The Lunatics Dance

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
Messiahs, legless gatekeepers, peacocks, and vices.

Submitted: June 08, 2015

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Submitted: June 08, 2015

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“Welcome to the neighborhood, damn it!”

That’s not usually the type of greeting I hear. Then again, it’s the first one I’ve received. There is no normal, for I have just arrived at my new residence. The address is nobody’s business. The building is a two story, most likely built a hundred years ago. There is a front porch with no wall, which may come in handy during an intoxicated night. Sometimes a good fall is all a foolish bastard needs. This is day number one of the lease, and it’s my first time living on my own. The gentlemen shouting the salutation is approaching me from the house across the street. He’s drinking some sort of beer, and my guess is that it came from a ten dollar thirty-pack. I’m not giving the name of the brand, no free advertising for those greedy vultures. He’s closing in on me, hovering as a legless gatekeeper, and he resembles a Jim Henson creation, though he’s no puppet as far as I can tell. His eyes can’t necessarily be used for vision at this point but I believe he’s guided by his strong sense of familiarity, and I’m an alien to his street.

“Name’s Leo! You just get here today?”

“Yeah, I’m just moving in…”

“Fuckin’ A! Those guys who lived here last year were pricks. We had cops over all the time ‘cuz of them.”

“Do you have a lot parties or…”

“Jack, get over here! We got new neighbors!” Leo screams across the street.

Who are these creatures? I have the sudden urge to run into the house and lock the door, but as a polite Midwesterner, I plant myself to the ground, smile, and wait for the arrival of Jackson. Wearing no shirt, he leaps off his front porch like a friendly neighborhood dog, sprinting with every intention to tackle me and slobber my face. His humanity halts him and he grabs my hand with the force of a gorilla.

“Jackson!”

“Nice to meet you, Jackson. May I have my arm back?” I generally try not to be so rude, but an open and bloody socket is nowhere near as practical as an attached limb.

“Oh, yeah,” Jackson laughs, “don’t worry about it. You got two of ‘em.”

“Yeah, well, while not a requirement I do believe that having both is…”

“Ya know we never did get to hang out here last year.” Jackson bludgeons my charming rebuttal as he leaps onto the porch and peeks into the front door’s window. “The guys who lived here never did like us.”

Jackson is a werewolf. I have just witnessed an untrained canine become a man, barely restrained, but a man nonetheless. He’s not drunk like his friend Leo. Rather, he appears to feed off his own curiosity and become inebriated with his surroundings. He turns back to me.

“All right, let’s go.”

I’m uncertain as to what he means by this and respond in the cleverest way I know how.

“…go where?”

“Inside,” he laughs, “I never got to see the place.”

“Oh, well I’m not sure that’s the best idea,” I respond timidly.

“What do you mean?” Leo asks.

“It’s just…I don’t really…”

“You don’t turn down Jackson,” Leo threatens.

“Leo,” Jackson soothes. “Relax.”

“Look guys, I didn’t mean anything by that,” I backtrack.

“Leo can get a little heated at times, but he’s right. You really shouldn’t turn me down,” Jackson cautions.

I’m certain at this point that I have reached my cessation. They’ve decided to chop off my head and have their way with my remains. Young as I am, I’m at peace with this fate, perhaps even giddy. At least I’ll have some immortality, big newspaper headlines and television biographies. Great men have lived who never got the attention I’m about to receive. Now that I think about it, I’m honored.

“Yeah man,” I say with a pseudo-suave inflection, “let’s do it.”

We enter the house and I realize that I have never been in here myself. If there’s one compliment I can give it, it’s that it’s a building. It has white walls with spackle, gray carpets with assorted stains, and mold in every corner. The entry way gives us two options: follow straight ahead down a narrow hallway to one door, or take the stairway on the left up to the second floor to another door. I choose to go straight to the main level.

“Do you reject God?” Jackson asks.

“What kind of question is that?” I reply.

“A necessary one,” he says. “It’s not a bad thing to reject God, but you really shouldn’t reject me.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I say.

 We enter the living room to meet my roommate, Carlos. He’s taller than I, very thin, and walks with a slight slouch. His head is filled with curly hair that blazes wildly like a fire atop a kerosene dowsed totem pole. I’ve known him since his birth, and today, we may have spent our entire lives together. There’s no reason why Jackson and Leo would kill me and spare Carlos.

“Hey, man. This is Jackson and Leo.”

Carlos looks at me with a raised eyebrow. “Odd name.”

I look back to see only Leo and an open door. Jackson has fled.

“What? Leo, where did…”

“All right, let’s chief,” Leo bellows to us.

He hands me a glass contraption which was clearly crafted by a mage in a subterranean kiln, and although I am familiar with this activity, this device has me befuddled. Perhaps I was wrong. Maybe I’ll be poisoned instead of decapitated. I stare at the piece for a few moments longer than Leo’s patience can handle.

“Just smoke the damn thing. It’s not gonna kill ya.”

I’ve been spared, but I’m a little disappointed that my chance at being a legend has been taken away. Call me a fool, but I feel as though death has cheated me. Regardless, I take a hit and pass it to Carlos. As I start feeling my blood become a placid stream, I scan the domicile around me. The design is an open floor plan, with the kitchen and living room being extremely spacious. There are two bedrooms adjacent to the living room, and one bedroom at the end of the building just past the kitchen. Adjoining the kitchen is a bathroom as well as a laundry room with a washer and dryer, and just beyond the kitchen before the bedroom is a door which leads to the backyard. The walls are white and bland, but they contain numerous large windows and lead to a high ceiling. I’m getting more comfortable as I examine the place. It’s evolving rapidly.

“This is a…I really dig this place,” I say.

“Yeah, doesn’t have a basement, though,” Carlos responds.

A silence overtakes the room. Do you ever feel that in these moments tension is a specter creeping up behind you to give you a push? That literally just happened to me. I felt something nudge my shoulder and whisper, “salvation,” into my ear. It was a very creepy moment and it has me questioning my wits, but nobody else appears to have heard or felt the same thing, so I’ll just ignore it.

“Hey, thanks for bringing over some of my stuff, I didn’t have enough room in my car,” I say to Carlos.

“No problem, I have a truck anyway, might as well utilize it…your amp is a bitch to move, though.”

“So, what’s your story, man?” I ask Leo.

“What?” Leo responds.

“I asked you what your story was. I don’t know anything about you or Jackson.”

“I’m not sure I can disclose that information.”

“What the hell is wrong with you?” I ask boldly. “I didn’t invite you inside my house, so the least you can do is answer my question.”

Leo ponders for a moment, but then suddenly jerks upright as though his hair is being yanked from behind. He takes a moment to poise himself and then speaks.

“I can’t disclose that information. He’ll make it known when the time is right.”

I look over to Carlos and I can see him mouthing some confused remark. I’m not as shocked by Leo’s behavior as Carlos, but I’ve had about enough of it today and I may have to ask him to leave.

Suddenly, something explodes from the top floor, shoots down the stairs, ricochets off the wall, and whips into my face, knocking me off my feet. It’s Jackson’s voice, but the call is indistinguishable. As I’m picking myself up from the ground, I notice that Leo has already taken off and is floating upstairs. Echolocation is absolutely marvelous. I’ve never personally seen anything use it until now.  Carlos and I chase after him, tumbling over each other to get to the second level of the house.

I trip over the top step and smash my face into the door, which is fortunately ajar and swings back, sparing my nose but cracking a dent into the wall behind it. I look up to see a passageway leading to a cradle of light, and I feel that I must run to its embrace. I begin crawling, hoping that I will soon enter the promised kingdom, but as I gain a few feet I am ambushed by Jackson as he leaps from a room on the right.

“You have a guitar!” he shouts, pointing at me.

“Yes.”

“You have a drum set!” he points to Carlos. “Let’s jam!”

I plug in and crank the amp instantly. I figure there’s no reason to mess around. He’ll want it on full blast, anyway. I’m not sure what I start playing, but it’s heavy and crushing. Carlos joins me, banging on the drums, sending a pulse through the room. We continue this way, repeating the pattern into a drone that spirals around the room and blurs the air as the walls begin to undulate. Jackson and Leo have been elevated by the cyclone and dance in the air with zeal I have never seen before. They are lunatics, sweating and convulsing with no concern for social judgment as this opus spellbinds them. Darkness drapes the room, save for a green aura which shrouds each man and I see luminous snow softly falling from the ceiling to the floor. I really don’t know where the hell the green auras and snow are coming from. This sort of seems like a cliché drug montage from a movie. But that’s not important right now. I realize that we have been caught in a time warp. We could have been doing this for a few moments, hours, or even days. We’re just four men hypnotized in a blizzard of our own creation.

Within this flurry there is a detail I cannot lose sight of, and for a moment it sets my mind straight. Jackson is sober. How can this be? We all have mind-melting fevers, but his is boiling higher than any of ours and we’re blitzed out of our minds. I’m inclined to believe there are two options: he’s either feral, or he’s a prophet.

Jackson abruptly and violently stiffens in mid-air and lets out a banshee howl which shakes the room like the trumpets of Jericho and annihilates the walls of our madness. The music comes to a close as we, the mortal witnesses, stand still in awe as the snow gently falls. Jackson’s eyes begin to blacken, as if their contents are being pulled from within. My ears collapse and I drop to my knees as my heart is threatening to detonate, but I force enough energy to lift my head to behold the transfiguration.

Combustion scorches the air and a purple beam emits from Jackson’s eyes, engulfing me in a flood of majesty. I rise quickly, struggling to keep my head above the tide. At last, Jackson speaks: “You question me?” His voice echoes, pummeling my eardrums into further depths of frailty.

I’m gasping frantically, clawing to utter only a few words in reply, but the undertow proves too strong a grip as I bob within the beam.

“You question me?” Jackson bellows again.

This lapse has taken an ugly turn and this abduction is forcing me to actually digest the happenings I’ve been engaging in today. They seem wrong when viewing them with perspective. I think of my years going to private school: the strict behavior guidelines, the memorization of hymns and bible passages, daily sermons and worship, the constant preaching of “correct” lifestyles. They all seem somewhat justified now. However, after reflecting on all of those years I feel can’t help but feel cheated…Lutherans never preached of possession, at least not in the sense of how to deal with them in modern times. At least the Catholics have the Rite of Exorcism, what the hell am I supposed to do? If I survive this, I’ll be damn sure to write a complaint letter to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

“The messiah asked you a question, motherfucker!” Leo snaps at me, revealing the true disciple he is.

I suppose that should rule out the Christianity correlation. This particular event deserves its own niche in history. But I haven’t heard many proclamations of a messiah in my lifetime, at least not ones that appear rationalized by miraculous signs. I’ve kept Jackson waiting long enough, I may as well be straight-forward:

“Are you salvation?”

Jackson’s gaze remains fixed on me, but he spares a small sum of his holy demeanor and cracks a smile. Finally, he speaks:

“I once wandered this world as a subject, like you. The monster loomed and received a sadistic thrill in strangling me. But one day I heard a calling, and I realized that I could no longer afford to live with concern and fear. The only option was to shed my fear and engage the absurd. So, I live!

“I live as a meandering juke box, spouting oddities with no remorse for lack of reason. I dance with lunacy and march on as the messiah for the whimsical. I will lead you to paradise!

“I will release you from those tyrannical cords that choke you, and I will mock your adversary saying, ‘I have no hair to cut, you Philistine courtesan. My Samson is bald and has no frailty. I crumble your pillars with both eyes intact!’

“I can foresee the triumph and I tell you now: the hyenas will invade the courtroom and corner the crown. The Jester will cut the monster’s throat with a peacock’s feather and a rainbow will drain from the wound and drench the floor, announcing the new reign! And when the day comes you will revel in that triumph, clowns, for you will be free!”

I’ve heard things in my life, many strange things. Some of these things were fiction and some of them were true, but what I’ve just heard will probably never be outdone. Nothing will burn into my mind as severely as the words Jackson just preached to the three of us, and for once in my life, I can’t think of one thing to say in reply. I’m not even sure he just answered my question, but I’m afraid to ask it again because I can’t begin to fathom what he’d spew at me then…aw, what the hell:

“Are you salvation?”

Jackson slowly turns his face away and glares at something behind me. I turn my head fast to see what could possibly have taken his attention. There’s nothing but a closed door. I’m terrified, for nothing good could have taken Jackson’s focus away from his unveiling. A phantom gently drags its slender fingertip down my back. My shoulders clench together and my neck thrusts downward, trying desperately to burrow into my torso. The collective heartbeat of the room is now audible as we all stare in silent horror at the closed door.

Pause…a rumbling begins…explosion.

I fall to the floor and coil into a ball as the fragments of the door scatter in every direction of the room. My lungs begin to feel clogged and I jump up quickly to avoid suffocating, a white mist has been to seeping in from the hallway. Finally, the creature arrives. It enters the room as a large, shapeless blob of near blinding light and fixes itself within the door frame. It waits there for a moment, letting the room settle before it transforms. The blob begins to form into a shape, as though it was encased in a protective covering that melts when its safety is ensured. It reminds me of how alien invasions are often depicted, like when the creature steps off its space ship and takes off its protective suit upon hearing word from one of the crew that the air is breathable to their kind. I’m not sure why that thought just popped into my head. It’s quite odd and doesn’t match this situation…whatever. My levity is my ark.

The former blob now has the visage of a human, although it has retained its shroud of light. It appears to be a man, although it’s hard for me to decipher. Its face is beautiful, more so than any I have ever seen on a human, and it has an imposing stature. My guess would be eight-feet tall. It doesn’t carry a sword, that doesn’t really make a difference, but for some reason I just assumed that a being such as this would carry a sword. It scans each of us in the room quickly, dismissing us as the peons we are, until his eyes land on Jackson. The two of them lock into a stare.

“We’ll have no more of this!” It commands to the messiah.

“What the hell is that?” I blurt to anyone with an answer.

“He’s a messenger sent from the god of Abraham,” Jackson announces. “The old bastard must have overheard our revelry.”

“Yes, in fact that whole universe has heard your carouse,” the messenger responds with a scoff. “Perhaps you don’t remember the warning you were given the last time?”

“I remember no warning, just a wretched moan from a narcissist undeserving of its power. I don’t fear you or your creator!” Jackson’s words rumble the house.

“You were warned not to entangle the world in your necromantic rituals!”

“There is no black magic here, you trivial harbinger! The morning star can only climax at the thought of me worshipping him!”

“If you will not comply, then your skull will be cracked by the sword and your blood will drown your apostles!”

“I knew that bastard had a sword!” I foolishly interject.

“Dude, shut up!” Carlos rebukes me from his corner. I had forgotten he was here. The guy always manages to keep quiet during strange situations and usually doesn’t try to censor my goofy comments, but I suppose he grasps the gravity of the situation. The messenger gives an enraged scowl and points to me.

“This is the result of your malevolence, Jackson! This child was once one of ours, and now you’ve dammed him from righteousness. He refers to a steward of the Almighty as a bastard!” He turns his attention to me, “I have a father, and he’ll turn his back on you if you follow this wasted creation!”

The threat is very real, no doubt about that. When a seemingly immortal being warns you that your creator will boot you out of its celestial sanctuary, it’s best to accept defeat and gracefully step down.

“Fuck you, asshole!”

I never take my own advice and this time it may bite me in the ass. That probably wasn’t the best thing to say, and I can tell by the saliva dripping from his lips and his eyes undressing me with a sadist’s delight that I’m about to be cast into perdition in less than a minute.

“I cannot believe I am hearing such defiance,” the messenger says. “This outburst truly deserves the punishment it shall receive!”

 I can feel smoke crawling into my lungs and clutching tightly, dragging its nails down my tissue and forcing me to cough a slab of blood to the floor. The flame is gripping my arm and bringing the flesh to a boil. I can see the blisters surging and popping as the pale exterior begins to char into a fractured badland. The messenger is looming, a menace that will summon an avalanche of sulfur to bury me. The shadow is cast over me and I look up to see the glowing eyes gazing into me. The sword is raised high above the creatures head and I await the fall. My life does not flash before my eyes and there is neither comfort nor embrace delivered from on high. In these final moments I echo the sentiments of Nathaniel and say that no good ever came from Nazareth.

The blade scrapes the air with a soft whistle as it begins to descend. I can smell the steel as it glides. The magnificent craftsmanship that must have gone into this weapon commands my respect even as it’s being used to decapitate me…why would an angel of death sent by a god use a broad sword? I mean seriously, the Alpha and Omega has control of the entire universe and knowledge and control of the past, present, and future, yet the top choice for its fleet of henchmen to use is a sheet of sharp metal with a handle that was developed in the Bronze Age?

My hair barely gets grazed when I’m tackled from the side. It’s Carlos. We fly and crash into the wall as the sword slashes to the ground and rips through the floorboards. I dart my head around quickly and watch the messenger struggling to unstick its weapon. I begin to laugh hysterically.

“Holy shit, man,” I bellow. “We almost died!”

“You’re an idiot,” Carlos says, shaking his head.

The messenger rips the sword from the floor and starts rushing towards us.  Its nostrils are flared and its veins are bulging from its neck as it stomps in an enraged stampede with every intention to trample us under its mighty feet. With each step it takes I imagine the feeling of my jaw getting stomped and my teeth cracking and as a rush of iron flows through my taste buds and I gargle my own blood in the back of my throat. Just as the heat of its foot blankets my face there is a loud explosion, and I see the messenger jerked backwards and whipped into the opposite wall; it’s Jackson.

“You will not lay one hand on any of my disciples!”

The messenger sits up slowly and stares at Jackson with horrified confusion.

“What did you call them?” it shakily asks.

“My disciples,” Jackson answers with a stern but calm voice.

The messenger’s expression shifts from confusion to awe, but not the same kind of awe that I had when the transfiguration first began. No, the look on this creature’s face suggests that it’s marveling at the sheer stupidity of Jackson’s words. It indeed does have the right to react in this way, considering it takes command from a god that demands anyone guilty of blasphemy be put to death by way of stoning. Within this frame of mind, Jackson probably just spoke the most foolish thing possible. The evidence is clear, the messenger begins to laugh arrogantly.

“You ungrateful little worm,” the messenger says. “That’s blasphemy!”

“I’m well aware of what you think it is, but I speak my truth proudly and regret nothing I have said or even thought. Your ways are corrupt and full of misery, and I offer freedom to those who need it most. Those who follow me will not perish under their past sins, but will be freed from them. They will be led to paradise, and they will be free…”

“Hail the messiah!” Leo proclaims as he steps in front of Jackson, raising his hand in a victorious salute.

The sword swings gracefully, beautifully, mercilessly as it orbits from the messenger’s side toward Leo’s neck. Leo does not run, flinch, or even blink. Rather, he stands firmly in his spot and waits for his punishment. Does he deserve what he’s about to receive? In the eyes of the messenger, this is justice. In the eyes of Leo and Jackson, this philosophy behind the punishment is an atrocity, but the death is glorious because they’re taking a stand against it. I find myself frighteningly apathetic to this event. You can be taught your entire life on a subject but never have any real education. That isn’t an original thought, I’m damn sure I heard that in a movie. But still, the point remains that I knew nothing about what it means to truly believe in something, and even when the melee is brought to my own house I still can’t come to terms with its reality. And now, as I watch a sword rip through Leo’s neck and I witness his head detach and plop to the floor and as the blood flings across the room and pelts me in the face, my only thoughts are smartass remarks and distractions that build a wall to enable me to deny the truth.

Leo’s body flops to the floor and the messenger stands unaffected, his eyes fixed on Jackson.

“That was the final warning,” the messenger says, pointing at Leo’s remains. “You will surrender to the will of the Almighty this moment, or your fate will be more vulgar than his.”

Jackson stands still, but his demeanor has changed. He is now vulnerable and solemn, and though it’s obvious that he is holding back tears for the loss of his friend, he is managing to maintain his composure.

“As good a friend as he was, this needed to happen,” Jackson utters. “Now I have further vindication for my campaign, which will no doubt become a juggernaut as your empire is disintegrating. I will not surrender to your god.”

The messenger begins to tense-up. “Then hell will consume you and its tongues will peel your flesh and swallow your bones!”

I’m floored that these angels and otherworldly beings actually speak this way. I’m starting to wonder if they hold viewings of the movies that humans watch just so they know how to put on a show for us when they reveal themselves. I’ve lost focus again. I need to stop zoning-out so much because I always snap out of it to realize that I’ve been staring at the floor and I’m behind on the goings-on around me. Now Jackson and the messenger are fist fighting and wrestling with each other. I’m not sure what happened to the sword but it’s not being utilized by either of them so I can only assume that Jackson thwarted an attack and disarmed the messenger.

The messenger delivers a hard punch that throws Jackson to the ground as he grips his face. The messenger steps backwards toward the door and stands there battered but waiting his foe’s next move.

“Come on, Jackson,” it says in a taunting tone, yet breathing heavily. “You can’t be the messiah if you are unable to defeat a messenger in hand-to-hand combat. I’m not even the angel of death, you weakling!”

Jackson jumps to his feet and sprints towards the messenger, but as he leaps the doorway is lit up by something that’s glowing down the staircase: fire. The messenger has opened the path to eternal damnation. Jackson attempts to connect on a tackle, but at the last second, the messenger dodges to the side and Jackson nails the doorframe head first. Jackson lays there dazed, struggling to lift his head off of the floor. The messenger stands over its adversary, relishing in its victory. It kneels over him and grabs him by the hair.

“Another false prophet will be silenced,” says the messenger. “Although that’s only a figure of speech, there’s plenty of screaming where I’m about to send you.”

Carlos starts sneaking across the room where the battle initially started.

“What are you doing?” I whisper loudly to Carlos.

“This thing’s going to murder us once he’s done with Jackson,” Carlos says. “I’m not gonna wait in the corner and let it happen.”

The messenger stands up and drags Jackson to the edge of the staircase. It peers over to ensure that it will indeed be throwing the defeated into a pit of torment instead of releasing him back into the wild. A flare-up screeches from the abyss and roasts the messenger’s eye. It cringes and grits its teeth to combat the pain and yells at Jackson, “a servant of god shouldn’t take pleasure in giving pain, but watching Lucifer’s legion feast on you will surely test my purity.”

Jackson is grabbed by the throat and hung over the ledge.  The messenger breathes deep, taking in the smell of charred flesh and smoldering souls. It closes its eyes in prayer, no doubt delivering a slimy bootlicking to the general. Its muscles are relaxed and its nerves are calm, it slowly loosens its grip on Jackson’s neck. One finger released: the messenger smiles serenely…Two fingers released: the messenger starts chuckling…Three fingers relea…

Its pupils expand, its brow begins to sweat, and it looks down to see the blade of a sword sticking through its chest. The barely conscious Jackson lets out a laugh of relief as he watches his reprieve delivered by the very sword of his executioner. I owe Carlos my thanks if all of this ends. That brave son of a bitch picked up the sword and hurled it at the messenger. I never knew that he had much aim, and perhaps he doesn’t, but I’ll remember my buddy Carlos as having the best shot in the land.

The messenger pulls the sword through its torso and drops the weapon to the ground. It then coughs up its heart and its eyes roll backward. As it begins to fall, Jackson snaps out of his trance and kicks and swings his way out of the corpse’s rigor mortis grip and lands safely on the floor just before the messenger falls off the first step and plummets.

Jackson scurries off of his knees to his feet and wobbles around in an attempt to find some balance. Carlos and I scramble over to him. I peak down the stairs and sure enough, there is a giant portal to hell where the lower-level of the house should be.

“Jesus, that’s one wicked view,” I say. “I mean where the hell did all that fire come from? It’s not even burning the woodwork!”

“The messenger was given a temporary set of keys to the realms normally only open to its god,” Jackson replies. “It was apparently part of their plan that I would reject the final warning, so the messenger was ordered to execute me upon my defiance.”

“Yeah? Well how the hell are we supposed to get rid of the death trap blocking us from the lower level of our house?” I snap at Jackson. I must admit I’ve had enough of this nonsense. I don’t even understand what the point has been for everything that’s happened today. Surely there can’t be some sort of moral to all of this. I’ve watched two people get murdered by a sword, one of which was performed by my own friend, and I’ve seen two religious zealots argue for way too long without actually coming to a resolution that I could figure out. At this stage, I’m just ready for Jackson to leave so things can get back to normal. I still haven’t finished moving my stuff into the house.

“The only way to close the portal to hell is to find another messenger and force it to seal it for us,” Jackson says. “Hell was opened specifically for me, and because of our efforts, they were not successful. Had they succeeded, the gates would have slammed shut instantly and trapped me in eternal damnation. Since I am still alive, we have a long and painful mission to complete in order to free ourselves from this divine oppression. The loss of my old friend and great apostle Leo is a great one, but I know that with the aid of my remaining two disciples, we’ll conquer this titan and set ourselves free!”

I know that speech was intended to inspire us, but Carlos and I are deflated. The pep rally was not what we asked for, I personally was hoping that Jackson’s response wasn’t going to be a battle plan for a long and painful mission to conquer our supposed enemies in order to free ourselves so we can go downstairs at will, or whatever the hell reason we’re trying to free ourselves.

“Yeah, man I don’t think we’re gonna be able to help ya out on this,” Carlos says.

“What?” Jackson asks.

“Yeah, I mean I still gotta unpack my stuff and settle in. I still haven’t even seen my bedroom.”

“No,” Jackson starts. “No, we must complete this mission! I know the prospects can seem overbearing, but we can rise to greatness and free ourselves from the cords of tyranny!”

You know the things people do when they don’t want to be in an awkward situation? They move their heads around, trying to make it appear as though they’re looking at something else even though there’s nothing else to see, and they put their hand behind their neck and scratch because they aren’t comfortable enough to just have their arms hang loosely at their sides. Those are the things Carlos and I have resorted to doing. The guy just isn’t getting it.

“I need my disciples, and I believe that you won’t give up on me because I won’t give up on you!” Jackson exclaims like a cheerleader.

Just when I’m about to give up and go on Jackson’s stupid mission simply to get him to shut up, Carlos chimes in with something brilliant.

“Hey…messiah, did you say that if that angel-messenger-thing had succeeded in throwing you down there, it would have closed instantly?”

“Yes, and I would have been trapped in eternal damnation, but fortunately they did not succeed and I can now lead my revolution!” Jackson replies.

There are a couple long seconds that pass by. I’m thinking through the options and I know that Carlos is doing the same, but finally we both have had enough thinking and almost telepathically agree on the final option. Carlos gives me a nod to tell me that he’s with me, and I give him a nod back that lets him know that I’m going to go through with it.

“Hey, Jackson,” I say.

“What?” He asks.

“I’m nobody’s disciple.”

“What?” he asks confused. “Wait, no!”

I quickly lift my hand and nudge Jackson’s shoulder. He flails around like a spastic chimp and manages to catch himself at the very edge of the top stair. He is bending over and spinning his arms in circles in an effort to regain his balance and stay on the floor, so I stick my foot out and give him a kick in the ass. I shouldn’t say it, but there is something rewarding about delivering that push and watching Jackson tumble from the stop step and drop down until he is out of sight completely. Within a couple moments, the pit begins to form into a giant mouth with rows of vicious fangs. The mouth stretches and roars loudly, then it finally closes and seals shut. However, the stairway is still covered by the lid of the underworld.

“Is that it?” Carlos asks.

“Looks like it.”

We walk slowly down the first few steps, as if climbing around the summit of a volcano. Our caution is wise, because just like a volcano, the lid begins to gurgle. We sprint back up the steps and hide around the corner in the room where ages ago we jammed and had a good time. We peak our heads around the doorframe and watch the steps for further activity.

“This is my room, by the way,” Carlos says.

“Really? Dude, this is sweet!” I say.

“Yeah, yours is right there,” he says pointing at a door facing us across the hall.

“Woah…I can’t wait till this is over so I can check it out!”

Our patience is rewarded when at last the lid bursts and launches a fantastic eruption of flares that bolt around the house in every direction. It’s quite a show, I must say, and it somehow brings me comfort and a newfound appreciation for the traditions and ceremonies that take place on Independence Day. The fanfare ends and we come out of hiding to view that our staircase has been returned to us. We both take a seat on the steps and enjoy the simple gift of normalcy. I don’t feel anything anymore. I’m just sitting here, zoning out on the wall and doing my best to put everything that has happened into perspective. Nothing has sunk in and it seems that the events that should be memories are being dismissed by my brain and put in the same category as dreams. Wasted, that’s what this is chalked up to, nothing but wasted.

“So…that was pretty badass,” Carlos jabs.

I look at him with the intention of scolding him, but when I see his face I realize that he meant what he said. And it makes me realize that he’s right, we had just taken part in something extraordinary. I may not see the whole picture right now, and maybe I never will, but I’ll be able to look back on this as one hell of a story. And even if this was all a figment of my imagination, I’m still going to tell it like it actually happened. The tale of the day Carlos and I danced with lunacy.

“Yeah,” I reply, rising to my feet. “It was pretty sweet. I think I’m gonna pass out though.”

“What about unpacking?” Carlos asks with a ribbing tone.

“I’ll finish it tomorrow,” I say. “I’m too wasted to focus right now.”

“All right, man,” Carlos says. “Take it easy.”

I walk up the steps and into my new room. It’s an empty, square room with white walls. I shut the door, walk to the center of the room, and lie on the carpet. On any other day, this would be uncomfortable, but right now…it’s still pretty damned uncomfortable.


© Copyright 2019 Zach West. All rights reserved.

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