I’m pinching a sewing needle between my fingers, confused as to why it’s there. I examine the evil spindle, feel it’s potential sting, a startling prick followed by a fat drop of blood splashing onto the floor.
There’s a hum of electricity, increasing in volume and voltage, sizzling, surging, crackling. A single light bulb flickers. Something’s advancing toward me, something or someone sinister. A killer on the prowl. Unstrapped from the chair somehow.
Heart-pounding apprehension. Eyes wide open, too afraid to look. I try to run but my legs are paralyzed. Impending doom, speeding down a familiar hall suddenly unfamiliar, disproportionate, dim and dimming, narrow and narrowing, slanted, eternally long. The room is spinning, for a moment upside down, a fun house, a rubber room, my face as pale as death reflected in an infinity mirror and multiplied a thousand times, smaller and smaller, until I disappear into the realm of demons. Heavy steps now, mad steps, stomp, stomp, stomping, with a thunderous and threatening voice. The devil coming at me. Again. To possess. Or maybe a red-faced, wild-eyed, bellowing father, gin-soaked, cracking a belt. Punishment is imminent. My stomach and intestines strangulate with fear.
I’m stabbing the pinnnnnnnnnnnn (now an onomatopoeia for the tinnitus in my ears, an alarm warning of the frightening, maleficent presence standing just outside my door), I stab the pin into a boulder the size of a car. It goes in easy and I support the full weight of it over my head. The huge granite rock transforms into a meatball of feces too heavy to bear, falls off the end of the needle, almost crushing me, then rolls away into the air, one of many, in a room as vast as outer space. I’m microscopic, floating on a petri dish, examined without permission under the powerful, zooming lens of a universal eye.
Angry shouting. Broken plates and furniture. I hear my grandmother yelp before she falls. I plug my ears and say no, no, no, no.
There’s an excruciating pain in my brain, a throbbing whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.
An albino with red rabbit eyes, seven feet tall or more, ducks under the bedroom door and shrieks at me, fingernails like razors into my ribs. Tickle, tickle, tickle, she says with a scratchy voice. A childhood fear coming back for a visit. I cower under the covers, a dampened dome trapping the scent of stale sweat. My teeth are chattering. Panic to the point of hyperventilation. The white witch fragments into rotting pieces and disappears the tipsy moment before my death.
Where’s my daddy?
A little girl points at me. Papa, she says, and gallops away, grasping invisible reins, whinnying as she goes.
A dirty fingernail flicks the hands of a clock fast as a cardboard game spinner. Round and round it goes, refusing to stop. I hear carnival music, warped as an old record. More horses, painted with sad faces. Two little girls trying to hold on. A carousel, whirling like a top, coming loose at the base. Carnage. Weeping. Colorful crayons crushed and broken. Only black remains unfractured.
Caskets floating on a river of red. I pull the hair of my head.
I’m thirsty. My throat is sticking together. I need some water. One foot over the side of the bed but can’t find the floor. I’m burning up, hovering over hell. Jonathan Edwards in the form of Pennywise the Clown with razor teeth: sinners in the hand of an angry God. Preach it, brother. Falling, falling, falling into the abyss, the Lake of Fire. I hit the floor with a thud, the ice cube surface of the floor.
Whose floor? Where’s the door?
Tell me no more. Nothing makes sense. I’m reciting the alphabet backwards. A spider crawls across my face. I scream and swat it away.
There’s a barber’s pole in the room. The hypnotic helix. Around and around the chicken goes—bok, bok, bok, ba-BOK! —climbing up the wall and into the python’s mouth.
We are building a tower that reaches to the sky, an obelisk, a juggernaut of love, many years in the making. We try to communicate but suddenly can’t understand a word the other is saying. Babel. Babble. What’s the matter? You drop your Bible? You shrug your shoulders, put down the tools, take the children by the hand, and lead them far, far away, into a foreign land. With a zombie stare, you no longer care, and put them on a purple school bus with a strange driver. Their tiny faces blur and disappear behind steaming windows. I start to cry and pray, pray, pray to the deaf ears of the sky.
In a house of long ago, someone is calling my name. The voice is dubbed, multilayered. My mother, four of them, identical, all in a row. Your skin is on fire. You have a fever, son. Take this—it’ll make you feel better. They throw the book at me.
There’s a police officer in the room. I give him the middle finger.
I open the book before a large audience of empty chairs. I’m naked and shivering. My wiener’s the size of a Vienna sausage, teeny-weeny. Suddenly, there’s a crowd, all laughing hysterically and pointing the finger. I’m scheduled to read from my new bestseller, Congregation of the Righteous. The pages are blank.
A stunning, blue-eyed woman steps out of a public bathroom and kisses me. It’ll be alright, she says, interlacing her fingers into mine. She crunches my knuckles with the strength of a gorilla. I drop to my knees in pain. Let me go! Let me go! You said you wouldn’t hurt me.
A telephone rings. I knock over an open bottle of bourbon and it soaks Graham Greene’s novel, The End of the Affair, with a glup, glup, glup, glup. I lick rivulets of brown liquid off the front cover and answer the phone with fresher breath. He—hello?
This is your 4 a.m. wakeup call.
I part the curtains. It’s still raining. My body aches.
I peek over at the coffee pot. Time to write.
No. I fall back into bed. Dizzy, dizzy. Down, down, down.