Gill doesn’t want any tea, so Hilter doesn’t bother making any.
“Wow, nice living room,” Gill gushes as he steps into Hilter’s living room. The floors are warm hardwood planks, there’s a large (and fully stocked) bookshelf standing against the back wall, and in the middle are two armchairs facing each other, one of which is touching arms with the couch between them. Next to each chair is an end table, one of which has a pen and a notepad sitting on it.
“Thank you, Gill,” Hilter answers, moving instinctively to the armchair with space between it and the couch. “Believe it or not, I have all of my living rooms set up just like this. I find it makes for a comfortable and stress-free talking environment. Please, take a seat wherever you’d like.”
“I’ll take the chair, if that’s okay,” Gill says. He’s standing in front of the chair but not making any moves to sit down. When Hilter affirms his choice, Gill sits down. “Thanks. I’m not allowed on the couch at home.”
Wielding the pen and notepad, “And why not?”
“My Father doesn’t want me spilling my eggs and ruining the fabric. He’s usually sitting there anyway, um… can I talk to you about something, Doctor?”
Hilter looks up from his notepad with what can almost be described as surprise on his face. “Of course, speak on anything you’d like.”
Gill slinks down in the chair a bit and stretches his legs out, crossing them at the ankles, then he folds his hands behind his head. “It all started with Rose, Doctor. She’s the one who called me an eggy man. I was her eggy man.”
“Well that sounds wondrous,” Hilter says, scribbling away. “Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I assume she’s no longer in the picture?”
A rueful smile spreads across Gill’s misfortunately arranged face. “Yeah, that’s right. She’s gone, vanished. Poofy.”
“Poofy,” stated with all the seriousness in the world. “She was the only woman I’ve ever had, Doctor, the only woman I’ve ever loved. She’s probably the last one, too. I’m not exactly a looker, Doctor.”
“Perhaps,” Hilter admits. “But physical appearance isn’t the only variable in the formula of attraction. It certainly helps, don’t get me wrong, but those who rely on it tend to be lacking in other areas. And please, no need to call me Doctor. I’m just a man, like you. You can call me Hilter, or even Mister Williamson if you’d prefer.”
A jolt runs through Gill’s body at the mention of the words Mister and Williamson, as if he was struck by a taser.
“Are you all right?”
“Yeah, yeah I’m… so uh, can… can I continue?”
Pen to notepad, Hilter nods.
“We met at my front door. She said she lived on… well, she told me she lived in the area and that she was out of eggs. I didn’t even get a chance to offer her some of my eggs, Hilter, she just started kissing me. We even fell over on the floor; by the end of the day, I was a man. An eggy man.” Gill sighs. “I’ll never meet another like her. I don’t even want to meet another woman, she sucked the soul clear out of my body.”
Hilter nods along, still writing.
“And before you accuse me of living a fantasy, she was real. I sometimes have trouble telling if I’m dreaming or awake – that’s why I said what I said earlier, by the way, to answer your question – but this girl… this woman was real. She lived in my house with me for three days before she disappeared. When I woke up to find her gone, all of the messes we made were still there.” Gill leans forward, then, “And we made a lot of messes. I had to wash my Father’s bedsheets four times just to get the smell out.”
“Your father’s…” Hilter begins to ask, but then he gets it. “Ah. Right. So erm… am I correct in saying she left your life just as quickly as she appeared?”
“Yep… and, and you know what else?” Gill says. His legs are crossed at the thighs now, and he’s sitting straight up, hands balled in his lap. “Right before she knocked on my door, and right before she said goodbye, I um… I burned an incense cone.”
Hilter’s penstroke pauses long enough for Gill to notice.
“What? Why did you stop like that?”
“I… let’s save my side of the conversation for the end. Please, continue.”
“What if that is the end?” Gill asserts with a question. “What if nothing weird happened, what if nothing that I can’t possibly explain went down, huh? Maybe she just smelled the smoke of the first cone and liked it and it attracted her, and then she smelled the smoke of the second one and left!”
“Gill…” Hilter says as he sets the pen and notepad down on his lap. “Tell me what really happened. I will not judge you, nor will I insinuate that you’re lying, and it will not leave this room.”
Gill is beginning to sweat. He’s a sweaty, eggy boy. “How do you know that isn’t what happened?” he whines, his eyes darting back and forth across the room. “How do you know??”
Resuming control of the pen and notepad, Hilter says, “Well, there are certain ways a therapist can tell if the patient isn’t being totally straightforward. I have a hunch that may be the case here. I may be wrong, but… well, I don’t think I am.”
“What, then?!” Hill spews, unleashing his repressed agitation, the spittle splattering against Hilter’s hardwood floor like smelly yolks from dropped rotten eggs. “If you’re so psychic, then why don’t you tell me what really happened!”
“I…” Hilter begins, then sighs. ‘Tread carefully, Hilter.’ “It wouldn’t happen to involve a djinn, would it?”
“A gin?” Gill spits. “I don’t drink, Mister Williamson. Rose was not an alcohol-induced hallucination!”
Although it’s hard to uphold, Hilter keeps his straight face. “That’s not really how that works, Gill… perhaps I should have said genie?”
All the anger falls out of Gill Milligan’s face, unlike the sweat leaking from his armpits, which abruptly stops flowing. “How… how did you know that? Have you seen them, too?”
“I eh…” he begins, then considers the safety of Scotty Mells, an ex-incense salesman who nearly lost his life when he gave up the gig for good. Scotty now lives under the care of Hilter’s bank account in the first house on Fricker Drive, which would have been Gill’s final stop had he kept going to peddle his free bottles; when Hilter found him, the boy Mells was floating face-down in the Monksville Reservoir with deep ragged slits in his wrists. At first Hilter thought the djinn nonsense was just that, nonsense, a sort of delirium brought about by living isolated in Treeburg’s industrial park and consuming the spoiled fruits of the polluted environment. But now there’s corroborating evidence… and how convenient is it that said evidence presented itself at Hilter’s front door. How convenient indeed… but there may be more to this Gill boy than he lets on. He could potentially be dangerous, especially to Scotty in his weakened state.
“I had a very strange dream last night. I walked up Barnstatter Path and there was a luxurious mansion at the beginning of it, presumably where your house would be if I walked up there in real life. There were djinn statues decorating the spires, and…” he sighs. This is all starting to venture into the realm of being far, far too much. “Let me ask you something, Gill: do you think dreams have any bearing on reality?”
Gill looks sideways at Hilter. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, do you think dreams are just dreams, or do you think they’re potentially… do you think they’re…” he sighs again. “I’m so tired, Gill. Ever since I moved to this neighborhood my life has only gotten stranger and stranger. I started compulsively acquiring all these houses for reasons that I can’t explain, I’ve met folk who claim to interact with metaphysical creatures and the like – one teenager told me there was a sea monster living in the Wanaque Reservoir, for God’s sake, and you know what? I believed him, that’s how far from baseline things have come for me. I’ve been having dreams that seem to be trying to tell me something, but every time I think I’m understanding the message, something else happens which only serves to thicken the plot. And now you’re here, Gill Milligan, you with your nymphomaniac ghost girl who appeared out of thin air, stayed with you for three days, and then disappeared. Life is ironic, I know that better than anybody; hell, I tell my patients that to help them cope, but… but this is just…”
With his elbows on his knees, Hilter lets his head fall and catches it in his hands. “Everything seems to be connected in a way that… it’s getting to be too much for me to handle. I feel like I’m losing my mind.”
Uncomfortable doesn’t begin to describe what Gill Milligan is feeling right now, but he sure doesn’t like the look of Hilter’s desperation. “Um… I don’t know if this will make it worse, but… and I never told anybody this, not even my Father–”
“That statement means nothing to me, Gill,” Hilter says, his voice bursting with dismission and wormy self-pity. “My father died when I was very young, I didn’t have him to help me grow up.”
“Oh…” Gill says, feeling like a frog in the middle of a desert. “What happened to him?”
“My Mother murdered him in cold blood and stuffed him full of the fluff she pulled out of my stuffed animal collection, which she massacred along with all the neighbors’ pets and some of the local wildlife.”
“Oh… well my mother died during childbirth, so… I don’t really know how you feel, but… I think my Father resents me for it, I don’t know. He doesn’t really look me in the eye. I think he’s embarrassed of me, but can you blame him? He owns all of the Buyify company, and all I have is Gill Bottles.”
Hilter straightens in his chair. He looks to his notepad and the messy, chicken scratch notes he took, then uncaringly tosses it and the pen aside. They land on the hardwood floor with a slap and a clack. “You’re a good man, Gill Milligan. Don’t let your father torture you into thinking you’re not good enough, all right? You said you sometimes have trouble telling whether you’re in a dream or in reality, correct?”
Gill nods slowly, then says, “Yeah. I keep a dream journal and it sort of helps a little, but sometimes I still can’t tell. The journal sometimes appears in my dreams, too.”
“Well that might come from your lack of self-esteem. Your father is very successful, sure, but that doesn’t mean he’s a god. He doesn’t get to decide whether or not you’re good enough. I had a fair share of issues with my Mother after… oh, what the fuck am I doing? Do you even want to be here, Gill?”
“I think I should tell you what I wanted to tell you.”
Hilter doesn’t even try to hide the rolling of his eyes. “Sure, fine, go ahead. I very much doubt I’ll keep up this therapist gig after this, anyway. I’m Goddamned shot. Go ahead, Gill, what do you have to tell me?”
“Rose said she had an uncle named Mister Williamson who lived on Fricker Drive when she first introduced herself, and then right before she disappeared, she said Mister Williamson was an only child, that he didn’t have any living siblings.”
This catches Hilter very much off guard; so off guard, in fact, that his guard shatters like the fracture edge of reality he had been clinging to until this point. As his psyche plummets into darkness, Hilter stands up, arms dangling at his sides like a ragdoll, and in a perfectly flat and toneless voice, he says, “Get the fuck out of my house. Get the fuck off my street. Go home and give up your shitty bottle selling dream, nobody wants to buy old glass bottles.”
“But, but Mister Williamson–”
“They were thrown into the woods for a reason, Gill!” Hilter shouts. “They’re fucking trash, nobody wants to buy your trash! Now get out before I call your father, you deformed little snot!”
Gill scrambles out of the chair as the tears begin to fall. He runs across the living room to the front door, his feet moving like a dog’s when it tries to run on a polished wooden floor. The bottles standing on Hilter’s steps don’t even catch his eye; he leaps down to the lawn, runs to the street, and disappears behind the trees. The wind, which had picked up as the sky darkened during Hilter and Gill’s conversation, slams Hilter’s door.
The loud noise knocks the pin out of the rage grenade nestled in the throbbing lump on the back of Hilter’s head. He stomps to the front door, rips it open, and storms out to his front lawn. The rain begins to pour as soon as his right foot bends the first blade of grass.
“What are you trying to tell me, God? What is it?!” he shouts at the sky, shaking his clenched fists at the rumbling black clouds. “All these troubled humans who I keep meeting, all these strange events that keep happening, all these odd fucking dreams and their corresponding real life incidents, it’s all too convenient!”
Lightning strikes in the near distance, sending a booming clap of thunder rippling through the sky.
“This is too much, God, this is all too fucking much! I can’t fucking handle it anymore, just tell me what you’re trying to say! If you have something to show me, then Goddamned show me you almighty COWARD!”
Just then, the downpour starts. The rain is ice cold and strikes Hilter’s face like bullets of hail. He stands against it at first, but then his shoulders slump, his arms fall, his legs bend slightly at the knees. Holding this defeated stance as the rain pours and pours and the wind continues to blow, Hilter mutters, “Maybe… maybe you’re the one who’s become too much, Hilter. Reality is under no obligation to make sense to you, you arrogant fool. Just go the fuck inside and shut your rotten mouth.”
With his drenched clothing sticking to his body like the sheet when he woke from his “symbolic” dream earlier, Hilter goes the fuck inside. He leaves a trail of soak up the stairs and along the hallway, a trail which ends at his bedroom door where he strips off his therapist’s uniform and leaves it for the carpet to drink dry. After drying off in the bathroom, Hilter slips into a pair of sweats which match the color of the sky and decides not to put on a shirt, because at the end of the day, all Hilter really amounts to is a hairless ape with a broken brain that works too fast for its own good. Hairless apes don’t need to wear shirts, especially those who own many houses. Hairless apes who own many houses can do whatever the hell they want.
But what good are all those houses when Hilter has nobody to keep him company? Nobody besides his catatonic murderer of a Mother, that is, who Hilter hired a hospice nurse to take care of so he wouldn’t have to spend time with her. All this confusion started when she came back into his life, all these connections started to appear the moment after he got the call where he offered to take her catatonic ass out of the facility for the criminally insane, and why did he even do that? Because he’s her son, because he didn’t want the burden of that woman to rest on the shoulders of the employees of the facility? ‘They all get paid to take care of her, Hilter, and all you’ve done is pay for it ever since.’
“You’re a Goddamned fool, Hilter Odolf Williamson. Gill’s old bottles aren’t the trash, you’re the trash. You should have just stayed in your old bungalow up in New York, none of this mess would be happening if you hadn’t been so unnecessarily altruistic. Oh, I’m very sorry to hear that she’s slipped into a semi-comatose state. Listen, why don’t you just pull the plug? Put the old girl out of her misery; God knows she’s better off dead. Ugh… if only I could go back. If only, if only…”
Hilter takes his laptop off the nightstand next to his sheetless bed and sits down. He opens the computer with the intention of bringing up some relaxing lo-fi instrumental music to accompany the raindrops pouring against the thin roof of his house, but he never makes it to the internet browser. A window is already open – it’s the security program Hilter installed along with all the many cameras on his many houses along Fricker Drive. It seems that someone has broken into one of his many houses, the one with the atrocious turquoise deck in the back.
‘The man in the ski mask,’ Hilter thinks to himself, forgetting all that self-loathing crap he was spewing about losing his mind. ‘The burglar. He appeared in my dreams, and now he’s struck again, he’s returned to the scene of the murder he committed to pick up any goods he may have overlooked.’ Hilter doesn’t bother with the phone, the cops would take too long to arrive, nor does he bother checking the footage the cameras captured – Hilter has to deal with this right now, he has to deal with it himself. Hilter will be enough. For the ski mask burglar, Hilter Odolf Williamson will be enough.
Draped in a hoodie and strapped with the dirty old beer bottle Gill gave him – that’s why God sent Gill, to make sure Hilter had a weapon to dispatch the burglar with! Of course! – Hilter Odolf Williamson takes off into the rainy afternoon, fully believing he’s racing towards his destiny.
In fact, one may say he believes it too much.
And the rain pours and pours.
And the wind continues to blow.
Hello Commons, this has been the last subchapter of the thirteenth story from Convenient Incidents, an anthology of fifteen interconnected short stories which revolve around a man by the name of Hilter Odolf Williamson.
Convenient Incidents is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Convenient Incidents is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If you like Convenient Incidents and would like to help support my work, click here and buy an autographed copy of the book (or anything else!) from my store. Alternatively, you can snag a cheaper (and unsigned) copy from Amazon by clicking here.
Be well Commons~