All at the same time.
I had a visit from the police. The investigating officers. Two guys. They were so proud. So smug. They wanted to let me know they’d made an arrest. They asked me if I wanted to come down and see the guy. And for the briefest of moments I thought maybe they meant the warlock, but as they were talking, I realized it was someone else entirely, someone I didn’t even know. A homeless man.
They arrested a fucking homeless man for Mike’s murder. Can you believe that shit?
And they were so proud. They had means and opportunity and one very strained motive, something about Mike finding the guy’s drugs and getting him kicked out of the shelter.
All at once everything I hated about my job came rushing back. That was it. Right there. That was power. Not just the ability to arrest and convict someone who had no real defense, but to do it under the lie that you were seeking the truth. That’s what power is, doing your will with the luxury of thinking its justice, of thinking those two things are one and the same because there’s no one to contradict you.
It was disgusting. It was disrespectful to Michael. And I let them know it. I might have used some choice words.
I think they honestly expected the news would bring me back, that I had spiraled off from grief and that the arrest and soon-to-be timely conviction would set me on the path to recovery. One day maybe I could even rejoin them. You know, the good guys. In an office job, of course.
Isn’t that great?
Man, the looks on their faces . . .
We all have defining moments I guess, like Saul on the road to Damascus. That right there, that was mine. My chance to go back. And I pissed on it!
But now I really do have nothing. No job. No family. No money. And no answers.
I opened the fridge and stared at it.
He said everything I needed to know was in a box of risotto. I unhooked the lid. It didn’t look like much—gruel, really—but I gotta hand it to the man. It was fucking delicious. I ate the whole damned thing, and cold too.
An hour later I was squatting in the corner, shivering and sweating like a pig. I was in someone’s house. I didn’t know whose. I could see Mike, almost as if through the walls. I knew exactly where he was, and I knew he was watching me, but I couldn’t get to him. There was nothing stopping me. I just couldn’t get there. I moved forward through the house, up the stairs or down the hall, knowing that was the right way to go, only after a minute or two I would kick myself for being so stupid and going the obvious wrong way. I’d turn around and head for him again, sure it was right this time, only to suffer the same setback.
I wanted to hit something. I was so angry. So frustrated. He was right there! Looking at me even! There was nothing stopping me. Why couldn’t I get there? I got mad at my legs, at my feet. Only when I looked down to curse at them, they were folded underneath me. I was sitting Indian-style before an old woman in a desert. And by old I mean like the mountains and the stars. She had a sparse beard, like the fuzz on a wrinkly fruit. I heard the throb of drums and felt the pulsing breath of the sky.
Clouds ran like water.
The old woman dipped a finger into a bowl of blue dye and reached out to touch my forehead.
“Beware the wolf with three eyes.”
And then I woke. I was in my room looking up at the drab ceiling. My alarm was next to me. But I could see the wolf. Clearly.
In the fur above its two piercing eyes, a third opened.
I sat up. I was drenched in sweat. I looked at the clock. It had only been a couple hours, but my stomach burned with hunger. I had wet myself. I had vomited. At least once. The room stank.
By the time I made it to the bathroom, I realized it hadn’t been a couple hours. It had been 27. That bastard chef, the old shaman, had served me a hallucinogenic mushroom risotto. Sent me on a vision quest. And I’d been tripping for over a day.
I splashed water on my face and washed away the vomit and looked at myself in the mirror. I recognized her. But she wasn’t the same.
I grabbed my razor, the one I used on my legs, and shaved the sides of my head in a hurry, as if my hair were polluted with sin. I cut myself and stared at the blood.
from BONEWHITE, the third in my series of short occult mysteries, out soon