~ torn ~ 22

4 Oct

(previous chapters can be accessed through the ARCHIVES calendar)

*****

Julia stood next to the bed.
Stared at Ron.
Searched for any sign that betrayed he was anything but drunk and unconscious.
She raised a fist.
Took a step forward.
Faltered.
Soft indistinct voices and music swirled in the house below.

She crept down the stairs.
Halted at the bottom step.
Her briefcase lay overturned on the floor.
Below the oval mirror that reflected the front door.
Averted her eyes from the mirror.
Steeled herself against rising FEAR.
Rounded the banister.
Headed toward the murmur of strangers in the kitchen.

The TV on the counter played to an empty room.
No one was there to call the 800 number for the latest diet supplement hawked by a beaming hyperventilating plastic couple.
Julia walked to the counter.
Picked up the remote.
Put them out of her misery.
Her toes connected with a wad of dried brown-stained paper towels jammed into the bower of the cabinet’s kick panel.
She noticed the broken pieces of her favorite coffee mug in the sink.
Couldn’t recall how in the hell that happened.
A short, narrow plastic strip lay draped across the fragments.

She held it up to the small fluorescent lamp under the cabinet: LONGACRE, JULIA 3/03/16.
The lamp glow highlighted a small bandage that bridged the first and second knuckle of her right hand.
She peeled it back and discovered two stitches binding a gash.
Hospital sounds and smells rushed over her.
She pushed up the right sleeve of the football jersey.
Held her forearm under the light.
A half-dozen dull red tracks decorated the crook of her arm.
She stepped back from the counter.
Reached down and probed the back of one knee.
Then the other.
A cluster of small welts in each location.

“Too much or mix the wrong potions and it’s no longer a party, Julia. It’s a one-way ticket to Bedlam…and beyond, if you’re not careful.’

A lush symphonic crescendo rose from down the hall.
The sound of the music sent a sickening sluice of memories through Julia.
Mahler’s Ninth. Ron’s ‘symphony of seduction’.
Julia padded like a cat up the corridor.
Not knowing what or who she might find waiting for her.
Slowly entered the study.
rons-masksFog-diffused moonlight cascaded through the sheer curtains on the sliding glass doors.
Music filled the room.
Wooden cases lined the floor to her right.
Primitive ceremonial masks and totems hung on the wall above them.
Excelsior lay scattered about.

Julia walked along the wall.
Stopped at the third box.
She knew well the wooden case at her feet.
Heavy. Oak. Nineteenth century.
Madeira producer’s name burnt into the lid.
She also knew well its contents.
And that made the discovery of it here even more chilling.
She was never meant to see it again.
It was to be gone from her life.
Gone into some deep blue sea without memory.
Gone like the better world she had once known.

Julia went to her knees.
A pair of surgical gloves lay draped over the edge of the box.
She slipped them on.
Thrust her hands inside.
Curled shavings fell away as she pulled out a framed photograph.
Four serious-faced men in long dark coats and top hats stared out from the picture.
Ron. Jute. Alan. Drew.
The Hyde Society.
Idle sons of means.
Trapped out of their time.
Living modern life with a debauched Victorian philosophy.
Aleister Crowley. Order of the Golden Dawn.
She laid the picture aside.
Dug further.
Found three old leather-bound volumes.
Pulled them from the case. One by one.
Walking In Darkness.
Calling The Masters.
Shamans And Potions.
Ron had promised the books had been burned.

She stacked the books on the floor and returned to the box.
Her hand encountered something hard.
She cleared away more packing.
Stared at the small bronze sculpture.
A standing man with the head of a bull.
Copulating with a woman supine on a slab before him.
The scab of denial broke open.
Distorted images from the mountain cabin flooded her mind.
The hot injection from the antique syringe.
The whirl of the music.
The narcotic burn in her throat.
Dancing.
Roaring fire.
Trembling lips.
Soft downy skin.
The taste of her.
Rising out of darkness. Jute between her legs.
Alan restraining her. Eager for his turn.
Ron. Seated above them. Looking on.
Spouting gibberish from beneath a primitive mask.
Pursuit of the fulfillment of some demented fantasy while he debased the young woman.
Deep in the night.
Waking naked.
Facedown on kitchen floor.
Cheek on cool linoleum.
Impassively watching as the three men had their way.
Tore at the girl like wolves.
She bleated like an ensnared lamb.
Whimpered.
Sobbed.
Screamed a scream that echoed for hours and hours in Julia’s mind until Julia found herself standing outside in the bitter cold of a mountain morning.
Wishing with all her heart to be nothing more than a little girl. Once again.

Julia dug further into the box and came up empty.
She knew it was here. Somewhere.
She stood. Scanned the room.
Hollow dead soldiers clustered on the edge of the expansive mahogany desk.
Laphroaig. A smaller Stolichnaya.
Plastic pint of cranberry juice.
Two empty tumblers. One with bright lipstick traces.
Julia stumbled over to the built-in bookshelves. Steadied herself.
The oversized high-back leather office chair sat pushed away.
A pair of pale white pantyhose trapped under one of the casters screamed Nurse.
A wide swath cleared across the desktop.
Everything shoved to either side of the richly grained surface.
A dull, glistening stain.
Julia slammed the chair. It hit the desk.
The thing appeared at her feet.
The slender rosewood box.
Calligraphic ivory letters.
PANDORA.

Julia lifted the box.
Placed it on the desk.
In the soft glow of the banker’s lamp.
Unfastened the two brass hasps.
Opened the hinged lid.
Cushioned in the velvet-lined box, two antique syringes with filigreed brass.
The four emerald ampoules.
Two full.
Two empty.
Julia snapped the lid closed.
Switched off the lamp.
Stalked quietly back up to the bedroom.

*****

©2016 JEFITZGERALD

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