Villainous Beginnings Chapter 4
“So what exactly is wrong with my boy?” asked Johnny after cleaning up the mess he left in the bar. He and the bartender were sitting at a round table in the center of the room.
“You can’t tell?” asked the bartender. “I thought it would be obvious by now.” Johnny shook his head no.
“The doctor’s got no idea,” answered Johnny.
“Hopefully you won’t have to find out,” said the bartender.
“So you know?” asked Johnny.
“Of course I know,” said the bartender. “I know everything about your son.” She listed on her
fingers as she spoke, “He’s nearly eight months old, he’s not hurting your wife, he’s allergic to cowhide…”
“Allergic to cowhide?” asked Johnny. “How’s he gonna farm?”
“That’s not my doing,” informed the bartender. “He’s just that way.”
“Can’t you fix it?” asked Johnny sincerely.
“You should want me to fix what’s unnatural,” said the bartender. “I’m not on your side. Keep that in mind.” Johnny eyed her warily. She added, “Go home and get some sleep, then work on fixing everything tomorrow.”
Johnny nodded and said, “Right.” They both stood up, and Johnny asked, “What’s the first thing I should do?”
“Make that your last beer,” she said, gesturing towards Johnny’s half-full mug. Johnny’s eyes grew large and he opened his mouth to argue, but met her eyes and stopped himself. “You’ve got to be serious if you want to win, Johnny. You need to be the absolute best, nicest, most honest, most proper, most loving person you can be.” Johnny looked longingly at the mug.
“I’m done,” he finally said, handing it to her without a sip more.
She took the mug from him and said, “You might just make it after all, Johnny.” She turned and headed towards the back of the bar. “One more thing,” she added. “You’re not dreaming.” Johnny woke immediately, five o’clock the following morning. He threw the covers off himself in bed and sat up.
“Fix everything,” he muttered to himself. “I can do that.” He took a hot shower and ate a healthy breakfast. Next, he threw away all his cigarettes and poured what remaining alcohol he had in his house down the drain. “Sunday…,” he said aloud, realizing what day it was. Though uncomfortable at church, Johnny sat through it and managed to pay attention. The sermon went a bit over the evils of witchcraft, which gave him a boost of confidence regarding his current predicament. After church let out, many of the members introduced themselves to him and encouraged him to continue attending. After leaving, Johnny headed to the hospital.
* “I’d like to see my wife,” he told the woman at the front desk. Just then the doctor entered the room looking down at a clipboard, not paying attention to his surroundings.
“Sarah,” he said to the receptionist, “try to get a hold of Mr. McGee for me please.”
“I’m here,” interjected Johnny politely.
He smiled to the doctor, who looked up at him, focused his glasses and said almost disappointedly, “I see.” He motioned for Johnny to follow him and added, “Come on, I’ll escort you to her room.”
“I want to apologize for my behavior in the past,” explained Johnny in the elevator.
“Keep your lies to yourself,” said the doctor, refusing to make eye-contact. “God knows she’s been filled with them.”
Johnny heard the bartender in his mind, “If they don’t believe you, it doesn’t matter. So long as you’re truly changing, and I can tell if you’re truly changing, everything will be fine.”
“Right,” said Johnny aloud as they exited the elevator, now one hundred percent positive he wasn’t only dreaming the night prior.
“Hmph,” scoffed the doctor. They entered her room and Johnny sat next to her.
“Hi, honey,” he said lightly, trying to smile despite her clearly fearful demeanor. He reached into his coat and pulled a dozen miniature roses. “I got these for ya.” She looked at them and then back at him.
“What?” she asked. “What do you want?”
“To make things right,” answered Johnny. “I’ve never treated you right, not even close. You trusted me, and I let you down. Look, I quit smokin’, I quite drinkin’, I even went to church this mornin’.”
“What are you saying?” asked Charlotte, absolutely flabbergasted at Johnny’s apparent change of heart.
“I’m sayin’ I’m sorry,” said Johnny.
“As heartwarming as his apology is,” added the doctor, “you may like to be reminded of how he was during your last visit. Is he a habitual liar?”
“I mean it this time, honey,” said Johnny, keeping his cool. “You just gotta believe me. I love you.” She took the roses, but didn’t say anything.
“Here, said the doctor,” these are what you came for, no doubt.” He handed Johnny some photographs of his child’s head, one from the front and one from the side. They appeared just as the doctor had described them earlier in the audial incarnation of the hypothetical phone conversation. What Johnny and Charlotte could see that Johnny hadn’t heard, however, included the drastic change in width and length of his son’s head and neck. It was in its entirety no more than an inch wide in the frontal picture and nearly a foot long in the side picture. “There is no brain mass,” continued the doctor. “All brain activity has ceased.” Charlotte gasped and covered her mouth, and Johnny grabbed her hand. “I’m truly sad to say,” he said directly to Charlotte, “that your child is, for all intents and purposes, brain dead. There is nothing we can do.”
“Then we pray for a miracle,” said Johnny. “I’m not leaving your side, honey.” For the remaining month and few weeks of Charlotte’s pregnancy, Johnny never once left the hospital. He didn’t smoke nor drink, never let a single curse word fall from his lips, never lost his temper or raised his voice. He took care of Charlotte every day, took care of his own health, and completely forgot his farm for her, though he did make a few calls to ensure his animals were cared for. In time Charlotte began to trust him again, offering to let him hold her hand in times of distress. He prayed night and day for his baby, his wife, and lastly for his own well-being. In record-breaking time, Johnny became just what the bartender required for the lifting of the curse, the perfect man.
Charlotte had been having false contractions for a few days, so Johnny and the doctor both knew the time was approaching. Since the doctor had also decided to trust Johnny, he produced one more photograph, but offered in secret to let only Johnny see it.
“Do you see what I see?” he asked, handing the picture to Johnny in the hallway just outside Johnny and Charlotte’s room. Johnny did see what the doctor meant. “What does it mean?” asked the doctor.
Johnny sighed, “It means I’m doing something wrong.” He entered the room for a brief moment, and then reentered the hallway. “I’ll be back in a few hours,” he told the doctor.
“Where are you going?” he asked. “She could go into labor at any moment.”
“She won’t start until you get back,” said the bartender in Johnny’s head.
“No she won’t,” said Johnny to the doctor. He grabbed the doctor’s hand and shook it, saying, “Thank you for everything you’ve done for us, Doc,” and headed for the elevator.
* “What am I doing wrong?” Johnny asked the bartender, the place mysteriously void of customers. “I quit smokin’, drinkin’, cheatin’,” he listed, “swearin’, gettin’ mad, oversleepin’, everything.”
“Johnny,” said the bartender plainly. “I’m not on your side, I told you that.”
“But we had a deal,” argued Johnny respectively. “I held up my end of the bargain.”
“I’m a witch,” she said plainly. “Never trust a witch.”
“So you’re not going to fix him?” asked Johnny for confirmation.
“That’s correct,” said the witch.
“Can I have my gun back?” he requested politely.
“You’ll see your gun again, I promise,” she said. “Not now, though. You’re not getting the satisfaction of killing yourself to avoid your fate. You’ll live through what’s to pass.”
Hoping and praying it was only one more test, Johnny politely excused himself and headed back to the hospital.
* “I… I don’t…,” began the doctor, but he couldn’t finish his sentence. Johnny put his eyes on the baby the doctor was holding, sitting against a wall in absolute terror at what he was seeing in his own hands.
“Give him here,” said Johnny politely. The witch had lied. Charlotte finished having the baby shortly before Johnny arrived. He leaned over and the doctor carefully handed the deformed baby to its father. He looked at Charlotte’s corpse in the bed. The entire lower half of the sheets were soaked in blood, and, regrettably to Johnny’s vision, though she was covered by the blood-drenched sheets, some internal organs hung near the floor at the foot of the bed. Though on accident, he’d betrayed her yet again, and permanently this time. Johnny walked slowly to the window and stood there with his back to the doctor and his wife’s body. “She lied,” he said aloud. “She said he’d be born alive. This isn’t right.” He finally took one good long look at the faceless child. The witch had been truthful about one thing, Johnny got his gun back. Sprouting from between his baby’s shoulders was not a head, not just a deformation, but a six-shot revolver, the same six-shot revolver Johnny had used to rob the bar for half a year, kill his brother-in-law, and attempt to kill the witch who did this to him. Tears ran down his face as he hugged the gun faced child tightly, his hand on the child’s head as the barrel of the gun went over Johnny’s left ear. He had lost everything, his wife, his baby, and out of nowhere he, but no one else, remembered Richie. For a moment, he hated his life and what little remained in it, but then he heard a light whimper in his left ear. “Wha-?” he asked aloud. He held the baby in front of him and into its eyes. Its eyes, located just behind the upper part of each side of the gun’s cylinder, were terribly bloodshot, and its head whipped forward powerfully as it coughed out the barrel of its gun-face. “He’s alive!” shouted Johnny. The doctor looked up at them in shock and observed the baby coughing forcefully.
Johnny laughed happily for a few seconds and hugged the baby tightly again, but then heard the voice of the bartender in his mind saying, “Don’t forget, he’s allergic to cowhide.”
“So what?” asked Johnny aloud, looking down at the baby he held in front of his belly. His coat caught his eye. “Leather coat,” Johnny quickly muttered aloud, realizing he had been holding the baby against cowhide the entire time. It coughed harder and harder until finally leaning its head back, gasping in a breath, and sneezing onto its father. The power of the bullet-sending, smoke-ridden, explosion-bearing sneeze was downright astonishing. Within under a second, Johnny was torn in two at his torso, the room was filled with smoke, and the baby was launched out the now-shattered window. Not only that, but when the bullet crashed through the wall and hit the next wall in the hallway, it exploded like a bomb, effectively disturbing the stability of the building. The roof was launched from the top in several pieces, revealing a mighty fire blazing throughout the inside. Chunks of rock which composed the building broke off and fell outside. In only a matter of minutes the building had collapsed, and everyone inside it had been killed. A short distance outside where Charlotte’s room’s window had been, the bartender stood levitating, carrying the baby in her right arm. An evil smile crossed her face, for her vengeance was complete. There were no records of the baby’s birth. The explosion was called a minor act of terrorism. She could in no way be connected to the events that took place that day. The child grew up to become one of the most successful bank robbers of his era, but that story is for another time.