Saturday, August 11, 2012

Tales Of The Amulet Part VII - Harvest of Sorrow

** Editor's Note**
-- What you're about to read is (aside from a few narrative elements to move the story along) word for word and scene for scene an actual dream I had a few nights ago. After you read it, you'll likely be able to imagine the terror I woke from and the cold shivers that ran down my spine. Needless to say, I got up right after I woke up. Sleep wasn't going to come easily after that. --

   It was a cold October morning. The rain drizzled in irritating sprinkles that wouldn't let up. The sky was a massive grey stone that masked any attempt of the sun to pierce its light through. It was dreary in every sense of the word, and that dreariness carried right over into the trip my wife and I had to make as we silently grabbed our jackets and headed for the car. Our journey was to begin with picking up a good friend of my wife's and bringing her to a new doctor in town. You see, she had an inoperable brain tumor and this new practice was home to a brand new medical procedure that basically worked like 'miracles'. Okay, not really miracles, but as close as humans are likely to get on their own, I guess. The doctors here were able to grow brand new pieces of you to replace the dying old ones. Pretty Science Fiction, right? Well, that's barely the half of it.

   You see, the truly gruesome and repugnant truth of it was that these doctors maintained a constant supply of un-living female torsos that actually 'gave birth' to whatever body part was needed. I know, I know... but bear with me here. Each torso wasn't technically conscious, or, even really alive. Because all they were, were torsos: no heads, no limbs... just the torsos with the necessary nutrients fed in to them and the required scientific adjustments made to just nurture the growing body part inside of them. Yes, they had wombs out of which the parts would emerge... though emerge isn't even correct since they came not from the traditional vaginal opening, but a pre-created slit almost like a Cesarean Section. It would open like a gaping mouth and the new part would be excised. It's not a pretty visual, but evidently it was an amazing procedure. Needless to say neither of us were to keen on witnessing this, but my wife's friend had learned all about it and was beyond excited to give it a go. And so, go we did.

   The building sat nestled in a wooded area just off the main road. Had we not caught a glimpse of the darkened brick facade, we might not have even seen it, as it was pretty concealed. Even the sign that proclaimed the name and address wasn't visible until we were practically on top of it. The drive was freshly paved, which indicated the simple fact that it had only been open for a short time. As we took the lazy 'S' to the doors where patients could be dropped off, we noticed a kindly nurse standing out front with a wheel chair already in tow. We had to wonder if she was just stationed there, or if it really was because our friend's appointment was in about ten minutes. Either way, we slowed to a stop, my wife got out, and led her friend to the nurse and to her medical chariot.

   I parked and met them in the waiting room. From the second I walked in I was uncomfortable. The ambiance was bland and uninviting: sharp angles, dark, muted colors, and a severity that made the whole room ache of a dank laboratory and less of a comforting anteroom. I sat next to my wife in one of the few chairs: bolt-straight and angry gray. Never before have I longed for tattered, year-old magazines. I stared at the reception area and the broken silhouette behind the mottled sliding glass. Etched on the front was a symbol I'd noticed with a cursory glance from the sign out front: it looked about the size of a tea saucer in this instance, and it was criss-crossed with odd glyphs and what looked like some kind of runes. It was the only thing in the room that really had a distinctive color: deep, blood-red that filled in the designs and ran the circumference of the bizarre amulet. It was stunning in its grotesqueness. Almost like a piece of frightening artwork that you fight yourself between looking away in disgust and falling into completely. I turned away and gave a wan smile to my wife. Her questioning brow led me to believe she'd noticed it, too.

   A moment later a door on the opposite side silently swung open and the same nurse who'd met us at the outer doors poked her head through. She had a stolid look of consternation on her face until she noticed her patient sitting next to us in her wheel chair. I'm not sure what she was expecting, but her mood seemed to change and a grin played across her mouth making her look almost sinister rather than the caring softness she was failing to pull off. I looked across my wife at her friend, and she sat up a little and let my wife pat her arm and give her a quick sense of security. The nurse nodded, walked behind the wheel chair, and wordlessly led our friend off into the innards of the office. The door swished behind them and the quite that followed was painful. I look at my wife; she at me, and we shared a sigh that was more worry than hope.

   We sat. There wasn't too much to discuss, even if there was an ruse-hued Mastodon in the room; we both wondered in our heads just what that bizarre sigul was and, come to think of it, why the crooked shadow behind the reception glass hadn't moved an inch. But we didn't talk. It was almost as if we were afraid to. It occurred to me that no sound at all had exited our mouths since we arrived. What were we scared of? Did we think we'd somehow sound differently? Were we expecting repercussions from the shadow behind the front desk? Neither of us knew, but neither of us shared. So we sat.

   Were it not for our watches, we'd never know the time, since -obviously- there were no clocks. Maybe obviously, but it's really unnerving when you can't just glance up at a clock and see the time. Even if you are wearing watches. There's just something oddly real about seeing a clock, especially in a place like a doctors office. Well, we noticed the time and several hours had passed without anyone relaying a progress report to us. This in and of itself was probably the weirdest part. There was always a doctor or a surgeon giving those waiting an update. But not this time. Time... hmm. The room itself became oppressive. The once annoying blandness of it became suddenly aggravating and all too small. I stood. My wife glanced at me side-long, but I waved her away with hand gesture meant to calm her, but it only served to make her stand, too. My ears pricked as I inched closer to the door through which our friend had been taken. I heard sounds like muffled beeping and an echoing chuffing. I pressed my hands to the door and then my ear, while directly behind me my wife stood directly across from the reception glass watching for any movement. She shook her head and I pushed my head to the door hard enough to hear a little better. Machines. There were machines chugging and chirping, the muted squeal of compressed air, and a low thrum from some other mechanism. It definitely sounded like an operating room, but somehow... foreboding. I pressed on the door and followed its trajectory as it opened into a poorly lit hallway.

   I let the door whoosh closed. My wife stayed behind likely to make sure the shadow person didn't follow me. The hallway was about as well lit as a backroom in an old museum. For a supposedly new building it felt ancient and creeky. Nothing about it screamed modern: the walls were dark and drab with no adornments what so ever. As my eyes adjusted, it became clear that the hallway ended in another set of doors. From where I stood, about halfway down the ten foot passage, I could easily hear the cacophonous electronics and apparatus working away beyond the end set of doors. Why was I scared? This was a doctors office not some kind of abandoned prison morgue from one of those ghost hunting shows. Besides, I'm a grown man and this was getting ridiculous. I righted myself a little more professionally, and headed for the doors and the sounds. Yet, tugging at the hairs on the back of my neck was just a little bit of fear that I couldn't shake.

   I stood and faced the set of doors. The two square windows that were built into the top center of each door were shaded and opaque. I glanced through one and saw only smokey halos and dulled glows. I turned and looked behind me. No one. The hallway was as barren as it was when I entered it. I wish I knew what was happening on the other side of the door through which I came, but I assumed that my wife was currently in the same spot I left her. At this point I really was at a zenith of decision: enter the doors and face whatever unknowns lay beyond, or turn around and leave this house of oddities and just hope for the best for our friend. Again I had to question even why I was arguing with myself in the first place. This was silly. I leaned on the doors and shoved my way in.

   Before me was a scene of such palpable horror that my breath was temporarily pressed from my body. The room looked like a movie set where Hellraiser and Aliens had somehow merged. Corroded hoses ran with filthy rivulets of indistinguishable fluid. Knots and bundles of dirty cordage hung like age-old cobwebs strewn from unseen connection to unseen connection. Haphazardly bundled wires like ancient holiday lights pulsated and glowed from one end of the blackened room to the other. Cables dripped, tubes shivered, black boxes with myriad switches and readouts hummed, and the wretched assembly line that housed the birthing torsos slowly moved in the distance. A click escaped my throat as I surveyed the ghastly images. I dared not move; the amalgam of electronics and whatnot seemed far too easily tripped over. As I returned my unblinking eyes to the moving terror that was the conveyor belt of un-living bodies, I saw their synchronized breaths as each chest ebbed and flowed in perfect unison. Each one sprouted a specific body part for any number of waiting patients; glistening with viscous liquid and writhing in tandem with their unconscious host. And there, in the middle of the sickening mass, bulging from its own slit just above the torso's abdomen, was my wife's friend's new head staring blankly skyward. Her mouth yawned and a pink, bulbous tongue gibbered.

   I held a scream as I burst back through the doors and sped down the hall. I encountered no one as I shot through the single door that led to the waiting room and nearly bowled over my wife. She let a squeal escape her mouth in utter surprise... it echoed thinly. I snatched her arm and we made for the exit. The fresh, cool art stung but it felt Heavenly compared to the stale, nauseating atmosphere of the office. As we sprinted the length of the parking lot to the car, I squeezed my wife's hand letting her know that there was far more to tell than even she could imagine. I stole a glance behind me and noticed the same symbol from the glass partition. It seemed to be glowing an even brighter shade of red. I couldn't get the car door open fast enough.