Sunday, June 28, 2015

Part One to the 2007 Original Short-Story Compilation, "TRILOGY OF CONFRONTED PREJUDICE"



Terror & Karma


A Short Tale of Deadly Prejudice


We have learned to say that the good must be extended to all of society before it can be held secure by any one person. But we have not yet learned to add to that statement, that unless all people contribute to a good, we cannot even be sure that it is worth having.” — Jane Addams 



Part I — Premeditation 
 
Date: November 5, —— 

In the eyes of Detective Gavin Horace   
      The town of Smithee had always been uneventful and dull. Mr. Robertson had been the butcher for years, Sister Mary had always run the chapel, and the many townspeople had always attended church services every Sunday. Nothing ever changed, and the people of Smithee liked it so. So, when the strange, unwelcome Somana Siblings moved into the largest, most lavish house in town, the townspeople began to talk nosily amongst themselves.

Mysteriously, the five Somana Siblings were the antithesis to the townspeople in every way imaginable: the family comprised three elder sisters who were, in spite of their twenty-something ages, running the unorthodox household where their two teenaged brothers were being raised. The siblings were most strange, from their dark, satanic-like clothing and obscene makeup to the odd language they spoke only amongst themselves, which was less a language and more a venomous mix of unsettling snarls and hisses; spookiest of all, the Somanas had no trace of an accent when speaking to various townspeople, even leaving the impression that the whole family was exceedingly articulate.

Nonetheless, despite the Somana's alarming oddness, the ultimate issue was their being not at all well-mannered, not even when addressing one of the town's most prominent people, Sister Mary, who ran Smithee's beautiful chapel: accordingly, when the nun asked the eldest sister, Claire, where their parents were, she responded standoffishly, seemed very offended, and made a snide comment about being above "medieval" standards of dependence on a weaker generation.

Not shockingly, by nightfall of that very day, the Somana Siblings had lost any opportunity at jovial residence in Smithee, for the word of Sister Mary was always taken as true. Commenting on the Somana Siblings, she steadfast called them, “liberal, nasty, and a plague of shame to our town.” Those few still willing to give them a chance gave up the first Sunday of their arrival when the Somanas didn't attend church service, and to top it off, were found afterward outside their home in morbid clothing and makeup looking guiltless of their disrespect; it was evident to the townspeople, all whom were scrupulous Christian, that they meant to gloat their fearlessness of the Lord God — BLASPHEMY!! That was the final junction of "offense" for the townspeople who, put lightly, were much too abhorred by the Somana Siblings to ever speak to them again.

***

And so the next five weeks went on with the townspeople attempting to ignore the strange Somanas. But it was a fall day that drew immense focus on the forlorn family, a day which struck undying anxiety into the hearts of the many townspeople, all of whom had never encountered a day of shock in their totally normal lives...

It began when the eldest sister, called Claire, strolled into town in a long-sleeved, Victorian-style black dress that reached just above her knees. The dress looked most expensive and matched perfectly with her pallid skin and dark eyes, though it did not bring her any approval from the townspeople, who found disgust in the inappropriate length of the dress. Her long, raven-colored hair reached her waist and she walked in a pose that meant business. Her striking beauty only upset everyone in sight of her though, because ultimately her Godless appearance repulsed them; after all, her composure was obviously nonexistent of any normal twenty-four-year-old woman in Smithee. Given, to not one's surprise "subtle" obscene hand-gestures and nasty looks assailed Claire’s way from every direction constantly, altogether maintaining a predatory watch over the poor woman like she was an invader in severe need of banishing.

Claire Somana first went to the marketplace, collecting groceries normally in a surprisingly polite fashion. When a young, hopeful adolescent offered to assist her with her heavy paper bags of groceries, she refused kindly and rushed home. Reportedly, she was seen again, perhaps an hour or so later at the library on the other side of Smithee, in deep conversation with Henry Robinson, the town's favorite bartender. Looking as though completely charmed by the handsome, cordial young man, Somana received many glares, not surprisingly, from countless spectators.

Some of these revolted witnesses equally frowned upon Henry, too, whom they felt was foolishly befriending the abnormal, unwelcome woman. It truly awed them to see Henry behave this strangely, having always been a decent member of their community. But he paid no mind to the disapproving eyes casting judgment, astoundingly unaffected. Remarkable indeed, the day went on as disappointed "eagle eyes" witnessed Henry's uncharacteristic disregard of convention persist.

Moving on, within another hour they departed the library with books in medical science, looking cheerful and happy as ever. Next the two were seen in the pharmacy uptown retrieving assortments of herbal treatments and various forms of painkillers. Although Mr. Adams the pharmacist said nothing to them, by nightfall he assured all in church that Claire Somana was a calculating junkie, and that she was polluting the mind of poor Henry, who at only the young age of twenty-two was, unfortunately, "...vulnerable to the manipulative mind of the untamed woman."

You see, I knew they weren’t normal!” Sister Mary denounced first, gladdened to hear the town pharmacist validate her discomfort about the Somanas, whom she considered to be a very "misfitting" family for their ultra-pious community.

By God, how awful that woman is! She is but a dangerous, shameless sinner, I say! Those two brothers of hers can’t be older than fourteen or fifteen, and they’re being raised by a junkie — I shudder at the thought of how the other sisters are!” exclaimed another, Mrs. Rachel White.

I’ve only seen the middle sister once. I think her name is Evie, isn’t it? She came to the park with her brother, the blonde one, Jacob I think, and read while he played ball. She didn’t bother to greet or speak to anyone!” resented Mrs. James, whom herself had four boys of her own. “Those boys need a home — A proper one.”

Should we be so quick to judge, to make assumptions? Perhaps we are mistaken,” suggested Sarah Marie, Mrs. James’ only daughter. “They’ve not been in town two months yet!”

Sarah, we can tell a bad seed when we see one, now be quiet,” scolded Mrs. James, embarrassed.

Everyone seemed to unanimously agree, and as Pastor Mony began service, the townspeople’s minds were focused on the Somanas, who were of course absent once again from the house of God. On the bright side, the service tonight was lovelier than ever: Mony spoke of Abraham, of Jesus, of the soon-to-come End of Times; promisingly, Sister Mary left for a short time during the choir's performance to prepare the special prayer vigil for afterward, and promptly returned to distribute communion, which everyone participated in, as always. No one suspected tonight would be the start of indescribable horrors, so when Donny Wright came screaming, running down the aisle in reach of the altar, falling down to his knees, crying at the hems of Pastor Mony’s robes, most assumed it was a foolish, blasphemous hoax.

MURDER, MURDER! OUTSIDE ON THE CHURCH STEPS! Henry Robinson's dead! Henry’s dead! Blood everywhere!” he screeched in horror to all, mesmerized by terror.

It was too unbelievable, a bold and juvenile joke, every spectator immediately thought. Inconceivable, the abominable truth at first was entirely disbelieved, for every churchgoer present forced their vulnerable hearts to refute it. No one has ever committed murder in Smithee, not ever, they told themselves. A defensive uproar of denial was instantaneous, thus, as their fragile small minds rejected the very serious statement.

But Donny Wright’s terrified composure failed to discontinue. "MURDER! MURDER!! SO HELP ME GOD, HENRY WAS MURDERED! His body lies right there, covered in a pool of blood on the steps preceding the church! Witness it for yourselves, I swear it's true!” he bellowed again, now overwhelmingly tearful.

Panic started increasing throughout the pews, finally. After all, Donny was a law-abiding young man, adamantly involved in Church and loved by all. Such a most respectable young man was not capable of such an unthinkable joke, came a shuddery thought amidst their denial; yes— they felt fear all the sudden, as then again, would it not be totally unlike him to lie, especially about something as major as this? As all momentarily fell to the terrifying realization that this was likely no joke, some screamed madly under the fire of all-consuming fear and apprehension. But it was three good men, fathers and trusted fellows, who finally stood up and, doubtingly, beckoned all to wait while they went outside and determined if the alleged crime scene really existed. Amazingly, it was only a minute (despite that it felt like the longest moment of every attendee's life) and then they returned...

Except now their faces were fixated in horror.

The disconcerted look of these three shaken, unnerved men made it obvious that Henry Robinson’s life had truly been destroyed, and probably in an especially torturous manner, too. “Notify the authorities,” confirmed one of them in an emptied, haunted voice, likely the only one not paralyzed speechless. “Henry’s dead.”

***

And so I, Detective Gavin Horace, was called to the mysterious, disturbing case. At first, I as well was certain the murder had been a hoax, impossible by all means. Outside assistance had never been necessary in Smithee, and the idea of a murder seemed beyond implausible. But there had been no hoax, the tragedy had occurred, and therefore my utmost determination I would use to solve the mystery.

Henry's death had been especially painful, that was obvious upon sight. The crime scene was a mess: blood was splattered all over the young man’s body; he seemed to have bled to death from his chest and mouth profusely, and most sickeningly, was at one point castrated; no less sinister, the look on the victim's face revealed how nearly paralyzed by fear he was in his last moment of life. (Shortly afterward, modern tools of science easily proved that the man died slowly and painfully.) Now, given the murderer's extreme cruelty, it must've been the most ironic thing ever that his body was left on the church steps, right? No, believe it or not. Most intriguing and way more ironic were the words written in hard-pressed blood above the boy’s head on the consecutive step: ‘Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.’

Upon questioning the man who originally found Henry Robinson’s body, traumatized Donny Wright, his alibi was clear and concrete: he'd walked out of the church to set up the coffee and snack table for after the service, and nearly had a heart attack upon the sight. “So much blood,” the poor man recalled in a tortured voice. “So much blood...”

My necessary objectivity in my career never faltered, but this time I could barely suppress my own anxiety. The population in Smithee was short of 2,000, and yet in this small, tight community, someone had fooled them all; someone inside was a killer! To make matters worse, the motive was totally unclear. Henry had no enemies according to friends and family. He had, however, gone to University for two years in the city before deciding on an unexpected return three months prior to his murder. Immediately, my own instinct said (and hoped) this was an outside predator seeking vengeance against Henry, and yet the townspeople were almost hysterical about a possible suspect in town:

That Somana woman was with him all day!”

She plotted something!”

She’s evil!”

She probably drugged him!” accused Mr. Adams specifically. “She bought all sorts of pain killers at the pharmacy today.”

She is Satan’s demon incarnated, an evil spirit trying to destroy our pure devotion to our Lord in our town,” Sister Mary adjudicated of the outrageous matter. Her moral sensitives, intense pious feelings, were exacerbated toward the tragic situation for she was a most God-devoted nun; extremely distressed, Sister was desperate for an intervention with Lord God, for divine assistance, because the murder of a good Christian in their village was, according to her, "a maddening alert of Satan’s clutches." Hence, it didn’t matter that she had never been too close to Henry. In fact, the emotion was passionate as ever in the nun's final words to me: “Banish her, detective!!”

I knew well of the people of Smithee: extremely religious, strictly conservative, and quick to judge. I was not surprised that they so quickly concluded that one of the eccentric newcomers was responsible. Nonetheless, as the medical crew took Henry’s body away for the autopsy (to be conducted by expert medical examiners that would hopefully help in solving this investigation), I could only assure them I would find the killer.

***

An hour later I was at the Somana residence, hoping for a trail. The house was two stories high, surrounded by perfectly cut green grass. The house looked gloomy somehow; I couldn’t help but notice spiderwebs on the windows or the completely black paint which covered the house. It gave off an eerie, creepy sense. As I walked up the steps to the porch and watched the wind gently move their wooden swing, chills ran through my bones and I knocked loudly.

NowI understood the town’s immediate repression towards the Somanas.

After a dragged, unsettling silence, a thin girl of average stature and short dark hair opened the door, looking as though no guest was welcome at that time of the night, understandably. She was not mesmerizingly beautiful like her eldest sister (as I'd eventually learn): although she was youthful, barely an adult most likely, she looked awkward with her slanted eyes and hooked nose. Her short hair gave her a masculine vibe that did not compliment her appearance, nor did it assist her overly-thin frame. And needless to say, her abrasive "welcome" also hardly flattered her appearance. “Who are you?” she commanded immediately.

Detective Gavin Horace,” I said evenly, showing her my badge. “Pardon my visit at this time, but I’m here to question Claire Somana’s whereabouts tonight.”

The girl frowned, hawk-eyeing me suspiciously. Gulping, panic visibly slighted her demeanor as she responded. “She’s out now. What’s this about?”

Who are you in relation to Claire?” I asked sharply.

Medaysa Somana. I’m her youngest sister,” she answered calmly. Realizing the matter must be serious, her composure calmed. “If you need to talk, come inside.”

I thanked her and entered through the threshold. The house had a spectacular, mind-blowing interior: the immediate area, a living room of some sort, was dimly lit and completely decorated in gothic style, too predictably. There were large black couches made of leather that looked very comfortable, elegant lamps with ghostly depictions, Victorian-styled morbid paintings on the dark walls, and glass displays of war memorabilia. In the center of the room, in front of the couches, was a long, black table lit by thirteen candles. Surrounding the room prominently on either side was a wooden spiral staircase that overshadowed the double-doors on either side downstairs leading to other rooms.

It was hardly the layout of a friendly atmosphere.

But although this extreme eeriness was perhaps glaring, nonetheless Medayasa Somana casually invited me to sit down and make myself comfortable right away, so I attempted to take in the eccentric surroundings as though normal and sat on one of the couches.

Taking a seat on the couch opposite myself, Medaysa was first to speak. “Explain what’s going on,” she said firmly, but then in quite a grave and more scared voice she pleaded, “Please.”

Henry Robinson was murdered tonight and found at the church steps during service,” I answered in a clear, objective tone. Still, I admit to feeling a strike of pity for Medaysa as I watched her face sink palely. The poor girl couldn’t have been older than nineteen, really. Unsurprisingly I heard my voice soften slightly as I got to the sinister point of my presence. “Your sister was seen with him earlier this day.”

She didn’t kill anyone!” said Medaysa indignantly. “Henry’s an old friend, she’ll be devastated!” The young lady was very frail-looking,sicklypale now. She looked near tears and was starting to run her fingers through her hair unruly, shaking.

Please try to calm down, Medaysa. You don't want to make yourself sick...Now, I have to ask, where were you tonight, Medaysa?” I reluctantly asked out of necessity. I didn't really see anything implicative about her behavior, but still I carefully watched her body language in the brief seconds before she responded, looking for instantaneous clues.

Here,” she answered coldly. “My brothers and my older sister Evie can vouch. As for Claire, she’s gone to the University in the city. She'll be away for a couple of days.”

When did she leave?” I asked sharply and quickly.

Seven-thirty,” said Medaysa promptly. “Henry dropped her off here around seven and she packed a quick suitcase before leaving."

Why was she with Henry the entire day?” I asked authoritatively.

Like I said, they’re old friends,” snapped Medaysa, her tone rapidly heating. “Henry Robinson, just a carefree bartender you've probably heard …ha. He’s got a mind. Henry and Claire were both science majors at the University, and they hit it off right away. They were like partners in crime. After a while, I guess, the story goes that Henry didn’t like the ethics at the University, so he went independent and returned.”

The knowledge she offered me could eliminate Claire as a suspect — hypothetically. Ironically, see, on the other hand, the two's relationship now revealed only made the suspicions more reasonable, too. Thinking critically, I nodded understandingly. “How old are you?” I asked harmlessly, curious of the custodial situation.

Nineteen. Evie is twenty-one, Claire is twenty-four. Since she's the oldest, Claire is the one who actually has legal custody over Kyle and Jacob, our younger brothers,” Medaysa informed me.

I’ll need to speak to your eldest sister immediately,” I said firmly. “I need an address to reach her pronto.”

Medaysa surveyed me carefully, but then nodded in compliance. She understood. At this point, I was fairly sure Medaysa was honest in her information, sensing no trace of criminal intent in her fearful eyes. Sympathy once again afflicted my objectivity just a bit as I watched Medaysa seem inches from an emotional breakdown. “I must ask if you’re withholding any information from me,” I warned, a little too gently. I simply could not allow myself to sound at all emotionally invested. After all, that would simply make me vulnerable to the situation out of sympathy.

With a startle Medaysa got up, now with tears pouring down her cheeks. She began pacing 'round and 'round in circles, and oddly enough, her lively, frantic emotion nearly brought a strange beauty to her basically plain appearance. When she finally stopped her anxious pacing a few moments later, Medaysa moved to intentionally stand directly in front of me, putting her hand on her heart, and dramatically said, “Henry and Claire are like kindred spirits, Detective, you've got to understand that, and I just, just...I just don’t fucking know!” She then literally fell down onto her knees exhaustedly, running her fingers through her hair again while also pressing her fingers against her cheekbones and arms hard. Medaysa was effectively making it worse on herself, self-causing a psychosomatic reaction as she began coughing and shaking. The poor girl, looking as though in immense pain, began to look convulsive even, and would shortly be in need of emergency medical assistance, I worried…

Medaysa, I’m going to call a doctor!” I annouced, loud and clear in my urgent tone. Getting up, I grabbed her arms and tried to still her. “Steady now, steady... Come on, stay with me, Medaysa...Breathe. It's going to be okay.” I was shocked by how almost panicky I could hear myself sound; 'Musn't let myself get subjective,' I prudently warned myself...

Medaysa shook her head but eventually began inhaling and exhaling slowly, and in a few moments was calmer. She left the room momentarily to take some sort of sedative,passing through the double-doors on the far left into what I guessed was the kitchen. When she returned, Medaysa wrote down an address along with directions before sending me on my way to her sister. Still, as I thanked her and started out the door, Medaysa made it a point to say Claire was NOT the murderer, and then had me promise to find the real perpetrator. There wasn't just loyalty behind that though, not with that look of paralyzing fear; my guess is Medaysa had felt convinced this crime was a crime of malicious passion, maybe even a conspiracy of some sort, which suggested she was probably scared the killer would strike again.

'I will serve justice at all costs' was the answer I assertively gave her, decisively obliging myself to the promise. Upon heading out, I consulted my partner, Jill Motif. Since I intended to seek out Claire Somana, I instructed Jill to continue with interrogations in Smithee and to keep in contact with the medical examiners for any clues. But whether it was a good plan or not, every moment it sunk in more, more, more …

There were no coincidences.

Medaysa was surely right to suspect something bigger here, perhaps a conspiracy, I caught myself deciding very fast. Before long there was no doubt in my mind that the murder of Henry Robinson was a carefully devised act of coldhearted, merciless premeditation...


***
   
"Do not join your hand with the wicked to be a malicious witness. Do not follow a crowd to do evil; neither shall you testify in court to side with a multitude to pervert justice; neither shall you favour a poor man in his cause if it is not just." — Exodus 23: 1-3


Part II — Conspiracy 
 
Date: November 6, —— 

In the eyes of Evie Somana   
      I had never agreed with Claire's selfish reasoning for harboring in the pathetic town of Smithee. The cult lifestyle here—from the brain-dead housewives and their monster-like, dominating husbands to the brainwashed children blooming like clones into religious extremists (in other words, following the footsteps of their parents)—repulsed me. The moment I entered our new home I was sure we'd made a terrible mistake; present circumstances proved this beyond any doubt.
Henry Robinson’s death was a tragedy. My dear sister, Claire, spent two years in avid research with him at the University. She had been entering graduate school and he, fresh in University. She took notice to him immediately, noticing his particular attraction to eccentric science. According to Claire, within three months they were studying and experimenting together. All went well at the start, but after two years, a perhaps overzealous Henry felt his time was wasted at a university constricted by tight boundaries and immense interest in only conventional science and political correctness. And so he returned to Smithee, became a bartender, and opened a lab in the basement of his home. He implored Claire to visit often.
And then it happened: It was a normal day in our home, near to the University, conveniently. Medaysa and I watched Jacob and Kyle frequently, which was fine as we were grown up, and I still lived in my parents’ home. I felt I owed it to them. It was such a normal summer day. Jacob and Kyle were playing ball with their friends, Medaysa was celebrating her graduation from high school with friends, Claire was in class, and myself, alone reading inside.
And then the news was passed to me: my parents were killed in an accident of transportation, leaving their fortune, children, and despair behind. I need not elaborate on the pain we felt, feel, and will always feel...
***
Claire managed to finish her Graduate Degree by the end of the season, and in a directionless situation, Henry alerted us of a beautiful home in Smithee up for sale, which included a basement that could be transformed into a laboratory for Claire to use, and hopefully with him in collaboration, too. He’d insisted, so with the small fortune that our parents left behind we indeed purchased that huge extravagant house in Smithee. All was well at first as we found our new home suitable to comfort.
I saw Henry the day he died. He had been with Claire all day in a rush to finish one of their experiments. Their research was incomplete and therefore Claire chose to take a visit to the University library. With a smile I watched him grant her luck before her departure. Not for a moment did I believe his life would be taken so swiftly. And I couldn't even grieve in peace; fear was subsiding me, leaving me constantly wondering if yet another of my loved ones would be next on the chopping block...
I ordered my brothers to stay in the house, lock up . Ordering Medaysa to enforce this rule vigilantly, I then voyaged out to seek out Claire — as head of household we of course needed to decide the best motives for the future of our family. The trip took little time, and upon reaching our parents’ home, I found Claire in the sitting room, and on the chair opposite her, the detective Medaysa spoke of: Detective Gavin Horace. Claire was crying, her makeup a distorted mess all over her face. Sadly, I must admit she was holding up better than I had imagined, however...
...Yes, sir,” Claire was saying, struggling tear-to-tear. “Check with the company, my ride from Smithee to Alice Springs will be documented, the driver will as well alibi me appropriately. You waste your time here while the murderer runs free!” said Claire angrily, who sounded manic. I joined her at her side, comforting her soundlessly in a heartbroken embrace.
Have you any information otherwise, then, to offer me that can assist the investigation?” asked Detective Horace in a nonchalant, seemingly innocuous tone. He was trying to make the atmosphere as relaxed as possible, as such created potential for a confessional slip-up.
Investigate those most adamantly reproaching me instead, Detective!” Claire cried out pressingly, bitter and almost sarcastic in adding, “those who seem purest in conviction of their blinding, dangerously extreme devotion to their system of faith! Perhaps THEY killed Henry in fear I would corrupt him— Sick-minded fools!!” she cried out in a seething scream, running out of the room.
I knew the detective would question me next, so I didn’t follow her. I composed myself in order and looked at him carefully, letting him know I was strong, equal, and not to be belittled with. I was first to speak. “My name is Evie Somana,” I introduced. “I am the middle sister. I, like my youngest sister, who you spoke with last night, was at home." Pausing, I looked him face-to-face, confidently redirecting my speech in a focused manner." As she stated, please seek out the townspeople that through blinded prejudice may have a motive, those whom you may otherwise ignore in face of their 'holier-than-thou' Christian facades.”
He smiled at me, stood up, and began circling the couches. He laughed a bit, narrowing his eyes on me. Instantly, I knew. My pretentious attitude had just made me a suspect. I still did not worry, though, because I was innocent, had never gone anywhere near the crime scene; his motive to find a confession inside me would therefore be fruitless. Henry Robinson was a man I respected.
Have you a motive, ma’am?” he asked in a charming sense. His voice turned deep and chilling as he leaned on the arm of the sofa and stared at me. “Was he yours first, Evie? Did it drive you mad? Were you protecting what was yours? Did she wrong you, Evie?”
I glared at him. “As Henry was gay, I doubt any of us women were fighting over him,” I snapped, and he was taken aback. “He and Claire were most certainly not involved."
He stepped back and surveyed me closely. I could tell, though, for the present, he believed me. "Curious. Very curious," he plainly answered her, not backtracking on his cool, composed guard.
I thought back for a moment for any assistance I could offer. I thought of Henry’s former boyfriend, Sam. They had dated before he left for the University and Sam had been devastated. It seemed out of character, but had Sam snapped? Had an unrequited love in such a prison-like town caused him such distress that he snapped and became a murderer? No …. the murder was premeditated. The chances were slim. To top it off, the message left at the crime scene did not match up at all. But I knew revealing this information was only ethical. “Sam Williams may know something. He was his boyfriend prior to Henry’s University leave.”
The detective immediately looked alerted. He lowered his eyebrows exquisitely and then raised his head firmly. “I shall look into this; I’ll be in touch.”
Claire and I ventured back to Smithee a few hours later, mourning together. Our decision was to remain in our home in Smithee. Our pride was a large part of this decision, of course, as it was our home. We would stay together safely and await justice in our home. Our family pride would not let us flee into hiding, would not let us forfeit ourright to live our lives freely…
***
It was mid-afternoon when we arrived at home. We needed to visit the shopping center, and I volunteered to go. My younger brother, Jacob, insisted on accompanying me. I was not happy with this, but I understood: he was attempting to show maturity, to man up in a time like this. I was relieved to have someone with me moments after venturing into the marketplace.
I expected sketchy behavior, but the townspeople did not even whisper. They watched me cruelly, spoke of us loudly, and their composure almost dared us to attack them, to allow their belief in my family’s guilt be confirmed. This, of course, did not happen. I whispered to Jacob inconspicuously to disregard their silent taunting; ignore, look forward, stay composed…Repeat. I wanted to hasten, but I acted as normal as possible. I could not allow their antagonistic behavior overcome me. Wanted to show myself as a strong woman …Something the town depressingly lacked.
And then I was approached by Sam Williams as I and Jacob strolled down the pavement through the park…
***
It was a strange coincidence by all means— A pang, a mix of stress and guilt, ran thin through my veins; I felt uncomfortable of the secret I held. Detective Horace’s transportation was faster. Had Sam already been interrogated? Surely not … The interrogation with Claire had droned on longer than I had thought upon finding Claire and the detective back home. Claire had said the detective had pressed on for two hours. I wondered, was it my duty to inform him of my actions?
Hello, Evie!” said Sam halfheartedly, depression overriding. I had only ever properly met Sam twice, actually; once was when we’d visited Claire at the university for Thanksgiving: By then, Claire and Henry had already discovered their mutual interests and had become close friends quickly. Sam had come to see Henry as “friends” (truthfully to rekindle their relationship, hopefully anyway), and they and my family had celebrated together.
I became well-acquainted with Sam over that long weekend. He had professed to me his love for Henry, and as I always chose to take the role of an avid listener at the beginning of all my people relations, I became quite aware of the young man Sam had been. He was not interested in advanced studies; lessons did not interest him. He enjoyed the simple life of Smithee, though the burning secret he held in his heart haunted him. He told me of a time where he had been certain he had let his guard down to a fellow friend of his, and he compulsively practiced masculinity in the mirror for three days, until he realized he was being paranoid. He mentioned to me a potential interest in the armed services, but I knew his fear of exposure would prevent this.
Still,for a boy of my own age, I found him somewhat charming and at heart a good person. My second meeting with him was quite soon after our relocation to Smithee. I had actually been quite curious how this boy, whom I had met nearly two years ago had been getting along. We had written each other a few times, but with no devoted consistency. He had met me at the park this time as well.
He had grown nicely into a man now: He was tall and lanky and equipped with a proper poise, something he had lacked before. His blonde hair had grown out well, and his blue eyes shone beautifully. Ironically, he commented on my beauty before I had a chance to compliment his. He said my shorter neck-length haircut suited me much better than the long, dark curls from before. He told me the men in Smithee would die for my petite, feminine shape, and that my green eyes were lucky and pretty. I laughed as he commented that if he had been romantically attracted to women he’d desire me like no other. I told him I was flattered and had that been the case, I would have cordially accepted a date…
***
And now fate would have it that we met again.
He was very pale, distressed and slouchy-looking, sickly even, his eyes distracted and void of any emotions. He had never stopped loving Henry; I saw it, I felt it somehow. And I instantly knew he was grieving harder than possibly anyone else. As far as he was concerned, Henry was the love of his life, and the only other homosexual he had revealed his secret to. As I sunk this knowledge in, I found it impossible to look at Sam. It would have torn me to pieces. “Evie, my friend, how misfortune has reached us … Oh God, Evie … How could anyone …"I was shocked how quickly he fell apart. I looked at Jacob. He looked so obedient at that moment; he respected the man by being silent and understanding. By speaking, he would destroy Sam’s last traces of ego.
I could think of no words to explain the feelings in my broken heart: my parents, then of Claire’s very few friends, and now I witnessed someone beyond in love with Henry, simply unable to assess his emotions, understandably. “Sam, oh Sam,” I began as I embraced him kindly and then patted him on the back. “Please allow me to assist you as humanly possible as I can.”He nodded and I guided him to a wooden bench. For a moment I attempted to conceal my own tears, but I couldn’t. I wept along with Sam. It went beyond the murder, though that may sound cruel. The stress was murdering us all internally. Henry was dead, and we seemed to be dying in our own hearts...
When I finally managed to speak, my voice was uncharacteristically defenseless. “Sam, I told the detectives of your relationship with Henry. I had to, I didn’t suspect you, but I thought maybe you might know something,” I explained to him quickly, and guilt rushed out of my system in a blissful relief. Fear he would misunderstand my intentions did not dissipate slightly, however.
He let go of the embrace, wiped his tears and faced me somewhat composed. “I’d rather you hadn’t, but I understand. But I don’t know anything, honest,” he said passionately, and I knew his words to be true intuitively.
Just be honest to the detective and you’ll be fine.” I said. I decided Jacob’s presence was probably inappropriate, so Sam and I escorted him back home. Sam seemed to feel guilty, because he took it upon himself to speak to Jacob.
Ah, Jacob, how you look just like your father, really,” Sam said before we left. Jacob’s face lit up, and it was true. Though Jacob still had a boyish face, our father’s blue eyes glowed in him and he had his father’s same short, curly brown hair. He was tall just like his father had been. “He would be proud.”
Thank you,” Jacob said honestly. “I’m sorry about Henry, he was a good guy.”
So we bid Jacob farewell…
***
I brought Sam back to his home, where I made him tea and dumped his brandy out. The last thing he needed added to his depression were depressants. I consciously waited with him for less than an hour when the knock on the door alerted us of the visit of Detective Horace. I motioned for Sam to stay seated in his rocking chair as I opened the door. It was not Detective Horace surprisingly, but it was a detective. It was a female, and unlike Detective Horace, who was middle-aged, she looked fresh out of the academy. Her look, however, nearly mirrored mine unseemly: Control.
I was polite as I somewhat formally introduced myself and Sam to her. Her name was Detective Jillian Motif and she was sharper than Horace for sure. Her questions were more accusing and precise, her tone more alarming, her poise threatening.
Your alleged alibi can be confirmed by whom?” she inquired, as though she had no doubt of Sam’s guilt. I looked at the woman and I believe I understood her attitude.She was very plain-looking, and it was obvious she spent little time attending to her beauty. I believe she felt the need to constantly be on the defense. She had most likely been treated below standards her whole life.
As Sam gave her a list of five people who had been at the church with him, her mood seemed to calm slowly. I relaxed myself, knowing there was no way now Sam would be in a dilemma. Detective Motif asked a few short, simple questions and then instructed us to submit any new information to either her or Horace. Naturally, we complied.
I remained in Sam’s apartment attempting to comfort him for a short while. Upon leaving, it seemed almost as though both of our spirits had been raised, if only just. Time could be the only healer, I remember thinking.
Upon leaving, the atmosphere felt peculiarly chilling that night. I suppose there was fear in me as I made my way home in solitude. The trip seemed to take longer than normal, and in a bitter paranoia, all my senses felt enhanced, and I shook at any movement. I was relieved as I joined my family at home. All was well, temporarily, and I prayed no more tragedies would fall upon us...
***
The remaining week went normal. Medaysa schooled Jacob and Kyle, Claire continued her studies in her own lab in the basement, and I wrote. The week was gone like a thief in the night, and I began to relax a bit as no other hostile behavior had occurred in town.
On Sunday, as a family, we decided to take a visit to the top of a large hill outside of town. Our parents had raised us in the practice of transcendentalism, and the night was starry and pretty. It was an ideal time to enjoy the wonders of nature on the hill, surrounded by woods.
We never made it past the church. It was we who found Sam’s body on the church steps, drowned in blood. A look of pure terror remained on his motionless body. Written in blood was the identical cryptic message as before: 'Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned'.
Were we next in this murder conspiracy?!

***

"But someone digs upon my grave? My enemy - prodding sly?" Thomas Hardy


Part III — Revelation 
 
Date: November 14, —— 

In the eyes of Kyle Somana   
      Claire lost her mind. I never saw her in such paranoia and in such rage. She was positive we were next on the chopping block. She locked us inside her basement laboratory after dimming all the lights, forcing us to hide down there in total quiet for three nights straight. Only after much protest did Claire finally let us out, tearful and shaken like I'd never seen her.
But I understood, or at least tried my best to. Evie, who was normally entirely verbal, was quiet and cold. She snapped when spoken to, and could not sleep any longer than three hours at a time. Medaysa repeatedly went into nervous fits where she pulled hair from her scalp, especially the night of Sam’s murder. Jacob, apprehensive but never speaking, was always chalk-white and anguished face. I, only thirteen and too young to be really scared of dying per say, still felt astonishingly afraid all the time...
It was a terrifying time of shock and disruption for everyone and everything in town.
Jacob and I weren’t close to Sam or Henry, no, but it was obvious the murders were no coincidence. Someone was murdering with a clear motive, which, based on the bloody messages, was very religious. As we were far from Christian — and therefore totally unlike everyone else in this small psycho town — I was scared as ever for our lives!
The medical examiner apparently had revealed both victims had been brutally stabbed sixty-six times, after castration — Even beyond death. This shocked and frightened all, naturally. As we hadn’t left our home, I wouldn’t know, but I was sure most everyone else had hid indoors, too. They didn’t want their families hurt.
Detective Horace and Motif questioned us again, but we once again had an alibi. They suspected us less as our entire family was unlikely to be murdering together. Instead, the repeated bloody message seemed to be the new investigative focus, because (finally!) the detectives began looking for clues among the most devoted religious icons in the community...
No one knew of the secret relationship of Sam and Henry beside my family and the detectives. As far as the town knew, someone just liked the taste of blood. Of course, though, the town still solely suspected my family. I suppose they thought my sisters killed Sam and forced two boys, fifteen and thirteen, to watch...
So not surprisingly, we still never left home for a whole week.Then, for whatever reason, I brought it upon myself to prove our insulting accusers wrong. It was Sunday again and I was sure the culprit would be around again. Pretending I was asleep in my room, I slid out of the window, pocket knife in coat, flashlight in hand. I began my way down the road to the church, which was full of townspeople expecting another murder, no doubt. I was shocked there was even a service, given the circumstances.
Extremists.
Local police officers were stationed around the church. The killer wasn’t going to come. I began my way back, but a blinding light flashed upon me. I had been spotted. And then I realized how guilty I looked. I wore a long black coat with a knife in my pocket — Sam and Henry had been stabbed. As the police approached me, a million horrible thoughts raced through me. How could I have done something so moronic?
Three of them came within five feet of me, weapons held ready at side, flashlights on me. I put my left arm above my eyes so I could see. The men looked so intimidating. They were big, tall men and I was a short, scrawny boy. They would frame me, I knew it!
Identify yourself!” one said fiercely.
Kyle Somana,” I croaked.
What are you doing here? Up to no good, I see!” a stern other said.
Then the worst happened. The third officer searched me, and he found my knife. And then all three of them watched me in disgust but in success, truly believing they had found the culprit.
It’s dangerous to go out without protection!” I screamed indignantly. “Do you see blood on my tracks regardless, on this knife I carry protectively?”
They stopped, a bit taken aback. I took my opportunity to continue. “I came to see if I could spot anything. I have the right to walk around protected. Do you see a body? No!”
I was so, so nervous; I pretended confidence. Why would I expect them to do their job honestly?
We should take him in for questioning,” said a third officer. He came towards me to try to handcuff me. I jumped three steps back.
What evidence do you have to arrest me? What you know of the law my sister Evie could probably fit in the palm of her hand, trust me! She’s a criminal lawyer,” I screamed in defense. This was only half-true; although Evie was the most well-read person I knew on the subject, she was only obsessed, not employed in criminal law.
Let him go,” grunted a stiff-sounding fourth officer with a black top hat on, probably the highest-ranked officer present.
Go home, kid, or we will have a problem.”
"Yes sir. Thank you," I stuttered anxiously.
His inferiors were hesitant, disappointed clearly because of their wanting glory, but in pure relief I quickly made my way off—And then the glass shattered at the chapel while I was passing and nearly scathed me. Flying through came a marble, almost human-sized sculpture of Jesus Christ, now destroyed. Something horrible was going on in there. I looked both ways, unsure of what to do.
STOP WATCHING ME!” screamed a female voice from inside the chapel. A candle, kept in a glass container with religious imagery was thrown through the window next, it too shattering and causing a small fire. I was too scared to move as I stood on the left side of the window, not daring to peer inside. Then I heard footsteps coming my way, and I was lucky to see Detectives Horace and Motif running impressively fast.
"Help ... Something crazy ..." I breathlessly managed, unnerved entirely, so it took everything in me to recover and scream, "SOMEONE BALLISTIC HAS INVADED THE CHAPEL AND IS VIOLENTLY DESTROYING IT TO PIECES!!" I shook with panic as I did, as I confirmed that, yes, I myself had first-hand witnessed the latest sight of heinous horror to rampage the town. Needlessly said, I was greatly relieved to see the detectives break through the small chapel's side door a second or two later.
One of them — I was too distracted by my inner anxieties to see which — flipped on the lights. Everything illuminated before my eyes as I took a sneaking glance inside the chapel: Sister Mary was in there, untamed and agitated, in the long aisle between the pews on either side, surrounded by life-sized, broken statues of religious icons. It looked very scary, and for a lack of better term, evil. She was crying. Her hair was a mess; her eyes bulged. She looked exhausted.
They stare at me, they rid me with uncontainable guilt!” she yelled fearfully, running to a large statue of Jesus at the altar, lifting it at chest-level and smashing it in front of the closest pews. “Make it stop!”
Ma’am, do not move!” screamed the highly demanding Motif in a full, utterly unabashed voice. Horace ran towards her, grabbed her, and sat her down in one of the pews. Shockingly, she began to calm down as he firmly held her by the shoulders, softly asking her, “Why, Sister? Why do they watch you?” Horace smiled at her sweetly, like a man to his senile mother.
I understood perfectly. She had murdered Sam and Henry and now she was losing her mind. I hated her so much, more than any human had ever before him, I felt so sure of this...
At every pew there were pockets that altogether contained a grand total of probably over 100 copies of the Bible (literally), the King James generic intended for congregants to follow along with at Sunday service. Sister Mary pulled one out and began reading a familiar-sounding passage from the Book of Corinthians. “'Liars, Adulterers, thieves, homosexuals, will not inherit the kingdom of Heaven'.”
Every moment her madness further confirmed her guilt. Horace pulled the Bible from her, relaxed her arms, and smiled at her in a consoling manner. His innocence reflected that of a child as he innocuously requested of her, “Is that why you did it, Sister? Did you do God’s will?”
The aggrieved Sister screamed out loud as she grabbed the Bible from Horace and opened it to a consecutive passage. In a mystical tone shuddered with utter warning, she explained, "Look at the Book of Leviticus: 'And no man should lie with another man, and no woman with another woman, for this is disgusting'..."
Increasingly agitated, Sister Mary was screaming and shaking without any sign of near stop. “THEY WON’T STOP WATCHING ME!!!!!” White as a ghost in her delirium so outright,so incessant, the Sister pointed enragedly over at the remaining religious statues in the chapel.
Horace once again tried to calm her. “Shut your eyes. Tell me everything. The pain will dissipate, you’ll feel better, Sister,” he said with such manipulation, such intimation, that it made my skin crawl.
Those boys … I saw them kissing in an alley once when I was walking home. When I left the Catholic Church, I came here and was accepted, and I even kept my title of a Sister, and I started this chapel. I had a duty …I will burn this village before I let such disgust, such high level of blasphemous corruption, occur!” she declared, tearful through scourging, barely coherent screams of utter madness, disturbingly inhuman in her body's hideous convulsion.
An unreal rage— one beyond the reaches of human control it seemed— possessed me. Realizing what she meant in one unforgettable suffocating moment, I psychotically grasped the knife and I couldn’t stop. I ran inside, and pulled the knife from in my jacket. I wanted to kill her, to slaughter her for what she had done. She had killed innocent, caused stress and chaos and terror. I charged at her in the most rage I’ve ever felt in my entire life.
Stop!” called Motif severely. She lunged at me, and skillfully pulled the knife from my hand. She restrained me from destroying the cold-blooded woman, sympathy-stricken as she determinedly whispered, “Don’t— You’ll regret it. You’ll only ruin your own life.”
...I saw Claire Somana tonight. She had gone out right before service, to grab pain killers from the pharmacy, I took my bloody knife and I, I —” Sister breathlessly began confessing.
I immediately almost fainted. I knew what was coming, and I couldn’t take it. I felt my body sink from this world to the next, to some strange void worse than any kind of religious hell, to a place where there was truly nothingness, and where I was nothing, and where I could not return. I knew what she was going to say, and I couldn’t hear it, but I did. “The eldest sister’s body is behind the alter table.” She got up and raced up the altar. Horace followed and then alas—
He saw the body, bloodied as ever, and with the glance of total terror on its unfortunately lifeless face.
I wanted both for her to be dead and to be dead myself.
My life had been, and was now furthered by, a new excess of misery. My parents, and now my eldest sister were gone. I so wanted to kill her … I deserved that much. Motif grabbed her fiercely, nearly breaking her arm, pulling her from the altar. I was surprised she had left me standing there. How had she known I wouldn’t run and stab the woman? I suppose because Horace was standing by her anyway, examining my sister’s body … Or perhaps it was that I was too traumatized.
Sister Mary Paul, you’re under arrest for the murders of Claire Somana, Henry Robinson and Sam Williams …” began Motif austerely, but I believe I fainted right then and there as that is the last I remember, before Sister Mary was fully read her rights (which would have probably felt good to hear, admittedly). I’m glad because I never saw Claire’s body, and truthfully I'm glad I never got the chance to.
I think that I would die.
***
I later learned that written in a bloody hand's print on the floor over Claire's head was the identical message as twice before: "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned". Fucking extremist zealots finding a religious justification for their evil actions— How shocking' I recall was my first bitter dry thought.
And even when the murderer was sentenced to never leave prison again, left in the strictest-as-possible solitary confinement behind prison bars, I felt nothing near resilience for a very long time. But I did go on, and so did my remaining family, and how? Well, Claire was the strongest person I had known, and she would not have wanted us to give up, regardless of the pain that barreled the deathly salt into our burning wounds. That's right — for Claire and Claire alone we could not let ourselves die from the abominations of Sister Mary, from the hardships she delivered us. We recovered beyond the loss of our parents, and somehow we would survive beyond the devastating night when that nun poisoned my ears with her colder-than-ice revelations...
***
"A tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyrannies." —  'The Wolf and the Lamb', Aesop




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