In the nocturnal hours gargoyles perch at my subconscious at least once a week. Their fingers stretching across my closed eyelids, making peaceful slumber an act of vengeance. I see the gun rise and the empty gray, dull eyes lose their focus as the barrel touches my forehead. I hear a voice plead for mercy. My lungs are filled with the smell of gun oil and cordite.
In my dream I can see each bullet nestled softly in its chamber. The heat of violence leaps off the end of the gun and leaches onto my skin. My heart slows down and my surroundings narrow to the dead eyes in front of me. I don't think about what comes next. Memories of family and good times at cooks outs and reunions blur into disjointed and scattered scenes that make no sense. There is no sound. His soul lifts and hovers at a distance and what is left behind is broken and fouled with the evil he is about to commit. There is a heaviness holding me in place. My feet rooted in place by unseen forces.
There is a tug at my back. I can feel angry hands clawing at my back, but they are like whispers in the wind. They have no effect. As the scene plays out in front of me, I can see the apparition that is his soul begin to descend until it disappears back into the man in front of me. Slowly his eyes come to life and I can see the consequence of his next action take hold. It's as if an 8 mm film plays across his eyes. I can see the movie run across his brow like an afternoon matinee.
Slowly the hammer falls gently on the firing pin. I hear the ominousness click of the trigger as he sets it back in place. The barrel recedes away until it no longer poses a threat to my humanity. Sounds begin to flood my ears. I can hear the buzz of a fly, the wind gently buffeting the window. A neighbor's lawn mower picks up speed as he owner pushes down on the handle to turn it around and make another pass. The engine now muffled by the long grass. The cries and begging from the two women behind me grow louder and more insistent.
The whispers of fingers have morphed into the claws of a carrion bird digging and scratching into my flesh until they pull me away. Then I am outside. Luther never spoke, never making a sound as I make my retreat to safety.
When I wake my lungs are sucking in more air my arms and legs moving frantically. The blood rushes through my veins and I can hear my own heartbeat. My eyes flutter open and I search the darkness for the gargoyles. But they aren't there and I wonder where they have gone.
The demons that who come out to play in my nocturnal hours were invited into my dreams when I was still a boy struggling with the identity of manhood and what it meant to defend the honor of a woman you loved.
No, that's not right. The first time the gargoyles appeared on the kaleidoscope of my dreamworld it was with the same brute force invading army. They appeared with the same ethos of locusts. My dreams becoming the main course for their insatiable hunger. Their bellies fat and protruding after they had engorged themselves on my synapses.
Days after the red indentation of the fixed site and the rifled barrel made its mark faded from view. It became common for my dreams to morph into the events of that warm summer afternoon. As a youth my first love had a mother locked in a loveless marriage. Her father had the mental stability of a soap bubble.
What I failed to realize until much later was that both of them were in a struggle for control of our lives. Luther was old and thin. The pale blue eyes were usually hidden behind the dull gray bangs of hair that would slide in front of his face. His emotions were attached strongly to the tentacles of his wife's emotional urges of the moment.
I was to learn then what it was to be a pawn in a live action Shakespearean play. It was also my introduction into what it was like to be on the business end of a skilled manipulator.
There was never complete approval of our courtship by her parents. The religion that governed their lives dictated my conversion if we were to have a future. For my part the religion I converted to was neither in my heart, mind or soul. I confess my feigned belief was of a carnal nature which is probably the worst reason to take a vow in a belief.
On that warm summer day I arrived to at my girlfriends house to find Luther in a murderous mood. I'm not sure I ever knew the reason for his rage on that day. When I pulled my 1977 four door nova to the curb, my girl Friday rushed outside with her mother in tow.
"You've got to come inside and talk to my dad!" She exclaimed.
Kathy her mother cried out "He's lost it. Please come inside and see if he will listen to you."
Emboldened by their pleas and because I didn't know any better I followed them inside. Her mother led the two of us inside. Both women fell in behind me. Luther was seated behind the kitchen table. He had an old.38 beside him. A dinner plate with a sandwich in front of him a glass of milk off to the side. His eyes focused on the plate in front of him.
I stood tall, waiting for him to speak. His eyes drifted upwards looking at me for a long time. My focus went to the gun. Then, without speaking, he pushed the chair back and in a fluid motion I can't ever remember him doing before standing up and looked at me as if I had committed an unspeakable transgression. His hand going to the gun, picked it up and moved from behind the table. A smile playing out on his lips as if a punch line to a joke had moved him.
My feet were heavy and refused to move. The floor felt as if it had opened up and dropped me in a primordial court of judgement. I watched the casual way his arm swayed back and forth. The gun sticking obscenely from his hand. The barrel pointed down.
I could feel the ticking clock of my own mortality counting down to the zero hour. In three steps he was in front of me. As he came to rest in front of me the gun barrel swung up until it was pointed at my head. A sneer broke across his lips. His arm stabbing forward until the barrel rested against my skull. His expression falling flat and his eyes going dead.
We stood like that for a long time. My eyes transfixed on his. I would like to say my bravado carried the day and somehow brought about a change in his decision to kill me. But I would be lying if I did. In truth my fear was so complete that I was unable to move or speak. I'm not sure if the fear in my eyes changed his mind or the cries for mercy from his wife and daughter swayed him somehow from ending my young life. But whatever it was that changed his mind, I knew it instantly.
The color that had drained from his face and the cold, lifeless eyes gradually came back. The barrel falling away until it was back again at his side. Then, as if nothing had happened, he turned around and went back to the table where he sat down and began eating his dinner. The gun no longer beside him, but tucked away from the prying eyes of his family and me.
I wish I could say I remembered what happened next. My own conscience thought returned to me as I was pulling into the driveway of my parents house.
Later on I would confess to my mother what had happened. Together we agreed to keep it between us. Years later I would tell my father what happened on that day. His anger was immediate, but he understood why we had withheld it from him.
Today I can still feel the heat and smell the gun oil and cordite. The cold dead eyes that met mine across the top of a.38 still send shivers down my spine and keep me awake until the predawn hours at least once a week.
I sometimes wonder what it was that caused him to veer away from the ruination of so many lives. But as the light of the day breaks across the horizon, I inhale deeply and give thanks for another day.