By Chef Ioptah
This isn’t a confession. You can’t prove a damn thing, so don’t even try. I’ll deny it to my grave. I’m on my third drink for the evening anyways. You can’t trust the word of a drunken man.
That’s when I start to feel anything these days, the third drink. Sometimes it takes four, but usually three will do. It’s the same cycle every night for weeks now, I drink, then I start to feel, then the fear comes over me, then I drink some more until I pass out.
Wake up, slog through the day. Keep my head down, keep my chin up, don’t draw anyone’s attention. Go home, repeat.
One night a few weeks back there was a man at my door. I answered it, wondering what in the devil he was doing there at that time of night. I live at the end of my street, and there’s no one around for quite a ways, and even the evangelicals that comb the neighborhood rarely make it all the way out to my house.
“Help me,” he gasped, his blood-flecked lips quivering in the rain. His forearm was badly broken, bits of bone sticking out through the skin. He was pale and drenched, the rain and blood dripping steadily from his haggard frame, pooling on my porch beneath him. “There’s been an accident, I need help,” he winced. “Can you help me?”
I nodded, dumbly, shocked at his state, then ran inside looking for my cell phone. But by the time I got back to the door with it, he was gone, the only sign of him a trail of splattered red leading down my front steps and out into the front yard.
I stood there, shocked for a moment. And then I put the phone away, slammed the door, and locked it. I don’t know why, I was just scared, frightened by the whole affair. And some part of me, some damned selfish part of me, kept saying it’s ok, it’s someone else’s problem. He’s gone, forget about it.
So I poured myself a drink to ease my nerves. And then another. A few drinks later, I had forgotten all about him. And a few drinks after that, I’d drunk myself to sleep.
I woke up with my head throbbing. I’m not a heavy drinker. Well, used to not be one anyways. I stepped outside and noticed that there was no blood on my porch and breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe the rain washed it all away, I thought. Or maybe it hadn’t happened at all. I went to work nursing my hangover, but I made it through the day. Came home, tried to relax.
I’d slept poorly the night before and my day took what energy I had left, so I decided early in the evening to call it a night. I was just about to go bed, when there was another knock at the door.
I froze, looking over to it. My heart raced. I tried to laugh off my rising fear. It was just someone at the door, nothing to be afraid of. But as my hand reached for the knob, I heard his voice, the same quaking shudder of a voice from the night before. “Help! I need help!”
I stood stone still as he pounded on the door. “God, it hurts!” he shouted. “Please! Why won’t you help me??”
I put my back to the door, bracing it, squeezing my eyes shut. This isn’t real, I thought. It can’t be. And after a few seconds, the knocking stopped and it was quiet.
I flung open the door, but there was no one there, no trace of blood or sign of his presence.
Unsettled, I shut the door, locked it, and reached for a bottle.
And so it went, for four more days, each night the same, the knocking, the horrible man at my door, the cries for help. And each night, I secured the door and waited until it stopped, then drank myself into oblivion.
By the seventh night I’d had enough. I made a stiff drink as soon as I got home, and then another after that one. I had thought of nothing but the events of the previous week that day. So naturally I was anticipating the knocking when it came again that night, confirming my paranoid fears. I was waiting for it.
I threw open the door upon the first knock, and there he was, battered arm hanging limp at his side, pale face twisted into a grimace. But before he could say anything, I leveled my shotgun at his face and pulled the trigger. His head popped like a blister, and I fired a second time, blowing his arm clean off and leaving a hole in his torso.
Covered in his wet viscera, I shut the door. I want to say I was in a trance, that I was on auto-pilot and out-of-my-head, but that’s not true. I knew exactly what I was doing. I was trying to make a point to myself.
See, I’m a level-headed man. I don’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural or anything like that. We live in a rational world. And I damn well wasn’t going to sit back and let my head play tricks on me without fighting back.
They say blood is hard to wash off, but it’s not true. His blood washed right off of me. One shower later, I was good as new. So when I finished cleaning up and calming down and went back to the front door, I likewise expected there to be nothing there, as there had been no trace of him left from the previous nights.
I couldn’t believe it when I opened the door and his remains slumped inside like a sackful of meat. I reached down and poked the corpse. It was solid. The porch was covered in blood and gore. Once more I panicked, and this time I did go into a sort of trance. The hours passed in a blur as I drug the body around to the back of the house, dug out a shallow grave, cleaned off the porch as best I could, and took another shower.
And then I made another drink. Tomorrow, the knocking would come again, I was sure. I hadn’t just killed a man and buried him in my backyard.
When I got home the next evening, I sat and waited anxiously. Any moment, the knock would come, the man would again be at my door, waiting for me, asking for help. Maybe tonight I’d laugh, invite him in, ask him if he wanted a drink, I thought, sipping my own drink nervously. The minutes stretched out, and it felt like I’d waited an eternity when it finally came. The knocking.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I rushed to the door, but it wasn’t the man from the previous nights. It was the police. A car had gone off the road the night before. They wanted to know if I’d seen anyone. Maybe it was my drunken state that allowed me to lie so convincingly, but after telling them I knew nothing of it, they bid me a good evening and left.
My pulse pounded in my head. This couldn’t be happening, I thought. It wasn’t real. The thoughts piled on, one by one, and all I could do to quell them was keep drinking until I lost consciousness.
I called in sick the next day. I checked my backyard, and sure enough, the grave I’d dug was still there, still fresh. I dug him up, burned the body until it was ash. When I was done, I went back inside the house and numbly sat down.
And since then, I can’t feel anything. Not until I drink. Usually three, sometimes four. And it’s only then that I start to feel it – the fear.
See I’m not afraid of ghosts. I don’t believe in them. I’ve never believed in them. Probably in part because I was raised by my heavily superstitious mother. She made her living as a psychic, telling fortunes. She claimed that she had “the sight,” that she could see a person’s fate before it happened, and she had a steady stream of gullible clients that kept a roof over our heads and food on our table. So I didn’t make a big deal out of it, but like any kid, I rebelled against her and her beliefs. And when I left home, I found plenty of support for that rebellion.
Psychics aren’t real, right? No one can see the future. Right?
Cause now I’m afraid my mother wasn’t faking it, that she really could see the fate of all those people who came to her. And I’m afraid, I’m so terribly damn afraid, that now I can see it too.