The Curse of the Hirudineans
by John W. Steele
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
It was just another morning, identical to hundreds of mornings that had unfolded the same way since he’d met Edna. Milton got out of bed and walked into the bathroom. When finished, he closed the lid on the toilet, and flushed it. After the bowl emptied, and filled again, he repeated the procedure; three times in total. Then it was time to check, just a quick peek under the lid.
In the past there had been stragglers, tiny lumps of matter that defied classification and refused to evacuate from the bowl. It had happened once, and it was never going to happen again, not in his house. It was imperative that a high level of sanitation be maintained. The Hirudineans could be hiding anywhere.
When the contents of the bowl were eliminated to his satisfaction, Milton washed his hands. He wetted his forearms up to the elbow and scrubbed them hard with a bar of white soap. The water had to be ice cold to kill the parasites that grew beneath his skin during the night. They were a nuisance but were kept under control as long as the soap was white and the water was ice cold.
Milton walked into the dining room and glanced over at the end of the carved oak table. Traces of Edna were beginning to form in the chair. He knew she’d materialize on the atomic level shortly, and he went into the kitchen to make her morning tea.
He lifted the lid of the coffee maker, and scanned the filter pocket and its surrounding components. The grounds remained compacted in the paper liner, just where he’d placed them the night before. None of them had migrated to the underside of the lid during the night. This was a good sign, and he knew it was going to be a great day. He tapped the button on the coffeemaker, and the red light appeared, signaling its allegiance.
Milton smiled, and walked over to the cupboard. He removed a clean cup from beneath the plastic barrier and scrutinized the inside. The cup was spotless, and the blurred image of his face reflected on the surface of the shining porcelain. From the purifier in the refrigerator, he poured a small amount of distilled water into the cup, covered it with a sheet of plastic wrap, and placed it in the microwave for three minutes.
Edna never seemed to notice that there was no tea in her cup. As long as the cup was warm she enjoyed it. “You make the best tea this side of the pearly gates,” she’d often say.
On his way to the living room he glanced over at the torso congealing in the chair. Edna was a slow riser, and usually groggy for a while in the morning. He spoke to her as he passed by. “Good morning, dear. How was your trip?” Edna didn’t answer, but Milton knew she was beginning to stir.
When he reached the massive oak door in the foyer, he peered from behind the lace curtain and scanned the outside carefully for wild animals or birds, but the coast was clear. He reached into the box of latex surgical gloves sitting on the windowsill, slid one on his right hand, and then walked out on the porch.
Milton stood for a moment on the red brick stairs and stared into the street. A fine mist of rain radiated in the light of the streetlamp, creating a silver nimbus around its glowing globe. The air smelled fresh. Milton drew a deep breath into his lungs, and exhaled slowly. Rain purifies and detoxifies the air, he thought. Yes, it was going to be a very good day. With his gloved hand he removed the newspaper from the mailbox.
When he returned to the kitchen, the microwave beeped one... two... three times. “Perfecto, right on schedule.”
He removed the wrap from the teacup, and held it up to the light to check for contaminants, there were none this morning, and he breathed a sigh of relief. Placing the wad of plastic wrap in the palm of his hand, he peeled off the latex glove, and discarded the refuse into the bio-bin. Tchaikovsky’s symphony in E flat drifted in his head, and the smell of freshly brewed coffee flooded his nostrils.
Milton placed the cup on a matching saucer, and took it into the dining room. Edna had shifted dimensions and he could see her clearly now. “Here you go darling. I made your favorite, Goi berry with pomegranate. Would you like a little smooch this morning?”
Edna didn’t speak. She sat as still as a tombstone, staring into the distance. Milton bent over and kissed her on the cheek. For a moment, he gazed at this celestial creature he’d grown so fond of.
Edna was a beautiful angel. Her golden hair flowed like waves of sunshine, and her eyes sparkled blue as turquoise. Her flawless ivory complexion glowed with a vibrant crystalline aura, augmenting her perfectly proportioned angular frame. She often wore a luminous silk robe, and her nipples peered out from beneath the fabric like two sensuous diamonds. Edna was delightful to behold and hauntingly irresistible.
He returned to the kitchen, and added the prepackaged sterilized milk-sugar product to his coffee and then walked back into the dining room. With a groan he sat down in the chair and began reading the news.
Soon he was lost in the story about the couple that had received in the mail the head and kidneys of a man from China. The parcel had been addressed incorrectly.
Milton perused the story, and in time, Edna began to speak. “Oh, it was just glorious yesterday, Milton, I wish you’d been with me. The colors and sounds were like nothing here on earth. Merle Meyers and the Renegades were just out of this world. When Merle yodels, his voice reverberates through paradise and golden geysers made of lightning appear near the horizon.”
Milton didn’t pay much attention. He knew once Edna started talking all he had to do was grunt once in a while. For him it was the perfect form of communication. He didn’t understand what she was talking about, but she believed he did. That’s all that mattered.
Besides, Edna had told him about the Archangel Merle Meyers before. He didn’t care much for Meyers or cosmic country music. But he liked to listen to her drone about her experiences while he perused the morning paper.
The morning unfolded splendidly, and things were fine as fudge. But then the leaden moment arrived. After Edna finished trying to convince him about the rapture of paradise, she asked him the question that always upset him.
“When are you coming over to the other side so we can be together, Milton?”
Milton chewed the inside of his lower lip, then looked up. “Must we go there this morning, dear? Things have been going along so nicely.”
“I’ve waited for you for over a year now, Milton. We’ve grown to know each other quite well. We’ve discussed your transmigration at least a dozen times. All you need to do is go sit in your garage, and start the car. I’ll be waiting for you when you cross over, and we can be together in paradise.”
Milton rattled the paper. “I told you, Edna. I’m not ready for that kind of commitment. Becoming extinct is a big step.”
He propped his elbow on the table and rested his head in his hand. Edna recited her sermon about the wonders of paradise. Her words tumbled in his mind like the chords of a banjo out of tune. As she dawdled in her reverie, his thoughts drifted back to the first time he met her. The memory unwound like thread from a spool.
* * *
It hadn’t always been like this. At one time Milton was a successful paranormal investigator. He’d been commissioned by a Mrs. Constance Goldstein to expose and eliminate a mischievous spirit that lived in her mansion in Toronto. The woman believed the ghost of her dead husband Isaac had returned to torment her. She wanted his presence out of the house for good.
She told Milton that when her husband was alive he drank whiskey, and that he was an incorrigible womanizer. She claimed the old lecher was harmless, and that he was more of a nuisance than anything else; kind of like “a puppy with muddy paws” was the simile she used to describe him.
What the old crone failed to mention was that her dearly departed Isaac had tried to murder her several times. She’d wake up in the middle of the night to find him hovering over her bed with a butcher knife in his hand. She offered Milton ten thousand dollars to remove Isaac’s troubled spirit from the mansion.
It was a dark and rainy night when Milton arrived at her residence with his associate Father Shamus O’Reilly. They sat in Milton’s ‘85 Lincoln Continental and discussed the exorcism.
“Do you think we’ll need the gas masks?” Father O’Reilly asked.
“Not according to Mrs. Goldstein. He’s not a puker,” Milton replied.
With a trembling hand, Father O’Reilly pulled a chromed flask from the pocket of his jacket and unscrewed the cap. He took a long tug on the bottle, and then gazed up at the yellow incandescent glow shining in the windows of the mansion. The light from the streetlamp reflected from the priest’s shiny bald head and highlighted the pockmarks in his face.
Father O’Reilly let out a heavy sigh, and in a thick Irish brogue he said, “I’m getting too old for these shenanigans. The best time to cuff the buggers is before the clock strikes three. Let’s send this one back to purgatory.”
He blessed himself and opened the door. With a grunt, the priest hoisted his ponderous belly from the vehicle. Milton removed the scientific apparatus from the trunk, and they ascended the stairs of the cobblestone porch.
The priest twisted the knob of the cast-iron lion’s head doorbell and soon a tiny figure appeared behind the lace curtain. The figure slid the curtain to the side, peered through the window, and opened the door.
“Mrs. Goldstein I presume,” Milton said, and he held out his hand. The old lady smiled and took his hand in hers. Her fingers were cold as ice, and Milton shuddered. “Oy vey ist mir, I’m so glad you could come. It’s been awful, just awful,” the figure said.
Constance was a tiny woman with delicate features. Her short silver hair was tinted an interesting shade of violet. A mink shawl lay draped across her shoulders. She wore thick glasses perched on a nose that was a wee bit too large for her face. Her lips were painted with a deep coat of bright pink lipstick.
“Allow me to introduce you to my mentor, Father O’Reilly,” Milton said.
Constance looked at him and smiled, “Pleased to make your acquaintance.” Her eyes appeared to bulge from behind the thick lenses of her glasses. “Come in, gentlemen, please come in.”
They followed the old lady down a long hallway into a huge Victorian parlor. Hudson River oil paintings hung on the walls, and marble statuary stood like effigies about the room. A grand piano sat in a corner vestibule. Gilded bronze tables stood on a luxurious scarlet Oriental carpet, their marble tops covered with a heavy blanket of dust.
Constance primped her hair as she spoke. “As I told you previously, Isaac isn’t a lot of trouble, but I’d sooner he took leave of this place. I don’t think his presence here does him any good. Sometimes he startles me in the early morning hours.”
Father O’Reilly chimed in, “Ahh... I too have had such terrors come upon me in the dead of night. Me heart racing like the wings of a hummingbird, and me hands trembling like an autumn leaf. I said to myself, Shamus, I said...” He continued his discourse, oblivious to the apparition forming near the ceiling.
Copyright © 2009 by John W. Steele