A Facility for Evil
Tonight, brothers and sisters, I want to tell you a story. A story about a man named Thomas. Thomas Mann, as a matter of fact. Now, Thomas was a man, no pun intended, just like any other man, and, in most important ways, just like any woman. He worked in a suit and a tie, in an office, from nine in the morning until six o'clock at night, from Monday to Friday. He lived in a high-rise apartment building, just like so many you can find here in this great city of which we are all so justifiably proud. He spent his weekends in bars and at parties, or on his couch watching hit videos he rented from the Blockbuster two corners down, towards the park.
Yes, my friends, Thomas Mann lived a very normal life, a very average life, until one night when he woke up in the wee-est hours of the morning with a feeling strong and heavy in his gut. This feeling he had, it wasn't hunger. Oh, no. Nor was it joy, or jealousy, or even that feeling that wakes all of us up in the middle of the night, to drag us out of our warm and comfortable beds to squint in the too-bright, just turned on lights while we do our business.
No, this feeling that woke Thomas was nothing other than fear, and a sweaty-browed, twisted-gut, shaking-hands fear it was. It paralyzed him, and he lay in his bed, afraid, for a time he could not measure. In time, the fear coalesced around him. It coagulated like old milk, and he found that it had a direction. The direction it had was out his bedroom door and down his hallway. This fear, it was coming from Thomas's bathroom, and in the moment of that realization, he also understood why he was so unreasonably afraid. At that instant, Thomas Mann knew, he knew beyond a shadow of a whisper of a doubt, that there was a demon in his john.
It's okay to laugh, my brothers and sisters. Even Thomas laughed, though in truth his was a nervous laugh, a shrill and shaky laugh. A demon in your water closet seems like a funny thing, but we all of us know how long a walk it often takes to get from seems to is. Of course, the presence in Thomas' commode was not at all funny, but like most fears, once Thomas found a name for his terror, it faded away. It faded enough that found he could breathe again, but not so much that he could go back to sleep that night. He lay under his clean sheets and felt the entity down his hallway, waiting for he knew not what. Later, when he got that other feeling in his stomach, the one I mentioned earlier, he relieved it out his 17th story window. If anybody on the sidewalk noticed, I'm certain they thought it was rain.
When day broke, Thomas felt the fear vanish entirely. Like so many things, it seemed better, safer, and almost silly in the pale light of the morning. Thomas's courage built as he ate his Wheaties and drank his orange juice straight from the carton. By the time he had rinsed out his bowl, he was ready to walk – no, he was ready to creep down his hallway and up to his bathroom door, and in the fresh and clean light of the sun, he opened it.
There was nothing unusual in his necessary room. There was no ichor streaming down the walls, no cloven hoofprints burnt into the porcelain tile. There wasn't even a sharp whiff of brimstone lingering under the vanilla scent of his Wal-Mart deodorizer. There was no evidence at all that a demon had spent the night there.
This is not to say, however, that one hadn't.
Thomas spent his day at work, and he felt strange – strange in that way people feel strange when they have somehow changed, but the world they live in has not. I know that many of you out there who found Him later in life know this feeling, and Thomas Mann had that feeling badly on this day. He did his job very distractedly, but he did it, and if his friends and co-workers noticed a change in him, I imagine they thought he had just met or just stopped seeing a woman in his life. When the time came to leave his office, Thomas decided to eat alone at a diner he knew. When he'd finished his supper, and two desserts, he took in a movie. And after the movie, he went for a walk in the park. But like so many of those out there, those who are trying to escape the final judgment, Thomas was only postponing the inevitable. In time he would have to face up to the change in his life. In time he would have to go home, and after another lap around the duck pond, he did.
When Thomas opened his door and stepped into his apartment, the fear stepped into him. It hit him hard, my brothers and sisters. It hit him hard and it dropped him to his knees, and he trembled there on his modern pile fiber carpet, and he knew – he knew in his water – that the demon in his privy would come for him then.
But it didn't come for him, and in time, Thomas was able to stand up and get ready for bed. He buttoned his pajamas with quivering fingers, and fell asleep with his bedroom light on, shivering with his covers pulled up over his head, like a little boy afraid of the bogeyman.
My friends, none of us can imagine what Thomas Mann's life was like, caught as he was between the "real" world of marketing reports, happy hour, and prime-time situation comedies, and the "fantasy" world of what had taken up nocturnal residence in his can. But Thomas, in the fashion of humans everywhere and throughout the course of history, he adjusted to his situation. He continued to use his window for after-sunset evacuation, and he started to keep his toothbrush by the kitchen sink.
Thomas lived that way for one month and ten days, living his normal, average life in the light of his days, and with the fear of his perditory houseguest placing a deeper shadow over the dark of his nights. He thought of speaking to a priest, or a batista, or even the police, but he never did. Perhaps he was too afraid of the demon, or maybe he was more frightened of the reaction of whomever he might tell. Whatever his reasons, Thomas never shared his secret with anybody during that time. He just tried to continue with his changed life.
It was during one of his attempts to continue his normal life that Thomas went, after work, to a bar near his office. At this bar he met a girl. She was nice, and they talked for a while. That was nice, and near closing time, he took her home with him. What happened then was very nice indeed. After, Thomas used the kitchen sink to do his business, and then fell asleep in this woman's arms, happy for the moment, and, for the first time since his new life had begun, not afraid.
In time, his new friend felt that feeling in her stomach. Not Thomas's fear, but that other feeling, and she slid out of bed and walked down his hall. Thomas sat up and watched her go. He wanted to say something, wanted to warn her, but whatever reasons had prevented him from telling anybody before still sufficed to still his tongue. He kept his mouth shut. He stayed mum. He said nothing while the girl walked down his hall. She opened the door, and then she shut it behind her. The light peeped through the crack under the door, and after a minute it vanished, but the door didn't open again that night, and Thomas never saw that girl again.
Here endeth the lesson.
Copyright © 2002 Jake Brick