Dead as a Doornail
by Killion Slade
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
My guts were twisting knots inside me. I couldn’t get away from that nagging feeling of worry. I hoped a little sunshine would help take the edge off. Rick helped me move my paints and canvas outside to the front porch. He worked on staining some crown molding for the living room. I found it interesting that he too, chose a project to do outside on the porch. He stayed close to me. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one a little freaked out.
It took a couple hours for the boiler man to show up. Just enough time for me to become intricately engrossed in the details of my painting. Rick showed the repairman down into the basement. A few minutes later, I heard his footsteps once again. Quieter this time. He opened the door and motioned me to come into the house. Whispering he said, “Hey, honey, can you come here for a minute?” His voice was shaking.
Off my stool, I hobbled into the foyer. “What is it, sweetie? It still hurts to move around...” I stopped mid-sentence. The house was pungent with Dragon’s Blood again. We just stood there, looking at our house and all the chaos.
The technician returned our attention to this reality. “Yep, you had some build-up on the igniter. Some kind of resin on the flame port. Got it all cleaned off and checked all the lines. Your kitchen gas line was clean, but the boiler line was plugged up somethin’ bad.”
I held out my hand to take the slip of paper he was handing me. We must have looked as if we had seen ghosts because the technician looked back at what we were seeing and left without another word.
The six-foot dieffenbachia plant had moved to a different room. Our Christmas cactus, hanging from the ceiling, was on the couch with broken branches. Dirt everywhere. Our holiday amaryllis bulbs were uprooted and lying on the floor, their crimson petals flowing loose in the soil. Planters were turned backwards and on ends. Shreds of ficus leaves littered the floors, steadily blowing all throughout the house, as if there were an imaginary leaf blower moving them to dance. The water in the kitchen sink was running a steady melody to the choreography.
I blinked. “Okay, that does it!” I was mad now. “Rick, can you please get me that book on my nightstand?”
He looked at me as if I had lost a little too much blood.
Moments later he handed me my Grandmother’s book. We went back outside on the porch, to sit on a surface with no dirt. I opened the book to show Rick the picture of the elementals. “My Grandma use to tell me stories about these guys when I was little,” I said. “Remember when I asked you to not take out the nails? This is the reason why.”
He held his hand up in front of his face, to shade his eyes from the sun. I moved the canvas closer over to us to block out the sun blindness.
Rick gasped. “Who is that?” he asked with a pointing, shaking finger toward my painting.
“That’s my Gamma Gerdie.” I said. “Why? What’s wrong?”
“No it isn’t. That’s Hecate!”
“What on earth are you talking about?” I asked him again, grimacing this time. He was clearly disturbed.
“Last night...” He took a deep breath. “Last night, she... came to me.” He pointed to my picture once again.
“Okay, we all have dreams. I’m trying to tell you about the weird events in our house. We have to put those nails back and we need to do it soon,” I explained.
But he wasn’t listening. He was completely fixated on Gamma’s image. Curious at how Rick could dream of my Gamma, I asked him, “What was your dream about?”
He looked me square in the eyes. “I had a strange-assed dream about this lady in a black dress. That lady.” His eyes drifted back to the painting. “She had a bunch of keys around her waist, like a belt. I remember seeing leaves sail through the wind, like we did just now in the house, but it was warm and inviting. I didn’t want to leave, but at the same time, it totally spooked me. She said her name was Hecate.”
I turned pages in the book to see if I could find anything about this name, and sure enough Grandma had a good portion of the book dedicated to Hecate. Taking a deep breath, myself, I said, “This was my Grandmother’s grimoire. She gave it to me the night she passed away. She told me when I was ready that she would be waiting for me.” I made my own hair stand up on the back of my neck and watched as goose pimples rose on my arms.
“It says here that Hecate is the Triple Goddess: the Maiden, Mother and Crone.” There were pages and pages dedicated to Hecate and her history. One phrase in particular called out to me. “None but She is Queen of all living things. It is through Her that all things live or die. She is the laughing maiden, the living mother, and the black hag of death. She was with you in the beginning and will be with you at the end.”
We both sat there just absorbing the words written so long ago by my Grandmother’s beautiful script. Turning the pages, we came to a picture of Hecate and the elementals. My mind shot me back to this reality once again. “Look, right here.” I pointed to the picture. “This is the reason why we have craziness in the house right now. Hecate guards the portals of the circle and you have inadvertently removed the guards.”
He looked at me again, his eyes questioning if this time I had really lost my mind. He swallowed hard. “I don’t... I don’t understand.”
“Here, see this.” I pointed to the longhand scroll under the picture where Grandma had written, “Hecate is also known as the crossroads gatekeeper of ghosts, infernal spirits, the dead and sorcery. Her association with keeping out evil spirits has led to the belief that if offended she could also allow the evil spirits in. Take extra care to close portals, gates, quarters and circles properly.”
We sat there in silence, looking at each other. My voice was sincere. “Do you think we angered her somehow?” I asked him.
“By changing out a back door? That’s ridiculous!” he scoffed.
“Is it? Really? I knew we shouldn’t have taken out those nails. Rick, I think we opened up portals to these other realms where fire, water, air and earth have these elemental things... And now they are loose in our house! We need to put them back!”
He looked at the painting and then back down at the book, and then at the house. He sighed. “It makes no freaking sense, but okay then, let’s do it and see what happens.” We walked back into the house, which was still aflutter with plant carnage and blowing leaves. The burners were lit again on the gas stove too. Rick grabbed the nails from the kitchen table.
I pulled out the hammer from the kitchen drawer and the drawer fell completely out of its cabinet and onto my foot. “OW!” I bellowed! “Hurry,I think they know what we are up to! Quick!”
It took over an hour to put the nails back into place. We hammered, punched, and stamped, but the wood did not want to budge in order to allow the nails in. We even offered up to the contrary nail gods a few skinned knuckles, a couple of embedded splinters, and several colorful euphemisms.
Finally, I said, “Hecate, please let us put the nails back and close the portals!” After giving blood, sweat, and tears, the nails finally yielded back into place.
We stood in the doorway listening, smelling, feeling for any breeze or drop in temperature, and nothing happened. The leaves lay lifeless on the tile. No water ran, no fires were burning on the stove. Nothing moved. We hugged each other and praised Grandma for her book.
We set about cleaning the house. My mood elevated and no longer had that nagging feeling. It was time for a hot shower and an even hotter toddy nightcap. Rick had already beaten me to the shower when I heard him scream!
Running up the stairs and down the hall as fast as I could limp, my foot throbbing from the hole, Rick was still screaming as if he was in a life or death situation. When I reached the bathroom door, Rick had blood running down his calf. There was a big, red snake in the shower, curled up and ready to strike again.
* * *
We sat in the emergency room while the anti-venom helped bring his heart rate back down to normal. He would be staying awhile until his body recovered from the poison. I could see his rest was fitful because his eyes kept moving so fast under his lids. The best I could do for him now was to hold his hand. I needed to let him know I was there by talking to him. Reassuring him that everything was going to be okay.
I climbed into the bed, next to him, and whispered close up by his ear. “Rick honey, stay with me sweetie. I love you so much... Everything is going to be all right. The doctors say you should be able to go home in a couple of days.” I squeezed his hand and he squeezed mine back. “The exterminator got rid of the snake in the house. It’s gone now. It’s all gone now.”
I watched as his heart rate sped up and then slowed down. They had already given him two doses of the anti-venom, and he wasn’t responding as well as he should. But I didn’t want him to know that. I just needed to keep talking to him. To keep him here, with me.
His eyes fluttered open. Tears ran down my face, as his eyes claimed mine. His eyes were the purest of green, like a spring forest after it rains. I could see reflections of our love in them. Hope crawled through my veins for the first time in days.
His voice was raspy and hoarse. “Your Grandmother wants you to take the key. She says you are ready. Please come find me. I love you...” And with those last words, his heart monitor flatlined. Just like that, my beloved was gone.
* * *
I didn’t go home that night. I just couldn’t. I could barely walk. How could I go back to that house? Our bed? The hospital gave me a quiet room in the chapel to sleep in that night. I was afraid to fall asleep because of the nightmare I would wake up to the next morning. Too soon, sleep engulfed me and it was my turn to see my Grandmother.
“Grandma? Is that you?” She stood there in a black dress with a belt of keys. She didn’t say anything to me, but offered me a key. Her smile was welcoming and genuine. I had missed her so much. I reached out for the key and the darkness shifted. My feet were now standing at the familiar crossroads. She opened her arms, inviting me to choose which door to open with the key.
Immediately my gut knew if I used the key I would find Rick. Each door resembled the color of a nail. Brown, Yellow, Red and Blue. I looked at her for help as to which one I should choose.
Grandma smiled and held her hand over her heart. “Follow your heart my dear and you will find yourself once again.” Follow my heart. Follow my heart? My heart was so lost, so empty, I wasn’t sure if I could trust following anything. I just simply didn’t care anymore. Moving toward the red door, I got that tug again in my tummy and thought better not to go there. Follow My Heart.
I gravitated toward the brown door to the North, and put the key in the slot. It fit, clicked, and turned with ease. The door made the same creepy, creaking sound as the back door we had just replaced. I almost didn’t finish pushing the door open, the sound frightened me so much. Would there be just as much chaos on the other side of this door? Taking a deep breath, I slowly pushed the door from its frame. Moonlight glowed around the edges as I pushed it all the way open. The fragrant smell of Dragon’s Blood enveloped me once again, calling me forward.
Opening the door, I saw Rick, my Mother and my Grandmother. They all looked amazingly alive and healthy. Running into my husband’s arms, I cried out his name. “Rick! Rick! Is this real? You’re okay?” He smiled at me and looked over at my Mother. Her eyes glistened with a faraway knowing.
My Grandma walked up to me, her warm hands caressing my shoulder. “Oh Gamma, thank you so much for bringing me here!”
Her voice fell over me in a shroud of melody, “You may call me Hecate now.”
Copyright © 2012 by Killion Slade