Remembrance

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The lightning flashed and illuminated her weathered face for a brief moment through the dripping windshield. She pulled up to the rusty gas station slowly and timidly, like a mouse approaching a lion, her face raw with worry. She reluctantly accelerated in her old 1970’s station wagon, the engine sputtering and coughing. The tank was a parched throat after driving the long and lonesome hours from Pennsylvania.

It was dark for 4 o’clock. She could barely see through the wall of rain and blackness to the gas station attendant walking out of his recluse under the cover of the garage. She was surprised that there was even a soul there, the way the station looked neglected. She rolled down her window and the rain pounded her and rushed in like a dam breaking and the water spilled in. The attendant hastily stuck his sopping head in the aged woman’s car.

“What can I do for you today, Ma’am?” he requested in a pleasant tone. Ms. Meadows could tell he was eager for a job. Perhaps he was quite as lonely as her, she wondered.

“Yes, my dear, could you please fill the tank with whatever is cheap?” She did not intend to be spending useless money in this deserted forest. Just enough to get there and back to this station again and she assumed she wouldn’t be driving all that much on this man’s compound. Her secretive host seemed wealthy by the way he wrote, on very luxurious notepaper, but you know what they say- “don’t judge a book by its cover.” A senseless comment, she thought.

“Yes, Ma’am, right away,” he said reassuringly. Boys in Pennsylvania were not charming like this one, she reflected, they run around disrupting the public in excitement but all the while disrespect is tearing them apart. A shame.

When he was finished filling the tank, soaked to the skin, she remembered what she needed to ask.
“I’m sorry, I’m looking for a certain residence of Mr. Dillon, or could it be Denver? It seems I must have forgotten the directions,” she inquired. She knew she saw it. Something. For only an instance, but he hastily wiped it clear off his face. It was sheer terror, she thought, and it gave her a spine-chilling feeling. Or was she simply imagining things as usual?
He replied, “Yes, I know that name,” and he stuttered, she was sure of it. “I believe it’s on Cherry. Cherry Lane. If I remember correctly.”
She drove down the long stretch of road, becoming more isolated by the minute, while the pines grew taller and the heavy downpour that clogged the air constricted the fresh aroma. It brought her to her home, back in good ol’ Mississippi where the rain came down from the heavens like a million pieces of shattered glass. And now it was like home; in a way only she could explain. The freedom of home gave her a hopeful sensation, but the rain was her father who restricted their independence and splintered the children’s emotions. The gentle scent of home-baked cookies was protruded by the stale stank of his deep whiskey breath after the wait for him to finally return. These were the few memories her mind still had to offer, the leftovers from the years with her heavy burden.
After the fluctuating twists and turns reached an unbearable monotony, she arrived. The mailbox was perked up and precisely painted, the gravel driveway untouched, and there was not a loose twig on the flawlessly trimmed lawn despite the constant downpour that appeared to never end. As the pines stood like toy soldiers down the pathway, they enveloped the vehicle in darkness that could have been mistaken for the middle of the night. She thought it strange that a single man as himself would care to keep this masterpiece of land in peak condition; but was he married? She had overlooked this detail in her considerations.
Mr. Dillon
He heard the crunch of the worn out tires puncturing the finely laid gravel driveway. He was enthralled to see the face of this long lost companion as she stepped out of the ancient car, with rain drizzling on her ironed summer dress. Cold, she must be, he thought, and only colder she will get. The man began to quiver in the cold himself, and with the cold came anxiety, but only for a brief moment until he pulled himself together properly.
He recalled the old days, and the long nights spent together under the carefree stars, back when the ring on his finger beamed its golden rays. But the treasure of his life had a splintered mind; only the fragments were concealed from his sight. It had all happened so quickly and within the blink of an eye the judge was pounding his iron mallet, and he was left on his own again, to suffer for seasons on end. The lonely nights only passed when he did what was necessary, to keep his insanity contained, like a caged panther waiting for the opportune moment to pounce. Rehabilitation only angered the encumbering beast inside of him, and before he could be tamed, he pounced for the first time.
As expected, he watched the now senior lady saunter to the front door and pound the heavy golden knocker with unprecedented strength. As if in response to this mock thunder, the clouds blackened and an ominous pulse of sound rattled the bones of the mansion. He took the stairs three at a time up to the room, where he scrawled the note as planned and hastily bounded down all three sets and slipped the paper through the mail slot, and let it plunge to the damp porch floor. She would surely see it there, but her weathered eyes might not be able to read the scrawled red ink that was smudged by the torrent. But not to worry, he himself was drawn to the extravagance of the pale yellow manor, with its sharp spires and antique aura in his first days of his imprisonment here. She would find the back entrance unlocked and after decoding the note would surely feel inclined to take a glance inside. Of course, the welcome mat always flatters the numerous guests of the past, a humorous twist he always preferred to include. What a lovely guest Ursula Meadows would make.
But it was not his time to be idle, of course, so he stuffed the matches in the pocket of his straightjacket and dashed off silently to his post.
The Security Guard
The coffee was dry and bitter. Dark, the way he hated it. Coffee was coffee, he had insisted, but his theory was contradicted. On the returning commute from the lone general store down the densely forested road, he had spewed it directly onto the cheap fuzz of the passenger seat to his 80’s Ford, already stained enough from years of reliance on caffeine. None today, however. The plastic cup took a one-way trip out the window.
When he arrived back at the mansion that continued to lurk over him wherever he traveled the dark spits of water came down in surges, like an army seizing this castle of a home. It did appear like a castle were it not for the mustard yellow paint, perfectly primed and applied, like everything in this man’s dungeon abode. As a guard, he had only been in the residence once, and was not eager to return. The paintings hung by the thousands, and every place a guest could stand they could be seen, as privacy was not something his employer provided sufficiently. That is were he comes in, sprawled in the shack, or the cell, he preferred to call it, where he sat hours on end watching the screens flicker and change to a new but familiar portion of the house. To be realistic he nodded off every once and a short while.
He saw the relic of a station wagon parked in the courtyard, but guests were not uncommon to the man of whom he knew so little. The rusted door cringed as he opened it and took his place in the bare cement room, save the video equipment and a dusty desk chair. He clicked on the monitors and laid back, the screens fuzzed as they woke up from their sleep. He lay back to watch, but something abruptly caught his eye. A lady, who was on the verge of elderly, slowly paced the hallways. A bottomless trance took hold of her, and she did not fight it, but only grew deeper into it. The screens flickered and switched cameras. His boss must be out, he assumed. The alternation completed and now the woman was staring deeply, eerily into a painting, a large and intricate work that looked to be of an almost elderly man. She took one slow step at a time.
Flash. He saw a sudden and abrupt flicker in the corner of the screen, either a booted foot or a malfunction, it did not make a difference, though, his decaffeinated body didn’t have the will to move an inch now, and neither did the rolls of fat that vacated the underbelly of his chin. She was up the stairs now. Her bright dress contrasted the dark oak of the building, as well as the scarlet wallpaper, as if she did not belong. But it was unmistakable that she wanted to be accepted, to be included in the history of the house. The monitor transitioned to another room, but there was something unnatural about it. There was a fire burning, but no one had been in that room for at least a year he guessed. He heard a pulse of thunder as the rain picked up again, to finish its job. It must be at least ten o’clock by now. He watched in shock as the inexplicable woman slowly paced, as if depressed, to the single armchair standing in the very room that the fire was burning so fiercely in. She did not realize the fire, nor the fingers grasped around the side of the closet door, nor the picture of her beloved hanging on the mantelpiece above the flames.
The door effortlessly glided open with the breeze and standing there, rusted knife in hand, was his own employer, her own husband, Mr. Dillon. The thunder shook Ms. Meadows from her trance.





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