Edju - 11 and 12 (first barrel done)

by RW Spryszak


 I am desperate. All the images in my head are childish. Brutes and cartoons. Nothing of merit. No meat at all. Silly games. Bad clothes. Worn shoes. The summer heat of corduroy. I grasp at any hint. Any clue. I worry for lack of the potable. Fret for the scarcity of meal. I worm through the dead water as flat as wax.

The journey is a nightmare now. I cannot see the waiting ghosts. Third level tricks enshrine my head. And no fast move will end them. In my head, a memory. It comes from nowhere, pushes through. The fat boss man with debutante feet, sweat pouring from his red faced heart says sarcasm is not for him today. I wish him dead. I wish maggots fester in his brain. But I must remain modest, or else the gods of travel will unscrew my head. So I wait and say nothing. He has to live with himself. That is quite enough punishment.

In a haven of a faint gift I see a dim light in the distance. An upstairs window of some structure I cannot make out. A bare bulb hanging from a ceiling. Someone painting the walls of the room. It reminds me when I told Alice to leave and never come back. The future is a starship, I said as if a small child. I can't see myself there with you. And she cried. And she tried to return to me. To try harder — but at what I couldn't say. Even I had no idea what I was saying. If she were alive today she would be a fascist, after all. Perhaps she became a fascist because it would be the opposite of me, and anything that was me must have been bad. All I opposed would be virtue in her eyes.

So she traveled with the bloated bellies of the world. The fat, swollen-ankled ones who talk with their mouths full and belch without hiding. The ill mannered blunt cocks with the ill fitting short pants. The wild talk and shouting jokes of the gun toting masses. Sun glasses. Wide asses. Haters of all politeness. Swearing in front of women. Doing their best to elect maize haired squires of a certain racial stock. Armbands and acne. Hatred and fear. Let the poor suffer and die, we are the ones the world needs.

In her bitter reaction against anything I stood for she embraced what disgusts me. This was virtue. Anything I embraced had to be wrong. And she fell in with men who led her down the beer and leather alleys. Little schooling. No sense of the world. Grunting ugly puking noises if one suggests escargot. Give me beer and grease. Give Alice some too. And so she allowed her mind to become lazy because it was convenient. Because it was easy. If I worshiped God she would kiss the devil. That I sought justice for the poor meant she turned to eugenics.

I hate Alice.

The bare bulb in the window somewhere on the other shore reminded me of this. When a hand came from amid the paint and pulled the chain the room went dark. And it reminded me that it was I who found her discarded body in the street. It was I who regretted tossing her love away for a thousand years. It was I who gathered her up, careful not to break her, and put her in the sack. It was I who protected her ever since.

I love Alice.

Then the light came back on and I thought of food. It went off I remembered a storybook I read as a child. I didn't want to see it come back on again. I knew that if it did, I would recall something embarrassing that I'd done. And all the reasons they hate me would line up again and ruin my frame of mind.

I looked down so I wouldn't see it. I kept rowing. I even closed my eyes for a while.

My shoulders on fire. My biceps cold. My triceps blue. My back an arching mass of a hundred squid devouring each other. The taste of a guppy in one's stomach.

When the green men pulled my boat to the dock there was the bleating scent of working class onion and stale beer. I'd made the crossing at last.


These were the green men of childhood legend. The ones that frighten babies with sharp sticks. The ones boys run from pointing back to from where they came. Shrieking, it's the Green Man, it's the Green Man. Behind him three other boys stare up at the statued angels all along the roof of the old church.

The kind of green men that are not there but pointed to just the same as they hide behind the statue's wings up there. The green men who slithered between wood door and screen door and hid under manhole covers to grab your legs. They all wore eternal smiles because they knew they fooled the world. The neighborhood lore of green men in corners and up trees. The ones who did exist, after all, and gloried in the fathers not seeing them. The ones that haunt your dreams and eat pickles on the stoops of abandoned houses. The kind that cackle instead of laugh. But their teeth are so white and their skin is so green you want to like them. You wish you were one of their number. You want to know their secrets. To find out how one becomes a Green Man. You want to go with them but they will not let you. The green men of a thousand years of ghost stories. These are the ones who reached far out into the water, somehow, and pulled my boat in. It bumped hard against the pier and the smell of dead fish was in the wood like an omen.

They laughed all the same. All green.

When I got out and stood on the pier the green men were gone. It is a union. A demon gang. One among many gangs we have in my country. 

My legs shook. It was as if I'd been at sea, not a river. And for months, not an hour or so. If it was an hour. It could have been more. I was hungry, and I am not a big eater. So maybe it was longer than an hour that I struggled to get across. Maybe it was two. It wasn't a day. But it could have been close to a day. It didn't matter. As soon as I left the pier the fog was gone and the bare light bulb in the window I'd seen was on. Beyond it, as it hung low from its ceiling, I could just make out two lovers entangled on a far bed. Dim and writhing against one another as if each was intent on killing their lover. I saw the woman underneath raise a dagger above the arching back of the man. It glistened in the bare light of the bulb. Yellow and gold and silver like fireworks as it plunged into him from above and behind. I turned away. I had to. It wasn't the act of murder that bothered me. It was that the window was in the nun's quarters beside the cathedral. It was a thought I did not want to consider.

So I cast my eyes on the blue cobblestones beneath my shoes and began to walk. And yet…

I stopped to look once more into the window. The woman was standing naked, streaming with her victim's blood and smiling. It was Marta Vansimmerant. There was no mistaking it.

A charge of panic skipped up to my brain from my stomach, ripping my chest open and cold as it went. Alice, I thought. And may have said her name aloud. This is the woman who took Alice and now this. I didn't want to think about what this meant. My hands went to my throat of their own power. A nervous reaction as I stepped, then walked, then ran to the door of the church. I felt for my gun to be sure it was still in my belt. I put all my nervous strength into opening the door but the knob was tight as if welded in place.

I needed to find another way in and followed the outside wall, trying every door. None would open. I ran to the front of the cathedral and tried the public doors to the sanctuary. Locked. A travesty. These doors were always open. What of someone needed to pray? There are statues of saints inside who could help. Why block someone from them?

It was suspicious. As if the church was changing the rules for whatever reason. Blocking the public from entering the sanctuary was something of which was not heard. What about the income from the candles? People die and get sick all the time. Why shut off this income stream? Whatever the reason it must have been drastic.

I continued along the wall, more concerned than ever. What if a cabal of the unclean, led by the trusted daughter of the saint in the glass coffin, had taken over? What if the church itself was in danger? I ran, twisting in the dark. Stumbling over my feet. Scraping my hands along the rough stone wall and drawing little lines of blood where skin ripped off. Irritating little cuts.

This is the way I continued until I came to two slanted storm cellar doors. They were angled against the wall between bushes. I walked through thorns to get to them. They were hid on purpose. There was thistle and weeds all around. The boughs of the scraggy hedge hung in front like guardians of the maze. If I had gone around the bushes instead of through them I would have never seen the doors. And they were not locked. I could make out the first step, worn in the middle from a thousand years of steps, but I couldn't make out the next. My eyes were of no use in the blackness so I closed them. Standing on the top step I put a foot out and lowered it until I felt the next step. And this is how I proceeded, eyes tight shut, all the way down into that darkness.