Liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual’s liminal stage, participants “stand at the threshold” between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes.
The Neighbors, Part 6
There are those among us who live false lives. Nasty men. Vicious women. Forgotten children. You will never see them. They pretend normalcy; friends and neighbors and co-workers. Inside they are monsters.
Am I one? Some things are best discovered on your own.
Sometimes the screams wake me, desperate cries ringing in the dark. I never help. I can’t. I won’t. There is only so much pain a child can endure. That, of course, is where I’ve lived my life since, inside the bloody hollow place where last I was a boy, long before I became the man I am now. I never saw the change coming, never even knew a living death was possible but it is…. gods help me, it is.
I was awake. Really awake. Cold. Dark. Deep. Trapped.
Somewhere a dog barked frantically.
Damned dog. Rising, I pulled on slacks and a pullover from the day, treading bare-foot down cool stairs. The barking got louder. I unlocked the door to the basement and a thing of fur burst past, knocking me against the far wall.
It rushed to the front door, barking, claws scraping wood. Lying in blood-stains, the only sound water on tiles and a dog in the distance. It couldn’t come in. There was nothing inside me to come into.
As soon as I opened the door, it sprang down the steps and around the fence, towards the neighbors. Good riddance.
I listened for a moment, waiting for silence, but it didn’t come. The dog barked more and more frantic, sound turning into howls of despair.
Pressing hands hard against my face as if to stop the things inside from rushing out, I closed the door behind me. The grass was chilled, cold from overnight rain. The dog dug frantic at their front door. When he saw me, he started running to me and then back to the door, back and forth, forth and back. Barking.
I would have killed for quiet. I should have killed him the moment I saw him.
The door opened at my touch. He pushed in and I followed. I didn’t want involvement. Solitude was the only salvation I ever found.
The house was a wreak, eerily silent now the dog had stopped his uproar. I smelled it. Not a cut on the finger blood but much, much more. It was a smell I knew deep down in my bones.
Leave now. This isn’t your problem. Pack a bag and go away, find another corner in which to hide. Only I couldn’t. A shard of glass cut my foot. The room – floor, ceiling, furniture – were soaked in blood.
And the smell! The taste in my mouth. The squish of carpet beneath my feet. I heard somebody, somewhere, breathing heavily. The iron taste of madness hung suspended in the air.
I found Jane in the kitchen, no longer a pretty woman. She had been stabbed until her chest was a bloody mass, head almost severed from her body. Nobody was pretty after that kind of death.
The breathing continued and so did I, making my way into the hall. The bathroom was empty of blood as was the first bedroom. I continued to the final room, cold fear spiking in my chest.
James slumped on the bed, hands between his knees, covered in blood.
I was in the shower. Hearing cries, screams, pain tangible in the air. If I helped, he would hurt me. Again. Again. I feared the hatred in his eyes. He wasn’t my father. He couldn’t be. I tried to be good. I tried.
Pumpkin stood guard in front of the closet, fur bristling, growling low and dangerous.
It hurt,” he whispered. “Hurt.”
There was little blood in the room not on James. You knew and you left me there.”
Crying. Begging. Screaming. Blood swirling round me, down the drain. Dripping down the walls.
“You died,” I croaked.
He shook his head. “The minute you abandoned me, you died. I knew, knew, you were somewhere, hiding, pretending to be normal. Pretending.”
I drew in a careful breath. “Where is Janice?”
“She’s dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Like you should have been. Like you will be.”
I backed up as he rose, my hand knocking something hard. He raised the knife and I cracked the lamp on his head. He fell, knife laying where it had fallen.
I buried the blade into his back over and over. I’d been wrong to run, to leave him, but what did children know of monsters?
Gone. Finished. Done.
Pumpkin sidled over to me, head down, tail tucked between his legs. His cold nose nudged my face.
He whimpered, slinking beside me as I crawled to the closet.
I clawed the door open. She hurled herself into me, wrapped her tiny body around mine. Her heart beat a thousand thunders.
I carried her out of the room, past the body of her mother, into the cool night beyond. “It will be all right,” I whispered, “I won’t let anybody hurt you”. Pumpkin trotted beside me.
“It will be all right.”
And it was.