by Pavelle Wesser
Marcus woke up writhing in pain as electric shocks zapped through his hands. His mouth twisted in agony.
“Clarice!” he screamed. “Clarice! Help me!”
She appeared before him wearing a white, diaphanous nightgown that flowed about her ethereal form. He might have mistaken her for an angel had not her eyes been narrow slits of rage. Her mouth was a red slash in her pale face. “Marcus,” she hissed, “we sleep in separate tombs for a reason.”
“Tombs?” He jerked upright.
“I said ‘rooms’, Marcus. What’s wrong?”
“Sorry, I just... I felt I was being electrocuted.”
“That’s too bad. I suggest you seek comfort in your teddy bear as I have nothing to offer you.”
She turned and exited his room as he clutched his teddy bear in fear.
The next morning, he sat across from her at the breakfast nook, drumming his fingers on the table.
“Stop that,” barked Clarice, “do you always have to be so irritating?”
“Sorry,” said Marcus, “I was trying to regain sensation in my fingers. They’re numb.”
She eyed him coldly. “Are you being persecuted again, Marcus?”
“I never said I was being persecuted, Clarice.”
“Neither did I; I said you were being electrocuted.”
“Oh, that,” said Marcus, “say, I was thinking, do you want to try sleeping in the same room again?”
“How can I sleep with you when you yell like a maniac all night long?”
“What do I say?”
“How should I know? You speak in a strange language. Anyway” — she checked her watch — “I have to go; I’m getting late for work.”
Marcus sat alone at the table, wondering when it was that a pimple had erupted on the face of their relationship.
* * *
That night, he set up a recorder in his room so that he could hear himself while he slept. When he awoke in the morning, he fumbled with numb hands to play back the recording. After an eerie silence, he heard his own voice yelling in a strange language. All he understood was the fear behind his words.
Shivering, he shut the recorder off and got ready for work. He worried that his clumsiness was affecting his job performance. He knew it was only a matter of time before others noticed.
Today, as he entered the factory doors, his boss approached him. “We need to talk.” He motioned Marcus into his office. “Your job performance has been deteriorating recently.”
“It’s my hands.” Marcus held them up.
“What’s wrong with them?” his boss asked.
“I’m not sure.”
“I’m going to have to let you go, Marcus.”
Marcus blinked. “Go where?”
“It’s your choice,” his boss shrugged, “but I would suggest either the unemployment line or a rehab clinic.”
“Good day, Marcus.”
* * *
Marcus promised himself he’d look for a job as soon as his hands improved. The problem was that they weren’t improving. Each night he suffered electrical sensations. Sometimes, his hands even writhed along his chest in a bizarre, scribbling motion that left marks resembling the letters of a mystical alphabet.
Grudgingly, Marcus called a doctor. On the day of his appointment, he sat nervously in the waiting room. When the doctor walked in, he wanted desperately to walk out, but he forced himself to sit there as the doctor stared down at him through steel-rimmed glasses.
“There’s something wrong with my hands!” Marcus blurted, thrusting his fingers in the doctor’s face.
“Can I start by introducing myself? My name is Dr. Vincent.”
“They feel like they’re being electrocuted,” Marcus continued.
“Can we discuss this in my office?”
“So,” said Dr. Vincent, once Marcus was seated across from him, “what stress factors are present in your life?”
“My girlfriend and I sleep in separate tombs.”
“I said rooms.”
“Fine, anything else?”
“My boss just fired me.”
Dr. Vincent nodded. “Is that all?”
“I’m tired of being persecuted.”
The doctor leaned forward. “Who is persecuting you?”
“No one, I said ‘electrocuted’. I’m tired of being electrocuted.”
“I see,” Dr. Vincent said solemnly.
“Also, when I’m asleep, I speak in a strange language.”
Dr. Vincent slowly shook his head. “I’m sorry, I can’t help you.”
“Why not?” Marcus asked.
“Your disease is in your mind, Marcus.”
* * *
Marcus lay in bed cuddling his teddy bear as a tingling sensation spread through his limbs. Eventually, he fell asleep, waking some time later to electrical shocks shooting through his hands.
“Clarice! Help!” He struggled to sit up as Clarice appeared in the doorway, her white nightgown now tinged with gray and torn. Her voice was sharp as her eyes flashed at him.
“You disturbed the peace of my tomb, Marcus.”
“You have a teddy bear, Marcus. Is that not enough to keep the nightmares at bay?”
The glint in her eyes was enough to freeze his insides.
“Y...Yes, Clarice. My teddy bear is enough; I’m sorry to have bothered you.”
“I should think so,” she turned and left.
The electrical sensation subsided in him as he listened to her feet padding down the hall. Hugging his teddy bear, he drifted back into a pleasant sleep.
* * *
“Why aren’t you awake yet?”
She stood over him and the room spun about her as she spoke.
“I was just about to get up.” He struggled to free himself from the bed sheets.
“Don’t bother!” Clarice turned and stomped across the floor. When she was gone, Marcus threw on his clothes and headed out. He shuffled down the street until he came to a dilapidated sign that read: “Psychic Healer.”
The door whined open on rusted hinges to reveal an ancient woman sitting at a small table in the oppressive darkness. A ragged shawl was draped over her bony shoulders and she slurped something from a steaming earthenware mug.
“Have a seat, Marcus.”
He slumped into a chair across from her. “What’s happening to me?” he whined.
“She’s draining you for her own selfish purposes; you must stop her.”
“Go to her tomb.”
“You heard me. Go there and impale a stake through her heart.”
Marcus’ jaw dropped open. “I can’t do that.”
“Read the writing on your chest, Marcus.”
“You mean this?” He lifted up his shirt to reveal a patchwork of scars.
“If you don’t kill her, Marcus, she will kill you.” She pointed a gnarled finger toward the door. “Go, it’s time to save yourself.”
He stepped out into the sunlight. This is all so strange, he thought.
* * *
That night, when all was quiet, Marcus released his grip on his teddy bear and climbed out of bed. He crept down the hall to Clarice’s room and tiptoed to her bed. It was empty. Where was she? He looked around the room, noticing that the hatch in the ceiling leading to the attic was ajar. He climbed on a chair and pushed it aside, allowing the ladder to drop down. Holding his breath, he climbed up.
The full moon shone through the skylight, allowing Marcus to decipher shapes in the attic. Mice scurried past him and cobwebs brushed his face as he made his way toward a large, block-like object. On closer inspection, he saw it was a stone tomb. On it were engravings that perfectly matched the symbols etched into his chest.
He pushed the heavy lid until it slid to the floor, releasing a cloud of dust. He stared into tomb’s musty depths at Clarice, who lay as though dead. Her nightgown was a filthy gray, but her lips formed a red angry scar across her pale face.
“You are a creature of the damned,” intoned Marcus.
Her eyes opened, their darkness enhanced by deep rings that circled them. Chills rose up his spine as he realized the psychic healer was right. All this time, Clarice had been draining him of his energy supply in order to recharge herself. No wonder he suffered electrical sensations followed by numbness in the morning. As for his nightly screaming, he must have been pleading with her in the language of evil to leave him alone.
“This is my final act of redemption!”
As he raised a tomato stake from the vegetable garden above his head, the familiar sharpness of her voice erupted.
“What the hell are you doing, Marcus?”
“I’m going to kill you, Clarice.”
“Isn’t that a tomato stake from our garden?”
“Who cares? Our garden never grew, Clarice. We never fertilized the soil.”
“Let’s face it, Marcus, you’re incompetent. What grown man sleeps with a teddy bear?”
“I love my teddy bear, Clarice. It’s you I hate.” Marcus brought the stake down into her heart.
“I never.... thought you would...” She uttered a final gasp as her body convulsed in death. Marcus sighed in satisfaction until he saw her shadow rising from the tomb.
“You will never be rid of me, Marcus, never.”
* * *
Marcus sat in the living room, cradling his teddy bear in arms that had regained full sensation. The problem was now in his head. He twitched as another spasm of pain pulsed through his temples. His new doctor had sent him for an MRI that revealed a luminescent mass inside his brain.
“What does it mean?” he’d asked the doctor.
“We don’t know,” the doctor had shrugged, “which makes your condition medically meaningless.”
As Marcus left the doctor’s office, Clarice’s voice spoke to him in the language of his dreams. “You will never be free, Marcus, it is my final promise.”
She was right, he realized. No matter how hard he hugged his teddy bear each night, she managed to infiltrate his dreams. He started sleeping in her tomb in the attic, hoping that in being closer to her, he might alleviate her curse. Nothing worked.
“Please,” he screamed, “let me live in peace.”
“Nothing doing, Marcus.”
A chill descended over the tomb and his teddy bear disintegrated in his grasp.
Marcus retired from life and took to working in his garden, where the neighbors heard him screaming in a strange language. He grew tomatoes: ugly, twisted little things that he delighted in crushing under his bare heels. He wore the same ragged nightgown day in and day out. Some neighbors said he was insane, while others claimed he was possessed. In any case, every time they heard him babbling incomprehensibly, they were consumed with disgust.
“Let’s face it,” they whispered to each other, “his garden has long since died.”
Copyright © 2010 by Pavelle Wesser