Open Windows-Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Eighteen

Use your enemy's hand to catch a snake.

Persian Proverb


 I fell hard on my face, and was stunned and let go of my prize before I had pulled it up. It swayed back both joyously because it would live after all, and because it had escaped me and saw the hideous slug.

But it hated me too and I had just put my hands on it. It shrank away from my touch as much as it could.

Red marks burned my fingerprints into it where I’d touched it and looked like a brand, they even glowed a bit from where I could see it. I wondered then if I was the opposite of Nemrul now and where he would burn me in my world, could I burn him in his?

Later on, that flower would find away to use that anger for its growth. Hatred was a strong fertilizer for it, but poison to the good things it hated so much. It would feed on that and remember me.

Every time one of the good flowers" died they would immediately sweep in and fight over who needed it the most. Like piranha, they tore it to pieces and fed off what they could though there not much left. They were getting stronger and soon they would over take her entire garden if left unchecked. I almost laughed then, thinking “Where is the damn lawnmower when you really need one?”

Then it came to me, that was why it was so dark there now, it was not just because I was unexpected this time, I sensed that now, I could see it and feel it as I turned and looked around me. They knew I would be back and they knew why, they had the benefit of her knowledge and they had foresight so it was easy for them to see and they tried to prepare for me.

The funny thing was, the flowers thought of what they thought was hideous, and being flowers they thought of a slug because of the slime it covered everything with, they saw it as useless and ugly, and yet they knew that slugs were something SHE thought of as disgusting, so now she was helping me without meaning to.

Had they asked her, or tried to get her thoughts on it, they would have come up with something else, though they certainly would have called on Nemrul, but because he sometimes had no control and burned everything indiscriminately and they feared the flames, they felt he sometimes got so angry he forgot who he was saving and who was to be vanquished.

Besides, they reasoned, she is not as smart as we are, she doesn’t even know what is going on here, inside of her own head, she doesn’t see who is taking control and if she does, she doesn’t seem to care, they thought she welcomed them taking matters into their hands.

They had begun calling the slug as soon as I left the first time, sending off scents that they thought would be appealing to it, feeding it with their thoughts and making it stronger and bigger until Nemrul felt it and took control, adding his own touch, but in a lot of ways that was much better, it took tremendous strength to keep it going as they needed it to be, and now they could rest after their early efforts. Some of them had died in the effort but the dead fed the living in their world so they weren’t wasted.

Nemrul has killed before, without hesitation and it has been said that he sometimes had a habit of inflicting long lasting, terrible pain in the process, “Leave it to him then!” They all had decided in unison.

Nemrul found that he couldn’t give it the power of flame, because when he tried to, it burned the slug and they had to start over again, but he was able to give it the acidity that it now possessed, even though eventually that would also dissolve the slug, as long as it served his purpose he had no care about that.

The other thing was, though they were used to killing other plants that interfered with their plans, those were plants, and killing them meant absorbing them, taking over and changing the landscape, and it was not so easy to kill a human, and absorbing one was an entirely different kind of animal altogether.

Having dealt with humans before, Nemrul would have chosen some other kind of animal to attack me with, but the animals in there were mostly small, the biggest bird was that hawk thing, and he thought I would have no problem shooting that out of the sky, and the flowers had already started with the slug so he no real choice, but even he thought this was a good plan, and to this point it had been because I was down and he was moving.

In the garden that part of the flowers started to sway back and forth with a distorted sense of rhythm, though there was no music from that side, the good side began to hum softly, in barely perceptible levels.

That's why this slug was able to get me and was trying to absorb me as they all watched, the good thoughts hoping I would win and ready to do what they thought might help, that I might have a chance, if I looked over at them while this was going on, I would have seen them glowing too, a light electric blue that glowed softly thru the darkness. It became their battle as well, each side doing what it could, bound to the earth as they were they fought for my life with the slug or against us, they all did their part.

Seeing it now as it happened before them made them see that if I hadn't knocked that blood into the ground their pet would have been too weak to have a chance, I was stronger than they expected, even when I was knocked unconscious, or something near it as dazed as I was.

Erika saw all this and cried, silently hoping that it would work, it HAD to work if only she was not too late and could keep it going as she planned.

She looked at Nemrul in the corner, it was still as if he was sleeping, but she knew it was not, for she could see his lips moving silently, his hands working in the thin air in front of him.

She was the only one that had ever seen his face, it was the face she’d created but now wished she’d never laid eyes on, had never imagined or given a thought to. He lost his face the first time she saw his first victim, because her rage flashed thru him and consumed both Nemrul and the man she wanted so desperately to feel a semblance of the pain he’d inflicted on her.

Anyone else that had seen Nemrul that closely had died moments later, or gone mad, much as the man with a video camera had lost his mind.

If the technicians that tried to save anything on that camera had watched it all the way to the end they would still have not seen his face and even though it would have been a video, it would have affected them the same and they would still have lost their minds.

But they gave up after they had seen the footage of that burning man and the screen flickered out and then changed to a family picnic or something that the man had recorded over, they thought the rest would be useless except to identify the man, and they already knew as much as this video showed them so for all his work it couldn’t help them at all.

I was waking then and thought that I was dreaming that a large slug was swallowing me, I could not believe what I was seeing. But then I saw it slowly moving towards me and trying to dissolve me into its body, I felt it creeping over me, probing and searching for skin thru my clothes, and leaving a trail of slime where it had been. Some of the spots where it had slimed me were smoldering now and would burn thru in a while, exposing my skin for it, I could see where it moved as quickly as it could towards those spots.

It was now burning the back of my legs and crawling on my lower back, trying to get to my head. If not for the burning, I might have stayed unconscious though, the sting of it‘s attack brought me back to where I was and what was happening.

I was just starting to chase the cobwebs off when I thought about her, I felt her presence near me, and I knew she was again trying to help me, trying to tell me something but I could not quite understand, or make sense of it. I thought I was going to die now, and that really wasn't too bad, I was so tired that it was hard to stay awake, but I thought about her and Nemrul outside her door and knew I couldn't let that happen, but I fought within myself because then my thoughts drifted and I had to force myself to deal with this, “Time for dying later!” I said to myself.

I didn’t know that he was there with her now, waiting for me to come home and then he was going to kill me as he had killed for her so many times before, but I was pretty sure he was.

Something that the slug had injected into my system while it probed for flesh was making me delirious and it was somehow confusing my thoughts like a hallucinogenic drug or something and I started to laugh a little.

Erika kept looking at him, seeming to be asleep and hoping that he wouldn't be able to guess what she was up to, that he wouldn’t see her plans or read her thoughts, or see the urgency she felt when he looked in her eyes.

He was sitting in the corner, watching the door thru closed eyes and absently moving his hands. She realized he was doing the same thinking I did when I was thinking deep on something. He was "rolling" and she had to smile at the resemblance. That we had searched for and fought each other so much; we had adapted things from each other. Nemrul was also now my evil twin and she was struck by that thought. So much the opposite of each other, even more than night and day, more than opposite ends of the same world, our minds were linked together now, and would be until one of us stopped breathing.

Erika knew it was the right time now and she started thinking about the dinner we’d had near the beach. How romantic that evening was, how much she’d been able to escape all her problems for a few hours.

She thought about how we had come full circle to this day, to this point in our lives and whatever future we might have if we survived this day.

She wasn't sure why, but she knew I had a strong connection to the water. She thought I wanted to tell her what it was, that I had started to a couple of times, but I hadn't yet. She knew I eventually would have, if we’d had the time, but she didn’t think we would have the time now, something in her heart told her that we wouldn‘t, that we would never be that happy again, that this was over now. That both angered her and made her sad, but it also helped her, it helped to steel her determination and her resolve.

She remembered we were celebrating something, she concentrated on that, and she remembered that there had been a lot of laughter, that I was joking with her all night and that I was on a roll.

She loved my humor and was one of the few people that might have even understood it, but what she loved the most about it was how it made her feel happy, how I could find the humor in almost anything, and at any time, no one was safe, even myself.

“You can’t laugh at anyone else if you can’t laugh at yourself too!” She had heard someone say, and she liked that somehow, made her see things clearer. I felt the need to relax, letting my guard down and getting serious, though she noticed I spent a lot of time looking over my shoulder, that for sum reason I was always keeping my back away from the door.

She closed her eyes and thought about the way I looked in that suit. I had lost so much weight then that it just seemed to hang on me. But she thought I looked so handsome and got so serious talking about my past and our future, it was contagious she thought, and she could count the times she had seen me wearing a suit on one hand.

We had a candle light dinner out, and that in itself was rare because I liked to cook and she didn't, she remembered that we really got closer when we cooked together, when we spent time together like that, talking about everything and nothing at all. The quiet moments we’d had. Unlike most of the guys she knew, I really knew my way around the pots and pans, I was clearly not any kind of stranger to the kitchen.

I had insisted we go to this beach, taken her to the pier that night and she remembered that the restaurant had a really nice view of the water. She remembered that there were little shops all over the pier, and that we did some window shopping afterwards as we walked together hand in hand and it was a full moon out that night.

She was surprised a man would know about this romantic hide away and she didn't. She knew she would have never found it if I hadn’t shown it to her.

I ordered for both of us in some other language she didn't know and I hoped it wasn't going to be too exotic or spicy, but she trusted me and thought it was really good. We even drank wine and had a toast "to us" and then broke the glasses.

It was the dinner she had dreamed about as a child. When she could be a child that is, before that was stolen from her. Before she was forced to grow up. Much too soon and much too long ago, she thought to herself.

Before "that" thing had happened to her. Before the first time and before the nightmares began to be real. She had never thought about that until now, but there it was. She had buried a lot of that and didn't think about it anymore.

“A bad nightmare and no more!” she repeated, “If I don’t think about it, it can’t gain strength and will leave me alone.” She thought. When the nightmares began to happen, she learned first that she was too weak to defend herself and that there was no one else to protect her either. There was no one she felt she could trust enough to even begin to talk about it and her shame was another obstacle that she could not over come at that early age.

Much later, when it kept happening, shame became a word between shag and shinola for all she cared, it wasn’t the problem anymore and it was replaced by intense hatred and anger that she had no release for.

But she also learned to "leave herself" there and go somewhere nice and pretend it wasn't happening, it had become her early survival tool and worked well for her.

She was very young the first time she had imagined a man taking her to a restaurant just like this, she would be dressed in a very nice dress and seeing him in a suit and tie just as she had imagined them. She had seen it so many times before that she knew if she closed her eyes that was the tie I would be wearing in her dreams. She knew she had dreamed pf me then and that I had been searching for her all of my life. “If I have the time to, the chance to tell you, I will show you my love tonight, my heart that beats your name!” she promised me then.

She remembered this table with a view towards the setting sun was exactly what she had wanted before, with those same waves breaking on the shore. The same violin player he paid to play her favorite song while they danced, the same quiet atmosphere. She was so happy that I she felt I had seen her heart and known exactly what a romantic evening was for her, and then she realized that I didn’t know it was hers because it was what I thought it would or should be and it made it more special because they had shared it. All of this was feeding me and she knew it, yet it brought such joy to her heart that she felt Nemrul stir again, and this time he opened his eyes and set them on her intently.

"How could you know!" she almost screamed out loud before she caught herself. When he saw her she was almost standing now, and her right arm was up as if she were dancing. He was so angry he stomped his feet on the ground and fell thru in his burning rage. He quickly jumped up again though, he wasn’t going to give her any hope of running off until he was ready for her to, he knew what she was doing then, but he couldn't see all of her plan yet.

He stared at her for a long time, searching for the answer, the plan she was thinking of, but he couldn‘t see it, and what he did see he couldn‘t understand and didn‘t trust because he thought she was letting him see them to confuse him.

In truth it was because he was getting into her thoughts as hard as she tried to keep him out, she could not entirely, and when she felt his confusion there she kept that as short as she could and knowing it confused him, she would jump to something else, totally irrelevant to what he’d seen.

It too a great deal of energy and control to do that, but she was able to carry it off well, and Nemrul was a killer after all, not a great thinker or philosopher in anyone’s eye.

She was able to keep her face blank to him; kept her thoughts on other things she knew would make him feel he was still in total control so he wouldn’t know and it surprised her how easy that was to do. She pretended to be in a trance or still under his control, but underneath her thoughts whirled and spun as she tried to help me.

If he had been paying more attention to her earlier, he would have been able to read her mind and stop her, but he knew that he hadn’t and that made him angry, he should have paid her more attention but it was too late now. He knew whatever it was it was set in motion but he held the high ground, I had to come to him because he had her. He still thought that since he was so powerful here and invincible in her world that I didn’t have in a chance though we were in mine now.

As he sat back in the other side of the room, Nemrul kept trying to probe her thoughts, kept trying to see what I might be trying, though it knew anything I might bring would be useless and futile, he knew I would die much as the others had, screaming curses at her while I burned until my lungs were gone.

But he was surprised that she would fight so hard for me, and that was something he couldn’t understand, that he had never seen before.

Then he saw part of her plan, just enough of a glimpse that he knew what she was trying to do, how she was going to help me and this time he did slap her, and hard though he never rose off the ground or left that corner.

She fell into the other corner and passed out, he watched as her body slumped down and was still now. He waited for a few moments to make sure she was still breathing and cursed his anger sometimes, but she had built him well and it was sometimes all he knew. He saw her take a breath then and realized he had been holding his breath too, and let that go as she did.

As she lay there her thoughts drifted back to a better time, she was able to keep that thought going as she passed out somehow and controlled her mind enough to this, and then she tried to remember how we’d met. Since he thought she was unconscious he no longer tried to control her or her thoughts, he tried to see where I was, how far that damned slug had absorbed me by now, so he didn’t see her slight smile as it crossed her lips and then quickly faded.

That memory was one of the few things from her past that she wanted to keep if she died today, because it was one of the things that would always make her happy when she felt down, and now a single tear burned it‘s way down her cheek.

She pretended that she didn’t like being “treated like a lady” with men falling all over her and opening doors, but she had to admit deep inside that sometimes she liked the attention, the way it made her feel special.

“There are some things a woman counts on, though deep inside she knows it won’t last forever, she looks forward to it, but does not count on it!” She remembered hearing that somewhere too, one of those funny things that somehow stays with you over the years.

When I opened the door for her, she acted a bit surprised but she smiled and went in, but when I stopped to hold the chair for her, she was impressed, she thought, “Maybe its not an act and he’s like this all of the time!”

With the kind of guys that normally tried to impress her she would find out very quickly, “You can act like a gentleman but you can’t fake the feeling!” she thought. “A monkey in a suit is still a monkey” she remembered Marlon Brando saying that in a movie about Pancho Villa.

She cried a little more then, because she could not remember how we had met either, her tears running freely now down her cheek as she lay there on the floor. They fell to the hardwood floor and sizzled for a moment before they evaporated.

She saw a stream of faces then, all of the men she had ever known in her life, though her father was a fuzzy and unstable image because he had died when she was very young. There were times in her life that she had blamed him for what had happened, she felt he was the first betrayal because he wasn’t there to protect him from some of the men he had brought into the house as workers or friends.

She cried harder then because she thought, “If he had lived, would all those other things have happened to me?”

But she knew now he would have been there and would have kept all the monsters away from her door, and she forgave him then.

The only images she had of his face were of him leaning into her crib as she was crying or something and trying to calm her, but she could not now see his face, nor could she hear his voice.

Then she remembered the first that she fought back, when she felt she could no longer take it.

She could close her eyes and see his face, and she knew his name too, because every time he climbed on top of her she saw it stitched on his work overalls on his breast and over his black heart.

“Arthur Slemmons, Jr.” it said, and he worked at the school she had attended, he was a maintenance man and had free reign of the school and followed her until she was alone and then pounced on her before she knew what was happening.

She tried to tell herself it wasn’t happening again, she cried to God to please make him stop, and maybe that’s why that first time he was only able to take her panties down, and he made her touch him, but he promised her more, and told her that if she told anyone at all, someone would kill her mother before he would spend a day in jail, and her mother’s death would be on her hands for telling someone.

She was so terrified she couldn’t trust anyone, and she tried not to think about it but the more she got away from it, the more it was confronting her.

She tried to tell her math teacher, Mrs. Johnson, but skirted around the topic so much that she left in frustration and never told her a thing about it.

The next time he came for her, she was more careful and still did not see him until it was too late. He ravaged her poor little body so badly that when they found her she was shivering on the floor, bleeding and unconscious, they rushed her to the hospital and she had to wear diapers for the next eight years until she could afford some surgery to repair the damage he had done.

“Arthur Slemmons Jr.” she said, speaking the words slowly and deliberately then, and where he sat, he stirred, his hands clenched suddenly and his head snapped up.

As he looked at her then, he tried to imagine what she was thinking and as he read her thoughts he saw that she was thinking of “them” and he thought that was a good thing, “She will remember the hurt and use it to help me!” he said to himself.

One by one, the faces she did remember floated by, and some of them even spoke to her, or she remembered the terrible things they said as they abused her.

“Come on, it’s ok, I won’t tell anyone about this, it will be our secret!” one of them whispered to her.

She remembered when he died, he was screaming how sorry he was, how he needed to be forgiven and allowed to live. That only enraged her further and Nemrul felt that, increasing the intensity of the flames until there was a small explosion and then everything was gone.

“If you tell anyone about this, I will deny it and one day come to your house and kill your mother!” another one said, and it got worse, sometimes they cajoled her, tried to sweeten the abuse by buying her a dress or flowers, things they thought she would like, sometimes candy, but it all came to the same, they all wanted the same thing and didn’t seem to care how she felt about it. They were there to take it and nothing she could say or do was going to change that, short of killing them of course.

She found as she went further and further along that list that nothing had changed. The sun came up the same every morning and the moon every night. The world moved on, had forgotten about it, but she never could.

Then she saw my face, behind and some distance away from all those others, I was sitting near some flowers in a park, waiting for her to show, the sun shinning gently on my face. The look she saw on my face as I waited was not one of impatience, but rather of calm and confidence, as if I knew things were all right, that she would be there soon and we could go on with our lives.

That drew more tears in her eyes, “Things will never be the same, they will never be ok!” She thought then, she knew it in her heart yet she could not give up, she knew she had to fight for what we had and was ready for it.

Not yet time to quit anyway, she had one more thing to try and it had better be right.

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Graphic Novels
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Rating: 10.0/10

Things are coming to a close, and I guess only in my twisted mind could a slug and dead flowers become something lethal.
Published Date
11/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Published In
Publish America