The eyes of the thing were like the eyes of hades.
It sucked at my consciousness and attempted to steal my sanity as I stared into the windows of that oblivion. I had to muster all the will in my body and force myself to look away or I believe, I would have gone mad.
The beast looked every inch like a bat but now, I know it for what it was: The Bat from Hell.
After I made it out to the worldly light outside the basement, I checked my finger and saw two fine, almost invisible punctures on my index finger. The blood was already clotting and my finger was a trifle numb. The numbness seemed to spread rapidly over my entire body like the onset of a fever. I disinfected the wound and took some aspirin.
Silly, unwitting me, not aware I was dead to the world, after my little adventure in the basement, I forgot all about the daemon bat. Erased it completely from my mind. It became my undoing. On one hand, I think the horror of what the thing that bit me might be and what its contact with me might eventually mean was too much for my mind to grasp and so my consciousness chucked it away into the care of the subconscious.
In vampire movies, the turning is almost always instant or at least within the next twenty four hours. I think took a little longer. However, I came down with a bad case of the flu, the next day to a point I couldn’t go out. I shut myself up in the guest room and slept alone wouldn’t let my wife come near me. She gave me drugs and urged me to come to the hospital with her. I took the pills but something within me wasn’t up with all that hospital and doctor stuff. It didn’t feel right. Maybe, my mind already knew what was coming-already figured it out that the infection was too lethal to be treated by a medical doctor.
I couldn’t eat. I took only water and even that was cut to the barest minimum. I never stepped out of the guest room and I let in the least amount of sunlight.
After Day 7, the nightmares began.
I had constant visions of blood, of me sucking blood with pleasure. In the dream, it started with my wife’s and then it moved on the kids. Two weeks later I stepped into the streets with my family, I as the head of the pack. Yet, it was all a dream brought on by extreme heat of fever.
So, I believed. I would come awake in the mornings my room reeking of blood, my clothes drenched in blood. My first thoughts were that I had retched in the night owing to the vileness of my nightmares. Those were the worst days of my life.
My wife and kids began staying indoors. That gave me a start-they seemed to cherish the darkness as well. The curtains in the house were always drawn. They slept most of the afternoons-I knew this ‘cause you can’t have kids and quiet in a house at the same time. The two ain’t all that acquainted. That’s when my suspicions about the origin of the bat in the basement caught up with me.
One day, at about four in the evening, I flipped on the TV and the shades of my nightmare came to play. The events I had once called dreams were being reported on the news.
Eight people had died in their sleep the previous night.
I ticked members of my family off my fingers and figured these victims of our strange appetite.
Reality had driven in with the pedal pressed to the metal.
It came at a time I couldn’t take the dreams for what I thought them to be anymore; they were way too graphic to be pensioners of Morpheus train. I called my family. It was time we got it out and over with. They all agreed with my plan.
At noon the next day, when the sun was high and strong with its rays piercing like a billion hot needles, we were going to open all the blinds. Let the light in.
When you find this letter, J, you’ll find the door. For what it’s worth, do not go in there.
I leap-ran to the kitchen and right there where my fridge used to be was a door fitting enough for a cellar.
It’s six months today since the day I found the letter and that cellar door and I’ve still not found the strength to tell my wife or anybody else for that matter besides Jobs. Well, I had no say in Jobs matter. He was with me when I found the door.
I’ve decided to open that door.
When my wife leaves for work-I’m staying home and playing sick-and my children for school, I’ll grab a flashlight and explore that fated cellar. Maybe, I get to kill the bat, after all.
Incase, you found this note maybe I didn’t make it and in any case, it’s your turn to find the door.
I hope to God, you ain’t married.
God have mercy on your wife.
You’ve had a look at the door, already haven’t you?
Maybe it’s too late.
Maybe . . .