1/8/15 Update: read the story in one go, here.
In Part 1, our narrator, Skinner, witnesses the killing of a young girl by a serial-killing street preacher. Skinner runs off to the Trinity River to receive her gurgling council and emerges with a plan to kill the preacher. The preacher outsmarts Skinner and in Part 2 Skinner runs for his life, changes course for the safety of the Trinity but is arrested by the police. In Part 3, the police call in a psychiatrist part way through their interrogation of Skinner and he spills the beans then attempts suicide. Here’s a long lead-in starting from the introduction of the psychiatrist followed by Part 4 of 4:
They introduced a new person to the room, a pretty woman who wore T.J. Eckleburg spectacles, and before they even introduced her I knew she was a psychiatrist. I can feel the sickness coming off them. Brinson was her name. She watched me intently with her ice blue eyes while the cops made me watch CCTV footage of the preacher caught in various locations doing untoward things.
“Who is that man, Mr. Skinner?” Brinson asked.
“You know who it is,” I told her.
“It looks like you, Mr. Skinner. Is it?”
“No, it is not,” I said as politely as I could manage.
“Who is it then?” Brinson said.
“Oh for crissakes, that’s the preacher, The New Prophet, everybody knows who he is!”
“Do you know him?”
“I know of him,” I said, and I added, “I know he’s the killer, not me.”
“How do you know that?”
“I saw him kill!” I yelled.
“An alley off South Griffin Street.”
“Why didn’t you do anything?”
“There was nothing I could do. The preacher had already sewn her mouth shut.”
“Like this?” a cop said as he motioned to the 2-mirror and an investigator walked in with a clear plastic bag containing the screaming marigolds and gilt thread.
He shouldn’t have done that. I felt queasy. “Maybe,” I said, and I turned my head far away from the bag but I could still hear them. “You did it,” they screamed.
“I did not!” I yelled.
“What’s that, Mr. Skinner?” Brinson said.
“Nothing. Can I go now?”
A blast of laughter came from one of the cops. “Oh no,” the cop said, “We haven’t even started yet!”
Brinson frowned at the cop and looked back at me.
“Just a few more questions is all it should take, Mr. Skinner. Now going back to the alley, why didn’t you go to the police?”
“Because I went to the girl and felt for a pulse and I knew the cops would think I did it so I ran away.”
“You did it,” the marigolds said.
“You should have used your mind to stop it,” the thread said.
“Shut up!” I yelled.
“Excuse me, Mr. Skinner?”
“Why did you touch her, Mr. Skinner?”
“I thought maybe she was still alive.”
“Really? Couldn’t you see that her throat was slashed to the neck bone and that her midsection had been slashed from sternum to crotch and from left to right just under the rib cage and that all her organs lay about on the ground around her?
I squirmed. “Well you never know. Medicine today is amazing.”
“Yes, it is. Tell me, Mr. Skinner, was she a pretty girl?”
“Stop her from getting in! You have to take control!” the preacher said.
I ignored him.
“Yes, she was very pretty.”
“Oh, that’s nice, Brinson said.”
“What kind of thing is that to say?” I looked very carefully at Brinson. She was up to something…
“It’s so nice to be pretty in this world of ugliness, don’t you think?”
This was blasphemous! “No!” I jumped up from my chair. I looked around and saw the cops had risen, too, poised to put me out of commission. I know I was making a mistake but I couldn’t let it ride. I sat down. “No,” I said calmly. “It’s not nice.”
“Squash her,” the preacher yelled, and the marigolds tittered in the background. “We told you,” the thread said.
“Why don’t you think that?”
“That it’s good to be pretty in this world? Don’t you think it could help balance the ugliness?”
“NO!” I couldn’t stand it any longer. “No I don’t! Nothing can balance it! Ugliness is all-pervasive!”
“But if you remove the beauty from the world it for sure doesn’t have a chance.”
“It’s too late, better that beauty leave here and go back to nothingness, to pool with other beauties and make their own world.”
“Traitor!” the preacher yelled at me.
I laughed. “I told you I was the New Jesus!” I yelled.
“The new Jesus?” Brinson said.
“I just want to touch them before they go,” I said.
“Why the marigolds?”
“They are the flower of the dead.”
“Why the gold thread?”
“It’s their sacred initiation to the joyous afterlife.”
“Why are you in a position to usher them out of this world?”
“For the love of God, save us both,” the preacher boomed.
“The task was given to me.”
“By the spirit of the one that said…,” and I looked about the room, made sure all were seated and reverent, “‘It is not true, it is not true; That we came to live here; We came only to sleep, only to dream.’”
The preacher screamed, “Murderer!” and he raked down through my insides with his unholy claws, gutting me like he cleans out his young girls and while I still could, I sprang to the desktop and bit with all my worth into the long cord of the ghastly blazing light and went out in full glory.
# # # # #
I woke to whiteness and screaming. The preacher was duking it out with some well-meaning psychologist sicko. The preacher had him backed against the wall and still the well-meaning sod was giving hand signals to the two white burly guys to stay back and I thought, “You should have asked me first about the preacher.” And finally, when the preacher, for lack of a knife, had the psychologist in a stranglehold so he couldn’t speak, let alone gesture, the burly white guys tackled him to the ground and stuck a syringe into him.
The trees of the Great Trinity Forest bent down and lifted me up, took me to the blessed river. I could hear the rush of her, and in one of her playful moments she tickled me with her froth. I laughed and said, “Welcome to your new life, preacher.”
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