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The day my father died, I witnessed a murder. It happened at a movie theatre, during a screening. The victim was an obnoxious person – my cousin Giulia. Maybe I only dreamt it, because she was eaten by the rest of the audience – by everyone. Then it happened again, at the amusement park, and this time it couldn’t have been a dream. The assassins were the same people. I followed them. I went there, to the Municipal Slaughterhouse. They work there, I’ve been spying them for a while. By day they seem absolutely normal people, but by night… I must do it. I must get in there. They’ve put up a sign, they’re looking for a guy just like me. I need to discover who they are and what they do. Why do they kill?
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Illusion Novella # 3
Original title: Macello
Translated by Eleonora Passelli
© 2018 Illusion
© 2015 Stefano Pastor
Graphics: Angela M.
All rights reserved
I was helping dad in the garage when the police came.
I swear, a car complete with blazing sirens, just like in the movies. Dad cleaned up his hands and told me to stay where I was, then he walked towards them. There were two agents, I heard them asking if he was Mr. Ambrosini, then nothing else, because they all lowered their voices.
When dad came back, he told me he had to leave with them, that I shouldn’t worry and that I should go back home. He closed the garage on his way out, and I did worry.
Back home, I discovered what happened: they’d arrested grandpa! But there was worse, much worse – they said he had harassed children. That’s right, harassed!
Luckily, everything winded down pretty soon. Grandpa’s only fault was that he had relieved himself. Only that he had done so on the ball that two kids were playing with. What’s more, they were really little, only three or four years old.
We’d gotten used to that, at this point, we wouldn’t have even noticed it, but those kids’ parents didn’t take it very well.
We knew grandpa was like that – when he had to pee he would do it where he was, we were always very careful to never lose sight of him. They quarreled too, that night, mum and dad. Grandpa was my dad’s father, but mum was the one who had to take care of him. However, that day mum had left for an errand and he had escaped from home. Dad said it had been happening way too often, and he was right, after all: grandpa had mentally regressed, just as if he were a small child, and he had fun behaving badly with everyone.
Anyway, it wasn’t easy getting him out of the commissary’s office and dad lost a full day of work. Then, back at home, more problems came. The neighbors, started talking, and I learned the meaning of words that had been unknown to me until then, such as ‘maniac’, and even worse ones.
The thing would have gone on for who knows how long, if dad hadn’t been feeling unwell. Initially we thought it was because of too much work, and too much worrying about grandpa, but the exam results arrived soon enough. Dad had a bad illness that had struck his liver.
The cancer killed him in no time. Two months, to be clear. Mum’s brothers came to help her, because at the hospital they hadn’t done anything, they’d just sent him back home to die. They helped closed down the garage and began helping Mum put Dad’s affairs in order.
Mum tried to keep me out of everything. I would see dad very rarely, always shut in his room, and they found every possible excuse to send me out. I had to go to school, too, I was in the sixth grade, and my grades weren’t really good.
Finally, one evening, my mother confided in me: she talked about dad, about his illness, about the situation we were in. She said he would die. “How long?” I asked. In the movies, it was always months, minimum six.
“One day”, she said, “maybe two.”
The shock was unreal. I didn’t sleep much that night.
When the dying hours started, all the relatives came to his death-bed: dad wouldn’t have died alone, we were a big family.
My troubles started when cousin Giulia arrived.
It was precisely I who took notice of her: we hadn’t done anything, that night, but welcome visiting relatives, so I was always next to the door. That’s how I heard her shrill voice on the landing. I rushed to open the door, as I didn’t want the doorbell to disturb dad.
She was there chatting with Rosa, our neighbor.
“I came for the funeral”, she was saying, real calm.
Rosa was astonished, and also a little offended that we hadn’t told her.
“He’s not dead!” I shouted. “Dad is not dead!”
Giulia nonchalantly shrugged her shoulders. “Why, after all it won’t be long, will it?”
Rosa stared at her slack-jawed, not knowing what to say. In a hurry, I pushed cousin Giulia inside the house.
She, unflinching, continued talking, with an even more shrill voice: “They told me he was almost done. How long can he still have to live, one hour, two?”
I turned pale, without managing to reply. The door of dad’s bedroom was open and he hadn’t lost consciousness yet, it was possible that he’d even heard her.
My mother arrived, breathless. “Ah, Giulia.”
For a moment, I thought she’d kill her. Giulia deserved it, after all. That’s the way she was, nobody could stand her, and everyone tried to avoid her. She slipped in every event; weddings, christenings, confirmations, but she definitely preferred funerals, she loved those. She could say anything about the deceased without fear of contridiction. She had a sharp tongue and surely her IQ wasn’t an excellent one.
My mother managed to contain herself, though not as far as to flaunt a smile. “Giulia, darling, there was no need for you to come, too.”
“Have you already decided the date of the funeral? You know, just to be able to organize myself.”
My mother had a greyish complexion, maybe even worse than dad’s. I was surprised that none of her brothers had come to save her, but I knew well that they didn’t wish to collide with Giulia.
“He’s unwell, really unwell”, said my mother with a low voice. “It’s the end.”
Giulia made a routine expression of sadness. “Yes, I understand.”
Then mum looked at me. “This isn’t the place for a kid. Not in a moment like this.”
“Yes, yes”, said Giulia, who didn’t care at all.
“You could be of great help to us, Giulia. Why don’t you take him out? Go somewhere, go to the movies.”
Both of us looked at her slack-jawed. “But… but…”
At the end, I understood what my mother was asking me: to take her away, to keep her occupied, to let dad die in piece.
“But he’s a child!” said Giulia, evidently disgusted. “I don’t know… At the movies, you say? Do you think it a good idea?”
“For once, yes”, said my mother. “Take him to the movies, have fun.”
And so it was that, while my father was dying, I found myself kicked out of my home, with the most obnoxious relative we had.
Giulia said she was thirty, but we all knew that she’d been past forty for a while. She still dressed like a teenager and wore excessive make-up. She didn’t have a man, she’d probably never had one. Her only occupation in life was busying herself with others, destroying their lives, if possible.
She was pissed off that evening, quite a bit. Being forced to babysit was slanderous, right during what could have been her moment of glory.
I knew that I was doing this for Mum, that my sacrifice was important, so I kept quiet and behaved myself.
Giulia discarded a funny comedy, thinking it inappropriate, an adventure film I’d really have loved to see – maybe that’s precisely why she discarded it – and went straight to the venue where they screened an old horror movie about zombies. She considered it adequate for the situation.
The room was almost empty, only about ten men scattered here and there. Giulia took me to sit right in the middle, where the view was the best.
The red velvet seats were in a dreadful condition, full of tears and burnt patches. The colour itself leaned more towards brown. On the floor, stains of every kind had corroded the parquet. “Sit up straight”, she snapped.
She never tried to talk to me, maybe because she was mad, more likely because she didn’t consider me to be at her level. This couldn’t but please me. I was confused and scared. I knew that right in that moment my father was dying and I hadn’t been able to say goodbye to him. All this because of this faded version of Lana Turner sitting next to me. I hated her and I wished she were dead.
When, finally, they turned the lights off, I tried to focus on the film, even if the sight of all those decomposed corpses wasn’t inviting at all.
After a few minutes, someone came to sit next to us. Next to cousin Giulia, to be precise.
At first, I didn’t even notice him, then, when I heard Giulia giggling during a scene that wasn’t at all funny, I turned around to check.
There was a man sitting next to her. He was very young, he must have been twenty or a little over that. I looked at them carefully, but he had his gaze pointed towards the screen and eventually I persuaded myself I had been mistaken.
After a while, Giulia started giggling again.
I was consumed with rage. How could she do something like that? Starting to snog with someone who could have been her son, and while sitting next to me?!
I looked around: the auditorium was nearly deserted, and certainly there was no one else near us. Why had that man gone and sat right there?
When cousin Giulia started being restless on the seat, I briefly glanced at her and I immediately looked away. What they were doing was horrible, and right in that moment!
I tried to focus on the film, to avoid hearing anything else, I even went so far as to raise my hands to the sides of my head not to be tempted to look.
In front of me, a gang of lustful zombies was eating the routine absent-minded blonde, with a sucking noise that was very similar to what I was hearing next to me.
At the end, I couldn’t resist anymore. Dad was dying and I was there, listening to that whore’s sexual exploits! I suddenly turned around and I grasped her arm. “Enough! Stop it!”
The projected images lighted the scene with a blue tinge. The blood seemed to be black. What I saw seemed like an exact replication of the scene on screen: that young man sitting next to her was eating her.
At least that’s how I saw it. There was nothing sexual in that scene, Giulia was limp on the chair, her eyes were glassy and staring, and her mouth was half open. There was a lot of black everywhere, and I thought it was blood. The man was eating one of her shoulders, I saw him sinking his teeth, I heard him chewing. There was a lot of black on his face, too.
I leaped up and I started shouting: “Leave her alone!” Then I turned towards the rest of the room, covered in darkness. “Help! Help!”
I stepped back, under that man’s eyes, who kept eating unflinchingly.
“Someone help me!” I shouted again.
Only then I noticed that the other spectators had stood up. “Quickly! Quickly! He’s killing her!”
I don’t know why I said those words, I knew there was nothing to be done anymore.
Those silent figures started converging towards us, but with extreme slowness. I couldn’t understand why they behaved in such a way.
The screen was now showing a night scene, and in the room the darkness had shrouded both Giulia and her killer.
“Turn the lights on!” I shouted, and I stepped back again.
I banged against something. Someone, actually. I turned around suddenly. It was an imposing man, tall and sturdy, about thirty years old, with a fixed, icy gaze, and it seemed as if he hadn’t even noticed me. He was completely bald and his shiny nape reflected the images projected on the screen.
“There! There!” I pointed.
The other spectators had reached Giulia and were now bending towards her. She was shortly completely hidden from my sight.
“What’s happening?” I shouted. “What are you doing?”
There I succumbed, what I was seeing was too much, and I ran. I started running like a madman, I reached the closest emergency exit, running into heavy velvet curtains, and I rushed out, careless of any alarm I might have triggered.
I ran, I ran for an infinite amount of time, without even being able to think. At the end, I found myself sitting on the ground, in an alley, without knowing how I had ended up there.
Bit by bit, I regained myself, and the questions started. What was I doing there? What had really happened in that movie theatre?
The zombies had eaten cousin Giulia.
No, no, that’s impossible, I told myself. Zombies do not exist. And besides, that young man was really alive, he was anything but a zombie. All of them were quite alive. Cannibals?
Or was it me? Was I hallucinating? Dad dying, that bloody scary film, cousin Giulia had started doing… certain things! Maybe I had misinterpreted things, I had just seen what I wanted to see. My imagination had done the rest.
It wasn’t possible, no. Not in our city. No, no, no.
I stood up and I went back to face the world.
It was night by then, and I really didn’t know what to do. Should I go back home? To talk about zombies and homicides, about cannibals? To go to the police? What about Dad? And Mum?
They would have said about me what they were already saying about grandpa, I knew that.
And Giulia, what had happened to her? I went so far as to persuade myself that I would find her in front of the cinema, waiting angrily for me.
She wasn’t there: even the last screening was over, and the theatre’s doors were barred.
All this must have meant something, mustn’t it? If they had found a corpse, the police would have been there.
I walked around, until I reached the emergency exit from which I had escaped. The door was just half-opened. I must have left it like that, in my rushed escape.
I gained all the courage I had left and I stepped forward.
In the room, the lights were on. I hid myself behind the curtains and I spied. There were just two cleaning ladies.
“Come and see here, won’t you look at this!” said one of them, and I noticed she was right where we had been sitting.
“Ew”, said the other.
“I wonder what they must have poured to bring them to this!”
“Ah, but I couldn’t care less, we can’t make miracles! After all, they had to be thrown away even before.”
“Why don’t they do such things at their own place?”
I didn’t listen to anything more, because I was already running away.
I kept to the centre of the street, checking every side, but I didn’t see any of those strange men.
It wasn’t a dream, something had really happened! Someone had hurt cousin Giulia. They had… I didn’t know what they’d done, I wasn’t sure of anything anymore, I had really no idea what to do.
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