8FOLD/ACRA: The Green Knight # 7
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Thu Mar 2 21:54:38 PST 2006
EIGHTFOLD COMICS PRESENTS
THE GREEN KNIGHT # 7
BY TOM RUSSELL
Anders wakes up just after dawn. He hears his
father calling for Martin, but to no avail. He
considers remaining in bed, but thinks better of it.
He quickly gets dressed and heads downstairs to his
father's bed-side. It is the last time they will
"Dad, I'm here."
Ray's eyes are open, but he doesn't look Anders
directly in the eye. "Martin, is that you...?"
(Maybe his father can't see him.)
"Yeah, it's me." Anders doesn't know why he lies.
(Maybe his father doesn't want to see him.)
"Martin, you called me dad."
"No, it's okay." Ray smiles and reaches out his
quivering monolith of a hand. Anders puts his fist
around Ray's engorged index finger. It reminds him of
his younger cousin, Joey, who, as an infant, would
grip on one of Anders's fingers. Anders wishes it
reminded him of his father. But it doesn't. Is this
because his father's fingers were never laid under
siege by Anders when he was an infant? Or is it
because the memories of Anders's childhood are distant
and inaccessible-- let alone memories of babyhood?
Anders decides that it doesn't really matter who is to
blame. It still reminds him of Joey.
"Martin," Ray says.
"Yeah." Anders hesitates. "Ray?"
"I want you to know that it's okay. That I forgive
you. You... That I know about you two. You made her
happy. Happy. Everything's... all good."
Anders lets go of his father's finger.
"You can't take it with you," says Ray. "You can't
take things with you and you can't... body with...
with you... and you can't take anger. Can't take
hate. Gotta let it go. Forgive. I forgive you,
Martin. Only hope she forgives me. I was no
Ray drifts to sleep. Anders walks back up the
stairs, undresses, and crawls back into his bed.
He wants to cry. He wants to feel betrayed. But
He wants to feel.
Anders dreams of his mother. The dream was
something very definite, very disturbing; when he
awakes, it is rendered vague and unknowable. Like it
was never there at all.
Anders can feel his dream being blotted out of his
brain. Desperately, he mentally claws at it, trying
to hold onto some part of it, an image perhaps, and
fix it within his brain, within his memory. The
tendrils of his mind fly out, grasping, searching:
when they return, they clutch images of his mother,
not from a dream or from experienced life, but from
the photographs that sit on the foyer. From the
painting that rests on the wall at the top of the
stairs. From captured (stolen) faked happiness.
He hears his father now. Coughing.
Anders runs down the stairs. His father's huge,
heavy body is spasming. The main thrust of it comes
from his stomach, his loins, his hips; the arms and
legs flop limply almost as an after-thought.
His father's face is covered with red and black and
yellow, each tremendous wet cough spewing forth more
and more bile and blood. It spurts out of him and
lands on his face and his chest, pooling around his
neck and seeping into the massive folds.
Stomach acid comes up, followed by thin, watery
vomit; Ray hasn't had solid food in weeks. More
blood. More bile. And now tissue, some of it gray,
some of it pink. And now shit, ugly brown diarrhea,
gargling in his mouth and covering his muzzle. All of
it, all of it at once, flying out of his father's
mouth and covering his father's face.
The bucking hips, the shaking, it slows and stops.
The coughing stops. The body stops.
Anders walks over to his father, moving slowly
across the room, as if this is a dream, a nightmare:
if he paces his walk right, if he takes long enough,
maybe his body will wake itself up before he gets to
the scary part, before he gets to his father...
His father lies perfectly still. He does not
breathe. He does not see. He is covered with his
insides, a grotesque mass--mask--heaped onto him.
His father had many faults. But he didn't deserve
to die like this. This was an ugly death.
Anders wonders if this is how his mother died. In
his mind's eye, he sees her thin sick rail of a body
shaking, he sees the blood and the feces cascading on
her face. She deserved better than that. She
Anders clenches his fist and he feels something hot
and wet running down his cheek. He wipes it away and
sinks to his knees.
After about ten minutes, Anders gets off the floor
and looks at his father's body, at his father's face.
It doesn't look like his father. It makes him feel
For a moment, he imagines his father's funeral, his
father's casket; he imagines his father's body,
dressed in a fine suit, with shit and blood caked on
his face. Anders goes to the bathroom to get a
He starts running the water. He holds the
wash-cloth in his hand as he waits for the water to
get hot enough.
Anders wonders how to clean up his father's face.
He can see himself wiping it off his father's face and
onto the bed. He can see the pool growing around his
father's head. Does he move the body?
When he was a child, Anders was clumsy and would
often spill something. His mother would tell him to
pick it up. Anders would try to wipe it up, but often
only succeeded in smearing it into the carpet. He
would look to his mother for help. She would only
Anders would stay there, crouched down, his stare
alternating between his mother and the mess, holding
the wash-cloth awkwardly in his hand, the rest of his
body paralyzed. His brain paralyzed.
Eventually, his mother would snatch the wash-cloth
away from him and in a matter of seconds, clean up the
mess. Anders never understood how she did it, and
never managed to get it right. Sometimes, his mother
called him a retard. At least she acknowledged him.
Anders dealt with the problem the way he dealt with
most problems: by ignoring it, by circumventing it.
If there was no mess to clean up, there would be no
situation. Anders moved his body self-consciously so
as not to cause a mess; he also took to spending many
hours in his room, where messes were less likely to
The water's hot now. Anders wets the wash-cloth,
giving it a slight wring. He shuts off the water and
turns his head, looking at his father's body from the
bathroom. He can hear his mother. Well, retard!
Look what you've done! Clean it up!
Anders stands in the bathroom, the wash-cloth
dripping into the sink. He stares at his feet. Clean
it up! Don't dawdle!
Anders looks up again, staring out across the
length of the room at his father's body. "I... I have
to use the bathroom!" he exclaims to the empty room.
He closes the door and sits on the toilet.
He doesn't have to pee. He doesn't have to shit
(he sees his father's face). But he pretends. He
sits on the toilet, bent forward, his chin resting on
his hands and his elbows digging into his thighs. He
feels his feet start to go numb.
It reminds him of a kid he knew in school who used
to get the shakes. The kid said that when he shook
especially violently, his lungs would not get enough
oxygen and his body would go numb. It could be as
long as a half-hour before he got any feeling back.
Anders wonders if his father's body went numb as he
died. He wonders if he was still there to feel it or
not feel it, or if the soul left before the dying
began. He wonders if maybe that's why people go numb,
it has nothing to do with blood or oxygen or
circulation at all, but rather with soul leaving the
body. Maybe Anders's soul is trying to escape through
his toes. Maybe that kid (what was his name? the one
with the shakes), maybe he died with each episode,
only to come back to life.
Maybe his father's not dead at all. Maybe, after a
half-hour, the numbness will fade, the soul will
return to the body, filling it up. His father will be
resurrected. Why not? His father is a superhero.
They come back to life all the time.
Why not his dad?
Anders decides to give his father a half-hour to
come back to life. So as not to jinx it, he doesn't
say it aloud. He pretends, instead, that he's still
using the toilet.
Anders flushes the toilet and he runs the faucet
again. When he was a child, he used to skip washing
his hands after making his bowel movement. He did
this, he reasoned, to save time. His mother would
listen for the faucet to run and chastise him for not
washing. Anders started running the faucet, counting
the necessary seconds to give the illusion he had
washed his hands. Then he would wipe them on the
hand-towel for verisimilitude. It would take him just
as much time to actually wash his hands. He knew
this, and felt silly.
He still ran the water and counted the seconds.
He opens the bathroom door, and finds his father
still laying there, still covered with his own bile,
still dead. He knows that it's time to wipe his
father's face off. He also knows that the wash-cloth
is quite dry by now. Logically, he would run the
faucet, get it wet again, and then walk over to his
father and set to work restoring his dignity.
Anders does not do this.
Instead, he walks overly-somberly to his father's
body, the dry wash-cloth in hand. He stops in front
of the body and lifts up the wash-cloth to start
wiping the face. "Oh," Anders says, as if he is
genuinely surprised. "It's dry."
He walks back to the bathroom, dragging his feet,
and starts to run the faucet, letting it trickle out
slowly. He switches the water cold, lets it run, and
then puts the wash-cloth under it. "Oh. I had it on
He switches the water over to hot and gives it time
to warm up. He runs the wash-cloth under the water.
It burns slightly and hurts his hand. He considers
taking the time to dry off his hand and put on a
band-aid and some triple antibiotic on his "injury".
"This is getting ridiculous." Anders storms across
the room, steaming hot wash-cloth in hand, and raises
it above his father's face. He looks at the
congealing mess. He tries to wipe his father's face,
but his arm will not move.
What if I do it wrong? I don't know what I'm
Anders cannot move his body, cannot think with his
brain. He stares at his father's dead body and lets
out a sharp cry of paralyzed pain.
Anders turns towards the sound of the voice. A
figure, cloaked all in black, rushing up from the
basement. For a moment, Anders thinks his father has
come back, after all. His father was never Ray
Cradle. He was always the superhero.
The Green Knight. But this one wears black.
(Martin wears black.) It must be Martin.
He takes off the mask. "Are you alright?" He
walks towards him.
Anders opens his mouth to speak. He quivers and
gulps and chokes. No sound issues forth. He feels
his eyes itching, he feels the hot wetness running
down his cheeks again.
Martin looks at Ray and nods grimly. He takes the
wash-cloth from Anders's hand. "Did you call yet?"
The question confuses Anders. His blank expression
"Anders! Did you call yet?" he snaps.
"But... but he's already... they couldn't..."
"He needs to be declared legally dead," says
Martin. "Before we can make any funeral arrangements,
he needs to be declared..." He takes a deep breath.
"I'm sorry. I know... I know this is a terrible loss
for you. It's hard for you. It's hard for me too.
Let's... let's get done what needs to get done, and
then, if you want, we can talk about it. Now, can you
call 911 for me?"
"Yeah," says Anders.
"Okay," says Martin with a nod. He turns to Ray's
body and begins to clean the old man up.
It should be me doing that, Anders thinks. Not
He walks over to the phone and wonders if he's
going to put this off, too, until Martin loses his
patience and takes the phone away from him. It's an
idle thought: the phone is ringing, now. He must have
dialed the numbers. The operator is asking about the
nature of the emergency.
Anders doesn't know what he's supposed to say, what
the procedure is. It's not really an emergency at
all... is it?
"My father is dead!" he sobs into the phone.
When he is finished giving the operator the
relevant information, Anders hangs up the phone and
heads back to his father's bedside. Martin has left
the room. His father's face is clean. Some dark
stains remain on the sheets under his neck.
But his father's face is clean. Anders hesitates
and then touches the chest. It still feels spongy.
"Go ahead." Anders turns to see Martin standing in
the doorway. He's changed out of his costume. "You
can hug him, if you want."
Anders does not want to hug the body. But he does.
He expects it to feel lighter, the soul having
taken flight. Or, perhaps, the body is hard and
rigid, cold dead stone.
His father's body is still warm. Still heavy.
Still flesh. No difference, really, between when it
was alive and now, when it is dead. No difference
between life and death.
Anders begins to sob uncontrollably, taking massive
heaving breaths, his body shaking, his eyes wet and
hot, his face sticky. He convulses with pain, and
then, strangely: laughter.
Hot damn, he can feel...!
The paramedics pronounce Anders Ray Cradle II to be
quite dead. They offer to drive him, in the
ambulance, to the funeral home. Martin explains that
they haven't made arrangements yet; they'll have the
funeral home pick up the body. The paramedics tell
Martin and Anders that they're sorry about the loss of
their father. Martin doesn't correct them.
Martin makes the arrangements, and the hearse comes
to pick up the body later that afternoon. After
they've gone, Martin turns to Anders.
"You must be hungry," he says. "What do you want
"I'm not hungry," says Anders. He goes upstairs to
Anders lies back in his bed for awhile, looking at
the ceiling. He tries to sleep but he can't.
He wanders the halls. He comes across a photo of
his mother. It was taken in the early nineties, years
before she got sick. Before she died. She is
smiling. Anders wonders for a moment if it's because
of Martin, but he dismisses the notion as absurd:
people smile in photos because people are supposed to.
He stops in front of his father's room. No one's
been in there since they moved his father and the
spare bed to the ground floor. Anders opens the door
and flicks on the light-switch. He half-expects it
not to work, or for the room to be thick with cobwebs.
No. Everything is in order. No cobwebs. The bed
is clean, the sheets folded and without wrinkles.
Like the bed was made this morning. Like his mother
made the bed.
Anders lies down on his father's bed and goes to
When he wakes up, he can't remember if he dreamed
or not. It doesn't seem to matter.
He opens the drawer on his father's night-table.
There is a magazine and a piece of paper, neatly typed
and signed. He knows what's on the piece of paper
without examining it closely; he pulls out the
magazine. It's the August issue of CAPES. Looking at
the cover, it's hard for Anders to tell if it's the
PEOPLE magazine for superhero fandom or if it's the
WEEKLY WORLD NEWS.
He flips through the magazine slowly, trying to
read the articles. He reads a few paragraphs of this
profile, a few of this review, a few of this
editorial. Nothing piques his interest.
He sits on his father's bed and he wants to read
his father's magazine, he wants to care about his
father's secret world. He wants to care about his
father. But he just can't. He never had much
interest in superheroes. Or his father.
He puts the magazine away and begins to read his
"I ordered a pizza," Martin says when Anders enters
Anders doesn't feel like pizza, but he doesn't say
so. He sits down across from Martin, and begins to
speak. Deliberately and without emotion, he looks
Martin in the eye, never wavering, never blinking, and
he begins to speak.
"I found my father's will. He's left me roughly
four million dollars."
"That's a lot of money," Martin says.
"He had more," says Anders sharply. He takes a
breath and resumes his monotone: "He's left you
everything else. His stock in the company. The other
nine hundred million dollars. The house."
"That's... that's incredible," Martin says. "I
don't believe it."
"Me neither," says Anders. "I assume you intend to
carry on as the Green Knight, that my father intended
for you to do the same, that he has left you all this
so that you can do... whatever it is... that people in
capes and tights do."
Martin rubs his arm, remembering the injuries he
sustained the night before.
Anders went on. "You can have the Green Knight. I
have no use for it."
"I know this is going to sound a little strange,
but I wouldn't want to continue your father's legacy
without your blessing, Anders."
"I doubt that," says Anders.
"I mean it," says Martin, forcibly.
"When the time comes, Mr. Rock, you will renounce
my father's will and any claim to his property or
Martin burst out laughing. "What?"
"I'm not joking. You will do this, or else."
"Or else what?"
"I will tell every mob boss in Jolt City who wears
the mask without a name."
Martin's face drains white.
"I am not stupid, Mr. Rock," says Anders. "And I
will not... I will not be ignored." He feels tears on
his face again. He does not wipe them away.
"Anders," says Martin, reaching out. "Anders, no
one's ignoring you..."
"You will renounce my father's will. The house and
the money will revert to myself. Is that understood?"
Martin shakes his head in disbelief. "God, you
remind me of your mother right now." He sighs.
"Yeah. Fine. It's understood, Anders. But I wish
you'd think about what you're doing. Your father
wanted to leave me these things for a reason. So that
I have the resources I'll need to do my job now that
"I'm sure you'll prove resourceful enough."
"You're being very churlish."
"I'm being churlish?"
"Think of what your father would say if he saw you
"You had my father, Mr. Rock!" Anders screams.
"Let... at least let me have his things!"
The doorbell rings.
"That'll be the pizza," Martin says. "Hope you
(C) COPYRIGHT 2006 TOM RUSSELL.
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