Thursday, September 1, 2016

Episode 3 - The Drifter

As I was leaving the hospital ladies room on my way back to John's bedside, I could see over the top of the divider that the door was opening. As I walked around the corner I stayed as far left as I could so as not to run into whoever was coming in. He was dressed in hospital staff whites, and was wearing a surgical mask. His fists hit my face with two rapid blows. Everything went black before I reached the floor.


When I woke up my face was swollen and bloody. As I regained consciousness, I discovered to my horror, that I was stark naked, and bound hand and foot. Suddenly, remembering the man in the ladies’ room, and realizing that I was tied to a tree, I began to panic. I was in a hobo camp deep in the woods behind the Boardinghouse. Just then, in the dim light from a dying camp fire, my eyes met with the eyes of one of the men whom I'd assumed was asleep. He showed no surprise. It was as if he'd known everything that had happened. As if he'd been watching all along as I was being stripped and bound, unconscious. He stood up, and speaking softly in a comforting tone as he approached, untied me. And after wrapping me in his blanket, he walked with me back to the boardinghouse, offering to carry me. My mind was racing so, I hardly heard him, but as we walked he told me about how he'd been a factory worker, and like John and I, had lost everything in the economic collapse of 1929. He said he knew the reputation of the man who abducted me, and explained that among the men in the camp, he was considered to be best left alone, and that most even avoided direct eye contact with him. He said that he would like to report what he'd seen to the police, that this drifter had done these horrible things to me, but he had relatives he feared for. He further explained that this man would not stop pursuing me now, and I should pack my things and leave the area tonight. 

Our room was still as it was when I'd found John there not long ago, on the floor in a growing pool of blood. I threw the blanket that the Good Samaritan had so graciously given me, on a chair, and started toward my still unpacked luggage to retrieve a candle and some clothes. To my horror, I felt a hand grab my shoulder and spin me around. I couldn't see his face in the dark, but of course I knew who it was. His hands locked tightly around my throat. I fought, but escape was utterly hopeless. In my panic, unable to draw a breath and blindly grasping in all directions, I tore one of the drapes down from a window, and in the moonlight, recognized the face of my slayer. It was not the face of the drifter who abducted me, but to my utter dismay and heartbreak it was that of my husband John. When our eyes met, he released my throat and embraced me. We could piece together a picture of what exactly had transpired, that this drifter, pretending to be the Boardinghouse cook, had drugged Johns food, and was for reasons unknown, in relentless pursuit of us. Then in the silence, I pressed my cheek and both palms gently against Johns chest, and with closed eyes and open heart, stole a tearful moment of warmth and rest for my soul from the heart of my intimate partner and friend.


As Mary and I looked for something more to wrap my bleeding wound with, there was a rapid knocking on our door. "You have a phone call", a male voice said from the hallway, "from the hospital". I can't explain it but somehow, I knew this drifter, and how he worked. I began frantically looking around for something to use as a weapon. There were three more hard, rapid knocks. As my eyes met with Mary's, she called out, "Okay thank you. I'll call them back. Can you get their name please?". There was no reply. I could feel his anger burning. Still under the effects of the mind-bending drug that this psychotic drifter had administered to me, I was drawn a step closer to the door, lifting my hands and resting them lightly against it. My soul began to darken as I pressed even closer. With my face pressed against the door, I believed that at that moment, I was seeing through the closed door and into the fearsome image emanating from an abyss, that was the soul of this unnamed drifter. An aggressive evil, and altogether without boundaries. The knock on the door became a heavy pounding, shaking the room. I knew I had to get Mary to safety or her life would undoubtedly come to an unspeakable and gruesome end. I quickly rigged a harness with the bed sheets and lowered her to the ground from our second story window. I watched her in the moonlight, running across the Boardinghouse grounds until she faded into the shadows at the edge of the trees. When I opened the door to confront the drifter I found only silence, and a dark, empty hallway. I ran down the stairs and outside. But after searching the grounds until daybreak with the help of a few Boardinghouse residents, she was not to be found. We spent that entire day searching the surrounding wooded areas until I finally gave out. I woke up the next morning back in the hospital.


I am in that hospital again now, an old and dying man. When I woke up that morning, Mary was safely sleeping in a room just down the hall. But not many years ago, Mary slipped away from me. Since then, I often sit alone, gazing into the warmth of her memory, finding communion there. Where every hidden place is found, every fear dispelled and every void filled. She was far more than I could ever have deserved.