THE COLD INSIDE (a serial novel) Chapter Twenty-three part three
The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Friday December 16, 1994
It was a double room but only one of the beds was taken. The figure on that bed was a skeletal ruin, draped with IV’s, a feeding tube and a catheter. The figure’s mouth moved with each shuddering breath revealing yellowed teeth and dark gums. Tristam couldn’t tell if the bald, sunken-eyed shape was a man or a woman. The air smelled faintly of antiseptic and waste. The room's lights were on their dimmest setting and it seemed to Tristam that the shadows congealed around the figure on the bed.
“Remember.” Phil whispered his tone intimidated, “No magic of any kind. We walk softly just in case... Just in case.”
Just in case what? Tristam staring. The figure on the bed looked like one of those rubber mummies Indiana Jones was always blundering across. Of course those mummies always stared out of the screen with hollow sockets, the figure on the bed however had clear rheumy eyes. They stared up at the ceiling with reptilian intensity. “No way. No way this is the Anti-Christ.”
“When we realized what he was doing... When I came to my senses... We bound him in his flesh... You see, he could be nomadic like us... But he was the big fish, believe me he was the big fish... maybe the biggest fish of all.... We bound him in his flesh.... We had no choice.”
Tristam looked to see the old man was wringing his hands “Can he hear us?”
“Doubt it. I spent years trying to get the fucker to do something. I once even paid some orderly five-hundred bucks to bugger him while I watched.”
“Didn't move a muscle just flopped there like a boneless chicken.” Phil’s voice rang with disgust, “Look at him. Just look at him! Still lying there breathing after almost forty fucking years. His body should be jelly, his brain should be worse… He doesn't even need a machine to breathe! He just lies there and he waits and he waits.... Then Zara has a stroke and you know where the best place to go with the best chance of recovery is? Here of all places! Don't tell me he didn't have something to do with that.”
“How could he- Who's Zara? I thought your wife's name was Lucy.”
“Then John up and disappeared. I don't know if he's dead or alive. He said he'd stand with me at the end but he just fucking took off.” Phil laughed bitterly, “Victor again… It had to be.”
Tristam didn't know what was creeping him out more, the figure on the bed or Phil “What are you talking about?”
“He has to die, he has to die before I do, before she does. I promised her we'd be in Heaven before the Devil knew we were dead.”
“So what are we going to do? Put an air bubble in his IV tube? Hold a pillow over his face?” The words made Tristam's mouth taste like blood. The figure on the bed before him was either evil incarnate or a vegetable, either way he would leave the world unnoticed and unmourned- he might even be grateful for the release.
I wouldn't want to end up like this. Tristam thought, A piece of furniture that breathes.
“No.” Phil led Tristam from the room, sparing his old mentor an angry backward glance, “We have to be more clever. We have to pull his black greasy soul from its hidey hole and toss it into the Heart of the Maelstrom.”
It would be at least another twenty minutes before Tristam's mother finished her work for the day; he invited Phil out to the loading dock for a smoke. He said, “You know I have no idea what you just said there but it still scares me.”