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21. umbilical

HILDA LEEK

“Praise Bellbrun!” I cry.  I mean it more now than I ever have before.  This inhabitance will be the last, I know, and devotion must be paid even now.  As I watch Cameron’s glow inhabit Friedrich, I move to get to my feet.  The cold has dissipated, now that Cameron is inside a living body again.  I embrace the body of my grandson and the spirit of my beloved.  “Oh, God, oh God,” I hear myself saying.  “Hurts so much,” he says, in two voices.  Friedrich’s throat is pushing out the air, but I can also hear that my Cameron is speaking.  How long since I’ve heard him talk?  “I love you I love you I love you” is all I can say.  His face darkens.  “Later.  Get me out.  Help me stand.” And I know he’s right.  So much to do.  My hands are shaking as I take off the restraints that bind Friedrich’s body to the chair.  Poor Friedrich’s wrists and ankles are bleeding.  But that’s good.  The flow of blood will strengthen the ritual as we go.  Cameron forces Friedrich’s body to stand, and I move to support him.  “Hurts so much,” he says again.  How it agonizes me to hear Cameron in pain; at the same time, I know it can’t be helped.  For now, at least.  And then I’m kissing my Cameron and running my nose through his hair — because it’s his now, not Friedrich’s.  This body belongs to my Cameron, for however long the inhabitance lasts.  Cameron convulses, and I see the struggle between him and Friedrich has already started.  Though weak, the glow of Friedrich’s own spirit — never meant for eternity — nevertheless pushes back against Cameron’s.  How damaged my Cameron’s spirit has become from our long journey.  Seeing it up-close and so confined shows me the horrors of all the suffering Cameron’s endured; the shape of his spirit glow looks like nothing so much as a diseased column of teeth, with ropes of bone for limbs and hair sprouting here and there in random-seeming patches.  It would be hideous, if it weren’t Cameron.  It would be a monster.  But I don’t care.  I can only find love in what I see.  I can only reach out and take hold of Friedrich’s possessed hands and hold them to my chest and try to offer what support I can with words: “Only this once more,” I tell him, “and we’ll never have to do this again.”  I watch as the struggle subsides; the patchy hair of Cameron’s spirit makes a sort of web and wraps itself tight around Friedrich’s faint glimmer.  “Yes!  Yes!  You’ve got him now,” I encourage my beloved Cameron, and I see the conflict is over for now.  “Hurry,” Cameron says.  “The book!”  I shout, too loud and desperate for the reverence I wanted for these moments.  I run to retrieve the spirit book.  “Do you know her name yet?” Cameron asks me. Friedrich’s voice is halting and pained. “No,” I tell him. “I couldn’t figure it out.”  “Find it!” he says.  “We’ll have to get it from the book. Open the book!” I drop to the floor and open the book. But the pages are just light blinding-bright light and it hurts to look and I pull back and turn away. “I can’t see it!” I tell him. Cameron drops Friedrich’s knees down to the ground beside me. He moves Friedrich’s hand to the book and opens the cover again. I can’t look can’t look it hurts. “It’s tied to you,” Cameron says. “But you need my help.” I watch as he reaches out with Friedrich’s fingers toward where the golden cord lifts up and away from the book to my hand.  He grips the cord. Pain comes, like nothing I’ve ever felt and it tears through my arm and across my chest.  I’ve never had a heart attack, but I can’t imagine it could be worse than this.  When my thoughts come back to me, however much time has passed, Cameron is looking at the pages of the book — and I can see the pages. I can see the words. Friedrich’s eyes are dripping bloody tears.  “TRAPS! There are traps!” I watch as the cord, wriggles in his grasp like it’s alive. “It would’ve been easier if I just could’ve eaten the fucking raccoon.  But you had to fuck that up. You’ve made a mess of it all! That kid — he would’ve made this simple.” I’m crying. “It was supposed to be simple!” “But you couldn’t do it. You couldn’t do that one simple thing. We know the raccoon’s name.  We don’t know hers.  But now we have to eat her. But we can’t until we know her name.” He’s so angry, but I understand his anger he’s getting stronger now so his anger grows with his strength.  “Do you even understand? I’m trying to make it simple for you. So you can read it. Only the living can read a spirit book. So fucking read it!” And I’m filled with so much regret.  I did this.  I failed him.  I made this harder.  I made my beloved suffer.  And that’s why he’s had to improvise.  “I think I know how to make this work, though.  With her book burning like that, she’ll have no choice but to come out once I eat the cord.  With Rick’s mouth and my-‘   He stops talking, but I can see what he means — the hairs across his body have wrapped around the golden cord he pulled from my hand.  The hairs slowly encircle the book now, too, like glowing filaments of light.  Like those glowing plants deep in the ocean.  “It’s beautiful,” I tell him.  “You’re beautiful.”  He feeds on the blood the book.  I can see the energy seeping into Rick’s body, into Cameron’s spirit form.   ‘Read it.  Find her name. Then we can burn the book. If we burn it while it’s still connected to you, this will all be — … it’ll be wasted.’  I open the book, and I try to read.  It still hurts my eyes – but there’s less of the burning light. But my eyes still water and ache and everything is blurry. “Try, damn it! Will you fucking try? We can’t start the fire until you find her name in it.  They gave you the power! You’re supposed to be able to do this. So DO IT!” He knows so much more than me.  He’s a man, and he’s had a man’s grasp of his situation.  His time in the world of spirits — ten years oh God ten years so long too long — has taught him more than what I could ever have learned, even if I’d had twice the time.  ‘Stop blinking, you feeble fucking bitch, and LOOK! You’ve got me. You’ve got them. Things are falling apart. You’ve done this before. It should work! DO IT!”  I force my eyes to stay open as I stare at the pages. But, I can’t read anything and all I can see are just the fleshy-colored pages, as if they were blank. But I know they’re not blank. I know there are secrets there. I know the bitch’s name is there. I have a spirit. I have the sacrifice. I’m doing the ritual. I reach down and rake the fingernails of my right hand over my left. I do it again. I do it a third time. The third time draws blood. And then, I look at the pages again. There are lines now. There are drawings.  The lines pull me into the drawings — not physically, but inside of my head.  My eyes are dripping with tears. Words appear on the page:

People love to keep secrets. I should know. When I was alive, I was a

I pull my mind back from the book. Something’s not right. There are traps. I realize this won’t work, and then I get an idea.  I reach over for some of Jeff’s blood, sucking the clotted jelly of it off my fingers.  And, as the blood touches my lips, I find what I’m looking for; the essence of the bitch in Jeff’s blood, a trail I can match to the core of the book. I smear my bleeding left hand across the face of the book. “GIVE ME WHAT I WANT!” I demand. And the book obeys. The book obeys me – or, it obeys my blood. What does it matter? I am my blood is me. What matters is that I see a name burning like electricity in the book, with the same light I feel and see in Jeff’s blood.  She’s been there.  I knew she had to have been there, inside that blood, helping and guiding him. She’s been following everything.  She knows what is happening — and I’m convinced she’s trying to stop it.  Flashes of purple spark across my eyes like the shadow of a flashbulb.  And then — I have a name.  It’s there on the page in the heart of the book in the blood on my tongue on my lips and she can’t hide from me any more and I cry out “Evelyn Diedz!” is what I say.   “Her name is Evelyn Diedz!”    “Good.  You did it! I love you.  Fire.  Now.” Cameron says.  “Get fire!” I run out to the other room and retrieve the lighter.  When I come back, the book is still on the ground but Cameron has forced Friedrich to stand and is holding one of the knives from the workbench, pacing in front of Jeff Armando.  “His spirit looks like a dog’s. A weak dog’s.” Cameron says, sounding disgusted.  “Do you see it?” “I do,” I tell him.  It’s a little lie. I don’t see anything special about Jeff. I see the energy.  But I can’t see the pattern of it.  I can only see Cameron’s pattern.  Everything else is just shapes and colors.   “You look weak, too, right now,” Cameron warns me.  “Remember — it’s merciful, what we’re doing. Don’t forget that!” I don’t fully understand this either, but I don’t question Cameron.  I’ve tried to tell him before that looking at most people’s spirits is like looking at clouds, for me.  I can see vague shapes, but not the details.  Except for Cameron; I can see his with a clarity part of me wishes I didn’t have right now.  But he doesn’t care.  He’s distracted.  He must see something in Jeff Armando’s that repulses him.  So it repulses me, too, now.  Because of love.  Because love means accommodation, and sacrifice, and being able to see things the way Cameron sees them.  And I know that love also demands — is demanding, right now — that I be strong for Cameron, and face what my beloved has become so that we can end all this.  I tell myself the horror of what I’m seeing is a nightmare that we’ll both wake up from soon.  “Start the painting,” Cameron says, forcing Friedrich’s hands to grab another knife from the workbench and throwing it onto the floor close to my feet.  “We’ve got a lot of things to do,” he says.  And the heat inside me builds.  It’s time.  It’s time it’s time it’s time for us to begin and I don’t know but there must be no doubt so I know what I have to do.  Painting needs to happen. Painting like kind the cursed Hiltrauds might do, but without their wickedness. Painting using truth — the only truth we need: wrongbody blood to strike out against their profanity.  And I will paint.  I know who I am.  What I’m doing to do.  What I will do what I’m doing, so I pick up the knife and I walk over to Jeff.  “‘I know,” I tell Cameron.  “I know what I have to do.  And, of course, I’ll help.’”  And just like that, the moment’s here, now that I’ve made the sacred promise.  And I pick up the knife and walk toward Jeff Armando.  And I reach out with my left hand and I pry open Jeff’s jaw at the cheeks, squeezing his mouth open.  He’s choking and blubbering in his unconscious sleep.  And then — with my good, right hand — I bring the knife forward and stab it directly into Jeff Armando’s open mouth, as the holy works describe it.  “YOU KNOW ME!” Cameron says with delight, as the blood pours out of Jeff’s mouth.  “YOUKNOWME!”  The blood comes in spurts of punctuation and I drop the knife on the floor and cup my right hand to Jeff’s mouth.  He’s choking, and the blood mixes with foamy spit in my palm, and I can’t really tell if I’ve woken Jeff up from the drugs’ stupor or if he’s still unaware of what’s happening to him.  He’s shaking as if from pain, and making bubbly sobbing sounds.  Maybe he’s awake.  I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter.  It can’t matter now.  This wrong world tried to steal Cameron from me.  Took our love and tried to bury it.  But we’ve refused for ten years to give the wrong world its satisfaction, and I’m not about to start now.  I meant what I said before.  I know what I have to do.  And sometimes that means knowing what I can’t do.  And right now, I can’t let myself see Jeff Armando that way; because, this isn’t about him.  I can’t allow myself to see Jeff as someone capable of awake or asleep — or even life or death.  “He’s a wrongbody,” Cameron reminds me.  And I realize Cameron is right.  He’s just a wrong body.  And he’s — no, it’s — nothing more than that.  So I drop to my knees where Cameron has left the book and I begin painting around the book with the blood, even as I hear the thing in the chair begin to moan in a way that tells me it might be sounding like a person who’s sort of awake, but I remind myself again that it’s just a wrong body.   It doesn’t matter.  I draw the Pattern of Saturn around the spirit book on the floor.  “Praise the mighty Bellbrun, the Two That’s One,” I say, as I paint.  And then I’m back up and looking at the wrong body, which has its eyes open now, and is shaking in the chair.  Cameron forces Friedrich’s hands to strike the wrong body in the face.  “Quiet, wrongbody,” Cameron says.  He sees it too.  He knows.  And we are meant to be together like this, for all time.  And the thing I once called by a name starts to scream as much as it can, with its mouth full of blood.  I look over at Cameron, who is making Friedrich’s eyes look at me.  And there is such passion in those eyes.  I know it’s for me, so I look back to the wrong body, which now that I think of it is kind of like a sack of paint for us right now, more than anything else.  “Thank you for reminding me,” I tell Cameron.  I then begin to collect more paint for the pattern, with the knife.  The wrong body makes a lot of noise, at first, as I collect the paint.  But the noise gets quieter the more the work goes on.

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Published inpart 2

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