CHAPTER 17
OF HOLY TEMPTATION

Through various combinations of full accelerator and brake, I drove, throwing myself repeatedly hard against the steering wheel, then alternatively hard against the back of my seat, but my motion of the car was always forward, and this is what signified, despite bruises being formed, and the alarm of the few others out at that hour, but I was not to be denied my journey, as my newfound skill increased, and I was able to maneuver the vehicle with more grace than I had originally afforded myself, enough so that I caused no damage to the world, and my destination was soon in sight, as then I rolled with some aptitude into the parking lot of Griffin Hills High School. Once stopped, I exited the car into the night, my breathing irregular yet there, unused as I was not so much to the driving, but to the expectancy of my task, one so vigorous as to be criminal. I was unaccustomed, to say the least, as I retrieved the tire iron from the car’s trunk. Then, walking to a rear entrance to the school hidden from street view, I slid the slender end of the iron into the gap between some double doors, providing myself a lever, necessary for someone of my meager build. The physics were successful, as I pried the doors open with more ease than I had imagined possible. Then I was inside the school, at night, alone.


What power I felt! My vision was acute and distinct. Alone, there in the halls, I could see the place more clearly than ever for what it really was: a tattered, tired stage upon which the slipshod theatrics of the lost played out with alarming uniformity. It was all so predictable and sad, it made me laugh out loud to myself, and my laugh laced the halls with an echo of truth that I had never heard before in all my life until then. The memory of that echo imprinted me and drove me further with such impetus as to consummate my drive to the last, or, to the biology lab, at least. I knew where I was. It wasn’t far.


The door was open, and I briefly saw Mr. Spellman in my mind’s eye, smiling and trusting, always seeing the best in his students. Perhaps this naiveté gave him strength. I purged the thought (and Mr. Spellman) and headed straight for the supply cabinet. There, on the shelves, it was easy to spot what I was looking for, indicated clearly by the large “Danger: Poison” label on the plastic jar. Then, in a blessed moment of affirmation, I saw the small print beneath this on the jar’s base, which read “Product of Haiti.” Warmth swelled up from beneath me. This Haitian Vodou remedy before me had to be the poison which Mr. Spellman used to kill the frogs, for what else could explain that unnatural frog’s rising on that fateful day with me under the bleachers? I felt like a grand historical figure, some explorer or astronomer, discovering the sacred, no matter how profane. And with every successive breath from that moment throughout the remainder of that night, I would be calm and eased into control. I was life’s sorcerer now, and the masses, my future minions.


I made my way back to the car. I felt no need to conceal my tracks, to hide my evidence of forced entry. The jar of poison rode shotgun in the car next to me as I sped from the school with no delicacy whatsoever. My next destination was as clear as my first: the municipal graveyard, where Chloe had been buried just earlier today, lonely, without fanfare, without anyone, a secret burial for a secret shame. Everyone had said their goodbyes, and no one wanted to see her underground, no one could bear that, so it happened, only in supposition, safer that way, unreal. What a testimony to cowardice it was, myself sadly included. It was just another reason to do what I was about to do, as if I needed another reason. I parked the car, gathered my tools and began my clandestine search. It didn’t take long. There was only one recent mound of dirt to be found in the place. I grabbed my shovel, and started to dig.


Unaccustomed as I was to manual labor, the excavation took a long time, enough time surely for my thoughts to wander to all sorts of paranoid expectations. Would the cops catch me? Would my mother? Would James come by in some secret midnight vigil, see me and call the cops and my mother? It was odd and comforting to joke like this to myself, and I then found myself strangely serene as I went about my work. I was confident in my task, sure in my proposition, prepared in my scheme — all more certain than I could remember being about anything before. I remember thinking that I had been so rudderless in my life up till then (was it true?). My current sudden burst of motive had gripped me by my lungs and blown any flight response far from me. Curiously, happily, I had no nerves at all, as I continued to dig my way toward Chloe’s freshly buried corpse.


But everything changed in me once I had made sufficient excavation. To be sure, I had expected a shift in disposition, a distinct veer from my all-too-foreign state of recently acquired and peculiar cocksureness. But nothing had prepared me for the seachange which befell me, and this even before I laid my eyes on Chloe’s body itself, for I had merely reached her coffin, my shovel clanking firm upon the dirt-covered hardwood. This sudden vibration, resulting from the hit, resounding and pulsating from my hands up my arms, was a telltale of foreboding, an intrusion of the physical into my safe haven of thought, where I could surmise and deduce in absolute freedom whatever carriage suited my fancy, an imaginary mist in a plasma-free emptiness, and as such, bliss in its purest state to me. But the shovel upon the wood destroyed that. It banished any delight to a place of inescapable silence that functioned to me like a scream, obliterating aspiration in an unbreakable physical note. Part of it was the realization of what I had to do next. I had to confront her, the very encasement of my self/other, but now a body without soul, a staff without song, a frame with no picture, a screen with no image… The metaphors of nothingness were plentiful indeed. But they are inadequate, as only language can be. Indeed, I think though my Ms. Dickinson wrote timely of death, the experience of it is deeply unique to the beholder, like a fingerprint of thought. Ms. Dickinson could only point one way amongst the infinite, and one could admire her fortitude, and try to acquire her method (however fruitless), but ultimately any result would prove as meaningless as any life in any moment. The clank of the shovel on the wood intercedes.


Of course my own imprint upon that instant was indeed unique. There was the inevitable flood of guilt, proving to myself that I was indeed still human after all. I should have taken some solace in it, but I couldn’t. It was still too raw, still too propelled by the weight of accusation from everywhere known and unknown. Like those nameless faces at school, pasty dripping faces of slack-jawed emptiness, bestowing the air with a thoughtless cruelty, no matter how truthful. They meant little to me but in the accumulation, which alas couldn’t be denied. Even more sadly though, their leader was now James, and any approach I made to Chloe, physical or otherwise, was becoming more and more entangled with James’ hatred of me, which I could neither ignore, delay or deny any longer. Tied with this was my own stupidity… O Jesus fucking Christ! What did I do? What did I say to him? I’m so stupid and I don’t deserve to live! I’m sorry James! I’m sorry and I’ll never breathe your air again! Of that I swear!


So this was the crux. In my own hateful and selfish horribleness, thinking only of my own indecent and abhorrent love, I had destroyed myself halfway, as a ritual flagellation, an incomplete severance, a dangling nerve, a rusted appendage, a ghost limb, haunting me on the edge of the real, forever, my purgatory, my lonely circle of Hell, for no one surely has propagated such a singular evil upon a body as I, no dictator so bent, no fascist so heinous, no supplanter of souls so obvious, no sister so murderous, in the Ever, of the Time, in the half-light of a Spirit so cold, my Chloe, half of me and all of me, gone and laid out at my feet, in a stupid wooden box. I cleared away the dirt with my palms, on my knees and begging of course, tearing at the wood to get a glimpse of her soul, and mine, should it still exist.


I carried her out of that infernal hole, I know not where I got the strength. We rested together upon that adjacent mound of shifted earth, itself an affront to the order of things. We lay together for I don’t know how long, as I tried to approximate her state. I tried to be simply dead. I could not. Death is never simple, like life.


I wish I could say I cried, but I didn’t. I wish I could say that I felt something, but I couldn’t. At the time, I chose not to ruminate on this. Instead, I ascribed it to my remedy, waiting for implementation. This was probably deception, but I used it nonetheless. Whatever momentum I had as I entered this cathedral of death had to be retained. I had to persist with sufficient vigor, lest the task remain undone.


I did not seek redemption, but I wasn’t strong enough to resist it either. I rose from the supine, filled that hole back up with dirt, and then with all the gentleness left in me, I dragged my Chloe along the ground, back toward the car. It was only then that physical sensation returned to me, and the details of the tactile became apparent. It was a windless night, and no moon shone. The humidity typical for the calendar was absent as well, affording a level of comfort undeserved. The grass was unnaturally soft, groomed as it was to cause least offense. It provided a soft carpet for Chloe’s transfer, as I held both her hands, and dragged her softly. It was easy for me to expect her hands to be cold, but their half-warmth surprised me. Was my blood causing her skin to tingle, lifeless as it was? Or was this mere hopefulness, an anticipation, a playful hint? Perhaps it was simply the science of embalmment, as Chloe was still indeed freshly dead. But as revolting as this idea may have seemed to a sane person, they bore no weight with me, and I stuck myself to a peaceful place, and there was joy in being reunited with my Chloe, my other, my self. How could there not be? For soon we would be together, as always. Or, so I thought.