The Echo

The Echo

A Story by Jason Galliger
"

A man's drive home turns into his wildest nightmare.

"

            I had just dropped little Nell off at her friend’s birthday party. As I drove my eyes grew heavy and my hands slowly slid off the wheel. When I came to I suddenly found myself in the driveway of a house I didn’t seem to remember. I paused a moment and looked down for my phone. When I flicked the power button there was no response. Still hazy, I stepped out of the car and went to door, maybe they had a phone I could use to call an ambulance. Out of curiosity I turned the door handle, and to my surprise found it unlocked.

            As I stepped into the house I couldn’t help getting this strange feeling in the back of my throat and the pit of my stomach. I walked into a large foyer and to my left spied a liquor cabinet. Alcohol would calm my nerves. I went over and poured myself a tall bourbon. As I felt the alcohol slowly burn down my throat I began to recognize the place. It looked so familiar like something from a long-lost dream suddenly pulled back to life. Then I recognized the feeling I had gotten once I stepped into the house. It was a smell- faintly reminding of some cheap perfume. It smelled like the Clinique Happy perfume my wife always wore. Out of habit I turned and exclaimed “Hi Honey”. And to my surprise my wife’s face was staring back at me-only she wasn’t smiling.

            Her usually perfect blonde hair was a disheveled mess, her skin as pale as snow, and her eyes- pierced me communicating  some meaning that my slightly alcohol fuzzed brain couldn’t understand.  In my mind I thought that I had just been tired and forgot where I was for a while. But still I asked,

            “What’s wrong hon?”

            Her lips quivered trying desperately to form words but instead she raised a finger and pointed it at her throat where I saw a black collar with a blinking red light. My mind raced, what was that collar? Was I dreaming? If I wasn’t, where was I? Who had put the collar on her and why? Is there someone in the house? Is this some kind of sick game? After a moment of pondering I found myself confirming three things. One, I was no longer drunk. Two, I was in a house I didn’t know and I don’t remember how I got there. Three, this was definitely happening.

            This begged the question,  I put down my bourbon glass and said a single word barely above that of a whisper.

            “Who?”

            She shook her head, her eyes begging me to go away-to run. But I persisted asking “Who?” again.  She shook her head violently tears beginning to stream down her cheeks. I asked again. But this time something changed; her mouth opened and she began to move her tongue to form the words of the answer but she stopped. At that moment her eyes rolled back into her head and she began to convulse, her hands flying up to the collar where the red light began blinking violently and emitting a beeping noise.

            I ran over towards her, but the light kept blinking, faster and faster, and the beeping, just got louder and louder until I saw foam begin to creep its way out the corner of her mouth. She convulsed furiously and her tongue swayed to the corner of her mouth the same way she fell onto her knees. Yet still, she was choking-choking wasted breathe and energy trying to let out some form of a scream, some warning.  But all I heard was one final gurgling choke as she fell facedown towards the floor. Her body lay there convulsing for sometime until the blinking and the beeping on the collar stopped. I stood there next to her-my mind frozen. Why hadn’t I done anything? I thought. Why hadn’t I saved her, why did I let her die?. I knew that once the light had gone out so had her life, but still I reached down to feel her pulse. To feel for some lost hope, a whisper in the darkness.  But when I did a single word reached out across the dark empty room and stopped me cold.

            “Dick.”

            It was spoken softly, almost like a low moan but still it reverberated in the silence, matching the frantic beats of my heart. It sounded like it came from the stairwell, so I grabbed a fire-poker from the fireplace near the liquor cabinet and slowly went up the stairs. Wondering if I wasn’t chasing some ghost, or a figment of my own mind.  But just before my hand reached the rail-

            “Dick.”

            I spun around and stared at the doorway leading into the kitchen, and in the doorway clutching a steaming kettle was something worse than any figment of my imagination. It was my ex-wife.

            She had aged since I had last seen her, two years ago in court filing for divorce. When we married she seemed like an average woman with average dreams. When she was pregnant with Nell it was the happiest time of our lives. But once she gave birth something changed in her. Perhaps it was postpartum depression, perhaps something else. But she became needy and obsessive always wanting me to hug her, to hold her. She began getting out of control. For some reason, maybe it was for Nell’s sake, I didn’t see the signs, I denied it creating my own version of reality. It wasn’t until I came home from work one day and found Nell out of her crib, her arms scratched and bruised and her nose bleeding, while she was passed out on the floor of our bedroom surrounded by curtains she had torn that I saw reality.

            I called my lawyer that afternoon and filed for custody. I think it was the hearing that truly sent her over the edge. Whatever sanity was left disappeared into manic rage, and depression. The judge ruled her unfit to stand trial on account of insanity and sent her to Riverdale mental clinic deep in the hills of Northern California where anti-depressants and sunshine would occupy her days.

            A memory fought to the surface. It was murky at first like the silhouette of a ship in the pale morning fog. Then my brain lit up-synapses connected to receptors sending the neccessary chemical signals. A flash, I had heard something about Riverdale on the news, something about…. Then I had it. A California wildfire had burnt down most of the facility, but in the chaos and confusion some of the patients went unaccounted for. The news said most of the patients were docile and harmless. My humorous grin mocked their foolish assumption.

            She was wearing a black tightly knit V-neck sweater that stretched over her bony frame. Within the V-neck was a tiny link chain and resting on the end of it was her-our wedding rings.

            I stared at those rings for a moment reflecting on the choice they represented and how odd it was that they should together when neither belonged in the first place and then I said,

            “Jane.” My voice was cold and flat.

            She smiled at me like she did on our honeymoon and then laughed; a deep voracious laugh that echoed like the depths of her insanity. She swung the kettle wildly around before saying,

            Hello Dear, how are you? Is little Nell home? I’d very much like to see her. I’ve missed her so.”

            That made my fingers slowly curl into a fist. I wanted to hit her right then and there but I suppressed the urge-that was just what she wanted.

 "What the hell are you doing here? And where exactly is here anyways?" I asked.
"Oh Dick, you always did like asking questions too bad you never went looking for any answers, then maybe we could have avoided this?" Jane said before looking around the room wildly.
"And what exactly is this?" I said.
"Revenge for leaving her." another voice said in my ear. I jumped and swung the fire-poker out behind me, hitting nothing. I turned back to Jane only to see that she had changed. Her eyes which before had a foggy appearance were now crystal clear and piercing. Her hair which was tangled and wispy now was straight and combed. Even her clothes seemed to look more professional. She put the kettle down on the table and instead reached into her back pocket and pulled out a Beretta handgun. She turned it over in her hand- examining it with a sinister gaze- then in one fluid motion disengaged the safety, cocked the gun and pointed it at my head.
My heart began to pound.
"Now, this is much more elegant than some kettle. I always tell Jane she's too dramatic for her own good, just look at who she married for crying out loud."
"Now Jane, don't be rash" I said.
"I'm NOT Jane, I'm Joan" she clipped.
I blinked. Clearly Jane had lost her mind. But with the gun pointed at my head there was little I could do but play along.
"Ok, Joan? I want you to put to gun down ok” I said trying to sound like one of those TV cops in a standoff.
Her hand tightened on the trigger as she said,
“As if I’d do that. I’m not as gullible as Jane is.”
“And who exactly would that be…Joan?” I replied.
               She crossed her legs learning towards me, the wedding rings glinting in the light.
               “I’m the Jekyll to that b*****s Hyde”
               I tried to not let my jaw drop. I knew that Jane was crazy, but never that crazy.
               “You mean you’re-“
               “a different personality, yes. Though I rather prefer the term dependent woman. “
               “You’re crazy, Jane” I said
               She blinked and curly replied,
“No, I am Joan. Jane went away for a bit.”

“Seriously Jane quite playing games,” I said.
She sighed before saying,
“I already told you I’m Joan. I am all the things Jane wanted to be but couldn’t: tough, smart, strong, independent, capable, and more importantly together.  But if you want to continue to play games then go right ahead; I’ll be the crazy ex-wife with multiple-personality disorder and you be the dumbstruck husband waving around a fire poker like some Jedi. But remember the crazy ex-wife has a gun. So tell me: Who do you think is gonna win?”
               I stood there stunned for a moment before whispering,
               “What do you want?”
               “Simple, to cut ties and move on.”
               “Didn’t the divorce take care of that?” I said.
               “Charming and with a sense of humor;  Jane always thought that was one of your better qualities.  You see when Jane ,here, (she pointed to the wedding rings) was sent to that nasty “rehab center” she had what you would call a breakdown of sorts. In order to prevent total meltdown I was created to try and restore order. It was me that got her out of isolation, me , who, hid her pills, and ,me ,who, planned the breakout.”
               She clutched the wedding rings for a moment looking, fondly, for a moment like recalling some distant memory before saying;
               “And do you want to know why I did all this?”
               I shook my head.
               “So she could get back to you and Nell of course.”

               I couldn’t believe it out of all the things Jane/Joan had said this was by far the strangest it was just incredulous.

               “She wanted to come back? After all the pain she felt?”
               Joan scoffed.
               “Of course she did,” she said, “despite all your issues you and Nell were the world to her, all she ever wanted was to love and be loved”

               Tears rolled down my cheeks, After all this time, Jane still loved Nell, and she still loved me. I felt a strange mix of emotions that can’t really be described.
               “Originally she was going to come home to you. But when she looked you up on the Internet and found that you had married, and that another woman was raising her child. She-“
               Joan’s expression changed. A wild look seized her face and she spun out of the chair grabbed the kettle and flung it at me while screaming at the top of her lungs,
               “THAT BIIIIIIITTTTTTCCCHHHH!!!!!!!!
               I ducked and cringed as the kettle smashed into the wall behind me sending porcelain shrapnel into my back. I could feel the sting and then the tingle as  warm blood begin to ooze out of me. I assumed from her appearance: red-faced and huffing with a strand of hair falling over her eyes that blazed with bright curious lunacy combined with the violent outburst that this was Jane once again.
               “Jane” I said. “Honey, you need to calm down, give me the gun” as I inched over towards her my hand reaching for the gun.              
               “NOOOOOOO” she screamed running over to corner of the Kitchen. The gun shook in her hand.
    I inched closer and she pulled the trigger. I saw a flash and then fell into darkness.


I floated in unconsciousness for a moment before surfacing. I felt the pain- a lot of pain. I groaned-shifting my weight to legs when another shock of pain shot up my nerves. I fell back down and glanced at the source of the pain. My right leg was bleeding profusely. I could barely make out the bullet hole just beneath my knee. I tried moving my ankle. Mistake. More pain. I gritted my teeth and let out a silent scream.

I stared around the Kitchen for Jane but didn’t see her anywhere. I tried crawling towards the entrance where I saw a phone but could only manage a slow drag across the tiles. I pulled my body towards the phone, leaving a blood trail behind me. I got to the phone which was an older model and picked up the receiver listening for a dial tone but all I got was silence. I was about to put the phone down when I heard static and then a voice. It was grainy at first and I had to shake it but it was definitely there. I whispered into the phone,

“Hello?”

There was silence for a moment before I heard something. It was someone sobbing. The voice cried,

“I....didn’t mean to do it.....I swear.....I would never do that.......not to him........I could never do that......”

The static crackled then another voice came on this one cold and commanding.

“But you did do it... you killed her remember?...you were the one who drugged her....the one who put the collar on....the one to push the button that killed her.”

“I know...but....” the other voice said, “she was....an impostor.....living with him....making dinner for him....making love to him.....raising our daughter....she was a liar,,,,,, she had to be shown the truth....she had to know.....just like Nell does.....who her mother is.”

“Jane?” I said. “Jane is that you?”

She didn’t answer. The started talking again this time as Joan.

“And you showed her didn’t you? Now you can live with him and Nell again. After all you went through all the trouble of bringing him here to your old house to try and convince him to love you again,” she said.

My spine crawled. The strange feeling I was experiencing was deja-vu. I looked around at our old house and marveled at how much it had changed in 4 years. It was if someone had peeled the veil of our lives off the walls and hand painted their own souls instead. Plus the drugs probably didn’t help (italicize thoughts) I thought.

“Jane?” I replied. “Where are you?”

Silence, again. Then I heard a noise in the living room. I dragged myself over into the room and then I saw her. She was sitting in a large red arm chair, her head in her hand’s sobbing while she rocked side to side muttering, “I just wanted to be loved.......”. Next to her was a raging fireplace where the poker sat-its tip gently glowing from the flame. And on the floor a few feet in front of her was the gun. I have to get either the gun or the poker in order to get out of this mess in one piece. She hasn’t noticed me yet this is my chance! I thought while slowly dragging myself towards the gun. It took me a few minutes, I had to mentally swallow every gasp on pain and watch out for the creaky floorboards, but soon I was there just a few inches away. I knew that if I moved any closer she would notice. So, instead I reached out my hand trying to pull the gun towards me. I hooked two fingers around the trigger and one around the handle and pulled slowly. The gun was still wet with my blood so it slid smoothly until-

BUMP!

The barrel of the gun knocked on a groove in the floorboard. My blood (what was left of it) froze. I slowly looked up to see if Jane had noticed. She was staring right at me. S**t I thought and quickly pulled the gun back towards me and pointed it at her chest - just below the wedding rings.  

She stared at me for a minute doing absolutely nothing, before saying,

“Dick?.....no you’re not Dick......I shot Dick.....he’s in the kitchen, dead. I saw him stop breathing.......you’re.......an impostor aren’t you?........you’re just like her aren’t you?......”

I cocked the gun before replying,

“No Jane, it’s me, you shot me in the leg, I’m still alive.”

“No...” she shook her head, “you can’t be alive.....Dick has to be dead,,,,,I would never shoot my husband.......I would never hurt someone I love......ever.”

“You did shoot me Jane, am I alive, don’t you see the blood on the carpet? That’s my blood, from dragging myself from the kitchen.”

She covered her ears muttering,

“No....you’re not Dick....you’re can’t be....”

“Jane shut up, I AM DICK. You just SHOT me in the leg, you b***h.” I yelled.

Her eyes snapped open, and she screamed,

“YOU’RE NOT DICK...YOU’RE AN IMPOSTOR!!!!!”

She flung herself out of the chair towards the fireplace, grabbing the fire-poker and swinging the tip towards my hand. The tip was red hot when it hit. I smelt my flesh sear. I spasmed and let go of the gun, watching the momentum of her swing transfer to the gun making it fly a few feet away.

I screamed in agony, clutching my hand. When I peered down all I saw was pink angry flesh already beginning to tighten, bubble, and eventually-burst. All of which hurt like hell. It hurt so bad I could barely move my fingers I tried inching towards the gun but realized I couldn’t move at all. Jane had jammed the fire poker into the corner of my pants just above my gun shot. I tried wiggling to see if I could tear the fabric but my body screamed in protest.

Meanwhile Jane stood directly above me, tears in her eyes. Her hands shook and she stuttered,

“D.....iiickk. I’mmmmm sor-”

“Get a hold of yourself Jane”. Joan’s voice said. Jane looked around the room frantically looking for the source of the noise-not realizing that it came from her own mouth.

Then she stopped quivering and calmly went over the gun, picked it up and walked back over above me. She bent down placing the cool barrel on my temple before whispering in my ear,

“Jesus that woman is nuts isn’t she? I’ll tell you a little secret.”


She waited for a response, getting none she kicked my hand. My flesh popped like a zit. I screamed.

“That’s more like it,” she whispered curling a strand of hair around her finger. She leaned even closer, I could feel her tongue flick the air just above my air.

“I’m going to kill you. Because when I kill you Jane will have another breakdown, and I’ll walk out of the pieces of her mind, finally free. But I’m not completely heartless, I’ll make sure Nell never knows what it’s like to be an orphan.”

“The hell if you will,” I said trying to move but was immobilized by pain. My vision swam, if I kept this up I was going to pass out.

I heard Joan laugh manically. At least they have that in common, I thought.

She turned me over on my back and straddled me-pressing her legs down right on my leg. I wouldn’t cringed if it weren’t for the gun being place right between my eyes. She cocked the gun and put her finger around the trigger.

I had to think of something, anything. My mind was blank, all I saw was the face of my deranged wife. Then I noticed something glint-it was our wedding rings. I knew then what I had to do-

“I love you Jane,” I said.

Joan’s expression sharpened. She desperately struggled to pull the trigger but she was too late, Jane’s frantic eyes now stared back at me.

“Really?” she whimpered.

“Yes,” I said. She cried hugging my neck. I let her stay there for a moment before asking,

“Honey, can you please get this fire-poker out of our floor?”

She looked at the fire-poker strangely at first, as if she was unsure how it had gotten there at all before replying,

“I can try”.

It took her several attempts before she was finally able to wiggle it free from the floor. I then asked her to help me to the chair. She nodded and helped drag me to the same arm chair she was sitting in earlier. I couldn’t manage to pull myself up onto the chair, so I just leaned against it for support.

She looked down at my wound, her face clearly distraught. I reached out and stroked her hair and said,

“It’s OK, honey really?”

She looked at me questionably and then nodded, more tears streaming down her cheeks.

I looked down at gun, still loaded. I didn’t know how long Joan would stay quiet so I had to do something-fast.

“Honey, I think I saw our first aid kit in the kitchen, could you go and get it for me?”

She nodded and got up to go towards the kitchen. Once her back turned I immediately grabbed then gun and was about to point it towards her when-she turned.

She looked at me, her expression pained looking like she was about to collapse. Her lower lip quivered and she spoke,

“Do...you really love me?”

Silence. I could see a glimmer of Joan swimming in her eyes circling like a shark does before it strikes its prey. I gulped and said,

“Of course I do honey, you’re the mother of my child, I will always love you-”

She smiled and turned to go towards the kitchen. This was it, my only chance, dangling in front of me like the wedding rings on her neck.

I raised the gun towards her head. My finger slowly squeezed the trigger.

I spoke my voice firm, “I’ll always love you, but you’re one crazy b***h.”

The gun screamed, emitting a cloud of phosphorus, as the bullet rode through the air and merrily entered the base of her skull. She made no sound when she fell. Only when she hit the ground, when I could hear the sound of her life vanishing in a pool of blood.

“I’m sorry, Jane,” I sighed dropping the gun. I felt weak. The room titled on it axis for a moment. Just then, Nell came skipping around the corner.


I gasped. She was wearing a blue lace dress that matched the color of her eyes-same as her mother. Her soft blond curls merrily brushing her skin brilliantly pale skin, and her lips- which were the color of freshly spun cotton candy. As she came over she smiled. A Daddy smile we called it. Something that she would only show me and no one else.

She stopped abruptly in front of me, her shiny black shoes ruined by my blood.

“Hi Daddy,” she said.

“Hi Nell,” I muttered, the room spinning again, “what are you doing here?”

She squinted her eyes like she did when she was confused.

“Mommy said you wanted to see me,”

I shook my head “Sweetie, Mommy’s not here anymore. I’m sorry”

She grabbed my hands, her skin was silky smooth and warm.

“It’s OK Daddy, Mommy’s in California, remember.”

I laughed weakly. “That’s right Mommy’s in California.”

She nodded and then noticed my leg. She frowned.

“Daddy you’re hurt, do you need a band-aid?” The amount of blood that had spilled out of my leg was enormous, and it hadn’t stopped.

“ A really big band-aid, sweetheart.” I said trying to emphasize the size with my arms. The room was going hazy, my vision began spotty.

“I’ll go get one for you, kay?”

“Sure. Just not Dora ones please.”

I could barely make out her smile through the haze, and barely hear her when she said,         “Dora’s for girls, Daddy.”

I shook my head and whispered. “Then get me Diego,”


I lay back down, my vision slowly disappearing. I couldn’t hear anything but the faint sound of my heartbeat. It seemed to be getting further away. I didn’t feel the pain anymore only the warm of Nell’s skin and the echo of her laughter.

~~


 

           

© 2012 Jason Galliger


Author's Note

Jason Galliger
point out any grammar issues u see i didn't have time to edit much. added the ending

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Reviews

Wow, that was like a movie in my head lol. Well written, I did notice spelling errors, just simple ones, that I'm sure if you re-read your piece, with an analytical view you'll see them. Haha, I'd be able to help if I hadn't been drug so deep and fast into this crazy world of Dick. Wow, it was incredible, you can always tell a good read when you are succumbed to nothing but the story playing like a video in your head.

Posted 13 Years Ago


I love the play out on this dark tale. I would echo Bard's advice about not mixing tenses, and maybe do a quick drive by on punctuation. I think I spotted a few places that might need a comma.
If it's a short story, then maybe expand the ending a bit to satisfy the readers curiosity. If it's going to continue, which is what I'm rooting for because it was interesting and pulled me into the story, then the ending of this part is great. I look forward to more.

Posted 13 Years Ago


VERY VERY good incredile extraordinary kept me on the edge very very good i didnt expect him to tel her he loved her how awesome! u r incredible!

Posted 13 Years Ago


That, was an awesome story. Some grammatical issues were present (missing commas, typos, etc.), and I'll take some time tomorrow to review them. Other than that, this was a damn good read.

Posted 13 Years Ago


i like it i need to know wat happens next u have a very good flow with ur writing no stops or bumps good job

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago


Very intense story! I would really love to read more!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago


Interesting beginning. Hard to tell if it's a nightmare, or reality. A warning on either -if is is a dream, it will be hard to convince the audience that their time hasn't been wasted. There's a billion variations of the 'just kidding -it's just a dream!' story told, so that it's weary to endure more of the same. If it's reality... I'd say there had better be a good reason for the actions of the protagonist, especially at the beginning. I don't know too many people who'd wake up in a strange driveway, and actually get out the car and enter an equally strange house, not to mention pour themselves a drink. Just a few thoughts as a reader.

As far as grammar and such, I spied a few small errors I'll point out real quick:

"I went open and poured myself a tall bourbon." - I think you meant "I went 'over' and...

There may have been a couple more, but I couldn't find them when I went back. A few things to look for are any words ending in 'ing', and determine if they're truly necessary. When writing in past tense, it's best to keep all your words that way. 'ing' words indicate present tense, which jars the flow of the reading. Ex:

"At that moment her eyes rolled back into her head and she began to convulse, her hands flying up to the collar where the red light began blinking violently and emitting a beeping noise. "

This can be easily be modified to read this way:

"At that moment her eyes rolled back into her head and she wildly convulsed; her hands flew up to the collar where the red light blinked and beeped rapidly."

Notice I cut out any indication of present tense, as well as the phrase 'began to', which is another thing to avoid unless absolutely necessary. Just a few thoughts, I think you have a solid start. With a bit of editing, it can read even better. Keep it up.



This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago


this a unique but well written story-
a very well expressed write--intense-
i really enjoyed reading this story...

james:-)

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago


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I was left wanting more..that is always a good start, you kept the suspense and it was dark and sinister..well done. I thoroughly enjoyed it :)

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago


This was an interesting story. I think this is good..Postpartum depression sucks...I feel bad for all the children whose mothers have it. Well thanks for sharing. :)

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago



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Added on July 26, 2010
Last Updated on April 22, 2012
Tags: Horror, crazy ex's, foam, insanity, denial, regret, confusion, fear
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Author

Jason Galliger
Jason Galliger

Fairfax, VA



About
Hi I'm Jason a young writer from Virginia. I've been writing poetry and short stories for years. However, I've only shared my work with a small circle of friends and family. I hope to be published one.. more..

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