I remember how incredibly bright the August moon was as I strangled the old lady. Vinnie and Greg were ransacking the bedrooms, looking for her stash of jewels and bonds. I had knocked her almost unconscious but she was a tough bird and fought back mightily. She grasped my hand which was clutched round her throat, and the blood trickled down from her fingers unto mine. She croaked in a whisper, “Pointless….pointless…for you’ll be dead by the next full moon…” I squeezed harder to stop that whisper because as soon as she uttered it, I knew with a grim certainty that she was right. Her eyes blazed for a moment and then went glassy still. It’s a look I’ve had occasion to see before.
I didn’t tell Vinnie or Greg; I didn’t even know if it was true for them. I only knew it was true for me. After we fenced the goods, I was set up pretty well. Except for the fact that I’d be dead in a month. I started to watch the moon wane every night, though I struggled not to. I thought I’d eat, drink, and be merry, the educated word for whoring, I believe. But the liquor tasted like bitterness and the food was as dust. Any woman I looked at, I only thought of what she would look like when she was dead. Lecherous skeletons in postures of macabre seduction, offering obscene, bony kisses. “What’s wrong, honey? Don’t you like wimmen?”
So the party was over. I left Vinnie’s calls unanswered. I started to sleep during the day, so that I could moon watch at night. I didn’t bother to look at a calendar, I had only to watch the moon as it turned crescent and then started to grow. I remembered a lot of things during those nights. My childhood. My awful dad. The beatings. I took my money to a mission for street kids – for the kid that I once used to be. I took it in a sack and saw the slack-jawed administrator look puzzled and alarmed, as if he didn’t want to touch it. He tried to ask me questions but I hightailed it out of there. I don’t need that money anymore. Let it do some good. I don’t eat much now and who cares about the rent. I can see it now, outside the curtains, daring me to pull them back and gaze at my demise. The September full moon, in a sky of burnt darkness…..
There is a dream Minnie has that recurs throughout her life. She is standing in front of a dilapidated farmhouse. Half the fence is down and old machinery rusts in the yard. An old mangle lies on its side. It’s a small, two story 1800s house with a round attic window that is smashed in. Bits of ornate Victorian gingerbread still cling to the eaves, dressed with windswept cobwebs. Rain soaked curtains flutter from the open windows. She’s afraid to go in, yet she goes in every time, drained of resistance and willpower.
She walks up the worn, creaking porch stairs, with the weeds poking through the cracks and pushes open the unlocked front door. There’s only the sound of angry bees drinking from the weedy flowers outside. Their incessant hum seems to grow louder and more mechanical as she reaches the foot of the main staircase and looks up. She knows there is something up there, something bad…yet she must go up because she always goes up. Because her whole life is about going up there. She can see her hand on the broken balustrade as she walks up: it is trembling. But she also feels strangely calm. As if something is finally going to happen that will end these dreams forever.
She ignores the second floor with the damp, stained mattresses and the mouldy smell along with the rodent droppings. She heads deliberately for the narrow attic stairs. The chipped door at the top of these stairs beckons her and she hesitates a moment before pushing it open. There, amidst the torn wallpaper and exposed wooden frame, stands the one-eyed doll. The doll’s long, frilly Victorian dress is ragged and filthy. Its hair is wild and uncombed, as if it had been dancing in a frenzy the moment before the door opened. It stands like a marionette about to be cut from its strings. The doll is waiting, and appears resigned. The menace of the empty eye socket in the cracked face takes Minnie’s breath away. A looming shadow suddenly falls over both of them. The doll reeks of death. Imminent death. Minnie’s death. She always awakes at this point, bathed in sweat. Only this is no longer a dream. This is finally real. Her skin tingles. She pants in her excitement.
She had arrived in the remote country town this morning. She had yelled at the real estate agent to stop the car the moment they drove by the house from her dreams. She had been unable to run away from the mystery. It must mean something. And it must be inevitable. The doll peers at her, its head to one side, sad and helpless. A shadow falls over the vacant eye. Minnie feels the breath of the agent behind her, hot and moist, as he pulls out a knife from his black coat while saying, “has anyone told you that you’re a pretty, pretty lady….”