You are not alone, no, not at all. I’m with you now. That’s what you want, is it not? Togetherness, someone else, an end to loneliness. And now that you have it …
You feel a light brush in the night, almost like a lover’s touch. But I am no lover, I am the man who you have not invited to share your bed. I lick your neck, suck on your ear, my breath feels cold against your sweaty shoulder.
It is wet and soggy and rotting and smelling like dead mice down in your well. The bricks are slippery and covered in moss – moss that has died from lack of light and become food for the slime molds. You look up and watch the people pass by the opening of this well. Who are they? What do they want?
It is impossible for you to know their motives or see their blurry, washed out faces, but this is because you are not thinking so straight these days. They had once been your friends. Are they still friends? Some of them are, more maybe. Stop being paranoid, Charles. There must be one friend, mustn’t there?
The enemies or friends, if there are any friends (there aren’t any friends, Charles, not anymore because they hate you, hate you like poison, hate you like death), pass over the well you cannot escape. They smile and say “go over there (far from me, you fucking creep) and see how you like it.” They say “you should try this new way (that minimizes your rotting incompetence).” They pitied you, did they pity you? “I know you are having a hard time. I know these days are not easy for someone (a weak and ambitious parasite, a tapeworm of greed) like you, you, YOU!” How you hate the pity, if it even is pity. If only you could read their intentions, if only you could learn their motives.
Now you hear your son. Does he hate you so much he’d choose a radioactive hole over your company? Your wife, do you hear her silence, do you hear the void of her concern, the silent confirmation of “I never cared when you went missing?” What else can you hear, Charles? Whose voices whisper down your well?
I move you away from the well. It is dry and hot and bright now, in this place I have taken you. The sun blasts straight into your eyes and obscures my face. You are glad you cannot see my face because I am a man with a voice hot and violent as the earth’s molten core, shoulders broad and irregular as crow’s outstretched wings, hands hard with sweat and sebaceous oils. We sit at an aluminum table roasting in the light, burning the undersides of your arms. You want to move them somewhere cooler but you cannot. You cannot because I own you, Charles. I own your arms and you will leave them on the aluminum. You will burn for my pleasure, because I enjoy that look of pain on your face, because I am kind and did not think to burn you elsewhere.
“These people,” I say. “They are like books for you, are they not? They are like the instruction manuals that come with each new television. They are like the business textbooks you read in high school. But you must read them, you must understand their words. Because these people, they are so dangerous, most of them, all of them. If you cannot understand, they will crush your bones until you are chalk. They will throw your burnt memory over the ocean to sink like stillborn plankton, like the ashes of the quickly forgotten grandfather.”
I stop and wait for your slow, slow mind to understand. Your lips become hungry leaches and bite one into the other. I look on as the upper locks onto the lower with killing teeth. I watch as the bottom clings to the top with fingers like surgical hooks. You do not scream because you cannot. It is better this way.
“You are illiterate now,” I say. “I’ve changed your books to Sanskrit. I’ve written your people in Chaldean. And so what can you possibly say? I take your mouth full of ignorance and close it. You who know nothing, you who learn nothing, you who are nothing.”
The people with no faces come from behind you. There is laughter and anger and contempt and affection and hatred so sharp it makes the air bleed. I see the whites of your eyes as you struggle. I look on as they pat you on the back (I want your money, Charles, I’m gonna take it all) and tell you to get out (you fucking disease) and ask if you need a receipt (you hateful tightwad).
“You are lost and alone,” I say. “They are everywhere; the people you love (do you?) and hate (do they?) and work with (we call you the idiot when you aren’t around) and it doesn’t matter, Charles. It doesn’t matter because you are so lost nothing can ever get you back. There is only me, now.”