The Inside-Out Woman
CHAPTER 8: RESURRECTION
“What a mess. What a terrible mess everything is,” Iam declared, surveying the condition of the living room, arms akimbo, rocking side to side, wagging her head. How much of a mess Dominic would divulge shortly, she thought, folding her sweater, tidying the afghans and the room. “I can’t have Billy walking in on a mess. I’ll have everything spic … spic …”
“Everything is terrible mess, Aunt Margie,” Iam sobbed, gagging on the words.
Iam and Ruth laid on Aunt Margie’s bed with their heads in her lap, one on each of her thighs. Aunt Margie alternately stroked their hair, ending each gentle brushing with little pat, pat, pat. Sammy hung by the closed door, his ear fastened to it as if by suction, flinching as another dish or glass shattered, another chair clattered across the kitchen floor, another wretched, piercing, agonized scream issued from their mother, and their father responded with another awful, rude, insulting roar.
“Sammy, come away from the door. Come over here with us.”
“I want to hear,” he said.
“There’s nothing to hear.”
“Are kidding? There’s plenty.”
“A good boy like you shouldn’t be listening to bad things like that.”
Sammy shook his head and snickered. He said, “Shit.”
Ruth’s head popped up. She pointed at Sammy. “He said a bad word, Aunt Margie.”
“It doesn’t mean we have to listen, Ruth.”
“You’re in trouble, Sammy.”
“Shit, Ruth. Double shit.”
“Sammy, Ruth, please, behave yourselves,” said Aunt Margie.
“Like them,” Sammy said, adding, “Shit.”
“Please, Sammy, you’re the oldest, almost a young man. Please, set a good example for your sisters. I realize it may be a challenge, but couldn’t you try?”
“Sure,” he said, and under his breath let loose another, “Shit.”
Ruth laid her head back down. Iam, who heard Sammy’s defiance, pretended she didn’t, earning her an extra stroke and pat from Aunt Margie.
“I am scared,” Iam whispered.
“You am, Iam?”
“Really, scared, Aunt Margie. Really scared, not joking scared.”
“Of what? Are they disagreeing for the first time?”
“They’re fighting, Aunt Margie.”
“Now, dear, I think of it as disagreeing. When you look at it that way, you can see it isn’t quite so bad.”
“They are fighting. It is bad.”
“If you insist, but is it the first time they haven’t seen eye to eye?”
“No. And it won’t be the last.”
“Dear, they’ll be disagreeing at your wedding.”
“Mine, too?” piped Ruth.
“Goodness, yes. Sammy’s, too.”
“Shit,” Sammy said, “I’m too smart to get married.”
“You think so?” asked Iam, disregarding Sammy.
“It’s like what actors do preparing for a show. They rehearse. This is nothing. You just wait,” said Aunt Margie.
“But,” said Iam.
“But what, dear?”
“I’m scared of, you know, being alone.”
“They’re rehearsing, that’s all.”
“But what if they aren’t? What if they … what if?”
“Well, if, and I’m not saying they will, but if, I’ll always be with you.”
“You’re not ever going away, Aunt Margie?” said Ruth. “You aren’t ever going away anymore.”
“Well, I can see you girls don’t know much about being with somebody.”
“What do you mean?” asked Iam.
“I’ll always be with you here,” she said, touching a finger to Iam’s head, “and here,” moving to her heart.
“You, too,” doing the same to Ruth.
“Sammy, too?” Ruth asked.
“If he’ll have me.”
Sammy ignored them, concentrating on the door, and the very prominent silence below them.
“Is it over?” asked Iam, now aware of the quiet.
“I believe it is.”
“It’s a terrible mess, I bet,” Iam said.”
“Well, how about we see, and if it is, how about we make everything spic and span neat and clean?”
“It’s really over?” asked Iam.
It couldn’t have been more over if her parents had burned down the house, had blown up the house, if a tornado had carried the house off into oblivion, she remembered, getting on with restoring order to the living room, then sinking onto the sofa, putting her feet up, closing her eyes, trying to avoid for a few moments what awaited her upstairs under the bed, then opening her eyes, unable to avoid it.
Discovery of the box, the dreadful lunch, the exhausting hide and go seek romp with Dominic and Dominica, the empty, haunting aloneness, these left her drained, restless, tormented.
“Forget it,” she said to the ceiling. “I’m too tired to rest. And it’s stifling in here. Cold one minute and almost unbearable the next.” The ceiling answered with images of fields and a shoddy encampment, of bedraggled people, of herself worn and overheated from labor, then spent and shivering under a thin blanket, uncomfortable on a foul, hard canvas cot, in a cramped hut, worse a shed too shameful even for tobacco road.
Your son endangers the Father’s mission, Marcella.
“No,” she said, with all the evenness she could manage, squeaking with the effort.
You will see. You will see. The report will remove all doubt. It always does. You will see how the enemy is striving to win him to the work of the devil. When you see, you will smite the evil from him and prepare him to obey and submit like Isaac.
“I buried you,” she cried.
And I am come again, as I prophesized to you.
Luxury at Feed the World had come to this for Iam: hot showers with store-bought soap, heat to ward off the chill of the California night, laundered and pressed sheets, a bottle of forbidden wine, and privacy, of a sort.
“Marcella, how beautiful you are,” murmured Pater. “Put down the towel and come to me, my little warrior. I want you close to me.”
Iam descended onto the bed and slid next to him.
“Yes, close like this,” he said, snuggling with her. “Do you know what I wish?”
“To unite as one, Pater.”
“You are a wondrous disciple of the word, little warrior.”
“Because I believe in the word, Pater.”
“It’s good to believe.”
“Yes. Believing saved me, Pater. Without you, I don’t—”
“Don’t worry, little warrior. Tonight is not a night for worry. I will always be with you. You know I will.”
“But our enemies, they frighten me.”
“We have the Black Nights. We are preparing.”
“Yes, Pater,” she waffled.
“You are not confident?”
“They have tried to hurt you so many times.”
“Assassinate me is what you mean.”
“I’ve seen the files, too, Pater.”
“Our enemies are legion, without question. They are determined. They are perfidious, devious, and ruthless.”
“Please, Pater, you’re scaring me. Not tonight, like you said.”
“It is a glorious night, I agree. And you have nothing to fear. After all, God has granted us eternal life, and the chosen among us more.”
“Marcella, you have become very close to me.”
“I have,” she agreed.
He tightened his hold on her. “I mean that I have tested you with many challenges. You have earned my confidence, and I have rewarded you with many responsibilities.”
“For which I am grateful, Pater. I wish to serve the divine principle of One.”
“Tonight, I believe, it is time for me to reveal something of myself to you, an aspect of my being known only to a handful.”
“Fidella, Osma …”
“Yes, and a few others, who have earned the knowledge as a result of their loyalty, belief, and meditation on the teachings of Universal One. This information is quite incredible, and because it is, we confine it to a select group who appreciate and honor its volatile nature. One day, perhaps soon, the world will be ready to accept it. For now, though, should our enemies learn what I am about to reveal to you, well, you can imagine how they would turn it against us. It would be a destructive new weapon in their arsenal against which even our Black Night drills might not protect us.”
“I swear I will never—”
He placed a finger against her lips. “Marcella, don’t you know your pledge isn’t necessary?” He traced the finger up over her nose to her forehead. “I see in here, Marcella. I am in here. I was in here that first day when you wept over your aunt. I will always be in here. Always, Marcella.”
“I feel you, Pater.”
“Marcella … I have lived before … and I shall live again.”
“Pater,” she exclaimed, pulling from him to take him in, to judge the truthfulness of his revelation. His deep blue eyes shone on her, reflecting delight at her surprise. A hand extended and caressed a breast.
“Come closer,” he said, “push tight against me. Melt into me.” She obeyed. “It is not as astounding as you are, Marcella, at this moment.”
“Pater, please don’t play with me.”
“It’s just … you delight me. You lighten my burden.”
“I’m happy I do—”
“But you want to know more. Naturally. I have not only lived before. I have lived lives of influence, of great merit. And yet …”
“Yet what, Pater?”
“Yet I must live again and again until I accomplish the ultimate task my divine Father has bestowed upon me. I must win every man and woman for Him. They must believe in Him, obey and worship Him with the fierceness of the Anointed People. Until then, my rebirths will continue.”
“Pater, you are like, like a myth, like a Sisyphus.”
He laughed. “Please, no. I am flesh and blood, as corporal as these charming nipples of yours. Don’t blush. They are charmers. Sisyphus, no. His task is impossible and eternal. I pray that in my current incarnation to do what I have labored over for centuries, for time immemorial, you might say.”
“Who what? Who was I? Here, Marcella, is the most startling aspect of the secret. Many, those who mistakenly believe they are reincarnated, will accept the possibility that I have lived before. Few, though, will welcome the whole truth, that I was Zoroaster, Buddha, Lao Tzu, St. Paul, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, Luther, Joseph Smith, and, presently, Pater of God’s only true religion, Universal One.”
Iam fumbled for words to express herself properly; startled and awed, the best she could manage was a wide-eyed stare.
“Yes, all great parts of me, Marcella, and each, sadly, a resounding failure.”
“These men, these yous, I don’t know all of them, but I know some. You changed history, Pater.”
“I did. I will again. I will now. But I will not have served my Father as He wishes me to serve Him until every man, woman, and child welcomes Him as their Creator, devoutly believes in Him, sacrifices all in His honor, and worships Him unendingly. This is my fate.”
“Pater,” she said, gliding the back of her hand down his smooth cheek, almost waxen, as if his skin weren’t real, as if she wasn’t touching flesh but something unearthly, ephemeral, the unblemished manifestation of an angel, “I … I …” She wept softly.
Then the tears came harder and she heaved and gasped from the effort of crying, of trying to expel him. Again and again she screamed at the ceiling, “I buried you. I buried you. I BURIED YOU. Why can’t you stay in your grave? Why has my own son betrayed me?”
On and on she raved, until the air in the room changed, until she sensed it turned denser, compressing her; until she realized she shared the room with someone.
She bolted upright. “Who’s there? Who are you?”
“It’s me, Mommy.”
Dominic stood on the last step of the staircase, a leg dangling tentatively, prepared to bring him into the room.
“We heard you yelling. Are you okay?”
In the back of her throat she felt something, a horrid epithet, ragged and sharp, cutting and hurtful, a second from flying from her. She clamped a hand over her mouth and wiped her tears with the other.
“Are you okay?” he asked, setting a foot on the floor.
She pointed at him. “Don’t.”
He jumped back onto the step.
Deep breaths, dear. Nice and deep. That’s right, deep, deep breaths. Better, isn’t it?
“Yes,” she said, moving her hands to smooth her clothing. “A rumpled mess. I must look terrible. A real fright.”
You are lovely, dear. You are such a lovely girl. And a kind girl.
“Yes, yes, I am kind. Yes, I am.”
“Mommy!” Dominic’s cry pierced her.
“Dominic,” she said, walking to him, running her hands over herself, up and down, making herself normal. “Well, have you finished?”
“Finished?” he said, retreating a step at her approach.
“Your report. Have you finished your report?”
“No? Well, you shouldn’t be here then, should you?”
He shook his head.
“Upstairs. Go on, upstairs. Don’t dawdle.”
“Yes, Dominic. What would give you the idea I am not fine? I am simply peachy. Now, upstairs with you. The report, please.”
Cautiously, he reversed himself and climbed the stairs, tossing his head back twice to check for her.
Marcella, what sadness you burden your Pater with. Since I’ve been away, you have become weak. The boy will deny us. Unless you discipline him severely, he will betray us, and, more important, the Father. You must act. You must act with haste.
Iam hunched and hit her thighs with her fists. She beat herself and whimpered a long, mournful mantra, “I buried you. I buried you. I buried you.”
And I am come again, as I prophesized to you.
“No,” she spat, limping to the kitchen, “No. I deny you. I deny you.”
Look! I cometh with clouds.
COMING NEXT WEEK, MONDAY, April 13, 2015: CHAPTER 9: WAR ROOM