Sunday, August 11, 2013

Last Night

Genre: Horror/Mystery


Daniel Skye

          The sound of Preston Kelly’s lawn mower wakes me every morning at six o’clock sharp. I swear that guy must mow his lawn two or three times a day. At this point, Preston will take any excuse to distance himself from that ball-busting wife of his. He even helped organize the neighborhood watch just to get more time away from her.
The watch basically consists of Preston and three other disgruntled spouses who pound beers as they patrol the neighborhood after dark. The watch was formed amidst the slew of recent break-ins and missing person’s reports, so I can’t really complain. My only gripe is with the empty beer cans I find tossed over my fence from time to time. 

          Like clockwork, Kelly’s mower revs up at six A.M. and shakes me from my slumber. I awake with an awful migraine that’s only intensified by the racket of Kelly’s lawn mower.
I roll over and realize I’m not in my bed, but rather sprawled out on the floor of my hot, windowless guestroom. The stale taste of alcohol in the back of my throat could explain this. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear I was hung over. But as a professional alcoholic, I know a hangover when I feel one. And as an alcoholic, I’m practically immune to hangovers.
          No, this is something entirely different. I can’t recall anything from last night, the likely result of another sudden blackout.
          The blackouts started when I was thirteen. I’d just nod off and wake up in strange places. Walk home caked in dirt or mud, or sand if I woke up on the beach. It got so bad that my parents had to issue a curfew and lock my bedroom door from the outside when I went to sleep. The blackouts stopped when I graduated high school, and started up again my second year of college.
          Then I met Evelyn and things improved. The blackouts ceased and my life was normal again. Nine years passed and not a single blackout. The only loss of consciousness I experienced was alcohol induced. I was finally past this bizarre spell… so I believed.
          I’ve experienced ten blackouts in the last several months. I’ve been to three doctors and all tests have yielded negative or inconclusive results. It’s not cancer or a brain tumor. My blood pressure isn’t too high or too low. It’s not heart-related. I’m not suffering from seizures. It’s not even the massive amounts of alcohol I consume on a regular basis. It’s just another medical mystery. The only downfall is the lapses in memory. Some mornings I wake up and can’t even remember my own name.
          Evelyn has grown frustrated with me recently. It’s not the drinking that seems to trouble her, though I know she could live without it. It’s the blackouts.
I don’t know why my personal condition causes her duress, but she hates having to explain things to me repeatedly. I’ll wake up and she’ll have to recap the whole night for me because I can’t recall a thing. Every so often I get this odd feeling that she’s being untruthful with me. That she’s holding back information with her stories.
          I pick myself off the floor and mash my bloodshot eyes with my knuckles as I stumble to the bathroom. The bathroom tiles are clear, but sticky with some kind of invisible residue. I shrug it off and snatch two aspirin from the medicine cabinet. I swallow them dry and examine my face in the mirror.
          The egg-shaped lump that has formed on the side of my head answers the questions regarding my migraine. But I have no memory of falling or being hit.
          Alcohol on my breath. Scratches on my cheek. Specks of dried blood on my shirt collar. Signs of a bad night I have no recollection of. Was I at a bar? Did I get into a fight? Think, George. Try to remember this time.
          Downstairs in the kitchen, I find a Dear John note from Evelyn. I should be angry or disappointed, but I’m not. I should have seen it coming instead. Evelyn was an angel to endure me for as long as she did.
          Nine years is a deep commitment, but even the best fighters have to throw in the towel when it becomes too much to bear. The drinking. The lack of steady employment. The blackouts. Evelyn had finally thrown in the towel. After nine years, she was calling it quits.
          We've been married longer than most couples last nowadays. When you stop to think about it nine years with anyone is an accomplishment. I think a lot about how Evelyn looked the first time I met her. Her curly blonde locks. Her radiant smile. Her bronzed skin that seemed to be glowing under her turquoise bridesmaid dress. She always smiled, even when it was someone else’s big day and not her own. She knew her time would come eventually. And it did when she met me.
          But after nine rocky years that smile has morphed into a scowl. Even in the words of her letter I can feel her contempt for me. My condition has cost me jobs, friends, and now, my wife.
          Flies buzz around the fruit bowl that Evelyn has made the centerpiece of the Formica kitchen table. Not fruit flies either; plain old ordinary house flies. I’ve been seeing a lot of them lately. At least I can recall that.
          I toss Evelyn’s note in the trash, swat a few flies away with yesterday’s newspaper and open a window to get some air. The whole downstairs reeks of bleach or ammonia or some chemical odor. Why bother to clean if you were planning to bail on me? Women; I’ll never get them.
          The aspirin isn’t helping. I rub my temples and my fingers accidently graze the tender bump on my head. Then I search under the kitchen sink until I find the bottle of scotch I hid from Evelyn.
I know I shouldn’t drink this early, but it’s the only solution I can think numb the pain. I pour a glass, tilt it back, and drink it straight. I’m tempted to slam another, but I tuck the bottle back under the sink and rub my sore temples again. I started attending AA meetings awhile back for Evelyn’s sake. I missed one meeting and never went again. I plunged off the wagon and never hopped back on. I don’t know if that says my love for alcohol is stronger than my love for Evelyn, but I’m certain she sees it that way.
          My head still throbs as I ascend the staircase. In the bedroom, I discover two of Evelyn’s suitcases. Both cases are so stuffed they look ready to burst, not a chance that another piece of clothing would fit. If she finally left, why didn’t she take her stuff?
          The dry blood. The suitcases. The lump on my head. Something ugly occurred here last night. Showdown at the Hartman residence perhaps? Did I hurt Evelyn? No, I would never lay a hand on her. If I did, I’d be in jail right now. Evelyn may put up with a lot of shit, but she’d never put up some brute wailing on her.
          Returning to the kitchen, I check the answering machine. No new messages. I pick up the receiver, dial Evelyn’s cell number. It goes straight to voicemail. I hang up and consider calling the police. With some help from the booze, the throbbing pain from the lump on my head has departed. But that doesn’t change the fact that I still have alcohol on my breath, and I look like I’ve been on the wrong end of an LAPD beat down. Perhaps phoning the cops is not the wisest decision.
          I don’t even know what really happened to Evelyn. Maybe she wrote the note, packed her stuff, had second thoughts, and decided to take off for a bit. Think things over. Her purse, phone, and car keys are all absent from the house. She could be with family, friends. She could be out of state for all I know.
I decide to phone Doug, Evelyn’s brother. Doug was a football buddy of mine from my college days. He introduced the two of us at a mutual friend’s wedding. Two years later, he was best man at our wedding.
          Doug picks up after two rings and greets me with a jovial, “Hey, George!”
“Good morning, Doug. This might sound like a strange question, but have you seen Evelyn?”
After a delayed response, he simply replies, “No.”
“I haven’t seen her since last night, I think. I might have had another blackout.”
“I thought you had those under control.”
“Apparently not.”
“I haven’t heard from her,” Doug assures me. “If I see her or hear from her, I’ll let you know.”
“Thanks, Doug. I appreciate it.”
The door slams as the receiver clicks and Evelyn peeks her head into the kitchen. She glares at me disapprovingly. “Come back to gather your stuff?” I ask.
“I cleaned up the mess in the bathroom,” Evelyn says, almost seething. “Who was it this time? You know what, don’t even tell me. I don’t want to know the sick details. And don’t give me any of that crap about not remembering. I’m tired of the blackouts and the lies and bullshit excuses.”
“What in God’s name are you saying? Are you implying that I’m having some sort of an affair?”
“You’re so clueless,” she says, swatting away the flies that buzz around her face. “Wonder where all these flies are coming from? Check the crawlspace, George. You’ll know the truth then.”
She retrieves her luggage and leaves in a flash. Not even a stick of lipstick or a pair of earrings remains. You’d never even know Evelyn Hartman existed.
I head for the utility closet and yank the wood panel from the crawlspace. A swarm of flies come buzzing out and the stench that emanates makes me gag like a punch to the throat. I feel sick, dizzy. White spots of light obscure my vision, preventing me from seeing beyond the square frame of the crawlspace. My eyelids flutter, the air grows thin. I think I’m blacking…
Oh, George. Sweet, gentle George. That’s it. Stay in the dark. Don’t bother checking the crawlspace. It will be cleared out by this evening. Any minute now, the cops will be towing a car out of the river. The local news will report another missing girl. By tomorrow, it will be two missing girls. I’m sorry but Evelyn has become a liability. As your better half, I can’t allow her to send you to prison, George. I must deal with her so I can carry on my work. Don’t fret, you won’t remember a thing. It’ll be just like the old days.

No comments:

Post a Comment