An Excerpt from Patricide: A Memoir
He had set out on a pilgrimage of nothingness. Then time abandoned him, he became a beggar in a void, no longer searching for his wife, as he realized, but for the self he’d been in the days before they met, when he was a child, before he knew his mother and father and the sadness and rage of his mother and father. Days drifted into nights and nights to days, he ate nothing and drank nothing in a sunless, moonless world, but wandered like a beggar in a void with no one to beg from and nothing in the end to beg for but the feeling of what it meant to have to beg. And then, as though he’d woken from a dreamless sleep into a nightmare of sleeplessness, he found himself groping through a dungeon, its walls slimy with rot. One chamber led to the next, and corridors ran endlessly on, but however far he wandered he found only the ghosts of those who’d died behind the castle’s walls. On and on he wandered, forgetful in time that the object of his quest had become the memory of the boy he might once have been, and so but a ghost, knowing merely that he’d been searching, like a man dying of thirst helpless to name his need for water. His quest had become a quest for the memory of his quest, and then for memory itself. But then one day his wife stepped from behind an enormous block of stone, her belly and thighs thick with hair. Above her navel, he saw, she had a terrible wound, sewn up with a hanger and snatch of twine. She’d been pregnant, he realized. The monstrosity she’d ripped away was his. And though her belly and thighs were those of a beast, she was more beautiful now than ever. Dark hair fell round breasts from a dream, white skin glowed, her eyes were wet with hate. His wife stood before him, gorgeous in her hatred, he had so much to say, but her metamorphosis had transfixed him. Then from behind the same bloody rock a crone emerged, covered with slime and hair. “Who is this!” he shouted. “She’s my doppelganger,” said his wife. “And now that we’ve found each other, we’re never going to part.” Hardly had his wife finished speaking than the crone lunged toward him, and he began to run. The crone wanted to kill him, he knew, that was its purpose, having learned of his entrance to the castle his wife had invoked her doppelganger to kill him. When he looked over his shoulder to prove his fear, the crone reached out and from her hand blew a poison cloud. If he should breathe so much as a speck of this deadly cloud, he knew, his life would end, he would die the most painful, hideous death. But the faster he ran, the more it seemed the crone had gained. And no matter how fast or far, the crone stayed with him, blowing her cloud of death. Soon they entered a plain so vast he couldn’t see its end. Again he turned back, believing the moment to be his last, but the crone had vanished. The sun was rising from the west. A shadow swept across him, with nothing to have made it, there was only the plain. He set toward the castle in the distance, his wife before its walls, pointing at her wound.
Front page image by Chris M Morris.