These are the essential cliches we live by; “Forgive and forget.”, “If you can’t say something nice keep your mouth shut.”, “Patience is a virtue.” and of course, “Never hit REPLY ALL”.
It was from my slightly traitorous, slightly cannibalistic buddy Atwater that I learned about the strange case of Cyrus Zirkel. Cyrus was one of those guys that treated life as a series of entitlements and equations – he got into a good college so he expected to get a good job, he made a lot of money so he expected women to flock to him, he became a high-paid member of the local Republican Party so he expected the path to public office to be an easy one.
And who knows? Maybe he might have gotten all the things he felt he deserved someday. If only he hadn’t forwarded those racist emails to everyone he knew and a lot of people he didn’t.
Like I said, “Never hit REPLY ALL”.
That stuff might fly in the red states, Hell in some places it might even get you elected, but the New York Republican party has always had at least a shred of dignity. The long and short of it is that Cyrus found himself out of a job faster than you could say “Make America great again.”
Even then Cyrus did vanish quietly from the public eye, in fact for an entire news cycle you couldn’t get away from the guy. He said he’d been hacked, he said he’d been set up, he said that those heavily photoshopped images of Barack Obama had been sent to him directly by the Governor. So much for “If you can’t say something nice keep your mouth shut.”
People who find themselves suddenly unemployed have many options; updating their resumes, applying for public benifits or moving back in with their parents. Cyrus Zirkel didn’t bother with any of that, he had always been an outside the box kind of guy, so he decided that revenge against those who had wronged him via demonic summoning was the way to go. “Forgive and forget?”
Not a chance.
Who knows where he obtained that PDF file of that blasphemous ancient scroll? Who knows where he found a bone from a saint and the tears of a jackal? I mean let’s be honest here, even Amazon.com has its limits. However he did it, once he had all the spell components together he locked himself in his apartment at 233 Parkwood Towers and, once he’d properly defiled himself, began the dark chant to summon Druagga the Possessor, thrall of Mormo.
When the chant was completed all Cyrus Zirkel had to do was wait, and he did wait for almost forty-five minutes before starting the chant over again. He performed the chant multiple times within the next twenty four hours.
Trust me on this, Atwater has statements from the annoyed and terrified neighbors to prove it. After twenty four hours Cyrus Zirkel fell silent, fell being the operative word because he’d hung himself using a rough noose fashioned out of the silk draperies.
Poor Cyrus, if only he’d read that PDF file more carefully, if only he’d known that “Patience is a virtue.”
My investigation into the strange case of Cyrus Zirkel led me from Delmar to Albany, from the state capitol to a dive bar with a failed health inspection proudly displayed on the wall. Finally my search led me back to Parkwood Towers, to apartment 231. I knocked on the door and the now familiar face of Johnny Dennis answered. “Brian Foster?” he said, “I didn’t think I’d see you again.”
How do I describe Johnny Dennis? ‘Pretentious, temperamental, trend-chasing sociopath’ seems to cover all the bases. Despite those drawbacks he manages to hold down a job and mix with polite society. In fact the sonofabitch thrives in it.
Now what does that say about polite society I ask you?
“A few more questions have come up,” I shouldered past him into the apartment, “I need a little more of your time.”
An annoyed look crossed his features but he closed the door and ushered me into his living room, “After you left I found your blog.”
“I guess you think you’re some kind of a Ghostbuster or something?” he said with a snort.
“No proton packs here,” I faked a chuckle, “Maybe a few silver bullets and holy water, but only on special occasions.”
He offered me a seat but I decided to keep standing. On one wall there was a reproduction of Van Gogh’s ‘Portrait of Dr. Gachet’. Just the thing to tickle the fancy of a pretentious, temperamental, trend-chasing sociopath.
“I don’t think I can tell you much more. I started to smell something foul. I knocked on Cyrus’ door. It was unlocked so I went in and found him hanging there. He’d tied the drapes to a ceiling fan. I pulled him down but he’d been dead for days.” Johnny shrugged, “Actually I am surprised the fan held his weight. These apartments are so damn cheap.”
“Are you sure you didn’t see anything odd while you were in there?” I asked, “Black candles, printouts of ancient scrolls, or worrisome stains?”
“No,” he looked at me like I was crazy, “are you just here to waste my time Brian?”
I wandered over the the sliding glass door that led to the balcony. It was unlocked. “Did you see his enemies list?”
“It’s all in the police report,” I pulled out a ragged sheet of paper and handed it to him, “Before the end he wrote down the names of everyone he felt wronged him.”
He didn’t bother to read it, he didn’t even give it a cursory glance, “Am I on here?”
“Do you think you should be?” I asked. “Don’t worry you’re not, but just about everyone else he ever met is. Even his fifth grade teacher.”
And that was completely true. I bet Cyrus’ nipples were sore from nursing all those grudges. I went on to explain to Johnny Dennis that a good portion of that enemies list had died recently in all sorts of ways; strangulation, suffocation, falling down a flight of stairs. “It’s really quite bizarre,” I concluded.
“And what?” He said, “You think I’m killing people for him? I barely knew the guy!”
“True,” I said with a raised finger, “but you were the one that found the body and the police report also states that some things were missing from the apartment.”
That got him angry, “I think you should leave.”
“You’re probably right but I want to read this list of stolen items to you first. Let me know if anything sounds familiar.”
“Look asshole I’m not going to-”
I began, “One laptop, one iPhone, a complete collection of Radiohead’s discography and the very set of draperies Cyrus Zirkel used to kill himself. Quite the eclectic mix.”
Now confusion was in his eyes, and maybe a little twitch of fear, “I didn’t steal his drapes.”
“Maybe,” with my right hand I pulled my smartphone from my jacket pocket and started filming, “his drapes stole you.”
There was a long pause.
“Come on…” I said, “show yourself.”
There was a wet, gurgling sound. Johnny Dennis’s mouth cracked wide open and his eyes rolled back to the whites but his posture didn’t change at all. He just trembled ever so slightly. His torso hitched once, twice and then a tendril of yellowed fabric wormed its way from between his gaping lips.
It was slick with bile, some parts were twisted and knotted, other parts were frayed. Each lose thread made skittering motions in the air like the legs of an upended millipede. It was a parasite, a parasite made from fabric and a curse.
I can’t imagine Cyrus Zirkel or Druagga the Possessor had ever expected things to turn out quite like this. I reached into my other jacket pocket and pulled out a flask. The top popped open easily.
“Hear me Druagga!” I cried, “The supplicant is dead, you have no purpose on this mortal plane.”
Johnny Dennis toppled over. His face had turned purple and he was convulsing. I liberally splashed the contents of the flask over the unclean spirit and its hipster host. Then I muttered the exorcism rite I had committed to memory just this morning.
The only response I got was a scream of outrage.
Then the scream was replaced by a wet sound, a tearing noise. The full length of the drapery pulled itself free. Long ugly bits of Johnny Dennis’ digestive system were dragged out along with it but by that point he was too dead to notice.
The thing darted cobra-like towards me. I had to throw myself across the dining room table to get away. I gave the holy water and exorcism rite one more try but the demon’s only response was to bloom outwards, uncurling, taking a shape that mocked and mimicked the proportions of a genie; human on the top, squiggly on the bottom. I tried to throw myself back the other way over the dining room table but wasn’t fast enough.
The lacy fingers that wrapped around my throat stank of intestinal juices and brimstone. I kicked and pulled but it held me fast. I tried to find some kind of hold on its bile-slickened body but couldn’t. When I gasped for air it hooked one slimy hand onto my lower jaw and pulled my mouth open as wide as it could go.
The tail end of the thing slid up my body heading for my face. I knew then that it was going to force itself down my esophagus and into my waiting stomach.
I was about to become its next host.
Oh HELL NO! I thought.
It dove in, it didn’t get all the way down my gullet but it got deep enough that I’m afraid I’ll never be able to get the taste of a dead man’s cold vomit out of my mouth.
My desperate clawing fingers found purchase in the moist, tattered fabric. Once I had a grip on the thing I yanked it away from me and flung it across the room.
It smacked wetly against the wall.
Then I ran.
Somehow I ran and got sick over myself at the same time. I got onto the balcony and closed the glass sliding door just as it righted itself and lunged after me.
There is no doubt in my mind that my story has left you with a lot of questions. I’ll try to answer them all in no particular order.
How did I get away? Thankfully Druagga, Thrall of Mormo, had even less patience than the man that had summoned him and gave up after about ten minutes of trying to get through the sliding glass door I was desperately holding closed. I’m sure the fact I was not one of the people on its hit list also helped save me. After one final thump on the door it slithered back into Johnny Dennis’s body. You never get used to seeing a dead man stand up and walk away but every time is a little different.
Like this time for instance; the way Druagga/Johnny paused to lock the balcony door before disappearing into the night was fairly unique.
I screwed up my bad knee and broke my iPhone climbing down from the second floor balcony but at least I got clear of Parkwood Towers before the police showed up to investigate the commotion.
Why didn’t my exorcism work? I don’t know. Maybe Father Vincent of St. Casmir’s church does a really bad job of blessing water or maybe I do a really bad job of memorizing exorcism rites. Then again maybe Druagga the Possessor, a being with a history far older than the Catholic Church, isn’t really a demon at all.
Note to self; get back on Jasper’s good side and ask.
I need to wrap this up so I can get back to washing my insides out with Everclear so let me conclude with a warning.
If any of you readers out there ever managed to piss off Cyrus Zirkel at some point in your life, be careful. Watch out for men that shamble like something out of a George Romero movie. Get in the habit of carrying around holy water with you or maybe keep a set of pinking shears close by at all times.
Most importantly of all, be aware of every room you enter. Examine the decor carefully, because if the drapes clash with the rug, it just might be curtains for you.