Cathy unearthed Part 1 of 6
When Tom left the little town of Craw on the cusp of the millennium, he knew he was not coming back.
He never quite belonged and the locals acceptance of their miserable existence made him loathe them.
But he always suspected he was different.
As a child he would stand in front of a mirror and try to match his facial-features with his Mother and father. He never found anything similar enough to count on.
He lived the life of a farmer’s son which hardly fitted the dark-eyed, secretive kid.
Studious and artistic, his passion was painting, but save for a few scraps of disused wall-paper he had nothing to pursue his Art on.
His was a strange art. Eyes predominating, dangerous and wild, but everything in the creatures he drew was twisted, bent, warped and unearthly.
Once he asked his mother why he was so different. Her face paled and his father’s went ashen as he turned round to face his wife’s eyes.
Dad had nodded once to her questioning eyes and she had said:
“Well Tom”, she chose carefully, “You are not quite our son!” “You see, well, we only had one child and well, well, God decided to take him to heaven and he gave us you instead!”
“Why are kids so bad to me?” asked Tom plaintively, head bowed and hardly audible.
She looked sideways at Dad who was pensively chewing at his pipe and he nodded again.
She knelt by him and looked up into his face.
“People will tell you lies and they will tell you mean things but do not believe them!”
“You are a normal boy”…”Just a little, umm… excitable, but it will change when you grow up!”
“The voices will go away and you will be happy and have kids of your own!”
“Now go do your chores and let us have no more questions!” She smiled back at him, turned him towards the door and slapped his bottom gently.
Those words struck home.
So that is why kids taunted him saying he was a Bastard, Demon, and Fiend.
Words de did not know, nor would they unless they heard them from grownups!
But why, when Jack, the kid that had suddenly disappeared, he was asked so many questions by the police?
Why could he not remember what happened after he and Jack walked out into the forest?
Why was he speckled in blood when he went back home?
People said that before him the town was happy and prosperous.
Then kids started disappearing, just when he started school.
And then the Saw-mill owner’s son could not be found and the father had come to the farm with a shot-gun. Unblinkingly he had looked up into the 2 barrels at the man. Behind the gun the man shook with hate and fear but he could not pull the triggers and went away, closing the mill and leaving the town for ever.
The town, without jobs, withered. People started calling it Devil’s Town.
That was when His father took him out of school, just two days after his Mother died.
There was talk of a lynching, and it was him people were talking up courage to hang.
He and his Dad went through life without a word till the old man died in a long illness.
So he left for the city when he was 17. On his death-bed his Dad gave him a watch which he said was found with him, hanging off a bony, fleshy mess lying in the wrecked car. It had a dedication etched on the back: “Never be without me”
Whatever killed his family was no accident and hardly human.
He was a baby then, unscratched bar an open wound in his palm that had never healed.
He sold the farm for half what it was worth and bought a one-way ticket out of Craw.
No one came to see him off at the Bus Stop.
Nor did he expect anyone to!
Cathy unearthed Part 2 of 6
Tom was just, barely surviving on the meager earnings of a part-time job packing shelves at a Super-market.
The money from the farm was gone and the future held no promise. His only friend was half-crazy old man with whom he spent hours just staring into inner-space.
Depression was tearing him apart and a once budding talent was reduced to groveling for commissions only to be incapable of producing the sickly sweet prettiness demanded from the idle rich.
Rarely would a painting of his sell. The images he created emitted no warmth.
No patron wanted psychotic monsters masquerading as human litter, festooned on their walls.
But every time he tried to do the Gallery’s bidding of a friendlier style of work the painting just took over and only angry twisted and grotesque beings clawed out of the canvas.
Dirt and squalor inhabited his life. Alone, on the 3rd floor of a condemned building he huddled in desperation.
His nightly dreams now contemplated life and death, neither of which brought any pleasure nor pain but the hope of final relief.
He had sold the last thing of value, that chronograph found at the accident scene, for some paint and food. The Pawn-broker, looking at the back of the watch said:
“Sure you want to part with this?” Tom nodded and took the money hurriedly.
On a cold and luckless morning, carrying a canvas he could not sell, he walked aimlessly in a confused stupor.
Just then, around the same corner he was leaning for support, a young hopeful was hurrying to an early appointment carrying a coffee.
The girl smashed into his sulking, thin body.
The paper-cup split and her coffee exploded in both their faces, the plastic lid hitting him and cutting his nose.
Avoiding cab-fare, Cathy had rushed out early to get to the interview in time.
Hot coffee burnt her chest and she screamed in terror at the only outfit she had, now stained, unusable.
Tom jumped aside then, surprised and fearful fled the scene like a guilt-ridden thief leaving her sobbing at her bad luck on this one important, desperate morning.
Arms flailing, coffee streaking her fingers and stains splattering her lucky-blouse, she looked plaintively up to the sky as she sank to her knees.
Then the final insult! Placing a hand on the painting dropped by the intruder, something cut her deeply; something sharp and hot; something so painful that it seemed to go up her arm right trough to her heart then her burn hot trough her veins.
Just then it started raining. Shaking with indignation she looked up at the sky and screamed!
Cathy unearthed Part 3 of 6
Tom had watching from a distance. Once Cathy was gone he ran to retrieve the painting. Once back in the deserted building, in an exhausting marathon spanning 18 hours, Tom re-painted the canvas and created his last work.
In a maniacal frenzy, shadows dancing around his emaciated body, he used all that was left of his paints.
His heavy, desperate strokes splashed his last vision out on the canvas.
Running out of Magenta he unwound the bandage over his wounded hand and used his own blood!
That produced was a creature whose eyes screamed in agony, shoulders arched, clawing with long, bony fingers at the brush that created it.
The result could only be called Monstrous genius.
A wide open mouth, bared teeth and neck-muscles straining, he could feel the canvas heaving.
A blood curdling cry was heard in the dead of night, and then silence descended.
A silence heavy and hard. A silence without a soul. The rain got heavier out in the deserted streets.
A body was found that night. The Coroner wrote ‘Suicide’ but could not explain the huge gash that had ended this vagrant’s life, nor find a weapon that could have done the deed!
But dead is dead and there were too many corpses awaiting his attention in this city to bother any longer.
Crestfallen, blooded and defeated Cathy shuffled her way back to the cheap room she called home.
The last of the money she had saved since leaving Boulder Colorado had bought her one last week of rent and this job had to be it; there was no other way forward!
Cathy undressed, hung her skirt and coat to dry and worked on the blood and coffee-stained blouse. One by one they faded under her detailed attention.
The blood was harder to take out but thankfully it had sprayed low enough to be hidden mostly by the skirt.
Her head was aching and stress and tension welled up till she could not hold them in any longer.
In a fit of anger she flung open the window into the rain and with a voice of spent desperation and resolute assertiveness she screamed at the top of her lungs.
She heard her scream bounce and echo off the alley-walls. The wind blew the window back into her face and cracked the window-pane on her forehead.
Late but dressed to impress, she steeled herself to amaze.
By lunchtime she was the new Junior-Partner in the law-firm of Barcikowski, McConnell and DiStefano.
She would be living on Corn-flakes and milk for a week but nothing would stop her now!
Cathy unearthed Part 4 of 6
That Sunday morning, at the open-air market, Cathy, always on the lookout for the unusual and the strange, pulled out this painting out of a mass of oddities.
The price was hardly an issue as she could afford masterpieces on her extensive salary.
The uncomfortable creation had little artistic merit.
The seller had no idea of its history but keenly dropped the price twice while she held it at arm’s length, quizzically looking at it in recollection.
Everyone else was fearful of it and yet he saw an interest in the buyer, or at least confusion and he was hopeful not to lose her so he suggested another $10 off the price.
She turned it over and carefully felt around the edge. Yes, she could feel a sharp edge hidden between canvas and frame. She smiled.
“I think I will have that” she said to Brad.
Brad, a few years younger than Cathy, was an uninspiring ‘Jock’, that took her fancy 3 months ago but was fast losing favour.
His interest in life did not extend much beyond his Porsche and the Gym and the antique Bullova watch she had bought him for a present.
The dedication on its back was vague enough to sound personal.
“Ummm…what’s this?” he said scratching at some dried soil seeming splattered randomly over the canvas…”looks like dried blood!”… “You’ll have to hold on to it… I have my dumb-bells in the trunk!”
“That’s cool! I’m wearing old stuff” Cathy said looking down at her faded blouse.
She contemplated the blouse which bore scars of a long past.
Although unseen, she alone knew each faded stain, laboriously washed and rewashed out of the cotton-fibers.
It was a miracle it lasted so long but it was her lucky blouse after all!
It was a 20 minute drive back to the apartment, Brad, as usual, had nothing to say.
She wondered why she bothered with him.
Really… she thought… life seems so much simpler without men.
The Canvas seemed to reach out to her.
It felt as if it was picking at the frayed-hem of her life.
She unconsciously flicked at something and looking down, red rust appeared to have dropped out of the picture hidden under the ‘brown-paper’ it was parceled in.
They seemed to go liquid as she watched and then dried making a pattern like sprayed blood right where the faint old stains had discolored the material of her blouse.
Cathy unearthed Part 5 of 6
That very evening a wave of decision-making caught her unawares.
Things she normally allowed to pass without comment seemed to rub her nerves raw.
Brad, never the greatest of company was seriously grating her with his arm-flexing, fiddling and fidgeting.
His mindless prattle was disturbing her and her mind returned to times when life was not so cosy. Times when $5 spent unwisely meant the difference between eating properly or going without.
She looked over to the spoilt brat lounging on her leather sofa.
A ‘pretty-boy’ picked up from a bar on a night when the euphoria of a court-victory had her over-indulge in celebration.
The next morning, the bed of the stranger she woke up in had the smell of a mistake.
Although one preferred to have company than to live alone Brad was becoming an unwelcome burden!
Somehow she felt more at home with the grotesque image on the canvas than the Adonis in the bare chest and paisley boxers.
The next day, returning early from the office Brad was gone and so was the Porsche.
Not surprised he would one day run she went to her desk to finish off some final reading of the day’s events.
Just then the phone rang; a police-officer was on Brad’s cell. They had found him dead in his crashed car. Her number was first on his emergency contact list; followed by 2 other numbers both different women.
She put down the telephone. Brad dead she mused! She felt somewhat relieved and lit a cigarette!
So that is where he was on his Gym nights and Boy’s night out! What a looser!
Knowing someone was bound to come asking questions she went to the bathroom to straighten up and touch up her makeup.
With a sponge she wiped over the wash-hand-basin from the rosy pink residue from the seeping blood from her hand.
The ring from the door-bell was not long in coming.
Interviewing Cathy was easy. She answered the questions crisply and efficiently.
Although surprised that she said she knew nothing about Brad’s whereabouts, the officer accepted she worked late and seemed pretty bored with the relationship.
Still, compared to the others, she did not seem to give a damn about the other lovers or the man’s recent demise!
Even when told the crash happened on a stretch of straight road and that he may have stopped for someone he knew, all they could get for a reaction was one raised eyebrow and a comment of: “That’s queer!”
Cathy unearthed Part 6 of 6 (final)
Sergeant Donahue looked around the office and while the woman he had before him responded candidly to every personal question he could muster, and even though her alibi was irrefutable, he just could not get it out of his head that there was something sinister in her story.
Even when she was told, in confidence, that Brad’s throat was torn open by what might have been a wild animal; Cathy was nonplussed about his death.
She simply raised one eyebrow to say, “How weird!”
The sergeant so wished to search the place, removing anything that could be suspicious. However, dealing with a lawyer and not having a shred of evidence qualifying his suspicions…he decided not to push the issue.
“Sergeant”, “I am all so very sorry about Brad and all that, but I am tired and if there are no more questions, I would like to rest. It has been a long day”.
“And no, Sergeant, I do not need or want any protection!”
Sergeant Donahue rose and thanked her. As he was leaving, he said, “Since you were so close to Mr. Johnson, I would like you to come to the morgue tomorrow for identification of his body.”
“I think you best choose one of the other ladies. I am busy tomorrow…good night, Sergeant.”
He knew when not to press his luck and nodded his goodbye.
A chill ran down his spine as he crossed in front of that horrible painting on the wall.
It was as if the eyes were burning into his skull causing him to twist his head in circles to purge this high pitched sound squealing in his head.
Tension gripped his chest and he felt like he could scream.
Shaking his head he walked to his car and he and his partner drove off into the night.
Cathy went into the kitchen and when she came back she glanced at the painting noting that it was now missing the creature.
She seemed not at all surprised, nor even the least bit curious. She knew the creature had business to tend to this evening and then would return.
She had made some toast and tea, put the music on low, and dimmed the overhead lights.
The table-lamp provided just enough light for her to leaf through some court-papers.
She lay on the couch and within minutes drifted off to sleep.
An alarm buzzed her awake.
Lifting her head and following the sound, she fished an antique chronograph wedged in a crevice between cushions.
Filmy red patches covered part of the glass and some of the case.
She turned the watch over, smiling as she read the dedication.
Noticing the lateness of the hour she switched the TV on.
An abnormally skinny woman with a long nose was talking into a microphone in front of a yellow and black police-barrier tape. Flashing emergency lights alternately lit one side of her face blue; the other side red.
“The two police-officers were on a routine investigation when….”
The reporter said sources had told her that the two bodies were found just around the corner from the bus station, mangled, with throats torn open, though nothing had been confirmed officially.
The wind picked up her hair and made her look like a cockatoo.
“The police advise caution and are telling people to stay indoors until notified.”
Cathy lit an incense-stick and walked into the bathroom.
She rinsed her face before attending to the watch, and then rubbed the inky-red residue into the water-stream.
Shaking it dry she slipped it on.
The back-door clicked open and then closed. Smiling knowingly, Cathy slipped out of her skirt, undid the buttons of her shirt and returned to sitting cross-legged on the couch to wait for him.
Closing her eyes, the jasmine incense wafted into the calm space in her mind.