Sunday, April 2, 2017

47 - Mad as Hell

SLAM! went the door. FWOOSH! went the stack of mail on the cadenza. KLACKLE-KLACKLE-KLACK! went the coat rack as it was shoved to the floor.

Gerald was not happy. In fact, he was mad as hell after his night in jail. Yesterday he had exhausted all of the swear words he knew, English and otherwise. He was so mad this morning that he spent two hours swearing in a made up language. Now he was beyond words.

He headed for the basement. His house being a large maze to him, Gerald took a couple of wrong turns, but eventually he made his way to the dark rickety steps. CREA-CK, CREA-CK went the treads. FLIPPITY-FLIP went the light switch. EE-UH, EE-UH went the handrail.

Gerald strode mightily down a dank hallway to a door with a “do not enter” sign on it. He did not hesitate. TURN-TURN went the doorknob. EEEEE went the door hinges. TROMP-TROMP went his feet. Gerald was now in a small section of the hall with another door in front of him. This new door had a sign that read, “Think about it!” Gerald did not hesitate taking down a key that lay concealed on the top door trim. SHUNK-CLUNK went the key in the lock. TURN-TURN went the doorknob. FSSSSHHHHHHH went the sweep on the bottom of the door.

Gerald now stood in another small section of the hallway with a door behind him and yet another door in front of him. The new door had a sign on it that read “Are you really sure?” Gerald encountered three more sections in the hallway, each with a door with a sign on it and a more elaborate lock system. The sign on the final door read, “The die is cast.”

Gerald quickly unlocked the last doorknob with a key from the top door trim. SHUNK-CLUNK! He dialed the combination lock. SPIN-SPIN! He pulled back a deadbolt. SHHHHH-CHUNK! He unhooked the foot snare. WINDEE-WEE, WINDEE-WEE! He peered into the eye scanner. BVVVVVTT! He spoke the words “I AM GERALD!” loud and clear. At last, he stood silently waiting for the door to open.

Xavier and Khua were upstairs watching a Batman movie. Both the boys and their brother Mo, who was now dead, used to imagine that under their big house was a cave, just like Batman's. When they were young, they would play Batman and Villain for hours. They would pretend to hit each other and yell out “BOFF!” “KA-POW!” and “KA-PLUIEEE!” They would race out of the garage on their bicycles like Batman racing out of his cave in his Bat-mobile. One day, Xavier discovered that there was a real cave underneath their house. The boys were so excited. He led his brothers to the basement. The three of them worked their way through a hallway of doors and locks. The lock systems weren't elaborate, but it took awhile to figure out how to undo each one. As they came to the last door, they could hear noises on the other side. It sounded like someone moaning. Then suddenly, “AAAAGH!” went the voice of someone in pain. CRACK! Went a heavy object. CRASH! went some glass. “NO! NO! NO!” went a man's voice. Then there was silence.

The boys debated in whispers whether they should see what was behind the last door or if they should turn back. Mo and Khua wanted to turn back. Xavier wanted to go on. The silent debate became quite heated. “LIKE, NO WAY!” Khua finally whispered loudly and left. “CRAP!” said Mo as he saw Khua leaving and turned to follow. “COWARDS!” said Xavier as he turned to open the door.

TURN-TURN went the knob. EEEE went the door hinges. FSSSSSSSHHHH! Went the sweep on the bottom of the door. The other side of the door was dark. It was dank. Xavier could feel a slight cold breeze escaping out the door he had opened, like spirits fleeing from something evil. He stepped forward. All of his senses told him he was in a cave, but all he could see was black. After a few moments of not moving and barely breathing, his eyes began to adjust. Out of the corner of his eye he started to see shapes and forms, but ,when he looked directly at them, they would fade into the blackness.

A noise came from the far corner of the cave. SHUFFLE-SHUFFLE went someone's feet. “WIMPER-WIMPER” went Xavier's throat involuntarily. THUMP-THUMP-BA-DUMP went Xavier's heart. Except for Xavier's heartbeat, all went quiet for awhile. He could sense that there was something in the corner observing him. Waiting. He could see, obliquely, a form heaving with breath. When he looked directly, all detail disappeared.

Xavier spent the next several minutes alternating between staring away from the creature and staring directly at it. Then something changed. The creature was getting closer to him. Xavier didn't hear it move, but he sensed it getting closer. He quickly stared into the darkest part of the cave, away from the creature, but couldn't be sure if it was moving. KNOCK-KNOCK went Xavier's knees. SHUTTER-SHUTTER went Xavier's breath. SILENCE went the creature.

A sense of dread tingled in Xavier's head. This was how he knew the creature was moving; something inside Xavier was changing. The monster came closer, and Xavier's dread turned to fear. Xavier shook and sweated. He wanted to run, but his feet were cemented to the floor. The monster was getting closer. When his eyes grew wide and just before he pissed his pants, Xavier's fear turned to terror. The monster was close now. Very close. Evil hands reached out soundlessly to snatch the boy by the head. When Xavier felt he was about to die, his terror turned to panic. His feet loosened and he sprang for the door. CRACK! went an object. THUD! went Xavier's body. “AAAAAGGH!” went Xavier's voice. Xavier was face down on the floor of the cave. He scrambled for the door on his hands and knees. The monster was breathing on his neck, its fingers clutching at his body. Xavier reached the hallway and slammed the door shut. The monster did not come through. The boy reached up and locked the doorknob, although he knew this would not slow down the monster if it wanted to come after him.

Frightened and exhausted, Xavier leaned against the wall and took a moment to catch his breath and get his senses about him. When he felt ready, he stood up and noticed blood smeared on the wall and pooling on the floor where he had sat. Pulling at his shirt, he saw a bright red stain spreading to the front. He ran. That day, The Nanny drove Xavier to the hospital where it took fifty-five stitches to close his wound.

Today, the Batman movie was becoming tedious for Xavier. “I'm going to get something to eat,” he announced to his brother. As Xavier approached the kitchen, he heard a noise coming from the basement. The door was open and the light was on. He thought, perhaps, The Butler was pilfering the wine cellar. He went to berate him. CREA-CK, CREA-CK went the treads. EE-UH, EE-UH went the handrail.

When Xavier arrived, the wine cellar was locked and the light was off. No The Butler in sight. Then he heard someone call, “I AM GERALD!” and turned to see that the doors to the cave were open. He peeked quickly down the hallway as he was making his way back to the kitchen stairs. At the end of the hall a man stood before the last door, waiting. The door opened, the man stalked into the dark and the door closed.

Xavier climbed back to the kitchen, closed the door to the basement and grabbed a sandwich and pop from the refrigerator and some chips from a cabinet. He made his way upstairs to where Khua was still watching the movie. He sat down on the sofa, snapped opened his pop and took a swig. After a few minutes of watching the movie, Xavier announced to Khua, “Dad's home.”
Written by Mark Granlund 
Illustrated by Raighne Hogan

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