I rarely, if ever before, actively denied myself the pleasure of my art, but never before had I set myself against a living deity from antiquity, and as such, the orderly was left unconscious in the half-lunatic’s bathroom. (I also loosened Cecil’s straps. What happens, happens.)
When I stepped into the hall it became immediately apparent to me that all was not well with the darkness; it seemed too rich, like the soil of a nightmare, where graveyards become gardens, and forbidden things bloom from blight. It seemed as if the insanity of the locked-up patients was somehow being leaked into the darkness of the hallway, whipping it into a frenzy, shaping it. There could only be one reason for the disturbance:
Tom Hush knew I was coming.
However, I’d like to point out that not all of the lunatics possessed a suitably tractable insanity for Tom’s purposes. Lunatics, some of them, are not entirely distinct from artists, as they court dreams just as surely as the artist, but, regrettably, their refusal to accept defeat for their efforts at conjuring dreams leads them to attempt to embody their work, and, like art, they become mere symbols, if not corpses, of their own dreams. But, in their doomed enterprise, the madness lunatics inherit is not without its bounty, as there is wisdom in madness, just not of a type that belongs to this world. It was that dark apprehension that Tom, a god of darkest secrets, worked through, molding madness from a select category of madman, and turning darkness into daemons.
While madness was busy endowing shadows with lungs, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the passing sights—wardens of the mad being overtaken by the, now monstrously physical, infirmities of their tethered wards. There was a fairly stout man, who, it was easily seen, possessed an infinite happiness only when cruelly exercising his limited authority, being filled with locusts, and with no small representation of the species, either. The faces he made as the insects turned him into a human hive were beyond hysterical; and when they came bursting-out of his mouth, parading away with his internal organs, I nearly burst-open, myself. But it was the madness-repurposed custodian with the handgun that I was forced to direct my strictest attention. He tried to say something (which his new foot-long tusks might have made difficult) as my sister passed across the pipes of his throat, likely something terribly menacing passed along from the mind of Mr. Hush, but I had little time for exchanging threats, as unfortunate as that was, as I was certain to have enjoyed the exchange.
My shoulder opened the way into an adjacent room, as the way before me was complicated by a web of barbed, knotted flesh, embellished by dripping spears and hooks fashioned from the bodies of once-custodians, some of whom were still trying to push screams out of their red, ruined mouths (those few who still had that particular orifice). The dream was upon me again, engaged no doubt by my proximity to my prey, as my strength ignored the customs of its construction, allowing me to smash through the wall and circumnavigate the fleshy custodian-barrier with relative, and enjoyable, ease.
Humorously, some of the remaining wardens and a small group of garden variety mad-persons took me for their savior, following upon my path, hoping that I might deliver them from wickedness incarnate. I had never been thought of as such, and so I decided to indulge the fantasy, if only for the opportunity to paint nightmares into their troubled slumbers to come.
I could feel the lingering animosity as I gripped my father. But it was not the time for griping, and so he yielded to my strength and allowed me to lift him into the air. But before I brought him down upon the wall, which would have likely freed my small bevy of well-wishers, I decided to grant my father a boon, for reconciliation’s sake. When I handed my father to one of the custodians, the uniformed man smiled as if I had done him the favor.
My father’s strength was a poor fit for the man’s body, and so the eager custodian’s muscles began to rip and tear, for my benefactor exercised a willpower that ordinary flesh and blood could not contain, at least not without great and horrific expense. Unfortunately for my small gathering of followers, my father did not savor the role of savior, and quickly annihilated the small group, howling and laughing and roaring, as has always been his practice.
Together, my father and I tore through the sanitarium, decimating the shapes that madness made, and closing on room 349.
However, as quickly as I might have regained my father’s approval, I just as quickly, and foolishly, decided to stoke fires best left to die. “Why won’t you stand aside, Father? I must know.” The hallway we walked was empty, only darkness and the echo of battle. My father, still wearing the wrecked body of the, now dead, custodian, walked slightly beyond me, where my words caused him to pause, briefly. He did not speak, but only let his silent menace attempt to extinguish my curiosity, or at least that’s what I believed he was doing.
That’s when my father struck out. The axe destroyed, in a glorious eruption of smoke and fire, the wall behind me. I barely escaped death. The attack was not a warning; it was a killing move.
“And what, pray tell, do you want to know, exactly?” It wasn’t my father’s voice. At first I didn’t understand. And then I knew myself for the complete fool that I was.
“He may be your father, child, but his secret…that belongs to me. And now…so does he. And oh what a secret he keeps, my boy!”
My father and the dead custodian and Tom Hush turned around to face me, their eyes seething with death, rage and a terrible, wistful curiosity. And after staring at me for some time, Tom Hush spoke. “In time, all things are reborn, in one form or another, to lope across the stage of life, one more time in an infinity of pointless returns…but not you. It pleases me more than you can ever know, to rob you of your fate, and sup upon one of the blackest secrets I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.”
Before I knew it, my father was bearing down upon me, and, for some reason, all I could think of was Cecil, and what he might be doing to the unconscious orderly. “what happens, happens,” I thought, as my sisters rose up against our father, all of us wearing smiles that had been worn countless times before, by gods, and by the fools who amused them.