It all started with the nightmares. The remembering. The memories.
The nightmares ate Stan up, consuming his flesh and leaving dark purplish stains under his eyes. He woke up each night screaming silently in to the darkness, the coppery taste of blood still permeating the air. At first he couldn’t remember much of the dreams except for the blood. Gradually more and more was revealed. Blue eyes. A song someone would hum. This went on for a month until he became a walking zombie and decided to seek therapy to get to the root of the problem.
He stood there outside the office, a mere ghost of the man he had been 3 months ago. He paced back and forth, nervously tugging at the collar of his shirt as if the office made him uncomfortable or itchy. The psychologist came out, walking with the reckless but careful manner alphas have and flashed a set of perfectly white teeth that contrasted well with his dark skin.
“Hello, my name is Jacob” he boomed his voice both warm and commanding as he steered Stan into his sparsely decorated office. “Come on in.”
Stan entered and sat, his fingers nervously tapping an erratic beat on the chair handle as his eyes darted from the Monet on the left wall to various inspirational posters in the room. Jacob sat quietly in his seat and observed for awhile before speaking up in a mellow conversational tone.
“You seem uncomfortable. Is the there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?”
“Ha, maybe if you could rewrite history or something.” Stan barked, his head jerking to the side before receding into his shell and apologizing. “Sorry, didn’t mean to snap. It’s just I have a history with psychologists and it ain’t pretty.”
“Tell me about it,” Jacob said shifting his weight forward and adopting a bland but interested expression.
Clearing his throat, Stan begun. The story came in fits and starts but as he caught his stride it started flowing more naturally.
It all started after my sister died. She was six years old and I was twelve at that time. This may sound strange but I can’t remember how she died. I don’t remember much about what happened the week before or after she died. I only remember the little my parents told me. So I don’t know how much of this is what I remember and how much is what my parents told me.
I remember clutching the yellow and baby blue blanket she loved so much and laying in her bed and humming. I can’t remember what I was thinking or feeling, all I know is I was just rocking to and fro. There were no tears. Not then. And I wouldn’t move, it was as if my limbs were locked and I just rocked and rocked and hummed that song she loved so much.
Stan pauses and swallows, and hums a song from Hansel and Gretel. He seems to get lost in the moment until Jacob clears his throat. After a moment of silence he continues his story.
My parents tried everything. Begging, yelling, bribes but nothing worked to raise me from my half dead stupor. Two days later when it became apparent that I wasn’t going to get up, they called a psychiatrist to come look at me. He walked in and it was as if all the air was sucked from the room and I felt I couldn’t breath.
“Hello Stanley,” his said, his pinched face barely moving to form the words that dropped from his mouth like stones. I remember being indignant because no one called me Stanley. But I didn’t say anything. Just continue rocking and humming. He stood there like a vulture waiting to gorge. After some time passed he shifted and turned to my parents who had been entering and leaving while wringing their hands purposelessly.
“I will have to medicate him.” He said without any inflection. He proceeded to get a syringe out and pump me full of some medicine. The daily doses left me like a zombie for most of my childhood. Each day was a walking nightmare of grey hazy scenes I can barely remember. Too be honest I can’t remember much about what happened until I was 17 and I was finally deemed sane enough to stop taking it.
Stan stammered to a stop, his eyes lost in the memory of his lost history. Jacob cleared his throat and brought Stan lurching back to the present.
“I can see how that would make you nervous around people in my profession. But rest assured. My job is just to sit in this chair and listen and try to look intelligent. No pills, no shots, nothing but my attention and some questions. Which leads me to ask, you mentioned seeing blue eyes in your nightmares? Can you remember anything that would tie to that?”
Stan paused for a moment thinking and then begun to explain.
It’s the Boy who could speak to God. I remember he had these big eerie blue eyes that can only be described as beautiful. The cataracts that made him blind were artistically arranged almost as if to add ironic insult to injury. I distinctly remember the first time I met him. It was near the park. He lived under the third lamp post in a little makeshift tent that someone must have erected for him. I was bouncing a ball, a rubber spider-man ball, alone in the park when it got away from me and rolled over to where he was sitting with his begging bowl.
“Hey!” I shouted over, “Can you throw it back?”
He turned to the direction of my voice and said in a surprisingly deep voice “I can’t. God said not to move.”
Intrigued and somewhat annoyed I ran over and grabbed my ball. As I turned to leave I sneered in his direction and said “You can’t talk to God stupid. He’s way up high in the sky and he can’t hear a stupid head like you anyway.”
“He’s not. He’s right here next to me. And the Devil too. They argue a lot.” He exclaimed, patting to the spots next to him causing little puff of dust to fly of his threadbare blanket.
I don’t know why I chose to sit down that day. Maybe boredom. Maybe fate. Maybe the hand of God. Who knows? But sit down I did, and he told me stories. Wondrous stories of fights in heaven and hell and how God and the Devil used to be friends but got in a fight over a woman. From that day forward I would bring him food and sit next to him and listen. We became really good friends as children will. My parents didn’t mind since it was teaching me to appreciate those of a different class.
Stan laughed abruptly and said, “You ask a simple question and here I go telling you my life story. But yea, the blue eyes are definitely Zeus.”
“It’s perfectly fine, talk as much as you would like. You never know what can help us get to the bottom of what is causing these nightmares. Now tell me about your sister.” Jacob responded.
Stan opened his mouth to begin and like a ball of tinfoil crushed with some force his face simply crumpled into itself and he begun to weep silently. Angrily dashing the tears from his eyes he tried to begin again but nothing escaped him mouth but breathy strains of the hum. He begun rocking back and forth and whispered hoarsely
“I don’t know! I can’t remember her.”
“It’s OK. Don’t worry, you’re fine.” Jacob’s voice was low and hypnotic as he continued to murmur soft assurances until Stan’s flushed face returned to its normal pale color. “I think that’s enough for today. Same time tomorrow and you can tell me more.”
This continued on for months. Each session lasting until Stan’s sister came up and he couldn’t bear it and broke down. They talked about everything from Stan’s first sexual experience to what he had done with his life. But always the conversation would always go back to the boy who could talk to God and the sister. Finally once it became apparent that they could go no further without something changing the playing card Jacob announced that they would have to find the whereabouts of Zeus.
“Do you have any idea how we could go about finding him?” Jacob asked after telling Stan his decision.
“No, I really don’t know. I lost track of pretty much everything once they started drugging me blind.”
“How about your parents? Would they know?” Jacob queried. “I notice you also don’t mention them much.”
“Well, my dad committed suicide pretty soon after she died. And my mom had dementia so nothing she says is going to be of any use.” Stan replied, dryly as if reporting the weather.
Jacob paused, lips pursed, as if undecided on whether to pursue the revelations of whether to focus on the problem at hand. After a moment of internal struggle highlighted in his expressions his face cleared and he cleared his throat.
“Normally I would address something as heavy as what you revealed immediately but I think it all stems from what we have been talking about so I shall continue along this path. Tell me everything there is to know about Zeus. This is highly unprofessional but a wife of an FBI agent owes me a favor that I think will help us get the answers we need.” Jacob spoke, his face resolute and determined, only the clenching of his hands revealing that he realized he may have invested too deeply in this case.
They talked for some more minutes, Jacob taking good notes that could be used to identify Zeus. Stan talked animatedly with the nervous energy that people who have crossed beyond that border of exhaustion possess. His proud roman nose now seemed to sit wrongly on a face whose muscles seemed to forget how to hold up the cheeks. His skin was sallow and wrinkled drawing comparisons to a candle sagging under its own weight and drowning in the wax.
“I don’t want to get your hopes up because Zeus could be dead, in a different country or in a hundreds other situations that would make it impossible to reach him. Bu I do believe that if we can find him we will finally get some answers.” Jacob said, patting the older man on the shoulder. “Until I hear anything, there is no point having more sessions as we are unable to progress much further unless we uncover the blockage. “
The days that followed were halting and seemingly never-ending to Stan. He lurched from place to place, unable to stay still for any length of time. Sleep was a memory of times gone by as each time his eyes closed he drowned in a sea of blood and the humming invaded his subconscious and he would wake screaming from even a 10 minute nap. When the phone finally rang he sprang and grabbed it with the ferocity of a starving feral cat.
“Hello? Hello!?” he nearly shouted into the phone, “Did you find him?”
“Yes, come to my office and we shall discuss it.” Jacob said his voice controlled and studiously monotone.
Tearing through stop lights and barely avoiding accidents, Stan made it to the office by some miracle both unscathed and in record time. He sprinted into the building, not even pausing to greet the pretty receptionist as was his custom and blasted into Jacob’s office.
“Sit.” Jacob’s tone was firm and came as breath of cold wind to calm Stan’s fiery spirit. Stan sat, his heaving body struggling to return to a balance.
“I found him. But I don’t know if it would be the best idea to expose you to him.” Jacob began his face scrunching as he concentrated on selecting the correct words. “Your friend is on death row. For murder. And you are in a pretty delicate condition right now. I don’t think this would be the best place for you.”
Stan sat rooted in his chair for what seemed eternity trying to process the information. Confusion was evident on his face as he examined his past. Almost to himself, he whispered
“Why am I not shocked?”
Then as if possessed, he springs upward, his eyes burning brightly and his nostrils flaring he forcefully exclaims.
“I have to see him! I need to get to the bottom of this. I am barely alive as it is, and unless I understand what is going on I will never be able to sleep. I’ll go mad!”
He stopped, and just stood there. A deflated balloon of a man crumpled as if all the air had been expelled with his forceful argument, he stood there waiting. Jacob sat and thought, his elegant fingers tapping his desk as his brow furrowed and released.
“I can’t think of any other solution besides medication which you have already said isn’t an option.” Jacob said, “Seems this is the only option.”
As they walked into the prison, Jacob gripped Stan by the back of the elbow to stabilize him as they walked in. It was quite the picture of contrast, one strong and vital and the other weak and ailing. After finalizing the required procedures to enter the prison they were led to a room with a table and two chairs. Stan sat in the one chair and Jacob stood by the door. The tension in the room was palpable, a wave of near solid pressure that chained their mouths shut. They sat and waited in the silence.
The door opened and a tall lanky man walked in, the chains on his feet rustling and scraping gratingly against the concrete floor. His kinky hair was over grown and fell to his shoulders in an unkempt mess of knots. The guard led him in and shoved him into the chair opposite Stan and growled
“You have 15 minutes, don’t try nuthin.”
They sat there in silence after the guard receded to the other room and simply observed each other. Suddenly Zeus’s mouth split into a grimace that looked like a smile and said in his deep voice.
“Uh,” Stan stammered shocked, “ye-Yes, how did you know?”
“Don’t be silly Stan, I’ve been waiting for you. God told me that you would come when you left that day. So I have been here waiting.” Zeus stated matter of factually. “Who is your friend over there?”
“Uh-uhm, that’s Jacob.” Stan said, still in shock. “My psychologist.”
“Why do you need a psychologist?” Zeus asked.
“I have been having nightmares. It’s actually why I am here. You’re in them. “
“Tell me about it.” Zeus said
“It’s dark out. And I am walking down the street. And I hear the song from Hansel and Gretel. And then next thing I know there is blood everywhere and I am drowning it. Gallons and gallons of blood is pouring from everywhere and I am screaming and then everything is black and your eyes are the moons and sun. If I don’t wake up it starts over. Again and again.”
“He said this would happen. I didn’t think so, especially since Satan said he would steal your memories. But it looks like you are remembering what happened to Bethel.”
As if a switch had flipped on, Stan’s visage changed and became bestial. His long fingers seemed to become claws and his drooping face became less sad and pathetic and more that of a ravenous wolf. Flecks of foam speckled his lips as he leapt at Zeus screaming at the top of his lungs.
“How dare you fucking say her name! How dare you!” he screamed, his eyes rolling madly in the sockets as if they had lost purpose. He clawed at Zeus face like a savage animal, screaming profanities and constantly repeating
“How dare you say her name!”
Zeus made no move to defend himself but simply sat there and bore the determined but ineffectual attacks. The guard quickly came into the room but was stopped by Jacob’s lifted arm and head shake.
Stan exhausted from lack of sleep and anxiety collapsed half on Zeus’s lap and half on the floor, sobbing and whispering his sister’s name.
“Bethel, bethel…” he whispered like a mantra, rocking back and forth like a child as the tears flowed freely from him face. Zeus held him and rocked him, his face unreadable, and his beautiful blind blue eyes staring sightlessly into the depths of Stan’s heart.
The fifteen minutes came and passed and the two men remained locked, rocking to and fro. Then after eternity, Stan looked up and spoke.
“That’s why you’re here isn’t it. Because of he-Bethel.”
“Yes, they said I killed her and locked me up.”
“But you didn’t kill her. You didn’t did you? You were there though. It’s coming back now. We were walking. The three of us. I remember!”
The last was a shouted phrase that seemed to release the air that had stopped from the room and everyone began breathing again. Tears were still streaming down Stan’s face as he began to laugh, a shrill harsh tone.
“She was so pretty, the two pink bows in her hair and her brand new shoes. She was so excited because it was her first time hanging out with us. Oh God! The gun. Why did I pick it up?! I killed her. I killed her! Oh the blood, it’s everywhere.”
Stan devolved into fits of tears, his body convulsing as the pain wracked through him. Through it all Zeus just sat as still as a statue and stroked Stan’s limp hair. Jacob stood in the corner, his body twitching as he fought with himself, every fiber of his being wanting to stop this but knowing that to interrupt would cause incalculable damage.
“I killed her. I shot her. Why did I pick it up? Why did you let me pick it up!” Stan shouted, trying to turn his anger and misery to Zeus but before he could rally the strength he collapsed again. “No, I killed her, and you were punished for it. Oh God, what have I done!?”
“It’s ok. God said this would happen.” Zeus finally spoke.
“No, fuck your God crap! God doesn’t speak to you! You’re just a deluded freak with multipersonalities or something! Stop that God crap, I’m not 12 anymore!”
For the first time since walking into the room Zeus face changed as the mask he wore dropped for a moment and everyone in the room glimpsed the depth of pain and horror that Zeus had experienced. Then as quickly as it appeared, it disappeared and his face was again serene.
“I know you’re in pain and you don’t know what you’re saying. God says you should always forgive. Just like I forgave you when you stopped coming and then you told them that I did it in court. Satan wanted me to hate you, but I didn’t.” Zeus spoke as if explaining complex matters to a child.
“I’m so sorry.” The words escaped as a gasp from Stan’s mouth. “I’m so sorry. So so sorry.”
“It’s ok, I got three meals a day and a bed and no one threw rocks at me. So overall it wasn’t that bad. And I had God and Satan to keep me company so I didn’t get bored.” Zeus said softly still stroking Stan’s hair. Stan’s sobs had lessened to slight hiccups and slowly, like a bubble floating, his eyes drifted close and for the first time in years he fell deep into undisturbed sleep. The two men sat locked in each others armed in the middle of the room with Jacob and the guard looking on voyeuristically at this intimate moment of peace unable to do more than witness this experience that blurred the boundaries between humanity and divinity.