The Family Man: Episode 52

May 19, 2019 4 min read

The Family Man: Episode 52

My father crashed through the gigantic window headfirst after receiving a blow that, should it have been delivered outside of a dream, could have beheaded a man. But it was a dream, and my father was no ordinary man. My dread forbear immediately recovered from his flight and fired thunderous laughter up through the twinkling rain of glass shards. The End of the World leapt through the shattered window after him, following the stream of burning laughter, and my father met him in the air.

                My attention lay elsewhere, however. I leapt through the yawning window and appeared at the edge of the woods, near the shivering man in the straightjacket. The forest was on its last breath, the fleeing wind having shrunken to murmurs. I could feel the insipient silence swelling monstrous and terrible. Something was making its way to the clearing.

                I looked back into the broken sky of the nightmare, where glass tumbled like broken teeth from the openmouthed window, where two devils wrestled across the worlds of three minds, all of it held together by the unseen hands of a dark shepherd. My father continued to laugh in the face of The End of the World, and Marvin’s better half continued to fend off the touch of the axe that followed his every move, as if it were his own hateful and serrated shadow.

                The tethered man’s eyes were fixed upon a small path that entered the glen from the forest, and all the while the silence swelled, as a storm of darkest thoughts began to assemble just beyond the brambles. The man’s fear was drawing the thing from the forest as surely as death catches flies.

When I reached the man, he was sobbing and calling out to the approaching thing, demanding that it leave him be and to trouble him no more. But the storm of silence wheeled closer, denying the man even his weak words as they were eaten from his mouth the moment he spoke them, leaving him with only tears and terror. I stepped betwixt the storm and its destination, looking down upon the trembling man.

                “Who are you?” I asked, but my words were torn away by the storm. I seized the man by the leather straps so tightly binding him, drawing him close, so that my words might reach him. The silence was nearly upon me, and the entire world—molded from dream though it might have been—began to fade into whispers as the night paled into the quiet of forgotten places and half-remembered names. I began to feel my own persona washing away, leaving behind only the uncovered bones of my willpower and an ever-depleting sense of purpose. The man was screaming now, trying desperately to convey something to me. I could almost hear what he was saying. But before I could make out his screams, the world died into the raging calm of the silent storm—and something stepped from the woods.

                Standing atop cloven hooves and casting a horned and hateful shadow that caused the grass it fell upon to twist and curl like spasming insects, stood the inimitable Tom Hush.

                The creature was dressed in the finery of a child’s unfettered imagination—claws, antlers, and a death-mask of palest bone accompanied a grin that could freeze the hottest blood and a voice that spilled from beneath beds and half-closed closet doors. When Tom Hush’s shadow crawled across my body, I could feel the silence of ancient buried bones, unspeakable memories, and the cold rhythm of countless dead hearts soaking into my skin.

                “So, the shepherd has sent another of his ‘wolves’ to the slaughter, eh?” The dream-world had become the creature’s voice—a singular and fearsome note in an earsplitting song of silence. Words were once—when dreams ruled over waking—the vessels of great power, and could carry with them an authority that commanded the day into night and the unruliest storms into stillness. And so it was with the words drifting within the whispered voice of this ancient creature.

                “Yes,” was all I could utter. I was compelled to say naught else.

                “You had better cry quits, tiny man-child, lest your little life end in shrieks. I’m off to do my good business, and I’ll not suffer the bother of flies who think themselves wolves.”

                My voice was dead. I could not speak. The creature was beyond my expectations, extensive though they were, and my purpose had melted into wonder. My confidence had become awe. Distilled from all the dark spectacle was one simple realization, although its simplicity made its implication no less monstrous—I had indeed been called upon to kill the actual Tom Hush, not some dark simulacrum sculpted from human dream.

                Yet despite the intoxicating darkness of the otherworldly creature, I had been taken to task by the Shepherd of Wolves, and I meant to demonstrate my prowess. So I called out to the thickets behind the antlered myth.

                My sisters sprang from their hiding places, their loud smiles untouched by the primordial silence, and sank their metal teeth into the flesh of a legend. As Tom Hush sundered his own silence with a roar that rivaled my father’s, I turned to the pathetic man wearing the straightjacket. “Give me your name! Now!” I shouted into the broken silence.

                “David Link! I’m Doctor David Link! Please! Find me—and kill me!”

                Tom Hush’s rage and indignation melted the dream of forest and night into a ghastly nightmare of red-stained stone alters, where the rotting husks of numberless men, women, and children uncoiled in gruesome displays of ritualistic death. Looming above it all was a somber and sinister antlered idol, whose barely concealed smile spoke to an endless fascination with humanity’s ridiculous attempts to satisfy what they could never hope to appease.

                “YOU DARE?” howled the horned thing as my sisters laughed and laughed, cutting and dancing.

                “Yes,” was all I could utter. I was compelled to say naught else.

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