‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Four, Chapter 3

Lynne sighed softly at first, her eyes closed and her mouth wide open, as she felt Herman entering her in his usual slow, gentle manner. Then, suddenly, she felt a sharp, painful stabbing as he jerked the rest of the way in.

Her eyes came wide open. “Oww!” she yelped.

The look of pain and malice that she saw in his eyes was inexplicable. Herman was never this way in bed.

Well, that’s because he normally never felt the sensation of a strap-on dildo rammed up his ass.

Though invisible and ghostly, that dildo tore Herman’s anus apart as thoroughly as a physical one would when shoved in as aggressively as Megan the ghost had shoved it. And with a grunt of pain, he was forced, by that thrust, to thrust just as abruptly into Lynne as he’d received it.

The thrusting continued, though…for both him and Lynne. Indeed, in raping Herman, ghost-Megan was, as it were, raping Lynne by proxy.

Herman looked behind him to see what the hell was going on. He saw the Megan of those dreams he used to have. “Megan!” he gasped as he felt another ramming.

Her dishevelled hair, her pale, flaking skin, and her glowing red eyes, circled in black rings, were disturbing enough to see in themselves, but the malicious grin he saw was far worse.

That face being far too unbearable to look at, he looked back down at Lynne, meaning to apologize for hurting her; but instead of seeing his wife wincing in pain, he saw her laughing at him.

“That’s it, Megan!” he heard Lynne say. “Jam that strap-on deep in his ass! Ha! Ha!

“Lynne?” he grunted in disbelief. “Unh! What are you…Uh!…saying?”

Only Lynne wasn’t laughing or saying any of that.

She was yelping in pain from the ramming she was getting from him, as well as seeing a malevolent grin on his face that was no more real than the malice he saw on her face. She said, “Honey, stop! Uhh! You’re hurting me! Oh!

But he didn’t hear or see any of that, due to Megan’s manipulations. Both husband and wife were experiencing variations on the dreams they’d had for so long.

As the sodomizing of Herman continued, and as he continued hallucinating Lynne’s laughing at him, he was filling up with a feeling for her he’d never imagined he’d ever feel–hatred. Part of this hate came from the laughing Megan was making him see and hear from Lynne; part of that hate came from Megan entering his body and consciousness.

Yes, the ghost was shifting from sexual possession of him to outright demonic possession. Though he still saw Lynne laughing at him, she was really looking up in incredulous horror at the transformation of the man she loved into…some kind of…monster.

“Herman?” she sobbed, the tears in her vaginal walls getting excruciating, “What…are you…doing? Ah!

Now he no longer felt the dildo stabbing his ass. With Megan fully controlling him now, he was laughing at Lynne as he continued raping her.

He no longer saw Lynne laughing at him. He saw her real face, her tears, her fear, and the pain in her eyes. He was so inundated with Megan’s hate, though, that he felt no pity for his wife. He just continued raping and laughing.

She struggled, trying to push him off, but he was too big and strong. She could only hope he’d climax and get off of her soon…but he didn’t.

“Herman!” she sobbed with pleading eyes he wouldn’t acknowledge. “Why? Ah!

She gave him one strong shove, and though it didn’t get him off of her, it did reveal someone behind him, the one who would answer her question.

“Megan?” she gasped, now remembering her own dreams.

Indeed, now she saw the ghost laughing at her with Herman, just like in her dreams.

Megan’s a ghost? she wondered, still yelping in pain from Herman’s continued phallic stabbing. I don’t even believe in ghosts.

Suddenly, Herman pulled out. Before Lynne could even have time to feel a sense of relief, though, he flipped her over on all fours, then he aimed for her ass.

“Oh, God!” she screamed. “Please, Herman, no more!

Then, the sight of Megan’s grinning ghost just a few centimetres away from her face explained it all: this wasn’t her husband doing this to her; Megan was possessing him, getting her revenge on Lynne for having Herman do this to Megan back in the girls’ changing room in the high school gym.

Lynne screamed as he penetrated her the same way Megan’s ghost-strap-on had penetrated him.

Did Lynne deserve this?

Wasn’t the shared guilt between her and Herman, and their committed love as atonement, sufficient redemption? Didn’t their commitment to their Catholic faith, all their attending Mass, redeem them for that one sin?

Not in Megan’s opinion.

Mercifully, he came after about a minute of sodomizing Lynne, then he pulled out and lay on the bed in exhaustion. He no longer had that malevolent grin; instead, his face showed unmistakeable shame and remorse…yet he knew there were no words that he could say to ease the pain he’d caused her.

For a second, she acknowledged his guilt and didn’t hate him for what he’d done, knowing Megan’s ghost had made him do it. But that second of forgiveness was only for that second.

For Megan’s ghost had left his body and entered Lynne’s.

Herman now looked into the hateful eyes of his wife, not sure if that hate was all hers or all Megan’s. If it was shared by both, how much of it was Lynne’s? If it was ninety-nine percent Lynne’s hate, he knew he deserved it, regardless of Megan’s possession of him. He simply couldn’t bear the thought that his own body had hurt the woman he loved.

She walked out of the bedroom like a naked automaton.

He lay on the bed waiting, panting, his heart pounding.

In two minutes, she returned with a large knife in her hand.

She grinned at him as she approached the bed. He smiled back.

He lay on his back, arms stretched out, ready and willing to receive the knife in his chest.

He did.

Megan’s ghost left Lynne.

She let out an ear-piercing wail as she looked at the blood coming out of Herman’s chest.

Then she stuck the knife into her own chest.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Four, Chapter 2

Lynne Hendricks and Herman Schubert got married almost immediately after graduation from high school. It seemed to most that this marriage was way too hasty, yet his and her parents saw, demonstrated every day in the couple’s sincere, enthusiastic love for each other, a true, bedrock commitment.

Besides, Lynne and Herman had no desire to have kids, so if it ever came to a divorce, there was no fear of custody battles complicating things.

They went to the same university, renting an apartment just a few blocks from the campus, and their commitment to each other extended to a commitment to focus on their studies; because without a wish to chase after sexual encounters with any other members of the opposite sex, neither of them had the temptation to party in bars.

This monogamous commitment of theirs, so unusual in kids in their late teens, was nonetheless explicable: the apparent suicide of Megan Fourier drove the two into such sexual guilt that their monogamy was meant as a kind of atonement.

Herman had been getting nightmares starting just a week after Megan’s disappearance. He dreamt of himself raping her, a vivid reliving of the actual event, of him raping Lynne, or of Megan with a strap-on raping him. He’d dream one of these variations at least once a week, if not almost every night.

As a Catholic, he went to confession and told the priest everything with his face soaked in tears. The priest advised him to turn himself in to the authorities, but Herman of course didn’t want to face that; so he decided never to have sexual relations with anyone other than Lynne, for the rest of his life. To him, such a sacrifice of so many potential partners, with his good looks making temptation easy, seemed an acceptable form of atonement.

Lynne had nightmares, too. She’d witness either the rape as it had happened to Megan, or she’d see Megan watching Herman rape her, or she’d see Megan with the strap-on raping her, with Herman watching and laughing. Her nightmares were less frequent than his, around once a month, but they were no less intense. When he proposed to her, she agreed that their giving up of sex with anyone else would be a sufficient punishment.

Of course, neither of them could have even imagined that it was Megan’s ghost that was visually narrating their every nightmare.

Lynne’s guilt increased upon taking a Women’s Studies course during her first year in university. Hearing the shocking rape statistics her professor quoted invariably triggered her memory of what she’d had Herman do to poor Megan. At the same time, though, the guilt motivated her to commit to her marriage all the more, resisting every pass handsome guys gave her on and off campus. Given her beauty, she got lots of those passes, almost every day, often several on any one day.

Lynne and Herman never changed their minds about not wanting to have kids, and their hard work studying paid off, with Herman getting into Law School, and Lynne getting a degree in psychology. Eventually, after their post-graduate work, he joined a successful law firm, and she became a psychotherapist, often listening with tears of compassion to her patients’ retelling of such traumas as child sexual abuse. His proudest court case, him as prosecutor, resulted in the conviction of a rapist.

Over the years, Herman and Lynne found that their nightmares about Megan were becoming fewer in frequency, until by the time they’d reached thirty years of age, they were no longer having them at all. During their thirties, therefore, their married life had become nothing less than a blissful one.

Indeed, they remained no less in love than they’d been as teens. With their successful work, they used their plentiful money to buy a beautiful house in a quiet neighbourhood in North York. Every year, they’d have vacations in such places as Florida or Europe. Life was good.

Megan the ghost had been monitoring their marital bliss the whole time.

She grew conflicted over whether or not to get revenge on them. First, she noticed how the simmering hate in herself and in Alexa and Tiffany was eating them up, hence Megan’s easing up on Herman’s and Lynne’s nightmares. Also, she sensed how her tormentors had grown repentant of what they’d done to her, making her less eager for revenge.

Still, seeing the boundless happiness of that couple irked her, for she remembered how she’d originally wanted Herman for herself.

She was especially irked to see their passion and joy when making love, which was every time they did it.

So one night, twenty years after her rape and her disappearance with Alexa and Tiffany, Megan decided to make her presence known to Lynne and Herman…in their bedroom.

It was just past ten PM. Lynne, still quite beautiful at 38, had just showered, perfumed herself, and prettied her face with makeup while Herman lay in bed waiting for her. It made no difference to him if she were eighteen or thirty-eight years old: she was still the sexiest, loveliest woman in the whole world.

She came out of the bathroom with only her bathrobe on. She went into the bedroom with a grin for Herman, who grinned back at her.

“Take the bathrobe off, honey,” he said. “Let me see you.”

“No,” she said bashfully.

“Oh, come on. I know how you look under it, and that’s why I wanna see. You have a beautiful body.”

“But, honey,…”

“Don’t be shy. Give us a look.”

“Oh,…”

“C’mon, don’t be such a tease.”

“Oh, OK.” She undid and dropped the bathrobe at her feet. One hand covered her breasts, the other, her pubes.

“Lynne, what’s with the covering up?”

“Well, I’m not as young as I used to be.”

“What’s that got to do with anything? You’re still the hottest, sexiest woman in the world. Let’s see it all.”

“Oh, alright.” She moved her hands away in all timidity.

He grinned as his eyes feasted on her lovely flesh.

“What are you so shy about?” he asked. “Your body is as perfect as it’s always been. Now, get in bed with me. I’m as hard as a rock, and I’m gonna show you how much I like that body.”

Giggling, she got under the covers with him. He took off his underwear. They held each other and began kissing.

Megan scowled, burning with envy, as she watched them together, so happy.

So undeservedly happy.

It’s time I took away your happiness, she thought. Her spirit descended on Herman as he entered Lynne.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Four, Chapter 1

Some time after the achievement of her revenge, Alexa’s ghost reappeared before those of Megan and Tiffany. They looked at her apparition with mixed feelings.

Do you feel satisfied, now that you’ve destroyed Boyd and Denise? Tiffany asked.

Yes, Alexa said. Completely. She grinned gloatingly.

Are you sure about that? Megan asked.

Why would you doubt me? Alexa said. Of course I’m sure.

It’s just that…here in Hell, we burn, melt, and suffer, Megan said. Satisfaction seems so far away, so unattainable, even after receiving revenge, as I got on my father.

Achieving revenge is a satisfaction all in itself, Alexa assured Megan. Even in this hopeless place.

I suppose so, Megan said, looking away from Alexa.

Why do you have doubts? Tiffany asked. Don’t you want to get revenge on Lynne and Herman for raping you?

Oh, yes, of course I do, Megan said. Every second that those two are still alive, I burn in a rage. Their every heartbeat is an insult to me.

So, go after them while you still have the opportunity, Tiffany said. Make them suffer, as we suffer.

They have no right not to suffer, Megan acknowledged with a scowl and a snarl. I hate that they’re happy.

Then get them, Alexa said. Ruin them. Why do you hesitate about your revenge? What’s stopping you, Hamlet?

Oh, I don’t know, Megan said, still not wanting to look at Alexa. How much of our burning and melting is just our sentence here in Hell for suicide, though; and how much of it do you think could be because of how much we’ve let our hate and anger turn us into murderous monsters? Aren’t we turning into the very bullies that we despise?

I don’t care if I’ve become a monster, or a demon deserving to be in Hell, Alexa said with a frown of hate. We’re in Hell and suffering anyway; it makes no difference if we get revenge or not as far as our fate’s concerned. But it makes a lot of difference if we suffer here and let our bullies get away with what they did to us, or if we make them pay.

I agree, Tiffany said. I groan in agony as each day passes and I don’t get revenge on Fay and George for what they did to me. We’ve followed Furioso’s advice about waiting to get revenge later, after cooling off after killing our parents. I’ve waited long enough: I will definitely get Fay and George.

We’ll suffer either way, Megan, Alexa said. But we can make them suffer, too, and we’ll show our strength, our power. Aren’t you tired of being weak? Make Lynne and Herman weak instead. Enjoy it. I enjoyed making Boyd and Denise weak.

But you killed their children and spouses, too, Megan said. You killed innocent children, and really violently. They never did you any harm.

Oh, who cares about them? Alexa said with so cold a face, it was as if her burning and melting had stopped and reversed, making her almost into an ice sculpture instead.

You don’t have to harm anyone other than Lynne and Herman, Megan, Tiffany said. Just hurt those two alone, if the idea of hurting innocent people bothers you. It makes no difference to me. We’re in Hell: having a moral conscience here is rather pointless, don’t you think?

I guess you’re right, Megan said. But I’m getting only Lynne and Herman. No one else.

Do what you like, Tiffany said.

Furioso appeared before the three spirits.

Are you ready to face Lynne and Herman, Megan? he asked her.

Megan looked over at Alexa again and winced.

Yes, I guess so, she said with a sigh.

Megan and Furioso disappeared, off to find the two targets of her revenge.

Tiffany now looked at Alexa’s apparition and winced.

You have no regrets over how you got even with Boyd and Denise, do you? she asked Alexa.

None at all, Alexa said with a rigid tone in her voice, though her face and body were anything but rigid.

In fact, her apparition showed her skin melting and dripping down to her feet, like the wax of an almost used-up candle.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Three, Chapter 4

Denise put the Pepsi and Fanta bottles on the kitchen counter, then she opened a drawer to get some straws. As she put her hand in to get them, she heard a whisper from behind.

Hello, Denise.

Startled, she spun around to find the speaker. Though the girl she saw looked ghost-like, the face was familiar enough. Denise gawked at that face in disbelief for several seconds, her jaw dropping.

“Alexa?” she whispered.

The ghost smirked.

Then it flew inside Denise’s body.

She gasped, then froze.

Her brain was now thinking thoughts that weren’t her own.

Terrifying thoughts.

Thoughts that couldn’t be expelled from her mind.

The baseball bat in the hall closet. Get it. Get a knife out of the drawer, too.

After getting a steak knife out of another kitchen drawer and putting it in her back jeans pocket, then putting her shirt over the handle to hide it, Denise walked out of the kitchen and into the hall like an automaton, with absolutely no ability to stop herself. She approached that closet with helpless dread.

All the while, she could hear her son noisily playing with his Star Wars toys.

You hate that noise, don’t you? Alexa’s voice rasped in Denise’s ears. You know you want to stop it, and there’s only one way to do it.

Denise couldn’t say no. She couldn’t even think it, as hard as she tried to.

She opened the closet door and picked up the bat.

She closed the door and took the bat with her down the hall to the living room. She couldn’t believe she had no ability to stop, drop the bat, and just return to the kitchen to get the drinks.

But she knew exactly what she was meant to do with the bat.

She couldn’t stop herself. She couldn’t say no to Alexa’s ghost. She couldn’t think any thoughts of objection to the ghost’s plan.

Alexa had total control over her mind and body.

Denise remembered how she’d bullied Alexa back in high school, but she couldn’t muster an apology, as sincere as it would have been. She couldn’t even let a tear roll down her cheek, over what she was being forced to do to her boy.

As she approached little Jameson with the bat, his voice, still imitating light sabre sounds, grew louder and more obnoxious. Her possessed brain was making her hate her son’s noises.

Violence is the only way to deal with anything you don’t like, Alexa’s voice told her. You know that. You’ve known it your whole life. Oh, sure, you’ve tried to suppress your rage against the world, you’ve pretended to be a good, loving mother, but you know, deep down, that that’s not the real you, Denise. Swing that bat. Beat him to death with it. You know you want to.

She was standing right behind him now. He just kept on playing and making those noises. He didn’t know she was there with that bat. He’d even forgotten about the Pepsi.

She raised the bat high over her head.

That noise is really annoying, isn’t it? Alexa asked. Little dorks like him deserve to be beaten, don’t they?

Denise kept that bat over her head, but knew she wouldn’t be able to stop it from coming crashing down on his head. She also knew why the bat stayed up above her head for the moment, why it wouldn’t come down just yet.

She was being made to wait for him to see her.

The waiting was also cruel suspense.

There was nothing she could do to stop it. The alien intelligence controlling her mind wouldn’t let her scream out a warning; it wouldn’t let her weep; it wouldn’t let her feel any affection for little Jameson.

It forced her to feel only murderous rage.

Still making the loud light sabre noises, he finally looked behind, saw her legs, then looked up at her.

He barely had time to frown at the sight of the baseball bat in her hands.

CRACK!!!

After that first blow bashed the boy’s skull to bloody pieces, she brought the bat down again and again, with many more a clubbing of his bones and back to finish him off.

He just lay there on his front, a motionless, bloody mess.

…and finally, she regained control of her mind and body.

She fell to her knees and dropped the bat.

She screamed a deafening wail of grief that went unbroken for the next ten seconds. Then she took in a hoarse breath and screamed again, louder and longer.

“I didn’t do this!” she yelled. “Something else…made me do this! Who?!

Alexa’s ghost reappeared before her, smiling.

“You!” Denise hissed. “You fucking bitch! You made me kill my son! What I did to you back in school was nowhere near as bad as this! I didn’t deserve this! He didn’t deserve this! I went to prison for my crimes! I reformed myself! I paid my dues!”

She picked up the bat and rose to her feet. She swung it at the gloomy apparition, hitting only her furniture as it swept through Alexa’s transparent spectral image. The ghost laughed at Denise’s futile attempt at revenge.

How does it feel to be the weak one, Denise? Alexa whispered. But as you can see, you still have your violent nature. All I did was reawaken it in you.

“I would never have been violent to Jameson!” Denise screamed, no longer swinging the bat in exhaustion. “You made me do that. I should have killed you back in high school.”

You did, Alexa said. You and that prick, Boyd, drove me to commit suicide. But I’m not finished with you yet.

Outside, Denise heard the door of their car shut. Her husband was about to walk through the front door.

One of the first things he’d see was little Jameson’s body in a pond of blood on the living room floor.

Before Denise could say or do anything, she felt Alexa fly back into her body. A cruel look on her face replaced the grief-stricken despair that had been on it just a few seconds before.

She picked up Jameson’s body and took it out of the living room.

Jack opened the front door and stepped in.

“Honey?” he called out as he walked down the hall to the living room. “I’m home. I’m really hungry. Could you please make me a…what the fuck?”

He saw that pool of red staining the living room carpet. He saw some broken things and dents in some of the furniture.

Was there a break-in? he wondered, trembling all over and stepping slowly and quietly into the living room. I thought I heard screaming as I drove in. Is the intruder…are the intruders…still here?

He walked over to the bloody baseball bat and picked it up.

He crept out of the living room and reached the entrance to the kitchen, listening for any sounds that might indicate an intruder. Any time his feet made the slightest creak, or if his breath was at all audible, he got mad at himself.

I must not give away my position, he thought.

No one was in the kitchen. He didn’t want to go in there for fear of his squeaking shoes telling the intruder…or intruders…where his was.

He went back across the living room and to the stairs leading up to the bedrooms. He noticed a few drops of blood here and there, suggesting where the intruder/intruders had gone.

He went up the stairs with painstaking slowness, careful not to make any noise, but slow also out of terrified reluctance to find out whose blood he’d seen on the living room carpet.

He reached the top of the stairs and looked around the hall leading to the bedrooms. No one was there, but a few drops of blood led the way to the bedrooms.

He crept over to his and Denise’s bedroom. He listened at the door. He heard the sound of something knocked over. He took a deep breath in and put his hand on the doorknob. He turned it ever so slowly and quietly.

He pushed the door open with the same slow, silent care. He saw mostly darkness and shadow, for the curtains were closed over the window. He heard a shuffling movement.

As soon as he flicked on the light switch, he felt something knock against his left leg, something that had leapt from the dresser drawer, knocking over a bottle of Denise’s skin moisturizer. It ran out of the room, scaring the shit out of him.

It was their cat.

“Jesus Christ, Snowball,” he whispered as their white cat continued running down the hall to the stairs. Then, remembering he had to be quiet, he put his finger to his lips. He looked down at the hall carpet. The drops of blood hadn’t stopped at their bedroom.

He continued his slow, quiet steps over to Jameson’s bedroom. He saw blood on the doorknob.

Oh, please, God, no! he thought as he opened the door, the bat in his other hand ready to swing.

This room was similarly dark and shadowy, the curtains also closed; but he could make out a short, small silhouette of a human being lying on the bed.

Please, let him be OK, he thought as he reached for the light switch. He turned it on.

Jameson’s body lay there, grotesque and disfigured from the beating he’d received, blood staining the bedsheets.

Jack’s eyes and mouth agape, he could produce no sound other than a hoarse gasp. He just stood there, frozen and stupefied.

Denise flew out from behind the opened door with that knife. She dug it deep in his gut.

The pain of the stab was nothing compared to the shock he felt from seeing the inexplicable malevolence in his wife’s eyes. He dropped the bat and fell to his knees.

“Denise…why?” he grunted as he looked up at her and her hateful expression.

He fell to her feet, surrounded in his blood.

She regained control of herself, then screamed at the top of her lungs again. “What am I supposed to do now, Alexa?”

You have the knife, the grinning ghost said. Use it on yourself.

She did.

***************

A few days later, the local newspaper reported the double murder/suicide, Denise’s naked body found in the bathtub filled with bloody water, her wrists slashed.

How such a family, known all over their community to have been so happy and loving, could have ended so tragically seemed a mystery to all…until a little research dug up her criminal past. It was assumed that her old violent ways had never been fully extinguished.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Three, Chapter 3

Denise Charlton, 38, had gone through quite a transformation over the years. Had she, at the age of eighteen, seen what kind of person she’d become twenty years later, she’d have never believed her eyes.

Still, the transformation did occur. It occurred out of sheer necessity. There was simply no way she could have sustained herself by continuing with her juvenile delinquency. Her violent ways had to stop.

It had all started with her abusive drunk of a father, an ongoing problem she’d known as far back as she could remember. As a little girl, she’d had to endure seeing that piece of shit get pissed and beat her mom; little Denise would get plenty of hits from him herself.

Now, when he attacked her, her trauma response wasn’t freeze, as was the case with her timid mother. She hated the way her mom was too afraid to fight back, so Denise was resolved never to deal with her dad in that way. Though the beatings she’d get were far worse than those her mother got, and though Denise always lost her fights with her old man, at least she made sure that bastard got a few dents on his own body, too.

Her fight response became her way of dealing with everybody. She was determined to let the whole world know she wasn’t going to take shit from anybody, and if anybody was stupid enough to give her shit about anything, she’d fuck him up good and proper.

Because of her attitude, she got into a lot of fights in the schoolyard…and no, she wasn’t afraid to fight boys, either. She’d fight with people at school, on the streets, and at any part-time job she ever-so-briefly had. She was a potential menace–Denise the Menace, everyone called her–to anyone who had the bad luck of crossing her path, and she was damned proud of that.

She started getting in trouble with the law, typically charged with assault and battery, at around the age of fifteen. Sometimes she’d get caught vandalizing–throwing rocks in windows, spray-painting rude words on buildings–or there was the occasional petty theft. But usually it was her and her gang of bad girls beating people up, out of sheer boredom.

Well, one night, months after the disappearance of Alexa, Megan, and Tiffany, Denise took her violent ways too far. That night, she and her gang assaulted a middle-aged woman and put her in the hospital. Denise was the ringleader, and the one who gave the woman the worst of the beatings, so she got the harshest punishment: five years imprisonment.

During her first year in prison, she stewed in a rage, angry at how unfair the world had always been to her. She got into plenty of fights with the other female convicts. But early into her second year, after a nasty fight that got her face bloodied and her ass in solitary confinement for a week, she found herself forced to rethink her life.

Though the preaching of the prison priest only made her roll her eyes, he did say one thing that made her reflect: “Anger is the enemy. Anger is a poison. If you don’t cure it, your hate will kill you one day.”

Indeed, she thought as she sat all alone in that room and sulked. Look at where my hatred and anger have led me. I have to stop fighting all the time. Maybe Mom was right to have been such a wimp.

She resolved, once she got out of solitary confinement, to make efforts to control her hostility to the world. Naturally, it was hard at first: she got into a few fights after getting out, but they were fewer, and she was pulling her punches for the first time.

After a few months, she was surprised with herself how rarely she was being even verbally abusive. The others in the prison were even more surprised, and after another year and a half of good behaviour on her part, she was considered for early release.

She had a parole hearing, and after making it clear how sincerely remorseful she was for not only having beaten up that woman, but also for all the hurt she’d needlessly caused others, she was released halfway through the fourth year of her sentence.

She found work–menial labour, but it was enough to get by. Her parole officer never had any complaints about her. She continued to be amazed at her transformation.

A few years later, she met a man, Jack Drew, a nice man, totally the opposite of her father. Jack was gentle, he never drank, and he managed to revive a belief in her mind that there actually are good people in the world. After two years of dating, they got married.

She was thirty when she gave birth to their son, Jameson. She lay in bed at the hospital, and when the nurse put the newborn baby in her arms, and her husband was standing by her, tears ran down her cheeks. She’d not only escaped the hell of hate and anger; she’d entered the world of love.

Notions of wanting to hurt people had become alien to her on this first gazing into her baby’s eyes. Now she felt only nurturing instincts, the drive to help, to give comfort, to remove hurt.

Again, she was amazed at how much she’d changed.

Years went by, and she was a dedicated mother. Taking care of little Jameson was a joy. Even when he was difficult, and outright annoying–which was not infrequent–her first instinct was almost always patience and kindness, rarely anger. He’d have to have been an extraordinary brat to make her as much as raise her voice.

So one morning, 38-year-old Denise was with her eight-year-old boy in the living room while Jack was at work. He was playing with his Star Wars action figures while she was watching TV.

He was imitating light sabre noises as he had Rey and Kylo Ren fighting. Really getting into it, he was also getting really loud.

“Keep it down, honey,” she said. “I can’t hear the TV over you.”

He kept at it at the same volume.

She sighed and said, “Fine.” She picked up the remote and turned up the volume. He made louder light sabre noises.

She sighed again, but before she could open her mouth to tell him to play quieter, a commercial came on. She decided to get a drink from the kitchen.

Before she got up, though, she looked over at Jameson. The sight of her cute little boy, so happy playing with his toys, disarmed her annoyance at his loudness. She got up and walked over to him.

“Look out!” she said playfully, her tickling fingers poised for attack. “The Emperor is going to zap you, Rey!”

She got her fingers on Jameson’s little belly and began tickling. He screamed and giggled, dropping his action figures.

“Stop!” he yelped. “Mom, stop!” He giggled and screamed some more.

She stopped, then gave him a big hug and a kiss on his chubby left cheek. “Want a Pepsi from the fridge?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said, nodding with enthusiasm.

“What’s the magic word?”

“Please.”

“OK, one Pepsi, coming right up.” She got up and went over to the kitchen. He returned to his loud light sabre noises.

She stood by the fridge, and as she opened the door, she looked back, with a smile, into the living room at her boy.

“I love you,” she whispered, then reached into the fridge for a Pepsi, and she got an orange Fanta for herself.

Someone else was gazing at her boy, and at her, but this person was frowning, not smiling. This person was invisible to Denise and Jameson, but were they to have seen this person, they’d have seen disheveled hair, pale skin, red eyes, and a tattered black dress.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Three, Chapter 2

Tess ran and stumbled through the grass, bushes, and fallen twigs in the forest. She fell to the ground a few times and got some mud on her jeans and jacket.

“Oh, shoot,” she whispered when she saw the mud on herself. “Mom and Dad are gonna be mad about that, for sure. Oh, well…”

She heard the shot of a rifle farther off.

“That must be Daddy!” She ran in the direction of the gunshot.

**************

Boyd frowned as he saw the deer run away.

“Shit,” he whispered. “I hate it when I miss.”

Indeed, Mr. Marksman, as had been his nickname ever since high school (in fact, long before he’d even hit Alexa in the face, just under her left eye, with that bottle-cap in his slingshot), almost never missed. Each miss, as rare as it ever was, wounded his pride terribly.

He shuffled through the grass in the direction that deer ran in. He looked all around, but couldn’t see it, or any other deer, anywhere.

“Dammit!” he whispered. “I’ll find you, deer, soon enough.”

***************

Tess had been running and running, falling in the mud again and again, knowing full well her dad and, especially, her mom were going to be really mad at her for getting her clothes so dirty. Still, she was giggling the whole time.

She didn’t care what punishment was coming her way. She was having fun.

She was going to meet with Daddy, and they were going to play some more. Her spirit guide promised her.

She heard another gunshot. It was louder and closer.

That was Daddy again, she thought. I must be almost there. I’d better be really quiet. I want to surprise him.

She crept in the direction of the gunshot, careful to make as little noise as possible, then hid in the tall grass and bushes.

***************

“Goddamn it,” Boyd whispered as he watched another deer run away. “I missed again.” This was two misses in a row. As rare as missing a target was for him, two consecutive misses were especially rare…and in his opinion, humiliating.

He went after that deer, being as quiet as he could.

I never miss like that! he thought. Those two opportunities I just had were easy hits. I had my target locked, both times. It doesn’t make any sense that I missed them. You’d think there was an evil spirit out here making me miss.

Actually,…

He now saw a deer feeding off of the leaves of a bush not too far off. It didn’t look like the other deer (or two) he’d shot at and missed, but it was a deer, all right. A rather small one, a particularly sweet and innocent-looking one, the kind that normally aroused his sense of compassion and mercy.

But with his wounded pride, mercy was the last thing on his mind at the moment.

Sorry, sweetie, he thought as he brought up his rifle to take aim. But I’m hitting you. And nothing…and I mean nothing, is gonna make me miss this time.

***************

Tess looked through the leaves of the bush she was hiding behind. She saw her dad in profile, aiming his rifle to her right, about ninety degrees from her position. He was clearly aiming at a deer out there somewhere; she looked out far to her right to see if she could see the deer.

She couldn’t find it anywhere out there, no matter how hard, or how far out to the right, that she looked.

Where is it? she wondered. Daddy seems to be aiming at nothing, if it’s a deer he wants to shoot. I guess the deer is too far out there for me to see.

She could see him keeping his aim and staying perfectly still.

Why doesn’t he just shoot? she wondered. Surely he’s aimed long enough. I wanna jump out and surprise him so badly. She was about to rise.

No! her spirit guide whispered in her ear. Don’t move at all. Wait for him to take his shot, then surprise him. If you startle him, he’ll miss the deer and get mad at you.

“OK,” Tess whispered.

Dammit, Boyd thought. The deer moved a bit, right when I was about to shoot. Good, it’s still again. Don’t move, you: I don’t wanna miss again.

He had the deer’s head right in his sights. He took a few slow breaths. The deer was perfectly still.

This is it, he thought.

He pulled the trigger ever so slowly.

POW!

Blood splashed from the head in all directions.

But it wasn’t the blood of a deer.

Not one second after the bullet struck did he see the brown fur of the deer change into Tess’s brown jacket.

Not one millisecond after he fired the shot did she see him change, from firing ninety degrees to her right, to firing straight at her face.

“What the–?” he whispered, with a chill going all the way up his spine to his head. He went closer to get a better look.

The bullet hit her just under the left eye.

“Jesus Christ!” he screamed.

He fell to his knees, just a few feet by his daughter’s bloody body. He shook for several minutes, his eyes wide open to see what they couldn’t possibly have believed they were seeing. Then, finally, he began sobbing.

“It was a deer!” he screamed. “I saw a deer! Not…my…dear!…” He continued bawling.

****************

“Tess?” Sharon called as she entered the woods. “Tess, where are you?”

****************

“What did I do to deserve this?” Boyd sobbed.

I am what you did, Alexa’s voice called out to him.

“What?” he said, his head swinging around in all directions to find a voice that seemed to have no body.

I told you I was gonna get you, the voice said.

“Wait,” he said. “Is that the voice…from my dreams?”

Yes, Alexa said, her ghostly apparition showing itself to him from his left. She was grinning.

He swung in her direction, pointing the rifle at her.

“Alexa,” he grunted. “I always hated you.”

And only now do you have good reason to.

“And now I’m gonna kill you,” he said, aiming for her face, his trigger finger more than itchy.

You can’t kill a ghost, you moron, she said, grinning nonetheless at the prospect of tempting him into more foolishness.

“No, but I can shoot at you to make me feel better.”

Are you sure you’ll feel better? Maybe you’ll feel worse. Remember what happened the last time you pulled the trigger.

“I didn’t see as clearly then as I do now.”

Are you sure about that, asshole?

“Shut up!” He fired.

Again, as soon as the bullet reached its mark, Alexa’s apparition disappeared, replaced by the person who really got the bullet in the head…just under her left eye.

“Sharon!” Boyd screamed as he saw his wife’s body fall to the ground. Now, he was bawling twice as loudly. “Alexa, you fucking bitch! I may have bullied you back in school, but I did not deserve this!”

Alexa’s ghost reappeared. Then shoot me, she said.

“And who will I kill next? Did you lure my mother here?”

Shoot, and find out.

He just stood there, frozen in a mix of stupefaction and despair.

If you don’t shoot me, who will you shoot?

Finally, he made up his mind. “Oh, you’ll like this, for sure!”

He put the end of the rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

***************

Over the following weeks, journalists, as well as everyone else who knew Boyd, puzzled over what the reason could have possibly been for such a happy, successful businessman to want to destroy himself and his loving family.

‘Numb,’ a Short Story

“I don’t know what’s wrong with my legs,” Larry Ingbert said on the phone to his colleague, Burt Lickert. “They’ve been feeling numb at the feet, and sore and stiff from the ankles, ever since yesterday evening, not too long after we had drinks in the Lucky Seven pub.”

“Wow, that’s too bad,” Burt said. “i hope you get better soon. Do you think you’ll be able to come to work tomorrow?”

“Only if my legs get better,” Larry said. “It’s a real effort just to stand, walk over to the kitchen for something to eat, or go to the bathroom to use the can. This soreness: it was only a little bad last night, but when I got up today, it was much worse. There’s been no sign of improvement.”

“You know, Birch Wass isn’t very patient with employees calling in sick and staying off work for a long time,” Burt said. “But I’ll say whatever I can to keep him from finding someone to replace you. I can’t promise anything, but I’ll try.”

“Thanks. While I’m gone, can you talk to the others in the office and get their opinions on my idea about forming a union? You told me you don’t agree with it, when we had drinks, but can you at least toss the idea around to them?”

“I don’t know, Larry. Maybe. As I told you then, Birch would replace us all in a second if we tried something like that. Why can’t you just be content with what you have?”

“Because we have far too little; you know that.”

“So? Work hard enough, impress Birch, and get a promotion. Boom! More pay. That’s what I’m hoping to do.”

“Yeah, just be a better wage slave, so Birch makes more money.”

“Larry, that kind of commie talk will get us all fired. Stop it. We don’t need to rock the boat.”

“Burt, if we don’t rock the boat, we’ll never…”

“Look, just get some rest, OK? Take a pill or two. I hope we see you in the office tomorrow.”

They hung up.

Larry rose to his feet slowly and with a loud grunt of effort. He plodded, groaning with each step, over to his bedroom and dropped his phone on the bed. Then, he turned with great effort and another loud groan, and plodded back to his living room, where his laptop sat on his coffee table.

I suppose that if I moved around a lot, this numbness and soreness would gradually go away, he thought. But it’s so damn uncomfortable. Resting feels so much better. He reached his sofa and turned on his computer.

He brought his ass down on the sofa with another groan of pain, the stiffness all the way from his feet to his waist. He checked his notifications on Facebook.

He picked up the laptop and put it on the flat, wide armrest on the left side of his sofa. That way, he could put his feet up on the coffee table. Raising his feet up like that always took the pressure off of them, and therefore he could get a rest from the soreness.

He scrolled down his Facebook home page and looked at all the memes. He clicked ‘like,’ ‘love,’ or ‘laugh’ on all the cute and funny memes, but he had an itchy ‘share’ finger for all the political ones.

The political memes that were of interest to Larry were naturally of a sort in keeping with his desire to set up a union at work. He shared memes opposing American plans for war with Russia and China, memes opposing telling poor people to stop buying ‘unnecessary’ items rather than paying poor people better wages, and articles about how to learn from history’s successful leftist revolutions. Apart from pushing to form a union at work, though, the sharing of such memes and articles as these were the bulk of Larry’s ‘activism.’

After a few hours of scrolling, ‘liking,’ and sharing more memes and articles, he felt it was time to pee. He took a deep breath and braced himself for what he know would be a great difficulty in getting up.

There was no more stiffness or soreness in his legs.

In fact, there was no feeling in them at all.

The stiffness and soreness were all in his back now, as well as nausea in his gut.

When he tried to rise to his feet, the lack of feeling in his legs meant he felt no power to control them. And putting the strength in his arms to move himself put great pain in that stiff, sore back of his.

He fell to the floor with a grunt of pain.

Now his heart was pounding fast.

I can’t move my legs, he thought. Except for my bladder, I can feel nothing from the waist down. I’m fucking paralyzed!

It took all of his strength to use his arms to pull his body weight across the floor to the bathroom. The pain in his back was awful, but the discomfort in his bladder was greater. Besides, what if he pissed his pants?

It was a good thing that he lifted weights regularly. His muscular upper half was strong enough to pull the weight of his whole body on the floor from his living room all the way to the bathroom.

He grunted with every pull his arms gave to his body. When he finally got into the bathroom, his head right by the toilet porcelain, he stopped to rest and take several deep breaths. Lifting himself up would be agony.

It was indeed agony, but he managed it. He got his numb ass on the seat and didn’t even crack the plastic. The piss came out with a groan of relief from his frowning mouth.

When he was finished, he flushed and leaned towards the open doorway, and he fell to the floor with a thud and a grunt of pain. Wait, he thought as he pulled up his pants. If I’m gonna continue to feel this way, I’d better get my phone from my bedroom. Fuck! He crawled back there. Luckily, when he’d put his phone on his bed, it was sitting right at the edge, so he could just reach up and get it will minimal difficulty.

Then he pulled his body around to point towards the bedroom door, and crawled back, groaning the whole time, to the living room and to his laptop. He brought it down from the sofa’s armrest and lay it on the floor in front of him, right beside his phone.

There was an instant message from a colleague, one of the few he’d talked to about forming a union.

“Alright!” Larry said, then clicked the message to read it. Would the colleague agree to the union idea?

Not.

“Sorry, Larry,” the message said. “As beneficial as a union would be for us, I don’t want to risk Birch firing me. You know how he is. If you can get enough of the rest of the staff to agree, though, I might change my mind.”

Larry sighed and typed “OK” in reply to the message.

Then, exhausted from all that crawling and pulling himself, he fell asleep on the floor for a few hours.

When he woke up, he felt soreness and stiffness from the neck down to his chest…and from there down, only numbness.

“Oh, my God!” he gasped.

His cellphone rang. He picked it up.

“Hello?” he said weakly.

“Larry?” Burt said. “You sound awful!”

“It’s gotten worse, Burt,” Larry said. “I feel nothing…from the chest down, and all soreness…from my neck…to my chest.”

“Holy shit!” Burt said. “You need to see a doctor.”

“No doctors! I hate them. Undressing me…and feeling me up.”

“Look, I’m busy at the moment, but I can come over in a couple of hours, OK? You shouldn’t be left alone the way you are now. Do you have any other symptoms?”

“No, just like I feel…like I wanna…sleep all the time.”

“I’ll come over in two or three hours,” Burt said. “But wait: you won’t be able to get to the door, will you?”

“It’s unlocked,” Larry moaned. “Just walk in.”

“OK, but that isn’t very safe, man. A thief could come in and rob you while you’re all helpless like that.”

“I have…greater worries at the moment. In a few hours.”

“Yeah, see you then.” Burt hung up.

Larry put his phone back by his laptop. He resumed scrolling through Facebook. He found memes on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine; he shared those that opposed the Azov Battalion. He also shared memes of Nadezhda Krupskaya, Che Guevara, Patrice Lumumba, and Thomas Sankara.

Then he got drowsy and fell asleep again.

A few hours later, he felt a hand shaking his head. He opened his eyes and saw no one in front of him. Since he was still lying on the floor, he figured he’d at least see feet by his face, but no one was there. I must have imagined the hand on my head while I was dreaming, he thought.

Then he tried moving, to get himself off the floor.

He couldn’t.

Now he felt nothing from the neck down.

The pain and discomfort were in his head.

“Oh, God. No!” he grunted, his head fidgeting and only giving himself a worse headache. “I’m a…fucking…quadriplegic!”

He heard tittering from behind him.

Someone had shook his head after all.

Was this a thief, someone Burt had warned him about because of his unlocked door?

“How ya doing, Larry?” a familiar voice asked. “Not that I need to ask you that.” He snickered.

No, it wasn’t someone Burt had warned him about, it was Burt himself.

Should he have been warned about Burt?

“Burt!” Larry said. “You gotta…help me. I can’t…move.”

“I know,” Burt said, without any emotion.

“Yeah, you can see…I can’t move. Please…help!”

“I know you can’t move because I put a pill in your drink when we got together yesterday in Lucky Seven,” Burt said, then got up from the sofa, walked around the coffee table, and squatted down before Larry so he could see him. “I dropped the pill in when you weren’t looking. Remember how chemistry is my hobby, synthesizing drugs in the lab of my basement?”

“Yeah, but why would you…do this to me? We’re friends! I never did…anything…to piss you off, did I?”

“Not to piss me off, but there is that union idea of yours that I had to stop before it could materialize.”

“You didn’t have…to kill me, though, did you, Burt? I mean…this is gonna…kill, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is, Larry. Sorry, but you see, I hate commies.”

“I’m not…a communist. I’m a…moderate leftist.”

“Larry, I’ve seen the extremist shit you post on Facebook. Moderate, my ass. Besides, moderate, extreme. Pinkos are pinkos. They’re all the same to me. They want to force intrusive, oppressive government on us all. Oh, it starts moderate, but then when they see how their system doesn’t work, and people start resisting their utopia, they get all totalitarian, killing people. So by killing you, Larry, I’m saving a lot o’ lives.”

Larry moaned in disgust at Burt’s simplistic overgeneralizing. Burt may have been a bit of a genius at chemistry, but he was a moron at just about everything else. Surely, the police were going to link him with Larry’s death.

“Burt, it’s a union, not…Stalin.”

“Unions lead to Stalin, buddy, every time. Besides, if I can get Birch to know I stopped the forming of a union at his business, he’ll be so happy with my loyalty to him that–who knows?–maybe I’ll get that promotion I’ve been aching for.”

“And you’ll betray…your fellow workers…and your friends…to do that, Burt?”

“Yes, I will. Whatever it takes. And it serves you right for betraying the free market. Now, I gotta go. I’m hoping to hear good things in Birch’s office tomorrow, when he announces who will be the junior manager. The odds should be especially in my favour when I tell him I stopped your union idea. A few coworkers liked your idea. I might have to drop a pill or two in their drinks. Anyway, gotta run. Goodbye.”

He walked out of the apartment and closed the door without locking it.

Bastard, Larry thought. The pain in his head was so bad that he couldn’t even try to move it.

He just lay there with his eyes half-open. After all this time, he should have felt a need to go to the bathroom again, but he felt no discomfort in his bowels or bladder. If he pissed or crapped his pants, he wouldn’t feel it. In a few hours’ time, at the rate things were going, he wouldn’t smell it, either.

Similarly, he should have been starving hungry by now. Again, he felt no pangs of hunger because he couldn’t feel his stomach. If he were to starve to death, he wouldn’t know it.

He couldn’t feel his heart beating…was it? Presumably.

He barely felt the breath going in and out of his nostrils. He couldn’t feel his lungs filling up with air.

Instead of feeling his body, there was a vague, vibrating feeling everywhere except his achy head. The vibrating was now creeping up his neck.

I’m gonna die, he thought. Soon.

His computer screen showed a few people giving ‘likes’ to his recent posts. A few seconds later, the screen went to black.

He was alone…in every conceivable sense.

The numbness was all the way up his neck now. It was reaching his chin. The headache was abating.

It felt good to feel nothing.

With his eyes half-open, half-closed, he saw only a blur. That blur began to ripple in waves like the vibrations he sensed everywhere.

He could still hear alright, though he’d been lying there so long, he had no sense of how much time had passed by. Must have been hours, at least. He heard the door open, then approaching steps.

“Can you believe it?” said what sounded like the angry voice of Burt. “I received a message from that ingrate fucker, Birch, after having messaged him that I’d stopped your union insurgency.” He squatted down to look Larry in the eye.

Larry looked no better than a dead man, though he still could hear.

“That fucker gave the promotion, my promotion, to that bitch, Cecilia Barnes!” Burt said. “Birch said he wanted ‘to break the glass ceiling.’ Fuck! That’s the reward I get for loyalty. I tell you, Larry, there’s no justice in the world.”

Larry mumbled, “Good,” with what little articulation he could muster. Drool came out of his mouth.

“Good, did you say?” Burt said with newly-inflamed anger. “So, you’re still a little alive, eh?” He rose to his feet, then lifted his right leg back. “Well, I guess you would say that.” He kicked Larry hard in the head, though Larry in his growing numbness barely felt anything. “So long, pal.”

Burt left.

Larry barely heard Burt’s footsteps or the closing of the door. When Burt had squatted, though, he touched Larry’s laptop, bringing the screen back on. There was a message from Cecilia, who said, “Hi, Larry. I like your idea about forming a union. I’ll have to be careful who I talk to about it, though. You know how Birch is. I’m having drinks with Burt tomorrow night, after work. He says he’s interested. See you at work tomorrow, if you’re better by then, in which case I can talk with you about it. I heard you’re sick. Hope you get better soon.”

Larry couldn’t read any of the message. He saw only vibrations.

He felt only vibrations.

He heard only vibrations.

Then there was only black.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Three, Chapter 1

Twenty years later, Boyd McAulliffe, 38, had become a successful businessman, owning a cellphone app company headquartered in Toronto, but with branches all over Canada and the US. He married Sharon Willis when he was 27, when his company was struggling after two years of existence, but when she told him she believed in him and said never to give up. With her encouragement, he stuck to it and found the beginnings of success a couple of years after.

The couple had their first child, a girl named Tess, when he was 28. Every day of looking in his daughter’s baby blue eyes felt like looking at the entrance to heaven. She was number one in his life; neither himself, nor Sharon, nor his business, nor the rest of his family or friends, came even a distant second. Sharon was second, for sure…but still far behind his little angel, Tess.

With the massive amount of money he made from his business, Boyd bought a huge stretch of land near the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River area, home to white tailed deer that he liked to hunt in October, when he typically took time off work to go there with his family. Being out there in the fresh air, spending a month of quality time with his wife and daughter…this was when life was at its happiest for him.

He truly felt he’d had a fortunate life: a successful business, a beautiful, loving, and supportive wife, and an adorable daughter. On top of these blessings, he had a big stretch of land and plenty of time off every year to pursue his hobby and passion–deer hunting, a test of the marksmanship skill he was so proud of. How could his life have been any more perfect?

Well, there was that recurring dream he wished would go away.

Once every several months or so, he’d have a dream about that bitch Alexa he used to go after, the girl who mysteriously disappeared shortly after he and Denise Charlton had gotten her one particularly bad time back in high school. Nobody knew what had happened to Alexa. Had she run away from home? Did she commit suicide?

The principal gave him and Denise a really hard time for having bullied Alexa so much, especially since there had been fears that the bullying may have driven her to suicide. Boyd admitted to himself in hindsight that he and Denise had taken things a little too far a few times; after all, teenagers can be really immature assholes sometimes, including himself back then.

All the same, though, that was a long time ago. Why was he still dreaming about that girl? Surely his guilty conscience should have forgotten about her by now, two decades later.

But every two or three months, he’d see a vision of her in his sleep. He’d see her against a black background, with messy hair, pale skin, glowing red eyes surrounded in black rings for eyelids, and wearing a tattered black dress. Sometimes it looked as if tiny pieces of that ghostly white skin were flaking off. Sometimes her skin looked reddish-white, melting.

Worst of all was that frown on her face, a scowl that looked like she wanted to kill him. At last, these words would come out of her mouth, which made him wake up bathed in sweat.

I’m gonna get you.

He had this very dream again one night during his October vacation with Sharon and Tess on his property up in northern Ontario. The next morning, he brushed it off and forgot about it as usual, and after breakfast–delicious bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast made for them by Sharon–he found himself playing with his daughter in the living room of their log cabin.

First, they played a clapping game of “Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man.”

Together, they chanted, “Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man.
Bake a cake, bake a cake, as fast as you can
Pat it and prick it, mark it with T,
Put it in the oven for Tessa and me.”

Then they chanted “Mary Mack” to their hand claps; and after this one, he took her in his arms.

“Who’s the ticklish one?” he said as his fingers tickled her sides, getting high-pitched screams of laughter from her. “Who’s the ticklish one?”

“Oh!” she yelped. “No! Stop, Daddy, stop!” She continued screaming, giggling and struggling to get free of him until he finally relented.

Then he gave her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.

“I love you, sweetie,” he said.

“I love you, too, Daddy,” she said.

Sharon came in the living room with a tray of three mugs of hot chocolate. “Here you go,” she said as she put the tray on the coffee table.

“Yummy!” Tess said, picking up her mug.

“It’s not quite cold enough to drink this, but why not?” Sharon said. “It’s yummy!”

“Absolutely,” he said, picking up his mug for a sip. “This is gonna hit the spot, just before I go out there with my rifle.”

“I wanna go out with you, Daddy,” Tess said.

“No, sweetie,” he said. “I need absolute quiet when I’m hunting deer. Besides, I don’t like the idea of you being near my rifle when I’m using it.”

“Oh, but Daddy,” she whined with a pout.

“Your father’s right, dear,” her mom said.

“You are too dear to me to be anywhere near the deer I’m about to shoot at,” he said.

“OK,” Tess said, still pouting.

He gulped down the last of his hot chocolate.

“All right,” he said, standing. “Time to do some hunting. Thanks for the hot chocolate, honey.” He gave Sharon a hug and a kiss, then left the living room to get his rifle and get ready.

“Have fun,” Sharon said, then she and Tess drank their hot chocolate. When Sharon finished hers, she gave Tess a hug and a kiss on the forehead. Then she took the tray and her and Boyd’s empty mugs back to the kitchen. As she was walking out, she said, “When you’re finished yours, don’t forget to bring your cup back to the kitchen, honey.”

“OK, Mom,” Tess said, then drank another gulp. Why can’t I go with Daddy? she wondered. I like being with him. I wanna play some more. I’d be quiet. I’d stay clear of his rifle. It’s no fair!

Then she heard a faint whisper in her ear.

Why don’t you go out and surprise him, Tess?

“What?” she said. “Who said that?” She looked around the room for the invisible speaker. She saw her dad go out the door with his rifle.

I’m a spirit guide, the feminine voice said.

“A spirit guide?” Tess asked. “Where are you? Why can’t I see you? What does a spirit guide do?”

Well, you can’t see me because I’m a spirit, of course. I’m like a ghost except I’m one of the good ones. I’m here to guide you, to help you find ways to be closer to your father, to help your love grow stronger.

“OK, so how am I gonna do that?”

Well, just let me lead the way. Go on outside, but make sure your dad doesn’t see you, ’cause we want this to be a big surprise for him. It’ll be more fun that way.

“But he said he doesn’t want me to go, and Mom doesn’t want me to go, either. If I go, won’t they be mad?”

Not the way I’m gonna have you go. Your mom just went to bed for a nap, so she won’t hear you go outside. As for your dad…well…I’ll have a way of making him see you so you’ll be…a real dear…to him.

“OK,” Tess said, then finished her hot chocolate, took her cup to the kitchen as her mom wanted her to do, put on her jacket, and went outside.

Alexa’s ghost watched the girl run into the woods. As she watched, her lips curled up into a smile.

Analysis of ‘The Fly’

I: Introduction

The Fly is a 1958 horror/science fiction film produced and directed by Kurt Neumann. It stars Vincent Price, Patricia Owens, David Hedison, and Herbert Marshall. The screenplay was written by James Clavell, based on the 1957 George Langelaan short story of the same name.

The Fly had a mixed-to-positive critical reception on release, and it was a commercial success, boosting Price into a major star of horror films. Now, criticism of the movie is more uniformly positive. Two black-and-white sequels followed: Return of the Fly (1959), and Curse of the Fly (1965). A superb remake, starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, was directed by David Cronenberg in 1986, with its own sequel in 1989.

Here is a link to quotes from the 1958 film, here’s a link to the complete script, and here is a link to the short story.

II: My Radical Reinterpretation

What ought to be emphasized about the story isn’t the notion of scientist André Delambre (Hedison) bring transformed into a fly-human hybrid, the result of a freak accident in his attempt to teleport himself (and, without his knowing, a housefly that got into his “disintegration-reintegration” machine), but rather what such a notion could be seen to symbolize.

What is far more apparent in the short story, if its contents are not naïvely taken at face value, is that its narration–by André’s brother François (played by Price in the film) in the outer frame, then in the middle by André’s wife Hélène (played by Owens in the film) as she tells it in a handwritten manuscript–is given by traumatized people whose reliability is in question.

The film relates the story in a manner implying that everything happened just as told, though, by the end, no proof survives of the more fantastic elements of the story. Still, there are subtle indicators, in the behaviour of François and Hélène, that suggest that affairs aren’t as they look on the screen, implying that the narrative unreliability of the short story has been translated to the cinematic medium.

In the film, François admits to having romantic feelings for beautiful Hélène; though she denies ever having paramours (or André having had them) to Inspector Charas (Marshall), we can easily regard her words as dishonest. Could there have been an affair between her and François, a result of workaholic André’s neglect of his family? Claims of a husband and wife being perfectly happy together can easily be dismissed as a façade.

III: Unconscious Guilt

It is insisted throughout the story that Hélène could have killed André only out of madness. Where could such a madness have originated? Guilt feelings over an affair? Families in France (where the short story is set), or in Montréal (where the film is set), in the 1950s would have been Roman Catholic ones, in which adultery would have been regarded as a serious sin (a sin compounded by a man betraying his brother and, as her son’s uncle, committing incest of a Hamlet-like sort). The mind tries to repress guilt as best it can, but the repressed returns to consciousness in unrecognizable forms.

In the case of this story, the return of the repressed has come in the form of imagining André as having his head and arm traded with the head and leg of a housefly. Such a hybrid symbolizes the bestial side of human nature. His experiments are done in the basement, symbol of the unconscious. In contrast, the ground floor of the house, the upstairs, and outside can be seen to correspond to the conscious mind and the world of superficiality, appearance, what only seems to be true.

IV: Appearance vs Reality

There is much to note in the contrast between the illusory surface and hidden reality in The Fly. The marriage of the Delambres only seems perfectly happy. Similarly, André seems to be the kind, gentle husband who’d never hurt an animal. Yet his workaholic obsession with his basement experiments means neglecting his wife and son, Henri in the short story, or Philippe (played by Charles Herbert) in the film. Furthermore, this supposed animal lover overconfidently and recklessly puts the family cat, Dandelo, in the teleportation machine and disintegrates it.

Hélène, after killing her husband, confesses to the killing with perfect calmness, though François and Charas conclude that she must be mad; indeed, in the short story, she even kills herself in despair. And when François answers the phone at the beginning of the film to learn that she has just killed his brother, he’s quite calm; whereas at the beginning of the short story, he speaks of being “uneasy” from telephones, having to restrain his agitation when answering them.

In fact, in Cronenberg’s remake, this theme of appearance versus reality is revisited in how Seth Brundle (Goldblum), upon emerging from the teleportation machine as “Brundle-fly”–far from being the shocking monstrosity André is with his fly’s head and leg for an arm–looks exactly the same as before on the outside–in fact, he’s also physically superior. It’s only later that we realize that Seth is a monster hiding inside, that inside showing itself more and more to the end of the remake.

V: Implausible Science

Now, this difference between the 1958 and 1986 movies brings me to a point that I hope will help explain the particular angle at which I’m interpreting the original movie and the short story. I don’t believe André has actually had his head and arm swapped with the head and leg of a housefly–I believe this transformation really is a fabrication of his wife’s mad imagination, just as Charas does. The reason for my disbelief should be obvious: the science behind the transformation is preposterous. Hardly anyone apart from Hélène even believes it!

How do a fly’s head and leg grow to the comparable sizes of a man’s head and arm, while the latter two shrink to the sizes of a fly’s equivalent body parts? How is the man’s intelligence maintained in the giant fly’s head, even if only temporarily? And how is there a comparable intelligence, enough to squeak “Help me!” because of an approaching spider, in the miniature head of the fly caught in the web?

Small wonder that in the 1986 remake, the writers wisely spread the fly’s DNA equally throughout Brundle’s body. Surely even Langelaan and Clavell realized that the swapping of heads and limbs, as given in their respective versions of the story, is unbelievable scientifically. Hence my contention that Hélène is genuinely insane, an insanity brought on by the trauma of her husband’s violent death, a suicide with her assistance (as she describes it). François is similarly addled by this trauma. I believe his confession of love for her provides the vital clue to the reason for their narratives’ unreliability, something easily maintained in prose writing, but not so easily translated onto the big screen, since we, the watchers of the movie, tend to have credulous eyes.

VI: Unreliable Narration, in the Text, and Onscreen

Though his confession of love for Hélène isn’t found in the short story, I believe there are plenty of subtle hints of an affair between him and her in Langelaan’s words, however carefully the two guilty ones try to tiptoe around any mention of their guilt. Such tiptoeing is also evident in the film, in their innocent conversations throughout.

I see the visuals of the film as representing their unreliable narrations, and since the film is largely faithful to the short story (except for such–mostly minor–changes as the setting, Henri’s name becoming Philippe, which of André’s arms is switched with the fly’s leg, his head being revealed as all housefly or as a mix of fly and the cat, whether or not Hélène kills herself, and whether it’s François or Charas who kills the fly in the spider web), I feel it isn’t too far out of place to assume that François is (unreliably) telling the outer frame of the story through visuals, and her telling of the inner narration, instead of writing it in a manuscript, is unreliable.

VII: The Telephone

I’ll come to those subtle hints of an affair later, as they arrive in the sequence of the plot. For now, I’ll start with François’s answering of the phone. In the film, he’s calm enough, though in the short story, this calmness disguises a terrible agitation from hearing the phone ring, especially in the middle of the night, as happens at the beginning.

The reason for his unease comes from a feeling that the caller is coming into the room, intruding on his private space, breaking into his home to talk right into his ear. It seems odd that the short story should begin this way, yet if one compares this transmission of a voice–instantaneously from one place, far away, to another–to the teleportation of whatever (or whoever) is in André’s “disintegration-reintegration” machine, such a beginning of the story, along with François’s agitation, becomes explicable. The one instantaneous transmission is associated in his mind with the other.

Recall that I don’t take the human/fly hybrid story literally; also, François is beginning a narration–one after the events of Hélène’s story have been made known to him–with a discussion of the, if you will, ‘teleportation’ of the human voice. This aural teleportation feels like a frightening intruder to him, like the intrusive fly in André’s machine, and like the human/fly monster he becomes, which is an intrusion into the lives of François and Hélène.

VIII: Nothingness

The pertinent thing about teleportation, like the instant movement of the human voice from here to far away, or vice versa, is the sense of no intermediate area for teleportation to move through. The displaced entity–be it a voice on the phone, or a plate, a newspaper, a cat, a guinea pig, or a man (mixed with a fly)–disappears, vanishes in the place of origin and reappears in the destination. That lack of an in-between route to travel through, that gap, feels uncanny, a land of nothingness. This gap, I believe, is what frightens François so much.

Similarly, when André’s body is discovered in the Delambre brothers’ factory, his head and arm crushed under the steam hammer, it isn’t so much the blood that is horrifying, but how the head and arm are so thoroughly flattened as to have been reduced to nothing. The hammer’s impact has been set at zero, a setting the drop is never given. François notes in the film that zero “means level with the bed”; such a setting “would squeeze the metal to nothing,” as has been done to André’s head and arm.

The purpose of this extreme setting is ostensibly to annihilate even the slightest hint of a fly’s head and leg, instead of André’s head and arm; I’d say, though, that it’s that very nothingness, revealed when the hammer is raised, in “the ghastly mess bared by the hammer,” that causes François (in the short story) to be “violently sick.”

IX: Resistance

When Charas questions Hélène about the killing of André, she is fully cooperative about explaining what she did, and in detail (except for her odd forgetting about having dropped the steam hammer twice, to crush his fly-leg/arm). She adamantly refuses, however, to explain why she killed him.

In the short story, François describes Charas as being “more than just an intelligent police official. He was a keen psychologist and had an amazing way of smelling out a fib or an erroneous statement even before it was uttered.” So his questioning of her puts him in the role of psychoanalyst, and her in the role of analysand. Her insistence that she cannot explain why she killed André can be seen as a form of resistance.

Of course, she eventually does explain why, but in the form of a bizarre monster story that hardly anyone can believe; certainly the science behind the story is so ludicrous that even Langelaan and Clavell must have had their own doubts about it, as I’ve explained above. This fly-human hybrid story must be a case of the return of the repressed in an unrecognizable form…but what could the fly-hybrid monster symbolize for mad Hélène? I’ll come to this soon enough.

X: The Gap In-between

It is insisted that her marriage with André was a perfectly happy one…but we are suddenly ‘teleported,’ if you will, from perfect marital bliss to her killing of him, and with the refusal of a proper explanation, except for this bizarre fly-monster story. Just as there’s a gap between the caller’s voice at one end of a phone call, and his voice heard by the receiver on the other end; and just as there’s the gap of the disintegration of what’s teleported at one end, and its reintegration at the other end; so is there a gap between the couple’s marital bliss and the killing…that dreaded, uncanny nothingness in the middle.

Above, I wrote of André’s basement laboratory as symbolic of the unconscious, where the “disintegration/reintegration” machine causes that in-between gap of nothingness. In the short story, the laboratory isn’t in his basement, but in a separate building right by the factory with the steam hammer. Now, the laboratory doesn’t have to be underground to represent the unconscious…or the “subconscious,” where Charas imagines the fly to have meaning for Hélène. Psychoanalysts don’t speak of the repressed as being ‘beneath’ consciousness, but as being unknown to consciousness, for the repressed comes right back to the surface and hides in plain sight, as it were. A fly is buzzing around, in the air, much of the time in the movie.

XI: The Lacanian Unconscious, and the Gap as Lack

In The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, Lacan speaks of how “the Freudian unconscious is situated at that point, where, between cause and that which it affects, there is always something wrong…what the unconscious does is to show us the gap through which neurosis recreates a harmony with a real–a real that may well not be determined…and what does [Freud] find in the hole, the split, in the gap so characteristic of cause? Something of the order of the non-realized.” (Lacan, page 22)

This gap is between cause and effect, like the gap between disintegration and reintegration, the empty space replacing a path on which something, otherwise not disintegrated and reintegrated, would travel, rather than be teleported, from A to B. This gap is also the Lacanian lack that gives rise to desire, and discovering what the desire is in this story is key to understanding the symbolic meaning of the fly.

XII: Freudian Slips

We must fill in this gap to determine what is being repressed, what is not being said or shown in the short story or the film, but what is rather hinted at through the occasional Freudian slip, or symbolic interpretation of whatever in the story is described as something otherwise mundane or in a matter-of-fact physical way.

One such a slip, as I see it, occurs when Henri/Philippe is not regarded by Hélène as her son. In the short story, François in his narration calls the six-year-old boy, his nephew, “the very image of his father”; but as I’ve said above, this narration is unreliable. Because of André’s death and Hélène’s declared madness, François has been made the boy’s guardian, in effect, his new father; yet any suggestion that he really is the boy’s father will be guiltily denied.

In the film, François even says to Charas, “She acts as if the boy were mine and not hers.” Charas speculates that Hélène is trying to protect her son, or that perhaps she fears or hates him, something François dismisses as an insane idea, and it is at this point in the film that Charas asks if François is in love with her, to which he immediately replies, “Yes.”

Why would a scriptwriter of Clavell’s obvious ability add this element to the story without developing it, if it didn’t serve much of any purpose? Note that François’s declaration of love comes immediately after a claim that Philippe is supposedly his son and not hers. Could he be her love-child by François in a love affair, one she feels so guilty about that, in her mad guilt, she denies her own maternity? The way the film ends–with François, in effect, as the boy’s new father, and Hélène having not committed suicide but being, also in effect, his new wife–looks suspiciously like wish-fulfillment. Such wish-fulfillment reinforces the visual presentation of the film as really being François’s unreliable narration.

XIII: Forbidden Desires and the Fly

Naturally, François rules out even the possibility of an affair with her by saying, “I don’t think she ever noticed me,” though a close look at Charles Herbert, the child actor chosen to play Philippe, looks more like he could be a son of Vincent Price than of David Hedison. Finally, during the scene when Philippe has caught the fly with the white head, and he sees his mother with his uncle, he is annoyed to be told by her to let the fly go; but as he is going outside and closing the front door, he looks back at her and his uncle with a split-second look of suspicion in his eyes, as if he sees the two adults acting a little too familiar at that particular moment.

That this suspicious moment happens on the very day when the heads and limbs of André and the fly are switched is significant. Here we come to the very symbolism of the fly. Male houseflies, during their short lives, have a voracious sexual appetite and are constantly on the lookout for females to mate with. In this we can see a symbolic link with my suspicions of a guilty sexual tryst between François and Hélène.

This guilt results in feelings of shame, disgust, and worthlessness, which can all be associated with houseflies. André’s constant preoccupation with his work, even to the point of writing out a new formula for teleportation on the program pamphlet to a ballet he’s supposed to be watching with his wife, means he’s emotionally neglecting her, which not only can drive her into the arms of his brother (who we already know is amorously infatuated with her), but which also makes André as worthless to her as a fly. So the exchanging of his head and arm with the head and leg of a fly is symbolic of this depreciation of his worth to her.

XIV: The Buzzing

With the guilt and shame that an adulteress feels, especially as one who, according to the short story, “had ever been a true Catholic, who believed in God and another, better life hereafter,” Hélène would have been desperately afraid of anyone finding out about her extramarital affair. Hence, her agitation whenever hearing the buzzing of a nearby fly.

Let’s recall the multiple meanings of the word buzz. Apart from the insect noise, buzz has been used to refer to the sound of telephones (remember in this connection the irritation François feels at the sound of a phone ringing), and also to refer to rumours. These additional meanings had existed long before the writing of the short story and the making of the movie. So her agitation at the sound of buzzing symbolically suggests her fear of gossip, or rumours from people knowing about her affair.

XV: Obsessions with Flies

Also, her nervous breakdown at the asylum after seeing a nurse swatting flies can be attributed to a triggering of her guilt over an affair that, in betraying André, reduced him to the worth of a fly, and so killing flies feels like a killing of him again. She also speaks of wanting François to destroy the white-headed fly if she tells him why she killed André; this contradiction suggests an emotional conflict in her–killing it kills evidence of her guilty affair, yet it also represents killing André again.

Now, she is not the only one to raise her eyebrows at the idea of houseflies. François, after hearing about her obsession with them, is curious to hear Henri/Philippe bring up the fly with the white head during lunch with the boy. Previously, Charas brought up her fly obsession immediately before he and François discuss her denial that the boy is her son, and François’s admitting he loves her. So we see here a significant juxtaposition of houseflies with the boy’s parentage and François’s love for Hélène: I don’t think this juxtaposition is coincidental.

XVI: Love Triangles, and the Remake

My speculation of a hidden, repressed love triangle between André, Hélène, and François can be seen overtly in the equivalent three main characters in the 1986 remake–respectively, Seth Brundle, Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife (played by Davis), and Stathis Borans (played by John Getz). Brundle, knowing Ronnie has had a relationship with Stathis prior to her current relationship with him, gets jealous when he suspects that her reason for leaving him early to meet Stathis, when she’s supposed to be celebrating the recent success of his teleportation pods, is to get back together with Stathis. (Actually, she’s meeting Stathis to confront him over a veiled threat he’s made out of a jealousy of his own, over her new relationship with Brundle.)

And right when all of this jealousy is building, Brundle gets drunk, a fly is buzzing around, and both of them go into one of the pods to be teleported…and fused. Again, we have the juxtaposition of a buzzing fly with a love triangle; it’s as if the scriptwriting of the remake subliminally picked up on the veiled rivalry between the Delambre brothers and Hélène.

Another theme picked up from the 1958 movie and put into the remake is the relationship between external, illusory appearance and inner, hidden reality. When Brundle first comes out of the second pod, we of course don’t see a fly’s head and leg replacing his head and arm, but he looks as perfectly human as before. It’s only later, as his body parts start corrupting and falling off, leading climactically to the outer human shell all coming off and he’s revealed to be a giant bug, that we see he isn’t human anymore.

When Hélène begins telling François and Charas her story, in the film we see a scene of what appears to be the perfectly happy family. André is seen tickling Philippe, playing like a loving father, and all seems well. The shot is so ideal that it looks a bit too perfect. A hint already as to how things are actually not so good is in how André tells the boy he can’t play with him at the moment. It will become increasingly apparent that he is so obsessed with his work that he’s spending more time in that basement laboratory than with his family.

Yet another element shared between the 1958 and 1986 movies is the narcissistic grandiosity the inventor feels on seeing the amazing success of his teleporting machine. André boasts of having made the greatest invention since the wheel; he imagines that his “disintegration-reintegration” machine will allow food to be sent anywhere immediately, at minimal cost, thus ending world hunger.

Brundle’s narcissism is a bit different. On having unwittingly fused himself with the fly, he mistakenly imagines his pods have given him superhuman abilities: increased strength, agility, stamina, and sexual potency (recall what I said above about the sexual symbolism of the eager-to-mate housefly). Yet both André and Brundle are about to see their pride fall and crash.

With André, this fall is immediate upon his reintegration: we see no intermediate, transitional process–only the gap in between is understood to be there. With Brundle, however, the transitional process is slowly, agonizingly shown to us, inch by inch. We see his physical fragmentation, as well as his corresponding psychological fragmentation (against which he had only his initial narcissism as a defence), a fragmentation that’s a direct result of jealousy–a result I also see in André.

XVII: Fall of Pride

Now, André’s fall of pride upon reintegration as a fly/human hybrid should be seen as symbolic of his pride as an obsessive scientist and neglectful husband/father, which has led to Hélène’s affair with François (the shame of which, being too intense to bear, causes it to be erased from memory, repressed, and therefore never shown on screen or in the pages of the short story), and which has in turn led to André (as I imagine it) finding out about the affair, making him feel humiliated, cuckolded, and reduced to feeling the worthlessness of a fly. He kills himself.

Recall my association of Hélène’s incestuous affair with her brother-in-law with that of Hamlet’s mother and uncle. The notion of a fly’s worthlessness can also be associated with Hamlet in how the Danish prince derisively refers to foppish, buffoonish Osric as a “water-fly” (V, ii, 83).

The trading of André’s head and arm with the head and leg of a housefly reinforces this sense of worthlessness in how the head houses the brain, and either of the hands (the switched arms, remember, are different from short story to film) represents the skillful manipulation of scientific instruments and equipment with the hands, thus making his wife’s devaluation of him based on her dislike of his obsessive work, which has left her feeling so neglected.

XVIII: Nothingness and the Real

The nothingness of the gap between disintegration and reintegration represents more than just the repression of the unconscious. That void also represents Lacan’s Real Order, a traumatic realm where experience cannot be symbolized or expressed in language, because the differentials of the Symbolic Order (the realm of language, society, culture, etc.) no longer exist. Lacan called the Realimpossible,” just as Hélène calls André’s disintegration and reintegration “impossible.” Disintegration leads to a world of undifferentiated atoms, the Real (as experienced psychologically), Bion‘s O, Milton‘s “void and formless infinite,” or the Brahman of the Hindus. It’s nothing, yet everything; it’s heaven and hell, nirvana and samsara… ineffable.

XIX: Monstrosity

The hellish aspect of the gap manifests itself especially for André, in the short story, when he goes through the teleportation device again and reappears not only with the fly’s head, but with a mix of fly and the head of their cat, Dandelo! He’s now more bestial than ever, an aggravating of monstrosity that is paralleled in the 1986 remake when Brundle reappears as part man, part fly, and part teleportation pod.

This sense of the fly as representing self-hating monstrosity and worthlessness is intensified in Brundle’s “Insect Politics” speech, as well as in André’s sense of his brain deteriorating towards the end of the story. Ultimately, André’s self-hate, as symbolized in his monstrous transformation, drives him to commit suicide–as I reimagine it, by putting a pistol to his head and blowing his brains out, right in front of Hélène who, his laboratory being near the factory in the short story, has only to move the body a short distance to the steam hammer.

XX: Destroying Evidence of Suicide

As I see it, she needs to crush his head and arm (i.e., with the pistol in his hand, in order to destroy it, too) to destroy all evidence of a suicide that, if investigated, will lead to a revelation of her affair with François. Since her guilt has driven her mad, her faulty reasoning will lead her to believe that it’s better to be thought mad from delusions of a human/fly monster than to be known an adulteress with her husband’s brother (adultery and incest), driving André to suicide.

Her needing to use the steam hammer twice, because she forgot to put the arm (in my interpretation, holding the pistol) under with André’s head, represents her psychological conflict: part of her wants to be punished for her guilt in the affair by being found out, while the other part of her wants still to conceal that guilt. Later, she forgets the second use of the steam hammer out of a Freudian parapraxis, again, an expression of her conflict between wanting to be found out and wanting to conceal the guilt.

François’s own guilt over the same sin would have driven him over the edge, too, to the point of entertaining her fly delusion as true, to assuage his guilt. In this connection, it’s important to consider the ending of the story, especially in terms of how Clavell changed it from Langelaan’s short story. (Ironically, in the film François and Charas rationalize a conclusion to the case as, indeed, André’s suicide, freeing Hélène from guilt or commitment to an insane asylum. The reason for the suicide remains a mystery; she and François, thus, can privately entertain the fly-human hybrid story to help them forget the guilt of their affair.)

XXI: The Ending

The fly that is understood to be the one that got André’s head and arm is referred to as a fly with a white head. By “white head,” it’s assumed to be André’s head, though it’s never explicitly called such. In the film, we see a fly with a white spot on its head, and only in the scene with the spider’s web do we see a tiny human head and arm poking out of the web trapping the fly’s body, with the hybrid’s faint squeals for help.

Part of the reason for these differences, of course, is the limitations of the technology of the time; but I believe something else is going on. First, when François is sitting on the bench by the spider’s web, he doesn’t notice the squeals of the fly-human, begging anyone nearby to save it. They should be audible enough: after all, Charas later can hear them. François thus seems to be willingly deaf to its cries, part of his wish, symbolically speaking, to avoid responsibility for the consequences of his affair (in my speculation), and how it’s led to his brother’s suicide.

Later, when he and Charas see the fly about to be eaten by the spider, François can’t pretend it isn’t there. As a symbol of his guilt, the fly is something he cannot bear.

Now, an important distinction must be made: in the short story, it’s François who kills the fly, not Charas. As I’ve said above, I consider François’s narration to be as unreliable as Hélène’s, and that the film is their narration given in visuals. Having Charas kill the fly is thus, in my interpretation, François projecting his guilt onto Charas. Clavell’s changes to the presentation of the story are to give us an ambiguous way of thinking about it: is it an unreliable narration, or did the fly-human hybrid story really happen?

I believe François has hallucinated the fly with his brother’s head and arm, due to the stress of his guilt and what his beloved Hélène has gone through (and in his unreliable narration in movie visuals, Charas has shared his hallucination). Philippe/Henri, in this interpretation, has really only found a fly with a white head and leg, an ‘albino-like’ one, if you will, which his mother’s and uncle’s imaginations have turned into a fly/André hybrid.

Clavell’s changes to the short story included removing François’s opening narrative frame (and his dislike of ringing telephones); such an omission doesn’t prove he hasn’t been narrating, but only that we don’t see explicit proof of him telling the story. I believe that having Charas see the fly/André hybrid, thus opening up the possibility that outsiders have seen the proof of Hélène’s story–that what she has narrated is reliable after all–was Clavell’s way of making the story more intriguing: could this otherwise scientifically implausible story have happened, and should the audience just willingly suspend their disbelief?

I don’t think we should, or need to. The ending of the film, with François as Philippe’s new guardian, and with living Hélène present, comes off as wish-fulfillment for François. As with Claudius vis-à-vis King Hamlet and Gertrude, he got his brother’s wife, he can directly be a father to Philippe, and in his and her shared delusion, their folie-à-deux of the disastrous teleportation/fusion of André and the housefly, François can tell the boy that the lesson to be learned from his father’s death is how dangerous scientific experimentation, coupled with overweening pride, can be, rather than how dangerous incestuous adultery can be.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Two, Chapter 4

The ghosts of Alexa, Megan, and Tiffany grinned at having watched the destruction of their cruel parents. Furioso appeared before them.

“Have you enjoyed the first part of your revenge, girls?” he asked them with a smile of his own.

“Oh, yes, definitely,” Alexa said, still grinning. “It was so enjoyable punishing my mother and father with the same isolation and deprivation that they put me through in my time of need.”

“Same for me,” Megan said with a malevolent smirk. “It was fun revenge-raping my dad, stabbing his ass like that. He so deserved it. It was a long time coming to him.”

“And you, Tiffany?” Furioso asked.

“Yes,” she said. “What a thrill, scaring my mom in that park, then smashing her skull in with that sledgehammer.”

“Good,” Furioso said.

“I’m hot with enthusiasm for when we get to Part Two of our revenge,” Megan said.

“Yeah, I’m a little too hot, actually,” Alexa said. “My skin is starting to feel a little like lava.”

“Mine, too,” Tiffany said, her smile changing into a wince of discomfort.

“Yeah, now that you mention it, this heat is starting to get to me,” Megan said.

“Are we melting?” Tiffany asked. “It feels that way…like we’re slowly disintegrating.”

“It’s part of the reality of being in Hell, girls,” Furioso said with a sigh. “In Hell, we burn. Abandon all hope, you who enter. There’s nothing we can do about it. You’ll have to accept it. Even I must; I’ve been burning for centuries. Still, there is hope of one kind–getting the next part of your satisfaction, which is surely coming.”

“Good,” Alexa said. “I can’t wait to get Boyd McAulliffe and Denise Charlton.”

“You will,” Furioso said. “But it will be best to wait for a fitting time to get your revenge on your school bullies.”

“Wait how long?” Megan asked with a scowl. “I want to get that rapist and his bitch girlfriend now!

“Don’t get too hot with rage, girls,” Furioso said. “You’ll melt faster, and the heat will get unbearably painful. It’s best to cool off for a while, be satisfied with the revenge you’ve achieved for now, and get them at a time, and in a situation, that will be unbearably painful for them. Be patient. The right time will come, years later, when they are particularly vulnerable. You’ll thank me for this advice…I promise you.”

“Very well,” Tiffany said with a frown. “I’ll wait.”

“If it will result in a better revenge, OK,” Megan said.

“…and Alexa?” Furioso asked. “Will you wait with the others?”

She, contemplating a future Boyd, and a future Denise, with children they cherish and adore, nodded and grinned.

“Good,” Furioso said, also grinning. “You won’t regret this, I assure you.”

The three ghosts looked down at their reddening, melting skin, tiny black pieces of which were flaking off, like breaking pieces of igneous rock among infernally hot magma.