This is a dark little ditty inspired by my sudden discovery one day that I’d apparently developed an allergy. I’d never had any allergies before.
In the mid-to-late 80s and the early 90s, while living in Colorado Springs, I’d driven up to Denver on a weekly basis to attend a writer’s critique group. I no longer attend the critique group, but am still part of the writer’s organization, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. At one member’s home, where we met, was a cat. It was literally something like 20 years old. That’s another story. Anyway, I used to let it sit on my lap while there, with nary “a problem.”
Then—like a light switch—one day I noticed all this sniffling and watery eyes. I’d thought I was coming down with a cold, but as I drove home…the farther and farther I got away from the house…all symptoms disappeared.
Long story short, I realized that the cat was doing it to me…or more to the point…I’d developed a fricking feline allergy, where before there had been none! Just like that.
How do these things happen?!
You might well ask that of this story. It ain’t pretty…though it has…well, “heart” (again—not in the way you’re expecting)….
This story had been returned by Thin Ice, because it was too much like a previous story they’d published. It’s not that they didn’t like it…they’d just already published something similar.
So…this story has never seen the light of day—or a handkerchief.
© F. P. Dorchak, 1993
“So how long have you had this…allergy?” Dana asked, bound to a chair by thick cords of rope that angrily bit into his skin. It was a dark, dank enclosure, and there was an oil lamp on the table in front of him as the only source of illumination. The crypt stank of expected graveyard mustiness and its darkness bore down about his shoulders like several tons of dead weight. Dripping echoed everywhere.
Dana knew there had to be bodies hidden behind those shadows. Lots of dead bodies.
“Since, well, since I was a kid, really,” his captor replied.
“And how do you know it’s not all just in your mind, you know, like psychosomatic or something—”
“Because. Just because.”
The shadowy figure again sneezed.
From their earlier introductions Dana had found his captor’s name to be Reed. Nothing else, just Reed. He’d been polite enough when they had first met, just inside the mausoleum’s heavy, wooden door…and just before Reed had whipped out that club and politely cranked him over the head with it.
“Oh, come on, that’s no answer! You mean you’re going to kill me—just because?”
Reed looked away before answering.
“No. Because I’ve done…things…you know?”
Exasperated, Dana tried to twist away.
And all this because of some stupid-ass frat prank.
It was just supposed to have been a gag. A harmless prank. He was supposed to go into this “haunted” graveyard (of which the haunter now stood across from him), knock over a few gravestones, then paint his name and date on the inside wall of the entrance-way to this crypt.
Curiously he recalled how he had not seen any other names (or dates) on those walls…
And that’s where his troubles had only begun.
A psychotic of some sort who thought he had the ultimate allergy….
“Okay, okay, so you have this fucking allergy—”
“—I don’t know when it all began, really,” Reed said, oblivious to Dana. “It was almost like it happened overnight. Just like that. At one moment I didn’t have it, then the next, boom, it was there. The allergy. I had become allergic to everyone. People. Life. Animals. Anything that lived, breathed, or grew.”
Dana rolled his eyes. Continued with his struggle to free himself. This guy was definitely out there, all right, and this clearly wasn’t his first kidnapping. He was too calm, almost rehearsed, and he had him tied tight. Good and tight.
“Then…I don’t know…I began doing things—”
“What things, already!”
Reed shot a quick look over to Dana, then got up. Lost in thought, he wandered over to one of the darkened recesses and remained there in silence.
Dana heard him inhale. He must have been here a long time, he thought.
Sure, there’d been stories of folks disappearing around this cemetery over the years, but he’d never quite believed them.
Until now, that is.
Maybe there was more to this guy than he’d really cared to believe.
“I began killing…cats…mostly. Some dogs, too, though only the smaller ones at first. The larger dogs scared me—then—but no longer. Nothing scares me anymore.”
Reed turned to face Dana, but Dana couldn’t see his features. He had the curious feeling that he was smiling back at him.
Then Reed suddenly shot out of the darkness and flew across the room directly into Dana’s face.
Dana tensed, and for the first time since his abduction actually became scared. Up to now he thought this might still have all been part of his initiation…more of that frat-joke-thing…but not now, as he looked back into Reed’s crazed eyes and realized that this guy just might be the stuff of those stories—and more. What he saw, was no fear. No joke. What he saw
“C’mon, man, let me go, enough’s enough. Look, I got inside, okay? Can’t we just settle it at that?”
Reed whipped about dizzyingly fast and gripped Dana’s face in one of his bony, but incredibly strong, hands. Dana felt the grit that came with that hand and embedded itself into his face.
He was certain that grit didn’t come from topside.
And Reed’s breath smelled most foul as their faces came nose to nose. Words hit Dana like a sucker punch.
“Look, here—you don’t know just how fucked you really are. Because you came here, I have to kill you. Have to! I have no other choice!”
Reed relaxed his grip and dropped his hand. Continued pacing the room.
“I have no anger towards you,” Reed said, “I have no emotion one way or the other, really. Hell,” Reed said, sneezing and wiping away trails of snot from his face, “I don’t feel a damned thing for or against any one person that walks across the face of this earth! Nothing.”
Coming to a halt, Reed composed himself and retreated back into the darkened confines just outside the oil lamp’s boundaries.
Dana heard the squeak of a chair as he visualized Reed sitting down in it and tried to spit out the grit that had gotten caught in the corners of his mouth. He tried to take his mind off of wherever that dirt might have come from, but found it hard to do so. He already felt like he was in his own grave and that didn’t sit well with him at all.
“Yeah, back then I had fear all right, all sorts of fear,” came the disembodied voice from the darkness. “So I used to grab the little dogs, the little cats. I used to grab ’em—” Reed’s hands projected out from the darkness and Dana could see how knotted up they were…fists clenched so tight they shook violently with tension.
“Grabbed ’em. Use to grab ’em I did. That annoying little bitch of a dog from next door was the first to go. A fucking Chihuahua. Yap-yap-yap all day long…all night long. Yap-yap-fucking-yap.
“So I took care of the little fucker. Took care of my mother’s cat. Those damned little noisy birdies, too. I took care of them all, I did, and I found out I liked it. Oh, it wasn’t that I hated all I killed—except for that little Chihuahua bitch—no, just that I liked what it was I was doing.
“Robbing each thing of its life.
“The feeling of undeniable power involved. My undeniable power.
“But you have to understand me…it wasn’t me, not really. It wasn’t until later that I realized something was different about me when I killed. Within me. It was like it wasn’t really me doing all this stuff, this killing, you know. Not the me-me, the right-here-and-now me that you see—no, it was like there was another aspect of me that was doing it. A ghost-me from some other dimension that took over. Like the I-me I knew was just sitting there, along for the ride, so to speak. Helpless. A captive passenger, if you will.
“Shit, sure, you say, everybody kills cats. Bugs. But I was different, I tell you.”
Reed again came forward from the darkness and was ready to say something, when he unexpectedly broke out into a severe bout of sneezing and wheezing.
Dana again took some of it in the face, but Reed kept his distance and sneezed violently several times more, his entire body shaking and convulsing.
Reed retreated back into the shadows. As Dana looked at the stuff that clung to his clothes, he noticed how it seemed to have a peculiar iridescence to it.
“Damn. Excuse me. Sometimes this stuff hits me really hard. Let me get some of that off you.” Reed rushed over, and rather hurriedly, swiped away most of the phlegm that had covered Dana.
Dana stared back, speechless.
For all the sneezing and wheezing that had been going on, Dana could tell that there actually was something different about him. He could feel it now. It was like there was a cold, dead pocket of air surrounding him. A stillness that reached out and numbed. Horse latitudes, he remembered, curiously. Utter lifelessness. But it was even more than that. It was almost as if he had actually seen another ghost-self of Reed shift aside from his body during the sneezing bout. Like there had been a vague outline that shadowed his every movement that was more than Reed—
Dana listened, his heart pounding incessantly above the hollow and steady drip-drip of the cavernous reaches of the mausoleum. When Reed next spoke, he could feel the waver of his voice…his entire body…and it unnerved him.
Something about himself was different…definitely not entirely right. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he felt it went beyond fear.
“S-so…what are you going to do with me?”
Reed shook his head. “I told you, already. I think I’ve made myself quite clear on the matter. To you all this is a joke. Fun. A gag, you called it. Well look around you, Dana-boy, I am not joking. Look.”
Reed shot out of the darkness and snatched up the oil lamp before Dana could register what was happening. He held it out high above him and shone it around into the darkness, almost maniacally. Exposing all the dark corners and crevasses Dana had not been able to see into.
What was once intangible was now the tangible and stared back at him. He now saw what else he was sharing the room with.
Corpses. Bones. Bodies. Body parts. Man and animal.
He was everywhere surrounded by the unearthed and the decayed…and all of them were tossed about in crazy, contorted positions. They all looked as if they’d been toyed with.
“Come ooon, man, y-you can’t be serious. You gotta let me go—I won’t tell anyone! Just untie me—I-I-I’ll walk right out of here! P-please, guy, you gotta let me go!”
Reed replaced the lantern on the table and wheezed again as he pulled out the piece of cloth from his pockets. Lowering himself to Dana’s ears, he whispered, “I don’t have to do nothin’.”
Reed backed away and spoke in a more regular tone.
“You forget. I feel nothing toward you, remember? But…I can’t let you go, either. I can feel this other me…he’s around…somewhere…probably already taken over. You’re an allergy to us. Something we don’t need. Something that could bring back other allergens, and we can’t have that.
“You see, when I kill, I don’t need to use weapons. I just hold them. Be near them. You don’t even realize it, but you’ve been dying since I brought you in here. There’s no turning back now. Were you to leave this very minute, you’d still die. It’s…irreversible.”
“There’s no way I know to reverse it. It’s like a plague. Look at your body. Feel it. You know what I’m saying to be true, even if not now. But very soon. You see, I have no choice. I let you go, you go to others, they try to find out what’s happening to you. If I keep you here, you die anyway. Either way, it’s not pretty. The only thing I can do is kill you. It’s not a sweet death, my curse, but my murder is. It’s the only thing I can do to keep you out of both our miseries.”
“You’re crazy! Let me outta here! Fuckin’ asshole, you’re a crazy-fuckin’-son-of-a-bitch-lunatic-crazy man! There’s no such thing! No such thing!”
Reed turned away. Pulled his chair out into the light, and sat in it. He watched Dana.
Sat and did nothing.
Do you believe me now? asked the darkness.
I don’t know what to believe. I feel…different.
Of course you do.
How do you know this?
The darkness surrounded Dana like a suffocating kiss. He didn’t really want to leave it. It felt right to remain where he was. To yield. To give in. To—
The darkness changed. Grew tighter; more oppressive. Then Dana saw it. An even darker spot within the darkness that came toward him. It split open. Dana knew what it was.
Jaws, to be precise.
The mouth had now opened far too wide for him to see the edges any longer, and it quickly came down upon him.
Screamed voiceless into the pitch and realized a part of him was already gone.
He didn’t know which part, only that a very real section of what he was, was now gone.
And the pain was incredible.
Unfathomable…like every nerve fiber within him was on fire—lit up. And it didn’t go away with the demise of the nerve endings, but started over.
And the jaws came down again. And again…and with each new time brought yet another searing bolt of agony that fired through him, as still yet another part of him was ripped away.
Chunks were torn from him.
Not just flesh.
Jagged, diseased jaws scooped out his insides and took out the essentials of what it was he was.
Ate his identity.
His life’s core.
Do you believe me now?
Lifted his head.
Dizzy…he was disoriented. Felt desiccated…nothing but a husk of his former self.
And his body responded differently….
“I asked you if you believed me now. That you’re dying.”
Dana twisted his head up towards the voice. Felt extremely stiff, unable to control his limbs. He didn’t know how long he had been out, just that he had been trying to do something really, really weird…like feel his skin…get inside his nerves. He was indeed weaker…felt it…there was no longer any doubt about that.
He was a wilting flower hidden away in a dank cave miles below the earth’s surface.
Reed got up and brought something over to him.
Even in the dim illumination, Dana could quite clearly see that the wrinkled and withered face that stared back at him was his own.
“It’s okay. It’s okay to refuse. Everyone does. That’s why I have to kill. Put them out of their misery. Mine. Rid myself of their allergens. I guess it’s the last human decency about me, even though I try not to care too much about it. It’s just like another thing I have to do. I don’t pretend to understand it, I just do it. Like watching the deaths as the other-me does them. And some of the dead I keep, just for a little while, you know, and some—well…some…they come back to me.”
Dana looked up. “Come…come back?”
“I really am sorry. Really. You’re not a bad sort. Just in the wrong place at, well, well we all have to go sometime. ‘Cept me. I’m the exception to the rule, I think. I don’t know how it’ll happen to me, if it ever does. But it’s your time.”
“No—no, please, I beg of you, let me go—I’ll do anything!”
Reed shook his head, opened his arms in a gesture of mercy and understanding, and came in to him.
“There’s nothing I can do, friend, really. Nothing…I can do—except this.”
Reed sneezed twice, again splattering Dana’s face and upper chest…then he put his arms around him—
And hugged him fiercely.
“Good bye,” Reed whispered quietly, seductively.
Dana wept into Reed’s shoulders.
Reed withdrew the knife, a long-bladed object, from one of the folds of his garment, and plunged it unhesitatingly through Dana’s back and into his heart.
Dana jerked once, his mouth a perfect “O,” eyes huge as silver dollars.
Reed forced it in deeper and felt the blood spurt out and curl around his hand. It burned his skin.
Dana jerked again. Coughed.
Reed heard the strained and surprised wheeze of air that now whistled through a section of Dana’s punctured lung.
Felt the blood that erupted from Dana’s mouth and soaked through to his own shoulder.
When Reed withdrew the blade he heard Dana sputter several times more as his head cradled up against his ear. Then he got up and backed away from him, placing the knife down carefully on the table. He retrieved his shadowy chair and sat patiently opposite the quickly expiring Dana.
Felt the allergy as it began to drain away like an unclogged drain pipe.
When he was sure that the last of his allergy was finally gone, he got up and left Dana’s body. Left for an adjacent chamber. It would be light soon, and he needed rest. Besides, he didn’t like light.
Had an allergy to it.
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