How to Forget About Evil

by M.T. Ingoldby

 

#1: The culprit: Hello Evil

Let’s be clear: The only reason that craven fool got so slack-jawed enamoured with yours truly is because he wasn’t all that upstairs. But I liked him: Heck Minyeti had potential.

He was eight when I met him. Out in the copse behind the barn, his feet were bare. He had the neighbour’s terrier in a cloth bag and was throwing stones and conkers at the bag but the yowling might have roused the babysitter waiting in the house, so he loosed the dog. Wandering away, he stumbled on it:

The mask was faded plastic with two pink ears and a snout. It lay discarded far from any house, caked with dirt. He picked it up.

When he took it off, he was at home. The babysitter was not. She was found in the maple by the barn, hanging from a branch some twenty feet from where a pool of blood collected.

There were patrols, forensic teams, all the big noses; but in a couple days it was all chalked up to Ty Steven, the subject of a manhunt in a neighboring state. Heck stowed the pig mask in the barn.

A few gashed tyres and a dead class pet and Heck left school for good. He sold hubcaps to a local rag-and-bone man who later went missing, and in three months he had scrounged enough to buy a car.

We had times in that car, let me tell you. There wasn’t a town that could hold us. Just a kid and a mask and the open road—hell, I’m misting up just thinking of it. One time that springs to mind, we were staying at a B&B near Hiko, splashing out on a proper night’s sleep. Only we could hear through the ceiling the old mad grandfather of the owner stomping and snorting and dropping things until the early hours, when Heck put on the mask and crept upstairs and after that we heard no more. Or outside Mina, Heck was siphoning gas from a parked 4×4 when the driver showed up. He wasn’t happy. His scowl never left him, even when his head was in the trunk.

We didn’t go hungry, but a man needs more—it snowballs. That’s how I work, I snowball. And so we picked up two girls in Reno who liked to talk. Heck didn’t like that, he couldn’t perform. So he cut the one’s head off and caved in the other’s. Then you should have seen it – like a goddamn caber.

The main thrill came after, gleeful, giggling, running to escape the blastwave of our reputation. We saw the news in glimpses, bar TVs, wind-blown print – they had Heck down as a victim, then. Him in the mask they called Pig Man. “Residents are advised to stay indoors after dark…”

Lately the mask never left Minyeti’s face. A father and son at a crosswalk near Femley caught his darkened eye; he tilted the wheel and plowed them to a paste; the radio didn’t even falter.

Heck’s mistake: Driving straight got him further, faster—but the cops had a map. Each killing earned a pin, and the pins formed a line. And at the end of that line the cops congregated.

It was past midnight when we hit the cordon: ten or so police cars on a wet street, white and crimson. Flanked by hedges, Heck was forced to halt, his engine whining. From the owner of the 4×4 he’d gained a Ruger, a .44 magnum revolver with a scope he didn’t need.

On that moonless night he rose up through the sunroof, the Pig Man of near-legend, strafed the windshields of the cars before us. A bullet returned struck the Pig Man’s shoulder. Heck collapsed, spraying bullets upwards as the flashing lights closed in.

I drew even closer, and whispered goodbye.

It was Heck they cuffed and led away, a dazed and bare-faced boy too rattled to resist. The fallen mask was weighed, swabbed, studied, x-rayed and archived; it held no secrets. Five days later, Heck entered an institute for the criminally unwell.

In the life of Heck Minyeti there is one more incident of note. A week into his sentence, Heck stole a roll of toilet paper and mashed it in the sink to make a face. Dry, he put it on, stripped himself of all else and forced his starving body through the cell bars.

His flesh tore, his ribs cracked, then Heck stuck fast. He stayed there, mask disintegrating into wet chunks, until his screaming roused the guards.

If there’s a lesson, I don’t see it. I was long gone anyhow, hunting down the next poor fool in need of a helpful nudge.

Howdy.

 

#2: The victims: Father Joe Tanner

Jane unlocked the stable door and stared through the hay-dust at four or five horses variously at rest. The one who stared back she pointed at and said, “how much for the palomino?”

Hours later, fire-lit on the hillside looking down on the narrow valley, she stroked its chin till it was half-asleep and pressed her mouth against its flank in what might be called a kiss, if she had ever seen one, till the beast whinnied and shook itself free.

In sight above them was the grey ridge that separated one valley from the next. Long smoke from the fire streamed towards it, scattered at the summit by an upward wind from the valley beyond. All night the smoke flew and was obliterated at the peak. When dawn came it had given out, the camp was gone and clouds engulfed the summit so that no one could have seen which way she went.

“I loved Billy Morgan,” said her older sister. There had been a long silence in the room. Her mother eyed the fire through lenses thick as hooves and with a grey rug bunched over her knees. “Billy was sweet.”

“You never loved him,” her mother sighed.

“I did love him. You scared him off, and father. Billy wanted me to marry him.”

Her mother shook her head like flies were near it. “Where’s your sister, Est?”

“He had a car like Mr Bosun’s, only cleaner. He told me he loved me in it. Did you know that?”

“Where’s Jane, I asked.”

“How should I know?” Esther cried. “She’s gone again. Can’t stand this place. Can’t stand you.” Not easily diverted, she finished, “First Billy, now Jane.”

“Oh, be quiet about that boy.” snapped Mrs Tanner. “Why not go off and find him? Why take it out on me?”

“You begged me to stay, mother.”

“I never.”

“Begged me. Yes you did. The second father got sick.”

“Well. He’s not sick anymore, is he.”

Both women looked at the tall chair at the head of the table, now vacant for over a month. Mrs Tanner went on, “Talking all the time about things that didn’t happen. Why don’t you run off and tell him the good news, the two of you can marry and leave your poor mother in peace.”

Esther shifted from her mother’s eyeline into the kitchen. “If you can’t get a man to marry you, you might as well kill yourself. That’s what I say.”

“You say a lot of nonsense.’ said Mrs Tanner. ‘Put the kettle on.”

Esther’s voice came out of the kitchen: “Do you think father’s looking down at us, mother?”

“What was that?”

But the rest was lost to the steam.

As Esther watched the stew, Mrs Tanner slipped outside to watch the dusk soften the land behind the rectory. Her daughter’s singing died away, and she was left the night’s full privacy: Insects buzzing; cattle lowing sleepily; the wind itself conferring whispers that she followed down the slope towards the old haybarn, through which they howled.

When they moved here the barn had been full of hay, and so shrouded in trees a whole week went by before they’d found it. Over time the hay had rotted; it’s stench had carried to the porch. Now you needed prior knowledge of the smell to even notice it.

She passed the door and entered the barn by its broken gape. Inside were shards of moonlight on a bed of hardened mud, the air made palpable by lengthy spider webs, and, (her fading sight deferring to her nose) the mulch of age: damp wood, old paint, sodden leather from the tack room where her sins were purged by lashes from a horsewhip, the high rafters’ slow-falling dust, and mouldy rope – the mixture thickened in her throat.

In a patch of silver light, surreally alone, the little stool stood waiting. From the rafters dropped a knotted rope that ended in a loop. Mrs Tanner saw it now, still as a painting. So rough and taut not even the wind could sway it. She regarded it as nothing; she could scarcely make it out, and walked towards it to dispel the confusion.

It was hard in her hands as she grasped it, tugged it once and slipped it round her neck. The smell, the old rot, came back to her. She knew why she was here.

But a sudden light disturbed her; high up on the slope. Esther had thrown open the back door and now cried out “She’s back, mother! Jane’s back!”

Maryann paused, one toe on the stool’s seat. Then she turned, left the barn and hobbled back up the slope, breathing ghosts.

 

#3: The penalty: The Two Rivers

 

There is a myth… not quite a myth anymore, just an old story… about a river that grants instant death to the drinker. Its waters are sought by ruined businessmen, rejected lovers, and the incurably guilty.

But waiting on its banks is a kind of trickster or sprite named Timon, who, in the guise of a concerned stranger, implores the miserable soul to change their mind, to live. If this fails, he offers an alternative: There is another river, not far from here, that rids the drinker merely of their memories. Those seduced by this notion set off, only to meet the trickster at the next riverbank; who tells them, this is still a stretch of my river. You must go further on.

On the seeker wanders, weary now, and at the next riverbank, there again is Timon. This time Timon chides them for not heeding his instructions. Many at this point will give up and return, discovering new strength in the hardship of pursuit. For the rest, the pattern is repeated endlessly, until the search overcomes the mind, and the body dies at last from dehydration.

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “How to Forget About Evil”

  1. Defenestrationism.net » Blog Archive » How to Forget About Evil: #2: The victims: Father Joe Tanner Says:

    […] « How to Forget About Evil […]

  2. Defenestrationism.net » Blog Archive » How to Forget About Evil: #3: The penalty: The Two Rivers Says:

    […] read it in the correct order […]

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