by Alejandro Bastidas
The Metamorphosis of a Good Madman
It all fell apart when the bodies started to show up. Some would say it was a flaw in my plan but no, oh no. I say it is a scar, because that is what flaws becomes, my friends – what they lead to.
Growing up, flaws turned into scars by the blade of my father and his rage… but eventually I turned them into lessons myself. Once you think about it, it is a rather beautiful metamorphosis for the brain and the spirit; to be kissed by a brand new mutilation. At first it is seen as a sudden saturation of a thousand sensations that swarm all over your body making it shiver. Makes your eyes retreat between your pupils as a natural response in a squint, causing a tension in the muscle that just lets the cutting edge have fun, and the boiling pain that crawls under the skin remains to dance in the spot. And the pain as well goes through its own metamorphosis and becomes a scar. The patched up skin that covers what once stood as a wound serves as a permanent reminder, a visual story in its own nature, and a source of knowledge like no other. Yet, with so much knowledge and experience that my body transmitted to my brain, the bodies were showing up.
That was something that in a strange way, made the scars disappear. The flaw and the failure – the mistake – made them disappear. Why? Because I felt the agonizing departure of tissue and skin once again, before the mark of evidence emerged. I became a feeble individual beleaguered by cruel and laughing blades.
My anger then became a symphony of swirling curses as the news channel announced Elia’s reappearance. How could anyone possibly know that I had buried her atop our father’s damned coffin? Perhaps someone heard her screaming as a mantle of dirt threatened her with oblivion… but apparently failed to deliver. She was found, she was remembered, and she was mourned.
Besides that, Elia was victorious. My sweet big sister had always loved the attention and my own torment. My missing ear could tell you the same thing if she hadn’t fed it to the dog. Anyway, friends, I believed that the greatest punishment for the wench of my kin would be to be forgotten. But now every person who watched the news would have the grotesque image of her rotten, naked body being consumed by maggots on their little minds, flashing in front of their eyes as constant as a blink or a breath.
They would all remember.
I knew that it was but a matter of time before the bureau would start contacting her relatives, and that would lead them to me. With haste I ran for my coat but stopped upon realizing that it was soaking wet and covered in a fragrance of dead fish, as if dipped in the lake. Even with the raging thunderstorm outside, I needed to leave immediately to any place that could keep me safe for a couple of months… but I knew no place at all, for I had killed all my friends – or at least arranged for their deaths.
The one place that came to mind was Billy’s apartment, and I still had his keys hidden somewhere. The thought forced me to return to the house and head charging towards the attic. I had already burned most of the evidence and props a while ago and only my favorite spoils remained. The keys were right where I thought they’d be: the special drawer saved for my family’s belongings. Everyone believed that good Billy was somewhere in Africa having fun with his friends before going to college, while he had truly spent about a week sleeping in the Vermont lake, studying the bottom and the algae with his eyes closed. The kid never made it to the airport but his dad had received confirmation that he actually did. A text sent by my hand through his phone was enough to ensure that they wouldn’t go searching around so instead of flying across the world he was drowning in the lake and on his sorrows, I hope – for all that he had done to me.
After settling down and gathering myself up a little bit I decided to head for the graveyard on the following day. I required at least three cigars to calm the anger and ease the pain. Following the incident with Elia’s discovery, or any flaw for that matter, I’d begin to somaticize severely as a form of punishment. It was a natural occurrence, almost a reflex, to turn anxiety into physical pain for someone like me.
I pretended to lay down flowers at a tomb close to my father’s, which had been covered with dirt once again. FBI agents and forensics were already wrapping up and preparing to leave. I overheard them saying that no weapons nor traces of blood were found, which made me giggle softly. After butchering Elia I bathed her thoroughly and always kept latex gloves on, as a precaution. Once everything was cleared, I hurried to get a closer look at the tomb’s surroundings hoping to find clues that the FBI had missed but the only anomaly that I managed to detect was a blue petal in a corner. As I removed the petal, there was a pile of ash beneath. Only that and nothing more.
After a failed attempt to gain answers I walked back to Billy’s apartment with head bowed and ears sharp. Hoping that the wind would have the kindness of whispering at least a simple hint. Yet, it was a group of men instead of the wind.
“My uncle works with the police. Says they found another body. It washed ashore of the west side of the Vermont Lake. Some vagabond found it. I told ya. Serial killer is creeping around these streets.”
At that moment my heart froze and I felt as if my ribs had decided to squash my lungs into a pulp. I felt the harsh brush of a whip on my back as I had felt it many decades ago in a broken home. I almost allowed a scream to escape my mouth as I saw them on my skin, but with a stroke of my hand over it I realized that it was all in my head… making me wonder if the scars had always been there to begin with.
All of a sudden I collapsed to my knees after a bitter shiver sprung up into my spine and I crawled up into a ball just lying there in the sidewalk, falling asleep not minding the cold. I knew that I had woken up again shortly but remained zoned out for maybe a minute or two, until a voice made me return to my senses.
“Mr. Lockhart, can you tell us why you turned yourself in, please?” asked the voice of a woman that flashed the bright sapphires below her brows at me.
I was startled and confused for a second, not knowing why the cuffs refused to let me go, nor why they were clutching my wrists. Then I remembered.
“I – It was the right thing to do,” a tight rope was tangling my vocal chords as I spoke, “It wasn’t too late to repent and do something good.” Those words weren’t even my own, I knew.
“And why did you do it? Why kill them, hide them and turn yourself in? You’ve admitted to the crime. If we get some information you may serve a lesser sentence.” What sentence could be worse than leaving with these permanent scars?
“They earned it!” he barked and the words felt acrid in his tongue. “Take a look at me and tell me what you see. It’s the evidence. It’s what they did to me! Elia and Billy the whole pack of them.”
“As things are going, Mr. Lockhart, the judge will most likely send you to a mental institution instead of a penitentiary. They are going to help you even if you don’t deserve it.”
Why don’t I deserve it if I have done a good thing?
It all came to me faster than I thought. The reason that I pulled out the bodies from their hiding spots was because of a blemish in my soul much greater than hate: guilt and grief. Mother had always taught me to do good, and father encouraged me to be vengeful. When she left this wicked world there was a scar, for sure, and a big one that I managed to forget. Yet, it turned swollen after remembering her words: an error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it. It was the flesh-tattoo left by her passing that made me rescue myself from a vengeful darkness by at least attempting to do good, and that was the way it manifested on a twisted mind.