Does time succumb to itself as all things must or is it merely a transparency? A recursive jest into which all men needlessly fall? I was 23 and still living at home. I had the means to acquire separate lodgings but my father’s health delayed their acquisition.
I bear such a strong resemblance to my father that I cannot offer a judgment as to his appearance that is not in some way biased by my own insecurities. I can only say that his illness had altered him unfavorably. His black eyes were all but ensconced behind his cheekbones. How the geography of his face could shift in such a traumatic fashion I cannot say but it was not for want of research. The webbing between his fingers had risen to the first knuckle and no matter how often we pruned his flesh it continued to grow back thicker. Though I knew not the etiology of his ailment I knew that eventually his hands would be swallowed by the metastasizing flesh. I knew that his eyes would soon disappear for each day his vision grew dimmer for impediments. A surgeon without eyes or hands was a detriment to his profession, he could not be reconciled. Had he been able he might have killed himself. He had started to use a wheelchair though I could detect no deformity that might account for the sudden loss of mobility. I only knew that when he stood his body gave way beneath him. He was only 55, his bones were still strong, his muscles still firm and pronounced I did not know if his weakness was of the mind or if gravity itself had betrayed him.
“Open the chest..” We stood in the basement, in my father’s room. I had been here many times now with consent though always in his presence. The chest he pointed too was the same one that I had refused to open as a child. My palms began to sweat, my heart took on notes of hysteria. I felt just as I had all those years ago and yet I offered no audible objections. I stood stupidly for a long while as if I could not comprehend my limbs well enough to articulate a purposeful activity. I moved but it was only to shift my weight.
“Come now Eli…I didn’t raise you to be a coward…” He motioned a stump in the direction of what I knew was a coffin. Inside there would be another meatless corpse, another body of meager and unfortunate proportions. I knew that those bones would resemble my father, what he was becoming and that I needed to see them in order to understand what was to come. Was this to be my future as well?
I opened the chest and inside were the bodies of two creatures, their bones were partially fused. I could not tell if they were human but I knew that they had never lived outside of the womb. The bodies were small, each one only slighter larger than my palm. Their bones were nearly translucent and I felt that if I touched them I might irreparably alter their shape. The skulls and hands of the fetuses were deformed just as Elizabeths’ were and more completely than my fathers.
The names inside the casket read “Elijah and Elizabeth…” Elizabeth was the name of the child in the adjacent box. My name was Elijah just like my father though no one referred to me such. “I don’t understand…who are these children?” My father wheeled his chair closer, so close that his knee brushed my elbow. “Those bones…” He kicked the chest with his foot causing the lid to fall and my heart to jump into my throat.
“They belong to you…and the sister you murdered…” My father’s breath smelled strongly of wine but he did not slur his words. “You’re drunk…” I said coldly though I could not verify one way or the other from his comportment. “I am not drunk…I only pretend to be an alcoholic around you and your mother…do you really think I’d sabotage my career over a petty vice…no son I was never a mean drunk…I am simply an asshole…” My father retorted.
“Then your mad the illness has gotten inside of you…eaten away that brain your so proud of…” I answered and though I tried to sound assertive my father’s words had shaken me. Was the reason I could see ghosts really that simple? Had I killed my sister for nutrients and then died in the refuse of her flesh?
“These are your children then? The babies she lost…the one’s that weren’t normal? My siblings? Why do they all have the same name?” I demanded. My father rarely employed humor but if ever he did I imagined it would be cruel.
“Would you rather that I called you Elijah Number 2?” My father snapped as if the entire topic was somehow beneath his consideration.
“You’re a heartless bastard….” The words came out underneath my breath and in a tone I did not recognize.
“If I were completely heartless I never would have married your mother…that woman was a pointless distraction but a distraction with which I could not part.” I didn’t want to talk anymore, my emotions had a reached an impasse. I was conflicted. My jaw gripped, my hands gripped. If I could have willed myself into stone I would have done so but I could not render myself into a compatible state of stoicism.
“To answer you previous question…they were our children…though they never amounted to much as you can see…your mother and I were not genetically compatible…that’s what makes you such an achievement Eli…” I felt sick to my stomach though I had nothing to exhale having eaten nothing recently. I felt my vision tear at the corners, the elongated images sliding apart reluctantly. I knew that I spoke but not what I said, only that it sounded to my ears as an incantation. I wanted nothing more than to erase my father from existence.
“Eli….Eli wake up….you’re scaring me…” Thyme’s voice was frantic, her white hands gripped my shoulders. I faced the closet door, my posture wooden, at some point during the night I had sat up. The closet door was wide open and though it was pitch black in the room I could see the X clearly. Was it an impression or did the symbol emit radiance? I caught the very end of my demonic mutterings but I could not decipher the words. “Who are you talking too?” I laid my hand on top of Thyme’s to console her. It was not a hand at all but a shovel made of flesh and bone.
I sat up in bed covered in sweat, I patted the mattress beside me but it was empty. Where had she gone? Did I have the dates confused? Had we even met yet? The sheets still smelled of her but they were ice cold.
The door opened suddenly uprooting my heart. My father stepped inside switching on the light, it was not unusual for him to impose on my sleep but he’d never done so when in company. He wore a tailored suit as was his custom, his thick black hair was combed neatly, it was the middle of the night or so I surmised from the black windows. “I need your help to move a body…get dressed….” I grabbed my pants not worrying about exposure because I knew my father would not wait for a reply. Though I could not recall my dream the sight of him both angered and terrified me.
“Where is she?” I demanded. My father made a face which bellied his impatience. “Who do you speak of Eli?”
I honestly can’t believe I have written so much of this story. I had some heinous nightmares last night because of it though.