(Here’s another work I’ve made that I played with for awhile but didnt’t find a publishing opportunity for after multiple tries. Enjoy.)
The air was like ice cubes rubbing against the skin. Each step Evan took along the cobblestone road echoed into the grey backdrop of the decaying day. It brought the uncomfortable sense of being tailed, of being stalked.
A fog was roosting, further adding to his bewilderment. The sunshine that Evan had grown so accustomed to in California was now replaced by a foreign land that was colored exclusively with gray.
He had no idea why he was here, nor could he remember anything other than last night. He remembered his typical phone call to Mom, he remembered working valet, and he remembered his name. When he tried to reach beyond these things, his brain banged against his skull. His mind’s failed escape attempts distracted him from the change of scenery dead ahead.
Lacking any real terms to describe the bridge he was looking at, Evan would call it a Medieval design. It was made of some kind of brick, and stood defiantly over the molasses-like river below. Despite the patchwork condition of the cobblestone path, the bridge itself was in tip-top form. Well, besides the piles of trash that were strewn across the walkway.
Evan had never seen this bridge before in his walks along the fringes of San Francisco. Evan was an adventurous sort, no stranger to day-long hikes and outdoor jogs. Surely he would have come across this in his romps. He was hesitant to press on, but the bridge beckoned to him. He NEEDED to cross this for some reason.
Evan did not protest any longer. The echo of his footsteps became louder as he plopped his feet across each brick. The icy air played hopscotch in his throat; Evan let out some light coughs. Night seemed to be falling with each step. A nearby rustle of papers shot chills up Evan’s spine.
Evan nearly walked past the woman. She materialized from underneath stacks of newspaper almost like a ghost. She didn’t seem to be threatened by Evan, taking stock of him but not appearing distressed. She came up to a sitting position and began moving her fingers, furiously typing in the air. Her speed was incredible, hitting many words per minute on her air keyboard.
She looked like a beautified corpse. Sleepless nights took the form of dark bags under her ocean-colored eyes. Her hair was a warm red, like a dying fire roosting upon her head. Her cheeks were rosy, her lips chapped. She wore a grey polo with dark-blue jeans. She stunk of lake water, and her clothes were wet like she had skipped the dryer on laundry day. Her shirt also had red stains on the back, which concerned Evan. But with all the trash that laid on the bridge, Evan couldn’t have made heads or tails of what it was. Blood, marinara, colored marker? It was a mystery.
“Um, hello.” Evan said. He was leery to question her behavior openly. “Are you alright down there?”
“Yeah, but I’m a bit busy. I have very, VERY important work to take care of. This is my big chance. A big break. So make it quick, whatever you want.” She said. She didn’t even make eye contact with Evan.
“Your big break?” Evan asked.
“Yeah. I can’t leak anything to anyone, but this is a big deal. First-hand evidence of a HUGE person of interest. I’ve been shadowing him and trying to get more information and I finally got some. Soon I’ll go to the police, but right now I want to know him inside and out for the story.” She spoke with confidence, very comfortable with giving the fringe details. Evan could remember this girl from somewhere, but he couldn’t pull from memory. Each time he tried, his brain did it’s best to give him a skull fracture. But through the pain, he was able to pull out one detail: A name for this face.
“Are you Le-Ann? Sorry if that comes across as strange but you seem pretty familiar.” Evan said. Her air-typing stopped, and she glared at Evan with the terrifying look that a fed-up teacher gives to a rowdy student.
“Who cares about my name? My profession is what matters. The truth is what matters. Who gives a damn about a name? My story. That’s what I care about. My story and the truth. Give it up, creep-show. Don’t push me.” She broke her glare and the air-typing recommenced.
Though Evan had felt as though he was verbally run down by a train, he couldn’t say he was entirely surprised. She had seemed very confrontational from the beginning. Her work had seemed to control her. She had an obsession to find others’ truths, but disguise her own. That obsession will undo her, he thought.
“Well, look, I’m sorry. I was wrong to do what I did, alright? I’ll leave you be.” Evan said.
“I understand why you did it, but you could have at least waited until the story was done.” She said without missing a beat on the typing.
Evan had pushed his luck quite a bit with this fire-ball typist, it was time to quit while he had doused the flames. The woman muttered to herself as he stepped away, having been bothered by the very loud, not-so-subtle smashing of newspaper under his feet. He disregarded it and kept on the move, as he always had. She wouldn’t be a bother to him anymore.
Despite the redhead nearly frying him alive, he felt a strange desire to get to know her better. A date over coffee maybe? Evan had always liked women who could be in control. He had more than enough stress in his life; work, not many friends, very strained relations with the few friends he had. Maybe he’d ask his friend Martin about the redhead, see what advice he could give? Martin had never been great for long-term advice, but the initial stages of courtship were his forte.
Martin was one of Evan’s truly good friends. A companion that had stuck with him from the day they first met, a man he could trust. Martin certainly had his faults; he routinely hit his lovers, he was disrespectful of the law, and he was a conman through and through. He never even tried to set down reliable roots anywhere, always traveling and disappearing for stretches of time but coming back when Evan needed him. He was a rotten, two-timing scumbag to everyone else and Evan didn’t want to be anything like him. But he and Evan were opposites that attracted; a bond that would stick.
Evan’s reminiscing had distracted him from the long-winded trek. Despite all of the leisure hiking he had done, this bridge was beginning to undo him. His legs felt like Jell-O, his feet felt like boulders. This little adventure was murder.
He needed to take a break or he’d be crawling on all fours. Evan leaned against a metal barrel that was solid and heavy, certainly full of trash. But the groan from inside of the barrel made Evan reconsider his resting spot. He rocketed himself forward away from whatever wildlife was stirring about inside. A head peeked out of the top of the barrel with a very non-threatening face; Evan had concluded that this wildlife was of the vagrant hobo variety. He set himself at ease, but only a little.
“Are you ok, mister?” He asked of Evan. The boy was baby-faced, and probably wasn’t even out of high school yet. A dry streak of red laced the crown of his pale forehead, like a misplaced streak of paint on a white billboard. The boy had saucer-pan eyes of terror, which annoyed Evan.
“Sorry, I was just taking a break. You alright in there, bud?” Evan asked.
Evan thought that such a simple question would get an equally simple and quick response. Instead, the boy continued to stare fearfully at Evan. A burning hatred began to fan itself within Evan’s mind. Pointless staring was more than just a pet peeve; it was unacceptable.
“Are you going to say anything or just stare, dammit? Do you have something you need to say? I don’t like it when people stare!” Evan yelled.
The boy shot back into his barrel, and began shivering and shaking inside. The barrel was rebounding loudly against the bricks like a banging of drums, and metal vibrations wobbled through the air. Barrel Boy then let out an otherworldly scream, a call of the damned. Evan had nothing tangible to compare it to, but he thought that this would be the kind of screech that rings out daily in Hell. Eventually the horrifying Screamo band concert bowed out, and dead silence swept over Evan and Barrel Boy. A silence that made Evan wish for an encore.
“I’m sorry, mister. I-I d-didn’t mean it. Let’s j-j-just leave it be, alright? Please? You scared me. I-I-I don’t know nothin’….” The boy was speaking fast, tongue tripping and slipping over every word.
“No, no kid. It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have gotten after you like that. Your staring was just bugging me, ok? It made me feel crazy or somethin’. “Evan tried to reassure the poor soul, more for his own sake than anything. The boy nodded slowly and sunk back into his metal sanctuary.
Evan walked away from the boy, relieved that he had settled that properly. His rage had sometimes gotten the better of him, and being stared at was an uncomfortable feeling forced onto him for many years. But that boy hadn’t earned the assault he was given. That was a mistake.
Evan began to reminisce about his childhood, and the years when he grew up with his judgmental classmates. Children would laugh and point in his direction; parents and teachers would too. These conversations were obviously about him, taunting him with their gestures and hiding their hateful words. Evan just knew it, a sixth sense alerted him to the miserable sneers and snickers of wicked people. From second grade until college graduation, he rarely trusted anyone. Other people were just two-legged snakes, spitting hidden poison on Evan’s purity.
Despite all of the scumbags that were present in Evan’s early years, his friend Martin would always stay with him. Martin protected him from the schoolyard bullies, blacking eyes and busting lips. Ol’ Marty would give ‘em swirlies and made sure they never whined to Momma. Martin stayed on like that through high school and college too, a persistent force of terror that kept Evan from being mistreated or taken advantage of. Even though Martin had hatefully disregarded everyone else around him, he never left Evan’s side. He was Evan’s only friend, and vice versa.
But Ol’ Marty was a rare creature to see now. Martin had said that he would be around, making sure Evan stayed “upright and kickin’ ” despite all of the naysayers. Evan didn’t believe it for a long time but by the time he did, Martin was almost a ghost. He’d visit a few times a year now, and it wasn’t the same. Darkness swirled in his eyes and every word he spoke chilled the air.
As Evan reflected, a womanly shape manifested in the growing blackness. The back of her dress was like camouflage; a long, jet shroud that covered her from shoulder to ankle. If it hadn’t been for the pale grey hues on her noodle-thin arms, Evan might have dismissed her as a lie in his eyes. Evan closed in towards her, stopping as a light wind tossed her hair into a flowing display. The wind whistled hushed tunes into the air, and then calmed into soundless misery.
“Excuse me, ma’am?” Evan approached the woman on her side. She turned to face him. The woman’s face was crafted by angels, but the devil had done his deeds on her throat. A wide slice formed a half-circle on her fragile neck. The grisly scar looked more like a fresh, wet wound. Her skin was a sickly bluish gray, and she had a face like a corpse. Her eyes were like two black holes, sucking the life out of Evan. Evan back-stepped with all of the grace of a drunken bear, nearly tripping over himself trying to create some distance between the two of them.
“Yes, sweetheart? What is it?” She had a tone of weariness.
“Are you alright, miss? Are you hurt? Did something happen?” Evan asked.
She chuckled and smiled. It was a terrifying toothy smile, compounded by the rest of her looks. A dried red substance stained what were otherwise perfect teeth. Evan bet against lipstick being the culprit.
“Yes, darling. I’m a bit bothered. Someone stole something from me. I haven’t been able to get it back.” She said.
As she spoke, Evan felt time turn backwards in his brain. It was the past; a happier version of this lifeless husk in front of him. Her monotone voice was once a marvel, speaking soft notes to caress tired ears. Something had ruined her voice and beauty, and taken precious feelings from her.
“What did they take?” Evan asked.
“There was only one. A man. A man who took so many things. But then, maybe I gave them away too easily. I thought he might share them with me, that one day he would see how important those things were. “She wandered back and forth as she spoke, gracefully picking each step on the cobblestone.
“But he decided to throw all of it away. And he left me here. By myself. I gave him too much, I think. And now he doesn’t even know what he lost. Now, he’s just someone that no one will ever want.” She bared her bloody teeth once again.
The initial shock of her appearance wearing off, Evan began to see what this really was: Naivety, dressing itself in a grown woman’s clothes. Her own mistakes being buried in self-pity and a selfish desire to shift the blame on a man. Women like this were as common as pennies on the ground. But this particular coin was one that he recognized.
“Are you….Kendra?” He asked.
Her eyes grew wide as frying pans. They looked like two black pits, and Evan was sure that he would fall into them forever.
“It’s been so long since I’ve been called that. It’s so nice to hear it again. I’m glad you remember it.” The woman walked towards the end of the bridge. A fog started rolling in that was so thick you could take a bite out of it.
“Wait! Can I help you find what you lost? Evan asked.
She turned to face him one last time with that tortured visage.
“No. You’ve done enough.”
She turned and walked into the fog. Evan tried to follow her, but the fog swallowed him whole. When it lifted enough for him to see, she was forever lost to the night. But now he could see the end so clearly. This hellish nighttime stroll was coming to a close. The other side of the bridge was there. The end of this nightmarish diversion. Straight ahead of him was a road, lit brightly by lanterns, leading off of the bridge and into a forest.
Evan’s face lit up like Christmas lights at the sight of grass and trees. His brain stopped trying to break out of his skull, his feet and legs recovered from their jello-ish consistency. He finally felt like normal again. Already he planned on calling off of work tomorrow, and sleeping the whole day away. But as he neared the end of the bridge, he stopped making plans for his day off.
The lights dimmed and then died. A single flame danced in the distance, growing ever closer. Someone was coming. Evan had nowhere to go. He was frozen stiff, his feet held tightly by terror. Dread snuck its way into his mind, plaguing his every thought with the worst of cases. The light was getting closer, with each step it strengthened the forces that kept him place.
The first thing he could see with the light was a gloved hand. Then, the rest of the figure. Its walk was determined, and the figure produced a grand aura of authority. More and more Evan saw. A hood. Dark boots. And then it stopped. Evan could not make out a face; the hood simply looked empty.
“Well…did you enjoy your stroll?” A strong voice echoed inside of Evan’s ears.
“It’s something I’ll never forget. Something I’m not doing again. And who are you?” Evan said.
The hood began to move towards Evan again. It moved with a menace, a special kind of evil in each step. Each step served to intimidate, a loud thud against the cobblestone of the bridge. Only about a car’s length separated the two now. Evan still couldn’t the face of his intimidator.
“Rarely do people want to make the same journey twice. But you. You are one of those special exceptions.” The figure said.
“Not sure you have the right guy. I think I’d remember dancing in Dante’s Inferno.” Evan said.
“No. You are EXACTLY who I wanted. I was surprised to see how well you did. You almost lost yourself a few times. But there was control. And that is why there is a chance.”
Evan brow furrowed. “What are you talking about? I’ve only just met those people.”
The figure bellowed out a single “ha”, which echoed along the night air. “You’ve known them all. You’ve inserted yourself into all of their lives. But, most importantly, you’ve seen them all die. Every single one. You. And Martin.”
“How do you know Martin? What’s he got to do with this goddamn awful night out? Is this one of his sick jokes?” Evan asked.
“Martin has everything to do with this. The reporter. The boy. Kendra. And you. You most of all. You and Martin have shared every moment.” The hood continued being cryptic.
Evan began to remember one of Martin’s flings. In a conversation they’d had a few weeks ago on one of his rare visits, Martin constantly brought up this beautiful woman with a voice touched by angels. That was Evan’s spin on it though; Martin was a lot more vulgar with his comparisons. Martin never said her name but he did show a picture. If it wasn’t Kendra, then she has a twin on the loose.
“I remember Martin and that girl now. He must’ve played her or somethin’ right? But why does that matter to me? It’s wrong but I can’t control him. He lives his own life, and he can deal with his own problems.” Evan said.
“Yes,” The hood said. “You can’t control him. Martin can do what he wants can’t he? Maybe I was entirely wrong about you then. You don’t seem to care about what Martin does.”
“I care.” Evan said. “I care plenty. Martin can be a tool, a real scumbag. And pretty often. But he’s been there for me when no one else wanted to help me. With all the stares, all of the hatred, all of the liars. Martin was there in my corner. I disagree with how he does some things, but he took care of me when other people didn’t give a damn.”
“Evan.” The hood said. “Think carefully about your life. Think about Martin. Think about ALL of the things he has done for you. And you will see what Martin really is.”
Evan didn’t understand what cryptic game the hood was playing. He decided he would play just to get off of this occult cobblestone trail. He started to reach back to the years of first grade, a time of boogers and playground ruckus. He remembered one of his first fights. He was thrown down on the asphalt by an older boy on the playground; Evan, clumsy and fat, had tripped and landed on the boy’s dodgeball. It popped under one of his stomach rolls, and his aggressor was none too pleased. An accident, but not to that third grader. Evan remembered closing his eyes and waiting to be fed a few knuckle sandwiches.
The fisticuff lunch never came. He opened his eyes and saw his belligerent out cold. One of his cohorts stared, mouth and eyes wide in disbelief. Between Evan and his unconscious foe stood a giant of an elementary schooler poised to kill.
“You next up?” Martin asked of the tag-along. The boy with the hanging jaw shook his head, and headed to the teachers at light speed. Martin turned to look at Evan, and reached out a helping hand. Martin pulled him up promptly and Evan dusted himself off.
“This one’s yours. Them other kids will leave ya be now.” Martin smiled his toothy grin and disappeared, leaving Evan to the mercy of the school staff that was on route. When the slack-jawed witness came in to the office, he told the principal that Evan was a monster. Evan was suspended for fighting, and counselors even asked Evan’s folks to consider therapy.
“That’s a good start.” The figure interrupted. “Keep going. Keep searching.”
Evan was getting sick of these trips; he tried to repress these things for a reason but he relented. Evan began to remember Martin once again, but this memory felt strange.
“Martin, please. I try so hard to put up with it.” Kendra pleaded. This wasn’t right. He’d never actually met Kendra when she and Martin were together. Yet here he was, playing the silent third wheel in a scene of quarreling lovers. He didn’t grasp why this had escaped him, he even wondered if this was real. If it was, then this would have been the only time Martin ever let him meet one of his “gals”.
“Put up with what? It ain’t like it’s hard to do. No kids. Not a one.” Martin said. His voice was starting to raise but he was still fairly in control.
“I’ve done so much for you. I’ve loved you, I’ve dropped gigs for you. I even turned away my family for you. And now you can’t even say my damn name? Or give me a family?” Kendra said, tears forming in her eyes.
“No kids. It wouldn’t be right! It just wouldn’t be, alright? You know it!” Martin was yelling now.
“You can’t even say my name anymore? I call you what you want to be called. That name is as ugly as you are. Martin Goreburg! Ugly! Hideous! Why can’t I call you your name?” Her voice raised to match his.
Martin’s eyes were growing wide, his face burning red. Evan had seen this look before. This was the look that preceded every vicious mauling of jeering jock and snide smartass that ever messed with Martin or Evan. The bulging vein in the bald head, the stiffening of the jaw; this look was something Evan truly feared with Martin.
“Why can’t I call you what I want then, “Martin”?! Why can’t I call you “Evan”?!”
An invisible spike jammed itself into Evan’s eye socket. The ringing and the thrashing in his head was back in play now. He fell to his knees in pain, closing his eyes to try slow this hellish sensory overload. When he opened them, he was holding a knife to Kendra’s throat.
This frame stayed a moment for Evan, this locking of eyes between Kendra and himself. In her eyes he could see fear and distress so clearly. But he could see pain as well. Not physical pain but emotional pain, a pain of betrayal. And next, as the knife slid cleanly across her throat, all of that was gone. The life faded from those hazel eyes, those eyes that faded into black.
“N-no….” Evan stuttered. “That’s not….that’s something you put there!”
“No. It isn’t. Keep thinking, Evan. See what else you can find.” The hood said.
Thinking was the last thing Evan wanted right now, but it wasn’t his choice. His mind had gone rogue. A whole new scene was unfolding before him as he looked at Martin’s back on a street corner. Martin’s distinct red driver cap say on his head. It was a gift from Evan, a nod to Martin’s peculiar sense of style. Martin stood by the streetlight in his old-timey apparel, calmly wiping away the blood from the kitchen knife he had just used. He was admiring it like a trophy. A noise startled Evan, and he turned around to see the source.
A young boy laid on a bench, hiding himself under a mountain of rags and dirty clothes. He was doing his best to avoid Martin, but his nose betrayed his intentions with a sneeze. Martin turned and saw the vagrant, a smirk twisting on his lips. He wielded the knife in his hand and walked towards the witness.
“I don’t like people that stare.” Martin said. “People that stare like to talk about me. Tell people how crazy I am. How bad I am. Just like you. All of you are the same.”
The boy put his hands up. “Please, mister. I’m sorry. Let’s just leave it be, alright? I won’t say nothin’. I don’t know nothin’.”
The boy spoke with trepidation on every word as Martin slowly approached. Sweat dripped off of the boy’s head, illuminated by the streetlight. His lips quivered, his hands shook. He was doing his best impersonation of a patient in a padded room, balling himself up as tightly as he could while he whimpered.
Martin’s arm pulled back high above his head and the boy let out that awful scream. Evan covered his ears, and then he wished he had covered his eyes. One good stab to the crown of the boy’s head was all it took. Another flame of life extinguished; Martin was beginning to look like one of the Devil’s firemen. He pulled the knife out slowly with a look of annoyance, as he wiped it clean with his undershirt once again.
Martin looked down at the young corpse for a moment like an artist observing a piece before presentation. Satisfied, he picked up the body and dropped it into a nearby barrel that was hiding out in a back alley. Martin used the boy’s own makeshift bedding to cover up the gruesome remains, and then dropped a lighter inside. The homeless wouldn’t complain about free heat, and people would assume that the smell was from whatever a hobo was burning. As he finished up, headlights illuminated the street corner he had been standing on. A taxi cab had pulled up, and the driver had rolled down the passenger side window. Martin buttoned his coat and approached.
“Good evening, sir.” The cabby said. “Would you be Evan Morris?”
Martin smiled. “Yeah, that’s me.”
Slowly, all of it was becoming clear to Evan. But he still didn’t want to believe it, he just couldn’t. Maybe Martin was just impersonating him or using one of his credit cards. He’d done it before as a joke. But that memory was crystal clear. Like Evan had been there. He could even feel the knife. The grip of the rubber handle tiptoed along his fingertips both times he had seen it now. He closed his eyes in distress.
Evan opened his eyes and saw the hood again. Back on the bridge once more? Maybe he could stay this time. And never leave again.
“Oh my god…no….no more.” Evan pleaded.
“God? That’s not who I am.” The hood stated. “You will see just once more. You must understand.”
Evan tried to fight his mind. He shut his eyes and covered his ears, bit his tongue and held his breath. This trip needed to stop at any cost. After a moment of trying to deprive all of his senses, he felt in control again. At ease. He opened his eyes with a prayer that he’d wake up on a bed.
Just as he wanted, he awoke on a bed. But it wasn’t his bed. Evan now looked at the back of a redhead. An endless clicking resonated from her laptop as she sat at her desk. She was surrounded by newspapers and mountains made of journal paper. Outside, rain dropped steadily on a lake.
Evan’s body moved on its own, creaking its way off of the bed and sauntering its way up behind the girl. As he put his hands on the back of her chair, she spun around and pushed his hands away with anger.
“Whoa, easy there, killer. Just seeing what you were up to is all.” Evan said. Or watched himself say.
“Don’t worry about what I’m up to. Just get your things and get out. It was fun but I’ve got better things to deal with now.” She said.
Evan recognized this voice as Le-Ann’s. Instantly, his heart sank. He had a sudden feeling of dread. He knew what was about to happen here. He didn’t want this to happen.
“Well, I just wanna know you is all. I don’t even know yer name. What good is that if I wanna have fun again?” Evan’s mouth persisted. She spun around and gave him a look that threatened violence.
“My name doesn’t matter! You were a diversion. I don’t wanna “get to know” you. This is my big break. I’m busy. Take your things and go. Don’t leave anything around because you aren’t coming back. Bye.” Le-Ann snapped back to her computer and typed away.
Evan felt his hands ball up into angry fists. A vein bulged on the back of his head. He spun around and gathered his clothes from the floor. Inside of his head, Evan felt relief. This was going to be a memory that he might be ok with. A good decision maybe. He felt himself moving towards the kitchen exit to the outside.
But Evan stopped. Fear crept into Evan’s mind when he saw the rubber-grip kitchen knife in a plastic bag on the kitchen counter-top. Tiny smudges of blood were present at the tip; a spot that hadn’t been wiped. Evidence.
He couldn’t stop himself from opening the bag and taking the knife out. Despite all of his efforts, his legs moved with a mind of their own. His body crept back into Le-Ann’s bedroom against the wishes of its master, knife in hand. Evan watched himself draw the knife back and drive it deep into Le-Ann’s spine again and again.
He could not protest his actions when he lifted Le-Ann up from the desk chair and carried her outside to the lake. He could not stop himself from tying a cinderblock to her foot before throwing her into the water. He could not do anything but watch and understand, just as the hood had said. And then, perhaps sensing the disgust felt by its owner, Evan’s body threw itself into the lake. Evan closed his eyes under the water, praying that he would simply cease to exist.
But it was not to be. Evan was on his knees looking into the cobblestone of the bridge, the hood’s boots in front of him. The tears flowed, without any whimpering or sobbing. Tears from a broken mind, a mind that didn’t even know itself anymore.
“Is that what I am then?” Evan asked the hood.
“You are many things, Evan.” The figure said.
“But,” Evan said. “But why I am here? What am I meant to do now?”
“That is solely up to you.” The hood shined his lamp into Evan’s eyes. “Your time here is up.”
Evan’s eyes opened wide to bright lights and cold metal. He looked down at himself to see a hospital gown and a gurney. IVs and heart monitors adorned him arm, a steady beeping chiming from the machine nearby. As he looked to his left, a familiar face greeted him.
“Hey there, bud. Thought I’d pay you a visit.” Martin smiled his toothy grin, laid back on one of the hospital chairs. What could Evan possibly say now? He still wasn’t sure that if what happened was real or not. Maybe it was some really awful Chinese takeout. Maybe Martin was real and that was all just a terrible, endless nightmare. But he decided to poke the bear, and inquire about the elephant in the room.
“Martin…” Evan said, “Why did you do it?”
Martin looked puzzled. “Why did I do what? Don’t speak riddles na’ boy.”
“Kendra. Why Martin?” Evan said.
Martin leaned back and bit his lip. A redness came about him, the vein in his head began to pulse. Then he took a deep breath and sighed. He smiled.
“Boy,” Martin said, “things just need doin’ sometimes. You never had to make a decision in yer whole, wretched life that wasn’t simple.” The nightmare was slowly becoming a reality.
Martin continued. “And I’ll keep playing that part, too. Cuz you and I know that we need to do that to keep survivin’. She was gonna con us into kids, Evan. She was a two-bit hustler looking for a meal ticket. The boy was gonna rat us, and the journalist was gonna make us front page. Put us in jail while she was gonna git fat pockets. You got too deep in it, and I pulled ya out.”
“Martin, I didn’t remember any of them. I didn’t remember abusing Kendra. I didn’t remember being with Le-Ann. I didn’t remember murdering a young kid. But you do. You remember all of them don’t you?” Evan asked.
Martin stood up and began pacing. The rage was coming, Evan could see it bubbling. Martin’s eyes were getting wide, and his face was turning bright red.
“Everything I done for you, boy. Everything. You bet I had some fun, you bet I made some choices. Cuz without me, yer nobody. A loser. With me, you’re at least somethin’. So what? We got into some bad deals with some people? Nobody knows it was us! Nobody! I made sure of that. We can go on now, with our same lives. Our same ol’ struggles and our same ol’ triumphs. We’re not so far from bein’ winners!”
Martin got right down to Evan’s face. That look. That Martin look. It was only a few inches from Evan’s face. Martin could crush him like an ant, and into a fine powder.
“Now, boy, think about what life would be like without ol’ Martin. Whatchu think about that, then….HMMM?” Martin said. “Cuz without me…boy, you ain’t worth spit.”
Life without Martin would have been impossible. Evan would have never gotten into shape, never had a girlfriend, and probably wouldn’t have done anything. Life without Martin would be impossible.
But so would life with Martin. Martin had manipulated Evan from the very beginning, building up his trust to abuse him later. Evan now realized that all of the stories Martin had told, his abuses, his violence, his hatred, had been things that Evan was a part of. For so long, Evan though of Martin as his protector and his friend against all of the snakes that masqueraded as people. The grim reality? Martin was the only snake, slithering his way into Evan’s mind and taking hold.
Life with Martin would be impossible.
“You’re right Martin. I can’t live without you.” Evan said. “But I can’t live with you either.”
A note pad laid on the stand next to Evan’s gurney. He reached for it and a pen that was nearby. With each word that Evan wrote, his shoulders felt lighter. The air felt crisp in his lungs with each breath, and the fear of life without Martin was starting to be overcome by the rush of optimism at being free. Martin sank back down into his chair, his trademark look withering in the face of Evan’s newfound self-confidence.
“Evan….” Martin said, “This’ll be it for us, bud. You know that? They’ll take us down right proper…”
“It’s my decision.” Evan replied.
Evan finished his confession and read it over just to be sure that he didn’t miss anything. Everything that Martin had ever done, he marked it down. The bridge, the crossing, everything. He wanted everything to make sense to the police.
Evan paused for a moment. There was still time to reconsider. Evan could try to go on without Martin. Maybe he could carve out a decent life?
No. The people on the bridge had carved out decent lives. Too much was taken already. He needed to give back. He needed to balance things, to make his own choice. He reached for the nurse call button and pressed. The nurse showed up almost immediately.
She smiled at Evan and asked, “How can I help?”
Evan smiled back and handed her the note pad. “That’s for you. Make sure it goes where it needs to, please.”
The nurse smiled. “Of course, sir. Will there be anything else?”
“No. I just want some alone time.” Evan said.
The nurse nodded and walked out of the room, note pad in hand. Evan looked back over to Martin hoping to gloat, but his long time manipulator had finally checked out. Evan’s mind was his own for the first time in years.
Evan looked at the pen in his hand. He’d almost given it to the nurse by accident. It wasn’t the ideal instrument for his new purpose, but it would make due. Evan clicked the pen a few times. It almost reminded him of the shoes clicking across the cobblestone, clicking and clacking into eternity. He took one last deep breath, and prepared to cross the bridge again.