The ceiling fan above his head creaked and wobbled in time with the crickets chirping outside his window. The walls were plastered with posters of angels and biblical passages riddled with apocalyptic messages. The house breathed a life of its own as shadows danced on the walls of his dimly lit room. A peculiar odor emanated from the place, a mixture of mothballs and rotting meat. I gagged upon entering and for a moment, I felt the suffocating presence of some unclean thing. Leaves rustled outside the window. A cool breeze blew in through another open window on the south side of the room. The fresh air brought some relief but it would not last long.
"There are monsters in our midst," he said.
My poor friend Billy I thought to myself. How can I make him understand his monsters are all in his head? Billy sat there on the middle of the bed scratching his beard; sitting in a Lotus type position looking up at me smiling with one eye half closed, the other opened wide. As usual, he was only wearing his underwear and white socks to cover his toes. Not many things embarrassed Billy but the poor condition of his feet did.
He said, "Bobby I'm telling you they are here and living among us. I can see and hear them. I have learned not to fear them because they need me."
"They need you Billy?" I asked sarcastically.
He responded nonchalantly, "Yes, I teach them things, they are lonely and kind of stupid so I let them stay with me and watch TV."
"Are they here now?" I asked.
"Yes." He answered.
"Then why can't I see them?"
"Because you don't have spiritual eyes, they will only show themselves to those who can sense their presence." He said.
"Aren't monsters wicked creatures that come out at night to scare the hell out of people?" I asked.
"They are not really monsters Bobby they are spirit beings who dwell on the earth walking to and fro looking for property to occupy and pass time. They come in all sizes and shapes. Some are not ugly at all they look like you and me." He said.
I kept trying to reason with him to see if by chance or miracle I might prevail. "Oh come on Billy! What if I were to tell you these things you see are all in your head. You are a diagnosed schizophrenic. You refuse to take medication because when you do you lose all your auditory and visual hallucinations. These monsters don't need you. You need them. Because without them you would be lonely and your whole life would lose its purpose."
He just laughed and said. "Well, I would tell you throughout the course of history there have been those who have seen visions and dreams that foretold the truth. These men were Prophets of God and answered to a higher calling. They were chosen not by their own accord. They suffered greatly, often times labeled crazy, dangerous and delusional. Today we are separated from society and put away in institutions. In ancient times we were imprisoned, stoned or burned to death."
"So now you're saying you are a Prophet of God and chosen because you've led such an exemplary life? You and I both know you've been a drug addict all your life. Since you were thirteen, you've smoked pot, popped pills and injected drugs." I said.
"I know some of the things you just said are true Bobby. I don't know why I see visions and hear things from this other world. There are dimensions that run parallel to our own. Yes, I have been able to sense these beings since I was a child. I did a lot of drugs to stop the voices and visions because they scared me. I was trying to self medicate to stop them, but it didn't work. Until one day, I just learned to accept them and see them for what they really are. They don't frighten me anymore. I know now my mission in this world is to teach them, comfort them and peacefully co-exist with them. They're also God's creation."
"Are you actually suggesting that it's the rest of the world that needs to conform to your reality, and not you to ours?" I asked.
"Yes, Bobby that's what I'm saying."
I turned away from him, with my heart sinking with frustration and pity. I stood up took a deep breath and wiped the tears from my eyes. Trying to regain my composure before leaving I glanced in the wall mirror to straighten my tie.
I could see Billy sitting in the middle of the bed surrounded by strange, dark apparitions with glowing eyes. The dim light coming from his TV set reflected beings of different sizes and shapes, some grotesque and others more human-like. Suddenly startled and frightened I quickly swung around, heart crashing in my chest and of course, there was nothing there. I focused hard on Billy. He sat smiling, laughed and said.
"I told you so."
"Those things I saw in the mirror are the creatures you spoke of?" I asked.
"Yes Bobby, the very ones. They too are my friends. They don't annoy me like you always have. I'm getting tired of your jealousy and questions. You're always trying to torment me with your doubts. I'm afraid I am going to have to get rid of you."
"What are you saying Billy! Are you threatening me?" I asked.
"You think you are so smart. You are even more stupid than the rest of them. You are so blind you can't even see what is already happening. I will be glad to be rid of you. I can't stand all the self-righteous pity you direct toward me. You are the one who needs to be pitied. You don't even know what you are."
"What are you talking about Billy?"
"Just look down Bobby and believe what I am telling you." He said.
I looked down and could not see my feet. At first, I thought it was because of the dimly lit room. Billy began to laugh and shake his head from side to side. I slowly reached down and tried to feel my ankles but could not find them. "Billy, what have you done?" I demanded. "You can't leave me like this. Please--I promise never to doubt you again!"
I looked down again. The lower half of my body was gone. The world lurched, sliding into darkness. Billy's last words tore at my thinning perceptions.