Henry Winklevoss adjourns to his study. A roaring fire helps to stave off the chill. The pungent aroma of tobacco permeates the room as he gingerly pulls from his pipe. His wife Loretta arrives at the doorway (she always hates this part but he insists she stand on custom), and she knocks before entering. She has brought him his traditional nightcap.
Henry sets his pipe down in an ash-tray on the end table. He takes his drink from the tray, and Loretta places the tray atop the table.
“Thanks Loretta,” he says.
“You’re welcome. I’m off to bed now. You going to stay up and read awhile.” She always asks even though she knows the answer’s always the same.
“I am,” he watches her as she walks toward the door, “Love you.”
“I love you too,” she said.
“Goodnight,” she said, trailing off.
Henry takes a few good swigs on his scotch on the rocks, then sets his drink on the tray. He picks his book up from the other table beside his wingback chair. It’s a book about Edgar Cayce, and his phenomenal abilities. Actually, it contains articles written by learned men arguing for, as well as against his being capable of all that is claimed. He turns up his glass till the rocks clink, a chunk of ice nearly cost him a trip to the dentist. Still, there’s been quite a lot of loss. He adds a few more cubes from the miniature ice bucket patterned after an old ice cream cooler.
It’s going down more smoothly now. He holds the book out, at arm’s length, while repeatedly sipping with the other hand. A stubborn piece of burning wood crackles intrusively, and he glances at the fire as if perturbed by its insolence. But for moments after he just glances around the room. Recessed bookshelves are floor-to-ceiling on nearly every wall. He gets almost all the periodicals, has at least a few books on near every imaginable subject, and has read the majority of them at least once. Henry is a college graduate, but it’s here, and in other libraries where he feels he has earned his true degrees. He knows a little something about everything, and of that he’s damn proud.
Lately he’d chosen to formulate an opinion concerning Cayce, ESP, and the possibility of a person possessing psychic powers. Just about now he wished he had psychic powers, well, telekinesis anyways. Jokingly, he thought to himself, ‘if I could just concentrate hard enough.’ He stared at his drink long and hard but nothing happened. It did not fill on its own. Nor did it levitate to his hand. Nor did a toad suck the remainder of the liquid down below eye level.
This psychic stuff was just not possible. It was far too difficult. An impossible task.
Henry gulped down the little bit of watered down liquor remaining and refilled his glass from the decanter. He was good and warm faced now, the ice was unnecessary.
He lay the book down upon his lap to focus on his contemplative drinking. In his mind’s eye he tried to fly away, to astral project. He thought just maybe, like Cayce himself, he might be able to remotely view.
For a time there was nothing, then slowly a picture bled in. First he saw the Washington Monument, then Mt. Rushmore, then he was standing before old Honest Abe, and then there was darkness. The revelry was over. He realized these were all just places he’d visited as a kid, while on vacation.
‘How does one do it he wondered?’
All that he’d learned about Cayce was quite interesting but it didn’t really provide you with the roadmap on how to achieve out-of-body successes.
He set the book on Cayce aside, rose slowly to his feet, and approached his bookshelf. The fire was dying down a little now, but with the spirit blanket warming him he forewent the log.
Henry had books galore. He knew he had some on astral projection, but was having trouble locating one. He found several books which contained in-depth research on the matter of astral projection but he opted instead for a bit lighter reading. He chose a stack of Tomorrows. The psychic journals covered a broad range of subjects both fiction and non-. With a pile of the readers digest sized books he sat back down. He selected the best few and sat the others on the table.
The clock struck six.
‘Jesus, is it morning already. It’ll be daylight soon.’
He normally ignored the clock but six-am was a real wake-up call. Quickly he read one of the articles on astral projection and thought again of how one might do it.
He looked up again at the grandfather clock. Obviously he hadn’t read as rapidly as he’d thought, it was now 6:39.
‘One last article he told himself, ‘then bed.”
Glancing through the contents he came across a story about a sighting of the Devil and since it was relatively short it suited.
Apparently the Devil, or some like beast was fond of taking walks on the beach. Or perhaps he’d come out from the ocean. Henry tried hard to envision this happening, but it was extremely difficult. He just found the whole thing laughable.
Just as he was about to put the little Tomorrow book down, thinking, (tomorrow, yeah, I’ll read it tomorrow, right now I’m going to hit the hay), a slinky shadow danced across the hardwood. At first he thought his eyes were playing tricks on him. It couldn’t be. Then its slinkily cast silhouette slithered out of the shadows and into the firelight.
“SNAKE!” he screamed. Henry drew his feet up tight, and onto the chair. He stared as the solo cast its shadowy performance upon the floor. It didn’t seem to have a care in the world, as if it had been here many times before. In fact it was too comfortable; it had to know he was there. He hoped Loretta hadn’t heard his feminine outburst. She’d probably laugh at ‘im once she saw the size of this thing. But here and now it was the context that mattered. Henry believed most people would have become more than a little alarmed if they’d been reading about Satan and lo-and-behold a serpent, a truly unlucky find at the end the rainbow. Then it dawned on him, ‘I’d been reading about Satan, thinking about astral projection, attempting remote viewing and suddenly a snake appears, quite literally out of nothing, and having come from nowhere.
Keeping his eye on the snake Henry placed his feet upon the floor. Evil, not evil, it was a damned snake in his house, (in his library of all places) and now it was going to die.
Henry returned from the mud room with a hoe Loretta used for gardening.
Where is Loretta? Why hasn’t she come down, angry about the noise?
Henry stood over the snake (just watching it) his hands held the hoe poised for a strike. Even now the snake was fearless.
He chopped at it. He missed.
He chopped again, he missed.
He chopped a third time and found his mark, cleaving the snake in two.
Two live entities both squiggling off in different directions. The head half mad seeking its exit. The tail writhed upon the floor in dazed confusion.
The snake head sought its shelter in the fire. It left a serpentine blood trail as it sluggishly propelled itself toward its death. As it slid out of sight it sizzled odorously, but somehow managed to disappear beneath the fire grate, sans bursted flames.
Henry couldn’t believe what he’d just seen. He was trying to make sense of it, but the snake’s tail just kept rolling over again and again, hypnotically. He told himself, that that wasn’t the bit that mattered, yet instinctively he felt it bear watching.
Finally it did quit squirming and he scooped it up onto the blade of the hoe, tossing it into the fire for good measure. There atop a log it sat burning, but began to roll over again continually, as if searching to reconnect with its front half. It quieted again but oddly did not seem to be burning as one might expect. There was smoke roiling about, but it seemed little consumed by the flames. A concern for later perhaps, for now he wondered again about Loretta. Why hadn’t she come down? He hadn’t been being particularly quiet, and she always came down to give him the business when he got uproarious.
As Henry rounded the corner and prepared to mount the stairs, a small little head poked up above the flames. It opened its jaw wide and grabbed its tail with its mouth before disappearing back beneath the flames.
At the top of the stairs,
“Loretta? Hun are you awake? Boy have I got something to tell you about,” Henry opened the bedroom door.
The daylight was just starting to bleed in through their bedroom window. Loretta seemed to be stirring.
Henry sat down beside her and relayed his serpentine tale.
“You sure are antsy. Are you planning on getting up?” he asked, pulling back the sheet from her head. From her mouth poked out the heads of six baby snakes. Her turned up gown revealed a pale but lively stomach. There he counted three separate entities seeking birth. Strewn between her thighs to her feet lay nine; nine eeling their way out and into the world.
‘My God, what has the Devil done to my poor wife,’ he thought. For him, her face would now and forever be expressed as the startled dead.
How many were there? He had to kill them all! He counted:
Why the hell did that seem familiar?
Six, three, and nine, altogether, eighteen.
What does that matter just kill them.
It matters because there’s something to it.
They’ll still number the same, even after they’re dead.
6:39, he said, “oh my god, NO!”
357, whispered within.
Henry walked absently to the nightstand and retrieved the revolver from the drawer.
That metallic click was the final report.