|My Psychorragic Diathesis
Author: unapologetic PM
My name is John Salvador Henry the Third. Most people just call me "Johnny." I'm your average pizza guy, and I know where the victims of mysterious disappearances went to. I returned from that place alive.Rated: Fiction T - English - Suspense/Horror - Words: 4,123 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 01-15-05 - id: 1808635
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
My Psychorragic Diathesis
I'm your average pizza guy. My name's "John Salvandro Henry the Third", but most people call me "Johnny." I've been working at Papa Z's Pizza Parlor for almost five years now, living off free meals that come with extra large soft drinks. My mom always pressured me to find a "real" job, like our neighbor's son who wears a suite everyday and has his own cubicle in a hot-shot company. Even after I moved out when I turned eighteen, I could still hear my mom's caustic reprimand, "You don't have an education, you're gonna work the rest of your life in a pizza dump." Which is perfectly fine with me, because I'm not about to starve anytime soon.
So you've probably noticed that I'm a pretty lax guy who's not on good terms with his mom. Before you question my relationship with my dad, let me just inform you that I don't have one – my mom never married. Maybe that's why she wears a permanent frown, and has never cracked a smile in all the years she raised me.
Now, I know what you're thinking: Who the heck is this freak, and why should I devote my precious attention to him? You see, although I may not have graduated high school, live in a dingy room above the garage of an old man with arthritis, and can't plan further than the next day, I'll probably be the most unique person you'll ever meet.
I see you're raising your brows now, silently questioning the sanity of a guy named John Salvandro Henry the Third. But I'm serious. After all, how many people have traveled through dimensions and returned to tell their tale? Not many, if you ask me.
Truthfully, I don't even know how I survived, or even how I got to…wherever I went to. I was doing my normal nightly deliveries (apparently, you get paid fifty cents more after seven p.m.), the warm pizza boxes piled into the front basket of my bike. The sun had retired for the evening; the autumn sky, sponged dark blue with streaks of purple and crimson, gradually melted over the town of Bessville. The streets were empty – though they usually were after sunset – flanked by neat squares of grass and utilitarian homes.
I turned onto Madison Street. The soft clinking of bike chains sounded unnaturally loud, engendering a disconcerting web in the air. Bessville had always possessed a quiet atmosphere (population: 11,000), but that night a different kind of silence settled over it. The aberrant stillness was almost smothering, as if a heavy fog had swept in from the distant mountains in the north.
Yet, as I glanced around, the air was as clear as mineral water. I inhaled deeply, relishing the scent of pizza and leaves, the scent of freedom. Freedom from my mom's endless sermons, the way she seemed to control every aspect of my life. "Go to school, earn big money," she'd preach with that scowl on her face. And oh, how she pressured me! Study, study, study. Money, money, money. Makes me kind of wonder if she really loved me, or if she was using me as a financial-crutch for when she retires from her secretarial job at the bank.
I loathed thinking of my mom this way, but her callous treatment towards me gave her an undeniably selfish image. I don't know when I started hating her, became frustrated and enraged at her, except that these dark feelings etched deeply in my heart. I tried my best to ignore them.
I focused on the houses instead. Most had lights on – a muted yellowish glow wetting the bay windows, reminding me of melted cheese on Papa Z's extra-cheesy pizza. What triggered my unease was that, as I continued down Madison Street, the lights diminished. A pall seemed to have gradually blanketed the houses, swathing the windows with shadows and casting a nocturnal emptiness.
I was positive there were people in the houses. Having lived here all twenty-one years of my life, I knew Bessville's residents retreated indoors precisely at seven, but didn't crawl under the covers until after ten. Unless they wanted to conserve energy, I couldn't fathom why they'd have the lights out.
At the time, I should've turned back when apprehension germinated in my guts. The air, initially calm and fresh, suddenly seemed suffocating. So what if my boss assaulted me with an hour lecture on responsibility? So what if someone missed their serving of pizza for the day? I think my life is more important than either of the two.
Of course, I was stupid enough to continue pedaling. Like I said, I was the type of person who seriously lacked foresight, and my job was imperative then. A sudden chill raked through the night, and a breeze caressed my face. But the grass and leaves around me never stirred. I assumed I had imagined the breeze, when it arose again. There was a cool quality about it, and should've been welcoming as I biked onward, but an inexplicable danger ghosted down my back.
I have no sixth sense, mind you, but my stomach suddenly started doing flip flops.
I blamed the queasiness on the leftover Hawaiian pizza I had earlier that day. So completely ignoring the urgent whispers in the back of my head, I pedaled into the shadows that seemed almost tangible. Though I wasn't bright enough to turn back, I did recognize my own building anxiety, and I hummed a random song to calm myself.
"…sure we should go this way?"
My song faded, and I slowed down, expected to see a person up ahead, where the voice had originated from. At first, I was puzzled as to why anyone would be out so late (unless he was a visitor and didn't know about Bessville's tacit timetable); my bemusement increased when I encountered no one.
I glanced around, but a ubiquitous darkness enveloped my setting. I could barely distinguish the outlines of the houses from the sidewalk, or the sidewalk from the street. I shrugged, figuring that my imagination had momentarily ran amuck, and picked up my humming again.
"…return to camp? Might get lost…"
This time, I knew I wasn't hearing things. The voice belonged to a man – slightly gruff, and edged with anxiety. I squinted into the dark, but couldn't see anything other than subtle shades of black. I even cast a quick glance behind me, though the voice came from the front. As I grew closer, the voice became clearer.
"Let's cross that glacier first. It doesn't look too bad."
"…Fine. Lead the way, O' Brilliant One."
The exchange drifted into my ears like phantom notes, and they might as well have belonged to phantoms, because I couldn't for the life of me locate the two conversing men. The possibility that I was hallucinating didn't go unconsidered (I'm sure my boss would love to hear that about his employee), but I doubted sporadic delusions could be so realistic.
During that time, I realized another thing: Madison Street was not that long. Normally, at the rate I was currently traveling, it takes me about three minutes to reach the intersection, where the road was perpendicular to Harriette Street. I glanced at my wrist: The plastic Wal-mart watch glowed 8: 36, November 14. I'd been on the same street for nearly five minutes.
"Move your buttocks! We're halfway there!"
"I'm the one carrying the supplies! What'd you pack anyway? A boulder or three?"
"Is it just me, or is it getting really hot?"
"Just you." Laughter.
"No, wait. I feel it too. Shouldn't be this warm up in the mountains…"
The voices again. I had lied the first time; apparently, there were more than two conversationalists. All of them belonged to men that stood somewhere up ahead, but for some reason I couldn't see them. It was like peering through heavy-duty sunglasses (the really expensive kind that I'll never be able to afford), where the world was monochromatically black.
A dull fear stirred in my chest, and I didn't even realize I'd stopped pedaling as I searched for the owner of the voices. With one foot on the pedal, the other on the ground, I listened again.
Nothing. Just an alien stifling silence, but nothing else.
I wasn't sure if I should be relieved or not. If the voices weren't real, at least I'll know my brain's slightly screwed (not a very comforting thought); however, if the voices weren't part of my imagination…
I didn't believe in ghosts. Back in elementary school, I remember attending a summer camp designed for underprivileged children. Anyway, this one guy with a tattered straw hat and a skeletal face got all of us around a camp fire, and spieled out a bunch of ghost stories. Supposedly, a ghost haunted the camp. Every kid that night refused to go to sleep. Except me – I was out like a light as soon as my head hit the pillow.
The point is, I defined the paranormal the same way I define fiction. My motto is: Experiencing is believing. If you told me a burned banana felt like coal, I'd have to touch it to believe you. If you told me ghosts surrounded me, I'd have to see them for myself.
I stood there for a minute longer, supporting my weight on one foot. I'd forgotten about the pizza, which had probably gotten cold. When I didn't hear the voices again, I started to get back on my bike.
Something flashed in the darkness beyond. A sliver of white, almost like the snow-capped peak of a mountain, appeared and vanished in the blink of an eye. Another breeze whispered across my skin, and once more I felt that hazy but so compelling sense of danger.
The silence was shattered, this time by a different voice. Feminine, with the tone of a reporter.
"A group of mountain climbers have been reported missing several days ago, after failing to return to base camp. A rescue team is currently on the search, but so far has found only footprints. We are currently in the middle of a glacier in Switzerland, where the footprints of the mountaineering party had abruptly stopped."
Despite the mild autumn weather, I felt a sudden chill (the cause being the breeze or the news report was debatable), as if I was standing waist-deep in snow. Instinctively, I glanced down. Churning at my feet was a field of black mist, so dark and heavy that I couldn't see past my ankle. The mist eddied languidly around me, appearing both smoky and liquefied at the same time.
I glanced around, a growing fear circling with the fog when I realized the street had disappeared. I was standing in a seamless expanse of sentient cloud. My fear escalated when I raised my head. Instead of a clear night sky that was sprinkled with the remnants of sunset, a fathomless darkness prevailed. Scattered across the veil were innumerable spiraling arms, like whirlpool galaxies, that exuded an eerie red light; gossamer webs hung over the sky, barely invisible against the dark backdrop.
One word summed up my feelings: Freaky.
As I groped for some sort of logic in the events so far, the mist quivered. A man emerged from the dark. His trench coat slapped against his thighs as he walked, and his eyes were shadowed.
He was moving away. I don't know what had prompted me, but I scrambled off my bike, knocked the kickstand out, and abandoned the undelivered pizzas to pursue him.
"Excuse me!" I called. My voice echoed several feet, then was swallowed by the darkness.
Either the man was deaf, or didn't like random hollering people.
A tremor of panic filled me as his trench coat, almost as black as the sky, began to fade into the shadows. I picked up my pace, until I was doing a slow jog. I was nearly at arms length with the man when I spoke again. "Excuse me, sir. Do you have a moment?"
If he'd stopped, I probably would've made a fool of myself, since I hadn't figured out what to say beyond that point. But the man continued walking, seemingly adamant at ignoring me.
And here I thought I've had my share of rude people.
Slightly irked, I started to tap him on the shoulder, then stopped. The last thing I wanted was a black eye, in case he had the wild idea that I was going to mug him or something. Instead, I ran around in front of him.
My first thought was that I'd hate to have him for a father. At least, I hoped for his sake that he didn't glower all the time. I think he might have beaten my mom in a frowning contest, because his brows seemed permanently set at forty-five degree angles towards each other. The sharp downward curve of his lips didn't help his image.
I grimaced at the comparison, before burying the remembrance of my mom.
Waving a hand in his face, I tried again. "Sir? Can you please stop for a second?"
I suppose I could credit him for the impeccable way he ignored me. I mean, the guy didn't even blink! He resumed walking as if he had to catch a plane ride that was going to take off in five minutes. His shoulders were hunched, his hands thrust into his huge coat pockets.
The guy definitely needed to work on his image. (And probably people skills, too.)
I resorted to pleading. "Mister. Please wait."
No response. Kept trying to catching that metaphorical plane.
Not expecting a reaction, I acquired a bold streak. "Sir, do you acknowledge my existence?"
Suddenly, the man stopped. For a moment, I cringed inwardly, anticipating a scolding on my manners (though his weren't any better); but instead, he glanced to both sides of him as if searching for something. Then, not finding what he was looking for, he proceeded forward.
I hadn't noticed at first, but a red tint had colored the ground. When the man lifted his foot, the redness followed like fingers of fire before falling into the ground. The further the man walked, the larger the flames became, until they no longer vanished, flickering around his trousers like a bonfire.
I stood there, flabbergasted, doing a laudable imitation of a fish. A part of me refused to believe the sight – after all, if this man was set on fire, wouldn't he be screaming in pain? – while another part, the "experiencing is believing" part, asserted that I wasn't dreaming.
Before I could shout out a warning, the man suddenly erupted into a blazing inferno. Molten red, yellow, and orange engulfed him in sputtering wavers, weaving into his hair and dancing over his trench coat. Ironically, the man didn't even seem to notice that he was being roasted alive.
What happened next was like a dramatic scene played in slow motion: The man advanced nonchalantly. Something white gleamed at his left, and he stopped and turned his head. A slow dawning horror crossed his face, and though at first I didn't know why, I found out very soon. The white thing materialized from the darkness, taking the form of a bus. The interior was dark, not that it mattered, because it headed towards the man with unrelenting speed. The flames around him flared higher, attaining a red brilliance that swallowed him, and I had to shield my eyes to avoid getting blinded. A horrible flat sound, like dough dropped from the Eiffel Tower, followed. No screams. Not even a gasp.
I was afraid of opening my eyes. For some reason, I didn't think I'd be able to keep the Hawaiian pizza down if I saw a bloody pile of human mush seven feet in front of me.
Even with my heart pounding in my ears, I heard the voice of a woman.
"Welcome to News Central. In Florida, Tom Brook, his wife, and their eleven-year-old son have mysteriously disappeared. According to state police, the Books were returning from a friend's house that was thirty miles away from the Brook residency in Miami. They never made it home – "
I held my breath, opened my eyes.
The carnage wasn't there. I was tremendously relieved, but equally freaked. Pulverized dead people didn't just clean themselves up and leave.
" – seven miles from their friend's house, the police found their car empty, with the headlights on and the doors open. Mrs. Brooke's purse was found in the back seat, containing a considerate amount of money. The family's footprints, discovered in the meadow by the road, stopped abruptly after a few dozen steps – "
The faint smell of earth wafted up my nose, mixed with a tinge of charred wood.
" – this case is startlingly similar to the Swiss mountaineers' mysterious disappearance eleven years ago – "
The voice ended abruptly, as if someone had pressed the "stop" button on a tape player.
Despite my skepticism in ghosts, I must've believed the phantom reporter on a subconscious level, because my heart skipped a beat when a family emerged from the shadows: a man, a woman, and a boy that looked to be about eleven. I knew without doubt that they were the missing Brooks.
The family strolled down the street leisurely, completely obvious to the announcement of their bizarre disappearance. Their attire caught my attention – ducktail haircuts and collared checkered shirts for the father and son; a floral swing skirt for the mother. They were dressed like the fifties.
A little behind in fashion? I thought. Somehow, I doubted it.
My feet seemed to have a mind of their own. Without quite understanding why (which seemed to be frequently occurring now), I hurried after the family. The red nebulous swirls in the sky shed the Brooks in dark red light, melting over them like blood.
I seriously needed to stop watching horror movies.
I quickened my steps. As I approached them, I saw the side of the man's face: His mouth was moving; most likely talking to his wife. Bits of muffled conservation flowed my way.
"How long…we've been here?"
The woman responded. The fear in her voice was as stark as a ketchup stain on a white t-shirt, weighed down by long exhaustion. "I don't know, dear. Days, months, years. I doubt time matters in this place."
Mr. Brooks spoke again. "Do you think they'll look for us?"
"Maybe." A pause. Then softly, "But I don't believe they'll ever succeed."
"You're right. We're probably proclaimed dead by now."
I had the sudden urge to run up to them, demand an explanation, and bombard them with questions that'd no doubt come out as frantic gibberish. Instead, I forced myself to stay quiet and silently reap as much information as I could.
Mrs. Brooks picked up the conversation. A sad longing crept into her voice. "I wonder what year it is. Do you think it's still 1952?"
I nearly stopped in mid-step, positive that I'd misheard. I mean, though the Brooks clearly had an anarchic fashion sense, I didn't think they were actually from the fifties era. I gritted my teeth to prevent any strange noise I might accidentally produce. A staggering realization hit me at that moment; the baffling conversation of the mountaineers and the later report on their disappearance fell into place. " – this case is startlingly similar to the Swiss mountaineers' mysterious disappearance eleven years ago..." I had been eavesdropping on a bunch of people from 1941.
For a moment, I simply stared at the ground, watching the black mist swirl around my feet, feeling numb and cold and hollow. My mind had frozen to the point where I missed a blatant illogicality: If the mountaineers were Swiss, then how could I have understood them? (Later, I realized the mountaineers could've been English-speaking foreigners touring Swiss, or the strange dimension I fell into translated all languages for its force visitors. Strange, perhaps, but anything seemed possible now.)
Where my brain had not shut down, I employed the most common explanation for freaky situations: This is all a dream. A horrible nightmare I'll wake up from very soon.
An afterthought was: I'm never watching anything above PG-13 again.
My mom used to tell me every time I wanted to take a break from schoolwork, "Too much T.V. will mess up your brain one day."
I frowned. Why was I thinking about my mom again? Especially now?
"All a dream," I whispered. I closed my eyes, inhaled deeply several times, and opened them again. The mist was still there, cloaking over my shoes and roiling like a sentient being.
That was when I started panicking. Then again, most people would, particularly if they realized they were somehow thrown into a messed up world where strangers burst into flames, pulped carcasses vanished without a trace, and missing families from fifty years ago reappeared.
My head nearly snapped up in my frantic search for another living being. The last thing I wanted was to be alone in wherever the heck this place was. But when I glanced ahead, the Brooks were gone. Fragments of their conversation drifted into my ears, yet I couldn't detect the sound of retreating footsteps.
"…other people here?"
"…think place… where missing…go…"
Their voices faded, and I had to strain to hear them. "…da…angle…."
I frowned, despite the cold fear coursing through my veins. The angle? No. Even though I failed my high school English classes, I was able to associate the broken words to something more logical. What place epitomized mysterious disappearances?
"The Bermuda Triangle," I heard myself whisper. Facts that had been buried for years started shaking their cobwebs off, and I slowly remembered pieces of a report I'd done long ago. The topic had been on the possibility of other dimensions.
"But the Bermuda Triangle isn't the only place to acquire a reputation for human disappearances. There's the Devil's Triangle in Japan, and Mr. Parnassus and Mt. Olympus in Greece. " I had no idea why I was reciting the old facts to myself. Perhaps I was too scared stiff to think coherently, and voiced the first thing that came to mind. "Also, places like Puerto Pico's El Yunque and New Hampshire's Mt. Glastenbury contain a number of unsolved cases, though their reputation isn't as renowned as the Bermuda…"
A blow horn bellowed in the distance. I glanced up, but wasn't too surprised to find nothing. The mellifluous notes of a violin streamed through the air, accompanied by occasional laughter and the clinking of wine glasses. Another blow sounded, and the music leapt into an arpeggio.
Another report came from somewhere in the dark, this time the voice belong to a man's. "On December 5, 1872, the British brigantine, the DeGratia, discovered an abandoned ship identified as the Mary Celeste. Based on the records found, the Mary Celeste was to set sail from New York to Genoa, Italy, on November 5. She never completed her trip. Everyone aboard had vanished – the captain, his family, and his 14-men crew. No evidence of violence or damage was found on the Mary Celeste; the storage room contained ample supplies to last the voyage."
As if on cue, the mist parted to reveal the protruding hull of a ship. My throat turned dry when I saw the bold painted letters on the wooden surface. The Mary Celeste. Another horn cried. The violin stopped abruptly upon reaching the climax, as if the strings had snapped. The laughter died. Before my eyes, the ship literally sank into the ground, the way a rock would in a quagmire.
Graveyard silence shrieked as the last smudge of brown disappeared. The Mary was no more.