Thursday, June 9, 2011

Morgue File: "The Illusion of Free Will"

Long dark hallway by Ortizmj12

I will suffer the consequence of this inquisition
“Forgiven,” Alanis Morissette

It was black as pitch inside the confessional.

She scratched her nose and could just make out the movement of her hand in front of her face.

2 a.m. There had been no one on the street to help her—though she doubted anyone could or would have even if it had been midday—and that’s how she’d ended up in here.

Rounding a corner, she’d seen the church door hanging open, half off its hinge. A peculiar invitation, but one she’d welcomed, racing inside and pulling the door closed behind her. Its hinges shrieked and it wouldn’t latch, but it was something else between her and Them.

The church was cold, dark, the air stagnant; no one had been there for quite some time. The pews were littered with pages torn from hymnals. A few lonely bibles lay scattered on the floor. A fine layer of dust had settled over the candles near the pulpit.

The moon light coming in through one of the stained glass windows cast a cold blue hue across the expanse of the room. She wrapped her arms around herself, shivered.

Walking around a steady trickle of water falling from the ceiling, she made her way to the confessional, finding security in the surroundings of the small and familiar space.

She sat still and quiet for some time, until her fingers went numb and her back stiffened up, and she finally had to shift and stretched before her muscles became completely locked.

Her foot connected with something at the bottom of the booth, sent it clattering against the closed door.

She froze.


Heard nothing but her own heartbeat, the blood rushing in her ears.

Letting the breath she was holding rush out, she leaned against the wall; sparing a glance at the lattice work on her other side, she could make out a hulking shadow, then the sulfur yellow sheen of eyes.

Maybe it didn’t see me, she thought, just before the Tracker’s eyes met hers. There was a gleam of teeth and spittle; if the thing had lips, she would call it a smile.

Muttering, “Son of a bitch,” she threw herself forward, tumbling out of the confessional. She got her feet underneath her in record time, but not before she heard the scrabble of claws on the linoleum, the low, wolf-like growl.

(Continue reading, after the jump.)

She didn’t risk a look behind her. Just ran. Out of the main room and down one of the narrow hallways that led to the church offices, the private rooms, overturning tables and throwing anything else she could into the path of the Tracker.

It was so close she could feel its breath against her neck, hot and smelling like old meat.

Pain shot through her hip and she flung herself forward and down another corridor. She looked down and saw blood staining her jeans where the Tracker’s claw had torn her.

And that’s when it slammed into her from behind, carried her through the door at the end of the hallway and out into the damp alley. She landed flat on her belly, breath knocked out of her, asphalt scraping the skin off her palms, rending the knees of her jeans.

The Tracker put a knee into the small of her back. A long fingered hand pressed her shoulder into the ground.

She craned her neck, saw the Tracker’s other hand holding a hypodermic. It flicked the cap off with a talon, put the needle to her neck.

She felt the sting.

And then nothing else.


Light on her eyelids woke her.

Her throat was dry, her tongue felt too big for the space between her teeth and there was a sharp ache in her temple.

She opened her eyes.

The room was nothing special.

She’d half expected some Gothic ante chamber, four poster bed and black curtains, candles burning in wrought iron stands.

What she got were four pale green walls, with lighter lines of color running over them, like veins in marble. A simple queen sized bed with a thick counterpane so dark green it was nearly black. There were no windows that she could see. The light that had woken her came from the lamp on the bedside table.

Beneath the lamp was a glass of water.

She stared at it for a moment, then shrugged and took a sip. She’d already been shot up, kidnapped, held unconscious. If they wanted to kill her, they could have done it several times over by now.

Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she examined her bare feet for a second. There was no sign of her shoes. Her coat and over shirt had been removed; so had her jeans, leaving her in only a silky black camisole and matching underwear, that had admittedly seen better days.

Nothing like being kidnapped and held captive to make you consider the state of your panties…

There was a bureau across from her, on top of which she found a pair of soft cotton pants. She went through the drawers, found them empty. Went to the door, discovered it locked.

Wandering the perimeter of the room, she found a small bathroom with some toiletries (soap, generic shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste) and towels folded on the back of the toilet, an empty closet; in the drawer of the bed side table was an old bible with a spine that was going soft and translucent.

Not a single sharp object around; on closer inspection, she found even the lamp was welded to the bed side table…

She sat down on the bed and contemplated her hands.

Some time passed before she heard footsteps outside the door, the sound of a key scraping the lock.

Irijah Grey walked in, followed by a Tracker that hung back, nearly flattening itself against the wall as the man closed the door.

Irijah was a small and lithe man, not much taller than her; his face was smooth, almost boyish in its shape, with wide eyes that were the queerest color of green she’d ever seen. He wore all black—from his soft soled shoes to his jacket—highlighted by the grey of his button down shirt.

“How did you sleep?” His voice was soft, a little high in pitch and his intonation smooth, the words rolling off his tongue with deliberate intent, as though each were equally as important as the next.

“Well,” she said. “I suppose I can thank whatever you had that Tracker shoot me up with.”

He smiled, showing even white teeth. “A simple tranquilizer. You risked harming yourself by continuing this…incessant running.”

“That wouldn’t be a problem if you’d stop chasing me.”

“You must be hungry,” he said, taking a few steps closer to the bed, maintaining a respectful distance.

“I suppose…”

“Come, then.” He held out a hand, watched with a bemused smile as she rose on her own and stood staring at the appendage for a good 60 seconds before he let it fall back to his side.

He turned on his heel and left the room, expecting her to follow.

With a low growl from the Tracker to spur her, she did.

Bread, cold sandwich meats, and thinly cut slices of fruit and cheese waited for them on the table in the eat-in kitchen.

He pulled out her chair and moved to his own, but stayed standing until she sat.

She took care in unfolding her napkin into her lap, giving her time to glance around. No silverware. No food that would require silverware… Even the cups are plastic. I think they think more about my abilities to escape than I do!

She lay a cut of meat on a slice of bread and had it raised to her lips before she noticed him watching her.


“Shall we say grace?” It wasn’t a request.

She frowned, slowly lowered the bread back to her plate, brushing crumbs from her fingers.

His hands rested on the table, palms up, extended toward her.

“I won’t bite.”

That’s really not a phrase I want to hear from you, she thought.

He sighed then. “Dahlia, I’m hungry myself. I’d very much like to eat tonight so, if you please.”

She opened her mouth to ask what was stopping him, but before she could, he moved, snake quick, grasping her hands in his.

Heat, like an electric current, zipped through their combined hands; she tugged, but he didn’t let go, his grip stronger than she would have thought.

She drew inward, barely listening as he dropped into the familiar litany of dinner time prayer, only coming back to the surrounding room when his voice had fallen silent and she’d felt the flex of his fingers around hers.

He didn’t seem in any hurry to let her go.

She yanked her hands out of his grasp, straightened her napkin and pulled a few pieces of fruit onto her plate.

They ate in silence for a time.

“We’ll leave in the morning. A car will be waiting to take us to the Hollow.”

She choked on the slice of kiwi she’d been tentatively examining with her tongue, and glared at him.

“I have duties to attend,” he said. “I know you didn’t think we’d be staying here, lovely little ghost town as it is.” He smiled. “And very private…”

“We? No.” She wiped her mouth. “Me? I’d say I had plans.”

“Plans change.”

“Not yours, apparently…”

“Some things are writ,” he said, sitting a green-felt box on the table and pushing it toward her.

She laid her fingers on that box. Blinked. Swayed. The room and its inhabitants faded around her and yards in front of her, the rickety frame of an old Italianate house arched up out of a swirl of fog, pale yellow light spilling from the ground floor windows. Inside, she could hear a baby's long, wailing cry, and a voice singing a hushed lullaby.

She blinked hard and the vision slid away.

Irijah, hands in front of him on the table, fingers stroking the grains of the wood stared at her; there was a familiar look in his eyes. Greed. “What did you see?”

“N—Nothing. I couldn’t make it out…” She dropped her eyes to her plate, the green box.

“It’s late,” he said finally and rose. “We have a long day tomorrow.”

“I think I’ve slept enough.”

“Even so,” he said, a faint smile on his lips. He raised his chin and behind her the Tracker loomed.

Sighing, she stood.

“The box,” he said. “Take it.”

She brushed her fingertips over it. Nothing. Picked it up and slid it into the soft pocket of the pants she wore.

Face blank, Irijah said nothing, only turned and led the way down the hall and up the stairs where another Tracker joined them, the two of them taking up post on either side of the door to her room.

Opening the door, he stood back, gestured her inside and once she entered, he pulled a key from his pocket.

“I’ll wake you in the morning. We’ll break fast before we leave.”

She didn’t say anything, and he shut the door as if he’d expected such.

The tumblers rolled and the lock clicked into place.

She heard his footsteps retreat down the hallway, the heavy shuffling of the Trackers settling outside of her door.

Turning to the bed, she found a long nightdress in pale blue satin; a modest cut, the fabric would cling to her nonetheless.

She set it aside, stretched out on the bed, only to sit up again as something sharp poked her in the hip. Pulling the box out of her pocket, she ran her fingers over the fabric once more, took a steadying breath and flicked it open.

Shining against the velvet-black of the background, was the moonstone encased in its silver Celtic knot work. In the center of the gem, that red blemish, as though blood had seeped into the stone.

As the title suggests, this is a sketch/scrap from my morgue file. I was listening to Alanis Morissette's song "Forgiven" when these images started popping into my head. I have no idea if this thing will go anywhere. I think of it like an artist's doodle. It may not ever be a complete work in and of itself, but it could serve as inspiration for a later work or even be cannibalized to fit into some larger piece.

The title is temporary and comes from a line spoken by Lucas Buck in American Gothic: "Did I ever tell you about the illusion of free will?"

Daring to share today (02/25/12)


R.L.W. said...

GAH! I want to know more! Very well written, I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. I'd pick out a particular passage to praise, but I like it all.

L. M. Leffew said...

Thank you!

It's just a bit of brain spew, but I'm very glad you enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

Nice, creepy bit of brain spew. I hope this turns into a full story because I want to read more. Of course, glad I read during the day or I might not sleep for a while!

L. M. Leffew said...

Thank you. Glad I could creep you out. :)

L. M. Leffew said...

I like this.  I want to know more.  What does her vision mean?

L. M. Leffew said...

Your guess is as good as mine. :) That's partly why this is in the Morgue File - I've got no idea what's going on. But maybe, one day....

Thanks for stopping by.

L. M. Leffew said...

The atmosphere here is heavy and thick. You've painted a very interesting world with fascinating characters. This is just the kind of story I love to read. Dark, a little gothic, atmospheric. I want to know more about her, about the Trackers, about Irijah. I'd love to find out where this one is going in. 
Thanks for sharing!

L. M. Leffew said...

I am astonished at your author's note that listening to music started these ideas flowing in your imagination.  That is something I can not relate to but sure wish I could!

L. M. Leffew said...

This definitely reads like a much bigger piece. Very good, suspense plot. One piece of CONCRIT: In Catholic churches, they do not keep bibles in the pews. Hymnals and Missals, but no bibles.

L. M. Leffew said...

Thank you.

Good to know about the bibles.

I was thinking originally they may have been brought by parishioners and abandoned during a moment of....who knows?

Gah. I think I may now have to pull this piece out of the morgue. I want to know what's going on.

L. M. Leffew said...

I love using music as a springboard. :) It doesn't work well every time, but there are some songs that really set off a spark.

L. M. Leffew said...

Thanks for reading.

I feel like I may have to resurrect this thing, now.

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