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unemilleterror.jpg
Art by Eleanor Leonne Bennett 2012

Une Mille Terror

 

By

 

David Wright

 

         

          The Chinese acupuncturist heated the needle over the flame. Fang’s eyes widened with apprehension.

 

          “Will it hurt?” he asked and then immediately felt shame for his cowardice. The acupuncturist smiled warmly.

 

          “No. You won’t feel pain, only a slight tingling sensation as the chi is drained from your frontal lobe causing you to wake up.  This is what you want, is it not? To wake up?”

 

          “Yes.”  Fang nodded, trying to reassure himself. “Yes. Please continue, Master Chen.”

 

          The acupuncturist withdrew the needle from the flame. It glowed red hot between Fang’s eyes. A look of deep concentration fell on the acupuncturist and then, all at once, he plunged the needle through Fang’s forehead. 

 

At first, Fang felt nothing, and then a slight tingling sensation.  He felt a warm trickle of blood run down between his eyes and off his nose. 

 

The acupuncturist frowned and then a spray of red hit his small, round spectacles. Fang’s forehead burned like a furnace and he screamed.

 

          “Wake up,” said the doctor as the blood continued to spray into his face. “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!”

 

#

 

          Thelka’s eyes opened.  She sat up and her left hand went immediately to her forehead.

 

          “Bad dreams?”  Her husband Darren had just come out of the shower and was drying himself. She envied his lean muscles and thin, washboard stomach. Ever since the birth of her two children, she’d had a tough time keeping off the weight. It just didn’t seem fair.

 

          “It was the acupuncturist again,” she said wryly and Darren laughed.

 

          “Sometimes I think you like being a man.”

 

          Thelka’s forehead crinkled and then she remembered that Fang in her dream was a man, a Chinese man from the early 1900s.  She had told her recurring nightmares to Darren so many times that he had started to find them funny. “It’s serious, you know. Thanks for the sympathy.”

 

          “I’m sorry, dear.”  Darren tossed his towel in the laundry basket and walked back into the bathroom, naked.  “Don’t forget to take the pills Dr. Wilson gave you. She’s the best doctor money can buy. She knows what she’s talking about.”

 

“I know. I know,” Thelka said, but she wasn’t so sure.  If anything, her dreams had gotten worse lately.

 

“And get Lisa to take you to the clinic today.” His last words were garbled as he brushed his teeth.

 

          “Why?” Thelka threw off her sheets. They were soaked from sweat.  She must have had a bad session last night. “Why can’t you take me?”

 

          Darren’s head poked out of the bathroom.  “I leave for New York today, remember?”

 

          Thelka flopped back on the bed. No, she hadn’t remembered.  She didn’t remember anything, anymore. She used to be a powerful woman, with a keen mind and a great memory. She was the CEO of a Fortune Five Hundred cosmetics company with divisions in Tokyo, Berlin, Paris and all over the world. She spoke half a dozen languages and could juggle her clients, family, and secret flings with flawless balance. Now she was lucky if she could even remember her own phone number.  She was tired all the time, and her dreams—her dreams were ruining her life. 

 

          “Look, honey, if you’re not up for this, I’ll just cancel.”  Darren was already dressed in his Armani business suit and Corinthian leather shoes.  Thelka was still on the bed.  Where had the time gone? “I can always send one of the other sales reps. They’re dying to go.” 

 

          Thelka shook her head. “And dying to take your job.” Darren nodded at that. “No, honey.  I can make it. Theresa will take me. It’s just a doctor’s appointment.”

 

          “That’s the spirit,” Darren said as he picked up his suitcase and pushed awkwardly through the front door. 

 

Thelka didn’t remember getting a goodbye kiss.

 

#

 

          They led the child into the sacred hut and shaved her head.

 

Her deep brown skin was damp with perspiration. She was afraid and would not dance very well. The tribal mothers washed her flesh with warm, clean water and cooed gently in her ears. Then they began to tattoo the magic pictures onto her face and stomach. It hurt, but the child did not cry. She was the chosen one and it was a great honor to dance for the tribe.

 

She emerged from the sacred hut a changed being. 

 

The painted warriors parted for her as she stepped into the circle. She began her dance slowly. Her arms and legs were extensions of Ululanni, the great forest goddess, rising, reaching, spinning, and falling. Her undulating stomach was the spirit of the earth, her face the shining sun. The chanting voices and beating drums rose to a climax.

 

The child ended her frantic gyrations with one final leap onto the stone altar. She lay there panting and sweating.

 

At last, the chief approached. The child felt no fear. She was one with the spirit world. There was one final cheer and the gleaming stone knife fell.

 

The child felt a burning pain. She looked down to see her stomach ripped open like a slaughtered pig. Greedy hands were tearing at her flesh and putting chunks to their red lips. She was being eaten alive, but she was no longer a spirit. She was only a child, a small, terrified child.    

 

#

 

          Thelka woke up and vomited onto the floor.

 

          “Mom!”  Theresa seemed more annoyed than concerned.  This was her first new car! “Are you all right?” she added, as an afterthought.

 

          “I’m sorry, dear.” Theresa handed her mom a tissue to wipe her face and Thelka felt ashamed. “I must have drifted off.” Her dream was still warm in her mind, but she did her best to forget about it. She felt angry and scared. Why were these horrible thoughts plaguing her? Was she insane?  “Take me home. I’ll wash this up.” She tried vainly to scoop up the mess with her tissue.

 

          “Leave it, mom.” Theresa was disgusted. “I’ll take it to a car wash.  Can you get someone to pick you up?”

 

          “Yes, of course, dear.” 

 

Theresa rolled down her window but the smell of vomit was thick in the air.  She said nothing.

 

Twenty minutes later, the rancid odor still lingered as Theresa drove off and Thelka walked sheepishly into the clinic.

 

After waiting another ten minutes in the embarrassing cocoon of her own smell, she headed into the doctor’s office and sat down. She watched impassively as Dr. Wilson held up a large syringe and smiled. It was a pretty smile.

 

She was a pretty woman, young and pretty. Thelka wondered why she had never noticed that about her before. Perhaps it was the ubiquitous serious look in her eye or the white lab coat she always wore at the clinic.  But now that she was smiling, Thelka saw the ruby in her lipstick and the shine of her perfect white teeth. Thelka felt strangely old and common in comparison.

 

          “I thought we were just going to stick with the pills.”

 

          The smile disappeared. 

 

“I’m afraid your nervous system has not responded as I had hoped.  This is just a stronger dose. It should quell the nightmares,” the doctor said.  “But if you would prefer, we could try a suppository.”

 

          Thelka shuddered.  “No.  No.  This will do, I guess.”

 

          The smile returned and Thelka grimaced as the long needle pierced her skin. 

 

#

 

          Pablo was an old man. His children had long since left him for the city and he found it harder and harder to walk the narrow trails from his pueblo to the water hole. He feared that he might stumble and fall down the steep embankment into the brush. There were snakes in the brush, especially in the summer when the hot sun chased them from the desert into the cool shade of the forest. And it grew exceptionally hot this summer. He was bitten by a snake once, when he was a child. The memory of those silent, invisible fangs still haunted him.

 

          “Why do you still live here, father?” his eldest son would say. “Come with us to the city.

 

But Pablo would not go. He was born here. This was his home. His children would never understand.

 

          Pablo rinsed his hands with the last bit of water from his bucket and then coughed. His mouth was dry. Perhaps he should have left his hands dirty and drank the last bit of water. But it did not matter. He would have to get water sooner or later.

 

He stood up and his old bones creaked. He felt a pain in his back, but at least he was still alive. He slipped on his dusty poncho and headed down the forest trail.

 

          It was unusually quiet in the forest this morning. Where are the birds? he thought, and began humming an old folk song to fill the vacant air.

 

 About halfway to the water hole, in the densest part of the jungle, Pablo stopped by an old banyan tree for a rest. There was a time when he used to run the whole way to the water hole and back again without stopping. But those days were passed. He wiped the sweat off his brow with the edge of his dirty poncho and then stood up to continue on his journey.

 

And that was when he heard the noise. 

 

          It was just a small sound, like the rustling of leaves in a wind, but there was no wind. Pablo looked around, but he saw nothing. A rat, perhaps, or a bird. But there were no birds. 

 

Despite the scorching heat, Pablo felt a shiver run down his spine. He quickened his pace. He’d only traveled a few more yards when he heard the sound again, this time from somewhere else in the forest—somewhere closer. 

 

He tried to run, and in his haste, he dropped his walking stick. The forest seemed to come to life and Pablo watched in wonder as the walking stick was snatched into the brush as if by an invisible hand. Pablo screamed and began running recklessly down the steep jungle trail. He could see the little watering hole down the hill in the distance and he prayed that his old legs would get him there. Already they were starting to ache. He felt their little reservoir of energy drain like sap from a vine. 

 

All at once, something was across the trail in front of him. Was it a root? A fallen branch? No. It was bigger than that, and it was moving.

 

Before Pablo could react, the branch reared up and Pablo was falling down the steep embankment. The branches and vines scraped his bare arms and legs and tore at his thick poncho. It seemed to last for an eternity. He felt as if he were falling into the pit of hell. But then he landed. 

 

The black mud was hot to his touch and it moved. “Help!” he cried out. “Someone, help me!”

 

All around him the mud was moving. But it was not mud. And then the real horror of the situation struck him. He was riding the backs of snakes, thousands and thousands of snakes. He had seen this too, as a child, from the safe distance of an opposite embankment, the anacondas gathering in a giant snake ball to breed, a disgusting orgy of filthy, writhing snake flesh.

 

Pablo felt his old bones being squeezed and broken, felt the air leave him in a scream as his chest collapsed. In the last few seconds of consciousness, he saw a great anaconda rise up before his face and strike. 

 

#

 

          Thelka screamed, and opened her eyes. But this time the nightmare did not end, and so she went on screaming.

 

She went on screaming as Dr. Wilson struggled to restrain her, and called for the orderlies. She went on screaming as the paramedics strapped her to a gurney and rushed her to the mental ward. And even after her blood had been pumped full of powerful sedatives, her mind still swarmed with a thousand visions of ultimate terror.

 

          As if on a distant cloud, she saw Dr. Wilson observing her with a smile. Why was she smiling?

 

          Thelka felt the acupuncturist’s needles pierce her skin. A thousand needles.

 

And then her husband was there, beside the doctor.  But he could not be there. He was in New York.

 

          “Will she recover?” he asked.

 

          “No. She’s suffered a complete psychotic break from reality.”

 

          Thelka felt the zealots’ knives flay her flesh. A thousand knives.

 

          “So it worked?” he asked, his voice barely a whisper.

 

          The doctor nodded. “The damage should be permanent this time.” 

 

Her husband was still gazing at her from the distant cloud. Why didn’t he do something? Why didn’t he save her? Thelka called to him, but he did not respond. 

 

And then he turned to Dr. Wilson and kissed her, passionately.

 

          Thelka felt the anaconda fangs close upon her. A thousand fangs.

 

 

         

David Wright is a writer and English teacher living on Canada’s majestic west coast.  He has a lovely wife and two sparkling daughters.  His short stories have appeared in over a dozen magazines including Neo-opsis, Mindflights and Niteblade.  His first novel Flight of the Cosmonaut was just published as an eBook by The Fiction Works.

 

For high adventure, check out David Wright's historical novel Flight of the Cosmonaut.


http://www.fictionworks.com/ebooks.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnK-yWWWbmY

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