Madcap and Marlin: Flash Fiction by cam; Happy Halloween
Terror was not a stranger to Madcap Marlin. The nickname was something he had earned over the years of tempting fate. He knew the horror of his primary chute not opening and a grizzly's false charge. When his blood ran cold, he could forget the past, and that was the primary goal of his existence.
None of his extreme stunts or adventures compared to the terror of fleeing from himself through the labyrinth of his mind. When Madcap was prowling the dark places of his brain, 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.
For the moment, Marlin and Madcap sat face to face at a bar table in a dark corner of Marlins head.
"Why do you want me dead?" Marlin's baby blues held Madcap's eyes that were the same black void as those of a wild animal.
"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 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’ve succeeded in blocking that memory."
"You're focused on one night. Do you remember 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.
"Let me remind you about who those people were." Marlin poured himself a scotch. “We called ourselves Eastern Sky because that's where Jesus was supposed to appear in the Last Days. Vincent Devine, King Vincent as we were forced to refer to him, was supposed to have been the Messiah who rode a great white steed down from heaven.”
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. My father never laid a hand on me."
"How about the little parties the King held in the basement of his home? 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, 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 as he spoke. "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 the gasoline all over the first 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. "I––I forgot about the fire.”
"For all those years, what did you think happened to our parents?"
"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 did."
"So even though I admit that I started the fire and killed all those people, you won't go away?"
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? The fire and 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.
The bar disappeared as well. 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.