The Ghost Profiler
by George S. Karagiannis
Thinking back to my childhood years, I can picture myself and my little brother Manny struggling to keep our distance from the menacing shade of the wormolytes. Back then, we could hardly pronounce their name aloud, as we didn’t wish our ears to be infected by it or to get used to it as if it were something natural.
Rumors claimed that wormolytes ran across the Emerald Fields countryside during nighttime to seek for their prey. Since humans, my father explained, belonged to their gourmet trophies, Manny and I were instructed to always come back home before sunset, no matter what. In view of this haunting setting, Manny and I were eventually forced to skip school, and father served not only as a father figure but also as our tutor. “For your own protection,” he used to say.
Father once warned us that the twilight of the moon was a welcoming enticement for the wormolytes. So, he always kept the big window in our room sealed with thick iron while we were sleeping. Manny and I stayed there in utter gloom, listening from time to time to the amplifying echo of the night rain hitting the metallic barrier. Loneliness and isolation had pushed us to whisper and tell ghost stories for a long time in our small cell.
Manny always listened to my ghost stories with tremendous zeal. When I was finished, he kept on asking details about the plots or even the ghosts themselves, striving to stimulate and motivate his own dry imagination during this leisure.
Most of the time we would fall asleep in the middle of the night, but we often did so when the front yard roosters had already signified that dawn was about to break. By that time, we were so sleepy we rarely had the energy to milk the goats in the early morning hours.
In this case, we were usually on the safe side, because father was never at home that early, as he patrolled the neighboring pastures and meadows to harvest freshly-sprouted, orange turpin flowers. The orange ones, he used to say, were the most delicious. He then had to pass through the paddocks and pay a visit to the hydroponics facility to gather a few makazaya fruits.
These two elements — the turpin flowers and the makazaya fruit — constituted the nutritional basis of our daily diet from as long as I could remember. At around noon, father used to boil water to prepare some “violet soup” with the ingredients. Manny and I would have milked the goats, and would have deliberately lied to him, claiming we had finished a couple of hours earlier with the milking.
When I was seven or eight, I can’t exactly recall, there was a traumatic period when I suffered from the syndrome of intimidating, hyper-vivid dreams or, put more simply, nightmares. Each morning I found my knees bowed, my belly bloated, my hands awkwardly stretched, my body holding on to a fetal posture and my pillow soaked in my own saliva.
When I stood up, my lungs ached as if they were stuffed with gypsum; my heart was like an inflated balloon; my hands and legs were edematous; and my panting gave the impression I had just run more than a marathon.
One such nightmarish night, a little while after my brother had dozed off, I witnessed by the door of our sleeping room the silhouette of a slender girl. She told me she had a hole in her abdomen and her stomach had fallen apart. When I tried to ask her why, she explained she was dying a slow death because she was consuming — like us — turpin flowers and makazaya fruits.
She was so scary! I remember I had sealed my sore eyes with waxy tears, inflicting sour pain to my eyeballs, and tried to tower up all three blanket layers on top of my head to throw this nauseous and repulsive feeling away.
Despite this, the girl haunted my skull almost every night. I never dared ask her name. I guess she no longer had a name, because she was most likely dead. Because... I mean... no human can make it for too long when a stomach is missing, right?
That very next day, there was plenty of violet soup for lunch as usual on the kitchen table. I described the dream to my father, including my suspicions that turpin flowers and makazaya fruits were toxic, but he refused to listen.
I nagged and nagged. I could not stand eating this grubby soup anymore; I just didn’t want to kill my stomach at that young age. But father stated that violet soup was rich in nutrients and that turpin flowers and makayaza fruits were a prosperous gift from God. Father dogmatically explained this was the reason why they were overflowing out in the Emerald Fields and did no harm to the human gut. He made me consider it had been a profound blasphemy to so pompously reject this ethereal gift.
I decided to pay attention to what I had actually seen the previous night: my mutilated girl friend, not my father’s proclaimed God being, which I had never actually seen. I insisted I couldn’t stand eating this filthy broth over and over again. My father shrank my daily food portion to less than half for one week to punish me severely. He justified his actions very easily: “You are penalized by God, not by me,” he told me.
I got severe illness due to malnutrition and almost died of it.
It took me more than three weeks to recover completely from a life-threatening cachexia. Not only did I belong to the category of the slimly built, which exacerbated the course of my illness, but this illness had totally minced my muscle tone and loosened up my body contractions to a point I could still talk but not with lips or tongue.
During this period, Manny used to caress my feverish forehead, also trying to take initiative in the ghost storytelling. Poor Manny! He loved me and I loved him so much! But truth is he couldn’t recapitulate from scratch the talent I had been showing in inventing these grotesque apparitions.
After getting sick, I experienced painful moments, being helplessly immersed in a sea of agony and fighting for my own life. It slightly crossed my mind father didn’t have any feelings of love or care for either me or Manny. To me, it seemed we were just “passenger children” at his house.
I mean, I was nothing more than a stupid child back then. Since it never naturally occurred to me to seek parental affection, father must have made the mistake, right? This should be totally on him.
I mean, he left us devoid of family instincts, right?
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Copyright © 2013 by George S. Karagiannis