Mountain View

I was part of an expedition that was heading up to an abandoned hotel in the mountains.  I was taken along because I had been to the hotel on vacation years ago when it was still open and I knew the layout of the hotel and I had important information crucial for the expedition.  There were switchback stairs carved into the grey, frozen face of the mountain and we used them to climb up to the hotel high above.  A few of the steps were cracked or broken or missing entirely, and we had to step carefully around the cracks or jump to clear the gaps in some places.  We inched our way up with our backs to the rock face and our breath steaming with each deep exhalation.

The hotel was literally built into the side of the mountain.  The front facade protruded directly from the rock, and there was a long porch that ran the length of the front of the hotel and hung out over the edge of the mountain side.  We all gathered on this porch, a few members of the expedition bracing themselves against the wooden railing and peering down at the grey swirl of mist and snow through which we had just ascended.  It was evening and the light was beginning to fade.  The leader of the expedition consulted with me about where to go next.  I pointed down towards the end of the porch to a set of double doors that led to the old front lobby of the hotel.

It was dark inside the lobby, and although the cold, dry air had preserved everything, there was still a sour, stale smell of abandonment and neglect that hit me as soon as I came though the door.  I remembered the woman that had been there behind the front desk.  I remembered her crooked blonde wig and her sloppy makeup and that awful way that she laughed, and I remembered how strangely uncomfortable I had felt being here then.  I crept along into the dark, wondering if this woman’s ghost was still there or if I might encounter some remnant of her shadow on the wall.  I almost turned to go right then, but the leader of the expedition grabbed me by the arm.  He waved his flashlight down a hallway, wanting me to lead them all deeper into this ruin.  He communicated with pantomimes and gestures, somehow reluctant to speak or disturb the vacant silence.  I took a deep breath and nodded and we moved on.

We came to a large dining hall where all the round tables were still covered in white table cloths and the places were all still set with dishes and silverware.  Moonlight streamed down through the skylight, illuminating the long threads of cobwebs strung from the light fixtures.  I remembered having a late dinner here, and I remembered how I had still felt uneasy and how the waiter’s strange, sly demeanor had put me on edge.  I remembered lifting the silver lid on my meal and expecting to find something alive and squirming underneath.  I snapped out of this memory and found myself in the dark dining hall holding a silver lid that I had pulled back from one of the trays on the table.  There was nothing but discarded bones left on the tray.  I studied the bones closely, looking to see what sort of animal they had once belonged to, but I couldn’t tell anything from the bones.

In the back of the dining hall there was a short flight of stairs that led to a narrow hallway.  The guest rooms were all along this hallway.  I led the expedition down the hall and I showed them the room that was just across from the room that I had stayed in.  This was what they were looking for.  This was why they had brought me.  When I had stayed here, I had been kept awake all night by the screams of a woman giving birth in the room across the hall.  I remembered tossing and turning in my bed.  I remembered clutching my pillow around my ears.  I remembered that nothing, absolutely nothing, had helped at all.

The door was unlocked and it swung inward into the dark room.  I had never actually been in the room.  I had just pictured it in my mind as I had laid there all night listening to the woman scream, and I had just assumed that it was a basic room like the one that I was staying in.  Instead, I saw now that it was a large, open shower room with white tiles.  There was a bare twin matress laid down in the middle of the floor.  There was a large, deep spot of blood down at the foot of it, and there was some blood spattered on the white tiles around the room.  There was a metal pail in the corner filled with blood that had slopped over the sides.  The leader of the expedition made his way over to this pail with his flashlight, and he was just about to start picking through it, when another member of the team called out that she had found what they were looking for.  She held up a signet ring that she had found on the edge of the drain in the middle of the room.  The flashlights all converged on this ring.  It was gold and it had an “X” carved onto the flat surface of it.

As the expedition was packing up their gear to leave the hotel, I decided to have one last look at the room that I had stayed in on that night long ago.  The room faced towards the east, as I had requested, towards the view from the front of the hotel and the face of the mountain.  The clouds had broken and the sun was just beginning to rise, casting the surrounding peaks in cool blues and breaking in hues of red and gold through the pass.  The light shone through the windows and fell on a bookshelf that was built into the wall across from the window.  I reached out to grab one of the books, but then I realized that the bookshelf wasn’t real.  It was just a design in the wallpaper.  I shook my head.  I had been fooled by that same illusion when I had been here before.

A Brief Survey

It was late at night, and I decided to go out and do some shopping while the stores were all quiet.  I pulled into the empty parking lot of a department store.  Just inside the entrance there was a display of white, faceless mannequins surrounded by Greek columns and pediments.  A spotlight shone down on this display, and the walls around it were painted black, giving the impression that the display was suspended in empty space.  One of the mannequins had laurel leaves round her head, and she wore a long Grecian gown.  She indicated the way to the sales floor with the languishing pose of her arm, her palm upturned as though she were gathering cool running water.

The way that she indicated lead down a wide, dark corridor, mostly bare except for a few other faux Greek artifacts scattered here and there along the way.  In the dark I stumbled against one of these artifacts, a large free-standing vase carved with glyphs and symbols.  I knocked the thing over and I saw that I had chipped a piece off of the edge of it.  I was standing there holding the broken piece and looking for where it had broken from the vase when I heard a woman’s voice further down the corridor call out to me, “Oh, it’s fine.  Don’t worry about it.”

I looked up and saw three woman standing around a little area that had been set up in the middle of the corridor.  There was a small rug laid down and on the rug there was an a leather armchair, an old grey TV with silver dials, and a camera set up on a tripod facing the armchair.  One of the women beckoned me with a wave of her hand, and when I came over, all three of them eased me into the chair, gently pushing down on my shoulders and holding me there.  The woman who had beckoned me over went and turned on the camera, and she spoke with her eye to the eyepiece of the camera, communicating with the image in the camera instead of talking directly to me.

The women told me thay they were taking a survey of some sort, and they said that I would get some coupons for the store if I gave them a few minutes of my time.  It sounded like a fine deal to me.  The woman behind the camera asked me a series of random questions as she continued to peer into the eyepiece.  The other two women continued to hold me in place with a hand on each shoulder.  They applied only the slightest hint of pressure, but I knew that they would hold me firm if I tried to resist or get up and get away.  I looked up at one and then the other from time to time.  They both stood with fixed smiles, stairing straight ahead.

When she was done, the woman behind the camera looked up from the eyepiece and thanked me warmly.  Then she went over and turned the dial on the TV with a sharp click.  I noted the deep red nail polish on her fingers and the brisk but precise clarity of her movements.  The glow of the TV slowly brightened.  The picture rolled a few times before settling into place.  And then I saw my own face staring back at me, wearing the same wool winter cap.  I noticed on the screen that my eyes were squinting strangely, and as the footage of the survey was played back to me, I watched as my eyes went in all sorts of different, random directions from one another, like two eyes that hadn’t been properly paired to work together.

Having never seen footage of myself talking, I had no idea that my eyes had developed this strange wandering habit.  I was alarmed and upset that this had been recorded.  I started to stir from the chair, but just as I had thought, the two hands on my shoulders held me firm.  The footage had already been recorded.  It was too late to take it back.  The woman who had asked the questions picked up the TV from its stand and she carried it over to a wall across the way where there was a bank of dozens of these TVs mounted in a grid.  She slid the TV with my face on it into the last remaining empty space in the grid.  Together these TVs formed a mosaic of faces with a variety of grotesque tics and unconscious idiosyncrasies.  I looked from face to face and took in the whole effect of them until I was lost in this sea of gesticulating heads, gone from the chair completely, just another face on the wall.

Paying My Respects

My mother called me and asked me to come to a funeral.  This man that she knew had died, some friend of hers from church.  I remembered seeing him there when I was young, and I remembered noticing how much older he had gotten every time that I had seen him again and how he had served as a benchmark of the years, and that was all.  I reluctantly agreed to go.  I stood in my upstairs hallway and hands appeared to tie the black tie around my neck and to slip the black suit jacket over my shoulders, and finally someone led me down to the car waiting out in the driveway.  The streets were empty and the raindrops tapped against the wet pavement.

I slipped in through some back door of the funeral home, and I walked down a long dim corridor where someone was lighting tapers along the wall every few feet.  I heard organ music.  I found the room with the flowers around the casket and the mourners standing around in small groups, talking.  My mother was there with a few of my aunts.  I passed them with a nod and I went to look down at the man in the casket.  We both had on the same black suit and tie.  I looked at the man’s bald head and his little white scruff of a beard, and I recognized him once again.  I wanted to tell my mother and my aunts that I had seen the man just the day before.  We had passed in the woods at a spot where the path turned.  He had waved a hand at me and I had waved a hand at him, and that was it.  We had both went on without a word.  But now it turned out that he had died three days ago, and there had been two days preparing the service.  All the things that I could have asked him, if only I’d known him.    

Last Words

My wife and I were browsing around an abandoned warehouse filled with old typewriters.  There were windows high on the walls with grimy, yellowed panes of glass that softened the light that shone through.  There was a strong smell of stale oil in the air.  The typewriters were piled up everywhere, old manual typewriters, electric typewriters, big office typewriters, all sorts of types and brands.  Some were piled in heaps of gears and hammers.  Over on a shelf by the wall there was a bin filled with loose keys that had fallen off the different machines.  I slid the bin out a little ways with my finger and I gave the box a good shake.  There was every letter of the alphabet in there, in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.

Any of the typewriters were free to take, if I could find one that worked and was worth taking.  I came across a few typewriters that were sitting by themselves on tables and desktops scattered around the shop, as though someone had set them up there ready to be used.  Seeing if these typewriters still worked seemed more promising than trying to extract any of the broken machines from one of the piles.  They were at least still left at their posts, still maintaining the semblance of service. A few even had working desk lamps shining down on their carriages and chairs placed before them, ready to be occupied.

My wife started to get impatient as she followed me through the warehouse.  She saw nothing but heaps of old junk.  She said that I’d never find a typewriter that worked, and she couldn’t see the point in trying to find one, anyway.  They were all old and outdated and obsolete.  I came across one that had a stack of blank paper laid out beside it.  It was a little blue typewriter, and it looked just like the one I used to own, except that it had an actual return key, rather than that long metal lever on the carriage.  I told my wife to just give me a second, and I fed the paper in with that soft satisfying click of the wheel.  It jumped to life with a hiccup when I flipped the power switch.  The loose desktop rattled slightly from the warm hum of the machine as it waited for me to tap the first key.

I slid into the chair.  I sat for a moment, looking at the broken parts that had been crammed onto a shelf behind the desk beyond the glow of the desk lamp.  I looked at the ashtray beside the typewriter and the burned out stub of a cigarette left still poised and forgotten on its edge.  I felt like I had to choose the first words I typed carefully.  I felt like the health and fate of this machine depended on what I typed.  It would be a summons from the outside world, a message recalling it to life.  This was a negotiation.  I had to convince the typewriter that it still had work to do, that there were still words out there worth shedding ink for.

I don’t remember exactly what I typed.  I remember the click of the keys and the sharp snap of the hammers against the paper.  But I hadn’t gotten more than five words out before I looked up and noticed that they had all ran together on the page, a long smudge of consonants and vowels all hitched to one another in a single incomprehensible word, saying nothing.  I jiggled the space bar.  It felt loose under my fingers, and nothing happened when I pressed it.  I felt the hum of the machine begin to fade away.  The bulb in the desk lamp flickered.  I tapped randomly at the keys, but the typewriter was gone.  My wife just shrugged and shook her head.

An Empty Gallery

I met an old man who could draw.  He was tall and cadaverous, and he always wore the same shabby brown suit and hat.  He looked as though he slept in the suit and it had worn to the contours of his frame to the point that it no longer wrinkled.  His hand was long and frail and it would tend to shake until he made a fist to steady it, and his eyes were milky and dim, but he could still weave together a picture in minutes like he was conjuring the image out of the air.  It was amazing to watch him work, and I got the idea for the two of us to open a shop together.  We rented out a space for the store, and I displayed some of his work in the front window on a couple of small easels with spotlights shining down on them.

I tried to find some angle, some specific type of drawing or merchandise that would become our stock and trade.  I wanted to have some part in this.  If the old man’s gift was lightning in a bottle, I wanted to at least be the one that designed the bottle.  I thought, for instance, of having the walls on either side of the store lined with racks of hand crafted greeting cards.  I would concoct the sentiments and the old man would draw the illustrations, and we would be in the greeting card business.  But it never worked out that way.  We never settled on anything definite.  I never knew what kind of store we had.  The two of us would just stand there in the middle of the empty shop, the stone walls and the floor all completely bare, and we would wait for people to come in out of the rain.

And people would come.  The pictures out front would catch their eye and they would wander in, looking all around.  They all wanted something different.  They put forward their requests uncertainly, not sure if such a thing could be done, or if it could be done right, or if it could be done by us.  One woman wanted a simple family portrait of herself and her children, her hands resting on their shoulders.  Another man wanted the face of his late wife drawn from memory.  That is, he wanted his memory somehow conveyed to the old man’s hand.  People wanted landscapes that they had seen in their mind, or moments they had long since lost.  The old man’s supplies would materialize upon request, his pens and his pencils, and with broad curving strokes he would indelibly etch their vision onto the paper.  I stood by with the customers and watched him work, and I never got tired of it.  Afterwards, when the old man was packing his tools away in a small wooden case, the customers would always dab their eyes with a tissue and they would press the tissue into my hands as a token of gratitude and as payment for our services.  I took the tissues and locked them away in the cash box in the back room of the shop, but I knew they weren’t for me or for anything I’d done.  

Penumbra

We found a shadow hiding in the corner of our back yard.  It had come there weak and injured.  My daughter and I first noticed it because it didn’t belong to any of the other objects there in the yard, and we could see that it was out of place.  The shape of it flinched as we approached, and we could tell that it was scared.  I tried to coax it out.  I spoke gently and beckoned it with my palm turned up and my fingers trying to draw it forward.  But it just rattled about in the tall weeds there and it refused to come out.

Late in the evening, we brought it out some food.  Being a shadow, we had to bring it the shadows of food, and this was no easy thing to arrange.  I laid the meal out on the dining room table in the dark.  Then I placed a flashbulb at one end of the table.  I popped the flash, and the tableaux of the bottle of wine and the block of the cheese and the plate of fish were all briefly illuminated, the memory of the sight lingering far longer than the sight itself.  The shadows of the wine, the fish, and the cheese had all been cast onto a tray that had been placed behind them, and I lifted the tray up in the dark and carried it carefully from the room.

We had to wait till evening to feed the shadow, because the other shadows were longer and deeper then, and it could blend in with them and creep out a little from its hiding place.  It was a starlit night, and I crossed the yard shading the tray with my hand, trying not to let any of the starlight disturb the shadows of the food on the tray.  My daughter tagged along beside me.  She wanted to see the shadow come out to feed.  I think she wanted to pet it or tickle it behind the ears.  But I told her that she had to stay back.  The shadow was wild and scared.  We didn’t know where it had come from or what it would do.

As we approached the corner of the yard, I realized that I had no idea if the shadow was still there.  The shadow made no noises of it own, and there would be no sounds if it bumped against the other shadows and the other things in the dark.  I had a flashlight with me, but that would do nothing but chase the shadow away, and I didn’t want to hurt it or scare it.  So, I just placed the tray on the ground and backed away.  I whispered to my daughter and told her that we would come back in the morning and see if the shadows were gone. 

The Silent Years

I came into Galilee on foot, feeling my way through the rocks and crevices with my staff.  On the outskirts of a town, I came to a small shack sitting alone in a clearing, the ground parched and cracked all around it.  There was a young man up on the top of this house, working on the peak of the roof, hammering long nails into the boards there.  I stopped before the door and looked up at him and waited.  He looked down from his work and saw me standing there.  He wiped the sweat from his brow and shaded his eyes with his arm.  I called up to him, asking for lodging, and he nodded, and the arrangements were made as simply as that.

In the evening, when the young man was done with his work on the roof, he made a fire in the yard in front of the house and he cooked some stew over the fire.  We sat in the yard eating the stew as the sun went down behind the house and a breeze blew in, cooling the sweat of the day.  Two men approached out of the gathering darkness.  They were friends of the young man.  They introduced themselves to me as Peter and John.  The one named Peter asked the young man if he was ready to go to Jerusalem, but the young man shook his head as he scraped the last of his stew from the bottom of his bowl.  He told Peter that he had to stay to finish the house.  He told both of the men to go on to Jerusalem without him.  He told them that he would meet them there when he was done.

The two men walked off, grumbling to themselves.  Peter glanced back a few times with a scowl on his face.  But eventually they receded back into the darkness and we were alone again before the fire.  The young man said nothing for a long time.  He just stared thoughtfully into the flames.  When the sun was almost completely set, I began to notice some lights far across the plains.  I tapped the young man on the shoulder and I nodded in the direction of the lights and asked, “Jerusalem?” He looked that way and nodded slowly.  I could see that it was something that he didn’t want to talk about.  I could see the lights reflected in his eyes and I knew that it was some dream that he had.  He sat gazing at it out there, just beyond his reach.

But he stayed there, working on the house, making a little more progress with each passing day.  Other men came, other friends, one named Andrew, others named James and Bartholomew.  They came in the mornings and the evenings and at midday.  They found the young man pounding the nails into the boards on the roof or mixing the pitch and the tar over a fire in the yard.  The conversation was always the same.  The men would tell him that they were headed on to Jerusalem.  They would ask him if he were coming with them.  He would tell them that he had to stay and finish the house and that he would meet them there when he was done.  And they would stomp away, grumbling and leaving dust in their wake.

Time went by, and eventually the friends stopped coming.  The last of them had moved on to Jerusalem years ago.  They had settled into their lives there, and they had probably long since forgotten about the young man, and they had probably taken jobs and gotten married and given up waiting for him.  The young man explained the situation to me many times, many evenings beside the fire, as though he had read my thoughts and he were answering some persistent question that I had never asked out loud.  The house had been left to him by his father.  It was the only thing of value that he had in the world.  He had to make sure that it was fixed up properly, and he had to find new owners to sell it to.  He couldn’t leave until this was taken care of.  I never said anything in response to this explanation, but I grew more frustrated every time I heard it.

As the young man grew older, his beard grew fuller and his brown hair grew longer.  One morning I woke up and I saw him washing his face in the clay basin across the room.  The water dripped from his beard as he lifted his head and wiped his face with a towel, and then, with that sudden fresh clarity that sometimes occurs upon waking, I realized for the first time exactly who he was.  I understood the whole thing.  These were the silent years, the ones the Gospels had never mentioned.  I knew the whole story.  I knew what was ahead.  And yet, at the same time, this future seemed so precious and unset.  There was no certainty that things would happen as they were supposed to.  My frustration got the better of me, and I started yelling at the young man, “How can you just stay here working on this house!?  You know who you are!  You know what’s going to happen, what needs to happen!  How can you waste all this time!?” But he said nothing.  He just followed his eyes to a support beam across the room, feeling its unsteadiness with his hand.  Another thing he’d have to fix.

I stopped talking to him for a long time after that.  I would stare sullenly at the fire in the evenings and I would snatch the bowl of stew from his hand when he offered it.  I knew I wasn’t being fair.  I knew I wasn’t being a thankful and respectful guest in his home.  I didn’t care.  I couldn’t stand to sit there while history was put on hold, maybe even jeopardized, just for the sake of some ramshackle house.  I felt like my skin was crawling with aggravation.  I thought of a thousand angry words to say, but I swallowed each one.  I shuddered at every pounding of the hammer.  I clenched my fist whenever I caught a whiff of tar in the air.

By the time the house was done, we were strangers.  We never even said goodbye to one another.  I just woke up in my bed one morning and the house was quiet, and I knew he was gone.  There was a headstone set in the ground beside the front door with a simple epitaph which read, “Gone to Jerusalem”, and there were a couple of bright desert flowers planted around the stone.  I understood that he had left the house with me and he trusted me to take care of it.  I stood over the stone for a long time.  I felt the flower petals with the tips of my fingers.  I walked around the house, inside and out, feeling the solid craftsmanship of the joints and the boards.  I sat on the edge of my bed, smoothing the blankets and situating the pillow.  I waited for the tears, but they never came.

That night I had a dream that rolled down through the ages.  I dreamt that I sat by the fire and watched as the lights of Jerusalem went out one by one.  Wars and nations came and went.  Travellers passed by, asking the way, their clothes and modes of transportation changing with every generation.  Soldiers passed, wearing different uniforms, belonging to different armies, pushing ever more sophisticated machines of war among their ranks.  And all the while the house stood, weathering every storm that swirled around it, rooted firm against every tide of time and fortune, until finally I woke up, and I knew that I was somewhere else now, adrift in human history.  I went to the door and looked out on this new world.  It still looked like the same desert, but I knew everything was different out there beyond what I could see.  Where would I go now?  What was I supposed to do?

A Season Ticket

I went down to the baseball stadium to see the game.  It was a fine day, and from my seat high in the upper deck I could see the city surrounding the park.  I could see the traffic moving through the streets.  I could see the tall buildings all around.  I thought about how my father would have loved this.  I thought about him living in an apartment in one of these buildings and coming down here every day in the summer heat to see the game.  He would have been in heaven.  And when I thought the words “in heaven”, I took a moment to consider them literally.  Maybe he really was somewhere just like this, someplace beyond this life, making his way through the city streets with his ticket and a mitt for catching foul balls.  And if that were so, if there was even a possibility that that were so, then in a way, this really was heaven already, this was a little parcel of heaven, a few city blocks colliding with eternity.  This was what heaven meant to someone and it was here in this life, on Earth.  I sat there high above the field and I smiled at the thought.

Home Movie

It seemed like a fragment of a childhood memory.  I was sitting in the front seat of a pickup truck beside my grandfather.  The truck was parked in the doorway of a collapsing old barn that my grandfather used as a garage.  Only the bed of the truck was tucked inside the barn.  The cab was out in the open in the muddy driveway that wound its way up to the barn, and the driveway was lined with rusty mufflers and discarded fenders and other debris on either side.  There were empty cans of oil and old food wrappers scattered about the seat of the truck.  My grandfather just stared out the windshield, saying nothing, as he drank black coffee from his heavy brown thermos.  He held the thermos in one hand and he held the lid in the other and he drank the coffee from the lid.  He took his time drinking the coffee, dipping his chin forward with each sip but keeping his eyes fixed and watchful on something out there beyond the windshield.  It was an overcast day, but through the grime on the windshield I could see that there was soft light breaking through a stand of bare trees across the field.

I wasn’t sure what the significance of this memory was, or why it had lingered with me.  But as I sat there watching my grandfather and watching him watch the light through the stand of trees as though he expected something to emerge from that spot, I heard a voice somewhere in the darkness of the barn behind me.  It sounded distant, like it was rattling around inside a rusty metal drum.  The voice was talking about how they could clean up old footage like this, make it something crisp and usable.  As the voice spoke, it seemed like the scene before me was drawing focus.  The colors and shapes softened and blurred for a moment, as though seen through a tear drop, and then the whole scene pulled into an incredible sharpness.  I could see every detail.  All of it became meaningful.  There was a movie of this.  The boy and the grandfather sitting in the truck.  The light beyond the trees.  There were long, unspoken shots that you lived with, dwelt in, contemplated for their own sake.

I opened the door and climbed down from the truck.  I wanted to have a look around, see everything with this new clarity.  I saw it all in a succession of long takes.  There was a long shot of a row of pines, the wind cascading through their branches.  I could see every needle.  I could feel winter coming in on the wind.  The shot lingered just as long as it needed to, saying everything it needed to say.  I turned and saw the farmhouse with the long clothesline strung from the corner of the house to a telephone pole out by the road.  There were sheets and blankets hung on the line and they rippled in the wind.  There was no one around, but the shot rolled on and on, as if to say that it would stay here, long after everything else was gone, after the wind had carried off the world, and there just this place, just this memory.

The Sound of Water

My wife and I were woken up at three in the morning by the sound of rushing water coming from the bathroom of our apartment.  We opened the door and found that the floor was flooded a few inches deep.  The water was flowing from a hole in the ceiling in the far corner of the room.  It appeared to be coming from the apartment above ours.  As we stood there in the doorway of the bathroom, several neighbors from the other apartments came in to see what was going on.  Apparently the sound of the flowing water had woken them up as well.  A few of them squeezed into the doorway beside us and surveyed the disaster with curiousity.  It was one of them that first noticed that there were streams of red in the water pouring from the ceiling and clouds of red spreading here and there in the water on the floor.  Someone else said that it looked like it might be blood.

That kind of caught everyone off guard.  We all looked at each other, not quite sure what to make of that statement.  Then one of the neighbors pushed through the crowd and we stood aside and let him through the doorway of the bathroom.  He crept in carefully.  His feet were bare and the water was cold.  He curled his toes and stepped lightly across the tile.  When he got over to the other side of the room, he braced himself against the wall and turned to look up at the hole in the ceiling where the water was coming through.  His eyes went wide and his mouth dropped open.  His head started shaking back and forth.  He looked down, biting his lip and thinking, and then he rushed out of the room, gesturing with his hands for us to part and clear a path for him.

We all followed him as he ran down the hall to the stairwell and pounded up the stairs to the floor above.  He slammed his shoulder against the door of the apartment directly above ours, cracking the wood until the lock gave way.  The door burst open and slammed violently against the wall as he stumbled into the dark apartment.  Inside, I could hear the running water, louder that it had been below.  We all made our way through the rooms, and we stopped cold at the doorway of the bathroom.

The faucets on the sink and the tub were all turned on full blast, and the sink and the tub were filled to overflowing.  The water ran over the sides of the porcelain and streamed across the floor to the far corner of the room where an old woman stood doubled over with her face pressed to floor in a pool of blood diluted by the water flowing around her head.  One of her hands lay limp in the water, and there was a silver gun lying next to it.  The man who had rushed up there hooked the gun with his big toe and drew it away from the woman’s body.  Someone turned off the faucets and opened the drains on the tub and the sink, and we all stood there, trying to make some sense of what we were seeing.

It seemed that this woman had lived above us, harboring some grudge against my wife and I.  We had no idea who she was, but apparently she had taken some offense to us or something we had done to the point that it had consumed her entirely.  She had concocted this bizarre revenge.  She had made a hole in the floor and then turned on all of her faucets in order to flood our apartment from above.  Then she had placed her eye to the hole that she had made while putting the muzzle of the gun to her head.  She wanted to leave her body there to watch, beyond death, with the water and the blood flowing around her cold eye and a cackling rictus of rotting teeth hardening on her face once the rigor mortis had set in.