The Inside-Out Woman
CHAPTER 25: ESCAPE
Mixed in the clatter and crashing to the rear and the howling and roaring to the front, Iam detected another sound, the faint bray of a pursuing animal.
Her eyes were fastened on Dominic and Dominica. She was reluctant to detach them, even for a second. She imagined her bead as a chain temporarily anchoring the children to the deck until she could latch onto the hands of each and drag them to a safer place, the windward shed or garage maybe, or even, if possible, to the van, and use it to do what she’d done before, escape.
But the call was a seductively familiar siren. She clawed the slider to brace herself and glanced back. Through the fusillade of house ware, shadowy in outline, was a thing, not upright like a human, a bent creature, flailing at the missiles, plowing toward her. No, it was a man, she saw. It bleated her name and the names of the children.
“Billy,” she whispered.
“Willy, Willy,” she screamed, stopping only when the wind drowned her call in rain, wrenched her from the slider, and pitched her onto the deck. She fought it as it separated her from Dominic and Dominica. It attacked her viciously, thrusting her off the deck, down the stairs, toward the yard, where it could shuttle her head over heels to the cornfield, where the black singularity loomed and advanced. It would have, but she defeated it by hooking her arm, her hand still gripping the knife, around an open risers. In an instant, Dominic and Dominica scuttled down the steps. As they passed her, howling her name, they each seized a part of her, Dominic her free arm, Dominica her head.
“Under the deck,” she yelled into Dominica. “Under, under, now. Dominic, get Dominica off me and get under.”
“No,” screamed Dominica. “No. I want my Mommy.”
An arm and hand tore at Dominica, tore, and tore, and finally yanked her from Iam’s head.
She saw the pair scurry down along her body and disappear.
She released her grip. She dropped to the ground. She belly crawled under the deck.
“You okay?” She felt her eyes bulging and the words issuing like an accusation.
“The knife, Mommy,” said Dominic.
She held the knife up to her swollen eyes, remembered its purpose, darted a glance at Dominica, recalled what she’d inflicted upon herself in defense of her daughter and her son, and began to unhand it.
Marcella, no. It is the tool that will resurrect your Pater and through me bestow salvation on the world. Use the tool on the girl now. She’s a burden. You can see that, wrapping herself around your head, endangering you, endangering the vessel, endangering our divine mission. She will be a mightier burden after I am reborn, when you must devote yourself to my nurturing. She will try to steal your attention from me. You cannot allow this to come to pass. Use the tool now. Rid us of the encumbrance now. Then bring the boy to the altar my Father builds for sacrifice and my new incarnation. His finger from on high points to the spot, Marcella. Follow it.
Dear, I implore you for all who depend upon you, on behalf of the children, Billy, and your poor aunt, who has lived in you and loved you every day since your birth, drop the knife, strike it into the ground, rid yourself of the beast’s instrument of destruction. Don’t you see that when it speaks of salvation, it talks about its alone? The monster cares nothing for us, cares not a wit for anybody but itself. It wants to possess you, dear, and in possessing you gain new life. Drop it, dear.
Marcella, oh that I could reach across the space of your mind and strangle the whore. Loves you? Loves herself, the selfish wench. I discern clearly her motive. I have lost none of my powers of discernment, little warrior. I can penetrate her subterfuge, even if you cannot. The motive she attributes to me is hers. She uses you, Marcella. She uses you for her own purpose. It is a great, mortal sin she wishes—defying the will of God. For I am of Him. You know I am. You have always believed I am. Take the tool and inactivate the child. When you do, you will also silence the Great Harlot. We will be at peace and free to stand at the tip of God’s finger, where you will witness the promise of resurrection fulfilled, for in that instant the storm will vanish and salvation will begin. The knife, Marcella. The girl, Marcella. Act like the warrior of the Anointed People you are.
Iam screamed, “Shut up. Shut up. The both of you leave me. I want to run away from both of you. I would rather be sucked into oblivion than listen to either of you for another minute.”
“Mommy, no,” cried Dominica. “No.”
“Mommy, no,” pleaded Dominic. “You can’t leave us.”
“We love you, Mommy,” whimpered Dominica.
Marcella, when you defy me, you defy God. How dare you … you command your Pater to be silent?
My, dear, how inappropriate of you. You certainly must understand I wish nothing but the best for you. To tell me to shut up. I never. But the storm, the creature, I suppose these are sufficient to put anybody off. Though, I must tell you, I’ve been though some extraordinarily challenging episodes and have always managed to maintain my decorum. However, I forgive you, because I love you as I love life, dear.
Father, will this harlot ever be quiet? Will You not silence her and grant Marcella the power to bring forth the destinies You have willed for us? Marcella, use the knife and let’s go to God.
“Not you. Them.”
“Them who, Mommy?”
“Them, them from the box. Them from the box you opened, Dominic.”
“I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean it, Mommy.”
“Them. They are in here,” she cried, drumming her head with the knife’s hilt. “They are in here and they won’t leave.” She struck herself harder. “Shut up.” And harder. “Leave me alone.” And opened a wound that bled down her forehead and into her eyes. “Please. I beg both of you.”
“Mommy, you’re hurting yourself. Stop hurting yourself,” cried Dominic.
“I’m scared, Mommy,” joined Dominica.
Iam laid her head down in the soil and sobbed. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I can’t do it. I can’t fight them by myself.”
“Runaway, Mommy. Runaway from them, Mommy,” said Dominica, bringing her face to Iam’s and kissing her cheek through the blood and dirt.
“They won’t catch us if we run real fast, Mommy,” Dominic encouraged.
“The van,” Iam said, looking up, clearing the blood from her eyes. “We’ll take the van. We’ll drive away. They won’t get what they want, neither of them.”
Dear, we are quite safe here. We have shelter above us and we are low to the ground. Remaining is the safe and sensible course. Please, listen to me. You are not acting rationally. Allow me to take over, just for a while, to set things right.
Insufferable whore. Run, Marcella. Run to the finger of God. Go.
The storm raged on. It pounded the farm with rain. It flashed with blinding light. It crisscrossed the bruised sky with jagged streaks of pure white fire. It sounded ear-splitting crescendos that lifted the earth upon which the three lay. It gathered up the things of the earth and shot them in all directions, and those things dislodged more things, and they too rose on the current of the storm and intensified its destructive battering.
Iam turned herself. She peered from under the deck to see the siding of the barn rippling, as if the storm had gotten a hand of its wind into it and was running fingers along the boards, until the boards could no longer resist and flew away, some pulling around and up toward the vortex, and some aiming in arching trajectories at the shed, the garage, and at the house and the deck.
Now you are thinking sensibly, dear. Let’s stay put. We’re safe here. You’re a good girl, dear.
What do you fear, Marcella? My Father clears the way for you. He litters the sky to stop our enemies. You, Anointed One, mother of me, He used His ultimate power to protect you. Go.
“I’m not listening. I’m not.”
“What, Mommy? Listening to what?” asked Dominic.
“The storm,” she said. “Don’t let the noise scare you. Hold my hands, the both of you, and run. We’re running to the van.”
“The knife, Mommy,” said Dominic. “Let go.”
She tried. She couldn’t release it. “I can’t. I need it.”
“For what?” he asked.
“For … protection. Take my wrist. Dominica, grab my hand. Come on, do it. Let’s go.”
They scurried out from under into the open. Iam jerked their arms to pause them. She knelt and surveyed the short route past the garage to the gravel driveway. She saw the car. The engine was running and the lights were on.
“Billy,” she said.
“Daddy’s home,” cried Dominic.
“Daddy, help,” shouted Dominica. “Help!”
Iam pictured Billy hunkered in the kitchen, fearing he was lost; she said, “Maybe he’s in the car. Let’s go see.”
She pulled them into a crouch. They ran toward the van and Billy’s car. As they rounded the deck, explosions, piercing and rapid in succession, like gunshots, froze them. She dropped onto the gravel with the children. Next to them, the garage shattered and splinted and in front of them the gravel spit at them.
“Cover your faces,” she yelled.
They let go of her to shield themselves.
Before she threw an arm over her own, she saw the reason. The wind had torn the nascent corn buds from the stalks and was peppering the garage with them.
She felt Dominica rise.
“Stay down, Dominica.”
“Daddy,” she cried. “I want Daddy.”
Before she could grab her, Dominica was up and a step into a dash to Billy’s car. In that instant, the wind widened the swath of its assault. A cob caught Dominica in the chest and blew her onto her back.
Iam tried to rise, to turn, but cobs pelted her and Dominic, driving them unto the gravel.
When the attack ceased, they turned to see Dominica rising and falling on a current of wind toward the black funnel.
She grabbed Dominic and ran to the deck.
“No, Mommy. I want to be with you.”
“Get under, Dominic. It’s safer.”
He tempted her mightily to crack him in the head with the knife’s hilt and push him to safety.
“Let’s go,” she said.
As they pivoted in the direction of the cornfield and the approaching funnel, she glimpsed new light in the driveway. Headlights, she thought, rescue squad, police, thank God, as she and Dominic raced to find Dominica, who had vanished.
COMING NEXT WEEK, MONDAY, August 10, 2015: CHAPTER 26: MR. BRICK