23. Keep Your Friends Close…

Three days later I was in Treasure Park playing some basketball with Chris. As my basketball season had been over for months, I was aching to get a game in. Although it was getting late, the sun still being up indicated that summer was near. As usual I had no recollection of Id’s escapade the other night, only the fragmented blurs that he chose to show me as I woke up the following morning. However, even those I soon forgot like any other dream.

The basketball court wasn’t too far from Al’s street, and Chris took the trouble to come all the way from his apartment downtown. After we called it a day it was a simple hop and a skip back home. I went up stairs to Al’s room to return his ball, but saw that he wasn’t there. His wall was covered in posters raging from athletes to civil rights leaders to super models. His stereo was still on, playing an endless loop of Wu-Tang. I went down the hall to Monique’s room. The door was slightly ajar but I gave the door two good knocks before entering. “Yeah?” she answered. I stepped in to see her lying on her bed reading Queen of the Damned. Unlike her cousin’s room, her’s wasn’t covered in posters, although there was one of Venus Williams, and a few cartoon characters like Sailor Moon. They had kept her room exactly the way she left it with minor changes, such as a bookshelf filled to capacity. By her bed was a nightstand with a plastic teddy bear on it that had a clock in its belly. The time was 7:15.

“Hey,” I said. “Have you seen Al?”

“He’s at work,” she answered, eyes still locked on the page.

“Still?”

“Guess he’s workin’ overtime.”

“He’s always workin’ overtime,” I said.

“Beats his old job though.”

“Yeah, but he’s not makin’ as much money as he used to.”

“Well ‘street pharmacy’ is a booming industry,” she said.

“Ain’t that the truth. Anyways I’m gonna hop in the shower before I stink up your room with my sweaty self.”

“Actually, are you doin’ anything tonight?”

“No, why?”

“Because I was thinking if we could do somethin’ tonight,” Monique said. “You know, get together with some people.”

I was hoping I could call it a night after that bout with Chris. So doing anything else that night was the last thing I wanted to do.“Tonight?” I asked, slightly pessimistic. “Like what?”

“I don’t know… Anything.”

“Well to be honest with you, I haven’t really got any rest in like the past month, so I was just gonna go and catch up on some sleep. Maybe some other time?”

“Okay,” Monique said. “Well, if you change your mind between now and ten o’clock just holla at me.”

“Yeah, cool,” I said.

As I turned to walk out, I brushed off a small picture from her dresser. It was held in no frame and gently glided towards the floor. I caught it just before it landed. But as I placed it back on the dresser, the photograph caught my attention. I couldn’t tell what it was but I began to stare more and more intently at the photo. There was something familiar about it and yet no bells were ringing. I knew I had seen it somewhere before, or at least the person in the photo. A memory, or at least a thought, connected with this photograph, but I was unable to find it. Like an empty spot in a display case, there was nothing there and yet you know there should be. It was like a déja vu that refused to occur when it was supposed to. It was a photograph of some black guy standing in what appeared to be some sort of camp out in the desert. In the background were medical tents, trucks, and a helicopter. The man was dressed in a grey t-shirt and pants with desert camouflage, and he wore a beige cap that was shading his face from the glaring sun. A pair of dog-tags hung from around his neck. I flipped the picture over to discover a note.

note

The photograph dropped from my hand, but this time it didn’t glide. It dropped like a rock, as if weight had been added to it. The memories had come back now. Through all that effort I managed to relinquish them from Id. But now I wished I hadn’t done so. I couldn’t believe it. Based on what I remembered three nights ago, and what I just read, it couldn’t be possible. A coincidence maybe. Perhaps not. The chances of it being true would be astronomical.

I was unable to think. My mind had went completely blank as Id too was astonished. The sheer shock had awoken him and now both of us stood there in a trance, trying to get our heads together, trying to regain ourselves, trying to fathom then comprehend then understand then process and then analyze this new revelation. Though Id was silent I knew what he was thinking. He couldn’t believe it also.

Monique then said, “Well are you gonna pick that up or what?” Her eyes had left the pages of her book and were now on me. Slowly, I reached down and picked it up with some hesitation, as if the photograph was covered in a corrosive substance. “That’s my dad,” Monique continued. That sent a shudder through me. I almost dropped the picture again.

So many thoughts were flying through my head that I couldn’t tell which ones were mine and which ones were Id’s. I could barely manage to catch a few words to form a coherent sentence. “You said your dad was a soldier?” I asked.

She nodded her head.

“Where did you say he was stationed?”

“Um… I can’t remember,” she said. “I think Sudan.”

“D-do you remember what happened to him?”

She shook her head.

Standing there motionless, I had sensed that her woman’s intuition was about to tell her that something was troubling me greatly. Removing myself from that room became imperative. “I have to go,” I promptly said.

“How come?” she asked.

I had to think fast. “Need to take a shit.” That would have to do.

“Thanks for shearing that.”

“Any time.”

I hurried downstairs to my basement apartment. My mind was in such a rant that I didn’t even notice I phased right through the door. It all started to make sense. I realized why Monique’s father was absent all her life. And I also understood what it was that Id saw when he looked into the Monstrosity’s eyes. The thing that kept its soul from being extinguished. The same thing that that Daniels woman had advised him to find; the very thing that they couldn’t get rid of to keep that beast under their control.

It was Monique.

The discovery had overwhelmed me greatly. A sudden nauseating feeling set in as my stomach began to churn. I felt dizzy as I staggered towards the bathroom. Till this day I’m still not quite sure what it was. Perhaps it was a combination of the sheer shock and the tremendous amount of stress that I’ve been put through that past year finally taking its toll on my screwed up mind. First I began to change biologically and ended up with a string of these strange new abilities, then realized that they came with a split personality. Then I lose my brother and discover that my own father was responsible for his death- at least the thing that caused it. And now I’m shown that the thing that killed my brother and nearly killed me twice was the father of one of my closest friends. There is so much the human heart and soul can take in such a short space of time. So much abuse. And my mind had already been shattered into two pieces. Another blow could very well destroy it and my entire being.

The nausea continued and began to climb. When it climaxed to the point where I felt like my feet were off the ground and that the walls around me seemed liquid, I realized that I had passed the threshold between mundane sanity and the superhuman. I had seen, done, and learnt of things that normal people aren’t meant for, and as a result… I went mad. My brain was exploding. I could hardly draw breath. I was suffocating in my own lungs. I collapsed on the floor two feet from the bathroom door. I scratched at the carpet trying to pull myself forward. My heart was beating chaotically as I felt extremes of hate, frustration, sadness- all the emotions that I’ve been put through ever since I changed. The realization about Monique was like the detonator of a mental-emotional bomb, and it just went off. I felt my psyche explode like the Fourth of July. And then all movement, all breathing, all seeing, all hearing, all thinking, and all sensation stopped.

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