I died three times last night

Well, possibly only two times, but I guess the first death was a bit of a gray area.

A few hours ago, I was my normal self. I was a 35-year-old man sitting in his kitchen picking at Chinese takeout, watching the rain outside, and sipping whiskey in the dark.

I was up late waiting for my wife, Stella, to return home.

She was with him. I knew it.

In all fairness, I didn’t know who exactly him was, but Stella had given all the signs of a cheating spouse the last few months. It was inevitable, I figured. Our marriage wasn’t in a great place, and I knew a lot of that was my fault. I lost my job a couple months ago and haven’t exactly made a big effort to find a new one. Stella brought in enough money for us to live comfortably, so what was the rush?

As the night progressed, so did my drunkenness, and so did the rainfall outside. The back screen door was open, allowing the cool rain air into the house. I loved that smell.

I thought through all the ways to confront Stella when she got home: Not gonna give me a heads up you were working late, huh? I was worried sick (even though I wasn’t—should I have been?). Or should I go the more direct route: Who is the son of a bitch? I’ll kill him. Nah, that’s too intense.

There was a good chance that him didn’t even exist. She’s probably just sick of being married to me. Or out with friends. Whatever.

I stood up and took a step toward the back window. The rain was relentless. As I watched the rain in a drunken gaze, I noticed something in the backyard. Near the back trees was a pile of dirt. A big pile. Like, a buried-body-sized pile.

“What the hell is that?” I muttered, sliding the backdoor open. I grabbed my raincoat slung over the kitchen chair and put it on.

Thunder boomed in the distance.

Stella...

I sludged through the rain across the back lawn to the dirt pile. I nudged the pile with my foot, waiting for it to shift. It didn’t. 

I got a shovel from the garage and returned to the pile. I don’t know what would’ve happened if I had left the pile there, but I suppose that wasn’t ever an option. 

I drove the shovel into the pile and was met with an almost spongy resistance. 

When I pulled the shovel out, it was covered in blood. Fresh, red blood.

“Our lord and savior Jesus Christ,” I said and knelt, trying to free the living thing from the ground. I dug with my hands until I uncovered the buried thing. 

It was a human after all. But it wasn’t Stella.

A woman, maybe mid-twenties, with bright blue hair wearing a baggy white T-shirt and tight black jeans, rolled out of the dirt and flipped on her back, gasping for air.

Blood seeped through her shirt, forming a large crimson circle in the middle of her chest—the place I hit her with my shovel no doubt.

“Are you okay?” I asked. “And how the hell did you end up in my backyard?”

She caught her breath after a moment then jumped up. She had a horrified expression on her face. She looked carefully at her hands, then down to her bloody chest.

“Are you—can you talk?” I asked.

She looked at me, horrified, and opened her mouth as if to talk, but nothing came out.

“Alright, well, let’s get you out of the rain,” I said and grabbed her arm.

I got her inside the house and sat her down at the kitchen table. 

I got her cleaned up and gave her one of my old Lake Tahoe Thanksgiving 5k shirts. She laid on the couch.

I checked my phone, still no word from Stella. If I ever find the guy, I swear… I tried calling her, but went straight to voicemail.

“Hey Stell, listen I don’t know where you are and I haven’t heard from you like all day,” I started. “Something weird is going on here. Just, yeah, call me back when you can, or better yet, come home.”

I took a glass of water to the blue-haired girl. “You doing okay?” I asked. She looked at me, then the puzzled expression flashed across her face again. She dug into her pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. This one had an address on it.

1209 E 5th St

“What is this about?” I asked.

She handed me the note with raised eyebrows.

“You want me to go here?”

She nodded furiously. 

“Is this where you came from?”

She shrugged her shoulders.

I checked my phone again. Nothing.

“Well, I’ve got nothing better to do.”

--

We drove to the other side of town to 5th Street and pulled up to the address listed on the girl’s note. The house was a freshly rehabbed Victorian mansion. It was about one in the morning at this point. The rain was still pounding.

“Now what?” I asked.

She looked out the window, clearly confused. She seemed just as confused as I was, in fact.

“Is this your home?” I asked.

She shook her head.

“Well, do you want—” I started, then noticed something. It was a familiar car in the driveway. 

It was Stella’s white Altima.

My heart started pounding. There was a him after all.

“But, how did you know?” I asked.

She shrugged her shoulders. 

“Oh my god, whatever,” I said and got out of the car.

I snuck around the side of the house, trying to avoid the mud. I carefully opened the side gate and made my way to the backyard. The bastard even had a pool. The light from the master bedroom reflected off the rippling water. I stepped closer.

There was Stella, alright, completely butt naked, walking from the bathroom to the bed, where a chiseled man with curly hair was waiting for her, smiling.

My heart broke.

Clearly, our marriage was heading in the wrong direction, but seeing it in the flesh like this was devastating to me. This was it. Our marriage. Done.

I gulped hard, thinking through my next steps. Do I pack up and leave? Do I wait until she comes home and confront her? Do I barge in right now?

Before I could think any further, I noticed something else in the room. Standing in the doorway, out of view from Stella and her lover, was the blue-haired girl holding a knife.

“How the hell,” I whispered to myself.

She made eye contact with me through the window and smiled. “What are you doing?” I mouthed to her.

She stepped forward into view and Stella screamed, jumping backwards into the bed. The lover yelled and scrambled to his nightstand where he fumbled for a small handgun. 

“Back off you bitch!” Stella yelled.

The blue-haired girl grabbed Stella by the hair and threw her off the bed. She lept toward the lover and stabbed him in the upper back three times. He whimpered, then collapsed, knocking the nightstand over. The gun slid across the hardwood floor.

“No!” I yelled and pounded on the window. I ran to the door and pulled it open. “Stella!”

The blue-haired girl grabbed Stella again and held the knife to her throat.

I put my hands up and moved slowly toward the gun on the ground. The girl tightened her grip on Stella. Stella started shaking. Tears were streaming down her face.

Stella looked at me, stark naked in the dim light. “Babe, okay, I know, I know, I’m sorry, okay? I’m so sorry. But, babe, what the hell is going on? Oh my god—”

I picked up the gun and pointed it at the girl. “Please let her go,” I said.

“Babe, I know what it looks like, but I can explain,” Stella said.

“Shut up,” I piped. “Explain why you’re naked in bed with some douchebag? What exactly is there left to explain?”

“I’m so sorry,” Stella said, weeping.

The girl looked at me and smiled again.

I closed my eyes and gripped the gun, trying to steady my breathing. What is my life right now?

“And this alien girl thing just shows up in our backyard out of the fucking blue,” I yelled. “What the fuck else is going to happen today?”

“Okay, I know you’re upset, and I know that this girl here just killed Andy, but please, let’s talk about it,” Stella said. “Can you let me go, please?”

The girl pushed the knife against Stella’s neck, a stream of blood trickled down her body. 

“Oh my god,” Stella said and whimpered.

I cocked the gun.

“Last chance, lady. Let her go or I pull the trigger,” I said.

The blue-haired girl watched me blankly, dug the blade into Stella’s skin, and dragged it across her throat. The blood flowed down her body and Stella dropped to the floor, her eyes wide open.

“NO!” I screamed. “WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO!” 

The girl backed up, sensing my rage. She shook her head.

“Don’t shake your fucking head. You tell me what the fuck you’re doing!” 

She took another step back. 

Stella’s lifeless body was sprawled on the floor, her eyes wide open, blood pooling beneath her.

“Don’t move,” I said, taking a step towards the girl.

She shook her head again. 

I pointed the gun at her heart and pulled the trigger.

--

As soon as I saw the bullet make contact with her chest, I felt a pain in my own chest. It felt like I had been stabbed, or jabbed by something.

I lost vision, I couldn’t breathe.

I felt the blood flowing out of my chest. 

I tried to move, but couldn’t. Something was constraining my entire body.

Then I heard a muffled voice.

“Our lord and savior Jesus Christ,” the voice said.

As I opened my mouth, I tasted dirt. I was buried. And the voice I heard was my own.

Once I was cleared from the dirt, I flipped onto my back and took a deep breath. What the hell is happening?

I looked down at my chest, past the breasts that I apparently had now, and saw the same crimson circle growing through my shirt that I had seen on the blue-haired girl only hours before.

“Are you okay?” Other-me asked. “And how the hell did you end up in my backyard?”

I jumped to my feet and inspected myself. This can’t be happening. 

“Are you—can you talk?” other-me asked.

I opened my mouth and tried, but nothing came out.

“Alright, well let’s get you out of the rain,” other-me said and grabbed my arm.

I sat at the kitchen table and looked over the familiar scene of  Chinese takeout and whiskey. As my brain fog started to clear, my mission became clear. Stella had to die. So did the lover. I almost became a spectator to the situation.

--

We pulled up to 1209 5th St, as we had a couple hours earlier. Stella’s white Altima was parked in the driveway of the fancy pants Victorian mansion. I gave other-me a minute to spot the Altima in the driveway and braced for his freak out.

“But, how did you know?” he asked.

I shrugged my shoulders. 

“Oh my god, whatever,” he said and got out of the car.

Once he disappeared around the side of the house, I reached under my seat and pulled out the knife I swiped from the kitchen.

I got out of the car and went to the front door, which was open. I stepped inside, undetected above the heavy rainfall outside.

The walls leading to the bedroom were filled with framed pictures. Pictures of the chiseled, curly-haired man… and Stella.

Whatever they had going on was clearly more than an affair. Stella had a life with this man. I looked carefully at each of the photos, recognizing them to go years back. How is this possible?

I stood in the bedroom doorway with the knife held to my side. I made eye contact with other-me outside and smiled.

The naked Stella made her way to the bed and was greeted by the man with a kiss. I stepped into the room. Stella screamed.

Rage filled my veins.

I grabbed Stella by the hair and threw her down.

“Back off you bitch!” Stella yelled.

The man—Andy—knocked over the nightstand, I jumped at him and stabbed him three times in the back. Other-me grabbed the gun, and I held the knife at Stella’s throat.

There was a heated exchange between Stella and other-me and I slit her throat.

As blood flowed onto the floor, other-me stepped forward, gun pointed at me.

“Don’t move,” he said.

I shook my head and braced myself.

Other-me pulled the trigger.

--

I was standing in a dark room lit only by candles.

I was wearing a black robe and was sitting in the middle of the room. 

There was a book in front of me.

Its pages were filled with long passages in what I believed to be Latin.

I realized that I was reading out loud.

“O Arioch, O rem ut domini sint, et totum meae puellae interficere virtutis usum tuum,” I said in a voice much deeper than my own.

I heard a rushing sound, then a chorus of whispers filled the room. “We will deliver my son, we will deliver,” the chorus said.

It chilled me to my bones.

I snapped out of it for a moment and looked at my hands. They were bigger than mine, and certainly bigger than the blue-haired girls’.

I looked down in front of me. Beneath the large book was a photo. It was a photo of Stella.

Did I just conjure a demon to kill Stella?

I blew out the candles and hung my robe on a hook near the door. I opened it and stepped into what appeared to be an unfinished basement. I climbed the stairs and walked down a long hallway.

The walls were covered in framed pictures—pictures of the chiseled curly-haired man and Stella. I knew exactly where I was.

I stepped into the bedroom and caught my reflection in the mirror above the dresser. I was the chiseled, curly-haired man.

I laid on the bed and pulled a notebook out from the nightstand. 

“One sec,” a voice called from the bathroom. It was Stella.

I started writing in the notebook.

Arioch has promised to bend reality in order to rid the earth of Stella’s unclean soul once and for all. Now I wait.

The son of a bitch—my wife’s secret lover—was trying to get rid of her? What the hell is going on?

Stella approached me and I forced a smile. She jumped on the bed and I kissed her. And how I savored that kiss, wondering if it would truly be the last time.

The blue-haired girl stepped into the room wielding a knife.

Stella screamed.

The girl grabbed Stella by the hair and threw her off the bed. 

“Back off you bitch!” Stella yelled.

I lunged for the nightstand instinctively, although I knew how things would end.

An intense burning sensation shot through my back. I was being stabbed.

This wasn’t part of the plan… I wasn’t supposed to die...

The room was spinning around me. My vision became blurry. My hearing became muffled.

The world faded to black.

--

I was back in my kitchen, standing in front of the back window. It was dark and rainy outside, just like before.

Only this time, there was no pile of dirt near the back trees. 

I inspected my hands. They were my hands, thank god.

My raincoat was still thrown over the back of the chair, but it was completely dry.

“How—” I muttered and set my whiskey glass down. I ran to the master closet where I found the Lake Tahoe Thanksgiving 5k shirt still hung up—the same one I lent to the blue-haired girl.

“It isn’t possible,” I said into the empty house. Could I have made the whole thing up? Exactly how much did I have to drink? 

Arioch has promised to bend reality...

I pulled out my phone and called Stella. As the phone rang, there was a knock at my door. I ran to the front entry in a daze.

It was the police. Of course, it was the police.

“Mr. Holmes?” the officer said.

“That’s me,” I said, grateful that it actually was me.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your wife, Stella Holmes was found dead tonight,” he said.

A feeling of weakness passed through me and I leaned against the wall.

“How?” I mustered. 

The two officers exchanged glances. “It appears to be a murder-suicide.”

I gulped hard.

“Apparently Stella was mixed up with some cult leader on the other side of town. They called themselves Arioch. You ever heard that name before?”

I paused for a moment, trying to steady my breathing. “No—no I’ve never heard that name before.”

--

God is often the one who gets credited with working in mysterious ways, but I think he's got nothing on the devil.