To Touch

BY DR. AGONSON

The wall moved unceremoniously. It was as if this were a natural, everyday sort of happening, a stone wall, nearly a foot thick, scrapping over the floor like a thin wooden door rotating on hinges. I saw no hinges, but heard the terrible weight of it, more felt it reverberating in the air, as this wall opened and I was released from my cell.

There was nearly no light in my cell but what was a small white star right above me, some opening an irreparable distance away. A draft came down from above as the massive wall simply turned, revealing a dark emptiness, and a chill assaulted my fevered flesh. The bursting swells of my pulse had overrun all other sensation in my hands, and the slightest twinge of a finger was an agony to me.

It was a small room they released me from, and I was quick to leave it. I thought to call for help, and that was when I felt I had no tongue. The emptiness in my mouth was startling and terrifying. I had no way to speak. It was a scream, only a scream, I could muster, and in those underbellies, those catacombs, the echoes of it haunted me as I wandered on alone.

It was too dark still, too dark to see, but vaguely I could discern the matter of walls to my right and left. I knew when I was at a turn or a fork, and I in no planned method progressed, though it was to nowhere. I moved, wandered, I searched for anyone, someone.

After inestimable moments of this, my bare foot sunk into a muddy drain. It seemed worn into the cold concrete by a continual flow of unseen liquid. It was slimy and smelled. The odor had suddenly arose, as if dormant until I had stepped in, until I had known, this stream was here. It was the smell of all the world, of all the runoff of filth from above. I walked beside the ditch.

I remembered then how I had died. The man had a gun. We didn’t check. I thought he was dead. Beat him to death, or at least he should have died, and then we went after the girl. I went last, and she was as good as dead by then, wasn’t even moaning. Her eyes were opened though, like a fish’s reflective eye upon the gutting board. You saw yourself in eyes like that; you had taken everything else out of them. Someone shouted, and I heard the gun; then everything after that was black.

My hands hurt, and hurt all the more when I use them. Holding them away from me, worried I might bump them, might hurt myself more, I walk like some Frankenstein monstrosity.

I followed the runoff of filth, and it led me down through this maze. The echoes of my scream still followed me, shouting over itself, undyingly bouncing off the hard stone walls of this underworld. These harpies of my breath mercilessly hounded me, the offspring of my scream screaming at me. I could not flee it.

Then it was, the walls were gone, and I had stepped into a better lit room. It was a great pit lined by many dark doorways which all bleed their dark vomit into a central pool. Two others had found their way here, two monsters revealed themselves, stepping from their portals the moment I did.

Hideous creatures, and alike. They had razors for hands, for fingers; metal claws which seemed attached to them by some foul surgery, their bleeding red flesh swelling over the sharpened blades, they stretched out as if to pull me into some hideous, filleting embrace. And their faces were scratched, as if they’d no sense to not touch themselves with those horrible knives. They must have cut their own lips off, for they had nothing but teeth. They didn’t speak, but snapped their jaws at me, clicking like insufferable bugs in the night.

I knew I must act, must kill them before they touched me. With my screams still following me, I ran at them. I wished my hands would go numb, that the pain would become too much and simply disappear, but I knew if I did not use my hands I’d be their victim.

We encountered each other in a madness I could not express. I felt the cold sting of their touch, and made them know the force of mine. Every time I swung, a wave of searing pain assaulted me. Yet I knew I must kill these things, must destroy them before they destroyed me.

And it was all over, and they were bleeding and dying, and I was alive, and I would be safe. Their blood ran together with the black sludge to the center of the room, and the aroma of it was sweet, the stench was gone.

Then, rising from the pool of vomit, a long slick tongue shot out of the ground. It lapped at the streams of red which ran to it, and its voice laughed. My hands hurt, fiercely throbbing with my excited heart’s beat. They felt as if they would explode. And the voice laughed as the tongue lapped at the blood, and I had no tongue to laugh with.

Then it bid, “See yourself.”

From heaven a too brilliant light descended, a mirror of unfathomable horror, truth. I saw myself, my hands, my face. I was one of them, one of the monsters. My hands were rusted blades, old razors welded to my bones, and my face, my lips had been pulled out and only my teeth remained.

I felt a cold chill in my stomach as I reached my hands to my face to cover my eyes. In one swift, unthoughtful moment, I tore them out. And the tongue laughed, and lapped up my bloody tears.

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