Aphelion Issue 232, Volume 22
September 2018
 
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The Champion

by C. E. Gee




My diction is baroque to the point of being archaic. Such cannot be helped. I have lived most my life in another era.

The death of my wife came as no surprise. She’d lived a dissolute and slothful life, replete with many bad habits and unhealthy addictions. Nonetheless, I had loved the woman. Her passing filled my heart with an aching emptiness.

The home we’d once shared served only to remind me of what had been. Every room held some knick-knack or object d’art of hers, our bed chamber was infused with the scent of her perfume. My beloved workshop was strewn with articles of hers in need of repair.

I emptied my home of all such items that might bring memories of my wife. The task was painful. I found that my home constantly reminded me of happier times. With reluctance I abandoned our estate, left for the city, moved to a small apartment adjoining the Park Blocks.

The city seemed the very epitome of feculence. Though brigands and gadabouts infested near every thoroughfare, I confess, my appearance is coarse, my physique uncommonly powerful, I have the lumbering gait of some dockyard worker. Perhaps it was because of these attributes that I was able wander the city undisturbed, surrounded by a veritable sea of cognitive creatures.

It was at the end of one such day that I found myself with a gnawing hunger but was far from my own table. I had passed the afternoon within a bookstore located near the northernmost edge of the city. Said bookstore was housed in a large building that had once been a warehouse. It was set amongst the city’s breweries and railroad tracks. To my dismay there seemed no dining establishment nearby.

I prowled neighborhood, vainly in quest of an eatery. Just as I was about to abandon the search I stumbled up a crayfish house. It had a short and unassuming name, but from the outside it appeared elegant and invitingly cozy.

In my younger years, during my tour of military service, I had once been based at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Crayfish is judged a delicacy by the natives of that state. The consumption of arthropod flesh usually holds no appeal to me. I must confess, while living in Louisiana, I consumed prodigious quantities of such. My memory conjured up visions of steaming platters of crayfish. I entered the establishment.

To my joy they were equipped with a bar. I took my leisure at it while awaiting a table. The place was packed with what passed for the city’s glitterati. Their posturing and preening and the nattering character of their conversations amused me. I quietly sipped my wine, watched over their absurd rituals of primacy and seduction.

Soon, I was escorted to a table. After making my order I inquired as to the location of the men’s restroom. The restroom was in the back.

As I made my way down a narrow corridor, a set of double doors leading into the kitchen came into view to my right. Each door had its own window. I looked through one of the windows.

Chefs watched over huge pots or attended to grills and pans. Servers hurriedly came and went.

My eyes fell upon a man laboring amongst the sinks and steam cabinets. I recognized this man as an Army buddy of mine, a comrade in arms, a machine gunner of much skill who had saved my life more than once.

Though I am notably unemotional, on this occasion tears clouded my vision. Beneath my breath I cursed the culture that could so reduce on of its finest citizens. This man had once placed his life in jeopardy in order to serve society, enduring the unendurable to protect our ideals and shores.

All the effete and snobbish patrons of the crayfish house together were not worth an iota to this man, yet here he was, scrubbing away their filth.

After visiting the men’s room I returned to my table. I presented my card to my server, request that it be given to the dishwasher.

Shortly afterward my comrade came to my table, a sheepish grin and downcast eyes marking his countenance.

We shook hands, I bade him to sit but he begged off, the demands of his job spared little time. However the end of his shift loomed near. I promised to wait until then.

I lingered over the meal, then withdrew to the bar. I confess a weakness for dessert wines. At the bar I sampled the establishment’s many muscatels.

My comrade made his appearance, joined me in my consumptive sport.

Like our brethren warriors throughout the world and back into the furthest reaches of history, we reminisced over our battlefield experiences.

One of the barkeeps was a young woman of obvious delicacy, Being my comrade’s coworker she freely joined our conversation. My comrade and I amused ourselves by prodding the woman’s sensitive sensibilities with shocking tales of horror that might only be spawned from the gruesome, macabre occurrences of the battlefield.

The barkeep’s squeals and moans provided a fitting accompaniment to our nightmarish narrative. We whiled away the evening. Closing time came much too soon.

As I accompanied my comrade to a bus stop, we arranged to meet again.

Later, at my behest, it became our habit to jointly attend cinemas, theaters, museums, public readings. We took many meals together, frequented bars.

The lack of female companionship disturbed neither of us, for we were passing into the time of life for men when such pleasures became unneeded.

In my quest for books I traveled to a bookstore east of the river. That part of the city was known to be inhabited by the most raffish elements of the populace.

After visiting the bookstore, knowing of my comrade’s address, I sauntered down my comrade’s street, supposing only to visit my comrade’s address for the purpose of discerning the nature of it.

It being the weekend many children were about. I marveled at the happiness of the children, for many of the homes in part of the city were in a dreadful state of repair, trash littered the streets, broken down autos cluttered the curbs.

The children seemed happy. I exchanged greetings with several of them.

I found my comrade’s home. It was my intent only to stroll by, making observations in passing. To my dismay my comrade was in his front yard, busily raking leaves.

A few more steps brought me before him. We exchanged greetings. My comrade seemed nervous.

I complemented him on the outward appearance his home.

He explained that he’d inherited it from his parents. The home had been constructed just after World War II, when labor costs were low, when fine woods were available to all.

I asked if I might see the interior of is home.

My comrade acquiesced, though he did mention the upper floor was closed off

Inside the home, I noticed the odor of what I thought was cooking cabbage.

My eyes adjusted to the dim light, I saw that much of the wall space was given over to a collection of framed photographs, mostly black and white.

A young female graced some of the photos, she was quite comely. I assumed she was my comrade’s sister. I complemented my comrade upon his sister’s beauty. In lieu of a reply my comrade seized my arm, drew me to the living room. There I was invited to sit on the couch while my comrade went to the kitchen to brew coffee.

I leaned back. My eyes swept across the room, fell upon an ornate staircase, leading upward. Someone strolled into view. I saw it was the sister of my comrade!

Though many years had passed following the taking of the photographs, the semblance was sure enough. I quickly stood so as to properly introduce myself. Before I could utter a greeting, the sister placed a forefinger to her pursed lips and shook her head.

She motioned for me to sit. As I did so, she hooked her thumb downward toward the kitchen shaking her head, grimacing a most disparaging expression.

The sister turned her right side toward me, keeping her adorable eyes locked to mine by the flirtatious affectation of looking over her shoulder. A twisted little smile became an omen of wicked mischievousness.

She was dressed in a plain white blouse, buttoned over a full skirt which was emblazoned with a pattern of colorful flowers.

In a languorous gesture, as I watched in amazed incredulity, she smoothed down the front panel of her blouse, holding it in against her stomach while at the same time thrusting her well formed, mammalian splendors outward, presenting them in a most provocative manner.

I’ve never considered myself a lady’s man, indeed, quite the opposite. However, the fates have been kind to me in matters of the heart and of the flesh. Though I claim no more knowledge of the fair sex than any of my gender, a lifetime of experience has made me wise in the ways and wants of these exquisite creatures. To my mind there could be no doubt as to the unspoken desire of my comrade’s sister. She sought to engage me in carnal activities.

I considered ascending the stairway. Just as I was about to take action, my comrade entered the room.

Thus diverted, I found myself returned to the harsh reality of daily necessity.

As we drank coffee, I made some discrete queries concerning my comrade’s sister. He artfully avoided any references to her. However, I did learn her name way Maryann.

Maryann –- the name haunted me for days after. My fevered brain brought forth remembered images of her hedonistic actions at the top of the stairway. I lustfully recalled every detail of her exquisite form, her delicate features.

In all modesty I consider my imagination to be world class. Indeed, I have found none better. I became so obsessed with Maryann that she came to dominate my dreams. I dare not mention the details of these dreams, given the depth of the depravities found therein. So authentic were Maryann’s cries of pleasure, so urgently did she call out to me, her dream voice followed me to wakefulness, beseeching my presence and further attentions.

I formulated a plan. Feigning an appetite for crayfish, I inquired of my comrade’s schedule for the next Saturday, proposing that after his shift, we would dine at his place of employment.

The next Saturday I summoned a cab. When I gave the address to the cabby, she seemed reluctant to visit that section of the city. I promised a substantial gratuity, was promptly delivered across the river.

Cabs must have been a novelty in my comrade’s neighborhood. As we pulled up before his home, children gathered ‘round the cab. Their curious stares and excited chattering amused me. After paying the fare, I dismounted to the curb. My mood was buoyed by the presence of the children.

I boldly strode through the gate and up the walk. The children returned to their play.

Confronted by the front door, I felt misgivings. Perhaps I was being too bold, perhaps I had misinterpreted Maryann’s actions, perhaps she had other suitors.

I consider myself a man of action, prefer being condemned for taking action, no matter the result, inactivity being an anathema to me. I pressed the doorbell button. A muffled and melodious chime sounded from deep within the home. After a discrete interval, I again pushed the button.

The door had a small window. I looked through it. Maryann was staring out!

My surprise was so great, I retreated a step. When I returned to the small window, Maryann’s face was gone. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the foyer, I saw that she’d backed halfway into the foyer, smiling her wicked little smile.

I tried the doorknob, it was locked. I called out to Maryann, requesting she allow me entry.

She backed a couple more steps, beckoned me to enter. She then turned, presenting me with her backside. Placing her right hand upon her hip Maryann turned her head over her shoulder, peering back at me with an expression of elfin mischievousness. With her left hand, she beckoned me to follow. Any man who could resist such a beckon should not be considered a man.

I am at the twilight time of life. Thankfully, I still possess some of the robust strength of my youth. I scanned up and down the street. Only the children were about, They seemed deeply engrossed in their games. Satisfied I was unwatched, I put my shoulder to the door with such force that the jamb splintered away from the lock and the top hinge pulled loose from its mounting.

I stumbled through the opening, kicking away broken pieces of wood. I grabbed the door, shoved it back into the doorway.

Maryann had retreated to the landing at the top of the stairwell. I tried to coax her down to me. She smiled at my pleading. I mounted the stairway. Maryann skipped out of sight.

When I reached the top of the stairs, I found a long hallway, dark, dusty, littered with trash. A small window at the distant end allowed some light. There were four doors. Walking up the hallway I tried the nearest three. One was a closet, the other two were bedrooms.

I opened the door to the last bedroom, then entered. Just enough light seeped through the weave of a drawn blind to infuse the room with a soft, golden glow.

My eyes fell upon the form of Maryann. She was stretched out on a bed. She appeared as if the pampered daughter of some ancient, long leisured house of nobility.

She was fully clothed. Her skirt seemed a fallen fan that covered and artfully concealed that which it so effectively outlined.

I went to her, my anxious footsteps providing a fit accompaniment to my wildly beating heart.

I snuggled in next to Maryann, sliding my left arm beneath her head. Close-up the inviting eagerness of her smile seemed wondrous beyond description. I nearly swooned the scent of her perfume.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” said Maryann. “I just knew you’d come back.” Her voice then became hushed, tinged with shame and remorse. “My brother keeps me here for his own perverse pleasure. Many years have I dreamt of a rescuer such as you. I pray you become my champion, deliver me from this house of horrors.”

My heart swelled with love and compassion and concern for this precious lady.

Maryann took my hand into both of hers, then brought my hand to her lips.

Maryann closed her eyes. “Do with me as you will,” she whispered as she gently placed the palm of my hand upon the soft lushness of one breast.

I then made use of Maryann in ways I must not now speak, lest my confession bring forth some dishonor upon her. Suffice to say, my labors so exhausted me that I fell into a deep sleep.

Many years have passed since I last was upon a battlefield. The instincts impressed into one’s very essence by surviving such a trial last lifetime. I alertly awoke to the faint sounds of someone stealthily climbing the stairs.

I tracked the intruder’s progress by occasional ominous creaks of the old stairway.

I assumed the sitting position, feeling about on the floor with one foot, searching for my trousers. My modesty is such that even in distress I would cover my nakedness.

Softly cursing the tinkle of the belt buckle, my feet bare, I tiptoed over to a position next to the closed door. I sought to ambush the ambusher, who I suspected could only be my comrade. Being familiar with his temperament, I knew he would never surrender his sister without a fight.

I naturally assumed I had the advantage. A preemptive counterattack upon an attacker is an ancient and well-test strategy that often breeds success. I knew my eyes would be better adjusted to the darkness than my comrade’s.

My ears detected faint shuffling sounds from the hall. Silence then reigned. My comrade was as experienced in the ways of war as I. Rather than rushing into an unsecured space, my comrade paused, patiently awaiting some betraying noise from within the bedroom.

As silent as a statue, I stood behind the door, off to one side. After what seemed an interminable wait, my comrade stealthily eased his way into the room. With all the power I could muster I slammed the door against him.

Quick as a cat, I sprung out from behind the door. My comrade flipped the light switch. My eyes were momentarily blinded as the single, overhead light bulb flashed to brilliance.

“You!” my comrade exclaimed.

Nothing else was said. We both had once been warriors. We both knew that the situation before us was beyond words.

My comrade was much smaller than I. Blessed with the quickness often inherent to those of such stature, he sprung, his movements a blur of berserk motion.

My comrade delivered a vicious uppercut. Fortunately my constitution is such I shook off the effects. We began to exchange blows with the frenzied passion of men seized by the primordial instincts of survival and possession.

My comrade threw two punches as counter each one of mine. His blows soon became badly directed, for my own strength and power and endurance became the dominating factors.

I grabbed my comrade’s collar, pulled him toward me, slamming rapid punches flat against his face.

My comrade’s knees buckled, we fell to the floor.

I fell atop my comrade. My hands went around his neck.

I supposed at that very moment we both came to the realization of what was to come.

I felt a melancholy tinge of despair as I watched the signs of life slide from my comrade’s visage.

I removed my hands from his neck. In deathly silence, I raised one of his eyelids, gouged out the eye. No one, no matter how stout their heart, can endure such without aversion. It is a sure test of consciousness of an enemy. I saw no such aversion.

Pushing myself up and away from the corpse, I stood. The harsh light of the dangling bulb illuminated details not previously perceived.

The walls were festooned with pages torn from magazines and of computer printouts, all displayed photos or drawings of the most lurid variety. Many were of unclothed women in provocative poses. More than a few of the images were of persons engaged in couplings unnatural in the extreme. The stained wallpaper held scores of such images.

I turned to my right. Still upon the bed was Maryann. My heart came near to a stop. She was not at all as I remembered her. I was struck with a vision so unimaginable that I stumbled in fright as my mind tried to make sense of what was before me.

Maryann’s form and features were withered to a mere shell of what I remembered. Her eyes gaped as black holes in an empty skull, tightly covered with skin so desiccated that its appearance was as parchment. Her mouth, at which I had recently and lovingly suckled, appeared grotesque and grimacing, perhaps frozen in the midst of some ghastly cry.

Maryann’s from further unnerved me, for in the midst of our lovemaking, I had opened her blouse. Exposed to the unrelenting glare of light, her torso became to me a nightmarish vista of hellish, disfigured horrors. Some of her skin had been worn away, revealing yellowed rigs and the cadaverous constraints of her ribcage, which I could see contained nothing that might sustain the living.

Her twin mounts so recently favored by me that I recalled as being as splendorous and delectable as any that might be imagined or experienced were now seen as deflated flaps of skin.

The lovely print skirt that my amorous actions had caused to be bunched up around Maryann’s waist framed her gate of Venus, now a gaping maw of unimaginable hideousness, glistening with the full extent of my most recent issue, obscenely distended to dreadful proportions by years of abuse by my comrade.

I recoiled in horror. The thought that I had recently worshiped at such a debased, loathsome, sickening shrine of abominations pushed me past the edge of reason.

I stumbled over the body of my comrade, withdrew to the hallway. One last terrified glance at my Maryann precipitated a rapid retreat down the stairs.

My comrade had left the broken door ajar. Shoeless and shirtless, I ran down the walkway, screaming mindlessly in effort to release the visions that so mercilessly ripped at my soul.

I fell to my knees, saw a group of children gathered together at a hopscotch court. They clung to one another, seeking mutual protection from my mad cries. When I begged their assistance, they scattered like a flock of startled starlings. I then vomited, fell forward into the pool of my vomit.

I recall the sounds of neighborhood doors slamming, was not the least surprised to shortly thereafter hear the approaching siren of a police cruiser. In that particular ward of the city, police would have constant patrols, could respond quickly to the summons of any child’s parents.

I must now say that as a concerned citizen I have fretted over news accounts of alleged police brutality. As a former member of the armed forces I hold misgivings concerning the modern practice of militarizing the police.

I found my concerns totally unfounded, for the police were entirely correct in their treatment of me.

Within the stark confines of their interrogation room, as I delivered my statement, I was touched by the sensitivity of one of the officers who was a great bull of a man. He was so taken with my recollection of the romance I’d had with Maryann, he wept openly and was subsequently ordered from the room.

I perceived his superior officer as being a hard, unforgiving specimen. Though He had a fearsome appearance. His actions belied his appearance. As he sipped coffee his hand trembled.

No matter. With the help of the police and a most understanding District Attorney, I’ve shifted my residence to a private sanitarium of some repute.

I have no complaints concerning conditions at the sanitarium. The appointments are plush, the staff has been discrete.

It is only a terrible loneliness that bedevils me. I miss my wife, my comrade, my Maryann with such feeling that I truly fear for my sanity.

I consider myself a resourceful and determined person, have resolved to join my loved ones before my mental state declines to the point of discomfiture.

This very night I have managed to free one arm from the restrains used to secure me to my cot. While reciting one last time my litany of recent recollections, I have used natural pauses in the narrative to gnaw judiciously at the inside of my wrist, thus have opened some veins.

My mattress is thoroughly soaked with blood. I am amused to imagine the horrified face of the attendant the next time he shines his accursed light through the window set into the door.

Alas, I must end this narrative, for I feel my life force ebbing. With each throb of my waning pulse I sense the encroaching perceptions of that which is to follow.

Indeed, I see a vision before me. It is of my loved ones beckoning to cross over. I. . .



THE END


2018 C. E. Gee

Bio: C.E. Gee aka Chuck misspent his youth at backwater locales within Oregon and Alaska. Chuck later answered many callings: logger, factory worker, meat packer, Vietnam war draftee infantryman (1968), telecommunications technician, volunteer fireman and EMT, light show roady, farmer, businessperson. Retired from the electronics industry and also a disabled veteran, Chuck now writes Science Fiction.

Website: C. E. Gee

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