Archived: At the Appointed Time and Place by Bobby Deal

Head bowed, watching her feet moving towards an unavoidable encounter. Jo made her way cautiously down the isolated stretch of track.  The promise of revenge soured Jo’s stomach, yet resolutely she placed one foot in front of the next. Creeping ever closer to the inevitable.

The note slipped under the door of her musty 3rd floor office stated her presence was required at the appointed time and place. The command echoed in her mind, her only relief was the thunderous rumbling of the freight trains.

Half mile down the line, Jo could see the dilapidated remains of the old fun-house on the edge of the retired county fairgrounds. The cinder blocked in window had been busted out by homeless men looking for shelter three winters ago, and no one cared enough to be bothered to close it up. Crawling through the hole, she brushed away the tendrils of spider webs that clung to her face. She gagged on her first breath of the dank air. It was more than the smell; the air thick with death and decay. The fetid taste of mildew, rotting newsprint and mattresses mingled with the acrid cut of urine was like over aged cheese to her taste buds. The darkness felt impenetrable, so heavy as to be tangible she could feel it part around her as she passed.  For the first time in many years, Jo was afraid. Fear of the atrocities she knew the monster that was her blackened heart was capable of. Her delimit was the fear of choosing the wrong fear and feeding the beast with in. The outcome of this meeting was in her hands. This is what she had been trained for, this was the only way to the end.

Even though she had not boxed in two years, Jo still had the athletic frame and the composer under pressure of a world class fighter. Yet, her chest was uncomfortably tight, and her body trembled with the anxiety which had her head screaming “RUN.” But this was it, tonight was the night and it would happen here, now, in this place. The light of her heavy five D-cell Maglite pierced the darkness like a stiff breeze through fog. As she played the light across the walls and floor she saw it. On the far side of the room is  a door, hanging askew on its hinges, crippled with that green corrosion that always looked like pasty Comet cleanser to Jo. Slightly ajar she knew this was it.

Jo took a deep breath as she steeled herself to enter the room. It took all her strength to pry the heavy door back far enough to squeeze through. As the light swept across the floor, hundreds of rats scattered in every direction. With an involuntary shriek Jo jumped back through the doorway. As she did, she could see the approaching rats fade into obscurity. Once again pawing at the cobwebs in her hair, she regained her resolve and dove into the room. The light now revealing a hundred versions of herself, reflected in the fun-house mirrors filling the room. It was if they were screaming at her and the repressed memories of that day flooded back into her mind. Jo was standing in place where it happened all those years ago. As the memories settled in, Jo discovered herself in the mirrors, her strength and conviction redoubled with the mental consolidation of each reflection. She finally held the answer to the question of which reflection of her was the door. She was ready, her choice had been made. Tonight, at the appointed time and place, Jimmy Doyle would pay the ultimate price for what he had done to Jo and her twin sister Beth. A huge electrical storm had blown in suddenly; and lighting illuminated the house of mirrors. The door burst open and in a gale of putrid wind Jimmy Doyle tumbled into the room. Looking up and seeing Jo looking down on him, a bloody knife, his bone handled hunting knife in one hand, flashlight in the other, she stepped towards him. Jimmy. scrambled backwards on all four, shrieking in disbelieving terror, “No, no it can’t be you, you are dead! I GUTTED YOU, right here in this room! You Fucking Bitch You Can’t Be Here! YOU ARE DEAD!” His screams were lost in the vortex of the tornado funneling through Jimmy’s door, shattering the distorted fun-house mirrors into a billion razor sharp shards flying in the tornado.

Across town, in a quiet room in the sanitarium, Beth, poor, innocent Beth, who for nineteen years to the night has been locked in her own catatonic mind with the screams, and memories of that night. Her rocker, which has been still as death for years, was now rocking steadily, keeping pace with the storm building outside her window. A handmade quilt lay folder across her lap as she looked north toward the old fairgrounds. Lightning illuminates the night like a fun-house strobe. An enormous thunder clap booms so loud it sets off the alarms of several cars in the sanitarium’s parking lot. A tornado filled with every nightmare memory from that tortuous night builds within Beth’s eyes. Visions of Jimmy Doyle with his knife sunk deep in Jo’s belly replay themselves like an old Vincent Price movie on the tarnished silver screen of her mind. For the first time, since the night Jimmy murdered Jo in the Fun-house, Beth’s mouth contorted not into a scream but into a knowing smile. Beth knew that after all these years Jo had found her door. What was to come next caused her a subtle little giggle, the first sound to escape her lips in almost twenty years. Beth ‘s eyes flew open wide and with a subtle nod of her head, she felt the tornado within her. If anyone had been watching, they would have seen the lights rekindled in her eyes, or perhaps they would have dismissed it as reflections from the lightning outside.