Every Morn and every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight.
Some are Born to sweet delight,
Some are Born to Endless Night.
‘Like I said, there were certain conditions that were met in each of his lives, as they had been in the old man’s before him. As they will be in mine. He was always caught by them before he reached fifty, like I said. And he was always buried alive inside a wooden coffin, that was nailed shut. Three nails on each side. And he was allowed to die, screaming, terrified in perfect darkness. It never got easier, he said, even though he knew he’d come back in the end, the darkness always got to him and he always screamed like a baby before the final strike.
‘He never knew who they were, and for the longest time he felt convinced they were there to actually stop him. That they were agents of forces who wanted to see the world go off its axis. And I know it ain’t right to speak ill of the dead an’ all, but I can’t understand how he could be so foolish. ‘Cause it seemed obvious to me, from the very first time he told it to me, that they were all just part of the greater plan. See, that was his particular fate. Each time, to die in a coffin, screaming in the dark. Someone had to make things right on his end, as well. In a way, I think they were really just aspects of himself, these ghouls that haunted him.’
Patterson was speaking with such fervor, a wild glint in his green eyes that his two listeners were far too scared to interrupt.
‘He always died in that coffin, even though he always tried to claw his way out, he never managed it. Except this time.’
Lieutenant Burley’s tired eyes lit up at the mention and suddenly, a piece in this twisted puzzle seemed to fall into place.
‘His fingernails. That’s how they got so jagged and torn, isn’t it?’
‘Yes,’ Patterson agreed, ‘they got that way, crawling his way out of his coffin. It wasn’t meant to hold him this time, I think, because he’d passed on the torch. See, no one can do this job forever and Burris did it far longer than he should have. That’s why he escaped, I think, because that’s no longer his appointed death. It’s mine.’
It hurt Ollie, though it wouldn’t hurt him for long. Soon, he would be beyond any of this. But for now, there was such genuine sadness in his lover’s eyes that he was truly sorry for not understanding sooner, for messing up her own life.
‘Because that was the way it was supposed to happen. He was supposed to leave and I was supposed to take over. I told you, love. He saw something in me and I suppose that something answered his calling. I was meant to do this, this job has been waiting for me and me alone. Where else am I going? I own a couple shitty bars. And I love you, that’s pretty much all can be said about me, isn’t it?
‘But it’s the way it’s got to be, Nell. I love you and I wish I’d known before, so that I wouldn’t tie up your life into this.’
‘Honey, would you listen to yourself –’
But her words seemed to fade and die before they ever reached Ollie’s ears. He stared through into her, remembering her, a sketch of lost love he would carry with him down the centuries. But the truth was, in his heart of hearts, he’d always known he was meant to be alone.
‘He got out of his coffin and now, I must take his place inside. That’s the answer to your burning question, Lieutenant Burley. That’s why your man killed himself, because there was nothing left for him to do here. And because he could. You have to understand, it was a relief for him, because he could’ve never taken his own life before. He could’ve never surrendered like that without a chosen successor. To him, it was bliss.’
‘How do you know?’
Burley was seeing things before his eyes, delirium guess you might call it. Sleep deprivation. Or some kid whacked out of his mind who walked into his office to tell him crazy stories like this.
‘Because he came to see me, before he did it. He got out of the coffin that morning and they let him go. That is the rule, if he manages to get out, his captors must let him leave. And he came to see me, to tell me that it was finally over. That it’s my time now.’
‘You knew what he was going to do.’
‘Of course. I guessed, at least. He never came out and said it outright. But I had my ways of telling.’
‘And why did you come to tell me? I mean, you spring this sort of crazy story on me, tell me you plan on killing people with the purpose of “righting the wrongs” and expect me to do what, exactly?’
‘Nothing, Lieutenant. I expect you to do nothing. I’ve told you because I can see you’re a good man. And more importantly, because you were meant to know. Why and with what purpose, I haven’t the slightest idea.’
‘You expect me to do nothing? Man, you’re in for a surprise.’
But the Lieutenant sounded less sure of himself with each word.
‘No,’ Patterson shook his head. ‘Lock me up and throw away the key? Don’t you understand, Lieutenant, that they will find me in the end? Regardless how many locks you put on me, they will bury me in my wooden coffin in the end. And I will try to scratch my way out and I will fail. And then, I will be born once more, with a single purpose in mind. I will write those wrongs. It is not your job to do that, Mr. Burley, though you try. I know you want to do good. But the rules you try to work by are crooked, so it doesn’t really work. And you, my beloved, I guess you just happened to be here. You were meant to wake up and come, I suppose. I told you both quite simply because you are here. And you are here so I can tell you the story.’
‘Can I ask you something?’
It is his wife who speaks, though she no longer sounds like his wife, but like a stranger, both to him and to herself.
‘You said this guy made sure things didn’t disappear. How did you mean? You’ve only told us he killed people.’
‘I’ve told you many things, but maybe, you haven’t listened. It doesn’t matter. He made sure things didn’t disappear, in the sense he made sure things stayed as they should. If things are on track, if you follow path A and someone is on that path also, you will eventually meet. But if you go on path B...’
‘That someone disappears.’
‘Exactly. He was there to make sure things didn’t disappear.’
Oliver Patterson closes his eyes against the sudden bright lights, the fading of the life that could’ve been. He cradles his forehead in his right palm, only for a second, then blinks himself awake, stands and begins walking towards the door.
‘Mr Patterson, please.’
Her words are piercing, or they would’ve been. In some other life. He speaks without turning, for there is nothing waiting for him that way.
‘I am Burris now.’
Cheers for reading,
Cheers for reading,