“Have you seen Norma?”
This question came from my ex-wife’s husband, Grant Bates.
He looked worried and anxious, which caused me to join him in those conditions.
“No” I said “She’s not at work?” I asked the stupid question anyways.
If Grant had come to the point where he was asking me where HIS wife was, of course he had checked everywhere he could think of, evidently to no avail.
“I haven’t seen her since yesterday afternoon, when she was heading to work” he said
Norma has worked the graveyard shift at an old-folk s home for almost 20 years.
When she was leaving for work, Grant was usually just getting home, passing each other at the front door or if lucky, they got a chance to spend an hour together before she had to leave.
I was beginning to feel even more uneasy….
I have known Norma Bates for over 30 years….she doesn’t just fall off the grid.
Not only is she the mother of my children and my ex-wife, but we have been through many trials and tribulations as ex-spouses sometimes experience, only to remain friends and torment each other through social media and texting wars.
I know her….
She’s responsible, no bullshit and opinionated.
The perfect ex-wife….
Grant was scrolling his cell-phone screen absently, looking to see if he had missed any news or if his phone might be jacking up and not receiving messages.
“I haven’t seen her since I dropped off that jelly yesterday morning” I remembered.
“That jar of jelly I brought y’all from Oregon that she asked me to pick up when I was coming thru there.” I said, confused by the look in his eyes.
His eyes narrowed….he looked vacantly to the side and asked quietly “Marion berry Jelly?”
I was kinda freaked out by his question…or the tone of it.
“Yeah, Marion berry from Oregon, she said that y’all had had some on one of your trips. She told me that y’all loved it and when she found out I was going thru there, she asked me to pick some up, since they don’t sell it in Utah”
“Marion berry….” He said again, his eyes widening slowly in realization of something it looked like to me.
“What’s the jelly got to do with anything?” I asked, exasperation starting to grow in my mind.
Grant suddenly ran into their kitchen and flung open the refrigerator door….pushing aside jars and bottle and packages….
I hurried up beside him “What are you doing!?” I said
Grant stepped slowly back from the fridge and closed the door gently.
He stood there for a minute, I swear, staring at the fridge door with blank eyes.
“It’s not in there” He said.
“What’s not in where?!” I asked, going quite barmy I might add…
He finally turned and looked at me, his eyes shining….but distracted looking.
“The jellies not in the fridge” he said, almost a statement it sounded like.
“THE JELLY’S NOT IN THE FRIDGE!!” he screamed as he bolted past me, down the stairs to the lower level of their house.
“WHAT IN THE HELL ARE YOU BABBLING ABOUT??!!” I cried as he disappeared around a corner.
I followed him down the steps.
He was standing by two closet doors and the basement door….
He had one hand up, holding me in place…the other hand held a finger to his lips.
“Shhhh” he breathed super quiet.
I froze and quit breathing……. my heart was banging like a church bell.
I listened….Not knowing what I was listening for, but it seemed prudent to follow his lead, wherever and whatever in the hell it meant.
What in the fetch was going on?
What did this have to do with Norma Bates not calling or checking in…basically disappearing.
That’s when we heard the noise….
Grant turned his head toward the basement door as mine whipped around at the almost imperceptible sound.
Neither one of us were breathing now, listening hard.
Had we actually heard anything, or was it just….
There it was again!
Grant looked at me “Did you hear that too?” was the question in his eyes.
I nodded and pointed to the basement door.
Grant reached out and slowly turned the knob and began to ease the door open.
The stairs leading down into the basement were covered in darkness.
The light from the den threw a little light onto the first few steps as he stepped thru the door with me close behind him.
The steps creaked as we descended the steps slowly. I knew that there was only about 5 steps but it’s still creepy going down them in the dark, plus, I didn’t have any damn idea what was going on or why we were chasing sounds in their basement or what this had to do with Norma.
We stepped from the last step onto the concrete floor, you know the kind I mean, the cold concrete with a drain in the middle where the washing machine and dryer live.
The basement smelled of dampness and laundry detergent, with a dash of dryer lint odor.
We heard the noise again…
It was coming from our right and we both turned our heads toward the sound.
I could barely make out Grants hand in the darkness, waving around, searching for the pull string of the basement light.
He clicked it on…
I heard Grant gasp in horror….
What I seen before me I can’t completely recall….My mind tilted and went bye-bye for a second or a minute, or a day for that matter….Hell if I know…
I can’t quite remember everything yet, but the therapy and psych ward I have been at since that awful day have helped me to recount some memories for you.
I’m trembling as I write this….my doctor says it’s important though….
She was wearing a green doctor scrubs shirt, faded pink sweats and fuzzy green slippers.
Her claw like hands and mouth were covered with some kind of purple stuff.
I noticed that she had her fingers in her mouth while the other hand held a small jar tight against her chest.
It was the Marion berry jelly I had brought her from Oregon…
Grant was sobbing now as he started to get to his knees, his hand shaking as he reached out for her.
“Norma…” he whispered to her.
Norma’s insane eyes watched his hand coming closer to her, then flitted to me, then back to him…
Too late! I saw it in her face….
I started to cry out a warning to Grant, but I was a breath too slow!
It had come to me just then….
I have seen this before…Years ago!
She let out a hissing scream that would make a banshee deaf, spitting purple jelly thru her gnashing teeth into Grants eyes, then, with the agility only bat-shit crazy people can muster, she burst from her crouch and sprang past us up the basement steps, grunting like a wounded animal!
“Uhmp, uhmp, uhmp…”
Grant had turned and started to follow her, crying out her name, begging her to stop…
I reached out and put a firm hand on his chest, stopping him.
He looked at me, obviously in shock now.
“It won’t do any good to follow her, Grant” I told him, pity in my trembling voice.
“What…?” he started to ask me as he pulled at the hand that was now gripping his shoulder.
“What do you mean, what’s wrong with her?!” He shouted
I said patiently “When she was pregnant with Stephanie, she had the exact same episode with crispy bean burritos”
We both started when we heard the upstairs bathroom door slam.
Grant looked at me with imploring eyes…
I stepped over to the utility shelf and picked up a roll of duct tape and a fire extinguisher and turned back to Grant.
He did, moving as if in a trance…..then looked at me again.
The basement light swung slowly above our heads, casting eerie shadows across our pale faces as if exhibiting each individual emotion that was tearing thru our souls.
“Let’s go get her” I said, looking up the stairs.
Grant had started slowly up the stairs ahead of me when I stopped him….