Archive for the ‘The Window’ Category

Chapter 2: Barry

May 19, 2010

It was now Monday and Barry’s sneezing persisted throughout the previous night and into early morning. The poor fella barely got a wink of sound sleep, and neither did I for that matter. His situation seemed to have gone from bad to worse as a dry, stuttering cough now accompanied his older symptoms. I had placed a fan facing outward in front of the open window in hopes of drawing out any searching particles, yet to my anger (rather than surprise), the window appeared to have gently slid down and silently closed itself during one of my rare moments of sleep. Of course it had. When I noticed this around 4 am, I held my tongue from revealing my annoyance and opened the window once again. It was harder to open this time, but it eventually gave way and I propped it open using the fan itself. The fan gave me a slight stinging shock, but I continued to ignore these prods and settled back for an uncomfortable couple hours of truncated sleep. When a blast of spit carried on a hot wind peppered my face, I awoke to Barry’s leathery nose roughly 2-3 inches from my face. It was time to get Barry to the doc.

I have known Barry for 12 years now and he is the best friend I have. I do not know what happened in the first six months of his life, but this guy hates the vet. Once there, it is incredible the fury and strength he throws forth, not too mention whatever fluids or solids are contained in his body at the time. I always assumed that Barry either had a real nasty experience at the vet that scarred him like a cattle brand, or he simply thumbs his nose at science and thinks that all doctors are hacks. I could see both, as Barry can hold a grudge if you piss him off bad enough and he is also one of the cockiest dudes I have ever known – he thinks doctors and hospitals are for the weak. Unlucky for him, I snuck up on him and caged him. I need him at full strength if we are going to do what we said.

Dawn, the lady who brought us together, and nearly tore us apart, picked him up at an animal shelter out in Salem, Massachusetts when he was just a few months old. I always got a kick out of the fact that he is a black cat from Witchtown with some serious fire. I sometimes wonder who this guy really is and what other things he has seen. There are few people who knew Barry in his early days, and fewer that I have spoken to, but one guy who did know him hinted at the possibility that Barry’s mother died during kitten birth. According to the shelter records, her litter only yielded two kittens and no information was given as to the whereabouts of the sibling or mother, only that Barry was the second born. This theory could make sense. Perhaps Barry harbors an inner anger that his birth caused his mother’s death or he blames the doctors present for letting her die. I have never let Barry know that I have heard such a story, and don’t know if the right time will ever present itself.

I went back to the same shelter a few years later looking for some more pieces to Barry’s puzzle, when my eye was snared by a mysterious black kitten. She was slight and beautiful with luminous yellow eyes. Her coat had a slick sheen and her head cocked slightly to the right. I was entranced. Her name was Lois and I immediately forgot why I had come back to Salem. She gently cooed as I filled out the paper work in a daze. We were ten miles from the city on that cold, clear December night when I realized that I had just taken in another cat.

Barry was pissed. I never knew if he was mad because he was now not the only cat in the apartment or if it was because I did not get his say in the matter. He has never been clear with me about his true feelings towards Lois, but despite all his macho posturing, he too fell in love with her. Lois worshipped Barry and he treated her like dirt. I do not know if his cold confidence made her jelly in his paws, but despite his moodiness and bursts of anger, she always loved him unconditionally. I can’t say what went on when it was just the two of them, but pretty soon after her arrival they were oftentimes entangled in a warm knot of black fur. Barry hates when I bring this up, but it is true, the cat is capable of tenderness and love.

As I suspected, Barry was a complete terror at the Hospital. He was rage incarnate, spitting and howling. They put us in the same room where they had put Lois in what ended up being her final visit to the hospital. Her final visit anywhere really, at least for here on Earth. I did not like being in that room and knowing she was gone. Flashes of Lois dragging her poisoned body along the floor blinded me. Barry could sense it. But this hospital was not in Maverick, our accursed city, and it seemed far enough away to remain unmolested by the creeping tendrils beneath the soil – for a little while, at least.

The doctor was a very patient woman. She appeared to be about my age, perhaps a bit older, with dark, oily hair pulled taught, streaked with gray and flecked with dandruff. She had a young, blond-haired assistant with her who looked fresh and happy. They both wore full-length white frocks, reminiscent of Army nurses from World War I or the Flu Epidemic of 1918. Their movements were smooth and slow, as though they were on silent wheels with well-greased bearings. The fluorescent lights caused a gauzy blur that surrounded and softened their bodies. They handled Barry with respect and liberal amounts of caution. They smiled honestly and sadly. The hint of melancholy did not seem a result of Barry’s condition, but rather a distant pain in their eyes, as though they were remembering something from ages past. In spite of Barry’s twisting and writhing, gnashing teeth intending to kill, they continued to smile and examine him thoroughly.

The doctor’s eyes were a very clear, wet, slate blue and she held them directly on mine as she told me her recommendations. Her voice was sweet and strong and her locution was direct and clinical – it seemed to juxtapose the depth and history in her eyes. If she had any knowledge of our mission or the events of the past that have brought us here, she made no mention, save that strangeness in her eyes. She prescribed a mild antihistamine (which I knew he would never take) and suggested that I steam Barry twice a day. I liked telling people that I had to steam Barry, which meant keeping him enclosed in the bathroom while the shower runs hot to help him get some moisture into his sinuses. Barry didn’t think it was very funny, but there was very little that Barry thought was funny, especially these days.

While we waited in the lobby for his prescription to be filled, Lois’ doctor saw me. She was such a sweet woman. She was very young for her incredible breadth of knowledge. She was strong when she had to be and generally very caring and soft when needed. I feared that Lois’ case was going to break her, but she remained vigilant throughout every descending step her condition took. She examined every possibility and potential cure and in the end she stayed with me while I cried, holding Lois’ stiff body in my lifeless arms. Her name was Dr. Helmbold, and when the situation felt right, she let me call her Elizabeth.

Elizabeth walked around the bench where we sat and caught me by surprise as she approached from behind my right shoulder. She was tender, as always, and asked how I was doing. I first told her that I did not want to alarm her when I brought Barry in, and having heard my stories about Barry’s behavior, I did not want to add any further stress onto this gentle woman with a face-to-face encounter. She was tall, over six feet, with soft, peach colored hair. She said that she heard that I was here and was anxious to see how I was doing and if everything was alright. I lied and told her that I was doing ok. I cared for her. She had done such a wonderful job, despite losing Lois, and she had for all intents and purposes seen me naked. She saw me in my most vulnerable and raw and that put her in a very small company.

I explained Barry’s symptoms and diagnosis, although she had already spoken with the other doctor. She got on her knees to peer into Barry’s carrier, which was placed on the floor. I thought that she may have been eager to meet Barry, for he was so close to me and she, in a way, was so close to me. She peered in and said a few soft introductory words and Barry just stared back, nervously, from the back of his cage. He did not know how hard this woman had worked, how much compassion she had showed me. He knew enough not to hiss or growl, but he remained seated and cautiously observant. Dr. Helmbold, appeared to do the same. She held her silent, searching gaze for what felt like a few seconds too many, and then rose. She assured me again that I could call her for any emergency and was glad to see me. I felt like I should shake her hand, a firm, business-like handshake. I also felt like I should hug her, like friends who haven’t seen each other in years hug one another at a funeral for a mutual friend. And I felt like I wanted to cry in her lap, as I had done once before. In the end, I remained seated and just looked into her eyes and thanked her again as I tried not to cry.

As Dr. Helmbold disappeared behind the swinging doors that led to the lab, Barry’s name was called and I settled up with the front desk. Barry rode shotgun as I told him we were on our way back to Maverick. He did not know that we were going to make one more stop. It had always been my plan, and best now that I had him in the car, that we were going to see the Shaman. The Shaman lived only two blocks from us, up a slow hill and next to the elementary school. He operated a bodega of sorts in a small stretch of four or five shops and lived in a room in the back. I don’t know how he made his rent and why he rarely bothered to have much filling out his dusty, stained shelves, but he knew me and he knew I was coming, even though I had not told him.

Chapter 1: The Window

April 25, 2010

My window is a murderer and is trying to kill again. The window targets cats and is attempting another slow, painful ending. Set in a moderately sized, rectangular, ivory painted room, the window is deep enough to lure its prey to the nice napping station it provides with its sills. The window box is large enough to possess two functioning windows joined side by side, and an inner ledge long and deep enough for a human to sit across comfortably with legs only slightly bent. But I’m not falling for that trap.

The daily view is that of a tangle of streets, apartment buildings, occupied and abandoned, a few confused, malnourished trees, and many, many people exercising various forms of inhumanity upon one another. The sounds are a constant din of sirens, horns, screams, smashed glass, bent metal, revved engines, trash trucks, arguments, parties, gunshots, and the occasional lost seagull. It is no wonder that the window’s light-filled days have faded along with its youth and it has slowly fallen from sadness to dismay to disgust, and now completed its decent into pure evil and hatred.

I have always been wary of this window. When I first moved in about a year ago, a few bubbling boils appeared at the top of the outset box. The stains surrounding the grotesque bulges looked like a color diagram illustrating various types of dried mustards. I knew this to be water damage and I knew that this would eventually be a big deal. Yet, the window had a power and used its inescapable, dark charm to draw my bed close for its light and breezes.

Determined to make my new lodgings as comfortable as possible for my two cats, I padded many soft, woolen blankets along the sill for their napping comfort and viewing entertainment, all the while nervously watching the brooding malice above. My feline companions took to their new, large sunny daybed with great enthusiasm, while the window slowly seethed and waited.

As the summer months progressed, the cracks and boils and stains slowly spread and the paint began to peel in large, thick sheets, curling and twisting. Calls to the landlord, Grayson, a man I had never actually seen, went unreturned and eventually the window slowly mounted its first attack by silently dropping a few, lead-filled paint chips onto and around the cat bed. With the focused anger of a starved spider, the window continued to lower its poisonous flakes like carefully laid strands of web. The sweet morsels, dusted about the bed, would eventually be too much for the curiosity of the smaller of the two, Lois, and unnoticed by me, she began to eat.

While summer burned itself out into fall, the corrupting effects began to take hold of the innocent cat and the window’s evil amusement ever grew as a huge lip of soiled paint curled and hissed from its roof. As the lead began to dig its claws into Lois, the window could no longer contain its blackened joy and began to foam and drool warm, rusty liquid onto the blankets.

Lois’ demise was quick and painful. Throughout the autumn all senses began to fail her, betray her, and eventually wither altogether. With browning leaves and growing frosts, she lost her sight, her balance, her appetite and eventually her legs. It was a gruesome, excruciating experience to behold, and when she eventually had to be put down out of mercy, the window erupted in the throws of its own ecstasy and fuming bile poured forth upon the bed, forever staining the blankets.

The following months of grieving were met with a constant shower of triumph from the window box’s ceiling. The paint was completely devoured and the exposed rusted steel and cold brick gave a glance into the twisted soul of the window. The sill was now only a place of drenched, stained towels, buckets and murder. I began to withhold my rent and leave threatening messages until the landlord had no choice but to try and seal up this evil. I had little hope that he would effectively snuff out this horror, for he had been a knowing accomplice to the murder, but it was the least I could do for some small sense of justice for Lois.

The fixing of the roof and the resealing of the window began in early spring and was a slow, uncomfortable process. No notice was ever given as to when these men would be coming and going, often times leaving exposed work and filthy rags for weeks before returning. I realized that I was up against not only an evil spirit, but also its minions. I began to wonder if the window did not in fact turn to evil from its surroundings, but rather always was evil and sat in this unassuming chamber watching over its ruinous realm. The innocence of my cats and me were welcomed in as sport and prey, where the cats, unfortunately, were the mice.

The window was all but finished a few days ago, and despite a few cosmetic oversights, Barry (my remaining cat) and I were happy to try and put this waking nightmare behind us. New blankets were assembled and laid upon the base of the window, Lois’ ashes were silently placed in an urn by the bed, and we tried to begin the desperately slow healing process. Spring was now in full display, and although we were heavy of heart that Lois will never share another spring with us, there was a feeling of relief that we had seemingly made it to the other side. And then a man came back on Thursday to finish the window.

I stayed in my room while the seemingly shrunken man put the final touches on the window. He had short, dark hair, a wide mouth, and one of those faces where you could not tell if he was very old and looked young or very young and looked old. He worked in silence while I typed away, not paying much attention to the scraping, sanding and painting. Before I could protest, I saw my fingers begin to leave traces of smoke along the keyboard and my entire room was covered in a thick, chalky dust and my eyes burned. With no warning and with windows closed, the man, with no mask, power-sanded the excess mud from the drywall and blanketed the room with an irrevocable mess. By the time I expressed my frustration at his methods, he was done sanding and was getting ready to paint. His face stretched a reluctant, awkward, wide smile and muttered a distant, diminutive, “Sorry,” in an unidentifiable accent. He quickly painted the work areas, informed it would be dry in fifteen minutes and speedily exited.

Annoyed and perplexed as to what to do with this layer of irritant consuming my room, I put the curtain rod back up, stretching and tearing the new paint, and I thought I heard a hiss. I set up a series of fans in my room and spent the rest of the day elsewhere. When it came time for sleep, I attempted to clean my bed and hoped that in the morning all of the mist would have vanished and the final gasp of the window would be exhaled. But I did not wake up to a sigh, I woke up to a sneeze.

Barry began sneezing at 6:00 am on Friday morning and did not stop until around 11:30 am. For those who are unaccustomed to cats, a cat sneeze is a cute, precious little thing that is as infrequent as seeing a butterfly. When a cat sneezes, usually the result of getting into something dusty or sticking their face too deep into the water bowl, it is met with a strange enjoyment from seeing a recognizable human response in a species we so often hope for similarities with, but rarely find. Barry was now sneezing with the shared human reaction of a full-blown allergy attack.

The sneezes came in bunches of four to six with about a thirty-second pause in between bouts. He was confused and uncomfortable and his green eyes dilated and become swollen with tears. Each shock of sneezing was met with a futile licking of the nose and moistened paw to the eyes and bridge. Despite his struggles with anger and anxiety in his youth, Barry has always been a strong, healthy cat – the brick house of the three little pigs. Now the window, after months of victory and slow planning, had found another way into the blood stream of his next feline victim. I cleaned my room furiously, desperately trying to eradicate the insidious particles. The explosion of dust had found its way into unreachable places and broken itself down into millions of invisible, invasive irritants.

It is now Sunday morning and the same sneezing has persisted and begun its third day. My eyes burn as I type. I continue to beat blankets and couches, sweep, vacuum, wash, repeat, and nothing has eased the evil that continues to plague Barry, and I fear it is crawling ever deeper into his body and tightening its grasp. If I can get him through one more night, I will take Barry to the vet tomorrow but also follow that visit with one to a voodoo healer. I am little versed in the demonic possession of buildings or seemingly inanimate objects, but fear that the devilry in the window runs through the entire building down to its foundations and is linked with sinewy fibers to every structure in this heathen city.

I am angry, overwhelmed and tired. I vow to fight the window as long as I can, but I am ever lured by his inescapable seduction. I am surrounded by the evil of this city and I can feel its love and hate for me in every stolen car, crack-riddled prostitute and shattered night’s sleep. The true art of his malice and skill is revealed to me, as the sight of Lois’ ashes inspired him to exercise his craft and use just such a similar substance to infect poor Barry. His evil is terrible yet perfect and strives to sap my will of good, honor and vengeance.

One man verses a possessed city may seem too great an undertaking, but I believe that I am exactly who they feared would one day come. In the memory of Lois, I will heal Barry and we will take on this shadowed city and either restore it to its original light and promise or destroy it one brick at a time.