There was a sound as if something were in flight. Intermittent static, strange gurgling, and rasping titters sent quick sharp almost painful shivers up his spine. Jim felt nauseous.
Then like waking from a bad dream he heard the first bars of “Something.”
“What in the actual… holy fuck was that?” He muttered.
The cheery mellow romance of the sixties soothed too abruptly. Cosmic horror was cleanly cut from his psyche. And it left him reeling.
He released the needle and picked up the record mid-spin. It appeared normal.
He made it play again.
Within seconds he heard, “Something in the way she moves…”
“That’s it…I’m losing my fuckin’ mind.” He thought.
But why would he imagine something like that? He wasn’t given to nightmares. Even here in this weird lonely place those dreams that he could recall were pleasant.
“Keep it together Jim.” He mumbled attempting to regain his nerve.
“Ye best be keepin’ the ways.”
He wheeled round so fast he almost fell.
There in the center of the parlor was that blasted scarecrow of a woman.
That same perfectly intact smile broke out of her wrinkled face like sunshine through a tattered curtain. She lifted a hand with an extended finger on which hung a ring of keys.
“Didn’t think that the closest thing yer kind had to a wife has wifely privilege?” The grandame chuckled.
“That’s not right.”
“Neither is being a Philistine in Rome.”
“Haven’t ye heard da old sayin?”
“Heard loads but that don’t excuse this. I’m guessin’ ya never had sons cause burstin’ in like this…well ya might see thigns ya rather didn’t.”
“I don’t care bout yer piggishness. That’s afore ye and God what I care is that you’re in Rome and ye do not do as the Romans.”
“Well, good. Cause I heard that Rome fell.”
“Smart…very smart..fool…I see that you’re very much after the new way.”
“Ye think this is all just some kinda game. Believe that everythins’ plain and tidy. That this great thing with it’s stars and the way that Cronin blood plays through yer veins it’s all just so…just cause…it’s gotta be…cause it is…right?”
It took Jim a minute to process all that.
“Yea…makes about as much sense as anythin can.”
She smiled again.
Jim leapt back.
What stood before him was not Lizzy Jennings but a beautiful youth with dirty blonde braids and radiant skin.
At least that’s what he thought he saw. Because just as quick as the satanic vesper had melded into psychedelic rock the old crone was again before him.
Though now he noticed something in her eyes. Something keen and vital in the icy blue. Playful or perhaps tricky that twinkle was unsettling. He’d seen it before in some Union guys. They were young but possessed by something…older…something wiser and that combination of vigor and insight was formidable. It was off putting.
“Why da ya jump bout like a frightened bunny? If the world is just so?”
“Look could you please promise me that ye won’t just bust on in here without knockin?”
“So long as ye can promise to keep the ways.”
Jim sighed again and began to protest.
But Lizzy held up a finger. “It don’t matter. Ye can’t convince me ‘gainst what I know. The Lord can see into the heart. And from time to time he even let’s sinner see the heart’s o others. This is why we know ye are a fool. Why we have halved your pay till ye comply.”
Jim pondered for a bit.
“No! I won’t be able to make rent…Barragan will fuckin’ skin me. It don’t matter if I’m on the moon. He’ll fuckin’ skin me.”
Lizzy laughed. “Now if only ye were as afraid of them that could destroy the soul same as them that can destroy the body.”
“I don’t take kindly to folk trying to scare me.” Jim said coldly.
Lizzy shook her head and muttered, “Folk,” with a wry disdain.
Jim stamped his foot.
“I’m afraid there’s nothin’ I can do about it. Ye may live…I suppose…but even if ya do…you might not find livin’ as pleasant.”
“Is that a threat?”
“If I wanted to harm ye,” she said dangling the keys again. “I coulda done it a dozen times over.”
“Frankly, I don’t much care about ye. Too brash too removed from worship…”
“There’s that religion shit again.” Jim shook his head.
“Nah…ain’t no religion…this is older magic than Abraham…than order…than yer new England tidiness…that factory faith o yers…no….”
“That sounds real religious…”
“No I don’t care for ye…but I do care for keepin things untangled…and as that bastird faith would have it…only a fool can untie the knot.”
She turned and headed for the door.
Pausing at the threshold she said. “I only wanted to save ye some trouble. But ye have the heart of Absalom. The heart of a fool.”
Jim was at a loss as the door shut calmly behind her.
The muffled sound of hooves on grassland reached his ears and he headed for the liquor.
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