Ligulae

by R D Larson


I always check how I look when I go out. Ever since the time I went to church with one brown shoe and one black shoe. I am not forgetful, just a wee bit eccentric.

Monday afternoon as I prepared to leave, I glanced in the hall mirror. I patted down my graying hair and ran my tongue over my teeth. My teeth are my best feature. Large and very white, my perfect teeth make up for all the other physical imperfections I have. I admit I have protuberant eyes and a lump for a nose. However, my teeth are really something. Never had a cavity either. I smiled at my reflection, a study in self-love.

Behind me, to my utter stark fear, there was a man behind me in the hall. He wore a black coat and wore a cap pulled down over his forehead, hiding his eyes. I whirled but he had gone. I looked through the house, thinking that perhaps he had come about the furnace. There was no one.

When I went out the door, I had to unlock the night latch. That certainly got me to wondering about what or whom I had seen in the mirror. I went to the market but only bought what I really needed. I worried; what if I were — seeing things?

I’m a practical person or so I’ve been told. Therefore, from the market parking lot, I called up old Ray Barney from my car with my cell phone.

He didn’t answer the first time, but, five minutes later, I called again just to let it ring.

“Hullo-o. Who is this?”

“Hello, Mr. Barney, this is Mary Beth McDonald; I bought your house last year. Remember me?”

“Of course. What do you think I am? Senile? What do you want? You bought it AS IS. I told you that and you signed the paper.”

“I did and I’m fine with that. But I do have a question.” I paused, knowing what he would think of me. “Did you ever have a relative die in the house? Or any other occurrences?”

“Hell-a, yes, that old house has been in the family for a hundred years. I TOLD you that. People lived and died in it. So what? Did the ghost show up?” He cackled like old coot he was. I grinned to myself.

“I think I saw him in the mirror this noon. Tall guy in a black coat?”

“Yep, that’s my Great-Uncle James.” Mr. Barney coughed with much expectoration. “I had him exercised in ’55 just before the flood.”

“Exorcised? By a Catholic priest?” My somewhat large ears seemed to get extra warm. “I’m so interested in the paranormal.”

“Nothing normal about Great-Uncle James,” Barney grumbled. To my disappointment, he refused any other questions and hung up.

Driving right home, I imagined all sorts of things. I got out of my car in the garage. It’s a small place and I had long ago organized it. I went to my father’s old ax and took it off the nails before I went into the house. I looked around, a bit spooked. I checked things out thoroughly. After all, I live alone. Never been married either. Not that I couldn’t have been, I mused as I put away jam and eggs. There had been that funeral director in Memphis, I remembered as I leaned the ax against the back door.

I went into the bedroom to change into casual clothes. I am still used to dressing like a professor when I go out. Doesn’t matter that I’ve retired. Still dress up when I go out.

I stood in my slip for a moment, thinking of Eldred Thinworthe, the funeral director, from Memphis. Not bad looking and crazy for me. I had to dump him. Couldn’t stand the smell of death that hung on him.

I glanced at the window, which caught the light just to reflect the room, like a mirror. The man I had seen in the mirror earlier was sitting at the foot of my bed. My heart clogged in a cramp then jolted up into my throat.

“Who are you? What do you want?” I said not looking at him but looking at him in the mirror-like reflection.

“Not much really. Just a little of you.” He leaned back as he spoke and I could see his face. I don’t think he was thirty and without doubt, the most handsome man I’d ever seen.

“You shouldn’t be here.” I paused, and then said in my most authoritative voice. “Unless of course you’re working here.”

“No, I’m not working. I just came for you.” He smiled that brilliant smile that the young people today have. Collusion between the orthodontist and tooth bleach has made them all look like movie stars.

I felt a tingle along my arms and across my forehead. “Oh, really? You should leave now.”

I whirled as I said it, thinking to face him. There was nobody there. The man wasn’t sitting on my bed. I tried to run toward the bathroom for a drink of water, fearing early dementia. I tripped over my shoes. As I fell, soft arms caught me and kept me from hitting the floor. I found myself gently placed on the bed. The arms seem let me go very slowly, sucking against my skin as though mouths grew along the arms. I shrieked in terror.

“Not to worry. Really, your life is safe with me. I’m sorry that you can’t see me with your eyes. Nevertheless, you can see your vision of me in any reflection. It’s rather as if tiny photographs from your mind applied to a hologram and shown on a screen. The picture is there but somewhat altered.” He stroked my hair. I couldn’t see him but I could feel him.

I felt weak at his touch, his gentle touch. Surprised by my acceptance, I hadn’t known I was lonely. I must be lonely if I am imagining the touch of an invisible man. Not a ghost. What an old fool, I thought as I relaxed under my real fantasy.

I seemed to float in my mind as the man-fantasy explored my body. He didn’t hurt me but actually caressed me in a thoughtful way. Since the funeral director who smelled of death, no one had touched me that way. This man — this creature — smelled also but not like death but like life. Sea breezes and primitive urges. I tried to place the exact smell, as he seemed to be removing my clothes by soundlessly shredding them off me with his invisible fingers.

I should be afraid but I am not. I bask in his pleasure. I am at peace.

After a time, I think to speak.

“Where were you born?” I ask him, slowly so slowly that it seems to be a mere wisp of breath.

“Born? Do you mean my beginning?”

I nodded. My mind drifted again across windswept beaches and rolling waves.

His voice deepened with emotion. “I was ‘born’ as you call it, in a faraway place, in another galaxy. I am not human but am a water animal. My home is all and nothing but water.”

I thought about it for what seemed a long time. Then I said, “You came for me?”

“I did. I came for you, Lenore, to take something you have and I hope you will give me.”

“What?”

“Lenore, you think your egg sacks have shriveled and died. Not so. Your ovaries are in hibernation and I want to take them to my world of water. Please give them both to me.”

“Water?” My mind felt drugged by the pleasant stroking and soft voice. Then, unexpectedly, one arm, I noticed, had a tiny-cupped one-finger hand at the end. The hand of the creature cradled my head, then my cheek, sliding down my jawbone to my neck.

“Lenore, you are thirsty?” The creature hummed at my throat, at the dip between my collarbones. It vibrated through my body as if I were a taunt string on a fishing line.

“No, no. Not thirsty. The name of your water world? I should know it.”

“A Frenchman named it La Mare de La Mer.” It stroked my body gently slowly as it hummed and its arms rocked me. The one-finger hand stroked between my breasts and down the center of my body.

“Frenchman?” My mind did a torque spin. “How would a Frenchman know about your world?”

“Oh, we’ve been here before. To get the hibernating egg sacks. It’s a worthwhile mission. I am somewhat of a hero back home.”

Its one-finger hand probed at me. I thought to myself that such lack of humility is not good. Since I had taught science for so many years, my thinking mind tried to contradict my feeling body. One-finger hand? I thought, as an elephant trunk? No, water world. My mind wanted to let my body submit to the active administrations of the creature’s touch. Yet some part held back. Ligulae? The name popped into my mind, frozen on my mental screen. Octopus with extended ligula The sex organ of an octopus? I remembered that the chemoreceptors of the suckers on its arms could taste sweet, sour and bitter. Moreover, that the rims of the suckers were especially sensitive to touch.

Ye gods, it was some kind of alien octopus! Its arm slithered across my chin on its way to more personal exploration. I opened my mouth as wide as I could and bit down hard on the still-invisible arm.

My mouth filled with a burning sick muck, sweet, fetid, and hot. I gagged and choked as it oozed out over my face. The creature slowly became visible to me — a pale white, limp-looking blue-eyed octopus. Its huge eyes and beak were inches from my face as the filth filled around me. Its probing one-finger hand poked gently at my mouth.

“Why? Why, Lenore? Did I frighten you?” It whimpered stroking me lower on my body with its arms as the finger probed my tongue and lips.

“Please don’t make me force you, Lenore. I hate violence. It makes me angry.”

I bit down with all my might on the probing finger-organ of the octopus, severing it from the arm. I spit it out and tried to sit up, to stand and to run. Anything to get away!

“No, Lenore, No. I cannot let you hurt me.” The octopus reached for the scrap of its flesh that I’d flung on the floor. Then its eyes turned back to me.

With a guttural sound, it cradled the scrap of flesh before it howled at me.

“You will cause extinction of my kind. I am one of the last Kentuckians still living. You were the chosen one, the one to give the sacks of eggs for my life. Now you have destroyed my life-force organ.” It roared and howled again.

I slid off the bed sideways; it seemed slow to move. It turned a bright red color as I scuttled around the horrible twitching tentacles.

I reached the door when it heaved its large body from the bed. It cannon balled at me, just as I flung the door shut behind me. I raced to the back door and grabbed the ax.

I could hear it creeping and sliding along the floor, the sucking sounds of the mouths on the tentacles made me ill. I felt sick with dread as it came toward me.

In a burst of fear and rage, I ran at it wielding the ax as hard as I could. The foul-smelling slime poured out of gashes made by my ax. I swung repeatedly finally hitting the eyes. Then as it split apart, I drove the ax into its brain.

It squirmed and tangled around me as it lay dying. I felt vomit fill my throat and wetness down my legs. Nevertheless, it would die.

I watched as it shriveled and crumpled like an oyster in a frying pan. When it was dead, I stood up. I’ll call Homeland Security to report to that Tenticluians are invading our world.

Then I thought of how “it” had petted me, and of how “it” had made me feel. Maybe I wouldn’t tell anyone. Just shovel it out into the back yard. After all, fishmeal is good for the flowers.


Copyright © 2005 by R D Larson

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