The Family Man: Episode 23

May 19, 2019 5 min read

The Family Man: Episode 23

My fist exploded across lips and teeth, ruining all, sending their owner soaring into a wall. You see, I was designed to be a monster among men, with strength second to none. Even without my family, I am capable of imparting that dark lesson which is always destroyed in the learning. This fact doesn’t stop my family from testing my mettle from time to time, but on this occasion my family was content to stand back and watch as the wolf and I came together in a tempest of fists and knives.

            I rather admired this killer, following me as he had into a city far deadlier than his quarry, stalking me through the halls of a nightmare-haunted hospital. I almost thanked him for joining me, but my name was blazing across his murder-list, and he would only stop after my death or his own. Unfortunately for him, my death wasn’t a feat he could manage—not even in a city where dreams have the preternatural tendency to come true.

            I caught the killer by his forearms and squeezed. His ulnae and radii snapped like dry twigs and his knives fell from his vanquished hands. The wolf was unfazed however, somehow breaking free and thrusting his heavily-booted foot squarely into my face. Yet my body was chiseled from unfiltered purpose, and blows from even the greatest beast would not immediately prevail against it. Suddenly the wolf wrapped his shattered arms around my midsection, and in a display of exhilarating desperation and strength lifted me into the air and smashed us both through a nearby window. The cool wind, the bottomless night, the weightless blood and glass that caught the moonlight, the raging wolf himself—gifts, all. Our long descent ended violently atop a large rooftop. Debris and blood rained down around us, the fallout from a beautiful dream. I rose to my feet, but the poor wolf would never rise again. The sight cut me deeper than his knives ever had. Finally, I stopped laughing.

            The din of battle fled into the darkness, and I recovered the remaining names I had inherited from the dead hunter’s murder-list. I looked into the night—it was thinly pierced by the tiny amber lights of distant glowing windows. What power or device illuminated the rooms behind those windows, I couldn't say. They shined like gentle stars made from the calm of autumn, and the moon, while visible, seemed restrained by the city’s darkness—only the dimmest light drifted down to the world below. As I took in these exquisite sights, the wind grappled with my coat and snatched at my hair and beard. I took a deep breath, wondering if I inhaled air or darkness.

            A slightly elevated rooftop hung nearby, well within range of a spirited leap, so I climbed into the night. I managed an impressive height by means of scaling rooftops, yet I soon reached the apex of my ascent. My destination was visible at this vantage—a distant and nearly collapsed apartment high-rise. Traveling the open streets was too risky an alternative, so I decided to find another way across to the next building.

            After I quietly laid my shoulder into it, the rooftop door opened with a small “pop.” The small noise flitted down the narrow stairwell and would have gained the hallways below had it not been for my expanding silence. I descended to the first stairwell door, entering the hallway of the fourteenth floor. The passage was dark and utterly silent, so I crept along like a spider, plucking at the shadows and silence, testing the way ahead. Suddenly the sound of a cracking whip exploded into the hallway. A few seconds later a pulsating amber light made its way into the darkness of the corridor, emerging from an open doorway several apartments away.

            I could detect something advancing beneath the silence, displacing shadows as it moved. Sidestepping into the apartment next to me, I disappeared into the null of forgotten places. Music of some sort began to melt out of the air, blowing softly across the hallway and into my hiding place. The lights in the hall turned on and dimmed to the weakest orange glimmer, soon followed by the lights inside the apartment I occupied. Eager to see what would come next and with my silence wrapped securely around me, I took the most comfortable seat in the room and waited for whatever was to happen.

            The music became almost tangible, forming a kind of transparent membrane that settled across the room, invading everything. The light itself blended into the mysterious composition as the wax and wane of the tender illumination transitioned into floating, glowing notes. The cadence of my breathing merged into the developing harmony, and the movement of my very thoughts dissolved into nothing more than an accompanying rhythm. I was being absorbed into the music.

            I tried to think past the horde of deadly sounds, but every new thought became a note within the growing storm of voracious melodies. My only hope was silence. I could feel the hungry music trying to master and devour it, but my silence was unyielding. That area of the contest became the focus of my attention. I listened as I never had before—to a silent song only I could hear. Suddenly the hungry sounds vanished from the room, moving past me down the hall, still eating away at the world by means of the most beautiful music.

            With the nightmare music gone, I slipped from the room and reentered the hallway, approaching the apartment where the unearthly music seemed to have come from. I took to the deepest shadows, minding my every movement, yet I couldn’t resist peering as far into the room as I could. The apartment was filled with rusted musical instruments. They were suspended from the walls by large hooks, strung with glistening webs of what seemed to be saliva. Sitting in the middle of the room was a man sharply dressed in the dusty apparel of an orchestra conductor. Instead of a conductor’s baton, his right hand held what appeared to be a lion tamer's whip. He was apparently sound asleep, bearing the signature features of a man afflicted with the advanced stages of the infamous sleeping sickness—his eyes were completely sealed shut, so much so that there was no distinguishing the fact that eyes had ever occupied the unbroken expanse of smooth skin that now lay placid and pale above his cheeks. He sat disturbingly still, only occasionally whimpering a muted cry in his sleep. Yet the pathetic sound seemed to come from an impossible distance buried somewhere deep within the man—as if he were crying out from the yawning depths of a deep black pit.

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