Ringing in the Changes

A Very Bad Man took a knife and cut my father out of the world.

But first, Something hurt me. Something that followed us, lurking around the outside of our lives. I saw it in the park, hiding in the dark, and when I called attention to it, it lashed out and marked me.

Before the Something, there were the doors. Doors to everywhen and anywhere, but all of them locked; the perils inside not yet mine. A five year old can only survive so much, and hungry for travel and adventure though I was, the doors would never open. I could only imagine what lay behind them, these doors I was told I only imagined.

When the Very Bad Man cut away my father, I was afraid. If the Very Bad Man could take Dad away, then mightn’t he also come for me? And if I slept, I wouldn’t even see him coming. I denied sleep for days until one night, laying in bed,  a door appeared outside my window,  a black void against the white sliver of moon.

As I stared at this door, I became convinced that this was the door to the Very Bad Man’s house.  Now the Very Bad Man would come and steal me away, the Very Bad Man would come with a knife and cut me right out of the world. He was going to open the door and come in through my window, and Mother would scream and weep and shriek just like she did when the Very Bad Man took Daddy away.

I wanted to call out for my mother, for any adult to come – because bad things always disappear for children when an adult is near, is it not so? But I remembered all to well the Something that had hidden itself in the bushes; how it hurt me when I cried out, how could I forget when the blood still drained into the bandages wrapped around my arm; and I knew that some horrors never flee in the face of the coming calvery. Some just hurt you all the worse.

Then the door opened.

It opened to nothing; blackness layered over blackness, as if someone had taken a swatch of sky and swept away the stars. A complete darkness, malicious and maddening, so total it retuted the possibility of light.

Out of the doorway, the darkness seemed to leak; like ink overspilling the well, it poured over the lip of doorway and down some impossible distance to the ground. My bedroom was in the attic space, and the door hung somewhere slightly higher in the air. Something boneless and vile eked from the door, pooling down in the grass below. It seemed endless, this slimming ink, until suddenly, too quick to comprehend, it took on a solidity, a formedness; it became a thing with long reaching fingers and a pale faceless head staring from above a perfectly black body. It was something terrible; it was a man. It was the Very Bad Man.

It moved toward me in one smooth step, so it stood right outside the window, its long fingers clutching at the sill. Though I had been scared for so long, and though the thing standing beyond the thin glass of my window leaked malvolence from every bit of itself, as I watched it, my fear suddenly fled me. Iwas in the presence of the Very Bad Man, but I couldn’t be scared. I asked, starting to slide from my bed – perhaps to open the window – “Do I have to come with you?”

The Very Bad Man looked at me, seeming to stare with his ever shifting face at my bandaged arm. Was there was something about it, something about my clawed up meat that changed his mind? Because after a while of staring, he simply shook his head. No, I didn’t have to come; not yet. Later, perhaps; and did he say that with his mouthless face or did I just make it up? I don’t remember. I remember the cracks running across his face, shifting, changing, consuming themselves only to spread in anew different web; I remember watching these and falling asleep, thinking of wounds that heal and reappear, heal and reappear.

 

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