I looked across the room and saw a deep darkness along the wall opposite from where I stood. It was a strange, otherworldly darkness, not because the room was poorly lit, in fact just the opposite. The room was almost too bright with several 100 watt light bulbs shining brightly from the unfinished ceiling boards. As I walked closer to investigate the shadow, it appeared as if it wasn't a shadow, but instead an absence of light occupied the space.
As I neared the other side of the room, I tentatively leaned in closer to see what was causing the darkness. Like dark oily diesel smoke being expelled by a powerfull Cummings engine, the ebony absence fled from my curious eyes. It was a revelation so horrific that it made me wish the smoke would return to mask the tragedy behind. Carelessly exploded against the dirty white walls of my home’s basement appeared a deep maroon liquid, with rivulets of crimson gore tracing wrinkled strands into a growing pool of blood on the floor in an abstract tangle of concrete and color. Intermixed with the red ooze were fragments of hair and shards of pale white bone. Also scattered among the debris, appeared to be small bits of a light grey spongy material that I could only imagine was . . . .
I didn't want to see anymore; I knew what had happened. I knew who had done this.
I went upstairs and gave my wife and kids a grateful kiss and walked out of the room. Confused eyes followed me as to what had caused such a spontaneous demonstration of affection.
The next day, the same scene came back to haunt me. Somehow more intense than before, I swooned in nausea as the black smoke stung my nostrils. Once again, I leaned in closer to find the cause of such evil blackness. I expected to see the molten flames of hell fire belching ebony toxins into the atmosphere. Instead, I found myself staring into my own hollow empty dead eyes--old and unseeing, forever staring at the one point opposite. Shocked, I stumbled backwards as I struggled to keep the contents of my stomach from spilling onto the grey concrete floor. The demonic fumes returned covering my own corpse in its haze.
I walked across the kitchen to where my wife was preparing our Christmas Eve dinner, gave her as passionate a kiss as I could muster, “I love you Amy.” I said looking deep into her azure eyes. “I love you too, Joel,” she mindlessly replied going back to chopping vegetables. I then kissed both children on the head and descended the stairs into the basement to meditate.
I found the meditative sounds app and timer on my phone, closed my eyes and began to focus on the present moment pushing the disturbing scenes from before out of my head. Twenty minutes later, the timer rang and I took the headphones out of my ears. I looked up and saw the piles of wrapped Christmas toys and presents ready to be torn open and played with the next day. I knew that I would not have wanted to miss the looks of joy and surprise on the kids faces as they opened their gifts.
My eyes then panned to the left expecting to see the unlit desolate fog that I was becoming familiar with in my waking nightmares. Thankfully, I only saw the unwashed white walls of a normal unfinished basement. Presently, the blackness began to pour in to the room from an invisible porthole in the wall. Hypnotized by the anomaly, I walked forward to find out what would be revealed behind the vacant haze.
Between the billows of the demonic tendrils, I saw my wife collapsed on the floor weeping uncontrollably. She was holding a lifeless body in her arms. I walked closer to comfort her and place my hand on her shoulder as if to say, “it’s ok, I am still here.”
Mumbling to herself, she began to compose herself and stood up, “Where is my fucking phone. I need to call fucking 911.” Then as she climbed up the flight of stairs to the laundry room and kitchen, I could hear her say “Fucking asshole promised he wouldn't do this to me. I’ll kill him.” The irony of that statement being lost in her grief. She collapsed on the staircase landing, wailing and cursing my name, “Damn you Joel!!!”
Unable to view this scene, I turned back to view my own mortal remains slumped in a corner, blood still pouring out the newly formed cavern in the back of the skull. The lower part of the jaw, attached only by a few strands of sinew and muscle, in the sudden explosion of firearms pressed into the mouth, dangled precariously above the blood soaked ground. This time my digestive system could not hold onto the dinner I had just eaten. It spilled onto the floor its putrid multicolored contents mixed with the growing pools of blood. The corpse began to animate and rise up. It stood tall before me with its lifeless coal black eyes peering deep into my soul.
My stomach heaved again, there was nothing left in my stomach to empty--only bile and phlegm dripping in long filaments from my lips. As I wiped the strings on my sleave, fire began to glow in the dead eyes of the body before me. The broken jaw let loose from the skull and fell to the ground with a splash into the pool of blood and partially digested oatmeal raisin cookies that had accumulated around our feet. Miraculously, the dead, jawless body before me began to speak. “Family Heals. Family Loves. Family Nurtures. Find Family.”
Shocked that a cadaver had the nerve to speak to me, a reply to this enigmatic statement escaped me. I was beside myself and all I could concentrate on was, “Family Heals. Family Loves. Family Nurtures. Find Family.” As suddenly as before, the dark haze funneled out of the room. The body before me vanished. I was left alone, the only thing that could be noticed was the soft whir of the furnace blowing warm air into the house above. Echoing in the quiet, “Family Heals. Family Loves. Family Nurtures. Find Family.”
The kitchen was warm with the stovetop boiling potatoes, fresh green beans and an apricot glazed ham in the oven. The smell alone made me ravenously hungry and I couldn't wait to start Christmas Eve dinner in a few hours. I walked up to where my wife was preparing a raw vegetable tray with deviled eggs in the center. She had her back to me and I began to tenderly kiss her neck. She put the knIfe down, “Mmmm, feeling better?” She asked me. “Yes,” was my reply as I resumed kissing her neck. “We don't have time for that! We have guests coming over soon.”
Dejected but not dismayed, I went to the couch, turned on the T.V and tuned it to “Charlie Brown’s Christmas Special.” The children, who had been playing upstairs in their bedrooms, came down and climbed on top of me. I pulled a blanket over us and we snuggled in close to hear Linus tell the story of how Jesus was born. Noticing the scene before her, Amy then slipped under the blanket with us. It was a moment I will never forget. One of the happiest moments of my entire life. Still the words reverberating in my head, “Family Heals. Family Loves. Family Nurtures. Find Family.” I kissed the tops of each head that was under the warm blanket with me. Amy, Zoe, Liam. “This is family,” I said out loud. “I love my family.” Then silently I thought, “ I will heal for my family. “