There’s one of those “paid advertisements” flashing on the T.V. screens and the lights are strobing in time to the latest re-mixed, pop-music knock-off. The lyrics are saying something about dancing alone while she danced with another. Deep. Real deep. A whole six inches. I start to leave when I see him. He glides towards me all pale and beautiful like a silver shadow of death. All calm like a hang glider in the eye of a hurricane. I see him slide to a stop at the bar and he acknowledges me with a smile as white as an Auschwitz operating theater. I can feel the panic rise in me like a drowning rat trying desperately to climb out of a filling rain sewer. And I watch my home-made death as he turns in for the kill, his slicked back hair like roach wings reflecting the bright neon ripping through the air.
I light another Camel and draw hard, knowing that it’ll be my last, and scratch my crotch checking the .38 revolver that I’ve taped to my leg under my black jeans. He’s coming closer, weaving in and out of the crowd like a king cobra ready to strike. I unzip my fly and rip out my weapon of choice. No one seems to notice as I draw a bead and snap off four shots. Then they see the lip-stick-red blood and the sun-streaked blond hair and hear my screams of pain and fury.
And I realize that it’s Diane who’s bleeding on the beer-soaked floor, that she’s already dead. And that he’s behind me wrapping around me like some kind of shadow cloak. The last thing I see as his fangs rip into my throat like a thousand needles is her face torn apart by my own clean shots, the wounds so fresh that they are still pumping blood.
And I woke up screaming. The nightmares were starting again. It meant that he was coming back for me. My own personal, home-grown demon was coming back to claim me. It was April 30. Walpurgisnacht. My birthday. Happy birthday.
It had all started a year before, on my birthday. I was alone, again, and had been drinking like a tourist at the “last chance” gas station at the edge of the desert. Well, it wasn’t long before I started getting vicious the way that drunks can get sometimes. The only difference was that I didn’t have anyone to take it out on. So I decided to call someone.
Now that may not sound so ominous at first, but let me explain. My fraternal grandmother was a German emigree. She left her country before charges could be brought against her in the matter of a death. The death of someone who had insulted her. The charges were of witchcraft. That was just before World War I. I used to talk with Grandma a lot. She taught me some rather unusual nursery rhymes, which she claimed were in German. They weren’t, nursery rhymes or German. She and I always knew that they were something more. We knew that in the proper setting with the proper conditions arranged by the rhyme-chanter they would call a being of the inner world. They would call a demon.
I rolled out of bed, sweat running off me like streams off a mountain, and fumbled with a Camel. Grandma would have hated to see me smoking. She could have helped me get rid of the thing which stalked me in my dreams. You notice how we never miss relatives until they’re dead ? My hands were shaking so badly that I could hardly get the butt into my mouth. And when I tried to light it I was shaking so bad all I could do was stare into the flame dancing on my lighter.
I am staring into the flame sitting on the black candle. My eyes feel like twin globes of slow burning gasoline. My back is a suspension bridge about to snap under the weight of traffic. My body screams in protest when I begin the chant again.
“Ash nag durag…” My voice walks down my throat like a barefoot child skipping on sandpaper. Using my peripheral vision, I see the chalk drawings which enclose me like a protective custody holding cell. And then, gradually my vision begins to blur and I’m seeing heat-wave distortions ripple the world around me. The change is beginning to take hold. My call is being answered.
“Ash nag durag…” I cut my hand with a simple knife and drip the blood into the candle before me. The flame turns and twists like a teen age girl dancing at her first unchaperoned boy-girl party. And it is beginning to take on a shape. There is a viscous popping and then the smell of burnt meat as the thing from the inner world forces its way into our reality.
I sit back, tears running from my eyes as if from a faucet, and take a look at the thing which has answered my call. It isn’t what I expect. He’s beautiful. Tall and smooth and pale like a marble Michelangelo statue of David. His hair is the color of freshly shined shoes. His eyes are the bright blue of sunlight on water. His muscles flow like mercury in high-school science lab as he reaches a hand out to me. He can tell I’m lonely and he wants to help. My eyes flick in the direction of his erection.
He is so achingly beautiful that I don’t realize I’m breaking the first rule. Never touch the called. If you touch the called he is free to do with you as he pleases. And you can’t send him back by chanting.
I had set down the now empty lighter wondering if it was some kind of metaphor for my life. I threw the unlighted Camel away from me. It bounced off a picture of Diane. Suddenly calm, I picked up the picture and stroked her hair. The grainy laminate didn’t do her justice. She had been so soft that I had always been afraid to hold her too tight, afraid that I might break her when we made love. You never miss someone so much as when they’re dead. I needed her there in the bed beside me. But it was too late, I had turned her face into ground chuck. The thought started me shaking again.
“This is bullshit,” I whispered through clenched teeth. “This bastard thing I called has taken everything I care about. I called him. I can send him away.” I put the snap shot back on the stand next to my bed, face down. She was gone and nothing could bring her back, but I could destroy the thing that took her from me. I showered and shaved. I pulled on a pair of jeans and an old sweat shirt which read,”Property of Vero Beach City Jail.”
I pulled open the drawer of my desk and looked at my dad’s old .38 caliber. I picked it up and felt its reassuring weight in my hand. I held it up and took aim. I focused in on a dagger hanging on the wall. It was the same knife that I used when I called him. I put the .38 away. It was a night for knives.
* * *
I stood in the center of a raised concrete landing in the basement. I had redrawn the rainbow mandala of chalk and stood at its center. The candle in front of me flickered sending my shadow dancing around the cold, damp room. It was time to begin a new kind of call. I hoped that he would answer.
“Azg nag turish..” I could feel the world ripple and sway as I said the words. A cold finger of fear tickled my belly. I started to shake with anticipation. I wanted to see him again. I almost broke into tears when I realized that I wanted him as much as I wanted Diane.
“Azg nag turish…” The candle guttered in a sudden breeze and when it flared to life again the room smelled of fresh-cooked meat. I heard breathing behind me, but I did not allow myself to turn around. The thing behind me sighed like a homesick schoolboy at camp for the first time. Then footsteps start to come around the edge of the chalk drawings. I closed my eyes.
“Just couldn’t say no anymore, could you ?” The voice was like silk being spun and molasses being poured on hot waffles. It was irresistible. I had to answer.
“No, Nathan. I couldn’t let you stay away. I had to call you back.” I opened my eyes. He was standing in front of me, smiling that same all-knowing grin. I felt a bad case of the shakes coming on.
“What do you want ? Why have you called me back ?” He said it in an innocent way like a five-year old asking why he couldn’t play with matches. His smile never changed, but his eyes grew hard as he said it.
“You know why, Nathan.”
“But I want to hear you say it !” he shrieked, spittle flying carelessly from his distorted mouth. “I want to hear you beg for me to come back !” His body quaked with uncharacteristic emotion and he stabbed at me with his finger as he spoke. “I want you to thank me for making you kill her.”
“Please, Nathan. I need you.” I managed to hold back the tears, but the shakes got worse. “I need you more than I ever needed her.” I knew that he could tell if I were lying. And I was telling the truth. Right at that moment I did need him. As much as I needed to breathe, I needed him to be there. “Please, Nathan. Come to me. It’ll be like it was the first time, I swear.” He started to take a step towards me. “I need you, Nathan. I need you more than life itself.”
“Now that’s more like it.” He glided toward me, his old self-confidant self in place again. “Aren’t you glad I made you kill that bitch ?” He was four steps away and he came closer. “How could you go to her after what we had ?” Three steps and inside the first circle of chalk. “What the hell did she give you that I couldn’t ?” Two steps and right in front of the black candle.
I took a step towards him, my left hand reaching up as if to caress his face, my right hand flicking back from where it had rested on my thigh. The dagger slid down the inside of my sleeve and into my hand in one fluid motion like a steel serpent. I grabbed Nathan by the back of the head and drove the knife into him two ribs below his left nipple. The look of hurt and betrayal on his face made me want to kiss him. For Diane’s sake, I twisted the knife deeper into his chest instead.
“She gave me love you inhuman bastard,” I whispered lovingly in his ear. He started to fade. His eyes dimmed like an old T.V. shutting down. And then he began to dissolve into smoke. The last thing to go was his face which silently mouthed the words,”I loved you.”
He was gone. I had sent him back. Back to the inner world. Even though I can never escape the things that I allowed him to make me do, he had finally gone. Even though I can’t break out of my own inner world, I had finally beaten him. I was alone. I had finally won.