Waiting for Pyramid Head – Part 2

For starters, only read this if you’ve already read my previous post, found here: https://partisobscurum.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/waiting-for-pyramid-head-part-1/

Enjoy second half of my essay (I decided to only break it into two parts because I couldn’t really find a good breaking point again).

As part of my religious tradition I believe there are real, evil supernatural entities that plague the earth, that these were the followers of Lucifer, and that they hated us for our bodies. They were miserable, and wanted only to make us miserable. My parents, who were my principal religious instructors, would occasionally mentions these evil beings as they taught me but discouraged any form of lengthy discussion. They explained to me that thinking about evil too much invited it, and the last thing I needed to be dealing with in my life was manifestations of evil, be they temptation or literal creatures.

I took their word for this: I hadn’t had run-ins with evil, but others around me had, and I knew their stories.

My best friend, Nick, for example, was playing in his unfinished basement with his younger sister. She sat in a baby carriage that he shook back and forth like it was a ship. Abruptly the small bed began to shake and moved by an unseen force beneath the stairs, trapping his sister beneath while both screamed. It took both of their parents to free the little girl. Nick and his sisters were forbidden to go downstairs without supervision for years until the downstairs was finally finished.

Or my friend Jared, whose old house either had very peculiar wiring problems or something supernatural messing with their lights and electronic devices.

Or my uncle Keith, who faced down a possessed man while proselyting on his LDS mission, who snarled inhumanly with a visible darkness around him, charging my young uncle full speed before being repelled by an invisible force of light.

I sit, my right leg bouncing rapidly, a manifestation of my eagerness to take my turn to stand at the podium and read my story. At the beginning of the open mic night I let myself dive into the stories and essays and poetry being presented. Not so now– each word becomes dragging, road bump after road bump in the way of getting up and reading.

The piece in my hands is a revised copy of “The Cruelest Masterpiece of Gunfire,” part one of the horror novel I have named Dark Art. I can’t wait to read the words, even though I know I will stumble over them at times. I am hungry to see the reaction of my friends and peers. I crave the validation I’ll feel if I create a shock.

Writing horror is now more powerful than any other kind of writing for me. The emotional reaction– the strong emotional reaction– that comes with it is thrilling. The idea Pyramid_Headthat I can do more than just entertain my readers– or, in this case, my audience– but that I can make them feel a certain way, is exhilarating. It makes me create something real.

I’m going crazy to try to scare people.

As I finally stand at the podium, I can see a monster with a metal mask sitting in the back row in my peripheral vision as my eyes scan the text of the epigraph. “First smiles, then lies, last is gunfire. Stephen King.”

“Ah, what the hell.” I spat on the ground and went back into the warehouse, steeling myself against the horrors awaiting me. I put on rubber gloves and got on my hands and knees. My investigation took only ten minutes.

It didn’t surprise me that Verrick didn’t notice my discovery– he never had a very fine eye for detail. He was good at making connections, but he wasn’t good at finding the evidence that made those possible. I wasn’t surprised that when I showed him my little gem of evidence he instantly got an idea of where to go from here. I found a domino, white with a single black dot. It was hidden beneath a splash of blood. Familiarity flashed in my mind on several levels, but before I thought too deeply about the significance of the game piece, Verrick pointed out that not too far from us was a building with a sign bearing the same symbol.

I can’t help but feel a little sick inside as my mission president tells us he is revising a statement known as “My Purpose,” published in the church’s official missionary guide, Preach My Gospel, which states that as missionaries we are to “invite others to come unto Christ” by a variety of methods, instead reducing the statement to a mere five words: “My purpose is to baptize!”

I know that baptism is extremely important, but I do not believe for a second that it is my sole purpose as a missionary. Almost from day one of my mission in South Carolina, I have hated the bombardment of the idea by the mission president and other mission leaders that to be a successful missionary we must be a baptizing missionary, even though the scriptures– and most of the training materials published by the church– define success in much broader strokes than that. I see Christ’s apostles and church leaders helping change lives in small ways alongside the radical. I see people coming back to church, or coming to see Christ in their lives, or even just receiving a bit of kindness like brightening a day.

Soon the questions suggesting criticism of my work, proffered by other missionaries who are given assignments over me, become direct attacks. “Why are you not baptizing?” “Why don’t you stop seeing that person? They haven’t come to church yet.” “You are not working hard enough.” “You are not focusing on the right things.”

I keep my reactions bottled inside me, forcing myself to not shout back, You do not know what I am doing. You are not focusing on the right things. I am doing my best to try to help others, so shut up. You don’t know what you are talking about. You are baptizing without any care for what happens to the people you baptize. You don’t care if people actually change their lives. You just want to go home and say you’ve baptized X number of people, aren’t you so great? You just want a pat on the back from President McConkie. Instead, I just lower my head and keep doing the work I know to be right.

My mother always has hated horror- really, any form of entertainment that focuses on dark themes. M. Night Shayamalan’s film The Sixth Sense frightened her deeply. At the time The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings movie came out she barred me from watching it, considering the Ringwraiths too dark for me to handle– and I was eleven and had read all of the books– so I had to watch it behind her back.

I was very sheltered in that respect.

The strange thing is that my mother is a very strong, brave woman. It is no exaggeration to say that her example and that of my father helped me develop what I feel is a strong personal moral compass.

She advised I avoid horror. “You don’t want the bad spirit it invites,” she said, implying a connection to earlier lessons about thinking about real evil.

The nervousness I felt when my friends and I watched The Ring at my house for my thirteenth Halloween was only in small part due to the complications of the plot. My mom avoided the room where it was playing the entire evening.

Even though it was the middle of the night, we decided to try knocking on the door. The safest course of action was to fix Verrick up with a wire. This was a dangerous job, and I felt my curiosity should be satisfied with minimal risk. I didn’t want to risk my life in helping an old friend make a buck. Thank God I felt that way. That decision may make all the difference in the world.

I sat in his car, a few hundred yards away, listening on a radio as Verrick approached the building:

A door knocking, a faint creak as it opened. “May I help you?”

“Yes, my name is Dalton Verrick. I am a private detective investigating an accident that happened a few streets up. At the scene we found a domino that is identical to the one on your sign. I’d like to ask some questions.”

“Certainly. We would love to dismiss any possible suspicion of us with involvement with… whatever it is you’re investigating. Please, come in.”

The creak of the door opening wide to permit entry, followed by footsteps.

“This way, Mister Verrick. I’ll take you to my boss’s office. James Jackson. Lucky for you, we’ve been working a late night.”

“Oh, what is it you do here?”

“We’re in charge of shipping for various manufacturers. We have a big order to send out in the morning.”

“Happen often?”

“Far too often.”

Verrick laughed. “Yeah, I hear you there. As you can see, this job doesn’t exactly have the greatest hours either.”

“Ah, here we are. Make yourself comfortable while I find James.”

The sound of a door shutting, the clack of a deadbolt. Muffled laughter.

“What the hell’s going on?”

An inhuman squeal. Horrible screams. Dalton Verrick, one of the ballsiest people I know, screaming. A sloshing, ripping sound.

My shaking fingers turned off the radio with a click. What in God’s name just happened in there? I must be mad, but even though I had just heard Dalton Verrick die– oh God, I hope he died, I can’t imagine living after whatever it was that happened to him– I had to know what was inside that building. Verrick was right, my curiosity had to be appeased. I would go mad not knowing, just like silently not understanding my wife’s death ate away at the back of my mind.

The mystery of one death almost destroyed me. I could not deal with another.

I didn’t want to die, but I had to know. I absolutely had to. And now I’m not sure whether that curiosity is a blessing or a curse. Either way, I’m haunted by my decision whenever I fall asleep.

I am standing in an empty baptismal font with a woman standing next to me that we had been teaching for several weeks. I am filled with indescribably complex feelings of compassionate love for her. “Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized?” I ask, tears filling my eyes.

She looks unsure at first, but the emotions that are filling me begin to reach her as well. She slowly says, “Yes.”

My companion Elder Edwards, a large, softhearted Texan, helps us out of the font. “Wait,” our investigator says, keeping us from leaving the chapel that is connected to the font. “I need to tell you something.”

I nod. “Of course.” We all sit.

“Well, you know I’m pregnant.” She had brought it up in past lessons, but she wasn’t showing yet. “The day that I met you guys, remember how I was sitting on the porch? Well, I was waiting for my boyfriend to come pick me up. He was going to take me to get an abortion. When you talked to me and taught me about Jesus, I just knew that I couldn’t do it. He showed up a little bit after you left and I refused to go with him. I’m keeping my baby.” Tears rolled down her dark cheeks, matching the ones that both my companion and I were crying.

That was the last time we saw her– she must have been told to stop meeting with us, and avoided us like we were an illness. We were sad, and frustrated, that she was not going to be baptized and become a member of the church, but those emotions were nothing in comparison to when we sat in the circle and learned of her decision to keep her child– and our role in helping that happen.

In high school I had three video games hidden in my sock drawer: Half-life 2, Resident Evil 4, and Silent Hill 2, each of which featured prominent horror elements or were full-blown horror games. I played them very rarely, only when I was alone (which , in a family with eight members, was pretty much never). I didn’t want my younger siblings to have the nightmares I had when I was eight, but moreover I didn’t want my mom to know I owned such macabre games.

After my youthful experience, I was pretty sure that if she saw the words “Resident Evil” on a case she would have been angry, or worse, disappointed.

I kept darker Stephen King books in my backpack rather than on my bedside table while reading them.

Simply, I kept my fascination with works of darkness in the darkness.

I drove home: I needed a weapon.

I snuck into my house, avoided waking up Natalie. Dug around in my sock drawer and pulled out my Smith & Wesson .357. I probably would have sold it if I had retired for any other reason than the death of my wife, but I had instinctively held onto it, feeling a need to protect my daughter from the haunts of the night. I dug out my shoulder holster, which I hid beneath my jacket.

I kissed my daughter’s head and slipped out. I drove Verrick’s car back to the building marked with a large domino. I popped open the trunk of the car and found some lock pick tools. I pocketed them, and slipped through an alley to the back of the building.

When I got to the back door, I drew a small bottle of oil from my pocket and greased the hinges and tried the door. Locked. I pulled out the lock pick tools and got to work. I was out-of-practice, so I was surprised at how easily and silently I was able to unlock the door.

The carpet was dark red, like you’d see at a movie awards show. It looked expensive, but looking at rest of the building, it probably wasn’t– the cement walls were cracking and there was dust everywhere. I had to fight to resist coughing– especially hard with my asthma.

Using my oil to maintain stealth, I began peaking into rooms one-by-one. Most were vacant, but a few held tools.

I have my headphones on, listening to a Silent Hill soundtrack, immersed in the macabre as I work on my craft, editing the third part of my horror novel, “The Artist.” My narrating protagonist, a middle-aged art critic named Laura, leads a group of her neighbors in battle against a bare-chested monster that was once a detective, while my ears are filled with industrial sounds of the quasi-religious nightmare Otherworld that the small lakeside resort town of Silent Hill becomes when sirens blare and dense fogs rolls in. As the creature saws through the chest of one of Laura’s fallen companions, I hear a long scrape of steel and wonder to myself if Pyramid Head is nearby.

It is widely believed in South Carolina that there is a dark entity known as the Hag that spends its time afflicting people at night. It is a shadowy figure that stands at the foot of one’s bed while you awake, paralyzed, unable to make a sound and unable to look at anything but the creature. Sometimes it just departs from there, other times it makes physical contact– prodding the sleeper, or even laying on top of the unfortunate victim. On my LDS mission to the said state, I heard stories of the Hag and shrugged them off as superstition.

Until I was shared a personal experience by another missionary whom I trusted– who was visibly frightened by his experience. The hag had stood over him, poking him until he awoke. My belief was underlined when, a few nights before Valentine’s Day 2011 a member of the church I was close to told my companion and I about when he had been “hagged” a few years prior, the awful creature pressing down on him as he was frozen in bed, about how he listened to talks by religious leaders on repeat all night for weeks.

The night of Valentine’s, I had an experience of my own.

I didn’t get “hagged,” but I did awake at about 2:00 AM, feeling confused beyond normal sleepiness. I couldn’t focus mentally at all. My mind darted frantically, voicing internal expressions of bafflement at the chaotic state I was in. It was as if there was another voice– another presence– in my head, controlling (or more accurately, fighting for control) of my thoughts. I couldn’t focus. It was beyond my grasp.

I had to force myself to stand, walking into the bathroom with my scriptures in hand. I washed my face, trying to get my body to wake up more. I tried to read the scriptures to clear my head, but I could barely get my eyes to focus on the words on the page, much less make them to make any sense. I fell to my knees, the scriptures clutched against my chest, and prayed.

I prayed until my knees started to ache, the whole time pleading to God internally while struggling to maintain control of my thoughts. My prayer was reduced to a simple phrase, repeated over and over, begging to be freed from the dark confusion.

The powerful duality of my mind persisted for most of an hour.

I wasn’t freed until I woke my companion and asked him to pray for me as well.

I held my scriptures like a teddy bear every night for the following week.

I came to a room marked with dozens of dominoes. I found that it held an occupant. It staring at me, wide-eyed. It was a monster. Its skin was the same color as its irises–red as rouge. When it saw it had a visitor, it smiled warmly and sloppily licked its pale lips with a deep crimson tongue.

My body stiffened. What the hell?

It had four main limbs, like humans, but rather than a distinguishable difference between legs and arms, it seemed to have four of the latter. Long hands with sharp claws clacked on the floor as it stood.

I ran, not restraining the screams that tore at my throat, forgetting I had brought along my handgun for protection.

The monster darted after me, catching the door before it latched and flung it open. It giggled and chattered in high, animalistic tones.

It was much faster than me. It caught me quickly, throwing me down to the floor. As I felt ribs crunch upon impact. As I stared at the carpet I thought it must be that deep crimson color to hide blood. I began laughing hysterically– no, that can’t be right! My mind flashed to the colors, the horrible yellow, from earlier.

My laughter transformed into screams as I felt its claws rip into my back. I tried to roll over to face my assailant, but as I turned, my face was ripped open, blood splattering into my eyes. It tore with claws like thorns. I felt my body surrender to imminent death, curling into the fetal position.

I am finishing a short story, nearly fifty handwritten pages in length, called “A Glass Darkly.” There are monsters in the story– a few supernatural, but the most frightening monster is a kind much more commonly found in real life: an abusive husband and father. Only known in the story as “Papa,” the creature leaves broken fingers and “clumsy accidents” in the wake of his drunken cruelty.

Just weeks earlier I had an encounter with a dark force that was beyond my ability to adequately express. Now, with pen and paper, I am finding my way through horror fiction to give words for an anathema that is real. Not problems that I have known personally, but rather the terrors I have seen hiding in the corners of eyes in many of the people I have been dedicated to helping and teaching who live in project housing. I write about poverty, of alcoholism, of dangerous relationships. I grow. I begin to understand.

Even Pyramid Head, who has been reading over my shoulder, can’t help but shake his head as my little protagonist, Alice, is left alone, crying next to the bloody corpse of her mother. I look up at the blood soaked monster and give him a nod of appreciation.

I am at Universal Studios’ Hollywood Horror Nights. I am breathing heavily, my asthma burning my lungs, drowning in smoke machine smoke, drawing heavily from an emergency inhaler that is not my own. I remember now that mine is in my suitcase. I silently curse myself for my stupidity.

We’ve just ridden the rides up to this point– Jurassic Park in the Dark, The Mummy, Transformers– so I feel now like I have my asthmatic body under control enough to walk through one of the horror mazes.

I have been dying to go one in particular to since I saw a friend’s link online– Silent Hill.

We move to stand in the line leading to a passageway that loudly sounded with an air raid siren over and over and over.

Soon my friends and I find ourselves in Silent Hill, clearly built as the Otherworld version of the town, where things go from unnerving to openly hellish. I dart past a Lying Figure, a humanoid creature that almost looks like a man turned inside out with no arms. It throws itself at a chainlink fence as we pass. I hiss, “Oh hell!”

My hand in my wife’s, we slowly follow our friends through a room marked with the Halo of the Sun, a red symbol of The Order, a cult that worships a chaotic goddess and the creatures of her Otherworld domain. Then, another dark room, full of grotesquely sexualized nurses who move with inhuman locomotion, snarling at us beneath masks of flesh.

Room after room: the Bogeyman with his long-handled sledgehammer, three Robbie the Rabbits, each a pink amusement park mascot with a smear of blood matting the fur around their mouths. Two of the rabbits are props, one jolts to life just as we are about to pass it.

And then, him. Guilt himself, Pyramid Head, the Red Pyramid. He rushes us with a spear and we cower in a corner. He chases us down a hallway, then herds us into a room full of bloody corpses swinging from the ceiling, reaching for us with his long, muscular arms. His glove-clad fingers brush against my shoulder just before I step out of the room–

And find myself outside, in the smoke, once again with my favorite monster behind me.

%d bloggers like this: