”Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Department of Corrections.
January 16, 2010
In the interior of the primary interrogation room, Rona Callaway, a young detective sits, elbows up on the table in front of her, head turned slightly.
“I appreciate you coming up here, Mr. Roberts.”
The man across from her is smiling, sitting upright in his seat, with kind eyes and a pleasant countenance. He nods at her statement. She looks down briefly.
“We’re hoping you can help us. You’ve worked in the records department for some time. See, we’re looking for fresh eyes on these cases we’ve been working on.”
Roberts’ eyebrows raise, surprised.
“Wow. Sure. Fire away.”
“Who could’ve read all these reports, Jeff? I mean, you see the back and forth. Who has access to all that?”
“Well, I’m the gatekeeper. Everyone goes through me.”
She smiles slightly.
“So you’re the only one who has access to these files?”
Roberts nods his head, an interested expression on his face.
“And I run a tight ship.”
Callaway leans back in her chair, and looks back at him, thoughtfully.
“What stumps me is the women he picks. Fighters. Most guys, they already got the ball and chain,” she says, chuckling.
Roberts looks slightly down, his smile starting to fade into something else. Curious, smug, playful.
“Well, it might be different if you were looking to kill her.”
Callaway’s eyes perk up slightly.
Roberts droops his eyes, then looks back up at her, squinting.
“He hates women. Because of his mother who was domineering, controlling. Serial killer 101.”
She glances at the two-way mirror behind him, then looks him in the eyes.
“You read a lot, huh Jeff?”
Roberts smiles again.
“It’s what I do.”
“Spend a lot of time with those records,” she posited. “Reading about our dead women.”
Roberts places both hands on the table and leans in her direction slightly.
“Yeah,” he said through a smirk. “Better than fiction, right?”
Callaway tilts her head up a bit and matches his posture, leaning toward him.
He holds her gaze, stares hard into her eyes. “No one reads them, no one cares about them… but me. Oh, by the way?”
Every facade of kindness falls from his face and his expression goes empty.
“You’re not gonna find anything in my house.”
”I learned that the story has no beginning, and no story has an end. That the story is all muddle, all middle. That the story is never true, but that the lie is indeed a child of silence.” – Ursula K. Le Guin
At some point, you have to accept the fact that any movement creates waves, and the only other option is to lie still and learn nothing.
Karma has been a pop culture term for ages. But really, do you know what it is? It is not an inviolate engine of cosmic punishment. Rather, it is a neutral sequence of acts, results, and consequences.
Receiving misfortune does not necessarily indicate that one has committed evil. But it is a sufficient indicator of something else, and that something else can be anything, as long as it is a logical consequence of what has come before.
Consider this: if you fall in a well, or are…. Pushed, you are not a bad person who deserves to suffer – you are merely someone who took a wrong step. Or someone who had one drink too many. Or got a head rush due to poor circulation. Or forgot to wear your glasses. Or trusted the wrong person…
The reasons are plentiful and all plausible. But the chain of cause and effect goes way, way back into the deepest hoariest recesses of your personal past.
So don’t expect retribution. But don’t rule it out either.
Unable to attribute misfortune to chance, unable to accept their ultimate insignificance within the greater scheme, people look for monsters in their midst.
I’ve tried to reconstruct in my mind where it all changed ultimately. I was a happy boy once if an unwanted one. I enjoyed listening to my records and building things with my little connectable blocks.
When I try to reconstruct the place that I was, at that point in my life, to figure out how I got there, to that punch, to that bed, to that girl, I can’t. I can see where some bad decisions led to some other bad decisions, but I can’t get all the way there; it’s like I imagine a curve, where I’m dropping lower and lower down, and then I’m off the radar screen, invisible, and then, after some time goes by, the line is rising, visible again, and I don’t know what happened in between.
Because I think there are events of another category that are likewise not fixed in a causal chain: acts of volition. Free will is a kind of miracle; when we make a genuine choice, we bring about a result that cannot be reduced to the workings of physical law. Every act of volition is, like the creation of the universe, a first cause.
And I’m beginning to realize what my first cause was. In my youth, my will was taken from me. I was made into something else, something other than that kind, thoughtful young man I once was, assuming it wasn’t all an illusion in my mind. But I know where I began to change now. It was a matter of power, of course. The primitive fear of being controlled. It does not matter whether it is an invasion from outer space or power wielded from a subterranean command post: some alien force is about to take control of us, to dominate – and, if necessary in the process, to terminate our existence. I never stopped to think – or, at best, a secondary consideration is whether such a force might be for the greater good, that humanity might indeed be improved by such a takeover. Volition, to which I desperately cling, is the very definition of my mature completion into whatever your name for this is.
I am the darkness. She told me so, and I believe her. She must know. Why would she lie?
But I am thankful for the revelation. Someone I once loved gave me a box of darkness. It took me years to understand that this was a gift.
People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
Though I once was helpless there, in the swamp, I am no longer.
I am cruel, unforgiving, like the swamp, and neutral in my choosing, unless some poor soul happens to pass by me, lying there with barely my eyes above the water, ready to pounce on this unsuspecting fool. I would have your homage. I would have it, or you are of no use to me. All gods who receive homage are cruel. All gods dispense suffering without reason. Otherwise, they would not be worshipped. Through indiscriminate suffering, men know fear, and fear is the most divine emotion. It is the stones for altars and the beginning of wisdom. Half gods are worshipped in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood.
I’ve seen my words fall on deaf ears. I’ve heard those who scoff; atheists they call themselves. Roll your eyes and say that I don’t exist as I believe I do, that you aren’t religious, that my truth is not worth your time. Atheism is a denial of a god. Therefore, it is a religious position. Indeed a true atheist thinks of the gods constantly, albeit in terms of denial. Therefore, atheism is a form of belief. If the atheist truly did not believe, he or she would not bother to deny it.
I’m not as simple as you think, I assure you. Everybody has a little bit of the sun and moon in them. Everybody has a little bit of man, woman, and animal in them. Darks and lights in them. Everyone is part of a connected cosmic system. Part earth and sea, wind and fire, with some salt and dust swimming in them. We have a universe within ourselves that mimics the universe outside. None of us are just black or white, or never wrong and always right. No one. No one exists without polarities. Everybody has good and bad forces working with them, against them, and within them.
Real things in the darkness seem no more real than dreams. People often believe they are safer in the light, thinking monsters only came out at night. But safety – like light – is a facade.
I am allowed to exist because of the tragic nature of men and women who cannot, in spite of themselves, fight back their realities. The human ego is the ugliest part of man. They lift up men who only show darkness, and put down those brave enough to show us the light. Likewise, people engage in darkness when it is light outside, and acknowledge the light only when it is dark. They abandon those fighting for them to willfully cheer behind those fighting against them. And, they only remember good people and God when it is convenient for them, and take them for granted because their doors are always open – only to chase after closed doors and personalities void of substance and truth.
But the continuous narrative of existence is a lie. There is no continuous narrative. There are lit-up moments, and the rest is dark.
I am God in the swamp.
”We’re going to have such fun, you and I.” – J.D. Barker
The static clears and Jeffrey James Roberts’ face is nearly pressed to the screen. He reaches up a hand and straightens out the camera, then steps back into his cell and starts pacing, left to right, right to left, and so on.
“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.
But sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward the hope of a better life.
This is the sort of bravery you must have now, Ms. Dresden.
You’ve managed to transform yourself from a bit player in my story to a featured guest. Quite the promotion. I knew your name only as long as I needed to, but you reintroduced yourself to me, and so you have my absolute focus and attention.
For some reason, you think of me as a fool, as a plaything, some caged animal safely put behind bars. You think that you would be just as brave without the bars and thick glass wall. But your bravery isn’t really at issue here, my dear. Reality comes for us, brave or cowardly. It comes for you all the same. I’ve killed brave men. I’ve killed cowards. It doesn’t really matter, their feelings. I don’t care. Besides, you may train yourself to be brave, but you never know if you are or not until something real happens.
Do you think that small token I took from you before made you special? Are you under the impression that because you are something more, I sought you out and made a victim of you? No. No, it’s much more than that. I was gifted you, darling. I was given you to do with whatever I please. Had four very strong men not tackled me and pulled me from you, I would have taken far more than a single bite. So don’t flatter yourself, please. All meat tastes pretty much the same.
But you think you need to come for some retribution, I know. Your pride may get you killed, as it often does, or maimed or something worse. I think that someone who was in your position should have made it a point to avoid me at all costs. That would make you smart. But perhaps I expect too much of you. You think that brazenly marching up to me will restore some sense of power, some sense that you are no longer a victim. You expect to continue your march back from personal disappointment, a ruined love life, friends, and acquaintances disappearing all around you. A real hero’s journey, to be sure. But your complexes do not interest me, little Eliza. I am no mere man, you see.
You can continue to think of me as some sort of horror fiction, and you’ll have to, to be able to sleep at night, and only people who read and are of some measure intellectual would have the wisdom to realize differently. But just so you know, Eli, sweetheart… You can have as much faith in your truth as you like, but when you have too much faith in something, it’s bound to hurt you. Too much faith in anything will suck you dry. In this way, all the world is a vampire. But vampires, real vampires, don’t nibble on the necks of nubile young virgins like in your stories. They tear people to pieces and suck the blood out of the chunks.”
Roberts stops and turns back to the camera, slinking his way to the lens, his face contorted into a maniacal grinning, his eyes open as far as they can be opened.
“Jesus kept you alive for a reason, and I am thrilled, I am enthralled in the story of you now. I cannot wait to see what I have in store for you. Even I don’t know.
You see, he has given me instructions, but I can also give them.
Just like Jesus, I have disciples, too.
And they are just begging for instruction to do my will.
I am death and life to you, Eli Dresden.
Death and life.”
Back in the cell, Jeffrey James Roberts sits on the floor against the back wall, and tucks a VHS cassette into a large manila envelope. Licking the adhesive, he folds the flap down and presses the paper together, forming a seal. He stands, and he saunters across the room to the food slot on the glass, and shoves the envelope to the floor outside. It clatters to the ground and lies there, as he turns around, walks to the middle of the room, sits on the floor cross-legged, and sways.
”If you look into the face of evil, evil’s gonna look right back at you.” – American Horror Story