MICHAEL GETTINGS

The Quilt

    The new house is perfect. It’s perched right at the top of a hill, like an eagle ready
to lift off and take flight. It overlooks a valley blanketed with leaves, and some of the
largest trees I’ve ever seen. There’s even a swing-set in the back yard, so Stevie has a
place to play. I couldn’t have wished for any better place.

    Margot and I spent most of the day unpacking the boxes, leaving Stevie with the
sitter. I never realized before today just how much clutter we actually had. Margot has
some of the most inane and useless stuff I’ve seen in such a long time. She has three of
the same pictures of her great grandmother that she refuses to get rid of. I don’t even have
one of mine.

    That was kind of the reason we left the last house, too. It was too small and too
cluttered. Not to mention we wanted Stevie to go to a better school. You keep hearing
news reports about how bad things are getting, and you just can’t help but wonder if your
kid is next. I didn’t want that to happen.

    Stevie is going to love his new room. It’s right at the top of the stairs, painted sky
blue. Kind of feminine for a boy his age, but I liked that color too when I was a young
boy. He’s got a window that overlooks the swing-set and the valley.

    Margot dropped a box of our champagne glasses within five minutes of setting
foot into the house. I knocked on wood, and she smiled.

    “It’s a curse,” she said playfully.

    “It’s a blessing. I don’t drink anymore, why do we need those glasses?”

    All she did was laugh. Sometimes I really love her.

    And sometimes she pisses me off.

    We had a set schedule for today, including unpacking all of the boxes. We even
had some time allotted for “settling”… But somehow we were behind schedule and she
just wanted to call it a day, pick Stevie up from the sitter’s and bring him over. I didn’t
want him here without the house being complete. I wanted the change for him to be
almost seamless, with all of his stuff in its new place and all of the boxes gone. Kind of
like if he never left the old house at all.

    But, she left without telling me and brought him in. I don’t know if that would be
traumatic for a child, being uprooted like that, and I’m no Dr. Spock, but I just really
wish she would have respected my wishes.

    She’s in the shower right now, and I can see her through the fogged glass. She’s
so beautiful. She still doesn’t know I keep a journal, either. I feel bad keeping a secret
from her like this, but I can’t help it. I just need a place to put my thoughts down,
negative or positive, even though it will never change the way that I feel about her… She
might take it the wrong way, and want a divorce, or try and take Stevie away from me.
Especially if she reads some of the things from when I drank…

    But that’s the past now. It really is. I should just get rid of those entries, because
they will never do anyone good, especially me. They were from a dark time.

    The shower just cut off, so I have to wrap this up and hide it. There’s no loose
floorboard here, so I’ll have to do a little improvisation. She’s walking around the
bathroom with an open robe right now. It’s going to be a good night.

July 6, 1998

    She had cuddled up against me last night after we finished, but I turned away. I
didn’t want to hold her right then, because it was different this time. I don’t know why or
how. It felt like someone was watching us. Afterwards, I checked the bedroom door and
it was locked, but I still felt anxious. She crawled up under the quilt that her great
grandmother had made for her and fell asleep.

    When I woke up, she wasn’t there. I figured that maybe she had gone downstairs
to fix breakfast, or help Stevie get ready for school. I didn’t smell anything cooking, and I
didn’t hear any bustle around the house. Maybe she was watching TV?

    But she wasn’t. Her car was still here. All of her things were still here. I thought
that she could have gone outside, into the valley to explore, but her shoes were still here.
Her glasses still sat on the nightstand from where she carefully folded them the night
before.

    Stevie was still asleep, and I was beginning to get worried. I don’t quite know
where she went. I can still smell her shampoo on the pillow and the quilt, but outside of
that, it’s like she just disappeared.

    “She could have gone walking barefoot around the neighborhood,” I told myself,
but quickly threw away the notion. Two years ago, she stepped on a nail and it went clean
through her foot, almost hitting bone. She had just been walking barefoot around the cul-
de-sac when it happened, but since then she had always worn shoes around.

    She did mention yesterday that it was great having a place to start over, so maybe
she did that? Started walking without shoes again? I hope so.

***

    I saw Stevie off to school. He was a little late and he wondered where his mommy
was. So did I. I still hadn’t seen her around at all, not even in the neighborhood as I was
driving around trying to find the Elementary school.

    I’m genuinely worried right now. She’s never pulled anything like this before.
She always tells me when she’s going somewhere, even if it’s just to the grocery store to
pick up milk.

    I’m not sure what to do. For all intents and purposes, my wife has disappeared.

July 7, 1998

    I had to fix dinner last night, something that I’ve never done before. I tried my
hand at pasta, but ended up burning the hell out of it. I didn’t know you had to stir it so
much. Stevie and I ended up having pizza and throwing the pan out. The house still
faintly smells of smoke.

    Stevie asked me where Mommy was when he got back from school, but I can’t let
him know I’m as worried as he is. I told him she was just going for a job interview back
at the old house and showing people around, so they could buy it and we could stop
worrying so much.

    But I can’t stop worrying. I keep hearing all of these stories on the news about
how people are abducted from their homes, taken out somewhere and raped to death. It
shouldn’t happen in a neighborhood like this. It’s not supposed to happen. Any time now,
I expect to look out the window and see a bloody Margot climbing up the slant behind
our house, using the trees to help her gain footing, disheveled and half dead.

    Or a ring at the doorbell, asking me to please come with them because there is a
body they want me to identify.

    Why does my mind do this? It’s un-natural. I shouldn’t be thinking like that.
She’s probably fine, staying with a girlfriend or something because I wouldn’t cuddle and
she took it as some kind of sign of our marriage falling apart. It wasn’t. Oh, no, it wasn’t
falling apart, no, I love her more than anything.

    Last night, at around 1, I heard a crash in the house. It was dark when I went to
check it out. I’ve never been in the house when it was so murky and quiet. It sounded like
it was coming from the kitchen. I made my way down the stairs, past the portraits of her
great grandmother and through the den. The shadows played tricks on my eyes, casting
shadows of trees through the windows. It looked like I was walking through a room that
was constantly changing, swirling, going up in smoke.

    There was someone behind me. I could feel them breathing on my neck, but I
couldn’t turn around. I couldn’t bring myself to turn around and face whoever it was. My
heart skipped a beat.

    “Margot? Is that you?”

    Whoever it was didn’t respond, but began to retreat. I turned, and through the
shadows saw someone running with what looked like a cloak over their body. I would
have chased them, God’s honest truth I would have chased them, but I hear someone
crying from the kitchen.

    I ran in and stepped on glass.

    “Oh, fuck!”

    The crying grew louder as I hit the light switch.

    In the corner between the dishwasher and the cabinets, Stevie crouched, his
Transformers PJ’s wet with sweat and urine, holding his Teddy Ruxpin bear. Two streaks
of his hair were now white, and he wouldn’t stop bawling.

    “Stevie, it’s me. It’s me, Stevie…”

    I tried reached out to him, but he swung his tiny fists at my arms and began to
scream.

    “What’s the matter, Stevie? Come on, it’s just me. It’s your dad.”

    He stopped crying and looked up, now trying to hide behind his teddy bear. He
lowered it a little, and began to cry again. But it wasn’t out of fear. He was happy.

    “Dad!”

    He swung his arms around me, and I carried him back to his room, and set him
down in the bed, before pulling out a new set of pajamas for him to put on.

    “Stevie, what happened?”

    He didn’t say a word, but put the pajamas on and almost immediately fell asleep. I
was on my way out the door, when I turned around to find him sitting up, and pointing
past me.

    I turned around and looked into the hallway and saw a shadow rush into my
bedroom.

    “Stevie, lock your door. I’m calling the police, alright?”

    I ran downstairs to the phone, and called the police before running back up to be
with my son.

    “Stevie, open the door. It’s dad.”

    But he wouldn’t. I grabbed his little-league bat and slid down his door, sitting on
the floor, and waited.

    It was a relief when the blue and red lights came in through the window over the
door. Each bean that passed over me took a little weight off of my shoulder, and I made
my way down the stairs and opened the door. Two officers stood there, looking tired.
Well, hell, it was almost 2. I don’t care if you work the night-shift, you’re still going to be
tired.

    “We got a call about an intruder?”

    “Yes, officer. I saw him go into my bedroom, and I haven’t seen him leave. He
should still be in there.”

    They made their way up the stairs, and into my bedroom. I heard the bathroom
door open, with a slow creak, and I waited. Five minutes later, they came down the stairs.

    “Sir, there was no one up there.”

    “There was. I saw him with my own two eyes. Check the entire floor if you have
to, but there was someone in here. I think they tried to kill my son.”

    One of the officers noticed the blood on the stairs.

    “Sir, why is there blood on your stairs?”

    “Because I cut my foot going into the kitchen to find my son. I was trying to get
him back to his room where he would be safe and didn’t have time to bandage it up.”
The officers reluctantly made their way back up the stairs, performing a full
sweep of the second floor. They returned minutes later.

    “Sir, there’s no evidence that anyone was in your house tonight except for you.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “The only footprints we could find on the carpet upstairs belong to you, and you
left a blood trail from the kitchen to your son’s bedroom. Have you had anything to drink
tonight, sir?”

    I could feel the color rush from my face. I didn’t do this. I know I didn’t.

    “No, officer. I haven’t had a drink in two years.”

    He nodded.

    “Someone from protective services should be over tomorrow.”

    I opened the front door for them, and they began to leave. As I was closing the
screen door, there was a knock.

    “Sir, on your night-stand, there were pictures of you with a woman. Who is that?”

    “That would be my wife.”

    “And where is she tonight?”

    “I think she’s with a friend. She didn’t tell me she was going anywhere, so I don’t
know.”

    “Alright, sir. Expect a call from us sometime.”

    I walked up the stairs, getting the blood from the floor with paper towels and
bandaging myself with the first aid kit in the downstairs bathroom. I knocked on Stevie’s
door, but he was asleep.

July 8, 1998

    I’m going crazy. I am. Stevie’s hair is completely white now.

    I still don’t know where my wife is. I can still smell her shampoo on the quilt in
our room, but not on the pillow.

    I’m just… I don’t know what’s going on.

July 12, 1998

    Protective services came today. They wanted to know if I ever attacked my son. I
told them no. They asked me if I ever did. I told them yes, but I used to be a drunkard.
They wrote something down on their little notepads, nodded. Yes sir, no sir, yes sir. Why
are they calling me “sir” when it’s clear they have no respect for me? I don’t get it.

    I hope they don’t take him. He’s all I have left of my wife now. I don’t know
where she is. I filed a “missing persons” report yesterday, but the cop behind the counter
had been one of the two that searched my house. He thinks I did something to her, I can
tell.

    I didn’t. I didn’t. Oh, god, I hope I didn’t.

July 15, 1998

    They’re going to take Stevie, they said. Until they find my wife, they’re going to
take Stevie. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to see him again. They’re picking him up on
the 17th.

    I don’t know anymore.

    I miss Margot.

July 16, 1998

    They can’t take Stevie anymore. I know what’s happening. If anyone reads this,
they’re going to think I’m crazy, but I’m not. I’m really not.

    I gave Stevie a bath tonight, I did. I also made him Macaroni and Cheese in a
comically small pot, because I ruined the other one. It’s his favorite. It was his favorite.
I was in my room, leaving him to get dressed when I heard him screaming again.
It was horrible. I didn’t know what to do. I rushed down the hallway, to his room, but it
was locked. I looked under the door, and I saw the bottom of a cloak. They were in there.
I rammed the door with my shoulder and almost knocked myself down the stairs.
I kicked the door squarely with my foot, and screamed in pain. It was my glass foot. But
the lock broke, and the door opened.

    The figure was standing over my son, completely covering him with the cloak,
moving rhythmically.

    It wasn’t a cloak. Oh, God, please don’t think I’m crazy.

    It was the quilt. The quilt my wife had. Please don’t.

    It was eating my son.

    The patchwork wrinkled and smoothed as it… Chewed… I tried pulling the quilt
off of him, but it was no use. Every time I pulled one part out, another took it’s place. I
could still hear him screaming, but I couldn’t do anything about it.

    And then when it was finished, it collapsed to the floor, just a quilt again. It
changed color, blue now. The color of his PJ’s. But there was no trace of him.

    Oh God.

    I looked at the door, and there was a bit of quilt stuck to the stop. The original
color, too… But that’s how it got in. It went under the goddamned door.

    Stevie, Margot.

    Oh God, forgive me.

***

    Consider this a less than fond farewell. I’ve lost everything I’ve ever had since I
moved into this house… My son, my wife…

    It ate them. It ATE them and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

    It ate my wife while I was sleeping next to her. If I had held her that night, would
she have been taken from me? Would it have started? Would we have gone together.

    One thing I know is that the quilt takes something from you. It digests you into
it’s… System. It turned blue after it took Stevie, and it smells like my wife’s shampoo.

    I’ve got enough sleeping pills here to kill myself. I’m going to take them, then lie
under the quilt. I hope this will be enough to kill it, I do. I really hope that.

    If not, I have a backup plan.

    But I don’t want to go on living anymore. People will think I’m crazy, which I’m
not. Oh God, I’m not crazy you have to believe that when I say I’m not crazy I’m really
not I just wanted what was best for both of them, this new house and the new school I
really did and I wanted to get rid of the clutter, the pictures of the great grandmother and
I wanted to get rid of that awful quilt too. Maybe it knew. That’s why it’s doing this.

    But… Just know that I’m not crazy.

    I hope this works.

    Please believe me.

    I’m going to go lie down now.



“Excerpt from the Richmond Times Dispatch, July 18, 1998”

    “… The firemen were called to the house late last night. The fire raged out of
control for hours, destroying most of the house. After the flames were extinguished, the
firemen walked through the house looking for survivors. They found the charred skeleton
of the owner under an antique quilt that was undamaged by the fire. In one hand, the
skeleton clutched what appeared to be a journal.

    ‘We hate getting calls like this,’ Chief Irons said.

    ‘Hopefully the journal will shed some light on what happened tonight,’ he
continued…”










© 2005 Underground Voices