Prompt – Write about a time you felt outnumbered.
April 10, 2012 § Leave a comment
a horror story
At eight years old I was both fascinated and terrified by mummies. Egyptian, ice mummies, and leathery bog people consumed my thoughts. The school library had a book displaying all the different kinds of mummies, which I checked out over and over. Most intriguing (and ironically, most horrifying) was the picture of the bog person. I couldn’t help but imagine myself turned black and rubbery, discovered in a swamp with a rope around my neck. It made me feel grave and numb, like sinking deep underwater, and I eagerly read the related informational bullet points several times.
I can’t remember if my mummy fever started when my grandma took me to the natural history museum, or if that trip just fueled my monster junkie’s fire. I do remember that we weren’t actually allowed to go into the Mummies of Different Lands exhibit. It wasn’t “suitable for children”, apparently. Not that I minded too much — some sinister tribal music emanating from the dark entrance overpowered my interest and filled me with dread. But later, cozy in my favorite duck-patterned pajamas, I pondered the dark mystery of the forbidden mummy exhibit until I got too scared to keep my eyes open. I imagined awful things, uncontrollable horror. It was too scary not to know what I’d missed. I wished I’d seen what was in there. The compelling mystery and unstoppable speculation pushed me deeper than usual into horrified late night imagination spirals.
Mummies, mummies, so many mummies. I was insatiable; I read everything I could find. On the school bus home, I wondered about the smell of ancient spices, and if the sight of a mummy sitting up blindly in a sarcophagus had ever stopped the heart of some intrepid archaeologist. Was King Tut’s curse real, or just a series of unfortunate coincidences for the men who disturbed his tomb? I hoped I never became afflicted by a mummy’s curse. Nothing seemed more terrifying than that.
During the day, the mummies and I circled and played with each other, merry and daring. No, only at night did they slip under the windowsill to haunt me, pressing me down with dry ancient hands. During these fevered midnights, I imagined that they wanted me to join their ranks. Their silent, sucking mouths pleaded and threatened. I dreaded the thought of becoming a mummy myself, an existence as mindless and dark as the center of the earth.
Under the cover of night-shadows, the mummies crowded around my bed. Bog people crawled across the rug with the shlick-shlick of swamp-rot, ancient kings with heavy, powdery footsteps. They are maddeningly slow, but I’m frozen under my comforter. Ice mummies with their hollow eyes and gaping mouths, all of them reaching, trying to pull me out of my pony-themed sheets and into their airless cursed caves. Never have I felt so outnumbered as I did while those dead creatures closed in on me, inquiring how much I really wanted to know about them. An army of mad eyes glittering in the backs of cold skulls, wondering if I could handle their secrets. They smelled of dry leaves and rotted rags.
Nothing can be explained to you, they hissed, to know what we are you must feel the darkness for yourself. The secret is what it feels like. Don’t you want to know what it feels like?
Imbued with the spacious bravery of daylight, I would’ve laughed in their dried-up faces. But alone in the dark, I never wanted to know.
Copyright Katherine Luketich 2012. All rights reserved.