I stare at the telephone and the only thing I get in return is eternal ghastly silence. Ring, damn you. It’s been days and the phone call I’ve been avoiding gets more difficult the longer I delay. The phone apparently won’t cooperate and ring of its own. But what am I afraid of?
Jumping from bed, I grab the telephone from the charging base. Tapping a button to dial a saved number, I put the receiver to my ear. It’s ringing.
“Good morning, Ella. Quite the surprise. How are you?”
“Happy belated Father’s Day, Hannibal. I’m sorry I didn’t’ call, but it’s been a very rough time. Quarantine life isn’t for me.”
“Do not fret on my account. I’m happy you thought of me. But you sound troubled, Ella. Are you eating? Sleeping? How’s your sexual appetite? Regular and vigorous sex is a key to a sound mind and spirit. Tell me what troubles you.”
I sigh. All the explanations I planned fizzle in my mind upon hearing his voice. “I haven’t killed anyone since quarantine began. Something…happened to me? This pandemic is kryptonite. All this death and not one by my hand. I feel helpless.”
“I see. Quite natural really. This phenomenon makes us question our very existence, attacks the foundations of who we think we are when we’re alone in the night. Let me ask you, are you having the nightmares about the day you killed your father?”
Can I speak this? Even to Hannibal? “No. It’s from before that day.” A short silence punctuated by a sharp inhalation of breath. “Close your eyes, Ella. Do it this instant. Tell me what you see. Don’t think, just tell me exactly what you see.”
I do as Hannibal bids.
“It’s the Father’s Day before my 13th birthday.
I woke bathed in sweat in the middle of the night. There was a clanging of pans from the kitchen, so I jumped out of bed. I crept down the stairs. I was very afraid and still trapped in the nightmare of father the noise interrupted.
I entered the kitchen. My father was face down in a pool of vomit and blood. He looked dead and for one moment I thought the deed was done. Excitement flooded me as I knelt in the vile sticky wetness to check if he was alive. When I place my hand on his neck to check for a pulse, he grabbed my wrist. His eyes snapped open and he vomited again. My father was not dead.
I can’t remember a thing that happened the rest of the day. It’s a blur of violence and I don’t want to talk about all that right now. You already know what he did to me.”
After a short silence, Hannibal asks. “You’ve never told anyone about that day, have you?”
I shake my head, trying to will the images from my brain. “No. Not even Ray.”
“I won’t be hurt if you can’t tell me,” Hannibal says in a low voice.
I light a cigarette and take several deep drags before I answer.
“I poisoned his whiskey. When he was busy doing whatever he did in the basement most nights, I poured enough poison to kill three men into the bottle and I watched him drink every single drop, but the damned drunkard just wouldn’t die. It’s like the fucker was immune to poison from all the alcohol he’d consumed in his life.
“You tried to murder your father on Father’s Day?”
I let his question remain unanswered while I smoke in silence. I don’t need to tell him more about that day. Not right now. Maybe not ever.
“Thank you, Ella. If you wish to end the nightmares that plague you about Father’s Day, you must tell Ray everything.”
“But, H. Ray is dead.”
There’s no answer from the other side of the line. I wait and crush the cigarette into the ashtray, but still nothing from H. Removing the phone from my ear, I check the screen. The phone is off, the screen dark. “Ray, I tried to kill my father before I met you. I think that’s why the universe put you into my life…” I can’t continue. The tears overwhelm me, and I place the phone back on the nightstand. I get under the covers and close my eyes. Sleep comes for me, returning me to my eternal nightmare.
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