Anthony Willis – By daizydreamer
Anthony Willis is sitting in my chair today – a young man who is somehow skinny and fat at the same time and has greasy, unwashed hair. It crosses my mind that maybe I should have the chair cleaned when he leaves. This is his first time and he is still young, fresh, and stupid. Hopefully when he leaves my chair he will be knowledgeable and maybe, just maybe, have gained a little understanding.
“So how old is your child?”
“Oh, umm, two months.” Interesting. Most new parents count the age of a newborn through weeks and days. Makes sense when every week is a new milestone. And most of them don’t need a second to think about how long the child has been in their lives when they’ve only been there for such a short time.
“Do you have a wife?”
“Yes. She’s 21.” Wow. That’s the most defining thing he can think of about her? Her age? Not how long they’ve been married or even her name? Now that I think about it, he didn’t mention his kid’s name either. Or even if they’re a boy or a girl. Of course I already know it’s a girl because I read his file before he came in.
“How are they?” Now he’s fidgeting in his chair. Interesting.
“Um, good. They’re pretty good.” Pretty good? So descriptive. And he actually broke eye contact with me to say that. This guy is a horrible liar. Thank God. He’ll be so easy to break.
“Yes, but we’re not here to talk about them are we?” He brings his eyes back to me and sits up when he realizes that the small talk is over and it’s time to get down to business. “We’re here to talk about you. So how are they in relation to you?”
“Uhh…” I must have caught him off guard. He’s uncomfortable. He’s actually stretching his arms out and placing his hands behind his head in a subconscious attempt to take up more space. Typically in a human male this means they are either intimidated or trying to impress someone they are attracted to. Something tells me it’s not the latter. After a few seconds of painful silence I decide to help him out.
“Let’s just start with your wife. Would you say you have a good relationship with her?” I’m leaning forward, eyebrows furrowed, hands together on the table. It seems like the more attention I pay to him the more awkward he becomes. It’s delicious.
“Yeah, well… it’s okay.” God, this guy doesn’t want to talk. That’s fine because I’ve dealt with a lot worse. I have a lot of baddies come through this room and sit in my chair. So far I’ve broken them all.
“Do you ever have arguments? Or disagreements?” Now I’ve got him. People who are on the brink of divorce or murder will more times than not tell me that their marriage is “okay”. I think that people have a very hard time revealing things like that to strangers. We’ve been conditioned, after all, to slap a bandaid on a bullet hole and a smile on our face during hardship. Especially marital strife.
“Well, yeah, we do. We do argue.”
“What do you argue about?”
“Um..” He’s looking away from me again. I think this time he’s trying to hide the emotion in his eyes. Lord forbid a man were to show any emotion. He gives a tiny chuckle that looks like it took a lot of effort to get out. “Everything, really.”
“Everything? That doesn’t sound okay. That sounds miserable.”
“Yeah, miserable. It can be actually. Ever since she got pregnant.” He’s still not looking at me. In fact he is trying so hard to avoid eye contact he has his face pointed almost completely away from me. That painting of a plant on the wall must be extremely compelling because many of the people who have sat in that chair have spent quite a bit of time staring at it. Funny, because I always thought it was just a dumb painting of a plant.
“How have things changed between you two since she got pregnant?”
“More fighting. A lot more fighting.” Now he has gotten to the point where instead of spreading out he is starting to take up less space. He’s gripping his thighs and sitting upright.
“What do you fight about? Try to be specific.” He’s moving his hands up and down his thighs now – God he just can’t stop fidgeting, can he?
“Just stuff, like, I don’t even know. It’s always something. Every time I walk in the door there’s something wrong, like, I’ve done something wrong. I just can’t do anything right.”
“Do you help with the baby?”
“Man, I try to,” So now he’s calling me man? Looks like I’m already breaking down walls. “But it’s like what am I supposed to do? I’m not gonna be able to make it stop crying,” Oh interesting, very interesting. So now the baby’s an it? “And she’s breastfeeding so it’s not like I can help with that. And she never wants to just let it cry. She thinks it’s our job to just jump up every time that it makes a sound and find out what’s wrong. And I’m just, like, won’t she get spoiled like that?” The more upset that he gets the more fragmented and confusing his sentences are. But, we’ve had one advancement. He referred to his baby daughter as she instead of it.
“So, would you say you have different parenting ideals than your wife does?”
“Oh, yeah.” He’s looking me in the eyes now and nodding furiously. “Sometimes I’ll get mad and I’ll be like, ‘so what? Let the damn kid cry for a bit!’ and then she’ll just lose it!”
“Oh, yeah,” Now he’s mimicking my behavior by leaning forward and using hand motions. Suddenly I’m his best friend. “Tells me I’m a bad dad. Tells me she hates me. I hate it when she says that.”
“Because you love her?”
“Because it fuckin’ pisses me off!” His reaction is almost explosive, but I’ve dealt with worse so I don’t react.
“Because you love her?”
“Yeah, I guess.” He mumbles.
“What about your daughter? Do you love her?”
“Of course I do! I mean, she drives me bat shit. But, she’s still my kid. I just don’t think she should be treated like the queen of England, ya’ know?” Oh yeah I know. I know all about you, Anthony Willis, and I know exactly how you feel about your wife and daughter.
“Does your wife call you names or put you down when you fight?”
“Yeah. Lazy bastard. Fat ass. Dumb ass. Dead beat. Like she thinks it’s my fault I can’t get a job in this shithole economy. I’m not applying myself.”
“How long has it been since you held a job, Anthony?” I already know the answer but I ask anyways, just because I want to see him squirm.
“It’s been, like, awhile. Maybe a few months?” Suddenly he’s not looking at me anymore and he’s leaning back in his seat like he thinks if he gets far enough away the question won’t hit him. Or maybe that I won’t hear him. But I don’t have to hear him because I know why he’s really sitting in my chair.
“So, does your wife work?”
“No, of course not. She can’t work ‘cause of the baby, right? She quit her job, like, a couple months before the baby was born. Isn’t that a load of shit? She just gets to prop her feet up all day while everyone rushes around her like she just gave birth to baby Jesus and then they all scream at me to get a job. Like it’s just that easy.”
“If neither of you work then how do you support yourselves?” Of course I know the answer to this as well. But it’s very important that he says these things out loud. It’s the only way I’m going to lead him to the truth.
“Her parents, ya’ know? They’ve got a little money, I guess. We sleep in the spare bedroom. Sometimes. Sometimes I just sleep on the couch ‘cause I don’t feel like fucking dealing with it. Sometimes I just want to get a full night of sleep without that kid waking me up, ya’ know?” Yes, Anthony, I know. I know all too well. “She insists on having the baby sleep in the bed. I don’t see why she can’t just put the crib in the bathroom or the living room and then just let the baby cry for a little bit. Even for just a few hours if it means we’ll get some sleep, ya’ know? But, no. No, no, no, no, no. I need a full night of sleep sometimes, ya’ know?”
“What about your wife? Does she ever get a full night of sleep?”
“What does she need it for? What does she do all day? She’s always either sleeping, watching TV, or just completely glued to that baby. But then she complains at me that I should be doing dishes and making dinner. Even though I literally spend hours every day on the internet searching for jobs. But as soon as I try to take a break you can guarantee she’s gonna come in and start screaming at me.” I think it’s funny that a few moments ago he wasn’t even speaking in full sentences to me and now he’s spewing paragraphs. He’s not uncomfortable anymore. He’s still fidgeting, though. He keeps his eyes on me but his hand are traveling all over his body like he’s covered in ants. Guilty conscience, Anthony?
“Living with your in-laws must be stressful for you as well.” I’m trying to hit all the pressure points. How worked up can I get him? And what can I get him to confess?
“Man, you don’t even know.” I know, Anthony, I know all about it, but I want you to tell me anyways. “Her dad? The dude fuckin’ hates me. Like, hates my guts. He is constantly telling her to leave me and he really wants to kick me out. Or kill me, probably. And then her mom is just a bitch. Just a straight up bitch. She doesn’t like cussing. Doesn’t like drinking. Or smoking. Or anything except for her grandbaby. She treats that baby like it came from God. But me? The man who made the baby? She treats like shit. Go figure.”
“Do you fight with her parents?”
“Yes and no. Like, they won’t say anything to my face. They just say it to her. And then we end up fighting because of it.”
“Do you get angry?” My voice is so low now it’s almost a whisper. I’m leaning forward, preparing for the pounce.
“Well sometimes,” His voice is getting lower as well. “I just, like, I just… I hear that baby. That damn baby screaming. And, I swear to God, I want to kill her.” He’s holding his hands in front of himself now with his fingers clenched. The tendons in his hands are sticking out and I can see veins under his transparently pale skin clearly.
“So what do you do when you’re angry?” I’ve already got him. He’ll answer any question I ask him but I still want to lead him into his own realization. Also, I’m not done toying with him yet.
“I – I throw things. Break things. Her mom doesn’t like for me to get drunk so sometimes I just throw empty bottles and break them when they’re not home. I slam the doors, I punch the walls, kick the walls. I punched a hole in our bedroom door one time. I can’t help it. It’s really hard, ya’ know? Being a man but being treated like a lil’ kid. I just want a little fuckin’ freedom.”
“How does your wife react? When you go into a rage?”
“Oh, ya’ know, all scared and shit. Like she actually thinks I’m gonna hurt her. She gets all freaked out. One time she told me that if I laid a hand on her then her dad would shoot me. Dude, at this point? That fat, old man can go ahead and do it! It would be a fuckin’ blessing right now.”
“And what about the baby? Have you ever hurt her?”
“God, no, of course not! I’ve screamed at her before. Told her to shut up. But all parents get frustrated. It’s actually supposed to be normal to get frustrated sometimes. But I get treated like I’m a monster or something. Sometimes when she’s crying so fucking loud it’s like I just can’t take it anymore and I have to punch something.”
“Like the wall? Or the door?”
“Yeah, like that! Ya’ know?”
“Or what about the lamp? Do you sometimes smash the lamps?”
“Sometimes, yeah. It’s like I just want some fuckin’ sleep. And sex. This is really hard to admit, especially for a man. But, ya’ know, we haven’t fucked since before she gave birth? She doesn’t understand because for her it’s not as big a deal. She doesn’t even take one, single second to think about how that affects me! Especially since I can’t really jerk it more than maybe once a day since we have absolutely no privacy. I have to hide in the bathroom like I’m a kid again. It’s humiliating.” By this point I’m feeling borderline rage. But I’ve learned how to hide it very well. My face remains practically expressionless although underneath I’m tensing up for the kill.
“Think about the last time you argued with your wife. What was it about?”
“At first it was because I wanted her to actually show me that she loved me, ya’ know? Like put the baby down for two goddamn seconds and pay attention to me, for once. Oh, she didn’t like that. Of course she didn’t like that. How dare I imply that I’m a human being with needs, right?”
“By needs do you mean sex?”
“Not exactly. I’m just a physical person, ya’ know? Love languages and shit? Well I’m physical. I like to be touched. Ya’ know, initiate a kiss or something every now and then? If it leads to sex it does, but it doesn’t have to. But, at the very least she could at least try. She would always complain that if she tried it would hurt but, like, how the fuck is she going to know if it will hurt this time if she won’t at least try?” Once you get this guy talking he could go on forever. I could get him to spill his entire life story to me right now if I wanted to. But, I don’t. I just want one thing and I’m getting closer and closer.
“What happened next?”
“I don’t remember too well, to be honest.” Now he’s acting like I’m his good buddy. He leans back in the chair and stretches. Talking shit about his wife seems to be making him more confident. Men like him love to talk shit. And when they actually meet someone who will sit there and listen to it without kicking their ass they eat it up. The hardest part of my job is pretending like I’m not disgusted by men like him.
“You left the house, didn’t you? You were quite angry?”
“Man, angry doesn’t even cut it. I was pissed. I think I did leave. Maybe I went to a bar or something? I must have gotten real shit faced because I can’t remember anything.”
“Can’t or won’t?” I have to speak slowly and enunciate each syllable to keep from screaming.
“What does that mean?”
“Let me help you out. You didn’t go to a bar. You went to a gas station. You bought a lot of beer. You drank a lot of beer. All by yourself in a gas station parking lot. Then what happened?”
“Uhh, I went home?” His poor, stupid brain is going into overdrive now. I think for the first time he’s actually starting to question where he is. And maybe who the hell I am. But there’s no time for that and he wouldn’t understand yet anyways. I have to keep him on track. We’re nearing the breaking point.
“Yes, you went home, now focus on remembering.” I’m leaning so far over the desk now I’m practically laying on it. My eyes are stuck on his so hard he doesn’t dare look away. I have to keep him focused.
“Her parents were still gone. I was really happy about that. I couldn’t stop thinking about how lucky I was. But then I was really mad.”
“Why were you mad?”
“Um, because the fuckin’ door was locked and I didn’t have a key. And I was pounding on the door and yelling and she wouldn’t come and open it. She was purposefully not letting me into my own house.” It’s not your house, Anthony, but that’s not important right now. He’s making progress.
“So how did you get in?”
“Oh, easy.” He looks down at his bloodied right hand. “I broke the window on the door and just reached through and unlocked it. It was really simple. And I was so drunk that it didn’t even really hurt.”
“And your wife – she was inside?”
“Yeah, I think so…” He was still looking at his hand like he just couldn’t comprehend. I can’t let him finish the puzzle yet. He needs to put the pieces together in order.
“Anthony! Your wife – what was she doing? What did she do when she saw you?”
“She started fuckin’ screaming. Loud. Telling me to stay the fuck away from her. Oh yeah, then she tells me, guess what? Her parents are at the police station! They’re trying to get me put in jail! Over a tiny punch, like, not even half force!”
“And what did you say?”
“I told her that if I was going to jail she was going to the hospital. So she fuckin’ runs like a little bitch into her parents’ room and locks the door. I can hear the dumb bitch through the door. She’s on the phone saying ‘oh god he’s gonna kill me help me oh god’. I’m mad so I start kicking the door. I’m really only trying to scare her, but then the door breaks. And next thing I know there’s a gun pointed at my face. She’s pointing a gun at me but she has the nerve to call the cops on me? I wasn’t even afraid, though. I mean, I knew she wouldn’t do it, ya’ know? There’s no way she has that much courage. So I just start walking forward. And she’s walking backwards. And crying. And saying ‘don’t make me shoot you’. So ya’ know what I did? I walked right up to her, I took the gun, and I held it to my chest. And I just said, ‘if you’re gonna do it, fuckin’ do it’. And ya’ know what she did? She threw the fuckin’ thing on the ground. And then she’s just crying and saying ‘please don’t hurt me’. That bitch was gonna shoot me! Can you believe it?” He’s no longer on the line between crying and laughing, he’s playing hopscotch with it.
“But she didn’t shoot you. She couldn’t do it.” The game is over. Anthony Willis will be leaving my chair and taking his filthy, greasy hair with him. He won’t be leaving a better man – it’s simply too late for him. But maybe I can rid the world of his stench once and for all. Maybe I can properly finish the job he left half done.
“No, she couldn’t. She was too sweet. Too kind. Too babying. Too scared. Hell, I don’t know. But she made a fucking mistake. I saw some bright lights. Yep, she had called the fucking cops on me. She had denied me sex like I was fucking unworthy, locked me out of my own house, pulled a gun on me, and then called the cops. And, of course, who are the cops gonna believe? Not me, for sure. They always take the chick’s side. Always. Probably because they think she’s gonna bone ‘em, ya’ know?” No, Anthony, I don’t fucking know. “A shoulder to cry on becomes a dick to ride on as they say.”
“What did you do to your wife, Anthony?”
“Well, I thought, ya’ know what? Maybe I should show her what it’s like to have a gun shoved in her face. So I grabbed it off the floor and pointed it at her. And then… I don’t know, I was so drunk.”
“Yes you do remember. You remember exactly what you did.”
“I remember she screamed or something, the cops were banging on the door. It scared me.”
“Say what you did! Say it!” I realize that I’m no longer sitting and I can’t calm myself down enough to sit back down. I’m going to break him. He looks at me with tear filled eyes – a pathetic and ugly look for him.
“I was just so scared.”
“No, Anthony, she was scared.”
“I think there was some kind of accident, like, she fell…” His veiny, bloody hands are on his face now. They weigh down his skin and make his eyes look saggy and inhuman.
“No accident. What did you do?”
“I think I — I think I…” He’s rocking now. The truth is fighting him hard. It’s fighting to come out and be free and I think that very soon he will be defeated by it. “I think I shot her…”
“Shot who? Who was she?” I’m walking across the floor now and then standing over him. I want to hit him but I know it would be pointless. So I fight him the only way I know how.
“My – my wife… her…”
“No, Anthony, her name. What was her name?”
“Oh, God, what’s happening? Where am I? Who are these people?” He tries to rise from my chair only to find that he is bound, but not by chains. “Why can’t I leave? Why can’t I stand up?”
“This is my last question, Anthony. Just answer it and I will answer your questions. I’ll tell you everything. What was her name?” He curls up his knees and hides his face in them like a tired child.
“I can’t say it.”
“You have to say it or you won’t ever leave this room. You won’t ever leave this chair.”
“Please don’t make me… please…” He’s openly sobbing now and I can’t help but remember how he felt towards his sobbing, pleading wife.
“You can not leave unless you say it. There’s no other way.” This is the toughest stretch but I know that I’ve already won. All I have to do is keep pushing, he’s so close to breaking. His wailing stops and he is calm for a few seconds. He breathes deeply a few times and I allow him this reprieve. When he looks up at me with bloodshot eyes I know there’s no need to prod him more. The truth is bubbling it’s way up to the top. The silence is thick and heavy and suffocating which I know will make it all the more relieving when it is broken.
“Priscilla. My wife’s name is Priscilla.” The words come out flat and emotionless. I wonder if this is the same way he looked when he pulled the trigger.
“Her name was Priscilla.” I correct him. Standing up I walk away and sit back down in my chair across the table from him. It’s time to answer some questions.
“Your name is Anthony Willis. You died when you were 23. This is the house that you killed Priscilla and yourself in 10 years ago. These are the people that live here now. You can see them but they can’t see you. Or hear you. They have a message for you.”
The young couple sitting on the other side of the room are watching with wide eyes. I know that they can’t see or hear him. But the goosebumps on their arms and panic in their faces tell me that they can sense him. One of them is gripping the other’s arm so hard I can see pale fingerprints in their arm. Anthony is sitting in the chair and finally looks like what he is: dead. His eyes are flat and detached, his mouth hanging slightly open.
“They want you to know that this is their house now and you are not welcome here. You never were welcome here. It’s time for you to stop breaking their lamps, kicking holes in their walls, and terrorizing their children. That’s why I’m here. To give you this message and to enforce it.” He doesn’t respond for a few seconds but I am willing to wait. I have learned that death is a very hard thing to accept – even for those who deserved it. I’m not surprised when he finally starts to fight against his invisible bonds. He is trying so hard just to stand but I know that his chains are unbreakable. Much stronger people than him have fought them and lost. The chains are made powerful by personal items of his. His obituary, a picture of him and his dead wife at their high school prom, and a picture of his dead wife and their baby daughter. The couple who now own the house are becoming more frightened as he struggles. His presence must be stronger now with all the energy he is exerting. If he keeps this up they may be able to see his physical presence.
“No! This is my house! You’re not going to take that away from me! You can’t make me leave!” He is fighting full force now which is actually stronger than I would have thought when I first met him.
“No, Anthony, you are going to leave.” I pull a lighter out of my pocket, click it, and produce a small flame. Anthony seems to go even paler when he sees it. “When I burn these items you will be released from this world, to go wherever it is you will go.”
“Wait!” His voice is high pitched and panicky,“Where will I go?”
“That’s for you to find out, Anthony. I’m still alive so I don’t know.” I bring the flame towards the pictures in front of me but he cries out again and I allow him his last words.
“Am I going to hell?” He asks quietly and looks pleadingly at me.
“I don’t know, Anthony, why don’t you send me a postcard?” I light the pictures. I know the couple in the room with me can hear the screaming because they both jump and grow a shade paler. One of them actually screams out loud and acts like they are going to bolt for the door. To my surprise they find enough courage to stay. I know that I was terrified as well the first time that I heard the wailing death screams of an unwilling spirit being forcefully ripped from this world. But, now I find a small amount of pleasure. The world could always use less Anthony Willises. Of course it’s the most horrible people who seem to cling to life the hardest. It might be because they are so terrified of what awaits them on the other side, or maybe it’s because they just want to inflict as much pain as possible. Either way it’s not my job to know. It’s just my job to get rid of them. Not a job I chose, but the job that was chosen for me.
The last remnants of Anthony Willis are fading out of this world in long tendrils of smoke that continue to spark in an unworldly manner. The young couple are holding each other and hiding their faces from the gruesome sight that I have grown so desensitized to. Eventually the smoke starts to clear but a musky sulfurous smell is still lingering in the hazy room. Yes, I’ll definitely be having that chair cleaned.
The next few moments are silent except for the haunting echoes of Anthony’s passing. The couple finally look towards me. One’s face is tear streaked and they are trembling, the other steps forward and addresses me while never letting go of the other’s hand.
“Is – is it gone?” They ask in a whisper that is barely more than a breath.
“Yes, he’s gone. He won’t be back, either. Of course if I were you I would still keep my eye out for any other occurrences. While uncommon, this was a traumatic death involving more than one person, so I would keep an eye out for the wife just in case.”
“The wife? The one he killed?” Their question reminds me that they could only actually hear my side of the conversation.
“Yes, it’s unlikely that she is still here, and even if she is I don’t think she would actually cause you any problems. But if there are problems don’t hesitate to reach me again.”
“Okay, thank you. And the, umm, the payment?” They ask tentatively. I never ask for payment up front because in my experience any medium who asks for payment up front is a fraud.
“My assistant will get with you about that. Is there anywhere you can stay for the night? Possibly tomorrow night as well?”
“My mother’s house, that’s where the children are right now. Why? Is it not… safe yet?” They seem so awkward talking about this. They always do. I find that many people when actually confronted with the supernatural would rather brush it under the rug and erase it from their minds. I can’t blame them, honestly. It’s not the kind of thing you can just bring up at a company picnic in casual conversation. And retelling the story around a campfire at night just seems to make light of the situation.
“His presence is gone but there is a remaining mist and bad odor that will likely persist until at least tomorrow evening. Possibly the next morning even. Some people have found this smell to be overbearing and some have even had negative side effects due to it. Nothing too serious; headaches, nausea, light headedness, moodiness. Finding another place to sleep for the next two nights would be safer.”
“I think that’s a great idea. I’ll call your mother, now.” The one who has been crying seems eager to leave this place and return when the memories are less fresh and easier to reconstruct into something tangible. They leave the room quickly and as soon as the door is opened the pressure in the dark and musty room is lightened.
“I don’t know what to say. I don’t understand this at all. But thank God for people like you. What would have happened if we hadn’t called you? I mean, could it have gotten worse?”
“Well if you had waited too long I wouldn’t have even been able to help. I’m sorry for your family’s misfortune and I hope you are able to move past this quickly. The children may take a little time of course. The younger they are the better they seem to be able to remember it for some reason.”
“Even the baby?”
“Especially the baby. She will probably remember this years and years from now even after you have long forgotten. I’m sorry, I don’t want to be rude, but I have a flight to catch so I can’t stay for much longer.”
“No, no of course. Go ahead. Thanks again.” I am led to the door and I feel the familiar rush of fresh air and sunshine and life in general.