- The Parliament House
READ THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS: The Call of Death, by R.J. Garcia
The Twilight Zone
A biting cold snaked its way through my body. I didn’t know where I was. I adjusted my right eye to the light and looked at the world from a single-lens camera. Those kinds of movies always made me nauseous. Slowly touching my face, I realized my left eye was swollen shut, and my lips protruded in an unfamiliar fashion. My finger crept down my hospital gown to a long stretch of taped gauze running along my stomach. Lifting my arms, I saw curious black wires, threads that ran down my hands and forearms. Stitches. I brought the sheet up, like a hermit crab retreating to the nearest shell, reeling from an incomplete death.
A nurse’s too chipper voice said, “Good morning, miracle. Your father just stepped out. He stayed by your bed most of the night.”
This surprised me. “My dad?” My voice was raspy.
“Let me check your pulse.” She positioned two latex-covered fingers on my wrist. Next, she instructed me to open up and slipped the thermometer under my tongue. I was part of her normal routine, but nothing seemed normal to me. I had been plucked out of my life and dropped here.
The last thing I remembered about that night was getting back from the club and stepping out of three-inch heels. I’d stumbled to my bathroom on aching feet. Alone with my weeping reflection, I looked at extensions weaved into bleached blond hair and large breasts my mom
bought for me. My life was becoming that dress in your closet you didn’t remember liking enough to buy. I asked, “Who are you?” After a momentary flicker of fame, my last supporting
role in a movie didn’t even make it to the Redbox. I was ready to give up.
Lost in the moment, I took scissors from the medicine cabinet and began to cut my hair. Blond chunks of hair plummeted down along with my overpriced extensions. Following my
descent into crazy, I dropped the scissors in the sink and stepped back. It was the type of haircut a little girl would give her Barbie doll. Placing my hand over my mouth, I thought, Oh God, I’m really going to hate this in the morning.
I’d had the uneasy feeling that I wasn’t alone and looked up to see a man behind me in the mirror. I couldn’t believe it! There he stood, his reflection clear and undeniable. He was older than me, tall and ordinary, yet his eyes took on a glow.
The nurse turned back to me, and within the blink of an eye, the man vanished, and the horror of the memory gave way to confusion.
My father entered the room, saying something about the Jell-O he was holding.
“Who was he?” My voice was small and shaky.
My father said, “We don’t know yet. You fought hard, kiddo, and the police have his DNA now. They’ll be in touch.” He set the Jell-O on a half dresser. “They’re going to get this guy.”
When he finds out I’m not dead, he’ll come back. I knew it. A fresh wave of fear cut through me. “Don’t leave,” I pleaded. I didn’t feel safe here, but the idea of home wasn’t any better.
“And I can’t go back to that condo, Dad.” Each word barely reached a whisper and left me more exhausted.
“You don’t have to, Hannah. You can live with me for a while until you’re ready.” He gestured to a bouquet. “Rory sent flowers.”
“Isn’t he here?”
“No, sweetie. He’s in England. You haven’t seen him in years.” His voice was tinged with concern. He took a seat in the chair by my bed.
My brother, Collin, entered the room. He had flown in from New York. Family was always family.
He said, “You’re like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
I loved Buffy, but it wasn’t cool like that.
Collin tossed a duffel bag on the chair and unzipped it.
“Collin brought some things for you,” my dad announced.
My brother’s eyes softened with hurt and love. He began placing several items on a table which he swiveled before me. He lifted a pink heart cut out of construction paper adorned with glitter.
Lilly, my friend from the retirement home where I volunteered, had made it. I silently read: “To Hannah, my beloved, may all your dreams come true.”
The staff there said Lilly expired, as if she was old milk. She had lived to 101 years old, never losing the sparkle in her
blue eyes. She had outlived everyone who loved her except for me. I mumbled her name.
Next, I warmly regarded a photo in a beautiful frame of cut glass of my mom and me wearing silly hats and cheesy smiles. She died in a car accident on Valentine’s Day. Then I stared at the third and final item. It was a photo of me with Rory, Christian, and Paul, who had his arm around me. We were about sixteen in the picture, posed in front of a Christmas tree. It was in a white wood frame that read “Forever Young” in sparkly letters. My boys, I thought.
They were my friends from my schooldays at Allston.
I remembered asking my dad to bring them. He must have told Collin. “Thanks,” I muttered. If there was a fire in my apartment, these are the things I’d have grabbed on my way out. My dad and brother stared at a lady cooking on TV while I admired my treasures. Everything seemed brighter somehow with these simple items in front of me.
“I’m going for a little break. I’ll be back,” my dad stood.
I nodded in consent. Everything about my dad looked secure and confident except for a flicker of nervousness in his eyes. He bent down and kissed me on the head before leaving the
Collin settled into the chair next to my bed and asked, “Can I bring you anything at all? Some Jell-O?”
What was it with my family and Jell-O? “No.”
My arm seemed heavy as I reached to take hold of his hand. I fought to keep my eyes open. After a few minutes, a warmth flooded over me, pushing everything else away. I was still
holding Collin’s hand when everything went dark.
Images played in and out of focus, a vision of three boys with a sullen blankness. Two were maybe eight years old while the other was just a toddler. They stood in a stark cellar with cement walls. A decaying staircase ran straight down the center of the space like a spine.
Then I heard my brother’s voice as he slowly came back into focus.
“You were sleeping,” Collin said. A strange expression flitted over his face. “I think we’ve entered the Twilight Zone.”
“What?” I didn’t understand.
“Well, I have good news and—” He searched for the right word. “Disturbing news, I think.”
“Out with it, Collin,” I moaned.
He paused, and my nerves jumped. “Rory’s here. He came all the way from England to see you.”
I pushed out the question, “Is this a joke?” Was Collin playing with my head?
“He’s right down the hall with Dad. Now Dad seems to like him. Rory golfs, too. It’s like they’re old friends. I told Rory I’d let you know he was coming.”
“If you’re lying, I’ll beat you,” I promised, only my voice trailed off, and the threat was scarcely audible. “I’m not lying.”
Collin shook his head and frowned.
Despite all the pain medication, my heart ached for this moment. I sat up, but the simple movement made me break into a sweat and left me breathless. When I caught my breath, I snapped, “Get me a hairbrush, makeup or something.” I completely panicked, but my voice only
reached an agitated whisper.
Collin said, “Rory’s a doctor now. He’ll understand.” There was no nice way to say it. I looked like hell. My heart monitor blared as Collin put his hand on my shoulder, instructing me
to lay back, and then the sound stopped. Threads were somehow hemmed into my awareness. I remembered things. I hurt Rory, and the regret was hard to live with. How had I forgotten? It was right after graduation. I could still picture Rory standing in the rain with flowers as the town car stole away. Even then, I wanted to go back, but instead, I sat there speechless and dazed.
My mom slid closer to me in the backseat. She moved on, talking about Los Angeles and how everything was waiting for me. For years, I blamed her for not taking control of my own
life. Even sedated, I was filled with nervous excitement. It was the same kind of stirring in my stomach I had back in my school days when I waited for him to touch me. It had been a gentle sweeping at the borders of intimacy, the feeling of a simple touch, the thought of a kiss.
“Do you want to hear the rest?”
“There’s more?” My words dripped with fatigue.
“It’s about what the police told Dad. They found out the name of the man who attacked you.”
Again, I sat up too quickly. A bubble of panic worked its way to my chest. I felt how I’d been sewed up the middle. Still, I forced my head up. Sweat dotted my brow, and the room
started to spin. Breathing deeply, I concentrated on each word Collin said.
“The guy’s name was Norman Biggs. He used an alias, too. Taylor. They had nothing on him in the US database, but Interpol did. They said he was from England and linked his DNA back to the killings in London as the Creeper.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” I replied, more puzzled than ever.
“It gets weirder. He had pictures of you all over his apartment. Pictures of you in England when you were at boarding school.”
I shook my head. “I don’t understand.”
“Dad didn’t want me to tell you what the police found out until later, so you’d enjoy your visit. I screwed up,” Collin casually said.
I heard a few knocks on the open door. Rory appeared in the flesh. He was handsome, older than the Rory I knew and wonderfully out of place. He said, “Hey, do you need some more time? I can come back.”
I did but said, “No. Come in. Um, I don’t usually look like this.”
Rory almost laughed. “I know.” A tear—small, but luminous—fell down his cheek. He quickly wiped it away, still smiling.
Our eyes met. The room started to spin.
“I missed you, Hannah,” Rory said with his perfect English accent. He stepped closer before
his image blurred.
Suddenly, I struggled to hold back the swirl of darkness, pressing in on me. Then I saw it, a tiny, hopeful pinhole of light. I concentrated on that light. Before long, I was waking up.
A startled sound escaped me, and I felt the dip of my mattress as I sat up in bed.