Michael and Ashley were sitting in one of the commercial cafe’s on campus. It was only the second day of classes that Ashley had missed since entering college. The cafe was run by an outside contractor not the school. It offered a more student friendly menu, was open at any time of day, and had table service. It also had strict ID rules so they were drinking Cokes. They had blazed before leaving Michael’s apartment and they weren’t feeling especially deprived.
Ashley saw her first. The glass front doors where flanked by more glass, so the quad was completely visible if you cared to look. The energy that Ashley could see from the girl marching towards the cafe let her know who it was, before she could see her well enough to know for sure who it was. There was no doubt that she wasn’t casually walking across the grass, she was heading for a confrontation. And Ashley knew she was in the bullseye. She sucked in a deep breath.
“Michael.” He didn’t immediately respond. “Michael.” Ashley said more urgently.
Michael looked at her. “What?”
“What? Who’s coming?” Michael looked up just in time to see Marjoram come in the door and march over to their table.
No one spoke or moved for a moment after Marjoram came to a halt. Marjoram looked at Michael. She looked at Ashley. Then she looked at Michael her face flushed red and she was breathing heavily through her nose. Her hand moved quicker, than anyone could see, when she slapped Michael hard enough to knock him out of his chair, but he recovered before he fell to the floor.
Marjoram still didn’t speak, but tears began to leak from the corners of her eyes. Her lips curled down into a furious frown, but she still couldn’t bring herself to speak. Michael twisted his head and cracked his neck then looked down at Marjoram. She slapped him again. He was more prepared this time, while he didn’t manage to duck, he kept his balance. She still couldn’t speak her frown just twitched from the effort.
Michael turned to Ashley. She was horror stricken. Her mouth was hanging open and she was completely unaware of that fact.
“If you’ll excuse me, Ashley, I’m going to have a word with my ex.” Marjoram’s eyes went wide at the word ex, but she still couldn’t make herself speak. Michael was very formal and detached given the circumstances. His apparent calm made the surreal nature of events even more exaggerated and all Ashley could do was nod.
Michael took Marjoram by her bicep and walked her outside and once they were alone, away from the door, she found her voice and it was angry and loud.
“Your EX! Your EX! What the hell are you talking about? Why didn’t you answer your phone? And who is that little bitch?” Marjoram didn’t know in what order she wanted her questions answered, or if she really wanted to know the truth of any of them. “What is she? Twelve?”
Michael stretched his neck making an audible popping sound, then looked at her, dead in the eyes. “She’s 18, going to be 19 soon.”
Marjoram was sure her head was going to straight up explode. He had answered with the absolute least important information.
“And…” Michael continued. “I’m closer to her age, than I am to you. And she’s really quite nice, not bitchy at all.”
This really shut Marjoram down for a moment, because if she had been asked she would have said Michael was older than her, but the truth, that she was completely aware of, was that he was two years younger than her.
“What the fuck does that have to do with anything?” Tears were streaming down her face, but she was totally unaware of them.
“Look…” Michael began trying to maintain the speech that he had practiced in his head over and over again while Ashley was sleeping, but he could feel himself wavering. He wanted to take Marjoram in his arms and make everything go back to the way it was. But then he thought about the vacuum, the emptiness that she had left him alone to deal with and he got angry. “I needed you. I… I begged you.” He couldn’t continue his speech. Their eyes were locked and they both wanted the same thing, they wanted it to go back. But that wasn’t going to happen, because Michael had been terrified of what he felt that night and he was never going to be vulnerable like that again. “I begged you. To come see me and you said, “No.”” He looked at her with all the anger and betrayal that he had felt. She saw it and it crushed her.
“So I found somebody else.” He was screaming by the time he reached the end of his sentence. His face was beat red. “I needed you.” Michael’s lips bunched into a frown as severe as Marjoram’s had been. He looked away from her and took a few steps toward the parking lot before coming to a stop and covering his face with his palms. “I can’t trust you!” His volume had dropped but the urgency was still in his voice.
Marjoram was lost. Michael had completely set her adrift. She had been gutted. Completely abashed and broken by his cheat. Hearing about him showing up to the cafe with some Freshman hanging off him, after she’d been calling him for two days, had devastated her. But some how, whatever was going on inside of him was worse and she lost sight of her own rage.
“Michael.” Her voice was insistent but gentle. Michael didn’t turn around, or respond. His shoulders heaved from the effort of his breathing. “We can fix this.”
He remained where he was fighting to control his breath and shaking his head no.
“Michael.” Marjoram took a step towards him. “Michael, I love you.”
Michael spun around dropping his hands and balling them into fists. His face was battling to stay on his skull.
“NO! NO!” Michael shook his head at her and for the first time Marjoram was afraid of him. She looked down at his clenched fists and knew he could knock her out with one punch and by the expression on his face the option was under consideration.
“You do not get to say that.” His head shivered and he leaned in to her, his eyes wide. “I needed you. I was crashing. Crashing hard and you left me alone. I trusted you. If you loved me you would have helped me.” Michael straitened up. “I needed you. You weren’t there for me. Now I don’t need anybody. So I don’t need you.”
“Michael. I’m sorry. Please… I love you.”
“Well. I don’t love you.” Marjoram cringed from the hatred she saw in Michael’s eyes. “I’m done with you. I never want to see you again.” Michael marched off without looking back. “Have a nice life, weirdo!” Marjoram grabbed her chest with both hands when she heard Michael’s insult. It was the dismissive tone of it that somehow hurt more than anything. If he had screamed it at her, it would have been easier to take. She was crying so hard she was choking.
Michael was breathing through clenched teeth. He wasn’t going to look back at any cost. If he did turn around and he would run back and beg her to forgive him. He almost bumped into a guy that had apparently just been standing there, watching the whole thing. Michael glared at him.
“Nice.” The guy said nodding.
Michael almost hit him, but that was when he really looked at the guy for the first time. The guy looked so much Michael he could be his brother. Michael shook his head and kept going.
Ashley was standing at the window watching. She looked from Michael to Marjoram just in time to see Marjoram sink down to her knees. She wanted to go and comfort her. She wanted to say she was sorry, she didn’t mean to… she didn’t think. But she knew she couldn’t. It wouldn’t help Marjoram and it wouldn’t help her with the guilt she felt.
She looked back at Michael. He had covered a lot of ground and was already far enough away to be unrecognizable if you didn’t know it was him. She knew she’d never see him again, but she didn’t really know why, but in a way she was relieved. She couldn’t know what was going to happen and the effect that it would have. She didn’t know Michael would never be able to look at her without seeing Marjoram, even though they looked nothing alike, because Michael had never really seen Ashley. He had only seen Marjoram in somebody else’s body.
The knock just kept getting louder. Michael’s face was buried in one pillow and he pulled a second over his head, but the knocking just kept coming. His head was throbbing like a heard of bison stampeding through his head. He had drank heavily, smoked all his pot, and drank NyQuil the middle of the night in order to finally go to sleep. He pushed himself up from the bed and threw both of the pillows on the floor. He wavered almost falling and coming close to projectile vomiting. The knock came again. He stormed to the door and flung it open.
“WHAT?” His eyes were crusted with sleep and he couldn’t focus, because of the headache. He was wearing nothing but boxer shorts and wobbling in the doorway. The two policemen stepped back a pace from the violence of his appearance. The younger one unclipped his holster. Michael squinted and looked back and forth between them. He had no fear of policemen, but he didn’t understand why they were at his door. He raised his hands showing his palms to them. “What?” He still wasn’t awake enough to form a whole sentence.
“Michael Kastor?” The older one spoke up.
Okay, they were looking for him specifically. Michael looked back and forth at them again trying to think of what possible reason cops could have for coming to find him.
“Yeah. What do you want?”
“You’re Marjoram Eriksson’s closest emergency contact. We tried calling you, but got a busy signal. When we checked and the phone company said it was off the hook.” The policeman’s voice was very calm and measured.
“Marjy?” Michael began to blink rapidly as he tried to focus on the policeman that was talking.
“We’ve been in touch with her parents. They can’t get here until tomorrow.”
“Marjy?” Michael began to shake.
“They are… aware how close you were to Miss Eriksson and asked us to see if you would stand in for them until they could get here.”
“Marjy?” It was all Michael could say. He felt like this couldn’t be real. This was TV, where cops came to your door and spoke calmly and quietly to you.
“Ah… Mr. Kastor. We’d appreciate it if you would come with us. We’ll wait here while you put something on.” The man kept his voice very even, but his body was braced.
“Come with you why?”
“To formally identify, Miss Eriksson.”
“Marjoram’s dead?” I was the weakest voice that had ever come from Michael’s lips.
“But how?” He searched their eyes for answers. “She was fine yesterday.”
“I don’t have the details sir.”
“Was she in an accident?”
“No, sir. She wasn’t in an accident.”
“Sir I don’t think they’ve made a determination yet. But we need someone to officially identify her.” He shuffled a little before continuing. “I’m sure if you’ll get dressed and come with us, they’ll be able to tell you more when we get there.”
“Okay.” Michael went into Zombie mode. He went to the kitchen sink turned on the cold water and stuck his head under the water. He let it run over and chill his skull then he scrubbed his face with his palms. He hadn’t bothered to shut the door and changed his underwear in full view of the policemen. He got a clean pair of jeans and started to reach for a T-shirt, but stopped short and went to his closet and retrieved a blue, button down, shirt. He buttoned it up and reached down for the pair of polished, dark brown, wingtips that he only wore to interviews. He carried them to his dresser and dug through his white tube socks until he found a pair of dress brown socks. He leaned on the dresser fighting down a wave of nausea. He swallowed down a slug of bile mixed with chunks of something. Probably the cold pizza he’d eaten at some point during the night.
Once he regained control he sat on the end of the bed and put his shoes and socks on. Then he sat there for a moment with his elbows resting on his thighs, staring at the floor.
“Yeah… yes I’m coming.” He went to his dresser and combed his wet hair.
It was a surreal sitting in the back of the cruiser. The cop had said he didn’t think it was a good idea for Michael to drive and Michael didn’t argue the point. No one spoke on the ride over, or after they got there. He followed them down a long hallway to a white room with two gurneys. One with a body covered by a sheet, and a second one that was empty.
People were saying things to him, but he couldn’t hear them over his own heartbeat pounding in his ears. No one moved to stop him when he took it upon himself to lift the sheet off her face. He just stood there looking at her face. Her eyes were closed and the sunshine was gone, because that was her and she was gone. He wanted her to make one of her goofy faces. He wanted her to tease him. He wanted her to be alive, so he could make everything better again. He realized the coroner had said something relative. He gently laid the sheet down and turned toward the man. Michael’s expression froze the coroner and he stopped speaking.
“I’m sorry, you said something, but I didn’t hear you.” Michael’s voice was barely above a whisper, but very clear.
“Um. Her roommate said she was very upset when she came home.”
Michael looked back at her lying there and nodded. “Yes… we had… an argument.”
“Well I guess they started drinking to the point of excess and the roommate passed out.”
“Yes.” Michael nodded.
“Well the roommate was on an antidepressant. Elavil, I believe. She got her prescription from a pharmacy in her hometown and got two months at time. She had just refilled. Miss Eriksson,”
“Marjoram.” Micheal interrupted.
“Yes.” the coroner continued. “… started taking the pills at some point during the night and continued to take them until she… ah, succumb. She had pills in her hand when her roommate found her. I haven’t done a full workup, but my preliminary finding is that she vomited in a sitting position and asphyxiated.”
Michael touched the sheet at her shoulder and ran his fingers along the outline of her arm. “She was the most special person, I ever knew.” Michael’s voice was hauntingly distant and it gave to coroner and waiting cops the chills. “I think the world would be a better place with her in it instead of me.” No one responded to Michael’s musing. No one thought he expected one. He rubbed his face with his hand, then held his forehead with his palm. “Why couldn’t her roommate do this instead of me?” Michael asked shaking his head.
“As I said,” The coroner took a step closer to Michael. “she’s on Elavil, the antidepressant. She’s been hospitalized over this.”
Michael nodded his head. “Well.” Michael clinched his jaw. “It’s her. Do you need me to sign something.”
“Yes.” The coroner stepped over to Michael and held out the clipboard and a pen. “Right there by the X and print your name on the line below. Michael scribbled a signature, it took a little more time printing his name, then he handed it back to the coroner.
Michael went back to Marjoram and lifted the sheet off her face. He bent over and kissed her on the lips. Though he whispered softly to her, the other men in the room heard him.
“Goodbye my sunshine. Hello darkness my old friend.” He gently replaced the sheet and turned to face the coroner and the two policemen. “Is there anything else?”
The older policeman looked at the coroner, who shook his head. “That’s it Mr. Kastor. We can give you a ride home.”
Michael nodded and looked back at Marjoram’s sheet covered body. “Seems like there should be something more.” Again no one answered Michael’s rhetorical statement. He sighed deeply and followed the policemen back down the long hallway.
On May sixth, 1989, at four PM, Michael was busy running around the campus getting ready to leave school. Trying to stay one step ahead of the two girls he’d been dating. He wanted to get away without a scene between them.
Back at home, Jim Kastor was in the garage working and a walnut keepsake box for Lisa. She had a collection of pictures and mementos of theirs and Micheal’s life that she kept in a shoe box. The box had become augmented with tape over the years and it was in danger of collapse under the weight of all those memories. He was making it big enough for the shoe box to go in and new things as well, because he knew his girl and the shoe box had taken on a meaning of it’s own. It was a touchstone itself. She had started it before Michael was born and had never traded it for another, newer box. She didn’t know he was making it for her and he was very much looking forward to giving it to her.
Lisa had just arrived home and was at the front door, fumbling with her keys, while balancing two large paper bags of groceries. And Apollyon placed a call.
Lisa managed to get her key in the door by the second ring. She raced through the house, and dropped the bags on the kitchen counter, sure she wasn’t going to catch the phone, but it continued to ring. Breathlessly she picked up the receiver from the wall phone she stretched to long springy cord to start getting cold things out of her shopping bag as she held the receiver to her ear.
Lisa dropped the phone and it hit the floor with a crack. She knew, right away, that things were no longer peachy. She squatted down and retrieved the phone.
“Oh Jesus, it’s you…”
“My beloved. How is that sweet pussy of yours. I couldn’t help but stop by from time to time and slip into your dreams.”
Lisa blushed. “I don’t remember my dreams.”
“Yes you do.” Lisa flushed deeper crimson. Apollyon cleared his throat. “I just wanted to give you a courtesy call. I’ll be seeing our son later…”
“Of course our son. Didn’t you ever wonder why you never had a second?” His voice was measured, with a hint of amusement.
“No…” All the moisture had abandoned Lisa’s throat and she could barely speak.
“Oh, don’t lie to me, Lisa, it’s unbecoming of your refreshed nature. I know you wanted a little girl.”
Lisa swallowed. “How could you know that?”
“Tell me, Lisa, in all those trips to the Library, did you ever look up my name?” His smug voice was like a slap to her ear coming through the phone. “Anyway. I’ll be seeing Michael later. Not to worry I’m not going to hurt him in any way. I just want him to meet his real father and make him a little offer. Just to be nice, I’ll even tell him to keep it to himself and let your dear Jim keep living his little… white… lie
The phone clicked off. Lisa let out a deep sigh and lowered the phone. She let the phone rest on her hip and stared at the wall. After catching her breath she hung up the receiver and walked into the living room. She poured herself a vodka, splashed some tonic in it and slugged it down. Looking at the living room phone she poured herself a second drink. She carried it with her to the phone and dialed the number she’d used many times in the last several years.
“Library, this is Susan.” Susan’s familiar voice was of no comfort to Lisa.
“Hey, Susan, this is Lisa.” Lisa did her best to keep her tone conversational.
“Hi, Lisa, what can I do for our favorite patron?”
“It’s just something silly. I’m… I’m doing a crossword puzzle and I’ve got a weird name that I can’t figure out if I’ve got it right. Would you mind looking it up for me?”
“Sure. What is it?”
“It’s Apollyon. With two Ls a Y. I think it’s Greek.”
“Yes I think I’ve heard it somewhere. Hang on a sec, let me get my Greek Mythology Encyclopedia.” Lisa heard the clack as Susan set the phone down on the counter there was very little background noise in the library and the phone hummed at her. She finished her drink and tapped her fingernails against the empty glass. She picked up the phone base and pulled it over to the portable bar and made herself another drink. She had just managed a sip when she heard Susan pick up the phone.
“I’m back. Hang on while I look. I looked it up in the catalog and it was actually in a biblical reference book for some reason.” Lisa could hear the pages turning. She didn’t realize she was holding her breath.
“It is Greek. It is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Abaddon, “the angel of the bottomless pit.” From the occurrence of the word in Psalms 88:11, the rabbins have made Abaddon the nethermost of the two regions into which they divide the lower world; but in Revelation 9:11, Abaddon is the angel and not the abyss.”
Lisa did her best to take a breath without sounding like she was gasping for air. “What does all that mean?”
“Hmmm. I guess “angel of the bottomless pit.” would be. In Greek it literally means the Destroyer. Let me look at synonyms… Beelzebub, the beast, Lucifer, oh it’s just another word for the devil. Satan.”
“What an odd thing for a crossword.” Lisa said with complete detachment. “Thank you, Susan.”
“Sure. Is there anything else?”
“No, just needed my silly question answered. Thank you.”
“How’s, Jim, doing? It really seems like the surgery help him a lot.” Susan felt especially involved, since she had been through the journey of research for the surgery with Lisa.
“Oh, yes. He’s much better. I think he’s working in the garage. He made himself a wood shop out there.” Lisa’s voice was robotic and her eyes were glazed over staring into the void.
“Are you all right Lisa?”
“Oh, yes, yes I’m fine. I think I’ll start dinner. Thank you for your help.” Lisa set the phone down carefully and finished her drink in one shot.
“Hey, Jim.” Lisa smiled. “I just wanted to tell you, you apparently have no viable sperm and by the way, the devil himself sired the baby you think is your son.” Lisa poured more vodka in her glass and tried to down it but it caught in her throat and she started hacking. She leaned on the bar until she could recover.
“Yeah. I think that will work. He can deal with that. It will be fine.” Lisa wished she could be there to know what was happening with Michael. Could he really not tell Jim that he learned the truth about his biological father. And why did she not even question the idea that the man she had thought was just an energetic casual fuck, was the dark lord himself.
Michael crumpled up the sandwich, in the foil it had come in. He’d only eaten a couple of bites, but didn’t want it anymore. His morose memories had stolen his appetite. He had returned to his old ways. He found out it was easy to get laid when your girlfriend committed suicide. That was probably the weirdest thing of all. And girls kept their mouths shut about it too which made it even easier. He could get out of anything by just saying “He needed to be alone…” or “… he couldn’t handle being with one woman yet …” and they’d let him be. It was almost like every girl wanted to pity fuck the sad guy.
He had gotten bored with the easy conquests and gone back to his pattern of dating two girls at once. One main and one stringer. But he’d grown tired of both of them. Of the two girls he was trying to ditch, before break, one girlfriend had thrown the traditional you bastard I’m going home and sleeping with my old boyfriend line in his face which hadn’t phased him at all. He’d been counting on that one. Now if she could get her ass off campus without Elaine running into her. What are the chances? Last day. They’re moving out. They did live on different floors of the dorm. He didn’t really care about their feeling he just didn’t want to deal with the scene.
“Excuse me, Michael, I don’t mean to interfere with your mental ping pong, but I wonder if I couldn’t shave off a little of your time.”
“What?” Michael looked up to find the source of the voice. He thought he had never seen the guy before, but he looked familiar and it dawned on him. It was the guy who’d been watching him fight with Marjoram. What the fuck did he want. He was older than Michael, but not a lot. He was just old enough to look out of place on campus. Michael had spent a lot of his life examining himself in the mirror. More just trying to figure out who he was than looking at his own features, but this guy definitely had some like characteristics. “Do I know you?”
“No, not really.” The guy smiled.
“But I’ve seen you before.” Michael studied his face.
“Probably more than you realized. I’ve been keeping tabs on you.” The guys voice gave away nothing.
Michael instinctively balled his right into a fist. “What the hell does that mean?”
“It means I’ve been keeping track of your progress. To see if… you were worthy. Now the time has come and I think you are.”
The bizarre nature the guys statement disarmed Michael.
“I’m a friend of your mother’s.” Michael could feel the man studying him. “I knew her before you were born.”
“What did you cut our grass, or something.”
He laughed at this. It was the first break in his demeanor. “I think it’s time we talked. You see, I’m you’re father.”
Now it was Michael turn to laugh. “My father!? What were you ten?”
“No, much older than that. I age well.” The guy leaned his head back to one side give Michael the once over. “It’s time you learned of your true heritage.”