The God Ticket :
My wife is going to kill herself in 5 to 7 business days.
I’d found the order for a jug of Xanaphril while clearing the internet history of porn and was contemplating it now. I’d known my wife Cindy had been unhappy but I guess hadn’t registered how much yet. Was this a cry for help? Should I say something or just let it fade into the background noise like all of her other passive complaints?
“Are you ever coming to bed?” Her voice bridges on a shout, causing me to start and close the browser window from habit. A shout. Her deafness is still in full swing, I think to myself.
Cindy had been diagnosed with a rare form of Ménière’s disease shortly after we’d married two years back. What had started as uneasy moments of vertigo and mild hearing loss in her right ear had quickly erupted into extreme ranges of deafness that would come and go randomly; sometimes affecting her for weeks at a time. Worse still were her ‘falling attacks’. I’ll never forget the first time she’d experienced one.
We’d been waiting in line for hours outside the Aladdin theater, shivering and keeping close to ward off the first snowflakes of winter. I remember she’d been talking on her cell phone when just like that she collapsed into the street as if she’d tripped – but we hadn’t been moving. It scared the Christ out of me; I thought she’d suffered an aneurism or stroke or even been shot. Understandably, these periods of outrageous vertigo and difficulty hearing the words from her own mouth were deeply frustrating for her and I’d tried my best to be supportive. But it was taking its toll.
I turn to look at her sullen face. I feel guilty to admit it, but I can hardly stand seeing her when she’s like this. A wise man once said that sadness is a disease. I’d go one step further and say that it’s of the infectious variety. After years of putting up with her, I could go for a handful of those pills myself.
“Ya, just closing down now.” I shut our laptop and slip into bed next to her. She immediately turns on her side facing away from me. Guess no sex tonight either? Ha, and here I had my hopes up, I think bitterly. Just as well. Hadn’t I read somewhere that if a man goes without long enough, he’ll start having crazy kink-fest dreams? I could go for some of that. Bring on the Asian Schoolgirl…minus the tentacles.
But my subconscious wasn’t interested in playing house.
I used to be into exploring all shades of ‘mental awaking’; from failed attempts at telekinesis to lucid dreaming and what I’d liked to call “The God Ticket” – astral projection; the ability to travel anywhere at will. It’d been years since I’d given it any thought until the depressing reality of Cindy’s illness had become more and more apparent. I was never able to successfully ‘leave my body’ but controlling the storyline of my nightly encounters provided a welcome escape. That was, until they took a noticeably violent and uncontrollable turn.
It takes me a moment to realize where I am, and when I do, my stomach clenches horribly. I’m back at University. And those eyes looking into mine… Susan’s. My ex’s. As is common in dreams, I know there are other people around us – that we’re walking to class inside the L.R. Harrison building in fact – but I don’t see anyone else. I can feel them looking at us but it’s
just her and those accusing eyes.
And then the events flash forward. It’s raining and we’re standing under a tree together. I’m hugging her from behind and singing a song about what we’re doing. Her arms lovingly press mine to her chest and she looks up at me again with an expression of betrayal.
“You said we’d be together forever, right? That you love me ‘past the stars’.” Her words form a knot in my throat. I had said that after all; even meant it. But then Cindy had come along and oh how much better things had looked on that side of the wall. Now there was regret and the awful ‘if’.
I want to tell her I’m sorry – that I still love her, but I’m having trouble making coherent thought and it doesn’t matter anyway because
Susan’s hair is practically glowing in the light of the moon. She’s face down on the cement and dear god there’s so much blood. I look at the palm of my hand and find it’s bleeding from some deep slash. She cut me, I think indistinctly, but there is no pain. I feel my body kneel over hers, turning her over. Her face is untouched and as beautiful as ever if not for the oozing gash at the top of her hairline. She opens her eyes again and I can see it – the pain, the question, ‘why?’. I scream my lungs ragged, but not a sound escapes my lips. I want so desperately to call for help, to comfort her, but everything feels distant and I’m not allowed to stop my hands from closing around her throat.
She’s goes on struggling for a few moments, never leaving my gaze when I do the unthinkable. My body leans forward, my blonde hair cascading over her face and at first I think I’m going to kiss her forehead, when instead my lips close around her right eye. Confusion explodes into horror as I feel every muscle in my mouth contract. Pressure builds inside the seal of my mouth until I can feel something round and wet pass from her body into mine. This shouldn’t be possible! I want to vomit. I want to run away. I want to vanish in a torrent of sobs for my lost love.
Then I bite down hard and
I open my eyes. Sweat coats me in a glaze even though the ceiling fan is running at full cycle. Our room is dim with the first light of morning.
“Jesus Christ. Jesus Fucking Christ, what was that about?” Not daring to speak above a whisper.
It had felt so real, even now as the distinctly dream-like elements began to stick out like accusatory fingers. I still feel the high from a liter of adrenaline pouring through my veins and consider calling her just on the off chance that I’d strangled and subsequently sucked the vision out of half of her face.
This thought calms me when I realize how stupid I’m acting. Besides, what new kind of depression would Cindy be thrown into if she caught me thinking about my ex, let alone talking to her again? No, the relief wouldn’t be worth another crack in our marriage. I roll onto my side and caress my wife instead. Her skin is as cold as a frosted window. My eyes fly open and it’s her. Susan.
I immediately leap from the bed, taking most of the blankets with me. Dear God, it’s actually her. She’s naked, her body frozen from rigor mortis in the same pleading position I’d left her in. For a moment I stand there, unable to fully comprehend what I’m looking at -what have I done!? – when my eyes stop on her face and her missing eye.
“What have I done? What have I done?!” The words leave my chest in heaving barks.
I’ve done it. I’ve actually murdered someone. You’ve spent your whole life reading and watching movies about people doing this exact same thing…and now you’re the killer.
I rub my eyes – at tears that refuse to appear.
And what do I do now? The guilt comes in torrents, as if from the beats of some ghastly heart. I could hide her. I’d have to live with the guilt for the rest of my life…but I could hide her, for now. My Susan, I’m so sorry.
I cross to her side of the bed, taking in her beauty for the first time since the last time I’d seen her two years ago. If not for her awkward pose, the dark patches of skin where her body meets the bed and. . .and the empty, half-lidded socket of her eye I’d stolen, she’d pass for. . .a dead body. I wish I could say that she looked like she was sleeping, but that’d be cruel. There is no elegance in death.
Above all else, the unnaturalness of that sunken lid was making me sick (Did I really do that?) and re-covering her with the bed sheet was a welcome relief. The shudder that comes from beneath the white fabric seems to agree.
A second rush of adrenaline washes over my face. I can taste something metallic like blood and my skin breaks out in feverish bumps.
Bodies sometimes move after death, don’t they? I’ve read about that! Sometimes they move and that’s just what dead bodies do.
I took a step back but then another thought crossed my mind: What if she isn’t dead after all? She knows I tried to kill her, so do I have to finish the job now or drop her off at the hospital on the way to prison?
I’m shaking now, I can feel it, literally see it from the way my hand quivers as I raise it. This is the part of the horror movie where everyone is telling me stop, to run away! I’ve always hated the cheap ‘jump’ scares, and here I am about to experience one up close – with my own eyes so to speak. Thinking about eyes makes feel light headed and I push it from my mind.
Slowly, I grip the side of the linen, never removing my gaze from the amorphous shape of my dead ex-lover. My future – everything – hinges on what’s under this piece of fabric. Sucking in a mouthful of frosty air, I slid the sheet back down her body. Down their bodies. There, right before me like the world’s most depraved magic trick laid the bodies of every person I’d ever murdered in my nightmares. My family. My friends. My ex. Their pale bodies tangled; bloodless and naked. Each bearing the unique method of murder I’d put them down with – some missing limbs, others charred and burned. My brother blindly watches me, his face and teeth having been smashed flat with a garbage compactor.
This time I did not scream. Instead, I was overcome with the dizzying sense that I was now standing on the edge of a cliff. You know the feeling you get? Where you’re so terrified of falling that you suddenly become sure that that’s exactly what you’re going to do? That was the feeling. And that’s exactly what happened next – I fell face first into the necrotic pasta I’d created. I opened my mouth, either to scream or to breath, I don’t know, but instead found the waxy flesh of my mother’s leg in my jaws. Vomit rushed out to meet it. I could feel the dead things all around me begin to spasm and writhe. A hand clawed at my thigh; another at my back. I looked up in time to see that
Susan was staring at me, her back arching up into a near sitting position before flopping down onto her stomach. Slowly, painfully – it seemed – she dragged herself over the pile of moving corpses until our noses were almost touching. I wanted hysterically to push her away, to escape, but my arms felt weaker and somehow shorter; my body frozen in paralysis. In horror, I realized the lid of her removed eye was opening and closing like a gibbering mouth and that with each retraction I could see into the private gore of her skull. I desperately tried to look away, but stopped. She’s trying to tell me something.
I could see her mouth moving but I couldn’t hear as if we were miles apart. Furiously, I stared at her lips, trying to make out a word – anything. Around me, the blindly searching hands had found the downy comforter and were in the process of pulling it up over us now in heavy jerking motions. To my left, the closet door slammed open and an avalanche of people I didn’t recognize flooded out. I could feel the blood pulsing in my ears but I still couldn’t put Susan’s words together. “Sea”? “Pay the Sea?” The blanket was crawling over the top of her head now.
Distantly, I realized that the other cadavers were speaking as well – their rotting lips whispering, again too quietly for me to hear. No, I have to focus! In another second, I’m not going to see anything! And there it was. In the last moment, as the fabric fell over Susan’s face – and my head – I’d caught one word: “Cindy”.
They were warning me. My wife was next to die.
* * *
“You were laughing in your sleep again,” Cindy’s voice, just beside me, makes me jump and nearly flip off the bed.
Was. . .that a dream too? Again I find myself in our room; the ceiling fan silent and unmoving. I sit up and hold my face in my hands. How much more of this can I take? Did I kill her or didn’t I? Guilt is still hanging over me like a corpse and I’m not sure if this is yet another dream or not.
Cindy’s burying her face in her pillow looking like she’d just woken from a nightmare herself. It’s obvious she’s feeling sick and there’s the distinct twang of vomit leaping from her hair. But her hearing was back; the worst was behind her again – at least for now.
“Did I say anything?” I ask this, but I don’t listen to the answer. I know what she’s going to say because we’ve had this conversation before.
“Ya…you said Susan a few times”.
A jolt ripples through me, but I do my best to hide it from my face. Usually there’s only the laughing – more of a snicker, really – but this time. . . I’d said her name. In the distance I could hear sirens whip-whirling. Were they meant for me?
I leaned over and gave Cindy the best side-hug I could manage; kissing her forehead. “Oh right, that was Susan from work. Her father just died and I’ve been thinking about the funeral.” It’s a bad lie, but it’s better than the truth. “I’m going to get a drink, want anything?” She shook her head miserably and I headed for the kitchen.
For a good few moments I stared dumbly at the cell phone in my hand, building up the courage for what I wanted to do. I can call Andrew. He’d still have Susan’s number and I can call her and I can go back to sleep. This is so stupid! You know that, so why are you doing this?
If I had to face the possible unthinkable, I wasn’t about to do it alone. I got a tall glass from the cupboard, sloshed a helping hand of vodka into it and filled the rest with orange juice. Dolefully kicking back a mouthful, I turned back to the problem at hand:
I dialed his number.
One dial tone. Two dial tones. Come on, buddy, I know it’s the middle of the night, but you have to sense the urgency I’m sending through this phone, right?
It rang three more times and then went to voicemail. Frustrated, I called again, but still no answer. I stopped, hitching in a breath. Now that I think about it, when was the last time I talked to you, man? With dawning horror, I realized I hadn’t spoken to him in over a month. Not him, not my family either.
In a panic, I dialed the numbers of every person I cared about, everyone that I had dreamed about with mounting dread. Not a single person I knew answered the phone. Of the strangers that did, they claimed they didn’t know who I was talking about – that the number must have been changed. Others came back disconnected.
So I had done it then. Murdered everyone I’d ever cared about, but why? And surely there must have been police investigations! Someone must have found a connection between a massacred family and their only remaining son! But then why don’t I remember anyone contacting me? Am I really that sick of a fuck?
Shock overwhelms me and I crumple to the ground, taking my empty glass with me. Numbly, I try to sit up and realize that I can’t. It’s starting! This must be it! I’m losing control of my body. Lying back down, I roll my eyes in the direction of the phone. I have to call the police. I can’t hurt another person! But the cell phone looks like it’s miles away. I giggle to myself at the absurdity of this and reach for it anyway. My arm stretches like taffy and
There’s a noise from the hallway. Cindy! Oh god, I have to warn her! Whatever is happening to me is almost complete! She has to run! God I can’t stop this monster inside of me!
“Shind-y. . . run for. . .hel-puh,” the words form as the spittle on my lips- indistinct and bursting on the ‘p’s’.
I try to focus on the pink blur of her pajamas when, without warning, she falls to the ground in a fit of retching. No, not now! You can’t get sick now, I need you to run! The world feels tilted on its axis and my body is impossibly heavy. One moment everything seems frozen in place and the next
She’s on top of me. I can feel the heat of her breath; the sour taste of bile cloying in the air. In a heaving belch, she vomits a thick stream across my face, soaking into my shirt and coagulating in my curly red hair. I watch as it runs down my side and pools next to the glass. The glass! The date her pills would ship…I’d made a mistake…had that been the arrival date?
She must have known I was a killer. She’s doing the right thing. The world is growing dim and I feel like I’m floating in a cold river. Breathing is becoming less and less natural for me – less important. She’s looking at me now, her face completely devoid of expression. With my last breath I prepare to whisper, “Thank you”, but then I see it – a cut across her palm. It’s something so simple, so mundane but I can hear the click of understanding as realization falls into place.
The killings won’t stop. I’d spent years of my life trying to escape my body to travel across this world as freely as a gust of wind. It had never occurred to me that I’d actually succeeded, and more. I’d heard it was called dreamwalking – actually living inside another’s dream. But that would be the ultimate freedom. That would be
“The God Ticket,” I mutter, barely audible.
She stops, only for a moment and then leans forward, her blonde hair cascading over my face and at first I think she’s going to kiss my forehead, when instead her lips close around my right eye.