John ended his cell phone call when he saw Edward approaching. “So you were going to tell me a story, something about what happened last week,” the gruff voice rang in Edward’s ears as he sat his cup of coffee down and slid into the secluded booth across from John. The out-of-the-way diner was busy with their usual crowd. Smells of cheap coffee, pancakes and maple syrup wafted in the air, along with the sounds of clinking glasses and the chatter of people who were on their way to destinations that only they could know. Edward nodded, blowing on his coffee. John was right, Edward was going to tell him a story. He wanted to talk about what really happened at the lake that night.
Edward sat quietly in the booth, his eyes fogged over in a daydream like state; the coffee was not helping much. He became fixated on a coat rack which was situated immediately over John’s left shoulder, near the entrance of the diner. It was an old brass coat rack, and it reminded Edward of his childhood. “We used to have a coat rack like that,” he said mechanically, staring past John. John raised one eyebrow suspiciously and turned his head just enough to catch the coat rack in his peripheral vision–it was as if he was worried that Edward would slip into a coma if he took his eyes off him.
“Hey buddy, snap out of it” John snapped his fingers, his face expressing severe irritation. “You told me on the phone that you had information for me about the events that took place last week. Please, do not waste my time.”
Edward looked back at John and studied him. The detective was not tall, probably about 5’6” and, in Edward’s opinion, didn’t dress very well. He was unshaven, with a tough, scruffy demeanor and wore what Edward presumed to be standard issue cop sunglasses. John was dressed in worn-out wrangler jeans, a blue polo shirt under a gray jacket and white tennis shoes. He also noted that the detective smelled weird: it was a strange mix of corn chips and body odor. Edward wasn’t repulsed though, he had definitely smelled worse.
“How do you think the universe works, Detective?” Edward asked intensely. Before John could respond to the random metaphysical quandary, Edward continued, “to me, the cosmos is like a musical performance; a free-wheeling jazz festival with an ensemble of countless players, some good, some bad, but all improvising as hard as they can go. They play, not for the glory of God, or to celebrate some spiritual ideal of Art; they play only because they enjoy it. Unfortunately the musicians don’t always agree on which chords to strike, and they even disagree about what tunes they want to play. And so ugly fights often break out amongst the artists, and they smash their instruments over their own heads. And often, they smash each others’ heads. But rising like a wraith among the screeches, squawks and thwacks, you will hear the cadences and counterpoint of supernal music, almost too lovely to bear.”
John looked up from his phone on which he had been texting and replied with sarcasm, “That’s great, buddy. Really nice outlook ya got there. Now tell me what you know about what happened at Penn Lake.”
“I was there last week.” Edward turned away from the detective, gazed out the window and said softly, “I can help you.”
Edward looked down at his coffee and spoke timidly, “detective, I have to tell you something but I have to start from the beginning. Please be patient with me.”
“I hope what you have to say is worthwhile. I don’t have all day.” John crossed his arms, tilted his head slightly and glared at Edward over the top of his sun glasses.
“People say you don’t start to form memories until you’re three or four years old,” Edward said, “but I remember some of it, bits and pieces that is. I couldn’t have been more than one and a half or two, but I remember the day when a man poured oil on my head. I remember the chanting. I remember feeling sick in my stomach, not ill, exactly, more like that ‘butterfly in your stomach’ type of feeling. And then…I remember the whirlwind.”
“The whirlwind?” John scoffed skeptically.
“Yes, the whirlwind,” Edward said. Sensing the detective’s disbelief, Edward slid his coffee aside, reached over and grabbed the glass of water that was sitting in front of John. Edward placed his hand three inches above the top of the glass and said, “it looked like this.” Suddenly, the liquid inside the glass began to swirl, creating a whirlpool effect, the ice cubes tinging the glass as if someone were mixing it with a spoon. Slowly, Edward raised his hand and the liquid followed, completely exiting the glass. The spinning liquid then took the shape of a funnel and sat completely naturally, rotating slowly in Edward’s palm. Edward held the spinning funnel in the air for a few seconds and then neatly restored the water to the glass. “The man disappeared in the whirlwind, and I never saw him again,” Edward whispered.
John was unnervingly silent. By all appearances he seemed to be calm and collected, but on the contrary, John had absolutely no phenomenological category to describe the event he had just witnessed.
“I’ve always been able to do things, Detective,” Edward said, feeling obligated to fill the uneasy air with an explanation. “I’ve helped many people. That’s what I’m supposed to do, I think. I was at the lake that night because I was called there. It was…the water.”
John pulled himself together enough to end his silence, “You mean hydrofracking, I know all about it. The DEP’s looking into it, but look, right now what I need from you is to stop with the magic tricks, and tell me what you know about the disappearance of those college kids.”
John couldn’t ignore what he saw Edward do, but for now he had chalked it up to a cheap illusion, ‘some kind of Chris Angel, street magic bull shit,’ he thought. At least, that’s what he wanted to believe. Something buzzed in John’s pocket and he pulled his phone out to read a text that he had just received.
“The water’s clean now, I took care of it.” Edward’s response was distant and indifferent. His mind was occupied with something else. “I’ve helped so many people, detective,” Edward said, shaking his head, “I honestly can’t count them all. People have told me that I’ve been blessed by God, but I disagree. I feel I’m the furthest thing from blessed.” Edward took a nervous breath and continued, “have you ever noticed how hard it is to tell when the dawn becomes day? That sort of thing has always puzzled me. I mean, think about it. When does beauty become vanity, or strength turn to weakness? What I’m trying to say, detective, is that it’s not my fault that sometimes unexpected things happen. I did not ask for this.” Edward’s mood seemed to change from indifference to sorrow as the diner grew busier and louder. The mid-morning crowd seemed to be giving way to the lunch crowd, and outside, in the distance, the faint sound of sirens could be heard.
“It’s OK,” John said in a consoling voice, “you can tell me anything.” John reached inside his jacket and pulled out a small digital audio recorder. He clicked record and placed the device on the table. “Get it off your chest.”
Edward didn’t seem to object to the recorder. He continued, “sometimes my emotions get the best of me, detective. I’m human you know.”
“Where are those kids?” John spoke candidly, concerned now and losing his patience.
“They were just…so mean to me. You know, they mocked me,” the scorn was evident in Edward’s reply. At that moment something in the diner changed, an unsettling energy rippled through the air. The patrons in the diner must have sensed it too because the crowd began to thin and the ambient noise died down to a low hum. This made it all the easier to hear the sirens approaching. They were close now.
Edward began to fidget in his seat. Then he closed his eyes and breathed in deeply a few times to calm himself. He placed his hands flat on the table, looked John directly in the eye and spoke, “Tell your men to go the northeast point of the lake, detective, four miles into the woods, near the cliffs, and they’ll find a cave. The kids are there. What’s left of them, that is.”
Upon hearing this, John leaned over the table, glared at Edward and snarled “Did you drag them there, you sick sonofabitch?”
“No, of course not,” Edward said, “the bears did.”