Man was chased to consciousness by a bright Sun, even as the ashy shadow that bore him into the world stayed unobtrusively, for the most part, beyond the horizon. There it hugged the perimeter in anticipation of nightfall each day, and at dusk swept down from its perch with wings bigger than the world.
Why do we love God and fear Him at the same time? Why do we stand in awe of storms, even as they swallow our houses and families? It is because such wholly perceptual moments expose our reason for what it is: a means and not an end.
When calamity strikes, we peer into the blazing blue sky and see it for the first time. We feel our skin, our souls, and our very marrow. We are drawn to the flame that burns us, that tears away our mortality and our reason. We think if we can glimpse behind the thunderbolts that destroy us, we will see the Hand of God letting go. ~Omar
Aloysius rose unsteadily and returned the clock to the night table, inadvertently kicking the toppled water glass; it rolled to where the police officer stood. The man explained his presence in the house. “Sorry, Mr. Gauge, but your backdoor was open. We couldn’t get an answer.”
Aloysius fumbled for his slippers. “Is there a problem?”
“If you come downstairs, sir, I will explain.”
The tenant followed the policeman downstairs to where another officer waited. The scream of a child, emanating from the TV, met the men at the foot of the steps. A boisterous kiddy program was in progress. The flickering light that began his nightmare had not been the lamp going off and on but, as he feared, the television set.
The first policeman picked up where he left off. “An abduction occurred in the early hours of the morning.”
“The caretaker’s child,” he continued. “She appears to have been taken from her bedroom.”
The second officer chimed in. “Did you see or hear anything unusual during the evening?”
Aloysius barely sensed his words. “I heard something, but I think it was a picture falling from my wall.”
The officer glanced at the noisy television. “Do you always leave your TV on while you sleep?”
“The switch is faulty.”
“Your door was open when we came onto the property,” the other man injected. “Would you mind if we have a look round?”
“Of course not.”
One officer checked the rooms off the staircases while the second returned to the kitchen. Aloysius glared numbly at the television in their absence, watching a magician make three children (two boys and a girl) take turns sticking their hand into one end of a cloaked box, so to guess its hidden contents by touch. The first boy screamed, which made the second boy scream all the more when it was his turn.
The officers converged in front of the screen, where the senior-looking fellow spoke. “Thank you for your time. We may need to talk to you again, later.”
Mired in his quandary, and still rattled from his harrowing evening, the resident did not answer. He rose to unplug the TV once the men left, yet hesitated on seeing the children still standing beside the black box. The little girl, who was last in line, was not among them. The set was disconnected and he returned upstairs, staggering through a chain of impossible events.
His acquaintance with the girl involved him in a circumstance and not the substance of her life, though this fine distinction rang hollow. The reclusive bachelor preferred dipping vicariously into the lives of others, but the feelings elicited had little expression beyond this. His emotions were like poltergeists unaccustomed to using doors, which meant they were frequently ethereal, but never will-less.
After an indeterminable while, he sought to escape his ache and fiddled with the clock; the blinking twelve was permanently affixed to its cracked face. In the same desultory manner he turned to dressing himself and discovered a cut on the bottom of his right foot. It was proof he left the bed at some point to step in glass, but no footprints, either in the corridor or guestroom, were found. It was possible the policeman dispersed the ashes while exploring the upstairs, but just as many things were left buried in the night as were carried back.
Aloysius returned downstairs to fetch a broom, and deemed it best to leave the fallen painting where it was against the baseboard. After sweeping up the shards, the videotape from the camcorder was carried downstairs with the dustpan and, in passing, placed on top of the VCR. As with the hall painting, it was left to collect dust.
Chapter Eight, Section Two/ Back/ Contents Page
Copyright © 2007 Michael Teague. All rights reserved.