The Cold Inside (a serial novel) Chapter Thirty-One part three
The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Friday January 13, 1995
Greg came home from school and after finishing his homework and having dinner with his family. He spent the rest of the evening reading the Bible and dialoguing with God. At this point he had no easy answers, no idea of what to do.
He still found it hard to believe Tristam with powers. While Greg enjoyed comic books and fantasy novels he really only believed that things Tristam could do was the providence of the Holy Spirit… Or of demons.
And what is Tristam then? He's no angel that's for sure but I don't think he's possessed of anything more than anger. Greg thought, Terrible anger.
Greg opened his King James Bible to Genesis chapter six, to the part that began with There were giants in the earth in those days… As a child Greg had always been fascinated by Goliath and his kin. In his mind he had always seen them as storybook giants. Later talks with his Dad had shown him that in some translations of the story …the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men… were left open to wide interpretation. By some accounts they were ordinary human fornicators being punished for their transgressions by birthing freakish children. By other accounts they were angels before the Fall, angels that fathered literal monsters with human women.
What did any of this have to do with Tristam? Greg wasn't sure. All he knew was that he had to find a way to stop him. It felt like history was repeating itself again but in new and disturbing ways. Greg wanted to speak out but who could he speak to? The school administration? The police? His father?
They would all think he was crazy. Tristam knew that, it was part of his strength.
One of the kids in Greg’s bible study group always broke everything down to one simple question, What would Jesus do?
What would Jesus do? Jesus would have confronted Tristam with the right words, the right combination of fury and love.
Jesus would have made Tristam stop. All I can do is flail around helplessly, begging and making demands. Greg thought glumly as he flipped through his Bible, praying for an answer to come to him. I know my Bible but the quotes never come easily off my lips - not like Dad. I remember the stories but not the verses and chapters.
Greg's mother always said that sometimes you had to submit yourself to your higher power, or as she liked to say, Let go and let God. But how could he? It wouldn't be long before someone got really hurt or killed and then he - and Rich and Warren and Yusuf- would be just as responsible as Tristam. Greg closed his eyes and saw Jan's lifeless body, her last moments playing out again in his mind’s eye.
Maybe a snack. He thought as he stood. He hadn't felt like dessert earlier but a brownie sounded like just what he needed now. Then maybe he would-
-Greg stopped in mid-tear. Crumpled pages were everywhere, on the floor, his desk, and the bed. The mangled remains of his good Bible, the one his great grandmother had given him, was still in his hands; a twisted ruin of bent covers and tattered paper. Greg wanted to scream but he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t even think.
After a few moments the book fell from his grip and he whispered, “Tristam?”
But there was no answer.
Was this what the other kids had felt? This mixture of helplessness and terror?
No this is worse. Greg thought, Because I know what's happening to me. I know I'm being violated.
“Tristam?” He whispered again, more demanding this time but there was still-
-He found himself standing in the kitchen, a half-eaten brownie in one hand, and a glass of milk in the other. His mother was in the parlor watching her favorite movie, the Katherine Hepburn version of Little Women, his Dad was out playing cards with his buddies. Greg set the glass down carefully and swallowed.
An alien thought filled his mind. It didn't so much sound like Tristam as it felt like him, “Your mom makes a mean brownie.”
Greg fought to keep the panic from his voice, he stared at the half-empty glass of milk. His voice was hushed, “What are you doing?”
“You don't have to talk. Just think to me.”
He asked again, “Why are you doing this?”
“You've got me worried. I thought you would be on board for this whole 'Revenge of the Nerds' thing.”
“Can't you see?” Greg risked a look up, “You're toying with people.”
“They don't even think we're people but you're worried about them.”
“Trust me Greg I've seen the afterlife, you're better off taking that money you've got saved up for seminary school and using it to get yourself knee deep in beer and pussy.”
“If you want to talk more call me. I've had enough of this.” Greg finished the milk and brownie and headed back to his room.
His mother looked up from the TV, “Did you say something sweetie?”
“No Mom.” He tried to sound casual, “Just thinking out loud.”
“Oh and while I'm thinking of it don't forget that tomorrow is-”
-Just like that Greg was back in his room, sitting on the edge of his bed. “Tristam…” He said again, his skin prickled with cold sweat, “Stop this. I'm you're friend.”
“I thought that. I thought you were the best friend I had, but you turned on me. I get that a lot.”
Greg slid off the bed onto his knees, “I did not turn on you.”
“So, I'll stop you and I can't let you do this. are loving Christian things to say? I haven't seen them on any Precious Moments statuettes.”
“I'm standing up to you because I do care.” Greg had to fight the urge to look up as he spoke, he made himself stare straight ahead, “That look in your eyes- Please, stop doing this and just call me. We can talk over the phone, we can pray together.”
“What were you going to say at first?” The voice seemed closer and more insistent now, “I almost heard your thought but it was too quick.”
“This is over, you talk to me like a man, not a ghost.” Greg laced his shaking hands together and began to pray.
“What were you gonna say? Come on. Don't chicken out now.”
Greg kept praying, his eyes shut tight.
“You have got to be kidding. You’re gonna pray me out of the house?”
Right now prayer was all Greg had. How could you fight someone you couldn’t see or touch? Someone that could take control of your body with ease? Was this even his friend anymore? He wished Adelphos and Drew were still here, with them gone Tristam had control of the group. Rich and Warren thought this all a big joke, Yusuf seemed to be on the fence - scared of Tristam and just as scared of losing any more of his friends. None of them understood that this was going to end in someone getting killed. None of them could recognize that look in Tristam's eyes. Greg knew that look, he'd seen it in Jeff's Hayes eyes.
A shudder of revulsion and fear shook Greg as he realized his thoughts had been heard. Wasn't there any-
-Now Greg was in the bathroom, with its pale shades of yellow and white, small framed photographs of kittens and children decorated the walls. He was staring at his reflection in the tall bathroom mirror. He had stripped to the waist, he could see all his old scars; the entry wound, the exit wound, the surgical incisions and the place where they had installed the colostomy bag he’d worn for a while.
It still hurt to look at them sometimes. He had never told anyone that, not his grief councilor, not his parents, not his friends, but somehow Tristam knew. Somehow Tristam had seen through his mask of serenity.
Those scars reminded him of how helpless he was, how little control he had over the world. It wasn't the first time he realized he didn't know how he was going to live with what he had seen.
“So you think I'm just as crazy as your other friend?”
“Tristam please stop this. It isn't too late.”
“Wrong, it is too late. Too late for them.”
“This is wrong. Can’t you see that?”
“Are you jealous is that it? You know if you had my power you could have saved Jan.”
Greg wrapped his arms around his chest and turned away from the mirror. He didn't want to see this. He didn't want to hear this-
-He was looking in the mirror again. For a moment Greg could see Tristam's smug expression lingering on his face. Greg tried to speak but all that came out was a choked sob.
“I could have saved her, all you could do was pray. Don't you ever get tired of your prayers not being answered?”
“I won't try to stop you, I won't say anything to the others. I'll do whatever you want.”
Greg's gaze found the wounds again; he gingerly sat down on the edge of the tub. “I promise.”
“Swear to God?”
Shoulders slumped, he buried his face in his hands, “Swear to God.”