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The Man in the Hat

December 08, 2009

Redemption is three staged. His voice was rusted and full of grit. The light gave away nothing of his figure, save for the outline of a flat-brimmed hat. In fact, had he not been speaking, he would had gone unnoticed standing in the corner of the room. Leave me alone! I dont have time for you. You must let me be. You dont understand. No. No. Get Away. The old wooden floor creaked and moaned as the frantic young man paced back and forth. He was crying childishly. The lone light hanging above the door revealed a face soaked in snot and tears. It wasnt fair. You werent there. You dont understand. You dont! He dropped to the floor, wrapping his arms around his legs and dropping his head into his lap. Slightly rocking back and forth, he whimpered pathetically. He gave no thought to the fact that he should be, by all rights, alone. I pass no judgment on you. I could care less to, citizen of Dis. You have done wrong; A great wrong indeed. Expect no pity nor assail from me. I cant heavy the heart and you weigh what you weigh. Youre a man of sin, you act in sin, and you shall burn in sin. The sobbing man pulled his head up from his knees and squinted in the direction of the hated-man. Who the hell are you!? Why cant I see you! Leave me alone! You dont know me! There was a vicious taste of salt in his mouth. His left hand felt heavy. I know you well enough to know you need to hear what I say, should you ever walk out this room alive. He was shaking now. The last couple of hours were a blur. Trying to remember them was like remembering a dream, random memories washed together and out of place. And there was where he wanted to keep them. Who... His voice trailed into a sob. It was well past midnight. Rain lashed against the window. The wind blew ghosts and wights between the drops, shrieking as it changed the direction of the rain. Nightmares and ghouls lived outside. Precarious and perverted was life to bring upon such a day as this. He tightened his grip and turned to the window. Go away! Horrors and demons, the lot of you! You rattle and you defile, you scheme and you toil, but all in futility. Just leave me be. Stop this great machine. You grind and grind the gears until they are but wheels. Leave me be. I plead of you. In rage he had rose from the floor. Seemingly delirious, he began pacing the room once more. Why has this happened to me? Because redemption is three staged, and it seems you are stuck on the first.

2 The man again fell to his elbows sobbing. He could feel the hated-mans eyes watching him, but he didnt care, he didnt even know who he was. Slowly his thoughts began to drift from that moment: that lone light by the door, that thrashing rain on the window, from that shadowy room, and that empty lonely feeling. And it felt good, almost. Time turned back. The juxtaposition was overwhelming; a bright white light came from the window. It caused him to squint. He looked around the room they were all so proud of him. He could tell, even though the light had turned their faces and figures into silhouettes. As he turned back to the mirror, vacant muscles on his face came to life once more. A woman stood behind him with arms on his shoulders and a golden cross on her neck. Unlike the others in the room her face was apparent, a white smile between red lips a face proud of her boy turned man. Remember. She had said. Should you ever need anything, I am here to help you. Forever and always. A crack of lightning snapped time back to the present, and thunder rumbled the desk and dresser. He had stopped crying, but felt feeble. All his concentration was spent on restraining the urge to shake, which he did anyways. He was cold and his arms were crossed across his chest. Do you remember now? Why you hate yourself so? The man in the corner began. Do you see their faces? The father, mother and boy? He paused. Damn youre a pitiful beast, a monster in need of shackle and chain. The words snarled at him, full of resentment. You remember, I know you do, I can see it in your eyes. So tell me, bastard of God, what is it you did? And he did remember He clearly saw their faces. The mother and father both had blue eyes, but the childs were unclear. His face was full of innocent fear. It caught him so. A rock lodged in his throat. He began to feel sick again. Tears rolled from dry eyes. I I killed them. I didnt. God, no Between sobs and moans he muttered needed help and accident. The images flashed in his mind, burning as they came and went. It was the lobby of his apartment: a rustic grandfather clock and three couches. The room was empty. A storm was beginning outside. It was late in the night, probably just morning. Feelings woke, pinched and poked. He was cold. Sweating. Frantic, but with purpose. They walked in. They looked at him. How dare they! Them so part of it all! A fury awoke. A clock drummed once. Images kept flashing, he didnt want to remember. They were scared. His gun came out and he yelled. Bang. Bang. Bang. The smell of gunpowder was potent. He turned away and pictured them lying there in each others blood and whimpered in a quivering tongue, You are but the shadow and this is but the stage, light will set and ears fall silent upon your applause.

3 He was looking at the grandfather clock; it hadnt been wound in some time. The hands formed a smile on its face and the golden pendulum hung down its neck. In the glass he saw his reflection; a boy turned man. Forever and always. Remembering was overwhelming. His stomach felt tight as vomit fell from his mouth. He sat up and dragged himself to the wall opposite the hated-man. He looked at his left hand. Acknowledge a wrong; the first stage of redemption. The man in the corner said. I am here to help you she had told him forever and always. He had tried so hard to find her but failed. Sitting with his head against the wall, he felt worthless. He rubbed his eyes; they burned in their sockets. Rage filled him. Shut up!! He yelled at the window, reaching out for something with his right hand. It fell on a hardcover book. A few seconds later it was through the window, allowing the wind and rain to break in. No His breathing picked up, it was harder to catch a breath. Dont! Stay away please no no no they will be coming, any moment now. He was on his feet pacing. Ive let them in. What have I done? The rain spat around the room. Quiet! The man in the corner snarled. Their coming is inevitable. They come for us all. You can no longer hide like the coward you are. Whimpering and alone. You woke them to your presence and they come with lustful hunger. The frantic man kept looking at the window, and then away. He could feel eyes on him. Glass shards were on the floor. Lightning cracked again. Fix it! Fix the window. Please!! Hmph. Came the grunt from the shadow of the room. There is no fixing what you have done. So again I will tell you: redemption is three staged. I dont I dont understand. What do you want from me? Please. I dont know. Stop the rain. Stop them. I hear them. They come. The man paused. He raised a trembling hand to his lips. Why did I leave my room? Why did I even leave here? I shouldnt have. He was trying to remember. Help. I was looking for help. God, what have I done? I washelp his words trailed into a sob. The glass was now sitting in a puddle of rain on the floor. And then it came back to him. YOU! The frantic man yelled toward the shadow in the corner, YOU! YOU SENT ME OUT THERE! YOU SENT ME DOWNSTAIRS! ITS YOUR FAULT I KILLED THEM!! You will not yell at me, Prince of Abaddon!! I sent you from here to find help. To find her to find your mother. She was there for you. Forever and always she had said. I told you to get out of here, to better yourself, to walk free and leave your failings alone. But here you are. No better but worse. The frantic man remembered. It was true; he needed help. As he looked to his desk, a shudder ran through his spine. He turned over his left hand. My god... Why did I do it? Tell me! It must be your fault! It was as much my fault as it was the person that taught you to walk. It was your own failure to seek help Your own resentment and confusion that lead you off course. You had a simple task, and you failed at even that. To find help how hard can that be? Youre useless and pathetic and worth less than spit. He didnt know what to say or what to do. One thing kept repeating in his mind. I wanted to find help. I wanted to find help. Yes, understanding your intention, what led you to do wrong, that is the second stage of redemption.

4 Redemption? Why do you keep saying that? What chance do I have? I dont deserve it. An eternal one? To be saved and to sit among before the Almighty? No, cretin, you do not. You failed to live a Godly life. So make no mistake, you shall burn. What I speak of is a mortal redemption Suddenly heavy footsteps could be heard outside in the hallway, then the sound of claws scrapping on walls. Gradually a low throaty moan began to breed from beyond. The frantic man brought his hands up to his ears and began to hum and rock in place. They come closer. I hear them. The hated man continued. But only a mortal redemption to learn to live with what you are, to live with what you have done can stay their hand, and keep them away. That is what I can give you. The hated man motioned toward the where the rain broke in. They come, echoed the room. The lone light by the door began to flicker and the pots and pans in the kitchen began to rattle. The moan, now moans, grew louder. They were so close. The frenetic man could hear and feel nothing over the relentless thudding of his heart; his whole body shook. Okay okay. Tell me! You! You in the hat! You must! Please! What do I need to do? Please stop them! I know why they come. They wish to tear me from my limbs and take each one back to the abyss they came. There my head will roast upon a spit while a pack of crows feast upon my eyes. My lament will be sung by the choir of agony, howls of torment and despair so deafening it bleeds the ears. And all the while Ill bear witness to my mutilation, without a sense not intact. No, no. It cant happen. No please. What must I do!? You must pass the third stage of redemption. A bash rocked the door on its hinges. Blood began to drip from the ceiling. The light was sporadic. The door was hit again. Thud. And again. Thud. Thud. It would break any moment. There is a scale. On one side is the first stage of redemption your wrong. And the other is the second your intentions. The hated mans voice picked up in rate and level to overcome the noise around them. To receive moral redemption your intentions must outweigh your wrong. Wrongs can only be balanced by rights; your intentions must be pure. So tell me, Traveler of the Styx, did your intentions outweigh your wrong? His mind was racing. It jumbled past and present. He had just wanted to find help, to have her hold him once more. Forever and always she had said. His intentions were noble and just. His thoughts of her were of white and peace and connection and belonging, of heaven and angels. There was happiness there before the hands on the clock stole it away; mixing white with muck, peace with chaos, disconnecting and isolating, replacing heaven and angels with hell and demons. He could feel the anger now. He saw that family lying in each others blood. He was responsible. No Of course they dont. Of course my scale tips toward my wrong. I killed three innocent people because I was I was what? Looking for help?! What do I do? What do I do? What do I do? THUD! The door cracked and splintered. Wails and moans screeched into the room. The frantic man jumped around, and began noticing his room being engulfed. Blood, still dripping from the ceiling, covered his dresser, slowly creeping down the sides and draws. They opened and shut steadily; severed hands reached out of them. The sound of breaking glass snatched his attention. In the broken light, he caught glimpses of his mirror, now shattered in the top left corner. Empty faces could be seen in the reflection, no eyes, no mouth, and no nose. SMASH! One of the faces bashed into the mirror from the other side and cracked the glass some more. They were trying to break through. Look at me!! The man in the hat yelled over this orchestra of anguish. There is still hope for you. Its possible to build on your intentions until they do outweigh your wrong. Listen to me! It might take a

5 lifetime of good intentions to tip the scale, but you can learn to live with yourself. I offer you this one chance, start adding to the right side of the scale, and forestall this judgment! Squeals could be heard from his mattress on the floor. Another flash of the light reveled pigs with their necks slit open lying in his bed, black ooze spewing out. Books fell from the cabinets as the room rumbled. THUD! The door handle fell to the floor. Its not possible. I cant.. I did so much evil. A debt that could never be paid.. I am damned, now and forever. He sobbed the words and fell to his knees with all manner of Hell around him. His left hand gripped hard around the gavel. Then you are truly lost and all you fear shall come true. The man in the hat raised his hand. A gun pointed toward the sobbing mans head. The blind never see the way, the lost never find the way, and the weak never walk the way. The door crashed open. Forever and always. Through tear filled eyes, the man on the floor could see down the barrel of the gun, and to the black abyss beyond.

It was barely dawn. The sun was peeping through the few grey clouds remaining from the storm the night before. Detective Crawford felt groggy as he sipped his morning coffee the only thing keeping him from driving home and getting back in bed. Nothing put him in a worse mood than a before-the-sun-call on a case like this. He rubbed his eyes with his free hand, drained his drink, and put the empty cup in the cup-holder. Suppose we should check it out then, he said to the intern. Judging by the thick glasses and freckled face, Crawford figured him to be all books. Normally he would have made some snide remark about lack of field experience by now, but he just wasnt in the humor. Just so long as he didnt need to hold whatsanames hand to help him cross the street, Crawford was content. But, really, what was his name again? He undid his seat belt and got out the car. The intern followed. Whats that? The intern asked when they were halfway across the road. Maybe he does need me to hold his hand after all, thought the detective. Whats what? Thats a car, thats a bus stop, and thats the run-down apartment building we are going into. All seemed pretty obvious to me. No, Crawford could see the intern turning slightly red, That over there, on the sidewalk. He jogged (skipped?) over to where he was mentioning while Crawford kept back. When he got there the intern bent over something and came jogging (skipping?) back just as the detective made it across the street. Well? Its a copy of the Divine Comedy, the Inferno. The intern showed him a hard bound book, heavily water damaged and unreadable. Hmph. Well, if you are looking to read it, I think you might get more out of a toilet roll. No... No. Ive read it multiple times. I love it actually.

6 Is it more of that vampire bull-shit you hear about on T.V? No not at Kid, Crawford interrupted, I really dont give a shit. Im glad you got yourself a souvenir from your first ever crime scene. The intern seemed slightly flustered, Sir, I just thought it was what smashed the window up there, see? Theres some glass in the cover, and Im pretty sure thats the apartment we are heading to. He probably threw it through, dont ya think? Crawford looked to the window, then to the book, and thought over it for a few seconds. Giving a quick chuckle he replied, You know, I think you are right. Maybe he wasnt all as green as he seemed. Beginners luck Crawford liked to think. Lets go in. As they turned to walk toward the entrance, the detective added, And kid, call me sir again and I will call you Googles got it? The lobby was rather generic and what you would expect from looking at the condition of the building outside wallpaper peeling off the walls and stuffing coming out the couches. There was a grandfather clock standing against the wall, which was probably the only thing worth a dime in this whole building. A police officer stood by the elevator, questioning a man and a woman. Crawford motioned for the intern to follow. As he got closer to the officer, the detective recognized him. Huxby. He commanded, directing the officer to come over to him with his index. Excusing himself from the man and woman, Huxby made his way over to Crawford. When the officer was close enough , the detective used a quieter voice, Long night? Eh so, so. Two DUIs, nothing out of the ordinary till this. He looked at the grandfather clock and added, Should have been in bed thirty minutes ago. Wifes going to think I got shot. Well, fill me and freckles here in a little, we have the basics, then you can get out of here. I havent got to go up to the room, but I dont really need to. I get the idea. Male, age 27,shot dead in his apartment. Currently hes a John Doe, names were all scratched off his IDs, and neighbors know him no more than a passing nod. Were working on getting in contact with the owners to see if they cant give us a name. Possible homicide, possibly not, youre here to work that one out. Those two over there, he motioned to the man and woman, said they were heckled by some male after returning from a red-eye flight at around 1-2am. They had their son with them. Apparently the man was close to deranged, mumbling nonsensical things, wasnt armed Scared the boy shitless by the sounds of it. Officer Moore took them up to get a positive ID on the body, it was the same guy and I think thats about all I know. An officer is waiting upstairs for you. Floor Five, Room Six. Seems pretty cut and dry to me so far. Have you gotten written reports from them? The parents? Yeah I got those. Then I guess you are good to go. Hey but before you go Huxby kid, Crawford slapped the intern in the chest, tell him your theory behind the window. Well sir, I think the victim threw this book through the window, and thats how it smashed. See theres glass in there, he said showing him the book. Huxby winked at Crawford and gave a chuckle, Seems about right, they were wondering about that window. See you around, Crawford said to Huxby with a nod. Come on Googles, lets go.

7 The hallway was poorly lit and the carpet smelt musty. What a dump, eh? The intern shrugged in response. Crawford supposed freckles lived in somewhat similar conditions and thats why he gave no comment. Or maybe he was getting nervous about what he was about to see. You going to keep your cool in there, kid? A lifeless body tends to suck the air from a room. Its not my first. Ill be fine. Good then. Lets see room 503 other side 504. And How about the one with the police lines? Smart-ass. This intern was beginning to get on his nerves what little he had this morning. After you, Googles. Crawford lifted one of the police lines so the intern could walk in, and followed in after. The first thing that hit the detective was the god-awful stench. Six trash bags were piled in one corner of the room. Month old food split over the sink in the sad excuse of a kitchen. A stained mattress lay on the floor by the door and a dresser stood opposite the broken window with a mirror hung above it. Books were scattered everywhere. And a rain puddle sat at the foot of a skanky desk. It was a damp, dirty hole, for sure. Close to the wall opposite the front door lay a man with a bloody hole for an eye. Red bubbly puss had pooled out from there and dark thick ooze from the hole in the top of his head it seemed the bullet went through. He was completely naked and, by the looks of it, abused his body. Tight skin covered in dark bruises pulled over protruding bones. He couldnt have weighed anymore than ninety pounds. His mouth and remaining eye were open, as if the last thing he did was scream. Crawford noticed the intern look away. See thats the thing, kid. Theyre all firsts never gets easier. Officer Moore was taking pictures of the body when she looked up to greet them. I dont believe Ive had the pleasure, Crawford raised a hand to shake Moores, Im George Crawford. She gave his hand a quick shake and replied, Lucy Moore. What do you think? He asked. Seems like suicide to me. All the pieces fit. Neighbor called in a noise complaint, apparently this man was crying hysterically, yelling, the whole nine. The gun is still in his left hand, and looking at the trajectory of the bullet it would be an easy self infliction. Shit life and wanted a way out. You see anything I miss? Yeah. Maybe. I was told on my way here that this man kept completely to himself, so why suddenly go crazy and put a bullet in his own head? He lives in a dump, looks unhealthy. Idiot couldnt get help. Hes not an idiot, the intern butted in. Look at these books. Shakespeare, Dante. There are four or five different bibles here. He was well-read. And look at this, he picked up a golden chain from the desk, a golden cross necklace. He was religious. After everything he must have read about taking his own life, the eternal punishment he would have to endure, it scares me to think he was capable of

8 doing it, especially knowing and believing in the consequences. You say he is an idiot because he couldnt find help? For some thats not as easy as a task as it seems. This man had a tragic story to tell, whatever it was that made him so desperate. That was great, thought Crawford, as he began a slow clap. Too great. Officer Moore, I would like to introduce my intern for the day, who seems to think that discovering the reason for a broken window gives him the false notion that he is a world-class detective. Crawford stopped clapping and reached into his back pocket to bring out a latex glove. You see, kid, you fail to see whats staring you in the face. He slipped on the glove and pulled open a draw that was slightly ajar on the desk. Understand kid, our little Cyclops friend here was an idiot. He couldnt tell the stories apart from the real thing. Placing a Ziploc bag and a couple needles on the desk so that Moore and the intern could see, Crawford concluded, And you will address Officer Moore as Mam. I dont care for your attitude Googles. The intern fell quiet. Smartass thought Crawford. So are we done here then? Moore stepped in. Should I call them up to wrap the body and clean the mess? Id say so. Wrap it up as a drug-induced suicide and get blood analysis to confirm. I guess Ill have to remind Melissa that Im a homicide detective. He took one more glance at the body. It was apparent that whatever was going through his mind in those last moments were horrific to say the least. Of all the dead Crawford had seen this one was most unnerving. His eye seemed like it was staring toward the back corner of the room. Curious, Crawford followed the gaze, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. There was just a coat stand in the corner on it nothing more than a black flat-brimmed hat and a black six-button jacket. Crawford chuckled at the thought. Reaching out he grabbed the black hat and tossed it to the intern, There, hide your big-head behind that.