Chapter Three – Truce
First a faint blur, then the image begins to lighten, a nurse, bending over Allen, materializes to his returning consciousness.
“What am I doing here?” he asks.
A neck brace keeps him from turning to fully inspect the room. Obviously, it is a hospital room, he correctly deduces.
“You must keep still, sir. A vertebrae was slightly cracked during your accident,” the nurse replies.
“My accident, but I…”
Allen does not finish for then the doctor arrives. She comes in and looks into his eyes, no doubt trying to decide if he was otherwise cranially damaged.
“So, now that you are awake perhaps you can tell me what really happened. The residents of the halfway house reported a story of unusual nature, one I find hard to accept. Although you do have quite a bruise on your chin, and no doubt suffered quite a blow thereon, you didn’t, I presume, give yourself a knock-out blow?” she begins.
“No,” he replies, “ I hit the edge of the table when I blacked out.” Allen rages at this lie. “You know that isn’t true,” he snarls at the beast within. “I admit you caught me off-guard. But we mustn’t reveal your craziness or we will be back to a padded room. You do not want that any more than I do,” responds the demonic voice.
“Well,” the doctor continues,” that makes a lot more sense than the story I was given.”
The doctor completes the examination, assuring him he will be able to return to work soon enough.
As he lays in the bed the voice within returns, “Perhaps we can reach some agreement that will satisfy us both.” Allen, disagreeing, returns “The only agreement that will please me is your leaving.”
“No, I am not finished with you yet. Putting you in the asylum was not in my plans. There’s not much fun involved in throwing you around against the walls of a padded cell. Fun is what I seek, of the mischievous sort. Confounding people, frustrating them, hurting them, is my sport. What if I promise you that I will not kill my prey, hence forth? Will you join me in the fun then?”
“No!” Allen shouts, out loud, surprising himself. Too bad no one remains in the room to hear it.
“Well, there’s the deal on the table. You can choose which. Do I take them out, or do I merely hurt them? Don’t take long to decide, I won’t wait very long. There’s fun afoot.”
Allen looks forward, at the other wall. He knows he doesn’t have much choice, and yet he must choose. Will he condemn the innocents he will no doubt encounter, or let them live. The beast, the demon seems resolute in remaining. His will, though able to force through the blow to put him here, over time will wane. Suicide perhaps would be the answer, but he shudders at that thought. “Just don’t hurt them much, please,” he finally mutters.
“A deal, let’s shake.” Allen’s hands clasp one another most strangely and the deal is sealed.
Chapter Four – Opportunity
Allen spends the week mending in his hospital bed. He does get up from time to time to stretch his legs, and frequently walks down the hospital hallways. Then on Friday his favorite nurse comes in to administer his pain medications.
“The doctor said this will be your final shot. You have improved steadily, and tomorrow you will be released,” nurse Monfurt begins. “We have double-checked your medication vial to make sure it is the appropriate type and amount”
“Double-checked? Have you had some problems?” Allen asks.
“I guess it’s been kept quiet, all the problems we have had. One patient had an anaphylactic reaction to the penicillin he was given. He was supposed to get the same medication as you, for pain, but the vial was full of penicillin, not pain medication at all. His throat and tongue swelled up and he could hardly breathe. Then there’s that wheel that fell off Marge’s wheelchair, threw her straight to the floor. We have even had a surgeon slip on some grease on the floor and gouge him-self with a scalpel. There’s more, but I’m sure you’re not interested to hear them all.” She relays.
“Quite a week, huh?” Allen replies.
To himself, inside his head, “You’ve been busy even while I sleep, you bastard.” “No one died, so what’s your beef. Besides there are still a few things they haven’t discovered, probably be weeks before they come across them all,” responds the creature.
Allen returns to work and the halfway house he calls home. As a result of his odd behavior he must spend the next year at the house, rather than the six months that had been planned. A couple of months pass without much incident. There were the pesky coincidental occurrences at work, the increased accident rate; the sick days some take who have never been sick a day in their lives, but life goes on.
Then on a Friday, Allen’s boss, projecting joviality, comes up to him. “I’d like to talk to you before you take off for the day, got a minute?” he asks.
“What can I do for you, Mark?” Allen inquires.
“As you know, David’s hand was mangled when that conveyor decided to move despite the safety being on. He was a valued member of the bowling league representing our company. He’ll probably never be able to bowl again and I was wondering if you’d like to take his place. It’d surely help us out, Allen. Ever bowled in a league?”
“Why yes, about seven years ago I bowled for Shaloms bakery.” Allen hears himself say. “I would be happy to fill in.”
In his mind he goes nuts. “I’ve never bowled a day in my life,” he shouts to the beast. “Yes you have, you simply don’t remember it. I, I mean you, were very good, until you, I mean I, threw that ball into the back of Tony’s head. He was a snob before and a dolt after that, hee hee.” “Bakery, I’ve never seen the inside of a bakery.” “I, I mean you, used to work there, that’s how you made your bread, making bread,” the beast giggles.
“Good, see you at the alley at 10 a.m. tomorrow, know where it’s at?” Mark continues.
“Yes, passed it many times.”
“They rent equipment, if it’s been seven years you might have gotten rid of yours.”
“That’s great, see you tomorrow” ends Allen.
Allen walks off, deep in conversation. “So, what are you going to do there, hit someone else?” he asks. “As I told you, I am making this up as we go along. Sounds like fun, don’t you think?” “Just remember your promise, our deal.” “For sure.”
Chapter Five – Terminal Bowling
A quarter to ten Allen arrives, on foot, at the small towns crowning gem, “Strike! Bowling Alley”. The other members of the company team are already inside, ordering drinks and snacks preparing for the game. As Allen passes a car, a voice startles him.
“Al, wait a minute, I have something to talk to you about,” shouts Jerry Dorkman, one of the plants foremen.
“Eh? What do you need, Jerry.” Allen hesitantly responds.
“I just wanted you to know that I have my eye on you.”
“What for?” Allen asks, surprise marking his face.
“I think you know, but if you’re too stupid, let me fill you in,” Jerry begins, “Before you came the plant had a spotless accident record. Now we can’t seem to go an hour before someone gets scratched, mangled, or otherwise hurt. The only thing I can figure, since I’ve ruled everything else out, is that it is you. So watch your step, I’m watchin’ you.” Jerry finishes, and enters the building.
Allen stands for a moment, thinking. “There, he’s wise to your shenanigans.” “So it seems, hmmm, what to do about it.” “I won’t let you do a thing about it!” “You’re starting to get on my nerves, Allen, neither of us wants to go to jail, or worse. But, don’t worry about it; I’ll take care of it.”
Allen enters and approaches his team.
“Hello Allen, glad you could make it. David used to keep score, think you could handle it?” greets Mark.
“Sure, done it a million times.” Allen says, but doesn’t say.
“I don’t know anything about bowling, you snake.” “Sure you do, we have done this a million times,” the monster replies.
A half an hour passes, the team does well; Allen manages to add two strikes to their score. Now Jerry steps up to take his turn.
“Watch him, how he steps,” whispers the creature to its host. “Notice how precise is his step; always in the same spots.” “So?” “No one steps in that one spot he steps.” “How could you keep track of that?” “I notice things.”
Allen’s turn comes around. As he begins to stand, he notices that for some inexplicable reason his hand picks up two pencils from the table and slips them in his shirt pocket. Stepping up to the ball return he bends and the two pencils fall out. He reaches down to pick them up, but the creature in his head pushes one pencil to the side and allows him to pick up the other.
“What the hell? Why’d you do that?” demands Allen from the thing. “Bowl, you idiot, you’ll look stupid standing here too long,” is the curt response.
Another strike and Allen resumes his seat. “You’re looking great out there, Allen.” “I can’t bowl, you must be doing it, though I admit it feels good to bowl that well.”
As the members of the team continue in rotation, Jerry’s turn comes again. He steps up precisely, almost as a ritual, probably a good luck ritual, and begins his motion to deliver the ball. As he approaches the line his right foot slips just as he swings the ball forward. He falls and his head hits the floor, the sound resounds throughout the building. The ball arcs up gracefully then begins its descent, smacking roundly in Jerry’s face. A crunch, not unlike that produced when a pumpkin is smashed, results. As Jerry’s arms writhe out to his sides, jerking sickeningly, a muffled moan is heard followed by only what can be described as steam escaping; his last breath. The ball remains in Jerry’s ceiling-oriented face as if glued.
“You monster, you lied, you killed him!” Allen cries silently. “Hey, you’re not going to hang that on me, it’s a million and one shot.” “He’s dead, and it’s your fault.” “Calm down. He deserved it. It solves the problem.”
Pandemonium reigns as everyone who has a cell phone simultaneously calls 911. Jerry doesn’t have a chance though. His face was fragile as the result of a previous surgery to save it after a car accident. His nose was hanging by bits of fused bone which easily gave upon impact. His nose, it seems, is now part of his brain.
As the crowd scurries about, Allen, but not Allen, reaches down and grasps the pencil lying on the floor, returning it to the score table.
Chapter Six – The Axe Falls
Monday finds the plant in mourning. Mark would have given everyone the day off if it weren’t for the need to fill the orders of waiting customers. In a small meeting before the day begins he speaks to his loyal employees.
“If I could I would have given you all the day off to honor our foreman, Jerry Dorkman, but reality demands we work or lose our customers to our competitors. However, the funeral is Wednesday, and we will be stopping work at noon so that anyone that wants to can attend. Thanks for your understanding,” he finishes wiping a tear from his eye.
A couple more weeks pass. Then on a Wednesday, as Allen is working using an arc welder to fasten parts together, he hears the inner entity once more. “This is getting boring, this whole place is boring me to tears,” it states in an agitated fashion. “You’ve been silent for two weeks; I could have gone the rest of my life without hearing you again.” “There’s nothing to get into that I haven’t gotten into here anymore.” “A factory is boring, live with it.” “No! This is my last week.” “I like working here, we stay!” “You’re so stupid nothing bores you.”
The rest of the week passes peacefully and Friday arrives. As usual, Allen is on time and ready for a full day’s work.
Later in the day, Mark, working to repair a machine, shouts to Allen, “Allen, please go get a tube of grease from the storeroom, I need it to finish up.”
“Sure thing, Mark. Be right back!” responds Allen jumping up from his machine.
Allen walks toward the storeroom but find his feet diverted to the lunchroom. “Where am I going?” he asks himself. “There’s a little something I packed in your lunch today that I need for you to pick up” is the response.
Allen enters the vacant lunchroom, opens his pail, and then removes a bottle full of yellowish liquid. “What’s this, pee?” “Not exactly, come with me,” replies the creature, forcing Allen’s feet into motion.
Allen enters the storeroom and reaches for the grease. “Not now, we’ll get it before we leave,” he is told. Carefully his hand maneuvers the bottle beneath the hot water heater, situating it close to the burner. “Check the timer, yes, there. It is still set to heat every six hours. It was on an hour ago, so since there is only two hours of work left, it won’t heat again until 7 tonight. Good.” “What… you can’t, not that…” objects Allen. His hand reaches to the boxes to the right and moves them closer to the tank. “On unemployment I will have time to get into a lot of things,” giggles the monster, happily. Allen’s hand reaches for the grease and he exits the storeroom.
Allen, in great inner turmoil, is forced to keep silent the rest of the work day. “You can’t do this. All these people will be out of work. We’ll lose all our customers. It isn’t right what you are doing to that kind man that extended his generosity and gave me a chance.” Allen pleads. “Stuff it, Allen, let’s go!” snaps the voice, as they walk out.
Instead of going directly home the parasitic being makes Allen walk, and walk, and walk. Together, in one body, they walk around the park near the factory a dozen times. Then, around a quarter to seven Allen arrives at the small restaurant across the street from his workplace. “Take a seat, order something good. We will wait for the fireworks to begin,” orders his inner friend. “A small bottle of gas ain’t going to burn the place down.” Allen remarks. “True enough, at least until all the other stuff in the storeroom goes up. It was a foolish way to run a storeroom anyway, all that paper, all those combustibles, just waiting for the right spark,” speaks the beast, smirking.
As the factory is quite large, the smoke from the flames is not immediately noticed. The alarm does not sound until 7:15 and it takes fifteen more for the volunteer fire department to arrive. By the time they arrive the flames are well established. A wall has already fallen inward. The brave lads of this fire department rush in any way. Water pours from several hydrants as the firefighters reemerge. They have pulled a body from the wreckage, badly charred and immobile. It seems Mark had stayed late to do some paper work, and finding the fire, had heroically tried to save the plant.
Allen, standing across the way, on the sidewalk seethes. “You horrible monster, you’ve killed him, killed him!” “He killed himself by working too much.”
Allen tries to deliver another haymaker to himself, but finds no strength of will to finish it. “I’ll kill myself, I’ll throw myself off a building, or jump in front of a car,” he exclaims. He stands watching the drama playing out, unable to move from the spot.
“Look, Allen, it’s been fun, but there comes a time when everyone should dispense with their imaginary friends,” begins the creature. “Finally, you’re leaving,” Allen inserts. “Some people go throughout their lives holding on to the idea of someone watching, coaching them, and guarding them from harm. Some people never grow up, it seems,” it continues. “Don’t slam the door on the way out!” Allen shouts, silently. “No, Allen. It was a desperate move made to avoid a death at the hands of the public that precipitated the creation of this imaginary friend. But now that ‘friend’ has grown troublesome, an impediment. He must go,” it states. “So, go! I won’t miss you,” Allen maintains. “Allen…” the creature pauses, “It’s you. I created you. And now you must go.”
Allen senses a lessening in his thought, his vision darkens, “No, I’m real, not you..” and then he is gone.
“Allen, what happened? I just got word.” A fellow employee asks, startling Allen.
“Oh, hi Tom, guess we’re out of work. Mark’s dead, so there’s not much chance it’ll be rebuilt,” replies Allen, whose face is without emotion except the glint in his eyes.