False Prophets wander everywhere, through everything, through every-body. A few may remember these midnight poles of magnetism. A few may remember and go mad, but a few may simply remember. I remember the night Holland came into our home, our father had called him. It was nearly one in the morning, deep inside a sweltering summer, and our mother was completely catatonic, convinced somewhere in the black mountain of her mind that my sister, her daughter was dead… dead and forgotten.
Holland was our local Pastor, who had inherited the mantle from the late Richard Gaines, who baptized my sister. I want to talk about Holland tonight because the first night he came into our home, the first time he came into our home, nothing was the same or sane again. I want to talk about Holland because I’m driving very fast right now, searching for that fateful tree or a telephone pole, dying from a brain tumor.
I want to talk about Holland because he was alone with my mother for over an hour, but they weren’t truly alone. I was there beside the shut bedroom door, yet I could hear, and see, feebly through the ragged hole my father had punched through six months ago the night my sister found her true voice with a bread knife.
I was listening through the Minotaur hole in the bedroom door. I was listening to this:
“My daughter, my first-born is dead, dead, DEAD, Christopher. Can you lay down with me now, so we can dream together?”
Holland spoke very softly to my mother, “Your daughter is alive, Marie, because I have seen her,” he bent over and whispered something, the only word I could catch was again.
My mother began laughing, a sort of sibilant cackle – she sounded like a bride of Dracula.
“Is she home again?” I heard my mother hiss. I couldn’t see her face, and was grateful. Holland blessed her with his certainty that she was home again, and indeed she was. On her way home to confirm the prophecy, but something happened then, something I couldn’t comprehend through the Minotaur’s hole in the bedroom door.
Twenty-five years later I met Holland again, in the Barbary Coast, the bar my father dropped dead in ten years earlier. He was exactly the same; he looked twenty nine years old though his black curly crown was completely white. I was what I am now, a fully functioning disaster with his front teeth still intact, but bearing the blue eye-bags of a hobo clown. I bullied my glaucoma, truly focusing on what I thought was a hallucination, but it was him, it was the Preacher who brought my sister back from the grave. I got off my stool and walked a thousand miles before I gazed away – a moronic child who was about to open his hole to him.
He recognized me instantly and smiled warmly. I detected plastic surgery, head transplantations, black magic, invisible Calcutta clinics. I sat beside him and he offered to buy me a beer.
“A dollar Icehouse tonight, Christopher. Please allow me.”
I accepted, because Icehouses were a dollar that night.
I drank my beer in four swallows and met his eyes, and his eyes didn’t own any pupils, they were pure beast-green, and I was ready to drink them dry.
“How have you been Christopher? Not too well, I imagine.”
I could see now, I’d been falling face-first into the holes of destroyed wives my entire life, seeking the riddle of a single night, and here it was, before me, and its name was HOLLAND. He saw me truly see him and cleared his throat, spitting something large and dark into his palm, swiftly fisting it, and putting it into his pocket.
“It’s been awhile, Christopher, how the hell are you?”
“How the hell,” I echoed.
“How are your sister and mother, still everlasting?”
“Everlasting, yes, always.”
“Not too many tears in the etheric plane?”
“Many tears in the etheric plane.”
“I’m sorry son, I did the best I could that night. I’ve gotten so much better though, please, believe me. There is 70-80 percent less sadness from the lingering, they go back so much more faster now, it all depends on the sensitivity of the vestigials. Are you still mourning?”
I looked at Holland, and my mother and sister were trying to devour his head with glorious maws grown from the dream of their resurrection. It was a futile feast, they consumed nothing. And nothingness looked like a blessed relief, for I was consumed every evening by their bottomless, wordless wishing wells and within them I looked toward the buried stars like a doomed explorer, and found the murdered moon of my mother’s face, remembered the red amnesia of my sister’s smile.
“I have a confession to make,” I declared. And it was true.
“I’m all ears, son, I’m all ears.”
“I need it under the stars, under the moon, under the Milky Way.”
We walked out the back door of the Barbary, into the alley of between Cracked Street Oyster Bar and Hellashiss Deli. A light rain was falling.
“On your knees now son, beneath the god that is weeping for us now.”
I got on my knees, and felt everything, felt the cool wet puddle my knees were drinking, felt the needles of the rain on my neck, felt the cold density of my mother and sister flanking my flesh.
“Tell me now, my son, tell me now.”
And I did. My dead sister’s bread knife break-danced between his ribs, finding the ass of his heart, or what I thought was his heart, a core that screamed like a spider. Holland was smiling the entire time.
And here I am, and fuck you Bill Bacon, because you were always a shitty sponsor, and fuck you Holland, I guess this old oak will finally unlock every secret for us now.
Bio: Chris Benton’s tales have appeared in A Twist Of Noir, Plot’s With Guns, Thriller’s Killers ‘N’ Chillers, Black Heart Noir, Crimefactory, Thrill’s Kills ‘N’ Chaos, and Shotgun Honey. He lives in North Carolina.