What kind of doctor says that?
Here I am, perfectly immobilized. My head feels nailed on; the slightest movement to either side is a knife stabbing up and down my back and shoulders.
“Please, don’t scream.”
Was I screaming, before?
I passed out, I know that. I feel the sheen of sweat-slick on my forehead. My face has that cold-hot sensation. My stomach turns and gurgles. How long have I been here?
Fluorescent lights waft by like passing clouds. There are three figures around me, but for the moment I can see only one; my personal physician, Dr. Kraft, who stands above me, pushing the gurney from just behind my neck and shoulders.
“There are children in the rooms next to yours,” he says. His face is sweaty, too. Did he pass out with me? He seems irritated. Maybe he’s just embarrassed. “It was the last available room in this wing. So you cannot scream, okay Robert?”
Okay, Doc that sounds great. I’ll just laugh and laugh while you twist my spine like a goddamn pretzel. Wouldn’t want to frighten the kiddies.
Of course, I don’t say this out loud. But in my defense, the screaming was involuntary. Every bump of the gurney sends waves of horrible pain down my sides. My fingers are numb.
“We’re almost there,” says Dr. Kraft. He licks his lips. There’s blood on the collar of his lab coat. Was I bleeding before they put me on this gurney?
“Am I bleeding?”
“Your collar.” The world goes dim. Strobing sensations. My eyes feel heavy, then alert, then heavy. The walls purr, a subtle vibration; as if something moves inside them, just under the surface. Dr. Kraft touches his collar, then inspects his fingers. They are dark and shiny beneath the bluish-white glow of the hallway lights.
“I believe this was the other man’s blood,” he says. He wipes his hand on something I can’t see.
“Yes. The other man… The man you were hurting.” There’s a strange queasiness to his voice. As if saying the words would make him an accomplice, somehow.
“What? What are you…”
“This is the one.” A voice I don’t recognize. “Prepare the restraints.”
Pressure on my wrists, ankles, forehead. My shoulders throb with every touch. Something is definitely wrong with my neck. The skin on the back of my head burns. Someone is holding a blowtorch to my spine.
“Dr. Kraft?” A younger voice this time. A woman.
“What do you want us to do with…”
“Ah, yes. Leave that to me. Go and prep the other man for surgery. Tell Mary to cancel my appointments this afternoon.”
Surgery? Jesus. What the hell did I do? I don’t remember another man. I remember
A sickening drop as the gurney is lifted upright, like a coffin spilled out the back of a moving hearse. My entire body wretches. The pain in my neck is unbearable.
“Doc,” I moan. “My neck, please. You’ve got to give me something.”
“We already did. That’s what’s causing your nausea. Now, look, Robert. I don’t know what they gave you in the ER. And I don’t know what happened to your neck. Those bite marks are mostly superficial, from what I can tell, except the one in the very back.” He steps around the front of the gurney. The look on his face isn’t right; this isn’t a man who is worried about my health. This is the look of a man who is afraid of me. “The tranquilizer we gave you should have put you out for at least an hour. But you somehow managed to tackle that man in the lobby and do some real damage before they could drag you off of him. Now, Robert, I have to ask. Are you on any drugs? Anything illegal. You can tell me, Robert. I need to know. It could affect the treatment I recommend. And I don’t mean to sound presumptuous, but under the circumstances…” He looks from one end of the hall to the other, then steps closer. Whispers. “I believe it could very well alter the judgement.”
Judgement? What the hell is he talking about? I just came in to the ER with neck pain. I don’t know about any
it went into the woods
“Doc, what are… I don’t… what man? What did I do?”
He doesn’t seem to hear me. “We found this in the lobby, close to where you… where we found you…”
“Found me doing what?”
“Eating that man.”
He holds up a plastic medical baggy. Inside is a purple piece of meat like raw, limp steak. A thin white vein traces the center of two bulging halves.
It’s a tongue. The pain in my head sears at the sight of it.
“Where did you get this, Robert?”
“You need to tell me. Now.” He steps closer. His breath is hot on my cheek. His heartbeat throbs in his neck. Bump-bump-bump. Bump-bump-bump. Something dark glistens in his eyes. My head is on fire. I might be sick.
He leans close. His voice sounds… different. Lower and higher at the same time, somehow.
“Where did you get the sacrament?”
“What? Sacra… I don’t…”
He disappears behind the gurney. The world folds me into an empty white room. The other walls are padded. There is no window. No bed. No toilette, or sink, or mirror. Nothing sharp or colorful. My eyes dart from one corner to the next.
Door locks engage. The only sound is the doctor’s labored breathing. Something wet catches in his chest. Dr. Kraft steps around the front of the gurney. He is drooling. His eyes are changing. Purple starts at the edge, creeping in, the way blood crawls up the tip of a dry napkin. His cheeks are flush. His breathing quickens.
“Don’t worry, Robert. I’m going to take care of you.”
His eyes are solid purple now, and shining. Like eggplants, they bulge from his head. There are no pupils, no iris.
“She will be pleased. You will be a martyr.”
“I don’t… Who…”
“Who?” The Doctor laughs. He holds up the wet, bleeding tongue, smells it, then opens his mouth. His teeth are shiny white. His purple eyes blink and twitch. They come to rest on me. His voice, almost a whisper with pure excitement. “The Mother of Tongues.”
I close my eyes. Wish I could stop the sounds. Chewing. Squishing. Dripping. Groaning, satisfied, animal sounds.
I’m so hungry.
My neck throbs.
“Now… Mmhmm… remember… Robert,” Dr. Kraft licks his fingers as he speaks. “You mustn’t scream. It won’t be long.”
He drops something wet on the floor and disappears behind me. The door opens and closes.
The room is empty except for a piece of dark purple meat on the floor. My mouth waters at the sight of it. My eyes twitch. The meat throbs and pulses as it begins to grow.
And I do not scream.
When it stands at full height before me, still I do not scream.
And when it turns to face me, I am silent.
It smells my face; I feel wet warmth tearing my flesh, I want to scream, but I don’t.
For in silence, I will be hers.
Oh Mother, yes, Mother.
Take me as you will take us all.