At a loss at what to do with Phillip Jackson Levitt, the family had secreted cameras in every room, save the kitchen: Phillip, being a genteel man, had every meal brought to him upon a silver platter with a single red rose in a crystal vase.
They flew in Doctor Marcel Archambault from Connecticut. Discretion could be bought.
They settled him into a blue wingback chair, pressed a glass of California wine into his hand. Laura held up the remote and stabbed at it with her thumb.
A bedroom. The man Phillip in his bed, asleep. A crystal vase on the nightstand. A single red rose.
“He sleeps with the light on?”
Carolyn nodded. “He’s terrified of the dark.”
Archambault pulled a notebook from his pocket, flipped it open. “How long has this been…”
“Hush,” Laura said.
Archambault glanced at Laura beneath his furrowed furry eyebrows. Clearly she was used to running the show.
“Watch now,” Carolyn urged. The gentler one. She who’d offered wine.
Phillip woke, pulled the rose from its vase and opened his nightstand drawer.
“What’s he doing?”
“He keeps a knife there.”
Archambault felt his eyes widen. “That’s more of a dagger than a knife. Good Lord, what’s he going to…?” He watched as Phillip left his bedroom, gripping the rose in his right hand, the knife in the other. “Is he coming in here?” Archambault drew his feet up beneath him.
“He’s heading outside to the rosebushes.”
“Mother loved roses,” Carolyn sighed.
Archambault nodded. He’d heard the story of the disappearance of Phillip’s wife thirty years ago. While the police had concluded she’d abandoned the family, Phillip had always contended she’d been kidnapped. Onscreen, Phillip opened French doors and stepped onto the lawn. He began stabbing violently at the night, right, then left, then right again. For nearly an hour, Phillip fought on the lawn, stabbing at things no one could see. Finally, out of breath, he dropped both arms to his side, still gripping the knife in his left hand.
“Should we aid him?”
“No,” Laura said. “He’s impossible to rouse after a bout like that.”
“I’ll take him a blanket.” Carolyn left the room and appeared onscreen, tucking a red cover about her father’s body.
Laura pointed the remote at the television to silence the screen.
“Why does he have a knife?” Archambault wondered aloud as Carolyn returned to the room. “Is he pursuing or being pursued?”
“No idea,” Carolyn shrugged. “There are memories that torment him. Things that press upon the quilted fabric of his mind, layers of memory fused together.”
“Memories,” Archambault said and Laura nodded. “Does he remember or does he invent?” Archambault stood, feeling the importance of his line of questioning. “And…” he put his index finger up to underscore his point before taking a quick sip to finish his wine. “If he invents does he do so consciously or without meaning to? That his, is he deliberately making this up or is his ailing mind pressing this memory to his brain?” He glanced at Carolyn. Two of them could play at pretty poetry. “…pressing it like a square of cotton against a wound?”
Laura shook her head. Her skin had grown pale. She looked, Archambault realized, as if she were about to pass out. “What if it’s none of those?”
“What other explanation would you offer?”
“Perhaps there really is something out there,” Laura said. “Something only my father can see.” Then she grinned a horrible grin, a dreadful grin, a grin that revealed teeth suddenly sharp and glistening. “Something evil was born the day my mother left, Doctor.”
“And what was that?” Archambault now held his wineglass as a weapon of sorts, pointing it towards Laura. “What was born the day your mother left?”
“I was.” As Laura laughed an ugly laugh, red roses dropped from the crystal chandelier and from the lawn, Phillip let loose a blood-curdling scream.
It didn’t take long for the doctor to pass out. Three seconds, according to Laura, for whom these things were a point of honor.
Carolyn took his wallet from his pocket and tossed the credit cards to her sister. “Good acting, Laura.”
From the doorway, Phillip laughed heartily.
His wife laughed, too, a laugh reminiscent of the sound of red rose petals fluttering through the valley like butterflies.
“Out of breath, he dropped both arms to his side, still gripping the knife in his left hand.”
~At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcon
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