A cat in its purest form cannot be bothered with questions of right and wrong. A cat tainted by love is bothered with nothing else. Am I doing the right thing? Did I think the wrong thing?
Having expunged Jacob Davids’ life onto the ground, the memories and feelings I had witnessed and felt thankfully started to fade. (He had threaded his victims’ hair through the tiny holes in the porcelain dolls scalps, painstakingly making them more “real.”) But I knew, even when they were gone, I would be haunted by what I witnessed. I saw through the eyes of a monster, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I was any better.
I took countless lives throughout the years to prolong my own. Does it matter that most of them were close to death? Davids killed for the pleasure, but didn’t my desire to live longer equate to not wanting to give up the pleasure of life? Then I met M. and justified what I was doing for her sake. I wasn’t even taking just those close to death anymore. What about Stone? Or moving to the chronic ward. I was killing in her name, so, now, she seemed stained—not by any fault of her own but by my own actions.
These are not the thoughts of someone who has never loved.
What choice did I have? If I stopped taking lives, M. would surely die within the year. If I continued, was I damning her more by being a part of something she had never agreed to?
I don’t know how long I sat behind the building and pondered the paradox of right and wrong, but the sky started to darken. I knew if I didn’t want to spend the night outside, I needed to make my way back in. I thought maybe I should start heading for the woods to leave this trouble behind. But it was a glancing thought at best. I knew, no matter what, I would not be able to leave M. I had heard love is blind; really, it just blinds judgment.
It appeared I worried at least one of the staff (was it Jodie or Janice?) because she was waiting by the door to let me in. I sucked up my distaste for human contact and brushed up against her leg to show my gratitude. Before she could respond with any further unwanted acts of affection, I darted off into the home.
The change of environment did nothing to ease my thoughts. I kept thinking of Davids as a monster. As his memories faded, I was left with my own. Memories of taking life replaced with the same. If he was a monster, what was I?
I was so focused on my dilemma that I didn’t notice the man in the nice suit passing me in the hallway. It wasn’t until he spoke that I froze. I mean that literally: The words he spoke chilled my blood.
“There’s something in you, isn’t there, buddy?”
I turned and looked at the man. It occurred to me it was way past visiting hours. I was certain this man was not a doctor—not one I had seen around, at any rate.
“I am right; I can see it in your eyes.”
Although there was no physical resemblance, I couldn’t help but think of the shabby man in the London alleyway so many years ago.
“I know its cliché,” he continued, “but, really, what isn’t anymore? You stick around long enough, everything becomes cliché—am I right? But it’s true; you can always tell by the eyes: window to the soul, or whatever. They always hold a bit of what they’ve seen. I can tell by looking at yours that you’ve seen so much.”
I tensed and started to turn when he said, “I’m not going to hurt you; hell, I won’t even touch you. I can see you don’t like that much. I just wanted to tell you how much I admire what you do. Now, I’m sure you’ve got some work to do. It’s tough, isn’t buddy? Doing the work of the gods.” With that he turned and started away but not without one further comment. Though mostly to himself, it was meant for me to hear.
“I should know,” he chuckled.
The encounter left me more troubled than before. His words were familiar yet confusing at the same time. It’s not often a person talks to me, and when they do their vocabulary rarely exceeds, “What a pretty boy, yes you are!” There isn’t talk of “the work of the gods.” Only the offering of treats.
I knew I should keep my distance from M., but I felt nothing else was going to be able to calm me after everything that happened. I finally got to my feet and headed away from where the man in the suit had gone. I wanted nothing more than to curl up under M.’s bed and forget the past couple of hours. I needed to escape—escape the memories of Jacob Davids. Escape the words of the man in the suit. Most importantly, I needed to escape my own thoughts. They were a dark jumble that I couldn’t straighten out. The only comfort I had was the fact that nothing else could surprise me.
And then a soft call from inside the room I was passing shattered that comfort.
I looked up at the door and saw number “36A.” I couldn’t recall having ever been in the room before, but someone inside did call out.
Had it been my imagination?
The door was open, but the events of the day had me on edge. I wanted to turn and run, but nothing in the voice offered a hint of malice or ill will. More than likely, it was some resident calling out for a bit of company. Yet her tone suggested otherwise—almost as if she hadn’t seen me but anticipated my arrival. I decided to at least peer into the room, if not enter altogether. I would evaluate the threat level. If there was any threat from the resident, it wasn’t apparent to me. She looked over and said.
“Hello, Xen! I was wondering when you would get around to me.”
Anthony David Lawson is the author of “Novel,” as well as a local playwright, director and actor. He will write a piece of prose presented in parts every other week in encore throughout 2015, entitled “The Nine Lives of Xen.