And so…down the rabbit hole we go…deeper and deeper…
[And So I Know, Stone Temple Pilots]
Part III: The House With No Windows
Los Angeles, California 14 September 1996
Debra Sorensen was a typical freshman at The University of Southern California; she had been assigned to a four bedroom “apartment” in Webb Tower so she had, in effect, seven roommates and, like almost every other freshman at USC she had not declared a major area of study – at least not yet. She knew she would end up in the film school – because, like duh – yet she really had no special interest in either film or even movie making in general. Her other roommates were, like almost everyone else at ‘SC, planning on going pre-med or pre-law, or both – but that was only because the film school was considered almost impossible to get into – unless you knew “somebody” that was “like really-really big.” So of course as soon as people in Webb found out who Deb’s father was, she became very popular among the more hyper-ambitious sorts – at one of the most hyper-ambitious colleges in one of the most hyper-ambitious cities and yada-yada-yada, well all know how that song sounds, don’t we…?
Which was how she came to be walking over to the Coliseum late that Saturday morning. She’d never expressed any interest in football and had, in fact, never even watched a football game on television, not even the Super Bowl, so she really didn’t know what to expect. One thing had struck her that morning, however: boys were on everyone’s mind. And she finally realized that all the girls names were either Taylor or Jennifer and that all the guys were named Grant. It was, like, really weird – in a bitchin’ kind of way.
The Trojans (could that really be true?) were playing the Ducks…and she, like, really had no idea what the hell any of that meant. “Do ducks really use Trojans?” she asked one of her roommates.
“What are you talking about?” Taylor Krumnow replied.
“Well? Ducks and rubbers, right? Isn’t this a contest to see who can put on rubbers the fastest?”
“It’s the Oregon Ducks, Deb. And we’re the USC Trojans. Those are like football teams, okay?”
Debra laughed at Taylor and flashed her a quick wink. “Got it.”
“Ooh, you! You really like pulling legs, don’t you?”
“Only yours,” Deb fired back. “Any boys going to meet us there?”
“Yeah, Grant – from across the hall.”
“Which one? Grant d’brunette, or Grant d’blonde…?” Deb said, grinning.
“Grant d’one with the cute ass!” Taylor Pickford said as she bounced along beside them.
“What is it with you and asses?” Krumnow snarked. “You got an ass fetish or something?”
“Don’t you?” Pickford barked, sticking out her tongue and swirling it around.
“Ooh, that’s just gross,” Krumnow sighed.
Deb shook her head. She’d read about stuff like this of course, but in truth it was all still a mystery. Boys didn’t stick around her for very long, at least not once they’d spent a little time with her. At least that had been true so far.
Like Brent, the boy at Harvard-Westlake that had asked her up to Mammoth.
He’d wanted sex, of that much she was sure, but he was all “I-Me-Mine” when he wasn’t trying to feel her up, nonstop talk about himself and after a day around him she grew tired of his lame one trick pony. She’d spent the rest of that trip with his father – if only because the old guy seemed somewhat more safe. And besides, he was a pretty good ski instructor.
She’d tried to date after that, had gone to a few dances on campus, but the whole sex type thing was still mystifying. Sex was procreation, right? But did all these boys want to get married and settle down and have a bunch of kids? No, not in the least. Sex was some kind of hedonistic power trip for them, more about weak-egos trying to assert control and dominate because they’d been genetically programmed to be that way. But…the whole thing was…shallow, animalistic, but because that seemed to be just about all these kids had on their mind they were excruciatingly boring to be around.
The had tickets on the home side of the field and almost right behind the players benches and Taylor (Pickford) was all giggles now as she had a front row seat overlooking some of the finest ass on campus. Taylor (Krumnow) was explaining the basics of the game when Grant Cute Ass joined them, and he helped fill in some of the blanks while also explaining that he too had played football in high school but that he had grown bored with the whole thing. And all this while simultaneously trying to grope both Taylors.
The game wasn’t even close. ‘SC wiped the stadium floors with the Ducks but there was a lot of screaming and yelling and beer was flowing in cheerful overabundance and even Debra seemed to get into the spirit of the whole thing – when she noticed this huge lump of muscle on the sidelines. And he was looking at her.
More than once, too.
Number 56. The name Taylor embroidered above the numbers on the back of his jersey.
And when the game was over, before he disappeared with the rest of his teammates, he came over to where she was seated and motioned her to come down to the rail.
“Hi,” he said. “My name is William. William Taylor. You want to go grab a bite?”
“Sure,” Debra said.
“You in Webb?”
“Would you mind telling me your name?”
“Okay, Deb. I’ll be by in about an hour and a half. Is that okay?”
She’d nodded but she wasn’t aware of anything else but his eyes, even as he joined his teammates jogging off the field.
“Nice ass,” both Taylors said as they watched the hulking jock jogging off the field.
“Yeah,” Grant said admiringly.
Beverly Hills, California 11 September 1992
Amanda Patterson came out of it first. Like smoke in her eyes, heavy and full of grit, she rubbed her face with her fingertips then she rubbed her eyes, trying to wipe away the burn. She swallowed hard and shook her eyes open and recoiled in horror when she realized she was hovering in deep space. No spacesuit, nothing to push against and nowhere to turn. She thought she was dead and reached for her wrist and tried to feel a pulse but she felt nothing and that’s when the panic hit.
Then, slowly, reason came back.
‘I’m pretty sure dead people don’t panic,’ she thought, but then she thought again. ‘Maybe when you’re dying you panic,’ she sighed, ‘like maybe when you realize you’ve taken your last breath…’
Then she remembered the orb in Debra’s room. And then Ted saying something about his wife.
‘But his wife is dead,’ she recalled, ‘so how could that be…?’
And within seconds she was back in the bedroom, or at least a bedroom, and the orb was still hanging there, the wide-eyed crystalline figure still entombed within, the figure inside womblike – like a fetal embrace of sustenance. Then Ted was there beside her, and then Tilly too, while the orb seemed to shimmer – then dissolve. And all that was left was the creature within.
Still hovering above the bed.
Ted fell to his knees, Tilly dropped to console her son.
The creature seemed to unfurl and drift to the floor, her eyes never once leaving Patterson’s as she settled on the floor.
Patterson looked up at the creature and endless fear filled her mind, blocking everything else from consciousness. She – it? – had to be ten feet tall, maybe more, and she was covered in feathers. White feathers. With a pinkish amber tinge, and the creature’s eyes were bright amber flecked with deep cobalt islands, the whites of the eyes a pale Robin’s egg blue. She continued staring at it, cataloguing everything she could: no external genitalia, no mammaries, long boney phalanges, eyes and mouth almost human in form…
“Dear God!” she screamed – as the creature’s wings extended the breadth of the room.
And for some reason the creature seemed to enjoy watching this reaction.
“Do you have a name?” Patterson asked, still unable to take her eyes off the unfolding wings.
“Yes, of course.”
“My name is…” Patterson began to say…
“I know your name, Amanda Patterson,” the creature said. “You may call me…Katharine…if you like.”
Ted stood when he heard that, he stood and then he faced the creature. “Kat?” he whispered.
And the creature nodded her head slowly. “Yes, Ted.”
Again the creature’s head nodded gently. “I think so, yes.”
“But…what happened?” he asked, his eyes filling with tears.
“I can’t stay here now, but I need to tell you something, and you need to listen. All of you. Don’t interfere, Ted. With Debra. Do not interfere with what happens.”
“What?” Ted cried. “Interfere – with what?”
But the creature just shook her head – before the orb reappeared. Before she furled herself away and disappeared, leaving Ted feeling even more bereft than he ever had before.
“She’s not gone,” he whispered over and over – until they heard Deb in the bathroom, moaning.
Patterson made it to the shower first and she opened the shower door then jumped back in horror. The girl was covered with thick, hot blood – yet none of it was her own – but Ted pushed his way in and picked up his little girl and turned on the water. He rinsed her off and shampooed her hair and rinsed and rinsed her until the water ran clear again, then the physicians helped dry her and got her to bed.
And the most peculiar thing, Patterson thought, was that Deb never once appeared to wake up. Not once.
Yet their clothes were covered in the blood, so there was no doubt in Patterson’s mind that something had happened up there in that room. It wasn’t some kind of bizarre hallucination, or even something like a shared dream. No, something had happened up there, and the blood on her blouse was proof enough of that. She’d get it to the lab and then they’d know for sure…
Yet it was Tilly who spoke first. Once they were back in the living room and once they had gathered their wits about them.
“Ted?” she asked. “Do you have any idea what she meant?”
“No, Mom. Nothing.”
“Well,’ Patterson sighed, “she said don’t interfere. She could have meant right then, tonight, or she could have meant to tell us not to interfere with something in the future.”
“Or both,” Tilly said, slumping over in her chair, head in hand. “Exasperating. That was – this is – exasperating.”
Patterson shook her head. “I was thinking for a moment that I was terrified but then I felt something like peace, like I was supposed to be there watching this happen.”
“No me,” Ted said. “I think I just about crapped my pants when I saw it was Kat up there.”
“How long ago did she pass?” Patterson asked.
“Almost seven years ago. Cancer.”
Patterson shook her head. “This is almost like one of those bad movies. You know, oh what was it called…?”
“The Exorcist?” Tilly said.
Patterson nodded. “Yup, but that…”
“But that wasn’t some kind of demon up there, Doctor. That was my wife.”
“I wonder…” Patterson whispered. “Why your wife, Mr. Sorensen. Why not a grandparent, or even…”
“Because Kat was Deb’s mother. That has to be the link.”
“But what’s so special about your daughter?”
Ted leaned back and sighed. “She always has been. Since the day she was born.”
Tilly leaned over and shook her head. “Of course,” she sighed. “Since the day she was born. Could it be that she, our Debra, is part of some kind of experiment?”
Ted recoiled from the idea. “What?” he cried. “What do you mean?”
“Ted, think about it. ‘Don’t interfere?’ What else could she have meant?”
Patterson nodded. “Yes, that makes sense. Don’t interfere or you might screw up the results.”
Ted leaned back in his chair as icy fingers grabbed his chest. “Do you have any idea what you’re saying? The implications…”
“The implications are troubling,” Patterson said, nodding at Tilly, “no matter what. As long as we assume what we experienced wasn’t some kind of shared hallucination…”
“How could that be?” Ted replied. “I mean…really…how?”
Patterson closed her eyes for a moment and that triggered a reaction: “When I reacted to the orb I almost remember passing out…”
“I do too,” Tilly added.
“I thought I was in space,” Ted whispered as he recalled the feeling of being suspended, almost like a fly in amber. “I thought I saw stars, at least for a moment.”
Patterson shook her head, suddenly on the verge of tears. “Do you know what this means?” she sighed.
Ted nodded. “Paradigm shift. Bad day to be an evangelical, I guess.”
“Ted?” he mother asked. “Did you say that Debra has no memory of these events?”
He nodded again. “That’s right. None.”
“Regressive hypnosis?” Patterson said, looking at Tilly.
“And that would surely qualify as interference, right?” she replied.
“Our hands are tied,” Ted said.
“So maybe that’s why this Katharine-avatar appeared,” Tilly added, looking at her son. “They knew you’d be more likely to respect this sort of restriction if it came from her.”
“That makes sense,” he agreed. “So, the question is…do we accept this restriction? Or do we…?”
Patterson burst out laughing: “Are you serious? We could not simply screw up someone’s science project, Ted. We might seriously fuck up your daughter in the process. You really want to risk that?”
“So…we’re back to square one?” he summarized. “Hands tied, we don’t interfere? Is that about where we stand?”
“And we don’t mention this to anyone,” Tilly added. “Ever.”
Patterson shook her head. “No one would believe us, so really, why bother?”
© 2021-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkühnwrites.com all rights reserved, and as usual this is just a little bit of fiction, pure and simple.
[Windmills, Toad The Wet Sprocket]