Hollow Moon Part 14
- Hollow Moon Part 1
- Hollow Moon Part 2
- Hollow Moon Part 3
- Hollow Moon Part 4
- Hollow Moon Part 5
- Hollow Moon Part 6
- Hollow Moon Part 7
- Hollow Moon Part 8
- Hollow Moon Part 9
- Hollow Moon Part 10
- Hollow Moon Part 11
- Hollow Moon Part 12
- Hollow Moon Part 13
- Hollow Moon Part 14
- Hollow Moon Part 15
- Hollow Moon Part 16
- Hollow Moon Part 17
- Hollow Moon Part 18
- Hollow Moon Part 19
- Hollow Moon Part 20
- Hollow Moon Part 21
- Hollow Moon Part 22
- Hollow Moon Part 23
- Hollow Moon Part 24
- Hollow Moon Part 25
- Hollow Moon Part 26
- Hollow Moon Part 27
- Hollow Moon Part 28
- Hollow Moon Part 29
- Hollow Moon Part 30
- Hollow Moon Part 31
- Hollow Moon Part 32
- Hollow Moon Part 33
- Hollow Moon Part 34
- Hollow Moon Part 35
The Reverend was the talk of the town the next morning. He had gone to a local bar (one of four in Fletcher, population 776) and drank more alcohol than he could handle. He awoke in the alley behind the establishment. His clothing was muddy from the dirt behind the saloon, and he had been lying in it for quite some time from what he could tell. Even the Reverend’s hair was matted with mud. He looked like a distasteful morsel that a giant cat had spit out onto the ground. That’s precisely the way he felt, too.
The Chief Gossip was the first to the scene, not surprisingly. Instead of chastising him, as everyone was expecting her to do, she helped him to his feet, wrapped one of her best fur coats around him, and walked toward their house beside him. Shock and awe filled the conversations inside the now-closed bar, which stayed open an extra two hours just to discuss the Bandersnatches.
“You embarrassed me, ya’ know,” Jean Bandersnatch said once they were out of earshot.
“You embarrassed me, too,” replied the Reverend.
“I know. I—I didn’t think you’d leave me, though. What was ya’ thinkin’, goin’ an’ getting’ drunk at the pub last night?”
“I was thinkin’ I’d lost ya’. There was nothin’ else ta’ be done. You and that Deacon—Pritchard—are…well, ya’ know, Jean, I just can’t talk ‘bout that right now. I need me a shower and a change a’ clothes. I’ve got a church ta’ look after.”
The Reverend removed his arm from her grasp, unwrapped himself from her fur coat, and handed it back to her without looking. He walked on ahead of her toward their house. It was once a home, but that status was now questionable. The Chief Gossip stamped her foot and stood where she had been left. She would not take this quietly, or at all.
Esk met Dr. Severius in his office the next morning in his now customary manner, turning circles in his office chair. Dr. Severius was at a loss as to how Esk got in before he did, and how Esk got in at all. He was not on any visitor’s log. Dr. Severius had asked the guard at the gate if he had seen anyone else, and the warden was the only other person to have come through that morning.
“Esk. What a surprise. Are you ready to go and see the prisoner that we interviewed yesterday?”
“Yes, I am eager to see his progress.”
“Well, I’m not sure we’ll see any progress just yet. It was only an initial interview. The research hasn’t even begun, my friend.”
“Perhaps not, but we may yet see progress this morning,” Esk remarked.
Dr. Severius’s curiosity was piqued. How could Esk, being as intelligent as he was, think that a simple initial interview with a psychopath would yield any immediate progress in less than 24 hours? Something more was going on, and Dr. Severius was bent on finding out what it was.
Sam went to work at the steel manufacturing plant where he had worked as a welder for 11 years. His mind was elsewhere, mostly on where Esk could have gone. Sam thought that Esk might have been scared away for good after the previous day’s hullabaloo in church. He also considered the possibility that Esk was sick—he had been coughing up those green balls of sticky, hairy goo lately. Sam was worried. He took off early from work and went back to the cabin to see if Esk would turn up there.
Jean Bandersnatch decided that, instead of being miserable, she would seek out someone who would care for her in her time of need. The Deacon Pritchard would do just fine. Deacon Pritchard’s doorbell rang several times. He was in the shower and hurried out in nothing but a pink bath towel to answer the door. Seeing Jean, he blushed and pulled her inside, slamming the door behind her.
“What ‘er ya’ doin’ here, Jean?”
“Well, Lawrence, I’m in distress. Ya’ see, my husband and I had a fight an’ I got no place ta’ go an’ nobody ta’ talk to.”
“You and the Reverend have gotta get this under control. Ya’ hear me? I’m a scandalous figure now in this here town, an’ it’s all b’cause a’ you. Ya’ can’t just—”
The Chief Gossip kissed the Deacon Pritchard deeply and stopped him mid-sentence. Her embrace brought his own arms around her body, sending his bath towel tumbling to the floor. Jean Bandersnatch always got what she wanted. That was how she had always operated, and she liked it that way. It was her way.
Esk followed a step behind the good doctor as they passed Cell Blocks A through D and entered solitary confinement. Dr. Severius will be shocked to see the progress that this research subject has made since yesterday afternoon. Last night’s examination and reprogramming session went well, I thought. Entering through the pores instead of the orifices really does give a more thorough assessment of what is occurring in the being’s system, and much more quickly. He did not even pass out until I was finished. That is an improvement. The neural connection that I created in his brain should be functioning by now. We shall see… The inmate showed terror when Esk entered the small space that he occupied. Dr. Severius was confused. Esk stood still and observed the situation.
“Why are you cringing?” Dr. Severius asked the captive.
“It’s him! He, he, it’s him!” the man screamed, pointing at Esk.
“Why are you frightened?” asked Dr. Severius.
“He’s a, a…” the prisoner could not finish his sentence.
“I will come back with a sedative. Wait right here,” said Dr. Severius, hastily leaving through the locked doors to grab a syringe of haloperidol from the infirmary.
This left the research subject alone with Esk. Esk took a step toward the cornered individual. Screams issued from the man’s vocal cords and no one except the other prisoners in solitary confinement could hear him.
“What are you afraid of? You are a psychopath. Are you now afraid?” Esk asked.
“Ye-yes, I’m afraid. I’m afraid. Don’t you worry. I’m afraid,” the subject admitted, shaking violently.
“Good,” Esk replied, just as Dr. Severius returned with a syringe full of antipsychotic to calm the prisoner.
“Here, roll up your sleeve,” Dr. Severius said, administering the shot, “it’ll be better momentarily.”
The research subject laid down on the floor and passed out in a pool of his own sweat and urine. Dr. Severius asked Esk if the inmate had said anything that could offer a clue as to why he was so panicked in Esk’s presence. Esk told Dr. Severius that he said nothing of consequence. Dr. Severius began to suspect that there was more to the story but could not figure out what exactly. Why would a psychopath suddenly be fearful? Why would he fear Esk, of all people? Psychopaths were not known to fear much at all within the prison system…or in life in general. Fear would mean that the psychopath’s limbic system was suddenly working. Limbic systems were hard-wired for the most part in adult psychopaths. Or were they?
Esk left Dr. Severius’s office once the report was written for the day. Dr. Severius watched Esk enter the men’s room and followed him in, only to find Esk gone once he got there. No windows existed in the restroom. How could Dr. Severius have missed Esk passing him on the way out? Dr. Severius was even more determined than ever to figure out the mysterious Esk.
Meanwhile, Esk had translated himself to the woods just outside Sam’s cabin. Upon walking in the door, Sam met him.
“I been so worried ‘bout’cha, Esk! Where ya’ been? I’m so sorry ‘bout what happened with the Bandersnatches yesterday at church. There was no good reason fer that ta’ happen there and I apologize for ‘em actin’ that way in the Lawd’s house. I’s afraid ya’ wasn’t comin’ back,” Sam said.
“The Bandersnatches cannot scare me away, Sam. This is home, unless I am mistaken. I am home,” Esk said.
Sam gave Esk a big hug and then offered to cook him an early supper. Esk had a request.
“Can we have dippin’ eggs, Sam?”
“A’ ‘course we can!”
The Chief Gossip laid in bed with a sheet only half covering her nakedness. The Deacon Pritchard was taking another shower. Jean played with the curls in her dark hair, congratulating herself on having seduced Lawrence Pritchard yet again, and having done so under such disreputable circumstances. She could—and would—ruin every man she touched. If she laid eyes on a man she wanted, she would have him, no matter the stakes or the obstacles. It was never her fault, either. Yes, Jean Bandersnatch was a true psychopath. Worse, she was loose amongst the population at large.
Esk reported his progress to the Council. The Eskerektul Council was pleased with his research on the psychopath in the prison thus far. Instilling fear in the psychopath—manufacturing that neural connection—was pure genius on Esk’s part, and he knew it. The Council granted him permission to experiment further so that he could ultimately find out how the Gossips communed with the dead and if it had anything to do with this cannibalistic psychopathy. Esk had not found any cannibalistic tendencies in this test subject yet, but he was sure that he would. Esk just had to keep Dr. Severius at bay while he worked.
Image by Chouaib Saoud via Pixabay