Madcap and Marlin
I first published a version of this story a couple of years ago. The response was minimal. I just let it go. Not all stories are good stories. The thing was, I liked this one. It is dark, but I felt it had some redeeming value.
I revisited this story a few days ago and gave it some attention. Time has allowed me to have some perspective. It will always be somewhat convoluted. It's just the nature of the situation. But I think I've been able to minimize the confusing parts so the elements that have true value can shine.
I am tempted to give a few hints to help you, the reader, understand. But a good storyteller should not have to explain his or her story. If I have done the job well, you will come away either liking or not liking the story. But you shouldn't walk away scratching your head.
Good luck. I hope you enjoy the story.
Madcap and Marlin
Madcap Marlin and terror were not strangers. Marlin knew the horror of his primary parachute not opening in a low level skydive and a grizzly's false charge in the wilds of the Northwest. When his blood ran cold during an outlandish stunt, he could forget the past. Forgetting was the primary goal of his daredevil existence.
But none of his extreme feats or adventures matched the stress of fleeing from his malefic self through his labyrinthian mind. When Madcap was prowling for him in the dark places of their consciousness, Marlin had to be as vigilant as Batman watching over Gotham. Just one second of not knowing where Madcap was and what he was scheming could have been the difference between arriving home safely or careening down the mountainside on his daily commute.
The two had finally come to a pivotal moment. Marlin and Madcap sat face to face at a table in a dark corner of Marlin’s psyche.
"Why do you want me dead?" Marlin's baby blues held the black void of Madcap's eyes.
"Stop pretending you don't know." Madcap's voice was guttural with lots of air, Eastwood style. "You've been lying to yourself ever since that night."
"You always talk about That Night, like it was the great cosmic meltdown.
"No, it was the great Marlin Meltdown." Madcap swirled whiskey in a shot glass. "I don't know; maybe you actually have blocked that memory."
"You are focused on one night that is so insignificant, I don’t even recall it. Do you remember anything else? What about what life was like when we were growing up? Do you remember what they did to me—to us?"
"Nothing you dig up from our past can justify what you did on that one night.”
"Let me remind you about who those people were." Marlin poured himself another scotch and topped off Madcap’s. “The adult members called our community Eastern Sky because that's where Jesus was supposed to appear in the Last Days. Vincent Divine, King Vincent as we were forced to refer to him, was supposed to have been the reincarnation of the Messiah who would one day ride a great white steed down from heaven to rule on Earth for a thousand years.”
Madcap fidgeted with his shot glass, refilled it and gulped down the contents. "So what? Who cares what they believed? They were family to us."
"I tried to run away from the commune one time. Do you remember the beating I got after King Vincent and our father caught me?"
"Lies! Stop making shit up. Father never laid a hand on me...on us."
"How about the little parties the King held in the basement of his home?” said Marlin. “Does this sound familiar? Everyone was naked. Boys. Girls. Vincent. One by one they forced us to kneel before The King and worship him. That's what he called it, worship. When it was my turn––your turn––we refused to kneel. The hands on our shoulders that forced us down, that forced our head forward, do you remember who they belonged to?"
"You shut the hell up." Madcap shot up from the table, splashing Marlin’s whiskey and sending the bottle crashing onto the floor. He pulled a revolver from a holster at the small of his back, hidden by a black leather jacket. "No more lies."
Marlin stared down the barrel at the black eye that aimed it. "Those were our mother's hands."
"Now let me tell you what I remember." Madcap laid the gun on the table with a shaking hand. "The adults were in a meeting in the basement of Vincent's house. There were no windows. Somebody lit a fire that made orphans of every child in the village. Can you honestly look me in the eye and say you didn't start that fire? I was there. I saw you pour gasoline all over the ground floor. I watched you barricade the basement door, their only escape. You lit a lantern and tossed it through the front door. You were laughing while they cried out.
Marlin looked down at the tabletop, and the gun Madcap had left there. His shoulders sagged. "Fire? I—I forgot about the fire.”
"For all the years after that night, what did you think happened to our parents?" Madcap said.
"I don't know. I just knew they were gone.
"You've spent your whole life forgetting. That's what all the daredevil stunts are about."
"My efforts at forgetting seem to have worked for you as well."
"But I'm not trying to forget a mass murder I committed. And I won't let you forget that you are."
"Even though I admit that I started the fire and killed all those people, you won't go away, will you?"
Both men grabbed for the gun. Marlin had it by the grip. But Madcap was more skilled with weapons and as a fighter. He twisted the gun down and away from Marlin's hold so that it came free in Madcap's hand. He held the barrel to Marlin's forehead.
"One of us must go. Will it be me, who grieved all these years for my parents? Or will it be you, who murdered them? Tell me, which one of us should go?"
Marlin's mouth moved, but the words wouldn't come at first.
"Say it." Madcap pressed harder against Marlin’s head.
"I’ll go." Marlin backed away. A red circle, the size of the barrel, began to fade from his forehead. "Promise me you'll remember everything? Not just the fire but what life was really like back then?"
"I'll do my best. But I will never accept responsibility for what you did."
Marlin vanished leaving only his memory and a half spilled glass of scotch.
Madcap stood in his living room with a Smith and Wesson .44 pointed awkwardly back at his own forehead. He dropped the gun to his side, and the red circle began to fade.