Surviving the Night
(Rose and Crown Tavern in New Dorp, 1665-1854 – Photoshopped by Joe – *Orig. below)
I was roaring drunk as Minna pulled me by the hand through the crowded tavern. Along with the proprietor and his wife behind the bar, we were the only ones in motion. Yet quick-moving shadows peeled up and kept disappearing from the walls. I was looking about for the source, when I caught Minna’s wavy brown blades of hair slithering upon her shoulders like tiny snakes. She turned and gave the most perfect rosy smile, matched by her green eyes that brimmed with lust.
The front door opened, and a gush of fresh air filled my nostrils. I dismissed the danger signs and found myself wanting to go outside. I turned to see a familiar flash of white over by the bar. It was Gabe the gorilla’s stunningly white smile. Minna jerked my arm seemingly with the strength of a man and flung me forward. I careened onto the porch and down the few steps. My feet sunk into the soggy lawn as I slowed. Minna bolted past me, clenching her floor-length dress and lifting the hem.
I turned in a circled, aghast to find a heavy, low-lying fog. The old tavern was barely visible. I plucked up the knife holstered in my boot and held the handle tightly in my palm, blade pressed to my forearm.
“Why must you bother with me?” I cried out, just able to see Minna’s skirts drawing through the fog. A chill hit my face, and I remembered that only moments before Minna had told me she was Satan’s minion. Yet I had followed her somewhat willingly outside.
“You have it wrong,” Minna whispered in her brutish German accent, slipping completely out of sight. “It is you who followed me, but as I told you, that’s what men do, drunk or not. They follow, some to their own deaths–”
Clenching the knife in my fist, I turned, trying to home in on her voice and find her. I would have to slaughter her. She would reanimate if not properly obliterated, but that proposition was to be dealt with on another day. My only concern was surviving the night.
“–but it’s your time to go. Let me take you to the other side. It will be painless.”
“You are the fire,” I said, repeating what she had called herself. I spun around, having no idea where she stood. Branches poked through the cloud cover. I could no longer see the old tavern with its derelict planking.
“Right,” she said and came back into view. Her body was rigid as she circled me. Her eyes were now greenish-red and piercing. She held out her hand and leaned back with her head, seeming like a snake readying to strike. “Refuse my fire and his heat will be unbearable.”
“Must we go through that again?” she said, and dashed forward, trying to snatch my arm. I jumped back and slashed wildly with the knife, cutting into her forearm. She circled around and showed a toothy smile as she grabbed her bloody sleeve.
The darkness rose from my innards and with it, so did the killer inside me. There would be more blood. Hers… But I better not get lost, I thought. It might give her an advantage. I stepped toward where I thought the tavern was and came to a muddy road.
“Strike me down with your knife if you must,” Minna said, running her hand over her bloody arm and licking her fingers clean. “I’m mostly flesh and blood. But then he will come, and you cannot kill him.”
I grabbed my stomach and retched. Lifting my head, I was overtaken by a dizzy spell. I could just hear a voice repeating a familiar hymn.
“‘Adoro te devote. I devoutly adore you. O’ hidden Deity. Truly hidden beneath these appearances…’”
I did my best to retrace my footprints in the soggy ground, while listening to the hymn. More voices joined, yet were chanting in Latin. “’Tantum ergo. Adoro te devote. Adoro te devote. Tantum ergo…’” Now it sounded like a horrible and dissonant song in a minor key.
My footprints led to an oak tree. A thick plume of smoke rolled right at me.
“You have cholera morbus,” Minna said, blood smeared across her lips. “You will die soon. Come to me for a peaceful death.”
The knife somehow slipped from my hand. I reached down for it, then quickly dropped to my knees and searched the muddy ground. The knife was gone.
“‘My whole heart submits to you… Adoro te devote. Adoro te devote… And in contemplating you, it surrenders itself completely…'”
I vomited a hot stream of gin and bile.
“He is coming soon!” Minna said. “It’s me or him. Choose now.” Her eyes batted and she looked nervously about. “If you don’t come with me, you’ll always regret your choice!”
I looked up from my knees. The fog stirred near Minna.
“You will rue this day for all eternity!” she shrieked.
There came the familiar whoosh of Gabe the gorilla’s spiked bludgeon. He hit Minna’s head on an upward slant and sent her spiraling with the bludgeon implanted in her skull. She went crashing down some fifteen feet away. Just after she hit the ground, her body scrunched and her skin started to wrinkle. Her new form reminded me of the old man I had seen on the beach in New Dorp the day before.
I stood, feeling less and less sick by the moment. I took one last look at the once-beautiful Minna. She was decomposing right before my very eyes.
The fog began to lift. It was a very dark night. The moon and stars were hidden by cloud cover.
I caught someone glaring at me from the top of a very steep hill that ran down toward the old tavern. The person or thing had bright red eyes.
(Rose and Crown Tavern – Fine art print by Granger)
Over the following days, I grew very sick, but did not succumb to cholera.
And Satan in his truest form did not come for me in that spring of 1854. I can’t say if that was him staring down at me from the hill that night, though over the years and my handful of past lives, he has repeatedly sent his minions out after me. I can’t remember if I ever fell prey to their wily ways. But that’s what this blog is for, as my past lives come back to me, I will write about them here.
December 2012 in New Dorp, Staten Island
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Forty-Two