The hallway stood as it had yrs before; dark with shadows that the bald yellow bulb never seemed to cure. Then as now just looking at the solid four square frame set wood sent cold clammy chills down her arms and spine till the flesh rose in spiky goosepebbles. Not bumps, her mind insisted as almost instantly the inner spell check flipped the word around to proper syntax. These mountains sure as hell are, not, bumps. They are most definitely pebbles.
There however was a difference in the hallway, and the door.
Cobwebs hung heavy in the corners and dripped along the walls of peeling blue paint, revealing the near olive brown coating underneath with all the allure of chipped and peeling scales with wide missing gaps. The once dark brown impregnable door stood warped and sagged in bows or cracks with dented blemishes along the lower knob corner where it seemed some kicking had been applied unending to the point the tarnished gold knob hung limp and loose in its bracket.
And... it smelled.
Enough to curl her pert little nose into a good wrinkle and blink back tears from the acrid smell of what had to be mold or some kind of damp rot. Not too far off from the smell of old pee sheets she'd cleaned day in and out when she'd candy stripped as a teen for a old folks home. You never forget that smell, or, the soon to follow smell of death coming. She'd worked that job for exactly one summer, two months and thirteen days. In that time she'd witnessed more than fifty-eight deaths, and in every incident she'd known it would come by the smell.
As a young girl she'd learned from one of her grandpa's people, Cherokee, that there were things their people, Native Americans, knew more than most in white man's world. Rot, death, and sickness are amongst the highest ranks. She being a seer as had been most in her grandfather's linage could spot it a mile away. This had that sickening sweet damp smell that burned the nose and tickled the back of your throat as you breathed it in... as it should.
That is after all why she'd sealed it all those years ago. Closed the door and sealed it shut with a power that would allow nothing to ever open it again, not even herself... or so she thought.
The mind is a powerful thing. It can bring so many tricky things to the owner; happiness and depression of vastly wide ranges, self worth and delusion in stunningly record time, and even angelic spirituality or equally sickening evil depravity. It can twist what once was into tales you'd swear to all that is holy were one hundred and fifty percent true, even though you know deep in your heart its all lies and long suffered wishes.
This protective double sided powerhouse can also take and hide what we can not or will not cope with and lock the event in its entirety behind sealed shut doors to preserve its host. Never to be unlocked until some event more traumatic or shocking comes to pass thereby forcing the door to suddenly spring open in its dank dark lost labyrinth of multilevel hallways the ID calls home.
Her tongue slicked across the dry palate of her mouth with a chewing tug of her already plumped lower lip and small ring, darkened grey eyes staring unblinkingly at the darker slim opening between the door and its jam. Her throat clogged thick with hard tears as the child inside her both recognized the door and cried knowing what laid inside even as her adult mind did not. Hearing the sharp Texan drawl of her grandmother speak through deafened ears from outside her body, obviously tossing yet another new torpedo even before her mother's body could be declared brain dead.
The woman earned her nick the old fashioned hard way, by using the action liberally and with fully intended malice only a well sharpened and seasoned surgeon could. Shooting not the true victim, but all its close bystanders. In her grandmother's case, her grandchildren at large.
Growing up had never been easy. When you're born to a sociopathic bipolar pathological liar mother with Munchausen by proxy tendencies you should count yourself lucky to actually reach adulthood, but when you do that raising other siblings while dodging information torpedoes that explode not only your world but the world around you, you deserve a parade.
There never was a parade.
Mother never liked her, they were polar opposites and unless mom was on a odd bipolar up moment there really weren't any good things passed between them. It seemed all she did was either clean up mess after mess or support the two of them one way or another while mom partied and told more crap to grift or get more things neither of them ever needed. Then she raised the woman's babies. Having never played with dolls or house, this was a hellva feat, but not one she regretted most days.
She could still remember the first tiny body plopped in her hands only a week after the tiny babydoll clothes fitting girl was born.
All red and squiggly with a sweet milk breath... so small the baby fit literally half way down her short fourteen year old forearm. Mom was done playing "mom" and so was the drugged out abusive hubby. Already she'd grown from single target to protecting a second grade cousin and another five year old boy lost in the hubby's crackpot of a "christian" homeless shelter... and now she'd have to protect this squiggly baby that she didn't even know how to feed.
She could barely manage to find food to feed the cousin and boy since the hubby wouldn't allow any kid to eat more than a baby bowl of food in his house. Not even her. She at least didn't feel hungry anymore, but a baby they screamed all the time and that would bring hell to pay if it started screaming because it was hungry. She was good at kicking the dude's ass in, she did it every night like clock work when she wasn't locked in one of the basement's tiny rooms or being forced to endure punishment... even managed to keep the kids alive and basically unbruised, but a baby don't go to school. A baby is so small anything could happen.. it couldn't even keep its damn head from hanging off its neck like a dead chicken...
Yah, she remembered to damn good.
One turned into three and then into adopted fosters. Least with age and new husbands mom got better. Even loved the last one and never did much of anything to it. Then again it had been over five years before the woman had the second sister, and by then the whole world had changed in the relationship between her and mom. First of all, money became the woman's golden carrot. Pay enough and the kids get left alone. Second, and more important, never piss off the tiger who raises your brats. She will literally wipe the floor with you and bask in the shiny glimmering pools of your blood while doing it. Its amazing what height, weight, and solid well trained muscle can do when it grows up.
So yes, growing up was never easy... but then there was a hell of allot worse than these goody gumdrop memories laying behind this door. Much more rot and darkness than even her already dark mind could handle... back then and quite possibly now.
She trembled in fear as torpedo granny laid hit after hit less than a hour after leaving the ICU where mom's oxygen deprived body laid sprawled on a bed hovered by donor hawks so thrilled to get their reaper hands on her that they actually called mom dead and salivated with waving papers... all before any tests could be done. So dead was the old bitch that she followed her around the room with rolling eyes and machines freaking out whenever they forced her to move out of eyesight. So dead that tears lined her bloated yellowing blue eyes when with a strained voice caught with emotion her daughter told her she loved and forgave her for everything, tears that poured down her round cheeks that seemed to have aged over night. So dead that she gurgle choked each and every separate time those words were said throughout the night by her and her alone.
And here, less than a hour later torpedoes were being thrown mercilessly by her own seventy-five year old mother after having sat at some Denny's eating pancakes as though nothing was even remotely wrong. All while like transfixed zombies her eldest grand daughter and her family sat and stared at her stirring coffee or juice and pushing uneaten plates of nameless food around limply. Then as if the horror wasn't stunning enough followed her to her house to rest so they could all go back to the hospital... only to have torpedo season open up like the fourth of fucking July.
Munchausen is a bitch and a half.
"Did you know you have a father?" asked so innocently while being offered coffee and other drinks. The zombie crew shooting blank stares first at Grandma and then at her.
"Um, yah, I mean everyone does, right?" She manages to stutter only to receive a gimlet icy grey-blue stare. "I know mom was raped... its the how or who I don't."
"She wasn't raped." snapped like a whip across the air conditioned double wide's swank livingroom as she returns with whatever drink someone nodded to. Was it her sister-in-law or her man who ordered it? She knew for damn certain it wasn't her husband, he hardly ever took anything off her grandmother.... "She was married. The man's name was Jeff."
"Grandma I know there was pictures posed with that friend...."
"Friend! Ha! He was your father and they were married." BAM! BAM! BAM! Each a direct hit as the collective group sucked in breath as one entire hispanic lot watching their very own Novella playing out. Dark eyes darting between the old woman and herself so obviously waiting for the dramatic music or real shit to hit the fan as everyone in both families well knew that not only had good ol ma lied to her over and over to the point that there was no strain of truth any longer after thirty aught years, but that she wanted the information so bad she'd kill for it... and more to it, that lies equaled death in the matter.
Everyone but her had a past, a somewhere in the road of fuck ups their mother had taken. Everyone but her. She was a illegitimate bastard her mother had to beg some friend to pose wedding pictures with so her own Navy Seal Injun daddy wouldn't kill her before the baby was born or disown her for the rapist being black and her ass so deaf and dumb she couldn't stop it... or so one of the many multiple reality lines went. Out of that only three strings had ever held true. He was black, a picture was made, and gramps was a Navy Seal Injun.
"Ok, look, I know you may think this is funny, but its not."
"Funny? Darlin, this is the truth. You have a father and his name is Jeff, and they met at Quatico Virgina when your grandpa had to go a couple years before you were born. He was in the military, army, and had gotten back from Vietnam." A funny ringing started sounding in her ears and her head throbbed as doors started slamming open harder and harder one after another to the point that the hardest and loudest creak she'd ever heard brought her torpedo battered mind slamming through the labyrinth to the darkest hall with the darkest of doors.
To go through that door would forever open all the parts she locked out. She knew without a doubt this meant to know even a small sliver of the truth would mean sifting back through all the bad... truly bad... shit till she could even recall the blob of a guy her unending photographic memory would pull up. The same memory she had attached to the one and only solid thing she knew was from a time she was younger than three years old. The memory of a guy saving her and rushing her to the ER after her mother poured scalding hot soup on her tiny naked high chaired back during a hardcore fight with that guy. Which happened to coincide with the same memories of being shoved out a trailer at dawn when a booming truck's engine cranked and pulled out and left to wander the entire day till right before dark when the truck would come home. How other mommies fed her or cleaned her up when her diaper sagged off... the blob guy was the last in a extremely long series of men in a history she herself could only keep track off by houses she'd lived in and school age. Something that gave her nose bleeds and migraines every time she tried working back to get even a the tiniest of clues.
"Oh, and while you're here, I have pictures of him and you. Pictures your mother told me to burn long ago and trash. I didn't and cleaning out recently I found them again. So if you want them you better take them."
Sometimes you get extremely odd thoughts at the most unlikelest times, right then as her body lay floating in a sea of 'you fucking bitch' and 'what the fuck didcha just tell my ass'... after an entire lifetime of being lied to by every damn one of her adult family members, She couldn't help but wonder if at some point had her grandmother ever been an old school soap star and if that was why her grandfather ever married her. Because right then that woman was sitting all regal in her straight backed nice and tidy fashion with perfect silver blond hair up in a delicate broach hair thing and flowing down her back with perfect poise delivering all this as if it was the most everyday unlifeshattering event you could possibly think of while gleaming in a brilliant cat grin not even hours after having sat all night and day in a hospital waiting room knitting or whatever the hell it was she was doing that this tired overwrought torpedo damaged mind couldn't possibly remember even if held at gun point and a fucking video recorder playing it scene by fucking scene for description.
"I have entire trash bags of pictures for each one of you girls."
Entire trash bags.
Entire fucking trash bags.
Entire fucking trash bags of what?? More dirt ma obviously didn't want us to have??
"And... you have a brother."