Previous parts of the story are here:
As always, thanks for reading. Please excuse any typos. This part will close Chapter 1.
There was no choice but to participate in this charade. Kate had grown accustomed to superficial band aids, the family movie night required suffering through a movie no one really wanted to watch, but the scales had been tipped here. Negotiation suspended indefinitely.
The movie played its opening credits. It was Caddyshack, a movie introduced by their father yeas ago, one of his favorites. At least it was a comedy, although no one was in the mood to laugh. Kate and Faye sat bunched in the corner of the couch, while their father sat in his easy chair. For a brief moment, all appearances suggested this set-up might hold true.
“Finally, some peace. This is going to be good,” Kyle said, as if he never seen it before. His head sunk into the head rest; in a glided puppeteer motion, he turned his head towards Kate.
Kate nodded barely holding his gaze, while her sister squeezed her hand underneath a blanket. It would appear an ordinary scene to an uninformed guest, but something was off with her dad. She studied his reddened face, and sweaty armpits. He had taken off his sweater he wore earlier, and now lounged in a ragged, white undershirt. And he was happy, too happy. He couldn’t wipe that giddy grin of his face, like he just took a look up a hottie’s dress and it was his little secret.
The movie began ordinarily enough. Even Kate caught her breath for a moment, laughing at scenes her father insisted were classic.
“They don’t make movies like this anymore,” Kyle said to the television. He then erupted in hysterical laughing, crunching over in his seat and holding his belly. And then he would have fluid moments of attempted coherent conversation. “We should take up golf. What do you kids think?”
“Golf could be fun…I suppose,” Kate said, stuttering. Her mouth felt full of cotton.
But Kyle didn’t hear her, because he wasn’t listening, pounding the coffee table as he laughed, making the girls jump with each hand stomping. The velocity and fervor increased, until he wheezed, letting his head hang so that all you could see was the top of his head. He quieted, the whole room silent. Even the movie fell to a whisper. His head bobbled, and he directed all his energy at the floor. Kate stirred, squeezing her sister’s hand. The idea of a phone emerged at that moment. She should call. Someone. She felt helpless to move, afraid to put her feet on the floor.
Kyle lifted his head, laughed, bursting uncontrollably. No funny scene, no Rodney Dangerfield one-liner. No excuse for a laugh of any sort. But a laugh that made Kate’s insides twist inside out. She thought she might vomit, until she looked at her sister’s pale complexion. His raucous cackling intermingled with short grunting noises that began to sound like code.
Wild cackling, grunt, grunt, grunt. Silence. This pattern held for whole minutes with Kyle in a trance, his beady eyes his most prominent feature. Faye pointed to their father’s pants lying in a heap in the corner. Kate nodded, and slipped off the couch in a crouched position, and made her way towards the corner on her hands and knees, like a wild animal evading capture, except there was no tall grass, nothing to hide behind.
Kyle stomped on the floor in perfect sync with a knock at the door. A fresh, crisp knock. With a second in between, two knocks, with Kyle thumping the coffee table two times. He averted his gaze to the TV, and laughed and grunted at the movie. Three knocks now at the door matching Kyle’s rhythm. Three pounds on the coffee table. He only looked at the television as if unaware that he pounded on anything at all. The knocks appeared to come every second on the clock. Five seconds, five knocks. Six seconds, six knocks. Ten seconds, ten knocks echoing through the house.
The clock that hung on the wall read 11:55 pm, marking the approaching midnight hour. Faye crept over to find Kate, tossing through her father’s clothes, feeling around in his pockets, and felt the rectangular shape she sought. His phone, still operative.
The incessant beating rang in her ears, as Kate attempted a text to her boyfriend that read:
Pick us up. NOW!!!!
The reply came swiftly:
Shaking, the phone fell out of her hands, and she choked on her labored breathing. Faye crawled up next to her, shaking her head frantically, a mad dance to the steady hum of knocking that wouldn’t let up. Kate glanced at the clock and saw the moving hand hit thirty seconds.
The knocks increasing in tempo to keep up with the seconds were now a non-stop crescendo of sound, a wall of sound, building and swelling. The individual knocks no longer audible. The door looked to be breathing; a heavy exhaling, ready to burst. Kyle banged on every object he could get his hands on, the lamp, the couch, the floor, the easy chair, as if drumming on bongo furniture, all in fun, all with a grin plastered on his face and his eyes boundless, dark pools again.
The wall of sound engulfed them as they heard thudding on the windows, surrounding them, drowning their screams, their throats course and raw. Their next round of screaming was reduced to a thin, hoarse cry, no one could hear.
They prepared for the worst, as the buildup increased at such a level, the whole house might explode in a burst of flames. They could hardly move, the sound deafening, piercing, and only getting louder and louder.
Kate questioned herself whether or not she heard it, or was it reverberating in her ears instead. She squatted to the ground, encircled her arms around her head, and shriveled tight into a ball. As the clock of the moving hand approached the fifty-second mark, they awaited the last seconds crouched together in the corner, their arms wrapped around each other in an interlocking embrace, burying their heads into their chests.
The pounding surrounded them and it felt like it was closing in on them. The sound tighter, chipping, narrower. A pressure held them, contained them. The knocking, an endless cycle that now lacked structure; a deafening sound that could swallow them whole.
The clock hit midnight, and Kyle raced to the door like he was welcoming an old friend, with no acknowledgement of his daughters shivering in the corner. Kyle flew open the door. No one was there, not visibly, but Kyle felt a solidness in front of him. He took one step back, and a cold air pushed him into the house smack into the wall, with the door slamming behind him. He felt his head slam into the wall, and his body slid down in his aftermath; he fell unconscious, his head heavy, nodding against his chest.
“Dad,” his girls rushed to him, and then stepped back as they approached closer.
Kate knelt to hold his hand, “Dad, Dad. Can you hear me?” She squeezed his hand and got nothing back, then brushed his chin, and lifted his head. His eyelids flitted, shifting between open and closed.
“Talk to me?” She slapped him on the face. Faye bounced on her tip toes behind her.
Kate found herself suddenly in the parental role, an unwilling participant, trying to rise above it all but just as easily sinking beside her sister a twisted ball of nerves.
“Why isn’t he talking, Faye? Help me.”
With tears streaming down her face, she replied, “He’ll be okay, Kate. He just hit his head.” Faye, the eternal optimist, actually gave Kate a much needed boost.
A gale force wind encircled them and drew them together, but there was no air and they could not bust free from it. A wave of air rippled through the drapes like keys on a piano, and then with one thrust, burst into the chandelier, forcing it to swing to and fro, an invisible trapeze act.
“Did you see that?” Kate asked.
“Uh huh,” Faye looked almost catatonic. They both knew it wasn’t the wind, and the windows were shut.
The girls clutched their hands together, collectively holding their breath. The chandelier stopped swaying; their father moaned at their feet.
“Dad.” Kate nudged him. “Go get a wet rag, Faye. He’s burning up.”
“I’m too scared,” she said.
“Just do it. Dad needs our help.” Faye knees shook unwilling to move, her body sinking in a quicksand of despair.
Kate also too scared to move, collapsed over her father. Now more forcefully, she slapped her father on the face. “Wake up, wake up. We need you, daddy. Now.” The urge to flee the scene pulled at her with equal force. The door in front of her with no one there to stop her. She could take Faye, run to a neighbor, or just run. Run.
In the adjoining room, they heard a thumping on the slide glass door, repeatedly. Slam, slam, as if someone were throwing himself into the window. It was just enough to keep them anchored by their dad.
Then all was quiet. Something was yanking at them, yanking at the seams, the fabric of their clothes, the angles of the walls seemed to breathe, in and out, again, and again, until an explosive thudding, this time inside the walls, as if someone were trapped inside willing a release, stomping and banging, louder and louder still; Kate and Faye could do nothing but cover their ears. Like a drill it exploded inside Kate’s head. Faye blocked it out of her head by screaming; she couldn’t stop. This did nothing to alert their father, passed out and unresponsive.
In an explosive burst, Kyle rose to his feet, grabbed Kate by the temples, suspending her a few feet off the ground. He slammed her against the wall. Faye’s screaming accompanied his one-man act execution. Kyle pounded her head against the wall, harder the second time, and held her jaw.
“Daddy. Stop,” Kate whispered, her eyes rolling up into her head.
Kyle eye’s quickly gained focus, like a dull blade sharpening, and he released Kate, her legs breaking the fall, her head banging the floor on impact with a jolt that pierced her skull.
Kate didn’t know how long she’d been out when she came to. Faye lay beside her with tears streaming down her face. Kate bolted from her horizontal position which Faye mirrored.
“Listen,” Kate whispered.
“What?” Faye asked, although she sounded miles away.
With another light tapping on the door, she realized they had drifted off.
“Kate. It’s me, Jake. Are you all right?”
She gasped, opening the door to him and falling into an embrace.
“I didn’t hear from you, so I thought I’d drop by. What’s wrong?” eyeing her swollen, red face. “You guys have a fight?”
“Take me out of here,” she said to Jake. “C’mon. Faye, we’re taking a ride.”
They left with no interference out the front door. A steady hammering came from the garage, a piercing in her ear like fingernails on a chalkboard, except she felt it in her gut. She assumed it was her father, but she really didn’t want to know.
They slipped out the front door, piled into his pickup without speaking. Faye clutched Kate’s hand, her face still wet from tears. Piled together in the front seat felt oddly comforting. Away from the house, she could feel the frantic pace of her heart beating, and a dull clattering inside her head.