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2016/11/18

The Strange Town in the Middle of the Forest by Max Szredni (Part 45)

CHAPTER SEVEN (continued)
     Domei had no idea what they were doing here and was too frightened to ask. He backed away from the lamplight's treacherous circumference.
    As he withdrew, he noticed Academic Morelle was not the only person lurking amongst the fallen Towers. Apart from the old-timers, still hobbling back-and-forth with their bucketfuls of nightsoil, Domei spotted at least a half-dozen other townsfolk. Stepping timidly about the portholes, shooting furtive glances into the gloom, they reminded Domei of hungry coyotes.
    And then Domei understood—they were all seeking answers in the night. When it turned dark, and the townsfolk were alone with their most terrifying thoughts, they could not bear the realization they had lost their guiding beacon, that star which had always rescued their minds from the philosophical mazes imprisoning them—the Towers. An image of the Town Museum's dark hallways flashed behind Domei's eyes before breaking away, detached of whatever significance it may have possessed. 
***
 
    Daid tossed and turned in his bed, trying to fall asleep. Despite the two liters of spirits he had imbibed over the past thirty-six hours, he was having no success in this pursuit. Why was it his plans always failed halfway through? If he was sleeping, he couldn't get drunk; if he was drinking, he couldn't fall asleep. Perhaps he needed to drink more, faster; yes, that would do the trick. He took another pull from the bottle beside him, wondering if this swallow would be the one to kill him. Then he fell back onto his pillow, sighing. He was not disturbed in the least that he had recently suffocated Raque exactly where he now lay; if you set out to murder someone, you had to do the killing somewhere; there was no time for squeamishness once the opportunity presented itself. It's just a bed, he thought. I kill spiders in it all the time. What makes Raque’s butterfly so different?
    He was very bothered, however, by his daughter's pending execution. Although he had suspected this would be her fate (it's not the average criminal who is beaten and displayed naked in front of a pitchfork-wielding crowd), the reality of it had hit him hard. He forgot where, when, or how he had heard the news, but guessed it was during his stumble through the town streets earlier that day, prior to the nap which had forced his body into its current semi-sober state.
    The real question was, why was she being hanged? Was it for the fallen Towers or for the murder of Raque?  It was an important distinction to Daid...but only because he did not want to know; if it was for the murder of Raque, he could hypothetically confess in Lelae's stead, thus saving his daughter the inconvenience of being hanged; but if it had to do with the fallen Towers, Daid hadn't a clue who the real perpetrator was. He wouldn't rule out Lelae doing something as rash as Tower-tipping (a word that had plopped neatly into his vocabulary after his drunken stroll through town).
    Yes—not knowing which crime she was convicted of saved Daid the moral dilemma of choosing to sacrifice himself for his daughter, thereby making his life a whole lot simpler. He knew, somewhere, there was fault in his logic, but he did not pursue its discovery, content with the safe niche his brain had cleaved for itself.
    Death is fickle...fuckled...fuck, I'm drunk. He snorted, glad the liquor had finally caught up to his conscience's nagging. He felt swell. As of yet, there was no spinning ceiling, no bloated belly, no regurgitated nastiness. It would be a shame to waste this feeling on sleep, he thought, perhaps I will head to town, go to a tavern—maybe even have a cigarette. He let loose a delighted snort, admiring the way his sixty-five-year-old self was suddenly rediscovering the vitality of years past. He had forgotten about the invincible glow that came with drinking, the omnipresent justification of oneself that would last until the following morning—why on earth would he ever wish to feel differently?
    Then his conscience caught back up to the liquor, reminding him he was now the two-time murderer of both his former best friend and the mother of his child (and that he may even be responsible for Lelae's impending death as well).
    He took another swig from the bottle, wondering if this would be the drink that killed him.


If you're interested in getting in contact with Max, email him here: maxszredni@gmail.com

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