The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Monday November 28, 1994
“What are you doing here?” Phil was bent over scales and powders. He was wearing a surgical mask and rubber gloves. A single thick candle lit the kitchen, sputtering and flickering. Pots were bubbling on the stove. A small hunk of bloody meat sat on the cutting board, it had been cut and recut beyond any hope of recognition.
“You owe me an explanation.” Tristam hovered as close to his face as he dared.
“I owe you nothing you little fuck.” Phil chuckled and went back to methodically scraping powder into a phial.
If he had been there in the flesh he would have struck the man, “Hey! Hey! I am talking to you!”
“Yeah and I'm not listening am I? You better get lost before I do something a little more…” He paused searching for the right word, “How do you kids say it? Something a little more extreme.”
Tristam thought of Reginald in his bottle and shivered, “Look something happened today. I had some kind of a fit- a hallucination. I saw myself die but it wasn't me.”
“Oh.” Phil straightened, “Oh really? I can see why you're scared shitless.”
“I'm not scared, its just I have enough people thinking I’m psycho as it is! What's happening to me?”
“Remember that soul you consumed on Thanksgiving? Well sometimes you get little bits of memory playing through your head after you do it. It's perfectly natural.”
Tristam waved his arms in Phil's face, trying to make him understand, “No. No it is not natural. I felt that person die, I was that person.”
“For Christ's sake get over it kid. You think having power is easy? There's a price for it.” He frowned. Behind him a fluffy black cat slunk out of the bathroom. “There's always a price.”
“I don't think I realized what this would mean. I don't think I want this.”
Phil shook his head, “Too late you're in.”
A pot was bubbling over on the stove, Phil ignored it. “No fuck you. You're in now. You owe me you little pissant.”
“Owe you what? You still haven't said what you want.”
“I tell you what I want when I'm damned well ready and not five seconds before!”
“Enough of this.” Tristam turned to fly away, “Enough of you.”
Phil shouted something, it sounded like gibberish to Tristam but suddenly he couldn't move. He felt himself being yanked sharply back into the kitchen. The room spun and suddenly he was face to face with Phil and it was that terrible day in his mother's office all over again. He knew he had no throat but he could feel himself choking.
Phil's mouth never moved but Tristam heard his voice, heard it roaring through his head “For the last time! I'm the teacher, you're the student! I talk and you listen! When I say get lost you get lost!”-
-Tristam crashed painfully back into his body and into consciousness. He sat up in his bed. The alarm clock read 7 PM. He was buried under a pair of heavy comforters. There was half-eaten bowl of soup on his nightstand. The humidifier was sighing in one corner filling his room with warm moist air.
Everyone from Mrs. Dover down to his mother thought he was sick with the flu. How could he tell them otherwise? He rolled onto his side and drew the covers in tight around himself and tried to quell his trembling. The old man's voice echoed in his head, “…You're in now. You owe me…”
Tristam couldn't be sure if it was just a memory or something more. He could never be sure again.