They said he was a killer… a brutal devil unleashed from hell… an animal completely lacking in even the faintest flicker of humanity or compassion. They were right… But they only ever saw one side of him; while the little community of lost souls that would soon become my family and I saw a completely different side to him – our side; warm, kind and abundantly generous. I was a damaged 19-year-old girl long ago fallen through the cracks of society and left stranded in the middle of a perpetual winters night. Eventually I was left with no choice but to desperately move from city to city, dead end job to dead end job, destructive relationship to destructive relationship; trying to survive, trying to find that faint glimmer of warmth against the cold winters night.
On the outside I looked like a kick ass bitch; one bad word, glance or thought coming my way and you’ll be lucky to survive long enough to enjoy your second breath, as I hold your beating heart in the palm of my clenched fist. But truly, it was a painfully constructed façade, illusion, hope to keep me safe – because people generally didn’t mess with you when you looked like the spawn of Satan! Hitchhiking around different states I watched many a roads disappear behind me from view; yet as much as I tried and as far as I travelled, my memories never quite vanquished as quickly as the passing road signs and grey buildings as I hoped they would. They instead stayed agonisingly on the periphery of my every waking thought and grotesquely unavoidable in my every nightmare. Then when I was at my most tired of running away from life, myself, my past… that’s when I found him or more accurately he found me.
He was like a trickle of life affirming water to my perched lips, a blossoming rose to my barren heart, substance to my withering soul. He made me found, whole and happy again. He didn’t have a name, he merely requested that we call him by the name that meant most dearly and personal to us. While some called him Sunset, others called him Home or Dove – I called him Elvis: It was the early 60s and every young woman, radio station and juke box was singing Elvis Presley’s music. The King was inescapable, which was fine because I never wanted to escape from his music – it soothed me, it danced with me and it loved me when no one else would.
While I shared my old Elvis with millions of woman around the world, I shared my new Elvis with two women and one other guy. However, sharing him was never a problem for me, Elvis had this unexplainable magic ability with just the one glance or flash of a smile to make you feel like you were walking on sunshine, bathing in the moonlight, the only girl in the world… He never once asked us about our past, where we came from or what we had done, he didn’t care. To him all of us were reborn before him.
There was plenty of times I wanted to offer him my body in the same way I offered him my soul and heart, yet always he declined while constantly encouraging free love and affection amongst the community. I was hesitant at first, but in the end it just felt right.
Together as we travelled in his sunflower yellow VW van moving from city to state and state to town the group slowly got bigger and bigger. Eventually we’re no longer able move around and decided instead to stay put in a deserted yet perfectly preserved model town in a forgotten Nevada Test Site. It was at this point Elvis started to change… I felt as if he allowed our admiration for him and his power to go too deep in his head (or perhaps it was faint radiation from atomic bombs text conducted years ago). We weren’t allowed to call him by our special little names anymore, now he would be known as Father Grace. No longer did we discuss poetry, sing and read together, instead our daily life started to become more and more regimented – less family, more cult.
In the beauty of retrospect, I knew it was manipulation when Elvis started encouraging us to break into the homes of the wealthy to ‘reclaim what should belong to the people’, but in the moment with the help of his hypnotic and seductive words it made perfect sense. Usually we stalked the homes and waited for the occupants to go away on their general rich people excursions before we broke into them. But soon Elvis’s god complex consumed him and he no longer cared about the guise of darkness and secrecy – when he wanted something, he was going to get it and no one would stop him. That’s when I should have left, that’s when I should have seen the writing on the wall – the blood smeared writing on the wall. But again, that’s the beauty of retrospect.
Months late on one unfortunate day (it wouldn’t be the last) a rich heiress forgot her pursue and returned earlier than expected… He didn’t have to do it. If he asked, I knew she would have gladly gave him everything she owned just so he could spare her life. I can still remember hearing the thud of the snow globe on her skull now and see the warped reflection on its surface of the twisted, mangled and bloodied face of the women as it lay next to her, still perfectly intact as the snow kept falling inside.
I did what I had done so many times before, I ran and I ran until joints ached and my vision went blurry. To help with my sleepless nights and queasy stomach, I tried and succeed in desperately rationalising what happened as a necessity “she would have called the police. The world would have ruined out perfect little family. They would have taken Elvis” – yet something in the back of my mind stopped me going back. They came looking for me, maybe it was blind luck or a guardian angel because I was always at the wrong place at the right time. I was always leaving the back door for a cigarette when they were entering a dinner and I was always peeing behind a bush when they happened to drive past.
I was a waitress in Tempa Bay when the news came on about a cult of killers going around and murdering the rich in cold blood. They said the cult leader was a killer, an animal, a demon and yet as much as I tired and cried, I could never hate him because once I knew him as Elvis… The King who saved me.