Aphelion Issue 224, Volume 21
December 2017 / January 2018
 
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Voodoo Judgment

by Charles E.J. Moulton





"God knows what goes on at those parties of yours. You come home late every night reeking of something. What is that smell?"

There should've been a reaction, but there wasn't.

"Cheap perfume, booze, Polynesian incense, what?"

James wanted to strangle me, though. I felt like a fly about to be attacked by a wasp. Those wide open, staring, manic eyes somehow seemed to want to penetrate me through and through. He stared incessantly at me, looking at me like a werewolf, waiting for me to take back calling him a philandering loser. James took one step closer toward me, his nostrils flaring.

"What is happening to us, James?"

I tried to penetrate that provocative stare of his, sending it back, as it were, but now I felt that hatred of his building up inside him because of it. I was losing my best friend.

"Why am I not good enough?"

I walked up and touched his shoulder, but he pulled away.

"Talk to me, what is it? My nagging, my complaints, me not cleaning up enough?"

Small movements, tics, gazes, and shrugs, indicated that he listened, but the eyes were still manic. He had become someone else.

"What about that occult club you joined? What goes on in those meetings, James? Who is this new colleague that pulled you into that scene?"

One small smile appeared on his lips, but it vanished as quickly as it appeared.

"Damn it, James," I screamed. "Say something."

A knowing smile, as if he knew something I didn't, appeared on his lips.

Obsessed. Psychotic was the word that came to mind.

I turned around, pretending not to see him, gathering things for the breakfast we had wanted to share, ignoring the fact that he could not take criticism very well. It seemed he did not care what I did, only that I had called him shallow.

I wanted out. Out, before my brain started melting.

"I want a divorce."

I laughed once, more an insecure giggle than a laugh, really, and stepped over toward the coffee machine. Just one minute left and the coffee will be ready, I thought to myself, noticing how my hands were shaking, knowing how aggressive he was, waiting for his reply, knowing that no reply was coming. James was still there, still manic, still silent, still waiting for the right moment to retaliate. The coffee machine sighed, muttered, yelped, until it finally let out one slow last cough. The display blinked, indicating that the pot was full.

I waited again, not even hearing his movements any more.

I listened for a move, any move, the shuffling of a foot, the scratching of a cheek, the rustling of a paper, and the slow breathing of a crazy husband. Anything. Nothing came. Nothing.

Too much blood in my head forced to eject itself into my throat. Too much blood in my heart, the blood circulation kicking into my lungs and making me sick with worry, I thought to myself.

Slowly, I turned around, expecting him to be lying on the floor, crying. Leaving that Darth Vader-like panting of the machine behind me, I faced the empty gazing hole of a kitchen that met my terrified stare. I felt my blood rushing up to my throat, working its way up to my head. The sides of my head throbbed, the base of my throat now pumped and throbbed as well. Ka-gong, Ka-gong, Ka-gong, the circulation of sanguine terror spreading into my pancreas and shooting out too much insulin, creating a slow steady drop of blood sugar.

"James?"

I listened for any sound I could hear, but I heard nothing but my own breathing. "James?" I repeated. "Where are you?"

A small doll, no bigger than half of my upper arm, lay on kitchen table. I glanced at it, solemn, amazed, and terrified. Its blue eyes, consisting of simple yarn, lifeless, its body composed of rugged cloth waiting for an action of any kind to be carried out.

Who had put it there? My future ex-husband, strangely altered? My trembling hands reaching for the doll, I felt the rough cloth give way in my grasp. Arms lanky, in the middle of those blue dots, aimed to portray eyes, black staring dots. Manic, crazy, and challenging eyes. No mouth. The mouth obliterated and the creature unable to defend itself. In my mind's eye, I heard James talking to a strange man, a misogynist, who kept complaining about how "women were" and that he had ways of "getting rid of difficult spouses".

I gave out a high yelp, a squeak, and a cry.

My knees gave way, weak and shaking, my female lack of muscle, and my oncoming period pushing that familiar proverbial knife into my belly. I quickly found myself on the floor, the doll now hanging on the edge of the table, its one arm dangling loosely towards the floor, its manic eyes pleading with me to let its soul out of the cage of fabric.

That couldn't be true. Not my James. Not my love, who had embraced me with the words that I was his true love, his one soul mate to end all soul mates.

I quickly skidded on my bottom back toward fridge, feeling the chill of the machine spreading into my back.

The doll still looked at me, hoping I would set it free. But that couldn't be, could it? I stumbled up on my hands and knees, getting up just by grabbing the handle of the fridge door. The fridge tipped an inch and for a moment, I thought the fridge would fall on me. I managed to tip it back into its place, resting my head against the door with all those pictures.

James at the baseball game. James at KFC. James at a bachelor's party fondling three strippers.

I took that photo in my hand, for one moment forgetting about the where-abouts of my husband, forgetting in my silly mind if my husband – here it came – had become a doll. What a silly thought. I was simply angry that I had put up with his superficial attitudes, his recent frantic obsession with splatter novels and his occult meetings, his late nights and his arrival at two in the morning, reeking of a two dollar perfume and vodka, muttering strange foreign phrases and staring at me like a maniac.

I bitterly ripped the damn picture in two pieces, walking to the garbage can and letting the pieces drift down in between cigarette butts, used condoms and empty chili jars. A whimper bounced through the empty air up from the kitchen table and made me turn around. It had been a witty whimper, if there ever was such a thing. The beginning of a nasty chuckle.

A stranger had now entered the room. How? I do not know.

Clear was, however, that he came uninvited.

The tall dark man now stood behind the kitchen table, his eyes producing the same manic stare I had seen in my husband a moment ago. I shrieked, running backwards a few steps, fumbling for something, anything, to hold on to. The man now grinned at me, his dark facial skin making his white teeth shine and glitter like snow during a Siberian night, his pointy fangs looking like cocaine sprinkled on blood. Now I saw that they really were rasped and reworked to resemble a lizard's insane set of lethal teeth.

At first, I thought I had a psycho on my hands, someone that had silently broken in through the window by the fire escape and killed or abducted James, but how had he done it without actually making a noise? How had my husband disappeared and this man arrived without me hearing even a shuffle or one single noise except a nasty whimper?

My shaking hands felt their way along the length of the kitchen sink. Desperate for any solution as to how I could chase away this stranger, I fumbled my way toward the cutlery drawer. Keeping my eyes fixed on the grinning, edgy grimace of the tall man, I performed an acrobatic act of sorts. I opened the drawer, leaning over to the other side, fishing out a large kitchen knife with my right hand.

"What have you done with my husband, you freak?" I screamed at the top of my lungs, stuttering like crazy, the knife shaking in my hand. All this man could do was throw his long Rasta-locks back and shake his head in a perverse way, preparing his laugh by giving out a vicious bass growl that catapulted into a nasty scream, making his trinkets clutter. The jewelry that hung around his neck, if that was a word for it, pinned to a gumbase-like string, seemed to consist of teeth and long transparent bent things.

They all rattled in a strange sort of way that told me I was dealing with darkness, fascinating me until I realized what they were. Human nails. Human teeth. Human flaps of skin. I think I lost it.

My shivering started in my arms and transported across my body and into the base of my throat. I shivered from head to toe, chills rushing through me like lightning bolts criss-crossing a New Orleans night haunted by Katrina.

I ran out of the kitchen, exiting out through the hallway right into the bathroom. Slamming the door shut, I locked the door behind me. Leaning my ear against the door, trying to hear the sounds of shuffling feet or any sound at all, I feared that I would actually drop the knife and hurt myself.

When I realized that I had left my cellular phone in the kitchen, I had no choice but hope that I wouldn't be killed by the stranger because I couldn't call the cops. All I heard was silence and dogs barking in the distance.

My eyes now just as manic as my husband's had been ten minutes ago, I felt as crazy as the two men I had confronted just now, bits of their insanity pulling me down into the swamp of morbid doom, sweat dripping down behind my ear and down behind my nightgown into the crack of my spine down between my butt cheeks and down my legs.

What I thought was more sweat tickled the back of my head, so I lift my hand in order to wipe away the remains of the drop. I froze, my feeling a thin, long finger touching my neck. For one moment we were both still, aware of each other, the killer and the victim both waiting for the other one to move. Slowly, a face emerged from behind, black Rasta locks in his face, trinkets cluttering.

The Voodoo-Prince, for that is what I would call him, made a surprised face, looking sideways at the door and forming an "Oh!" with his mouth. Unable to move, I resorted to simple whimpers as the man with the pointy teeth gave me the feeling that he swallowed my soul and devoured me in one gulp. Maybe he had done the same with James. I opened my mouth and tried to say something, anything, "Get out!" or "Let me be!", but couldn't make myself speak at all. The man just looked at me, opening his eyes so wide that they looked like brown islands in white seas.

"A locked door don't stop me, woman," the Voodoo-Prince said in broken Pidgin-English.

The knife. I still held it in my hand. I looked down, realizing that the Voodoo-Prince now carried that genderless puppet in his hand.

I made a split second decision. Tears streaming down my face, I gripped the knife hard in my grasp. With shaking fingers, I took aim at the belly of the Voodoo-Prince.

As I shoved the knife in his direction, he raised the puppet just as I aimed for his body. The knife hit the puppet and not the Voodoo-Prince. Just as it did, a fierce flashing pain struck my body. It felt as if someone had shoved a knife in my belly. I looked at the Voodoo-Prince, who looked at me, grinning, savoring each sensation of seeing me suffer.

The puppet now torn to shreds, I saw the remains of that puppet that I realized was me. Bleeding to death, I kicked the bathroom door open and tumbled out into the hallway, breaking the door in the process, his insane laugh behind my back. No knife was in my belly and yet I bled.

"Good, Frances," he crooned. "Crawl, weep, suffer."

"James," I cried. "My God, James. Why are you doing this to me?"

I crawled down the hallway to the door, feeling my intestines spilling out, my heart pumping like crazy.

With a yelp I woke up, my sheets drenched in sweat, red drops trickling out of my underpants, my nightgown soaked in the after-effects of a monthly period, my body soaked in cold bodily perspiration.

I fumbled around in the darkness, looking for a light, a small night light or the light of the clock that could tell me what time it was. My left hand suddenly found the hard plastic object I called an alarm clock. I glanced at it and saw it blinking at me, solemnly.

3:22.

Too little time to sleep, too many bad dreams.

I remembered. When I went to bed, James had still been out, provably fondling one of his strippers. I gazed over at his side of the bed. His sheets were crumpled into a pile across his upper body. He lay there, smelling like a fortune of bad perfume and looking like crap.

I turned over and sat up at the edge of the bed, leaning my head on the palms of my hands, wondering what to do and what this dream really meant to me, why I had to deal with these problems by having such horrible nightmares. My husband lay snoring over to my left and I sat there shivering, my own blood dripping out of my pelvis. The darkness in this apartment scared me.

I fumbled my way through the darkness, deciding to visit the bathroom, at least to clean off my night clothes and wash my hands. It all felt a little strange and spooky to be walking around in the same rooms at night where I had been tricked to murder myself.

After all, this guy from Haiti was not the Voodoo-Prince, was he? The guy in the dream didn't even exist. James' friend was just guy, wasn't he? This was a phase and the guy was just a weird dude that James liked. We were having problems, James and I, but these problems could be solved. We loved each other. I regretted having said that I wanted a divorce.

Hey, I reminded myself, cleaning myself off and splashing water on my face, you didn't actually ask for a divorce, you know.

I threw my underpants in the washing. Tired of being afraid and very tired of having to worry about what was going to happen to us, I sat down for a moment on the edge of the bathtub, glancing at the watch that lay next to the unclean toothbrush and saw that twenty minutes had passed. I had maybe three hours worth of sleep before I had to get ready for work.

As much as I hated admitting it, I had to find a shrink and sort this out. This Voodoo thing scared me, but I was sure that I could find a way to reach James and pull him out of his misery.

The house lay dormant and still when I walked down the stairs to the kitchen that night. Luckily, the blood had stopped dripping. Instead, my tummy rumbled.

I loafed to the fridge in my slippers and reached for the milk carton.

As I gulped down four gulps of the white liquid, I thought about how lucky I was to at least have a husband who wasn't going to complain about my bohemian behavior or about drinking from a carton.

The steady hum of the fridge felt comfy to me, so I kept the door open and munched on whatever I could find: chocolate bars, a grape, an old cucumber, a left-over Oreo cookie from last night, a marshmellow. Actually, I now felt I was calming down. As I stood there, munching my pretty tongue to become like the marshmellow I had in my mouth, I played with the edges of my nightgown. It was then that I noticed that a small piece of cloth had been ripped away. I stood there, lifting my gown and wondering who could have done it. Had James stuck a piece of my gown in his pocket just to smell my clothing in order to get randy a work. The thought amused me, so I dismissed it and grabbed the milk carton for one last gulp.

"What a silly dream," I sniggered to myself. "I'm sure I can sort this out!"

The cold hand that grabbed my left shoulder made me drop the milk. The half-full carton landed with a thud on the floor, followed by the slow splash of milk spreading out across the tiles.

In the darkness, I saw James, his manic eyes glowing.

"Hi, James," I crooned.

"Baby," he said in his half-drunken voice, now not at all manic or strange. In fact, his endearing tone of voice soothed me. "Come to bed. Why are you awake? You have to leave for work in a few hours."

I started laughing, my stomach sending fleshy waves of delight to my bosom and making my entire body quiver. I wondered what to tell him, why I was up, why I couldn't sleep. That his friend, the Voodoo-Prince, had fooled me into killing myself?

"I had a bad dream," I whispered, trembling.

"It's just a dream, baby," he sighed. "Come back to bed."

I smiled, grabbing the milk carton and frantically mopping up the milk with a random towel I found, probably leaving a drop or two turning into white stains on the floor. When I again stood erect before him, I saw that he smiled. It was a smile I recognized, one that reminded me of someone I had once known. My real husband. I locked my arms around his neck in a kind embrace. It didn't matter that he reeked of vodka or that he smelled like the worst perfume shop in Amsterdam. I loved him.

I was sure that if I listened more to his worries and even talked to his new friend, he and I would make it. I would again be able to sleep at night without crying. Yes, he had yelled at me repeatedly what a nervous bitch I was. Yes, he had told me again and again that I had robbed him of a career. Yes, he had hit me, but now, for the first time since our wedding day, I believed in his abilities to change his behavior and become a better man.

That night, I lay down next to my husband. I kissed him, made love to him in spite of my period, ignoring the fact that he probably had been doing it with someone else that night.

Before I went to sleep, I turned to face the alarm clock and just to cuddle up in my own corner, a part of me perhaps ashamed of ignoring his infidelity.

My hand reached for the light switch on my digital clock just to check the time, I found no alarm clock and no night light. All I found was a lanky thing with long arms and eyes made of blue yarn. I felt my hands touch a rough texture. I was holding a puppet.

Now I also found something stuck to the back of the puppet, something I had not noticed before. A soft piece of cotton cloth that had been ripped off a garment. I realized what it was. The piece of cloth stuck with a needle to the doll was the missing piece on my nightgown and probably the key to harming me in pure Voodoo fashion.

My manic stare caused my pupils to widen. What was in the darkness here with me? I glanced to my left, fumbling with my hands back and forth across the bed sheets beside me. Where my husband had been laying a moment ago I felt just air.

"James?" I called out into the darkness.

Frantically, I again reached for my nighttime table, again feeling that trembling fear in my soul surging up through my belly and hitting my throat. This time I found no doll and for a moment, I thought I had imagined feeling that thing. Maybe it had been something else, a handkerchief, and my own skirt hanging over the edge of the table. Who knew? Maybe I was still sleeping. Maybe I was not even in this room and had fallen asleep in the teacher's room at work.

As I reached for the light, I heard a noise. Four shuffling feet this time, not just two. Angry, spiteful, happy to see me full of pain.

And in the darkness, beyond my bed, I saw two faces staring at me, one of them flashing his white teeth at me and the other cuddling a puppet the length of my upper arm and giggling ever so quietly, and as I pressed the light switch, everything went black and I felt a sharp needle pressing into my skull.


THE END


2014 Charles E.J. Moulton

Bio: Mr. Moulton grew up in a trilingual and artistic family and spent his childhood on stage. He played his first role at age 11 and has since then acted and sung in over 100 stage productions. His publication credits include horror stories for SNM Magazine and Aphelion, historical articles for Socrates and Skirmish and literary fiction for Idea Gems and Pill Hill Press. Mr. Moulton enjoys versatile creativity, is married and has a daughter. His last Aphelion appearance was Coffin Varnish in our October issue.

E-mail: Charles E.J. Moulton

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